As far back as the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, the world’s elite athletes have competed to see who is the strongest.
The best weightlifters can shift up to three times their own bodyweight. But even if you’re not interested in developing superhuman strength, weightlifting is a great way to stay in shape. If you want to build a sculpted, muscular physique like Chris Hemsworth or Jessica Ennis-Hill – nothing beats it.
To help you incorporate weight training into your own fitness regime, we spoke to one of our most accomplished personal trainers: British Women’s Powerlifting Champion, Charlie Shotton-Gale.
Q. What inspired you to take up powerlifting?
I’ve been powerlifting for 10 years now. I started because at the time I was playing rugby for Supermarine Ladies and wanted to get stronger – I had my sights set on England Rugby!
Then I was convinced to try out a competition… one lead to two. The first nationals I competed in I won. I was then accepted into the national team three years later and said goodbye to rugby. Best decision of my life.
I’ve been all over the world with powerlifting, made some incredible friends and seen things I never would have done otherwise.
Q. Are you looking forward to the weightlifting events at the Olympics?
Yes, I am! It was the sport I went to watch in 2012. It’s different to powerlifting in that it is about maximum strength and power (speed of movement) whereas powerlifting is solely about max strength and invariably lofting great weights.
I love weightlifting, but I’m not very good at it. I practice and I do include it in my training for power and technique work. But it’s extremely difficult – and the athletes we watch on TV are not only strong but they are technically very accomplished. And they are very, very brave to not only be able to pick up those weights, but to catch them as well!
Q. Would you run us through your favourite workouts?
Favourite upper body workout? Bench. Favourite legs workout? Squat. That’s all you need in life.
I’m just kidding, although not by much. My training consists of multi-body part high volume training, so I never separate legs and upper body workouts. I do them every single session.
One of my favourite workouts would be:
- Squats 80% 1RM 5 x 3
- Bench 80% 1RM 5 x 3
- Tempo 4:4 squats 65% 1RM 3 x 3
- Pistols / split squats / Bulgarian squats 3 x 6
- Seated Deadlifts 5 x 5
If you ever meet me, you’ll see why I love leg workouts more than upper body!
Q. How important is proper diet and nutrition? What tips do you have for people looking to optimise their diet for weightlifting?
You wouldn’t run a Ferrari on diesel, so why run your body on pizza and chips? Having said that, I am a heavyweight female so my diet is not perfect. I aim for it to be spot on 70% of the time when I’m in post-comp mode, and 80%-90% of the time when I’m gearing up for a competition.
I always notice a difference, when I focus on my diet. Strength improvements can come in as quickly as a week!
All people are different, so I can’t give tips. One person will benefit from a high carb low fat diet, whereas I love a high fat high protein diet. My advice is pick a diet, try it for two weeks, assess your strength during and at the end. Then pick another. Do the same till you find one that makes you feel strong.
My biggest piece of advice is: listen to your body, not to the adverts. Your body knows what it wants – all companies just want to make money off you.
Q. Great athletes have great trainers. How do you help your personal training clients progress with their lifting and achieve their fitness goals?
By following my philosophy of achieving: consistency, consistency, consistency. I create programmes, sessions and lifestyle plans that all boil down to keeping my clients consistent.
In my experience, the most successful people are those that have been consistently working at their chosen task over long periods of time. Okay, okay – some people are naturally gifted freaks. Usain Bolt, for example. But even he has had to work hard for it.
If I have clients that want variety, I give them variety and it keeps them adhering to the changes. If someone wants an education and to learn skills and knowledge, then I teach them to keep them motivated. Whatever it takes to keep my clients consistent is the service I deliver.
Q. What advice would you give to someone just starting out with powerlifting, or any other type of high intensity fitness training?
Don’t start out thinking you could be the next big thing, or aiming for some kind of record. Keep your head down, work hard, enjoy it – and remember that there are no quick fixes. It all takes the most incredible amount of time. But if you enjoy the journey, you will enjoy the result.