Powerlifting for Truckers


Senior Member
Retired Expediter
About 18 months ago, having done little with barbells before, I took an interest in powerlifting. After I saw some Special Olympics athletes work with our gym's fitness trainers to compete in a Special Olympics powerlifting meet, I figured if they can do it, I can do it. Also, then 65 years old, it seemed wise and fun to try something new. Since then, I have more than tripled my strength, greatly increased my mobility, and have eliminated all joint pain in my body (except a touch of arthritis in my left shoulder, which clears up when I exercise it under load).

To make this progress, I train 3-4 times a week for an hour each time. Granted, this is easier for me to do with the regular schedule I have, but if Diane and I were back expediting on the road, it could work there too.

When we were on the road, we made frequent use of the many Anytime Fitness gyms (far more 24/7 gym locations than any other gym brand). With our straight truck, it was easy to fill the fuel tanks before a delivery, head to Walmart after the delivery to resupply, and then head to the nearby gym to sleep and exercise while laying over there.

I did not know about powerlifting then. If I had, a powerlifting training program would have made our gym visits far more interesting, and our time on the road as well. It would have also made our gym visits more likely, because it is easy to talk yourself out of a gym visit when you do not have fitness goals that keep you interested and motivated to press on. While driving, I would have listened to the many powerlifting podcasts that are available. On days when a gym was not nearby or timing made one unavailable, I could have built strength by doing isometric exercises in the sleeper, in the box, or on the ground near the truck. I would have increased my interest and knowledge of the sport by looking online to find the meets and attending those we happened to be near at the time (generally a $10 spectator fee).

The neat thing about powerlifting is it comes with a built-in set of goals. Whatever point you are now at, your next goal is to lift a little more The logical progress and series of small wins make powerlifting fun. You get to win not just be setting new personal records, but by meeting your workout activity goals every time.

Powerlifting consists of three lifts: the squat, bench press and deadlift. By doing these, you exercise virtually every muscle in your body that are important to truckers. Your powerlifting strength and mobility gains instantly translate into improved functionality in and around the truck. It gets easier to pick things up and set them down. It gets easier to get in and out of your truck. Safer too!

When I started, my starting squat weight was ZERO because my partially frozen shoulder kept me from getting under the bar. In our gym, we say we don't worry about what's wrong or gone. We focus on what's left and start from there. While my shoulder was frozen, I still had a shoulder. A doctor and our gym trainers taught me how to loosen it up. That took time and consistent exercise but it now works as well as my other shoulder and I can do a squat. That's my progression. No squat. A squat with an empty bar. A heavier squat. And now, progressively heavier squats.

When I started, I did not say I can't do squats because I have a bad shoulder. I asked, how can I improve my shoulder so I can do squats? That "how can I ..." question can make all the difference. People often say I can't do that or I can't buy that because I can't afford it. If you leave it there, you put yourself on a dead end. I can't afford it. End of story. No options. No reason to do anything but accept that I can never have what I want to have. But if you ask "How can I afford it?" all sorts of spending and financial planning options come to mind. You no longer have a dead end. You have several routes from which to choose.

So too with "I don't have time." Instead of saying that, ask, "How can I find the time?" Time and money are people's most common excuses for just about anything they would like to do but are not doing. Changing the "I can't ..." or "I don't have ... " statements to "How can I ...? " questions can make all the difference.

Back to powerlifting, when I started, I immediately planned to compete in USA Powerlifting-sanctioned meets. That made it more interesting to me and it helped me better focus during workouts. There are age and weight classes in which you compete. In my case, I compete with lifters who weigh under 163 lbs and are 60-69 years old.

Notice I said I compete WITH others, not AGAINST them. In powerlifting, you're not competing against the other person (unless you are trying to set a state, national or world record, which very few people do). You are a powerlifting athlete, there to do your best, and then to do better the next time. To improve, you don't have to enter a competition at all. I enter meets because I enjoy the accountability they provide, and I love being around people who have the self-improvement mindset; but you can absolutely be a powerlifting athlete without joining a federation or entering a meet.

One of my favorite people in powerlifting is a small, 70-something woman who entered her first meet and lifted nothing but the empty bar. At her next meet, she added a couple small plates to the bar to do better than she did last time. Between meets, she did her regular workouts to improve her technique and strength. This woman steals the show every time she shows up. Everyone cheers her on because everyone knows she is breaking new ground and improving her best. People love that this "old" lady tried something new and is getting stronger and happier in the process. They recognized her as a true athlete and she does too.

I said above I have more than tripled my strength in 18 months. That would have sounded unbelievable to me before I learned how magnificent the human body is and how your body and brain WILL get stronger when you require them to do so. For example, I started my deadlift at a safe -- very safe -- intentionally safe -- 85 (or so) lbs. I'm lifting over 250 lbs. now, with a goal to top 400 lbs. Four hundred pounds is a reasonable goal. There are a good number of people in my age and weight class doing it now and they are nothing special. All they did was put in the consistent work over the time it takes to develop strength. I'm doing that now. As long as I continue, 400 or more is pretty much guaranteed. Is 500 possible? I believe it is, but we'll figure that out later; 275 and 300 come first.

I invite you to consider become a powerlifting athlete yourself. It does not matter if you cannot lift heavy weight. It does not even matter if you can lift no weight because of a limitation you now have. What matters is your decision to start where you are and build on that.

As I said, the three lifts of powerlifting are the squat, bench press and deadlift. Introductory videos for each are below.

How to Squat

How to Bench Press

How to Deadlift
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