Powerlifting is a competition or sport involving three tests of strength: the bench press, squat, and two-handed dead lift. The difference between weightlifters and powerlifters? Powerlifting tests absolute strength as the bar is moved a distance in a relatively uncomplicated manner, making these events the heaviest in terms of poundage. Daniel Tinajoero is a sponsored Professional Powerlifter out of Orlando, Florida, and was chosen for Real People, Real Fitness because of his involvement in this very intense sport (and his awesome two-page spread in Power Magazine!)
FLTTH: What got you interested in becoming a powerlifter? How did you get started?
DT: As a child, I spent a lot of time outside playing sports and doing other high intensity activities such as acrobatics, making obstacle courses, etc. I started gaining interest in being more muscular and athletic in the 8th grade in the year 2000. I had only a few weeks in the “weight room” in middle school, but it was enough to spark my interest in the iron. When I started high school, I enrolled in a beginners weightlifting class as an elective. The teacher, Tony Bolyard, was also the head coach for the boy’s weightlifting team. Reluctantly, I was finally talked into competing for the team. I was able to win first place in the first competition with only having about 6 months of experience in the weight room. I knew right away that this was something I would excel at and my competitive nature left me with no other option than to pursue being the best. I give Coach Bolyard most of the credit for nudging me into deciding to compete, but it was only a matter of time before I would have sought out the thrill of competing. I competed four years in high school weightlifting, with the main moves being the benchpress, a powerlifting movement, and the clean and jerk, an Olympic move. After high school, I knew that I wanted to continue competing in strength sports, but I had a very big decision to make: I could either choose to train for powerlifting or Olympic lifting. I knew that to be the best in one, you cannot train to be the best in both. It is simply unrealistic due to the nature of the moves being so different. I had a conversation with a close friend John Land, and the conclusion of that convo led me into the powerlifting world. It seemed much more exciting and the possibilities are much broader in the world of powerlifting. I did a small local meet in my junior year of high school that consisted of two out of three of the powerlifts, and I wouldn’t compete in my first full powerlifting meet including the squat, bench and deadlift until after graduating in 2005.
FLTTH: How much could you bench press, squat and dead lift when you started? How much can you now?
DT: As a novice to powerlifting, I had a lot of experience with the benchpress from my high school weightlifting days, but I had little experience squatting and deadlifting in the same manner as powerlifters. I believe early on, my best lifts were a 365lbs squat, 335lbs bench, and 455lbs deadlift at about 160 lbs body weight. To this date, my best raw lifts are 605lbs squat, 435lbs benchpress, and 655lbs deadlift. My best lifts equipped using powerlifting suits include a 900lbs squat, 700lbs benchpress, and 725lbs deadlift. All of these numbers were done roughly at 201lbs body weight.
FLTTH: How often a week do you have to lift to keep the strength you have now? How often to become stronger?
DT: I am always pursuing strength, so maintaining is never really a focus. I will train differently at different times of the year, but the amount of days stay between 3-5. When I’m training my heaviest, I will sometimes lift 3 or 4 times a week to help contribute to recovery. During lighter phases of the year, I am able to add in a 5th day to hit neglected weak areas.
FLTTH: Does your weekly exercise routine also include cardio? Why or why not?
DT: I do not include cardio solely. It can be quite detrimental to strength gains and recovery. There is no need in my sport, and I tend to stay fairly low in body fat. That is not to say that some of the work that I do doesn’t conditioning, but I don’t focus on a cardio specific workout.
FLTTH: What does your diet consist of? Do you have dos or don’ts that help or hurt your lifting?
DT: There aren’t really any “don’ts” in this sport, but there are certainly plenty of things that are a must. High calorie is essential to maximizing strength and recovery with getting lots of each nutrient. Your diet needs plenty of healthy fats to help with joint health and cholesterol regulation. Carbohydrates fuel the muscles and give you the energy to keep going on for the next workout. Protein is a vital nutrient in specifically rebuilding the muscles between workouts. So essentially, you need to get lots of each of these in appropriate quantities that is unique to your own body. You have to experiment and see what works best with your body. Having said all of that, I try to keep a natural, clean approach to getting these nutrients in. of course, I have plenty of sweets cravings, but I make sure to get in the good food first, and then I can eat whatever I want after.
FLTTH: What is your routine for cutting weight before a competition?
DT: Disclaimer: The way that I cut weight for a meet is not advisable to anyone looking to lose weight. This is not a method for losing fat, nor keeping weight off. I will start my process about 4 days away from weigh-ins for competition. On this day, I will overload on foods with carbohydrates and sodium. Also important, I will consume a minimum of 2 gallons of water up to 3 gallons. For the next 3 days, I will drop the carbohydrates and sodium levels to a minimum and continue with the high water intake to help flush out electrolytes and other nutrients that contribute to water retention. Usually, I can keep my sanity with less than 20 grams, but I cannot go without carbs completely. At about 20 hours out, if I am still way over my weight class, I will start to sweat out the remaining water weight via sauna or hot tub. Once I weigh-in, I will pack it all back on as fast as possible. This will include lots of carbs, water, and high electrolyte sources such as Pedialyte and/or Gatorade.
FLTTH: What advice would you give to someone trying to become a powerlifter?
DT: The biggest piece of advice I can give to aspiring powerlifters is listen to your body. A lot of guys get the “more is better”, and they lose sight of capabilities of the human body. To maximize gains, one must feed plenty, rest plenty, and respect the body as a whole. This means getting a disciplined grip on diet, sleep routine, and lifting schedule to allow for max recovery.
Any questions for Daniel? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org