We see strong athletes and think to ourselves that there must be some exceptionality to their abilities. That lifting and increasing strength must come easy. That their schedule allows for all the free time in the world to train. That they ‘know-it-all’, never make mistakes, and have some sort of specialized knowledge that the rest of us simply don’t know.
She is ranked as one of the top 10 open 63kg lifters in the USAPL. As a Junior she won the Arnold Sports Festival, achieved a gold deadlift medal at the IPF Classic World Championships, and broke two American records in the squat and deadlift. She squats 147.5kg, benches 77.5kg, and deadlifts 195kg. By all accounts, Ewa is one of these exceptional athletes who has achieved incredible success as a powerlifter.
We recently sat down with Ewa to discuss her journey in powerlifting, keys to success, and programming philosophy. What we learned is that she comes from very humble beginnings, has an incredible work ethic, and makes conscious training decisions around her strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.
From a time management perspective, she balances 5 training days per week while working full-time as a clinical researcher and taking part-time classes for graduate school. In addition, she credits her willingness to learn from others as a hallmark of her success. She has never been afraid to ask for help or surround herself with athletes and coaches who could provide expertise in all aspects of training from designing effective programming to technique, and nutrition. Early in Ewa’s career she hired a coach, Ryan Gleason, and at various stages, received guidance from some of the best powerlifters in the game, including Chad Wesley Smith, Vinny Dizenzo, Ed Coan, Greg Panora, and Kimberly Walford.
Ewa reflected on 6 key learnings that have contributed to her success as an athlete. As a method of practice, ask yourself whether these things are implemented in your own training.
1. Utilize your strengths, but do not neglect your weaknesses. For example, it’s important to know what muscle groups are strong and how your mechanics can play to your advantage. However, during each stage of your lifting career you will uncover weaknesses. You need to become effective at identifying these weaknesses, but also structuring your goals and training around improving these deficiencies. This could be as simple as picking exercises that work on a specific range of motion, such as deficit deadlifts for developing strength off the floor.
2. Consistency is key. Athletes might think that a few training programs will produce big results in strength. The reality is that progress happens over many years with several small increases in strength rather than one large bump. Continue to trust the process and keep chipping away at the weight. Those small increases add up over time.
3. Respect your body. It is incredibly important to implement injury prevention methods from mobility, stretching, and stability exercises. Respecting your body also means not pushing too hard for too long. In short, don’t overdo it, and don’t do things that hurt.
4. Let your program work for you. If you have a hypothesis on a certain method that might work, then trying something for 3 weeks is not enough time to know if it’s effective. You need to give the program a solid chance, collect evidence of what’s working and what’s not, before looking to do something different.
5. Don’t skip the basics. Build muscle first, and then stratify your training specifically to powerlifting.
6. Never stop learning. Those who stop learning, stop progressing. Continue to go to seminars, read books and articles, watch videos, and engage in conversations about lifting.
Ewa teamed up with MyStrengthBook to deliver powerlifting programming on our Program Library. Through Ewa’s years of experience under the bar, and by learning from some of the top powerlifting athletes and coaches in the game, she delivers highly effective programs for those looking to start their powerlifting journey.
Ewa’s training cycle on MyStrengthBook is comprised of two 4-week programs that focus on hypertrophy and strength for beginner powerlifters. While the term ‘beginner’ might conjure up specific assumptions around the difficulty of these programs, trust us, Ewa’s programs will still challenge your abilities in several ways.
This training cycle will allow athletes to get more comfortable executing the powerlifting movements. Ewa believes the best training comes from sustained practice with the powerlifting movements and frequently changing training variables, such as sets, reps, and load to produce adaptations in the muscle. Athletes won’t be limited to just the powerlifting movements as several exercise variations are programmed to create balance across different muscle groups.
The goal is to build size and muscular endurance. Each workout starts with a powerlifting movement that varies in rep ranges and intensity over the weeks. Some workouts priorities higher volumes, such as sets of 5-6 reps with 65-70% intensities. Other workouts priorities higher intensities such as sets of 2-3 reps with 82.5-87.5% intensities. As each week progresses, you’re expected to do more sets at similar or increasing weights.
The goal is to grow your abilities to lift maximally. Just like the first 4-weeks, some days prioritize higher volumes, while other days prioritize higher intensities. During this phase, you’ll have at least one workout each week where you get to lift heavy in the powerlifting movements (between 90-92% for 1-2 reps). By the end of this program you should feel confident handling heavier weights for multiple sets.