If you’ve been following my social media, you’ll have noticed that it’s recently started filling up with posts about powerlifting. This became an unlikely addition to my training schedule when I discovered Rhino Fitness, a new strength and conditioning gym near me in Onnut.
How I Got Started in Powerlifting
I signed up for a membership in April after trying a ‘Rhino WOD’ class, which is similar to CrossFit. In those classes, I built up the confidence to join their weekly powerlifting program. At first, I was worried it might be a bit too challenging for me, but that wasn’t the case. Everything is broken down for my individual abilities, but I always feel challenged. It’s the perfect balance of pressure and support. I quickly fell in love with these classes and they’re now a permanent fixture in my training routine.
In this video, you can see what I’ve been doing in my powerlifting training. You can also see how my body has changed since I started.
The classes are led by Patient Cena, a powerlifter and strongman athlete, who has been named pound for pound the strongest man in Thailand.
‘The Rules of Jackedness’ – My First Powerlifting Workshop
When Patient invited me to ‘The Rules of Jackedness‘, a powerlifting workshop he was running, I was hesitant at first. As much as I loved my training with him, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to be thrown in at the deep end. His powerlifting classes are a very nurturing environment, always with a small group of people and a lot of one-on-one support. I assumed that a workshop would be a very different affair. I’d be in a new place, surrounded by lots of people I didn’t know. There would be added pressure, too. I tend to get very anxious and withdrawn when I’m in big groups of people, so I never volunteer to throw myself into that kind of situation. Besides, I’d only discovered powerlifting a couple of months earlier. Was I really ready to join a workshop? A few days before the event, Patient asked “Emma, are you going to support me?”, and I couldn’t say no. Just like that, I booked my place. There was no backing out!
My goal for attending the workshop was based more in socialising than lifting. Mainly, I wanted to get out there and meet new people and I assumed this would be a good opportunity to do that. I asked Patient if there would be many women attending. “Actually, it’s mostly women”, he said. That was exactly what I wanted to hear.
On the day, there were more than 30 attendees, all of whom were Thai apart from myself and just one foreign guy. At a glance, it looked as though 70-80% of them were women. Some were trainers at local gyms who were looking to expand their skill sets for their clients, and others were fitness enthusiasts who just wanted some lifting tips. Some were people who’d been following Patient on Instagram and just wanted to see his impressive powerlifting skills in real life. One of those people was Ammy, a sweet lady who works in the military. She ended up being my partner for most of the day.
Of course, many of the people there were serious powerlifters. Jinny, a tiny but super-strong 49 kg woman, was particularly impressive. In the video below, you can see her hitting a new sumo deadlift PR (110 kg!) during the workshop.
I was happy to see that there were also some complete beginners, so I didn’t have to feel alone. Regardless of ability, everyone there was really nice and supportive. You might expect a powerlifting meetup to be a ‘hardcore’ affair, filled with machismo and meatheads. That wasn’t the case. It was the same experience I had when I entered a Muay Thai gym for the first time; worrying that I’d feel inferior, intimidated or unwelcome, but being pleasantly surprised once I jumped in. I ought to stop being so insecure. Funnily enough, I think my powerlifting training is helping with that.
The workshop lasted the whole afternoon, from 2-6pm. During that time, we went over techniques for the squat, deadlift and bench press, taking it in turns to try them out. As we did so, we were given cues on breathing techniques, and advice on how to mentally prepare ourselves for big lifts. These tips on mental training were some of the most valuable aspects of the whole day for me.
Then, we completed a group workout, afterwhich we were taught some extra exercises for injury prevention and rehabilitation. It was a productive afternoon and everyone got a lot out of it. Here’s a cheesy group photo of us all at the end of the day.
As predicted, I did end up getting a bit anxious while I was there, but it didn’t stop me from having a good time. I dipped out a couple of times just to have a few minutes to myself and take a quick break before jumping back in. I get this inexplicable urge to escape when I’m in big groups like this, but that’s just how I operate. I wrote a bit about this in my post on introversion and Muay Thai training.
To see a bit more of what we got up to, watch this highlight video of the workshop.
A New Love Affair with Powerlifting
Starting powerlifting has been really beneficial for me, and has added a completely new dimension to my usual routine of Muay Thai training. People have asked me how I manage to balance the two, as they don’t seem to go together. Personally, I’ve found that they make a great combination for me. I don’t feel as though I’m cheating on Muay Thai with powerlifting. Instead, it’s more like being in an open relationship with both of them. I get to enjoy the benefits of both, and my love for each one feeds into the other.
Building strength is undoubtedly helping me become a better athlete, but the real benefit is in the confidence it’s giving me. Being able to lift heavy weights is hugely empowering, and every time I do so, I gain more confidence in myself, becoming more reassured of what I’m capable of. That newfound confidence is changing the way I move through the gym, and the world outside of it, too. I can feel it. As a fighter, confidence and aggression have always been the main areas in which I lacked. In powerlifting, I’m consciously training both of those things.
Patient has made several references to this, telling me to attack the barbell with the same intention, focus and ‘fighting spirit’ that I would use to strike the bag or an opponent. It makes me question whether I really am using those things in my Muay Thai, and I carry that notion with me to Attachai Muay Thai for my regular training.
I’m grateful to have Patient as my coach, guiding me through this new playing field. Lots of people paid 3,000 baht just to train with him for one day at this event, but I’m lucky enough to be coached by him on a regular basis. With him in my corner, as well as my awesome training partners at Rhino Fitness, I’m confident that I’m in the right hands. He’s even suggested that I enter a powerlifting competition in a few months time. That idea terrifies me, but it’s exactly why I should do it. If my journeys in powerlifting, Muay Thai, and even travel have taught me anything so far, it’s that I can do anything if I put my mind to it. I just have to take a risk. I feel like I’m off to a good start.