Activities & Organizations Health Special Section

Powerlifters of UH embrace health, community spirit

Calvin Chen is a UH powerlifter whose best event is deadlifting, where he is able to lift more than 500 pounds. | Courtesy of Calvin Chen

Many students have health-related goals, especially as we go into the new year. While some tend to procrastinate in college because of lack of time or practicality, other students go above just being healthy by putting their hard work on display in the sport of powerlifting.

Kinesiology senior Calvin Chen has been powerlifting for two years and has been doing moderate strength training. Chen got into powerlifting to merge his interest in strength training and athletics.

Powerlifting has been a sport since the early 1800s, with everyone competing to have the title of “Strongest Man Alive.” Each country had its own standard of testing strength, like kettle ball weights for the Russians and barbells for the Germans.

There was not a standard until the 1928 Olympics.

When Chen started powerlifting he was 155 pounds. He now sits at 185 pounds, after gaining 30 pounds of mostly muscle. Chen can squat more than twice his body weight at 450 pounds, deadlift over three times his weight at 567 pounds and benches at a maximum of 315 pounds.

Chen is not concerned about transitioning into a bodybuilder.

“Bodybuilders are cut to three or two percent body fat,” Chen said. “But you need body fat for your hormones so they don’t act up and I kind of don’t want to go through that phase.”

Chen is more into being an athlete, which is also why he does not want to be a bodybuilder.

“Bodybuilding is more of displaying your body and more focused on physique and aesthetics,” Chen said.

This is why bodybuilding shows have the competitors greased up and in swimsuits to better show the build of the body.

Powerlifting is more focused on the competition of who can lift the most weight in squats, deadlifts and bench among weight classes. The weight classes are further broken down by age and sex.

Along with lifting heavy weights, for the body to be able to do that the other half of the battle is regulating a proper diet. As opposed to bodybuilders, Chen has a little bit more freedom concerning what he can eat.

“It depends on the person, but for me, I can eat almost anything I want. But you (still) have to eat a lot of protein,” Chen said.

To ensure that the lifters make weight, fasting starts 18 hours before weigh in. They can’t eat and are dehydrated because the water still adds weight to them. After making weight they can eat to gain their weight back.

After the warm-ups, the rounds go in order of squat, bench then deadlift.

Because Chen is in a heavier weight class, he usually performs in the afternoon session along with the possible 200 or even 1000 other lifters that day. One competition day won’t end until 8 or 10 p.m., creating a 14 to 16 hour day.

“Being able to be there with your friends cheering you on and cheering them on is the best feeling, and afterward you get to hang out and go eat,” Chen said.

Because most of the day for an individual lifter is cheering, it shows that the community of powerlifting is for the growth of everyone.

“It is really a good community to motivate each other to do better and help new people coming in to help get them to where we are,” Chen said.

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