Why I Started Powerlifting

Author

Sebastian Padilla

Everyone Starts Somewhere 

Whether it was Instagram, World’s Strongest Man reruns, or just plain old working out there is a reason why we all started powerlifting. In my case, a combination of the above and more led to ten meets and making powerlifting my livelihood.

Let's get the basics out of the way: to do powerlifting training all you have to do is squat, bench press, and deadlift. To be considered a powerlifter, I believe, you must compete in powerlifting meets. Nonetheless, powerlifting is a very objective and inclusive sport where no matter your shape, color, creed, or socioeconomic status you can participate in it. This was a big appeal to me growing up. 

"I had seen Rocky IV and figured if Rocky got in shape doing push-ups, so could I."

Strength training in general has shaped my life since I was 11 years old when I was doing push-ups in my room to lose weight. I grew up in Mexico until I was 10, and I felt like I didn’t fit in the US. Exercise was a way for me to take out the frustration associated with that. Like a lot of young Mexican kids, I was overweight and was very self-conscious about it. 

I had seen Rocky IV and figured if Rocky got in shape doing push-ups so could I. This push-up and sit-up routine lasted 2 years, until my older brother moved to the US for 6 months while my family filed for citizenship. My brother was a formerly obese child who had worked out to become a healthy weight adult, so I looked to him for guidance about working out. 

Summer came and he and I had nothing but time, so we worked out together doing Shaun T’s insanity workout (I know I know, I laugh at it now too). Usually 45-60 minutes of absolute hell, but I was determined to do it, after all, If my brother did it and lost weight this must work (or so I thought). This lasted all summer break and afterward my dad offered my older brother and me a cheap gym membership after seeing us bond over the grueling workouts. 

The beginning of 8th grade was my first time stepping into a gym… it was like Disneyland to me, I saw the first place where effort directly correlated with results, I loved it. I quickly obsessed over it. I remember feeling pretty good about myself being able to bench 95lbs for reps. This was the first time I was considered above average at any physical activity. 

During that time in the gym, it didn’t matter how I felt about myself outside of it, as long as I could lift the weight in my mind I was making objective progress to better myself.  Positive reinforcement goes a long way when you are 13 years old. 

Due to a tumultuous childhood, I ended up moving to Victorville with my dad the next year. If you’ve never been to Victorville consider yourself lucky, it’s a rough town. I was home alone a lot and my only recluse at this point was the gym. 

The Love Started to Fade 

The positive mental aspects slowly faded away as I obsessed with the way I looked. I was unhappy with myself (like most teens let’s be honest) so I pushed as hard as I could. This lasted all school year. I was neurotic about it, if for some reason I couldn’t go to the gym I was pissed. 

This same obsession led me down the YouTube fitness rabbit hole. This is where I first learned about powerlifting. At this point I was already squatting, benching and deadlifting but seeing the likes of Mark Bell, George Leeman, the Lillybridge family,  Dan Green and Worlds Strongest man reruns opened my eyes to what was humanly possible. This was objective, where weight on the bar was the only measure. 

Fast forward a year later: I moved back in with my mom and joined the local high school football team. This is where more weight on the bar was also objectively better so I focused on that. I ate everything I could get my hands on and worked out as hard I could as often as I could. After two years of football strength training I was one of the strongest guys in the school and the strongest for my weight. 

Repeated shoulder dislocations forced me to stop playing football, but frankly all I cared about was being able to workout. After 6 months doing my own rehab (we didn’t have much money to pay for it) I was able to do push ups and bench presses again. Having quit playing football I got a gym membership and enrolled in my school’s weight training class my junior and senior years. 

Back on My Game

I got more and more powerlifting specific with my training during these years. My junior year I found a USPA meet in my county and poured all my savings into the registration and membership fees. Over the next 6 months I bought a singlet, knee wraps and stole a belt from my weight training class. 

I was 17 and totaled a little over a thousand pounds, although I was extremely nervous. Despite the nerve racking experience, I felt like I belonged. For the first time in my life I found other people obsessed with lifting weights, and I fell in love with the sport. 

Many Stories, One Community 

While we all have different reasons as to why we all started powerlifting, I believe that many of the feelings of belonging and personal improvement encompass all of us. 6 years, 9 meets and 600lbs on my total I still feel like I have so much to do in this sport that I want to continue doing until my body allows me to. 

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Alex Gaynor

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