Say the word powerlifter, and the image most people think of is a muscle-bound person in a tank top capable of lifting a small car with one hand.
Those people would be surprised to see who was competing at Saturday’s in-house powerlift-ing tournament at Cutting Edge Sports and Science in Albany. Instead of people with biceps as big as car stereo speakers, there were young athletes, middle-aged adults and a 66-year-old man ` all of whom looked like the average person next door.
Cutting Edge owner Dyke Naughton said that powerlifting isn’t designed to build muscles. It’s only purpose is to make people stronger.
`We don’t make you look better, we don’t make you look bigger,` Naughton said. `We just make you faster and stronger.`
The results can be pretty amazing. Burnt Hills resident Roz Warren dead-lifted 150 pounds at Saturday’s competition, and he’s only 10 years old. Albany resident Julia Cannizzaro, who joined Naughton’s gym 16 months ago, lifted a personal record 185 pounds. Paul Burgess of Indian Lake, who only joined eight weeks ago, lifted more than 500 pounds.
`(The best part of powerlifting is) just the personal satisfaction of doing something no one else can do,` said Burgess, who drives with his son nearly two hours one way once a week to work out at the converted warehouse off Central Avenue. `At 50 years of age, you’re supposed to be going downhill, not uphill, and I feel pretty good about that.`
`It’s a lot of fun,` added 15-year-old Claire Feldman-Reich of Albany. `You get a huge rush afterward because everything you accomplished is right there on paper.`
There are three disciplines in powerlifting ` squats, bench press and the deadlift. Squats require competitors to hold the barbell at shoulder length behind their backs as they bend at the knees and get back up. In the bench press, competitors push a barbell up from their chest while lying on their backs and hold it steady. In a deadlift, competitors pick the barbell up off the ground without bending their knees.
The goal is the same in all three disciplines ` to lift more than your previous best.
`It’s just a sport,` said Naughton. `It’s a very gratifying sport ` 90 percent of the time, you’re competing against yourself. But it’s still just a sport.`
`It helps in terms of motivation, as well as in terms of conditioning,` said Kevin Warren, Roz’s father and a fellow competitor at Saturday’s tournament.
Beyond individual achievements, there can be a team aspect to powerlifting. Naughton has assembled a team from his gym that goes out to regional and national tournaments sponsored by the Amateur American Powerlifting Federation ` an organization that drug tests all of its competitors.
`We only enter drug-testing competitions,` said Naughton. `With science, you can do better than you can with drugs. The science in strength training has come so far, you don’t need drugs.`
Like the gym itself, the team has a diverse age range from teens to senior citizens.
`I started training here for ice hockey, and he (Naughton) told me about the powerlifting team. So, I’m doing it during the off-season,` said Feldman-Reich.
Ultimately, it’s the satisfaction of lifting a little more each time that drives these powerlifters.
`I went somewhere else (to work out) for 18 years, and I’ll never go back,` said Cannizzaro. `I love it here.`
`I’m just enjoying the ride and seeing where it takes me,` said Feldman-Reich.“