PINEDALE – Powerlifting is a lifelong sport for people of all ages, including youth, as seventh graders Cale Dauwen and Daxton Zook found out.
Zook started powerlifting competitively when he was 10. The sport was a way to stay in shape for football, biking, wrestling and basketball. Dauwen took up strength training with Logan Gehlhausen at SPEAR Strength and Performance a year ago to prepare for football, basketball, wrestling and track.
Zook talked Dauwen into trying out for the Wyoming State Powerlifting Championships in Laramie on April 18. Despite being new to the sport, Dauwen and Zook made a strong showing in the junior division (ages 13-15) and came home with plenty of medals.
Dauwen set state records in all three lifts at the competition – the squat, the bench and the deadlift. Zook took second place in each lift.
Contestants perform three lifts in the categories and the highest weight in each is combined for the final score, Dauwen explained. The goal is to “go as heavy as you can go,” said Zook.
The young athletes tossed up some hefty loads in Laramie. Dauwen’s maximum deadlift measured in at 263 pounds and Zook’s was 176 pounds – impressive figures that many adults struggle to attain.
Technique is important. A referee gives out commands and watches each lift to make sure the rules are followed, Dauwen and Zook explained. The athletes warm up before hitting the floor with their assigned flight.
Once the flight is called, “you head down there and get ready for your lift,” Dauwen said. Dauwen and Zook agreed that the best way to prepare for lifting is to clear the mind and not overthink everything.
“You kind of have to trust that your training will work, that what you’ve been doing for however long to get ready will allow your form to be good,” Dauwen said.
“Your technique will get the job done,” Zook said.
An all-around sport
Powerlifting strengthens the body and mind, Zook explained. Lifting weights combined with conditioning helped Zook gain more confidence physically and mentally in other sports.
Dauwen added that powerlifting taught him how his body works in sports. Lifting made him feel stronger when taking on opponents in contact sports like football.
“Powerlifting is gaining confidence and coordination with the bar and learning how to get the most out of your body,” Dauwen said. “It’s all about your body. If you’re not putting in the right stuff or doing certain things, you’re not going to get the most out of it.”
Each competitive lift works on the core in addition to legs and biceps, Dauwen said. He outlined the different categories.
The squat involves placing the bar on the lower neck and upper back while bending the knees, Dauwen said. In the bench, athletes lie on the bench and press the bar up with their arms and chest. Deadlift is when the bar is taken off the ground and brought to a certain height with the knees locked, Dauwen added.
Zook said that he found the deadlift to be the easiest.
“I feel like your legs are stronger than your arms,” he stated.
Andrew Zook, with Wyoming Athlete Development, stated that the sport is a good way to keep youth in the gym and motivated to compete year round.
“Powerlifting can bridge that gap between when sports are happening,” he said. “It really augments a kid’s strength and conditioning as they go through middle school and high school sports.”
Strength training helps young athletes avoid injury, Gehlhausen said.
“One of the biggest ways to prevent sports injuries is through strength training – just keeping those ligaments, tendons and muscles working all the time,” he added. Strength training “is more than just training for a national record, or a national championship. A lot of it is being able to play other sports healthy throughout the season.”
Dauwen and Daxton Zook said they both plan to continue powerlifting. Zook hopes to win a national title in the future.
“I just thought it was a cool thing, and I think a lot of people should try it,” Dauwen said. “It’s an overlooked sport for a lot of people. It’s a very tight-knit community. Everyone’s friendly.”
Dauwen thanked Gehlhausen, Daxton Zook and his father for inspiring him to try the sport out.
Zook thanked his dad “for getting me into this sport and my family for supporting me.”