North Texas Daily

Powerlifting club grinding its way toward national recognition

Powerlifting club grinding its way toward national recognition

March 10
00:54 2016

Alex Lessard | Associate Sports Editor


A narrow gravel road in Carrollton, Texas usually leads pickup trucks and construction vehicles to a row of warehouses and storage facilities. Those that take the path for the first time usually assume they’re in the wrong place.

Behind the end of the building, an old garage has been converted into a cave of weights and heavy equipment. Upon entrance, men and women can be found picking up the nearest weights and lifting them as many times as possible, grinding their teeth and sweating bullets in the process.

“The ultimate goal is to see how heavy we can lift s—,” volunteer powerlifting club head coach Nikkie Durbin said. “That’s what we do.”

The Authentic Strength Fitness and Performance Center hosts two North Texas powerlifting club practices per week. Each member’s focus is to strengthen his or her entire body, but powerlifting separates itself by maximizing performance in three lifts: the squat, bench press and deadlift.

Powerlifting isn’t brand new for North Texas, but it did not become an official sport club until January. The majority of its members had previous lifting experience before joining, but the club welcomes newcomers with open arms.

Mechanical engineering freshman Justin Dowdy is in his second semester with the club. He went to state powerlifting meets twice in high school but said the club’s intensity has helped him take his strength to a new level.

“I used to weigh 90 pounds. I was just skin and bones,” Dowdy said. “I’m up to 122 now, and it’s just because I train. If I wouldn’t have started lifting and working out, I would not be anything [close to] where I’m at.”

Dowdy’s small frame has served as a motivating factor to prove doubters wrong his entire life.

Freshman Mechanical Engineer Major, Justin Dowdy, pushes himself to the limit as he lifts his body weight, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Staff Photographer| Kaylen Howard.

Mechanical engineering freshman Justin Dowdy pushes himself to the limit as he lifts his body weight. Kaylen Howard | Staff Photographer

According to Durbin, common misconceptions of powerlifters include steroid-crazed bodybuilders and big, “manly” women. In reality, the sport provides normal people an opportunity to do something they never thought they’d be capable of. 

USA Powerlifting allows those people a place to pursue that passion. Although North Texas is not yet registered as a team with USAPL — the organization that administers hundreds of competitions and meets across the country each year — all powerlifters have an equal opportunity to showcase their skills.

“You can get as technical as you want, or you can go as simple as in your garage with a bar, a platform and a bench,” Durbin said. “It really doesn’t take anything other than the will to want to do it.”

As a competitor herself, Durbin met a couple of lifters that were students at North Texas and decided to act on her desire to coach and work with others on something she loved doing. After collaborating with club president Hope McAfee to set up a consistent practice schedule, she began crafting workouts for each individual, taking into account each club member’s strengths and weaknesses to maximize their potential.

A typical week under Durbin’s plan includes five to six days of lifting, three of which are at 75-80 percent of each individual’s maximum weight. Two days consist of variations, including hip thrusts and kettlebell swings, but going full-out to try and break personal records only happens once a week to prevent injury.

“She’s not going to throw you straight into it,” Dowdy said. “It’s an intense workout. It’s insane. Her workouts will have you more tired than any workout you’ve ever done.”

Durbin’s two-hour long sessions can cause some members to lie on the ground when their done due to exhaustion, and McAfee said they can take up to three or four weeks to get used to. Until then, spending entire days in bed may feel like the only plausible option for recovery.

“You’ve just got to have the drive and willpower to push through your fatigue to be able to lift that weight,” McAfee said. “Powerlifting is definitely not for the weak-minded. You go in there with a crappy day or you’re tired, but you’ve got to be able to push through it.”

Staying patient and not overworking the body leads some club members to achieve personal bests at competitions when it matters most. The sum of each competitor’s heaviest squat, bench press and deadlift total to a final score, and consistent improvement in that number is what fuels the hunger of club members at North Texas.

Volunteer Weight Lifting Coach, Nikki Durbin, shows the proper way to stand before lifting a weight bar to Junior Biology Major, Sarah Hollowoway, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Kaylen Howard|Staff Photographer.

Volunteer weight lifting coach Nikki Durbin shows the proper way to stand before lifting a weight bar to biology junior Sarah Hollowoway. Kaylen Howard |Staff Photographer

“I don’t know about other girls, but I find it very satisfying when I’m stronger than the guy next to me,” McAfee said. “Being strong is the end goal. You have better bone health, you should be more focused on your nutrition and you just become a healthier individual.”

The club currently has over 20 paid and active members but is looking to grow in the next couple of years. Through advertising at the Pohl Recreation Center, word of mouth and potential success at future meets, McAfee said the club hopes to grow into a household name in collegiate powerlifting.

In the meantime, the club will continue to work tirelessly every day in preparation for numerous meets, including the Mean Green Classic on April 3 in Carrollton – the first USAPL event North Texas has ever hosted.

“Hopefully with our help and guidance, they’ll all do well,” Durbin said. “There’s a family type of closeness that happens when you get people who love powerlifting together.”

Featured Image: Kinesiology senior Sergio Simmions sets up his weight bar before he starts his nightly reps. Kaylen Howard | Staff Photographer

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