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Pushing & Pulling: An Inside Look At Penn State’s Club Powerlifting

Who would want to spend their weeknights in the IM Building’s basement tossing around weights and hyping each other up? Members of club powerlifting do.

Unlike regular lifting and bodybuilding, powerlifting is essentially focused on lifting as much as possible. It doesn’t take into account the physical aesthetic aspect of bodybuilding and has more to offer than the monotony of free lifting.

“Numbers have varied over the years, but we have a stronger team this year than ever before,” Will Gaugler, the club’s president, said. “There’s those who have stuck with it and gotten stronger over their time with us, so they’re in a good place.”

Like most sports clubs on campus, club powerlifting has the opportunity to compete against other schools a few times a year with the hope of qualifying for nationals in April.

Twice a year, it hosts its own meets for new members to get an idea of what club powerlifting looks like. The first meet is normally in November and is a member-only meet, so those in the club can experience a meet environment without having to pay fees. The second, in January, is a sanctioned meet that members can use to qualify for nationals. 

While the team’s demographic sways toward the male side, the women’s team has built a reputation. Last year, Gaugler was the only man to qualify for nationals alongside 10 women. 

“Historically we’ve always had a solid women’s team,” Gaugler said. “A lot of women placed highly in our Pittsburgh meet, which really helped us out point-wise.”

In team meets, the top seven scores from the men and women are taken and added together. In an individual meet, the points are assigned based on how sole participants perform in each weight class.

Unlike a wrestling scenario, the ultimate goal is to get bigger and gain weight through muscle.

“Going down in weight really sucks your strength, and you don’t have enough time to get it back for a big weight cut,” Gaugler explained. “You want to get stronger and move into the next one, but someone might do a very, very small three to five-pound weight cut.”

Most club members have their own personal coaches, so the average practice day follows a “you do you” mindset, with friend groups forming around what you’re working out on a given day. Those who do squats every Monday are going to be better friends with each other than with another group that does deadlifts instead, but the support system is present for all members.

Members that come in without a coach aren’t left high and dry. Either the team’s coach or Gaugler helps them get comfortable and sets them up with workouts to get started. Over the years, a good number of loose workouts have been collected to produce “cookie-cutter” workouts. These aren’t specialized like coach workouts are, but they get the job done.

With the slow growth in numbers, the club has made its way back into participating at THON. Over the past two years, they gained a family and sent two dancers to the floor, solidifying its presence. Previously it partnered with the bodybuilding and fitness club, but the clubs will now be two separate entities at THON 2024.

As far as joining goes, the fall semester is ideal, but those interested in joining in the spring aren’t turned away.

“Usually we like people to join at the beginning of the semester, especially fall. If you joined in the spring, you could get a jump start on next year, but there are no promises about nationals,” Gaugler said. “There’s just not as many people to compete with if you join early spring, but it has happened before.”

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About the Author

Megan Kelby

Megan Kelby is a senior at Penn State majoring in journalism. She is from the great state of Delaware and does not tolerate any 302 slander. Megan is a fan of Sudoku, music, and rocket pops. If you feel the need to, you can email her at [email protected].

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