University Powerlifting

by Rhaea Stinn

by Jackson Spencer

Powerlifting is growing on university and college campuses across Canada. More schools are sporting powerlifting clubs and at least in Ontario, there are several college/university meets held each year. At the forefront of this development is Ravens Powerlifting, which is a recognized, “competitive club” at Carleton University, in Ottawa. I am currently the President of Ravens Powerlifting, and have been a member of the team since 2014. The club was officially recognized in 2013 by the school thanks to the efforts of Erik Willis (also an SBD Canada athlete), Justin Reeson and Phil Brougham, who all attended Carleton University. Initially, the goal was simply to get access to the new Varsity Gym which had better equipment for powerlifting.  However, over the past three years, the club has transformed into something much greater.

To my knowledge, Ravens Powerlifting is the strongest university club in Canada. We have won “Best Junior Team” in Ontario for two years running and at 2016 IPF Classic Worlds, 4 members of team Canada were current or former members of the club. This year, close to 15 medal-contenders at Nationals in Saguenay will be members or alumni of Ravens Powerlifting. I say this not to brag but to demonstrate the potential universities and colleges have, to cultivate great talent for the Canadian Powerlifting Union (CPU), and to attract new lifters to the great sport that is powerlifting.

I can only speak for the experience of Ravens Powerlifting, but here are some tips for students who want to create and grow a powerlifting club at your university.

  • Get a solid group of 10-15 lifters together who train and compete together
  • Before looking for funding, or recognition from the Athletics Department at your school, you need to demonstrate that there is a demand from the student body. Get the 10-15 lifters together, and register as a normal club (the same as the trivia or knitting club would do) with both the university as well as the CPU. That will get your foot in the door with the school, and allow you to push for more recognition.

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  • Push for something like ‘competitive club’ status
  • Train together in the school gym while being respectful and mindful of other gym user’s needs. Compete as a club in CPU sanctioned meets, and demonstrate to the school that supporting the club is a good idea (placings, team awards). You can also formalize tryout procedures and the selection process to make being part of the team more ‘prestigious.’ Find out what the procedure for applying for ‘competitive club’ status is, and work towards it.

  • Use funds from individual members as well as the university, to invest in equipment
  • Ravens Powerlifting is incredibly fortunate to have two 20kg Ohio Power Bars, two 45lb Texas Power Bars, a deadlift jack, and lock-jaw collars. This allows our members to train on competition-similar equipment, and acts as an incentive for other students to become a part of our team. Use tryout fees, membership fees, and any funding you obtain from the school to purchase equipment, or help subsidize travel/accommodation fees for your lifters to get to meets.

  • Socialize, in and outside of the gym, with your team members
  • This means parties, get-togethers, team bonding events, team training sessions and going to watch/volunteer at local meets. Some of the best friends I’ve met at university have been through powerlifting, and I encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals through something like a powerlifting club.

    While there is much more to being the President of Ravens Powerlifting, those are some tips for anyone in Canada looking to start a powerlifting club at their university or college. I’d be happy to talk to anyone who has questions on Facebook or Instagram, just shoot me a message.

    The growth of College/University students who powerlift in Canada is a step in the right direction for the CPU, and lots is being done to facilitate its growth. However, I believe further steps should be taken such as limiting the financial burden required to qualify for higher-level competitions such as Nationals. Travel and accommodation costs shouldn’t stop student or junior lifters from competing; that should be the job of adequate national qualifying standards. Ultimately, I would like to see a Junior, or University/College National Championship, which also serves as a way to qualify for the international team. That, however, requires people like YOU, to get the ball rolling at your campus, and grow university powerlifting in Canada!

    Until next time, safe lifting and happy holidays,

    Jackson Spencer

    Jackson Spencer is the president of Ravens Powerlifting, a competitive club that lifts out of Carleton University in Ottawa. He is also a 2x National Champion and World Championship Silver Medalist in the Junior 105kg Category. You can find him on instagram as @jackson_spencer.