The Cal Poly Powerlifting Club said they strive to create a sense of approachability, community and healthy competition at the gym, where lifting can often be intimidating. Cal Poly Powerlifting Club | Courtesy Photo

Gyms can be intimidating. Weights clank deafeningly against cold, hard ground while sweat hangs thick in the air. Some gym-goers look as if they could lift cars over their heads; others will not even acknowledge passersby as they are absorbed in steely concentration.

But one group of people strive to create a sense of approachability, community and healthy competition at the gym. They are the Cal Poly Powerlifting Club.

“ The club is an infrastructure for people to come learn about and practice what they love,” club president Averil Royal said. “No one should be afraid to approach us; we don’t care if you’ve never seen a gym before. Come learn now.”

Cal Poly Powerlifting was founded Spring 2017 when biology senior Royal and several friends decided a group should band together to support each other and compete. The demand for a powerlifting club was there, according to Royal.

“We certainly filled a void at Cal Poly,” Royal said. “But it took a lot more effort than we had thought.”

Royal, with the help of Vice President and chemistry senior Chris Kim and alumnus Dylan Mayer, waded his way through Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) and university guidelines to establish Cal Poly Powerlifting as an official club.

Tracking down an advisor who would play a significant role in benefitting the team was one of
the tougher feats the group was tasked with. After almost two years of preparation and ironing out logistics, the club took off.

But problems still plague the group.

“We can’t train together,” Royal said. “The rec doesn’t like us when we take up all the benches or all the squat racks. When I squat, I squat for an hour. That’s a big deal when you have people waiting. And not being able to practice with the same equipment that we use at our meets is frustrating … but that’s nobody’s fault.”

Some club members decide not to follow the rules. “The rules aren’t ideal, but they’re not all that bad,” Royal said. “We’ve had a member get kicked out of the rec center three times this past year. How do you deal with that? We need to remember that it’s a privilege to be here, and we’re not entitled to do the wrong things just because we’re strong.”

However, rather than dwelling on their set-backs, Royal wanted to reminisce about his past competitions.

He explained that powerlifting meets operate like big, booming machines. Countless moving parts create a flurry on the floor as competitors take their shot at one of the big three lifts. Three white lights from the judges are all it takes to succeed. Royal recalled a moment when he was sure he succeeded, but at the end of his deadlift , two red lights flashed.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Royal said. “You train so hard — so hard. When you compete as a team, maybe your loss doesn’t directly impact the team’s score, but you’re failing yourself. It’s all you.”

Powerlifting is a time-consuming sport. Royal and his teammates know this.

“I schedule my days around how I train,” Royal said. “I know I’ve got class, but that’s just how it goes.”

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