Matt Bromberg squatting 545 pounds. Photo credit: Noah Simmons

The most jacked students on campus dared to enter the ARC to compete in the Barbell Strength Competition on March 14.

A crowd of gym-goers assembled around and above the contenders, who were about to show everyone they can lift entire worlds and make the ugliest gym faces while doing it.

Each contender had to perform three lifts: the bench press, the squat and the deadlift. For each lift, they were only allowed three attempts at a one-rep max. The winner would be calculated by body-weight-to-lift-weight ratio, with their second and third attempts being equal to or higher than the first.

Leading up to the competition, it was important that each lifter had practised their heaviest lifts and were using proper form in the gym to prevent injuries.

Ishan Duggal, a second-year police foundations student, started lifting again in January after a recovery from a recent injury.

“I make sure I’m not overstepping. Eat and diet properly. Use the proper equipment. I have people like my coach who monitor me to make sure that my form is perfect or near-perfect,” said Duggal.

When it was Duggal’s turn to lift, he heaved the bar up to his hips in a fluid motion and then lowered it gracefully after the ref gave him the clear. He made it through and set a new deadlift PR (personal record) of 315 pounds for himself.

Christopher Sziedeman, a lifter and second-year supply chain management student, fastened a weight belt and walked up to the bar, totally convinced and focused. Only one thing was on his mind: getting that weight off the ground.

He stooped down — neutral grip on the bar. Then, he started raising his lower back. When Sziedeman rose upright, the weight came with him. He held it for two seconds until the ref gave him the clear. The weight came down, and he stood over it victoriously. The crowd applauded with enthusiasm.

Sziedeman passed. He had also just hit a new PR of 470 pounds on the deadlift.

“I struggled with confidence a lot in my life. So, for me, it feels really good to say, hey, I can do this. It’s something I can take pride in and it’s good for my mental health,” he said.

Kareem Lindo, a motive power technician student in his first year, had only been lifting for four months.

“Today, the 500-pound deadlift was probably the heaviest I’ve done. I made my PR,” Lindo said with leftover chalk on his palms.

Lindo’s passion is weightlifting. “I just enjoy lifting heavy. It’s really simple. I like lifting heavy. I like feeling sore. I like coming in here in the evening where all the gym bros and all my homies are here,” he said.

Lindo has studied loads of powerlifting online and wants to pursue it in the future at the Olympic level.

“Right now I just wanna build up my foundation so I can start my journey in that,” he said.

Leon Radalli, an alumni of the college who signed up for the competition, was pumping big numbers. “My highest number is 545 on deadlift. Every time I try to go above and beyond it, I go a little too far,” Radalli said.

Radalli said he was feeling really good and decided to go for 600 pounds but couldn’t secure the lift and overshot his PR.

No other lifter could beat the champion in the men’s category, Owen Jewell, an electrical engineering student.

He slid under the bar, adjusted his grip and arched his back. He suspended the weight over him and with perfect form, effortlessly benching 285 pounds.

His squat was just as impressive relative to his physique which he cleared at 405 pounds.

But when it came time for his deadlift…

The bar struggled upwards like it was magnetized to the floor. In an instant, Jewell’s whole face strained and reddened. The gym exploded with “UP!” nonstop. It was like he was ripping the core of the earth out of the ground.

Finally, he rose upright. The ref gave the clear.

The weight crashed onto the ground. The crowd erupted into volcanic applause.

“Biggest lift is 635,” Jewell later said. “Did 610.”

Those who didn’t finish in their category still earned a win in the gym since some made personal records in three performed lifts.