Record Holder Wood Finds Power and Passion in Gym Lift | Best Stories

Justin Wood just wanted to get back in shape and spent two years focusing on cardio, light weight lifting, and good nutrition to lose 70 pounds. His new lifestyle led the current high school student at Edgemont High School to set New York State powerlifting records for his age group in his very first competition over the holidays after just eight weeks of training. coaching.

Wood realized that the weight he was able to lift was close to state records in powerlifting, which includes three events – three attempts each at deadlifts, squats and bench presses – so he found more workout ideas online, hired a trainer who was recommended by some weightlifters. at his gym and got down to business.

With a very short turnaround time before the US regional powerlifting competition in Massachusetts, Wood took first place in the 90kg (198.2lb) men’s competition for 16-17 year olds and first place for All men aged 90 kg, making 10 records along the way. Often times he would set a record and then beat it with his next lift.

Wood was 413.4 pounds for the squat, 264.4 pounds for the bench press and 523.6 pounds for the deadlift. He set records in all three events as well as the combined weight record at 1,201.50 pounds. This was a drug tested event, so it was also able to beat the drug free records for the deadlift and total lifts.

Wood’s first performance qualified him for the National Powerlifting Championship in Georgia in May, the World Powerlifting Championship in Australia in October and the North American Powerlifting Championship in St. Louis in November.

Justin Wood and his medals from his first competition.

To add to the remarkable journey, Wood broke his collarbone while cycling nine months ago, which required three months of recovery and a month and a half of rehabilitation after surgery.

Wood was born in New York and lived in England for 11 years until he moved to Edgemont the summer before seventh grade. He grew up playing soccer, baseball and football, but quit playing team sports in ninth grade. He wanted something different, but he didn’t know what until the summer entering sophomore when Planet Fitness offered free summer memberships to students. He joined after returning from summer camp and began his personal fitness journey, which did not include any plans to compete in a sport.

“I think I wanted to do more of an individual thing,” said Wood. “That’s one of the reasons I love powerlifting so much – it’s just me. Everything I do is due to my hard work, so I prefer that. “

Wood developed a taste for exercise and researched how to combine exercise with nutrition. He saw results and stuck to them. Everything was status quo until he discovered powerlifting at the end of 2021.

“Before that, I didn’t really lift heavy weights,” said Wood. “It was lighter and more reps. Then to practice powerlifting it was heavier, less reps, less than three reps versus 10 to 15 before. It was different because I didn’t had never really done anything like it, but I got used to it pretty quickly and started to like it better than before.


Justin wood

With just eight weeks to go to the Massachusetts regional, Wood was more trained than ever in and out of the gym.

“I learned it all on my own, but before the competition I hired a coach to help me prepare for the competition. I had never done anything like this before, so having a trainer is very helpful.

Coach Jerry Gawel was already working with some of the Iron Vault lifters on Grayrock Road and after an hour-long consultation Gawel took on Wood as a new client, working together remotely while Gawel lives on Long Island.

“In the two months with him he’s shown more progress than 90% of the other people I’ve seen,” Gawel said. “This kid has a gift.

Gawel is impressed not only with Wood’s ethics, dedication and skill, but also with his meticulous attention to detail in reporting his workouts and diet. Gawel uses this information to deliver next week’s workout and when they can sync Wood’s live broadcasts, occasional workouts so Gawel can critique form and breathing and offer real-time pointers.

“When they give a lot of detail, you can move someone very, very quickly,” Gawel said. “He tells me so much that it’s easy to explain what’s going to happen in five or six weeks. We found numbers for his competition and in seven weeks not only did we hit those numbers, but we actually exceeded the initial targets because of it all.

Gawel put Wood on a five month schedule to prepare for May to schedule the right rush hour. There will be a lot of core work until April when the workouts will increase. Gawel hopes to travel to Georgia to train Wood in his first big competition.

It’s all part of a long term plan.

“If you add 50 to 100 pounds a year over the next five years it’s going to add up and put it in what I call world records territory,” said Gawel, who is 36 and started powerlifting 12 years ago. “It started before the age of 18 and a lot of record-breaking guys in their twenties started in their teens when their testosterone is naturally higher, they can recover faster, they sleep well. He’s at the point in his life where he’s going to get results faster. The idea is to go for the long haul and in five or six years he will be in a recognizable area for a world record.


Lifting at his first competition.

The biggest change to Wood’s workouts is the addition of a second day each week focused on the bench press. “For competition my bench press didn’t increase as much as I wanted it to, so I’m trying something new for that, which is the bench press twice a week instead of once,” said Wood. “I’ve been doing this for a week or two and so far I’ve already seen a really big increase in this.”

In May, Wood hopes to lift 600 pounds, squat 500 and bench 350. “I watched how I progressed in the first eight weeks of preparation for the first competition and if I keep everything the same – I found what works for me – if I keep the same, I think these numbers are realistic, ”said Wood. “My coach also predicted that it would be very close to what I would do. “

Although he is focused on this competition, at the end of the year Wood’s goals are 650 deadlifts, 550 squats, and 365 benches.

While Wood owes much of his success to his time at Planet Fitness, moving to Iron Vault, a non-commercial gym with powerlifting equipment, was essential as was the search for a community of weightlifters.

“It definitely helps because they all competed, they all remember their first competition so they tell me things they would like to know about it,” said Wood. “Talking to so many people has helped me to be less stressed about it. I knew what to do to get in.

Edgemont’s physical education and nutrition teacher Daniel Orza was also a big influence for Wood. “Usually after the nutrition class we would talk about lifting and he gave me a few little tips that I always use,” said Wood. “It has certainly been helpful. “

Wood’s mom, Suzy, is an Integrative Nutrition Coach at True Wellness Within and despite many conversations over the years, something finally clicked and Wood took matters into his own hands. Finding powerlifting has become the icing on the cake. “It all depends on Justin,” Mom said proudly.

That’s how he likes it.