If you’re at the gym and the ground suddenly shakes, it is most likely the thud of Eddie de Ramon, Tetsuya Kawakita or Jake Cherubini setting down a 500 pound deadlift.
The three fit and strong SUNY New Paltz students are preparing for the USA Powerlifting Spring Forward Championship in Gardiner that will take place on Saturday, March 11. The competition calls for the successful execution of three main lifts: bench press, deadlift and squat. The students are all active members of the NP Power Lifting Club, a group of passionate strength-training athletes who help one another reach their weight lifting goals.
de Ramon, Kawakita and Cherubini are going head to head (to head) in their respective weight classes, displaying the intensity of years of training onto the platform for the judges and prospectors to witness.
Eddie de Ramon, 20, third-year chemistry major.
A newcomer to the competition scene, de Ramon weighs in at 180 pounds with one-rep max lifts of 325 pounds bench, 455 pounds squat and 500 pounds deadlift. He only recently made a gradual transition from physique training to strength training for powerlifting competitions. de Ramon first found himself in the gym at age 17 with a few friends, learning the more simple ropes of weight-lifting, solely health and fitness purposes. However, after transferring to SUNY New Paltz in the fall of 2015, he eventually found himself moving larger amounts of weight and making bounds in his goals through power-lifting inspired training programs.
“For me, it’s about being clear-headed when approaching bigger lifts,” de Ramon said. “Getting amped up for it is one thing; you have to commit your cues to muscle memory and just not think about anything except getting the weight up.”
de Ramon spoke to the importance utilizing cues during submax lifts. Cues are essential movements that aid a powerlifter in focusing and engaging muscle groups crucial to safely accomplishing the lift.
“I always feel like a lot is riding on each set, especially a personal record (PR),” de Ramon said. “Sometimes you fail a lift, it doesn’t feel good but that’s just part of the process of getting stronger.”
Entering into the mindset to achieve something as notable as a 455 lb squat requires a certain meditation for de Ramon. He values the maintenance of proper form, eating correctly and getting enough sleep to optimize his training.
“An ‘off’ day for me would be a lack of any of those three things,” de Ramon said. “If my head is somewhere else from stress or being tired it’s a lot harder to have a good day in the gym.”
de Ramon’s opening lifts for the competition include: 290 pounds bench, 450 pounds squat and a 480 pounds deadlift. Opening lifts are what competitors begin the meet with, eventually reaching their max weights.
Tetsuya Kawakita, 20, third-year chemistry major.
It’s round five for Kawakita, as he prepares for the fifth meet of his growing powerlifting career. At 182 pounds, Kawakita is successfully maintaining impressive one-rep max lifts of 415 pounds squat, 240 pounds bench and 520 pounds deadlift.
Like de Ramon, Kawakita began his interest in weightlifting with physique training. In the summer before his junior year of high school, he and a friend got up each day at the stark early hour of 6 a.m. to train at their local gym. After meeting SUNY New Paltz powerlifter Kelley Booth, Kawakita joined the NP Power Lifting Club and started his immersement in strength-based lifting — leading him to compete in his first competition in Spring 2015.
Kawakita attributes his capacity to hit heavy-weight lifts to an awareness and ability to assess his own stress levels — therefore deducing how to properly bring himself into the correct mindset.
“You have to find that center-point in your body,” Kawakita said. “Get pumped up and feel that adrenaline that comes with going for a big lift, but keep your head together and stay focused.”
Feelings of nerve, adrenaline and fear run through the body and mind of an athlete going for a personal record (PR), according to Kawakita. Caring for oneself and knowing how to compose while simultaneously “amping” up is the recipe for success.
“It sort of feels like how you would at a concert,” Kawakita said referring to his mindset during a heavy lift. “You are just in the moment, experiencing exactly what you are feeling — I’m a big fan of analogies.”
Kawakita’s opening lifts for the competition include: 215 pounds bench, 390 pounds squat and a 500 pounds deadlift.
Jake Cherubini, 21, third-year philosophy major
Having participated in the same number of meets as Kawakita, Cherubini is entering this competition with a near veteran status. At 175 pounds, Cherubini maintains noteworthy one-rep max lifts of 295 pounds bench, 435 pounds squat and 515 pounds deadlift.
Cherubini’s introduction to the gym started in high school during his time on the football team and baseball team. During summer workouts and off-season condition with coaches and teammates, Cherubini developed an inclination towards weight-training. His workouts were simple during this time, mostly comprised of basic barbell exercises. However, in the spring of 2014, after his freshman year at Dutchess Community College, Cherubini joined a gym which eventually lead him to his venture into serious strength training the very next year.
“I pretty much just tried out different lifting programs,” he said. “I had seen ‘powerlifting’ mentioned in most of them and decided to try it out, I pretty much became obsessed with training after that.”
Cherubini jumped right into competitive lifting, joining his first competition just a few months after he began serious training. At his very first meet in August 2015, Cherubini placed first in his weight class, then leading him to qualify for nationals.
“So I placed 30th in nationals,” Cherubini said. “But really that only propelled me into getting even more serious about training. Since I started, I’ve never taken more than a week off.”
With that inspiration, Cherubini entered his third competition where he did not place, and then a fourth where he received the silver. He credits his ability to meet goals and PRs by understanding his own strength, and gauging his ambitions accordingly.
“Because I know my capacity well, so I rarely fail a lift,” he said. “It making that PR at the meet is what really matters to me, less in the gym. I want to be the best in the competition and the best at the meet — not at the gym.”
Cherubini, alongside his passion for training to his own benefit, developed an inclination towards coaching and helping others meet their set fitness objectives. Other members of the NP Powerlifting Club are competing at the meet in different weight classes, and Cherubini says he is more apt to worrying about them than his own performance.
“For pretty much all of them this is their first meet; I don’t want anyone to have a bad experience,” Cherubini said.
Cherubini hopes to coach powerlifters as a side-career in addition to whatever profession he finds himself in later in life.
Cherubini maintains a blog with his girlfriend Tressa Rhodes and friend Forrest Schaffer, both of whom are equally as devoted to strength-training. The blog, liftwiththeherd.wordpress.com, is a compilation of strength-training advice, nutrition tips and much more.
Cherubini’s opening lifts for the competition include: 275 pounds bench, 385 pounds squat and a 520 pounds deadlift.