YSU student to participate in national powerlifting competition

By Shianna Gibbons

With only four months of training, Jessica Johnson, a senior marketing and management major, has qualified to compete in a national powerlifting competition. She wants to share her love of the sport with other students by starting a powerlifting club at the Youngstown State University.

Johnson will compete in Chicago March 28.

“I am excited to hopefully see how hard I can go, but the goal is to place,” Johnson said.

Powerlifting is a strength sport that consists of three different movements: back squat, bench press and deadlift, with the competitor trying to lift the maximum weight in these three movements. 

In September 2021, Johnson was recommended to try out Rustbelt Barbell & Fitness in Liberty, where she was introduced to the sport of powerlifting.

“The people, like the community, everyone is supportive of you, and so I decided to start powerlifting, and I fell in love with it,” Johnson said.

Johnson had success in January 2021 at her first, considered local, tournament in Cleveland, where she came in first for her weight and teen-three class. Johnson lifted a combined total of 355 kilograms or 782.6 pounds. 

Isaac Whistler, Johnson’s coach and a full-time powerlifting coach, said the initial goal was to get her to qualify, but then she went beyond that.

“She signed up in November. We had the whole intent to make the qualifying total, then go from there. Two months went by, she put on 70 pounds on her total, and she just crushed the total,” Whistler said.

To qualify for the national tournament, athletes need to lift a combined weight of 310 kilograms, or 683.4 pounds.

Johnson’s goal for the national tournament is to push herself.

“[My goal is] to see how strong I can get from my last meet. I didn’t really push it for the first meet,” Johnson said. 

Garrett Kellar, assistant professor and program director of exercise science, said there are numerous benefits of strength conditioning and powerlifting. 

“The more strength someone has, the more metabolically active their body is. Muscle mass is associated with less risk of numerous diseases, so the benefits greatly outweigh any potential risk of injury,” Kellar said. 

Powerlifting, he said, uniquely targets the most basic movements in everyday life.

“The three movements of powerlifting are the most functional type of movements that can be done by the human body,” Kellar said. “They should be exercised our whole lives.”

In addition to her studies and preparation for the national tournament, Johnson is working to establish a powerlifting club on campus before she graduates this semester.

“We have about 20 people who are interested and we are working with, to get it started,” Johnson said.

YSU has a multitude of club sports on campus, but there are no strength-focused clubs. Kellar said a powerlifting club would benefit the campus. 

“It is fantastic. The more active we can get everyone is great. When people want a club that involves some form of exercise, it is always great,” Kellar said. “A powerlifting club would be unique.”

For more information about the powerlifting club, contact Jessica Johnson at [email protected]