Powerlifting: Bodies forged in steel, bonds forged in brotherhood

WEST ASHLEY, S.C. (WCIV) The banging of heavy metal against metal is only drowned out by the sound of their grunts, their shouts of encouragement and the heavy metal music booming from a nearby stereo.

The sweat pours from their foreheads, cheeks red with fatigue, as they grind for that extra rep, that extra inch, that next personal record.

This is a small glimpse inside the world of a powerlifter: ordinary yet massive men with the ability to do extraordinary things.

While their bodies are forged and hardened with steel, the athletes of Lowcountry Powerlifting say it's their brotherhood that truly lifts them to their amazing feats of strength.

They come from all walks of life: a firefighter, a personal trainer, small business owners, a software designer, even students, with a solitary chance to lift as much as they can.

They spend sometimes as many as 20 hours a week in a dark West Ashley gym, perfecting their form, toning their bodies, and reaching for new personal records.

{}All under the careful tutelage and supervision of coach Will Kuenzle.

"Power-lifting is a test of strength in the bench, squat and the dead-lift," he explains.

Powerlifting to the athletes who live its principles, comes down to three individual tests of brute force, sheer will, and a drive to always keep pushing and keep improving.

"You always have that competitive drive just to be able to come in day-in and day-out and beat yourself into the ground," firefighter and power-lifter, Scott Dawson said.

And the athletes of Lowcountry Powerlifting can certainly grind, meeting four times a week while pushing themselves to the limit in preparation for one of several meets across the state.

"The last meet I was in, I squatted 635 lbs, benched 545 lbs and dead lifted 550," Dawson said.

The team uses special equipment like body suits, benching shirts and hydraulic squat racks to lift and squat what most men can only dream of. {}{}

And while the training is tough, each of these dedicated workout warriors say it's their special bond as athletes and training partners that helps push them through. {}

"It's the only way to do it," Dawson said. "In this game, in this sport it's very difficult to do alone.{} If I didn't have these guys it would be a totally different story. The only way to do it is with a team, we fed of each others energy."

So just what does it feel like to balance over 600 pounds on your back and squat to parallel?

"There is a lot of pressure," Dawson said "When you're pushing into a belt, a very thick belt, in the bottom of a squat, you almost feel like you are going to pass out. There is that much pressure."

If you watch them bend, flex and lift the massive weight, one can't help but ask why these men put their bodies through that extreme workout.

"It's my hobby, just like anything else," Kuenzle admits. "Some guys like to surf. I'm too pale-skinned for that. I like to be inside in the gym."

As a firefighter, Dawson says the conditioning aspect of powerlifting keeps him fit.

"We also do a ton of conditioning work with the kettle bells and the prowler sled," he said. "I need to be in shape and be strong so it helps my job a lot."