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Pushing it to the Max


Max Runkle has been lifting for two years, competing all around Ohio.


While most students find it a struggle to carry the weight of school, Max Runkle has the strength to take on powerlifting along with academics.

“I started lifting my sophomore year just to lose some fat and gain a little muscle,” said Runkle.
For senior Max Runkle, what seemed at first like basic exercise turned into pushing himself for fun.

“At first, I did it because I felt like I had to, but I soon started to love it and couldn’t wait to work out every day,” said Runkle. “Simply lifting as much weight as possible against the competition. It gives my training more of a purpose now.”

Staying in shape takes consistent workouts and time management. Various equipment is needed to train for competitions. Having both the equipment and the time to workout can be difficult trying to balance, but Runkle has a routine schedule and many options to stay fit while handling his academic and social life.

“I typically have one or two rest days a week which are always during the week and I try to plan them the day before tests so I can study more,” said Runkle. “If work and school get too busy, my workouts are usually 45 minutes, but if I have time I will take up to 90 minutes.”

Powerlifting is a strength sport that consists of three attempts at maximum weight on three lifts: squat, bench press, and dead lift. To excel in the sport, your entire body must be able to handle the extreme weight. For its participants, consistent training and extreme dedication is needed.

“My typical workout is 15-25 minutes of warming and firing up the central nervous system, then I move on to 4-6 sets of heavy squat bench or dead lift,” said Runkle. “On the days I have a powerlifting workout, I follow by doing assistance exercises to the big three lifts and a lot of core work. On regular lifting days, I lift my arms and back a lot. When I’m eight or more weeks away from competition, I do the three lifts one time a week each. When I am less than eight weeks away, I try to do the squat, bench and dead lift twice a week each. The closer I get, the less volume or sets I do a week and the weight gets heavier to peak my strength for the competition”.

While strength and lifting are a key component to every sport, powerlifting is not common in schools. It takes outside dedication and clubs to be a member. Runkle is a member of the Wadsworth YMCA, has a gym at home and has a specific training gym in Orrville. He competes every three-to-six months, traveling all across Ohio. His next competition is January 18 in Brookpark, Ohio.

“I am a part of the USA Powerlifting Federation and there are competitions in nearly every state all year. Usually there’s one somewhere close to Wadsworth every weekend,” said Runkle.

Powerlifting meets are divided into two sessions. In a session, there are two flights, or groups. Every lifter gets three attempts to squat, bench and deadlift. Group A does all of their squats, then group B does all of their squats, and the same pattern continues for bench and deadlift.

One lift goes at a time so everybody at the competition has their eyes on the lifter. After each lift, there are three judges that give a red or white light. Two or three white lights are needed for the lift to be counted as good. The lifters are divided between age and weight divisions, although the true competition is in the men’s/women’s open age division. At the end of the competition, the best male and female lifter is decided based on the heaviest weight total (combining all three of each lifter heaviest successful attempt) multiplied by each lifter’s individual weight coefficient.

The sport opened up a new experience for Runkle, as it gave him a new demographic to compete with. He stepped outside the school sanctioned sports to find a passion that stays with him all year round.

“I’ve competed against young 14-year-olds all the way to a 64-year-old man who deadlifted 660 pounds,” said Runkle.

Not limited to lifting, Runkle runs outdoor track. He enjoys mid-distance running such as the 800 meter or the 400 meter. There is also more than athletics and school to Runkles life. He has a job at Kohl’s cleaning out the changing rooms. He engages in his community as he goes to Alpha meetings at Freshwater Church. Balancing school and outside life is challenging, but the key component to how he handles it is scheduling and balancing his activities with his training.
Constant dedication and practice is needed to keep up in powerlifting. Max Runkle pushes himself to the limit every day to compete and further himself in a way few do not.

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Pushing it to the Max