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Lifting more than 500 pounds is something that seems impossible to most people. To three local power lifters, it’s something for which they train.

In a small garage gym in Port Republic, Tom Lewis, Tim Davis and George Underwood train three to four times a week for powerlifting competitions in nearby states. Most of the competitions are part of the Revolution Powerlifting Syndicate organization.

Worth their weight in medals

George Underwood holds the world record for the amateur Pennsylvania Revolution Powerlifting Syndicate super heavy weight open squat and total weight categories, and the state record for the amateur Pennsylvania RPS super heavy weight open squat, bench press, dead lift and total weight categories. He also holds the state record in the amateur Virginia RPS 308 pound open for squat, bench, deadlift and total weight categories.

Tom Lewis holds the world record and state record for the amateur Pennsylvania RPS 181 pound master age 55-59 bench press. He is also a world record holder for the American Powerlifting Association and the International Powerlifting Association in the same categories.

The first time Lewis, 57, started powerlifting was in 1973, he said. He said he did not compete then but trained with a friend who was an Olympic lifter. Then, he joined the Navy as a professional singer. He retired from the Navy in 1998.

At that time, Lewis was 42 years old, weighed 114 pounds and was bench pressing 300 pounds, he said. Just a few years later, Lewis began lifting with a friend from Prince George’s County who “helped me get into powerlifting.”

Lewis’s first meet was in the USA Powerlifting organization in 2000. He entered the 148 pound weight group and benched 305 pounds.

“I started that and then I got hooked up in the [American Powerlifting Association],” he said.

Lewis continued his training at a local gym, which is where he met both Underwood and Davis.

Throughout high school and college, 28-year-old Underwood played baseball. Davis, 27, was on the swim team.

After Underwood stopped playing baseball, he “just wanted to work out … to stay in shape,” so he started lifting recreationally with Davis. Soon, Underwood realized he needed a competitive outlet because “after baseball, I had nothing to compete at.”

Underwood and Davis began frequenting a gym in Prince Frederick, where they met Lewis, who was competing in power lifting meets. Underwood said with some guidance from Lewis, he participated in his first meet.

“I was hooked,” Underwood said. “This is the competition I needed.”

After competing in a few meets, Underwood convinced Davis to try powerlifting, too.

“I started doing it and it was fun, going to compete and everything,” Davis said.

The three men continued to train at local gyms throughout the county, but quickly realized they prefer to train in their own gym with their own equipment, which Lewis said is beneficial to their training because many gyms do not have regulation equipment that the competitions have.

Underwood said over the last four years, the “informal” team has gradually acquired necessary pieces of equipment.

“Some stuff we’ve had or has been given to us, some stuff we’ve built,” he said. “Everyone like chips in and helps out with it.”

Lewis said an important part of having and using a home gym for powerlifting is knowing how to set it up right.

“You have to know how to set up,” he said. “You’re talking about George setting up and squatting 800 pounds. You have to have it set up just right.”

Davis and Underwood train four days a week and Lewis trains with them about three days a week. An important part of training together, Underwood said, is respecting and trusting one another.

“It’s a lot of heavy weight being moved,” he said. “When Tom’s benching 500 to 600 pounds, Tim and I are on both sides of the bar so if something goes bad, we’re there to stop that from happening. You’ve gotta trust one another in every aspect of it.”

At the competitions, Underwood said he and Davis compete in “full lifts,” which include the squat, bench press and dead lift categories, and Lewis participates in the bench press category.

“You have three attempts at each lift, and you try to get the highest total you can possibly get between all three lifts,” Underwood said.

Each category is divided by gender, weight and age, he said. An “open” category is also available, which is “basically for anybody” to compete in, he said.

Underwood said he participates in the 308 weight or super heavy weight open category, Davis competes in the 275 weight open category and Lewis participates in the 181 weight masters ages 55 to 59 or open categories.

Although Underwood and Davis are in different weight classes, because of their age they compete against the largest group of people.

“We all compete in different weight classes,” Underwood said. “That’s why we never compete head to head in a meet, but we still train together.”

Sometimes, only one of them will compete in a competition but all three of them will still travel together for support, Underwood said.

“You need a pit crew,” Lewis said. “This is not an individual sport.”

Training together benefits all three of them, Underwood said, because they can learn from one another’s mistakes and techniques.

“We’re able to bounce ideas off of one another and keep the training going so we’re all constantly progressing,” Underwood said. “We learn from each other [and] from other guys at the meets [for] any way we can improve in the sport and train safely at the same time.”

The age difference between the three is not something any of them think about, but Lewis said he has noticed a change in his body’s recovery time over the years.

“The thing that’s interesting about it is I’m still capable of heavy lifts … but my recovery is a lot longer,” Lewis said. “I used to lift heavy every other week, but after 50, now I lift every fourth or fifth week. The recovery is immensely greater.”

Lewis, Underwood and Davis say powerlifting is a part of their lifestyle, and they all see themselves competing for as long as they’re able.

kfitzpatrick@somdnews.com