News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 2, 2013

Powerlifter boosts a whole lot of power in a small package

David Hughes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Brandon Smitley doesn’t tower over many other athletes at 5 feet, 1 inch tall, but he packs plenty of strength and power into his 132-pound frame.

A 2007 graduate of Terre Haute South High School, where he wrestled varsity all four years (reaching the semistate as a senior), Smitley has become intrigued by the sport of powerlifting.

Having enjoyed the benefits of weight training for the past 11 years, the 25-year-old Smitley debuted in a “push-pull” powerlifting meet — consisting of the bench press and deadlift — in the summer of 2012 in Clinton. He won the 148-pound weight class with lifts of 270 pounds in the bench press and 485 pounds in the deadlift.

Not satisfied with those numbers, he trained harder and dieted before entering the 132 class of the Natural Athlete Strength Association (NASA) national championships in Springfield, Ohio, this past June.

Smitley captured the title with a total of 1,207 pounds. Although kilograms were used in this meet, he estimated each of his lifts as about 429 in the squat, 297 in the bench press and 478 in the deadlift. He also successfully pulled a NASA national record of 490 pounds in the deadlift, which didn’t count in the competition but did count as a record.

For his efforts, he was named “Best Overall Lifter” for all of the lightweight divisions (198 and lower).

Armed with a primary sponsorship from Elite FTS, he’s got more tests of strength planned for 2014.

“I’m currently training for the Raw Unity Meet 7 on Feb. 9 at Port St. Lucie, Fla.,” he told the Tribune-Star. “This Raw Unity Meet is unique in that you have to qualify for it and there is no sanctioning body. It’s kinda like the BCS Championship Bowl for ‘raw’ lifters.

“At Raw Unity, I’d like to get 10 times my bodyweight, which would be a 1,320 total.”

For those unfamiliar with the term ‘raw,’ it means lifting without the aid of special attire such as knee wraps, wrist wraps or tight-fitting body suits.

Looking beyond 2014, Smitley does not envision himself quitting the sport of powerlifting anytime soon.

“My progress has been very measurable,” he said, explaining the difference in powerlifting and bodybuilding. “You either get the lift or you don’t.

“When a lot of people work out, they think about being bodybuilders and I won Mr. ISU [Indiana State University] and Mr. Wabash Valley [both bodybuilding contests] in March 2011. But I think I’m built more efficiently for powerlifting. As for dieting, I still cut weight. But there’s not the whole offseason where you have to watch what you eat all the time.”

A 2011 graduate of Purdue, where earned a bachelor’s degree in health and fitness, he’s currently studying physical education and coaching with an emphasis on strength and conditioning at ISU.

When not busy with academic responsibilities, he doesn’t train at any of Terre Haute’s fine fitness centers (no free plugs here). Instead, he trains in his garage on the south side of Terre Haute.

Primitive? Maybe.

Effective for him? Definitely.

“I’ve got a rack [in the garage],” Smitley mentioned. “I’ve got dumbbells. I’ve got plates. I’ve got two Olympic bars. No machines, just specialty bars. I don’t think I’m missing out on anything by not being a member of a gym. I can blare music [usually hard rock] here and have the atmosphere that I want.”

Smitley’s favorite of the three powerlifts is the squat, where you do a deep-knee bend with a loaded barbell across the back of your shoulders.

“I feel like it’s something you can’t naturally be good at,” he explained, adding that you have to work at squats to be good at them.

Reflecting back on his days at South, he chuckled because he admits it didn’t hit him that he would like to compete in any form of weightlifting someday.

“I was lifting serious at South for wrestling and I saw what it did for me [as a wrestler],” he said.

Smitley said he’s ranked No. 2 in the nation in the 132 class — behind the current world-record holder from Mississippi — by powerliftingwatch.com, which takes into account all existing federations.