How I went from a 70kg teen to a 125kg power-lifter

How I went from a 70kg teen to a 125kg power-lifter

Posted by Dave Napper on Dec 21, 2016

Estimated reading time: 4mins

I first started training at my local gym when I was 15. Back then I thought I knew it all and didn’t need to follow the program I got from the gym owner, even though he was much bigger and stronger than I was. I mistakenly skipped the heavy compound exercises like squats, bench presses and dead-lifts, in favour of leg extensions, dumbbell flies and cable rows.

I didn’t realise the importance of sleep and would stay up late on MSN messenger and get up early for 5am runs, thinking it was beneficial. I also lacked good nutrition and was chronically calorie deficient, simply because I didn’t eat enough.

Over three years I made very little progress. My body weight barely changed and the weights I was lifting stayed about the same.

From twig to strongman - knowing when to listen

Fast forward to the present day. I’ve now been competing in power-lifting and strongman competitions for three years. During this time I’ve followed training programs from coaches who are stronger and more experienced than myself and I perform the power-lifting movements such as squats, benches and dead-lifts pretty much every training session.

My lifts have improved dramatically. My squats have increased from 230kg to 300kg, my bench presses from 140kg to 170kg and my dead-lifts from 270kg to 331kg. I now understand the importance of sleep and strive to get as much of it as possible, knowing that lack of sleep will detrimentally affect my training performance and recovery. I now also place much more emphasis on the importance of proper nutrition with regular meals, adequate calorie consumption and I use key supplementation.

How to avoid the power-lifting mistakes I made

My 12-plus years of training have been a lot of trial and error. Here are some key take home points to help you avoid the mistakes I made:

  • Follow a training program. Either pay an experienced coach to do it for you or try an internet template for free. Don’t create your own or even worse, ‘wing it’ every time you hit the gym.
  • Stop skipping sessions. Every training session you miss means lost progress. Whether you train three or five times a week, pick a number and stick with it.
  • If you’re skinny, you need to eat more. If you’re overweight, you need to eat less. It’s that simple.
  • Supplement where necessary. Many people don’t consume enough protein. Add in some WPC or WPI to help meet your daily requirements. If you’re not eating enough, add some powdered oats to your shakes to help bump up the calorie content.
  • More sleep = more gains. Don’t skimp on sleep in favour of reality TV or social media.

My power-lifting program

Still not convinced? Have a look at the program I devised for myself as a high school student, compared to what I do now.

2004 2016
Occupation High school student Nutritionist, owner of Brisbane North Barbell and power-lifting coach

5 x per week.

1 hour per session.

1 body part per session.

No squats, bench presses or dead-lifts.

5-6 x per week.

3-4 hours per session.

Squats, bench presses, dead-lifts every session.

Best lifts

Didn’t squat

Didn’t bench press

Didn’t dead-lift

300kg squat

170kg bench press

331kg dead-lift


5-6 hours

7-9 hours


‘Clean eating’ with far too much dietary restriction and lack of nutritional intake.

Flexible dieting with zero calorie or macro counting.

Example diet

Breakfast – 2 Weetbix + milk.

Lunch – Sandwich, fruit, snacks.

Dinner – Tiny meal.

Breakfast – 1000 calorie protein smoothie.

Lunch – Left overs + another 1000 calorie smoothie.

Dinner – 500g meat, massive salad + some sides.

Daily supplements

1 scoop of whey.


6 scoops of Whey Protein.

2 scoops of Micellar Casein.

Creatine, Acetyl Carnitine + L-Lysine.

Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin D + Omega 3.

I hope this helps you to achieve greater goals and see better results from your training. Good luck!

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