Tag Archives: Pitt

Vicky Zhen

I’m Vicky, one of the newest members of the UF family. I’m a student at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in Dietetics and Nutrition and minoring in Exercise Science. I’m interested in being a registered dietitian and/or go into food science. My favorite food is fruit. A food that I hate is mayo (if you like mayo, you’re actually disgusting). My education plan says a lot about my interests: I like to cook/eat and exercise. I used to run cross country and long distance track events in high school. Now, I’m a 57 kg powerlifter and the social media chair for Pitt’s Powerlifting team. My best lift is squat; worst is deadlift. Fuck deadlift. Bench is chillin’. My goals are to place top 5 at Collegiate Nationals this upcoming school year and have a 1000lb+ meet total before I graduate. Some cools things you don’t need to know about me, but I’ll tell you anyway: my dream superpower would be to read people’s minds. And when I was around 6 yrs old, I voluntarily jumped out of a moving car with no suicidal motives, I swear.


My experience being a powerlifter.


Before I discovered powerlifting, a big insecurity of mine was that I’d never find that thing that I’m passionate about. You always hear online of people chasing after their dreams and pursuing their passion(s). I could never empathize with those people until I became a part of this sport. Almost every time I get ready to train, I feel excited to grow, to be better than my last training day. And through training, I’ve learned so much about the sport and about myself. But the one thing I love the most about this sport is the community. Everyone supports each other. Whether it’s a quick spot, a ride to the gym, a handle, an extra lever for your broken lever belt, technique advice, some words of encouragement on a rough lifting day, someone is there to offer help always. The seemingly small acts of kindness are what drive me in this sport.


When I officially joined the Pitt Powerlifting team in January 2020, I knew close to nothing (and I still have a lot to learn) but I wanted to get stronger like my more experienced teammates. But the more I became a part of the sport, the more I realized that lifting heavy is actually a fraction of the whole picture. For instance, at the first meet that I spotted and loaded, my senior took charge in shouting plate colors and rack heights for each lifter. I admire her strength in the weight room, but her leadership at that meet made a lasting impact on me. I want to be someone like her. I want to be someone who can impact other lifters and make meets a better experience, make powerlifting a better sport. This is the one thing I’d advise new lifters: find your place in this community. Powerlifting isn’t just about the PRs or the number on the bar. What are you contributing to this sport?

USAPL Collegiate Nationals, Recap

This past weekend I had the privilege of competing at the USAPL Collegiate Nationals meet in Baton Rouge, Louisiana as a part of the University of Pittsburgh Powerlifting team. Unfortunately, it was both my first and last Collegiate National meet as I will be graduating in a few short weeks, but I can confidently say this weekend was in the top 5 of my favorite weekends since getting to college. As a team we spent 4 days together, and competed during 3 of those days, based on our weight classes. The majority of the team that competed trains here at Union so it was great to all get to prepare for this meet together and then watch each person compete after weeks and weeks of hard work. 


I competed on Friday afternoon in the 83kg (183lbs) weight class. Overall this was the most fun I have had competing even though I didn’t do as well as I had hoped. I finished the day 5/9 with a 652.5kg/1438 total. I wound up squatting 237.5kg, which to say the least, was my absolute max on the day. On bench I only ended up hitting my opener at 145kg and same with deadlifts at 270kg. I ended up failing 152.5(337) on bench for my second and third attempt, just didn’t have it on bench that day. Deadlifts I failed 282.5(623) on my second attempt due to not setting my grip and then came within inches of finishing the lift on my third attempt but was just too gassed at that point. My main goal coming into this meet was to total over 1500lbs, which while I didn’t accomplish this goal this time around, I know that I am capable of it, I just need to execute better. 


I have a few takeaways I’d like to share from this experience.


  1. Have multiple plans… this one applies to both powerlifting and just about anything in life. I came into the day with a plan that, had everything gone the way I had planned would have worked out great I believe. However, as always, nothing ever goes the way you plan it to. I should have had multiple plans for the day as opposed to just one so that I could more easily adapt to the situations that arose. I still may not have hit my goal with those plans but would have come much closer to them. 
  2. Adapt… this one goes along with the previous. The biggest thing I had to adapt to during this meet was getting accidentally skipped during weigh-ins. This caused me to have almost an hour less to rehydrate and get some food in me. Because of this when it came time to squat I didn’t have enough time for my food and water to digest so I was very bloated, and it made bracing for squats pretty uncomfortable. I should have lowered my attempt selections to equate for this and save some more energy for bench and deadlifts. I was so set on the plan I had for the day that I stuck with it, when in the long run, had I adapted to the situation at hand I may have performed a bit better on bench and deadlifts. 
  3. Weight cut vs water cut… personally I had never done a water cut before so I was questionable on doing one, so I chose to go with a weight cut. Looking at how I performed compared to those who did a water cut instead, I should have water cut. By doing a weight cut, I likely lost some strength due to the lack of food I was eating. Most people who did water cuts were able to rehydrate in the 2 hours before stepping on the platform. This is definitely something I will be taking into consideration for the next time I compete.
  4. Have fun and take the time to meet new people, especially at national level events… I had the opportunity to meet so many individuals this weekend, some of which I’m sure I will keep in contact with. The day after I competed, I was handling one of my teammates the next morning and saw one of the guys I competed against the day before. We started talking and it turns out he goes to Cornell University and is in Army ROTC as well. We talked a lot the rest of the day and I’m sure we will keep in contact. 


This was definitely an experience I will remember for a long time, and I’m glad I was able to experience the entire weekend with my teammates. Everyone performed well and I’m excited for some of the younger people on the team to get to experience this again next year.