Tag Archives: Powerlifting

Jenn’s Long Strange Trip to Pittsburgh

Where do I even begin… I came to Pittsburgh in October of 2021 on my first ever assignment as a traveler at UPMC hospital and was only planning on staying for a 3 month contract. Little did I know 3 months would turn into a year. It has truly been a pleasure and an honor that I had the chance to get to know Curtis and Todd and the rest of the amazing employees and other members of Union Fitness.


I started my fitness journey way back in July of 2019 in my home state of Delaware with 2 personal trainers, one for weightlifting that I saw 3 times a week and one for CrossFit that I also saw 3 times a week, with one day of rest. My main goal at the time was to lose a little weight and tone up in the process however, it didn’t take long at all for me to get hooked on powerlifting! The feeling of being able to lift heavier weight each week was intoxicating and I knew I would never look back. Everything was going great and I finally found the courage to sign up for my first meet which was supposed to take place in May of 2020, then disaster struck and Covid shut the world down. Although I stayed very busy in the hospital, my meet was cancelled and my fitness journey came to a complete stop.


Fast forward about 2 whole years later to when I found Union Fitness, and decided to get back in the game in late March of 2022. I knew from the very first time I talked to Curtis on the phone to set up my initial consult that it was going to be a great fit for me! After my face-to-face consult, it was decided that my 4x a week training would benefit the most by splitting 2 days each with Curtis and Todd and I just cannot say enough positive things about these two gentlemen. They each have their own unique training styles and I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from both of them. In just 6 months, after not setting foot in a gym for about 2 years, I was able to surpass my PRs from 2019 as well as compete in my very first meet here at Union Fitness! They pushed me, encouraged me, tested me, gave me advice, believed in me, made me laugh constantly, and stood by me every step of the way! It amazed me how they continued to come up with new workouts and ways for me to train and push myself. Just when my body started getting “used” to one thing, sure enough I would have that awesome full body soreness for a couple of days after a new idea they had Lol. I have grown so much as a person and a lifter thanks to them and thanks to all of the wonderful family at Union who I have come to know and will truly miss.


I hope my travels will bring be back here one day. Quite possibly for the fall meet in 2023! It has been an honor and a pleasure! Thank you everyone! And a very special thank you to Curtis and Todd! I’ll be forever grateful for everything you both have done for me!😊



WRPF Nationals

This Saturday I will be stepping back on the platform in Las Vegas Nevada to compete in the WRPF Nationals. This will be my sixteenth meet since I began competing in Powerlifting in 2013, and my first since having my biceps reattached just six months ago. By the way, it’s still Todd and CJ’s fault, but we will save that story for another day. 


I signed up for this meet 2 weeks prior to my injury. I was coming off of achieving my first 2000 pound total in competition and was very confident that I was ready for more. I set my goals and developed a plan. Then, POP. I wasn’t mad, and I wasn’t sad. I just was. When I signed up to compete in this sport, I accepted the fact that there was a chance that something like this would happen. So when it happened, I almost felt as though I was already prepared. Instead of dwelling on it, I began to plan how I would overcome this temporary obstacle. Don’t get me wrong, there were many bad days. Some of the lowest days I’ve ever experienced, but I knew that this was only temporary, and that a positive mindset would keep me moving forward.


Once I had my surgery, I knew there was a chance that I wouldn’t be ready in time to compete in the meet I had signed up for. However, I told myself and my wife that I was going to do my absolute best to try and get back on the platform. Growing up, my dad taught me that if I said I was going to do something, that I better damn well do it. I gave my commitment, and I knew I needed to do everything possible to see it though, whatever the outcome might be. So, I sought out the best Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, Doctors, and Coaches available to help me along the way. They told me what to do, and I did it. Every day and every night. Even during times that I felt like quitting, I remembered my word, and what I was taught.


Over these past 6 months, through the ups and downs, I can say that I have fallen back in love with training, and have been fortunate enough to rediscover the reason I started this journey in the first place. I now have a greater appreciation for every set, rep, and training session that I’m able to do, because I’ve learned that in a split second it can all be taken from you. Maybe it’s unfortunate that it took this injury for me to realize this, but I’m glad it happened regardless. Every injury, setback, accomplishment, and learning opportunity I’ve ever had has given me a chance to give back to the sport and profession that has given me so much. Because of this, I am able to pass on these things to those who find passion in their own journey just as I have.


Although the sport of powerlifting is an individual sport that is measured by how much weight you can lift, for me, it has always meant so much more. I know that every person I’ve met along the way and every obstacle I’ve faced are a huge reason why I’m where I am today and able to do what I love. For that, I am forever grateful.


Curtis Miller 

Kabuki Open Recap

This past weekend we hosted the 2nd annual USPA Kabuki Open powerlifting meet held at your very own Union Fitness. I have been around the sport for over a decade, and this was hands down one of the best meets that I have ever been a part of. The weather was absolutely perfect, the crowd was full, and the lifters were putting on an amazing show. This was actually the first meet that I’ve been to where there were two platforms going on simultaneously. This made for a very cool event with non stop action. 


One of the best parts of the day was seeing our members and staff up on the platform competing. Union Fitness’ very own Dave Jackson and Gillian Kane competed in their first meets and did an amazing job, walking away with some very solid PRs. Our members Eric Price, Brian Steinmiller, and Isabella Musante also competed in their first meets and all had an amazing day and expressed how much fun they had. I’m looking forward to seeing them back on the platform again in the near future. Two of our other members, Diana Jordan and Caroline Harpel competed in their 2nd and 3rd powerlifting meets and also did an amazing job. Congratulations to Caroline for walking away as the best raw female lifter of the meet. We are very blessed to have such amazing members and staff here at Union Fitness. They make everything we do easy and worth every second. Without them, Union Fitness could not be what it is today.


Finally, I want to take a moment to thank those who made this event possible. First and foremost thank you to Doug, Candi, and the rest of the Alpha Fitness/ USPA officiating crew for putting on such an amazing event. Their professionalism and support are second to none. Next, the Pitt Powerlifting team who stayed on top of the spotting and loading, keeping every single lifter safe and injury free. Thank you to all of the vendors who came out to support their businesses, as well as to support Union Fitness and our awesome strength community. Thank you to all of the fans, friends, and family members who came out to show love to all of the lifters. That support means more than you will ever know. Finally, thank you to our GM Todd Hamer and the rest of the staff here at Union Fitness for organizing and hosting such a spectacular event.


The more time I spend around this sport, the more I realize how amazing it is and how much it can bring a community together. For those few hours of competition, there are no problems, worries, or differences amongst any of us. For that period of time, there is only a community of people supporting and bringing out the best in one another. That is the power of powerlifting.


– Curtis Miller

Powerlifting: Where to begin

It’s no surprise that here at Union Fitness we are very well known for our powerlifting community. Many of our members and staff have competed in both sanctioned and unsanctioned meets, or are in the process of preparing for their first meet in the near future. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to hold two sanctioned powerlifting meets here each year with the help of the United States Powerlifting Association (USPA), and Doug Nostrant and his amazing team. Along with this, we recently held an unsanctioned push/pull event which we will now be doing twice per year going forward. This event is great for the first time individual who wants to get their feet wet, have some fun, and learn the ropes of the sport.


One of the stigmas involved with powerlifting is that all of the lifters are gigantic, angry, and can all lift 1000lbs. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, a large majority of the individuals who compete in powerlifting events are those who have been training for only a short amount of time and want to set new goals to challenge their self. A powerlifting event is a great way to do just that. You don’t have to have a lot of experience and there are no prerequisites. All you need are some goals, an understanding of the rules, and a strong work ethic. What you will find  at a powerlifting event is a group of people who are very similar to yourself who have very similar interests and a passion for working hard and achieving goals. 


So, how does one get started in powerlifting? My first recommendation would be to find a group of individuals who you can learn from. This is considered a training group. Training groups seem to be very undervalued and underutilized in today’s powerlifting, but possess a great opportunity to learn, grow, build new relationships, and challenge each other. If you don’t quite think you are ready for a training crew but want to learn from someone experienced, then just ask our staff here at Union Fitness. Todd Hamer, Charles Jasper, Cayt Neff, Cody Miller, Jared Caroff, Catlyn Brooke, Sara Runser, Steph Stehovic, and myself have all competed and would be more than happy to help you along the way. So if you think you might be interested but don’t know where to begin, just stop by and talk to us and we will get you started on the right track. You can also check out our upcoming meets on June 5th & 6th, as well as September 11th and see what you think. As always, stay strong, my friends.

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. 

The Benefits of Hybrid Training.

In today’s world of training and exercise, there are so many programs, training styles, and philosophies floating somewhere around the internet claiming to be the best. Many of which go against the beliefs of some other programs. Two training styles in particular that have typically been believed to contradict one another are bodybuilding and powerlifting.


Typically, when we think of bodybuilding, we think of building muscle. Slow controlled repetitions using moderate weight with an emphasis on muscular contraction in order to build lean muscle. On the flip side, when we think of building strength and power, our mind typically goes to powerlifting. Explosive and forceful repetitions using heavier weights and higher intensities with the goal of building maximal strength. Both of these concepts have their place and can play an important role within a training program, regardless of the intended goal. The problem comes with the belief that these concepts must be used separately. In reality, there are many benefits to using them simultaneously. 


I am currently working with a member who is preparing for her second powerlifting meet. Prior to powerlifting, Caroline competed in bodybuilding with very good success. During her time training for bodybuilding, she developed quality lean muscle and balance among all of her muscle groups. Over the past year, she decided to give powerlifting a shot and found out that she loved it. Due to her background in bodybuilding, she already moved with great control, but her repetitions somewhat lacked the force production needed to move maximal weights which she needed for powerlifting. Keep in mind, this is very typical for someone just starting out. Over the last few weeks, she has progressed greatly with her mindset and approach to each repetition, and her overall strength has been increasing significantly due to her ability to move the bar with greater intent.


We have realized that the combination of her bodybuilding mindset and background was helping her with her strength training. Her ability to control the weight and feel her muscles engaging, combined with her explosiveness from her athletic background was unlocking some hidden potential. This is the same mindset that I have carried during my time as a competitive powerlifter, and something that I believe will help anyone even if they are not competing. In doing so, this has the ability to build lean muscle, increase coordination and motor control, decrease the chance of injury, and develop greater strength and power, just to name a few. All of which are things that we all will benefit from throughout our lifetime.


So the next time you’re training, don’t just focus on moving the weight slow and controlled, or solely think about being explosive and fast. Take the time to learn what it feels like to use both, and how they can both benefit your overall goals and outlook on training. 

Cody’s Upcoming Meet

As some of you may know, Union Fitness’ very own Cody Miller has been preparing for his upcoming Powerlifting meet that will take place this weekend. Many of you are fortunate to know the Cody who waddles through the fitness center in his classic gray sweats, jokes with the members, and loves training his clients. But most people don’t get to see the other side of Cody. The version of Cody who loves to train hard and is extremely dedicated to his craft. Although he stays very reserved and calm on the outside, on the inside he is focused, locked in, and intense. This is the sign of a true leader, and something that makes him so great at what he does. Cody is someone who has never asked for a handout or a favor, but is always humble and willing to continuously learn and evolve as an athlete and a professional. 


I remember the day I was getting ready to leave work to head to my last competition. As I was walking out the door he stops me, hugs me, and says “There is no past, there is no future, there is only the present”. As I was sitting in my hotel room getting ready to compete, I thought about his exact words. Those words meant so much, and are something we should all strive to live by. This weekend, I hope that he too can live by those words, and perform to the best of his ability on the platform.


You see, the platform is one of the few places where you can be 100% free. When you’re standing up there, staring at that weight in front of hundreds of people, for those few seconds in time, nothing else matters. Not your job, your bills, your past, or your future can hold you back. Weeks, months, and years of training, dedication, and sacrifice are all wrapped up into one lift. Every time Cody get’s under that bar this weekend, he is facing every ounce of challenge and adversity that he has ever faced. But regardless of the outcome, from the sheer fact that he will stand up on that platform and give everything that he has to give, he will be victorious.


I am blessed to know Cody and to have the opportunity to work with and learn from him each day. Now, please help me to wish him a safe and successful competition tomorrow. May the iron be in your favor this weekend, brother, and remember, there is no past, there is no future, there is only the present. Live it the present, sir.

Top Ten List: Dumb Things Lifters Do

For this Monday’s blog we are taking a humorous look at weird things we all do as lifters.


  1. Bug squasher squats. For the last few years I have noticed many lifters who unrack the bar and then do the bug squasher dance. Not sure when this began yet it makes zero sense and is funny to me (special shout out to Daniel McKim for the name).
  2. Slamming warm up sets. We all know that your 135 and 225 warm ups felt light. What we don’t need is a new divot in the deadlift platform because of your slam dunk warm up.
  3. While on deadlifts let’s talk about your set up. Barking at the bar while raising your arms to the heaven will not help you lift the weight. Settle down and lift the weight.
  4. Living on “pre-workout.” We all need a pick me up at times, yet if you cannot lift without one maybe you need more sleep, not more chemicals.
  5. Over-concerning yourself with records. We have all been to a holiday party (well before 2020) and heard, “my cousin’s friend is a world record holder.” Our “sport” has a record for everything so just get a PR and have fun.
  6. Making fun of CrossFit. Yes, it is an easy target yet if you can’t walk a flight of stairs maybe some CrossFit could help your GPP.
  7. Acting like bodybuilders are ego maniacs while we are humble. Sorry, reality check time. We all have egos and began lifting to feed that ego. It’s okay, and we can learn from those guys and gals in their string tank tops.
  8. RPE scales. Too often I see a video when the lifter says “RPE 8.5.” C’mon! First off, do we really need decimals? Secondly, when you miss your second rep the RPE is a 10. All joking aside with this one, be humble. It is fine to say that your set was really much harder than it should have been.
  9. Instafamous. Yes, we all know that you lifted today, and social media is a great way to learn from those around you. If you spend more time editing your videos than you did training then did you train?
  10. Missing life because of lifting. After these last 9 light-hearted comments this one is serious. Lifting is a lot of fun. Take it from a guy who has competed in more than 20 events. I have had some of the best lifers come up and offer to help me without me even asking. I have also seen people helping those who they are competing against. What I am begging of you is to live your life. See your family. If you miss a lift, it will be okay. If you have to shorten a lift to go see friends and family then do it. If 2020 taught us anything it is that none of us are islands. When I get my vaccine I will stop my lift early to buy any and all of you a coffee or beer.


Todd Hamer