Confessions of a pro powerlifter

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- I have spent long nights, toiled countless hours and sacrificed more than I could ever imagine.

Though some may recognize what I do and others will not, I have put in time and energy into something that at once consumed me and awakened an unknown passion. I am a professional powerlifter and this is my story.

Recently I just became number one in the nation for Pro Powerlifting at the Mr. Olympia Pro Powerlifting Invitational, Paradise, Nev., .

The Mr. Olympia Pro Powerlifting Invitational is an international event where lifters come from all over the world to compete in the full power (squat, bench, and deadlift for total) and single lift bench press or deadlift. It is basically one of, if not the biggest single ply event of competitive powerlifting in the U.S.

The previous current number one total was 2,088 lbs. combined total. After my 738 lbs. squat, 655 lbs. bench press, and 716 lbs. deadlift, that combined total put me at 2,110 lbs., which put me number one in the current rankings for this year.

Preparation is a full-time commitment lasting 10 weeks. I train three days a week during my training cycle, with a four day rest cycle sometimes to get a bit more conditioning.

I treat the week as such; Monday I squat and include accessory work that assists in the squat movement such as hips, hamstrings, quads, glutes, calves and core work. Wednesday is bench training and also includes the triceps, light shoulder work and forearms. Friday is deadlift training and includes more lightly mixed workouts.

One week will focus on heavy lifting and the following week will be centered on speed, conditioning and explosive training. I use resistance bands and chains on these days.

When I push myself to the limit and receive accolades most people only see the accomplishment itself. Rarely do they see the pain and struggle that came with it, the numerous moments of stress where my entire psyche had its resolve challenged.

My routine is a challenging one and has tested me in more ways than I could imagine. While I am successful at what I do, I have seen my fair share of battles on and off the platform, one of the most serious residing at a place very personal to me--my home.

When I first started competing in December 2011, I got "hooked" and competed six times throughout the next year. This had some negative impacts on my family, pretty much hurting my marriage to the brink of failure because I became selfish and all I wanted to do was train and compete.

Long story short, I had to suffer for some time and realize that my family was always first and that my competing would always be there, but if I neglected those around me, they would not.

With tough times and hard work, I am ever grateful and thankful that my wife and son are still here today supporting my competing. My family has been very supportive of me. They were and still are the key to my success. They serve as my support and motivation all in one. As an Airman and human being, they are what keep me going.

I believe powerlifting helps me as an Airman because it is very challenging to become better in and out of the gym. There is a certain mental capacity one must have to do this type of physical training. I am able to give advice to many others on how to better themselves in physical fitness, dieting and proper supplementation.

There is a lot of information out there, but much of it is misleading and expensive. I have been fortunate over the course of my entire athletic career since I started sports in high school to have people point me in the right direction.

At the same time though, I have been taken advantage of, lied to and lost money. I decided to get on the internet and just do my own research and I still do it to this day.

I am always online, talking to folks at the gym and finding out what works for people and what doesn't. I like to help people so they can have hope and get inspired to be better and look up to me. I've been through a lot of setbacks that wouldn't have happened had I possessed the proper infomation. I don't want that to happen to others so I try to give back to those that really want to better themselves. I feel as an Airman, that's the right thing to do.

Through work ethic, willpower and the ability to adapt and overcome, I hope that what I have accomplished can inspire others not just in fitness, but in life overall. So for whoever reads this, stay fit, stay motivated and stay inspired.

(Tech. Sgt. Benjamin J. O'Brien is a tactical aircraft maintenance instructor at the 82nd Training Wing, 372nd Training Squadron, Det. 12)