George Underwood dead-lifting about 320 pounds at a training session this month. (KATIE FITZPATRICK/The Calvert Recorder)

Lifting more than 500 pounds would be an impossible feat for most people. To three Calvert County powerlifters, it’s just part of their training.

In a small garage gym in Port Republic, Tom Lewis, Tim Davis and George Underwood train three or four times a week for powerlifting competitions in nearby states. Most competitions are part of the Revolution Powerlifting Syndicate organization.

Lewis, 57, started powerlifting in 1973, he said. He didn’t compete then, but he trained with a friend who was an Olympic lifter. Then, he joined the Navy as a professional singer. He retired from the Navy in 1998.

At that time, Lewis was 42. He weighed 114 pounds and bench-pressed 300 pounds, he said. A few years later, Lewis began lifting with a friend from Prince George’s County who “helped me get into powerlifting,” he said.

Lewis’s first meet was in the USA Powerlifting organization in 2000. He entered the 148-pound weight group and benched 305 pounds.

“I started that and then I got hooked up” in the American Powerlifting Association, he said.

Lewis continued his training at a local gym, where he met Underwood and Davis.

Throughout high school and college, Underwood, 28, played baseball. Davis, 27, was on the swim team.

After Underwood stopped playing baseball, he “just wanted to work out . . . to stay in shape,” he said, so he started lifting recreationally with Davis.

Soon, Underwood realized he needed a competitive outlet. “After baseball, I had nothing to compete at,” he said.

Underwood and Davis began frequenting a gym in Prince Frederick, where they met Lewis, who was competing in powerlifting meets. Underwood said that with some guidance from Lewis, he participated in his first meet.

“I was hooked,” Underwood said. “This is the competition I needed.”

After competing in a few meets, Underwood persuaded Davis to try powerlifting, too.

“I started doing it, and it was fun, going to compete and everything,” Davis said.

The three men continued to train at local gyms throughout the county, but quickly realized they preferred their own gym with their own equipment. Lewis said many gyms don’t have the regulation equipment that the competitions have.

Underwood said that over the past four years, the “informal” team has gradually acquired necessary pieces of equipment.

“Some stuff we’ve had or has been given to us. Some stuff we’ve built,” he said. “Everyone, like, chips in and helps out with it.”

Lewis said a home gym for powerlifting has to be done right.

“You have to know how to set up,” he said. “You’re talking about George setting up and squatting 800 pounds. You have to have it set up just right.”

Davis and Underwood train four days a week. Lewis trains with them about three days a week.

Underwood works as a daytime security guard at Calvert Memorial Hospital, Davis is a security guard at Chalk Point Power Plant in Aquasco, and Lewis is an exhibit interpreter at the Calvert Marine Museum. They all are able to balance their work with training because, as Underwood said, “Training becomes part of your routine.” The team has a set training schedule, he said, but allows flexibility when necessary to accommodate for unscheduled events that may arise.

An important part of training together, Underwood said, is respecting and trusting one another.

“It’s a lot of heavy weight being moved,” he said. “When Tom’s benching 500 to 600 pounds, Tim and I are on both sides of the bar so if something goes bad, we’re there to stop that from happening. You’ve got to trust one another in every aspect of it.”

At the competitions, Underwood said, he and Davis compete in “full lifts,” which include the squat, bench-press and dead-lift categories. Lewis participates in the bench-press category.

“You have three attempts at each lift, and you try to get the highest total you can possibly get between all three lifts,” Underwood said.

Each category is divided by gender, weight and age, he said. An “open” category also is available, which is “basically for anybody” to compete in, he said.

Underwood said he participates in the 308 weight (for people who weigh 308 pounds or less) or super-heavyweight open category (people weighing more than 308 pounds). Davis competes in the 275 weight open category and Lewis participates in the 181 weight masters ages 55 to 59 or open categories.

Underwood and Davis said they compete against the largest group of people because of their age.

“We all compete in different weight classes,” Underwood said. “That’s why we never compete head to head in a meet, but we still train together.”

Sometimes, only one of them will enter a competition, but all three will still travel together for support, Underwood said.

“You need a pit crew,” Lewis said. “This is not an individual sport.”

Training together benefits all three of them, Underwood said. They can learn from one another’s mistakes and techniques.

“We’re able to bounce ideas off of one another and keep the training going so we’re all constantly progressing,” Underwood said. “We learn from each other [and] from other guys at the meets [for] any way we can improve in the sport and train safely at the same time.”

The age difference among the three is not something any of them think about, but Lewis said he has noticed a change in his body over the years.

“The thing that’s interesting about it is I’m still capable of heavy lifts . . . but my recovery is a lot longer,” Lewis said. “I used to lift heavy every other week, but after 50, now I lift every fourth or fifth week. The recovery is immensely greater.”

Lewis, Underwood and Davis say powerlifting something in which they see themselves competing as long as they’re able.

The team’s Web site is www.
. The three are also on Facebook.