Ryan Kells is a husband and a father of two children. Now he’s also a national record holder.
Kells competed in the Canadian Powerlifting Union National Championships in Regina, where he broke the national record for weight deadlifted for the Master 1 class by lifting 275.5 kilograms.
“It felt good to hit the record, but it also felt good not be hurt, and it also felt good because I was doing really well all day and I was feeling good,” said Kells. “I was just having a lot of fun.”
Kells started lifting weights in the mid 1990s to get bigger and stronger for rugby. He later got into the sport of CrossFit and even competed at the regional level three times. He’s been competing in powerlifting for five years.
“I got older, fatter, and slower, so I decided to take up powerlifting,” he said.
Powerlifting is a type of competitive weightlifting in which the competitor attempts to lift the heaviest amount of weight possible for three different lifts: the squat, the deadlift and the bench press. The total weight lifted of the three lifts are then combined, and the competitor with the highest overall total is declared the winner.
Kells, 39, competes in the over-40 age category, referred to as the Master 1 class. In Regina, he competed against three other lifters. It was the second time Kells has competed at the national level for powerlifting, but the first time in the Master 1 class.
Kells broke the national record, set by Jeff Becker from Ontario, by a mere half a kilogram.
“After the final deadlift I blacked out, almost fell off the stage, and missed the high five with the announcer. I think I came to about five minutes later,” wrote Kells on a Facebook post about the meet.
Kells says he believes he could have lifted more weight, but he had a head cold during the competition. He wants to break his own deadlift record later this year and has set a goal to deadlift 280kgs.
Despite breaking a national record, Kells placed fourth out of the four competitors in his category.
“The easiest way I can put it is if you break a record throwing the javelin but you don’t do well enough to win the decathlon,” he said.
Kells had a squat of 200kg (440.9lbs) and bench press of 115kg (253.5lbs), but it was not enough to surpass the other lifters overall total.
“My squat and bench were lacklustre enough that I didn’t get on the podium but my deadlift was so high that I out lifted almost every single other master lifter regardless of weight category,” he said.
Kells, who is president of Powerlifting Nova Scotia, has supporters at home. Among them is Sandra Buzinsky, who trains at the Dalplex, one of the various gyms that Kells frequents.
“It’s pretty remarkable how you can push the human body. Ryan’s (personal record) is really impressive but what really amazes me is what a person can accomplish through hard work and persistence,” she said.
Alexandra Soonteins-Olsen, another Dalplex member, says Kells has encouraged her to compete in powerlifting.
“Ryan is basically a big, slightly egotistical, teddy bear – encouraging and loyal as well. And kind to everyone. Doesn’t look down on people, he only sees their potential,” she said.
Kells remains humble about his record.
“Few people have given me pats on the back, which I appreciate, but the glow wears off fast and it’s back to normal,” he said. “There’s no money in this. There’s no fame or fortune. It was just about being able to do what you train for and do a good job at it.”
For the next little while, Kells will be taking a break from his deadlifts. He will be focusing instead on a different type of weight lifting – Olympic lifting.
Kells will compete in an Olympic lifting meet in April. He will also compete in two bench press-only powerlifting meets in the spring, which he says are just for fun.
He won’t do another full powerlifting meet, which would include all three lifts, until the fall for eastern Canadians in St John’s.
“For now it’s just picking stuff up and having fun,” he said. “No set goals or anything.”