Bench. Deadlift. Squat. That’s Devvin Guzman’s world right now. The 20-year-old Virginia Western Community College student from Hardy, will be focused on those three events on Jan. 16 at the United States Powerlifting Association Raleigh Ruckus competition in Raleigh, N.C. For Devvin, his first powerlifting competition has been a major goal and the Raleigh Ruckus is the culmination of several years of intense training.

Powerlifting is the concept of building strength, which is different than focusing on the look of visible muscle through bodybuilding. Initially, Devvin was motivated to work out to improve what he calls a skinny, scrawny physical appearance. Then, he was introduced to powerlifting and something clicked. “I fell in love with powerlifting because it is more impressive to see a smaller guy lifting a lot more than a big guy,” he says.

A powerlifting competition consists of three categories of strength performance: bench, deadlift and squat. Competitors are divided into competing classes by age and weight. Points are based on a cumulative score of how much is lifted. At 155 pounds, Devvin’s personal goals at competition are to bench 240 pounds, deadlift 375 pounds and squat 400 pounds.

Devvin’s journey began at Franklin County High School when he was first introduced to working out through Matt Foutz’s Strength and Conditioning class. Devvin says he obtained a good foundation for weight training and learned the importance of proper form to prevent injury. He also credits watching many videos on YouTube, which have helped him teach himself and stay motivated. “Motivation is the key,” he says. Many of Devvin’s friends at Franklin County lost motivation and did not continue training once the class ended. He says he felt the challenge of staying motivated too, yet persisted and kept going to the gym.

Devvin quickly realized he felt good working out and appreciated the mental benefits of exercise. Around the same time he became passionate about working out, he also gained insight into his family’s history and health. He learned that his previously estranged father was coincidentally interested in weightlifting, and that his father’s side of the family has an incredibly strong predisposition to diabetes. Devvin’s father, all of his father’s six siblings and his grandparents have diabetes. Devvin hopes staying physically healthy through diet and exercise will help him defeat the odds of contracting the disease. “Everything I’ve learned thus far about the science of exercise and nutrition is influencing my workout in the gym,” Devvin says.

During his time at Virginia Western, a self-professed introvert, Devvin says he has found his voice and learned how much he enjoys talking to people and sharing his knowledge and passion for the body. He’s made many great friends and says the faculty has been amazing. He has decided to pursue a degree in Exercise Science with a focus on Personal Training. “What intrigues me,” he says, “is the body. It’s the greatest thing and we all take it for granted.”

Devvin speaks with passion regarding unhealthy people shortening their lifespan, the importance of keeping people healthy today and of the long-term impact health has on future generations. He hopes to one day obtain a master’s degree in kinesiology – the study of the movement of the body.

When it comes to exercise advice for others, Devvin suggests people find what motivates them and meet others doing what they are interested in. If it’s powerlifting, he says, take a strength and conditioning class, come see him or meet other power lifters, and know that getting to where you want to be will take time. As for school, he says going from high school to college was a big culture shock. Getting around campus is actually quite easy and the buildings and people are great. For him, the motivation to go to school was one of fear and a deep desire to one day be able to provide for himself and maybe a family without struggle. Right now, he is focused on going to school, passing his classes, working and studying hard.

Even though Devvin has been on a powerlifting journey for several years, it seems it is just unfolding to other levels. His biggest goal is to compete one day in the USA Powerlifting Arnold Sports Festival, an Arnold Schwarzenegger event which attracts international competitors. This January, Devvin will travel to compete along with two great friends he made through his initial strength and conditioning class and who are also current Virginia Western students, Mitchell Quinn and Kyle Grindstaff. Best wishes to all of them.