TAHLEQUAH, Okla. —
Jake can deadlift 300 pounds. "Three hundred pounds is obviously double his body weight," says his trainer, Mike Sarni. His physical strength is matched by his mental toughness. "He doesn't feel he can be defeated. It is that inner strength that tells him, 'I can do this.' Usually, you only get that in older, more mature people."
Jake is one of thousands of teens who compete across the country, according to USA Powerlifting, an organization responsible for sanctioning local and regional powerlifting events. Christy Cardella, a state chairman for the organization, said the youngest competitive powerlifters are 14, and there are several high school powerlifting associations across the country with several thousand members. But there are also youth programs, where children start as young as 8 to lift for fun.
Although the American Academy of Pediatrics supports strength training for teenage athletes, it cautions against teens who powerlift while their bodies are still growing.
"Powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting sports are different because they usually are involving maximum lifts — the squat, bench press and the dead lift," said Paul Stricker, a youth sports medicine specialist at the Scripps Health Clinic in San Diego and fellow at the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"There is high risk to heavy maximal lifts or explosive lifts during their rapid growth phrase," said Stricker, one of eight physicians who worked with the U.S. Olympic team in Sydney. "That is our biggest caution. We just don't recommend they do maximal lifts or explosive lifts until they have finished the majority of their growth spurt," especially if they aren't being properly supervised.
Jake's father, Chris Schellenschlager, said he understands the risks and makes sure that Jake works out under the supervision of Sarni, owner of World Gym in Glen Burnie, Md.