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Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016

Fort Benning Soldier brings home powerlifting gold

  • Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016
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A Fort Benning Soldier captured nine gold medals and broke two unofficial world records at the 2016 USA Powerlifting Raw Nationals Oct. 13-16 in Atlanta, Georgia.

"I came out nine for nine," said Maj. Donald Bigham, Fort Benning Human Performance Integrative Office. "Meaning, that I didn't miss a lift. It's a perfect performance. I felt very strong and confident coming in, and it reflected in my results."

Bigham stated that there were over 1,150 competitors at the event. The qualifying total was 1,350 pounds for his middleweight class.

"That's how they determine who will be on Team USA for the 2017 International Powerlifting Federation Raw Worlds competition," said Bigham. "The USPA takes the top lifters in each weight class and each division goes and represents Team USA. I took gold again this time, so God is good. He blessed me abundantly to have a good calendar year of training."

Bigham is the only active-duty service member to make Team USA. The 2017 international powerlifting competition will be held in Belarus next summer.

During the competition, Bigham's top squat was 596 pounds. His top bench press was 345 pounds. His top deadlift was 625 pounds. In the end, he totaled approximately 1,565 pounds at his 181-pound bodyweight. That's about 8.7 times his body weight.

Bigham also finished with the highest Wilks score of 475.

Bigham explained that the Wilks score is the coefficient of how much you lift over your body weight. A coefficient is given by how much you lift, which gives you a Wilks formula.

Bigham broke two unofficial world records because you can't break a world record at a national meet, according to Bigham. "It has to be at a world level meet," he said. "I broke the squat and the overall total records. The overall total was 1,550 pounds and I did 1,565, so I beat it by a little over 15 pounds."

Bigham stated that when you win at the national level, you get a spot on Team USA, and if your Wilks score is high enough, you can qualify for the invitational Arnold Classic competition. You need to have a Wilks score of 440 to compete, Bigham scored 475.

"I turn 45 next May so I was really excited that all my training reflected on the platform," said Bigham. "There are many hours of work that it takes to do just one lift."

According to Bigham, being a Soldier has contributed to his success as a powerlifter.

"I learned a lot about planning from the Army," said Bigham. "It's very disciplined and rigid because the goal is to save Soldier's lives and defeating the enemy when your life is on the line. We never know what the enemy may do, so you have to be prepared. The Army has taught me all these concepts."

You need to do two days of strength training a week with a focus on squats and deadlifts, Bigham suggested to Soldiers.

"Those exercises are the best carry over for tactical athletes," said Bigham. "When we put on our personal protective equipment or rucksack, we are maneuvering and trying to conduct a tactical task. It allows the load to feel lighter, which allows us to be more agile on our feet and the ability to allow our heartbeat to lower, which allows us to think better cognitively."

"You don't need four or five days of cardio to be an efficient Soldier."

Bigham also coaches, performs assessments and writes programs for those interested in getting physically fit.

"I coach Rangers, marathon runners and guys on the 10-miler team," said Bigham. "I do a bit of everything."

Bigham plans to compete in the Lee Haney games Oct. 29 in Atlanta and in the Arnold Classic competition in Columbus, Ohio next spring.

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