Confessions of an Addicted Powerlifter

By Phillip Wylie


Hello my name is Phillip Wylie and Iím an addict, powerlifting addict that is. Technically itís really not an addiction, but more of an obsession. Sean Donegan my coach, teammate, and mentor describes me as the epitome of an addicted powerlifter. Sean was thinking of what to put on my profile for our team website and said that my hobbies were reading about powerlifting, thinking about powerlifting, talking about powerlifting, dreaming about powerlifting, and powerlifting. It sounds funny, but itís true.


I began lifting back in 1980 at the ripe old age of 15 and was hooked from the start. I played football and could out bench all of the other eighth graders. I was a chubby kid and most people didnít believe me when I told them I bench pressed 200lbs. I did it on a Universal machine, but, nonetheless, impressed my classmates. At that time I really didnít workout, we would just go to the weight room and max out. That summer I started working out. I wanted to get stronger, but most of all I wanted to look strong. I was tired of people not believing what I benched because of my appearance. I was out to fix that problem.


Over the summer I worked out religiously. My parents were surprised that I stuck with the weight training because I typically didnít stick with anything. I made good gains that summer and went back to school a different person. The muscle I had gained and the fat I had shed boosted my confidence. I was always shy and this was one of the best things that could have happened to me.


Later that fall, after football season had ended, my little brother was playing with a gun and accidentally shot me. This was the most terrifying experience in my life. My parents were at work so it was just my brother, his friend, and I. I really didnít know what to think at first. My brother had come into the room, pointed the gun at me, and pulled the trigger. I panicked and ran out of the house. I ran to a neighborís yard coughing up blood. As I went up an embankment leading up into their yard I fell and could not get up. My brother came outside looking for me. He had the radio up so load that you could not hear the gun go off. He did not realize he had shot me. He tried to help me up, but was not able. As I reached up I felt the blood draining from my arms. My brother went up to the neighborís house for help and they called the ambulance. One of the reasons I mention this story is the fact that it helps further clarify my obsession with lifting. While I was there on the ground, thinking that I was breathing my last breaths, the only thing I could think about was that the other guys at school would pass me up on the bench. I was worried that they would think that I wasnít really that strong. Thatís what kept me going and fighting to live.


The ambulance took me to Flow Hospital in Denton, Texas and I was later sent to Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas. The doctors x-rayed me he saw the bullet was in my heart and when they went in to remove the bullet there was no sign of an entry wound in my heart. The bullet went through my arm piercing my left side and traveled through to my lung. The bullet then traveled through an artery in my lung and pumped through my heart, and lodged in the bend of my left leg. The chief surgeon at Parkland said that was the first time in medical history that someone had a bullet pump through their heart. The doctor said that working out and football had helped by enlarging my veins and arteries, and as well my conditioning helped me pull through the accident.


Five days later I was released from the hospital. A week after that I went back to school. I had lost twenty pounds and my parents, for the first time, were encouraging me to gain weight. I was anxious to get back to lifting, but due to the fourteen-inch incision in my chest and side, I had to wait. Soon as I had the doctorís OK I was back lifting. I was worried that the incision would affect my bench, but it didnít.


After my accident, I continued to lift and went from training at home and school, to training in a local health club. Later I joined a local gym. The gym was a hardcore warehouse gym located in an industrial area. There I meet some powerlifters and decided I wanted to be a powerlifter. Two of these guys really stood out. They were two of the biggest and strongest guys I had ever seen. Leon was 5í10Ē and around 300lbs, Marty was 6í2Ē and 350lbs. Marty and Leon would workout with 400+ lbs on the bench press and 315lbs on the incline. The most intriguing thing to me was that they paused each rep and did at least five reps per set. I didnít know it at the time, but I would get to know these guys and they would come to my first meet.


In December of 1983 it was my senior year in high school and Myo-Tek Gym opened. Myo-Tek Gym was and still is a hardcore gym. Dan Canales the owner was a competitive powerlifter. I went in to check out the gym and joined. There wasnít a lot of equipment, but all the basic stuff a powerlifter would need to train. Most if not all of the equipment was hand made. They had power bars and York plates. Dan started training me for powerlifting. Even though I had been training for a little over three years, Dan had me starting out really light and teaching me proper form. Danís philosophy was to not sacrifice form for weight. I learned how to deadlift, something I had never done before.


Six months later, I went to my first powerlifting meet. It was a high school meet in a small town near Denton. When I got to the meet I was very nervous. I had no idea how I would do. I didnít know any competitors, just family and friends that had come to support me. It was really cool for me because Marty and Leon were also there. I won my weight class (220lbs class) and out benched, out squatted, and out totaled everyone including the heavier guys. A 275 out deadlifted me. Even though they were not in my class, I was still determined to beat them. I was very pleased with my performance:squat 500lbs, bench 350lbs (raw), and deadlift 450lbs at 210lbs bodyweight. This was the first time I had every stood out in a sport. In football I was always second string, but in powerlifting I excelled. The feelings I experienced were like nothing I had experienced before. I discovered my competitive spirit that day. Thatís the day I knew I was hooked.


After that I competed up until 1987 and then trained for a bench press contest in 1995. I worked out with no consistency until the fall of 2002. I started back working out to get in shape and improve my health. Years of sitting behind a desk in the computer industry caught up to me. In January of 2003 I was diagnosed with type II diabetes. Through diet and exercise Iím able to control it and I donít take any medications for diabetes. My blood sugar levels are at the level of non-diabetic person.


In September of 2003 I decided to get back into powerlifting. I was planning on competing in the bench press at a local meet in November. I felt that I never reached my full potential and wanted to get back in and realize my full potential. I called Kirk Stroud the owner of Stroudís Gym in Hurst, Texas to get an entry form for a November contest. Kirk hosts the INSA and INSAA powerlifting meets. I also asked Kirk if he new of any powerlifting gyms in the North Dallas area. I would have liked to have trained at Stroudís, but it was too far to commute. Kirk gave me Sean Doneganís phone number. I contacted Sean and told him I was interested in training with him. He was looking for more guys to join his team. When he told me that he used the Westside Barbell Club training methodology. I was even more interested. I had been reading some articles on the Elite Fitness Systems website and wanted to give it a try. Sean told me how at one point he had put 277lbs on his total in eight months and he did it drug free. Sean was getting ready to go out of town for a contest and was going to call me when he got back into town. Sean lost my number, but luckily I ran into him at a smoothie shop. I knew what he looked like, being the computer geek that I am I found some pictures of him on the Internet. I introduced myself to Sean. Sean was there with a new recruit. Sean told me the days they trained and that they followed the basic Westside template. At the time I was doing a computer/network security project after work for a wireless communications startup. I was making good money of the project but with the hours I put in on top of my regular job, I would only be able to train the bench press. After the first training session, which happened to be the max effort bench press session, I never missed a workout and was there four days a week. I eventually quit the project because I wasnít getting much sleep and feared it would affect my training.


November came around and I competed in the bench press at the powerlifting meet. I won the submaster 220 bench press, and deadlift. I did not originally intend on deadlifting, Sean and the guys encouraged me to give it a try. I set a record in the deadlift for the submaster 220 class. I pulled 580lbs and got 600lbs to my knees. This was after seven weeks of training. I was sold on the Westside training and my training partners. Sean is a great coach and believes in giving back to the sport. When I was getting back into powerlifting I was worried that I wouldnít have the desire that I once did, man was I wrong. Iím probably more addicted now than ever before. Training with Sean and using the Westside methodology are the best things to happen to my program in a long time. I donít feel that I would have been able to come back so soon, and be as successful without these two factors.


Since November I have competed in two contests and have successful. In January I won the open 242lbs class as well as the submaster 242lbs at a NASA meet. I also set State records in that meet. In April I won the 242lbs submaster class at the APF Texas Championships and place third in the open 242lb class. I also came close to a 705lbs pull. I got the bar above my knees, the same place I missed 600lbs last November.


In March, I went with Sean to watch the WPO finals at the Arnold Classic. While we were there I got to train at Westside Barbell Club. I came back form the WPO finals and getting to train at Westside even more motivated and obsessed with the sport. Sean warned me it would happen. I came back from what I considered a powerlifters dream trip all motivated only to receive bad news. I was diagnosed with hepatitis C. The treatment for hepatitis C is Interferon and is especially harsh. The doctor said I may not feel like competing while I am on the medication. I contracted hepatitis from the blood transfusion I received twenty three years ago when I got shot. The funny thing all these years later is that the part that scared me is that the treatment might prevent me from competing. I guess I must be addicted to powerlifting.


Where most stories would say THE END, I will leave this story as TO BE CONTINUED. My obsession for powerlifting will not let me give up. If the treatment is bad enough to keep me from training, then I will have to wait a year, since that is how long I have to be on the treatment. At the end of May I will be competing in the IPA East Coast Championships (Nazareth Barbell Strength Spectacular). This might be my last chance to compete for a while and my goal was to total Elite within one year of returning to the sport. So this might be my last shot to total Elite this year and make my goal. This meet is important because it does two things, one it gives me the chance to total Elite and, two it will fuel my desire and help me deal with the side effects of the treatment. Anyone who knows me very well will tell you that I am determined and a fighter. I know that I am not alone; I have the support of my wife Tiffany, my teammates Sean, Mike and Kevin. Obsessions are not always a bad thing, especially when they can help your desire to survive. I will be back.