By: Marie Kunkel, BLOC Intern

At Iron City Athletic Club, there’s no such thing as excuses. Ryan is an excellent example of this, putting in work on the platform and crushing PR’s despite dealing with cerebral palsy.

When Ryan started lifting with us just shy of two years ago, he was unable to hold more than 31 pounds in his hands and pull it off the floor. So that’s where he started. 31x5x1 deadlift and 21x5x3 for both bench and press. Adding weight each session. He wasn’t able or strong enough to squat until about 6 months into his training, but squats like a pro now with the safety squat bar. Even though he is a typical 21 year-old male, Ryan does have some physical limits due to cerebral palsy.


His programming is not revolutionary. In fact, it’s very familiar. He squats, presses, and deadlifts. He does his fives, pays attention to his diet, and he’ll add in the occasional curl for good measure. Most importantly, Ryan does not miss lifting sessions. This consistency and dedication has obviously paid off in a big way because earlier this year during Iron City Athletic Club’s charity lifting meet, Squats for Tots 2.0, 18 months into his lifting career, Ryan crushed new PRs in every lift ending with a 270 squat, 280 deadlift, and a 115 press. He’d also like everyone to know that he has benched 150 in the gym before as well.


Even outside the gym, Ryan has noticed changes in himself. Physically, he lost 26 pounds of fat, going from a bodyweight of 267 to 241 pounds. He accomplished this on his own without strict calorie and macronutrient counting. He’s said that he changed his diet to help better fuel his lifting solely by cutting out fast food and sweets and then replacing them with fruits, vegetables and more meat. Like his training, Ryan takes his diet very seriously. It took some insistence from his coaches to convince him that one slice of cake on Grandma’s birthday is totally okay. In addition to the weight loss, Ryan has noticed more he has muscle definition, he stands taller, plays better in Special Olympics basketball, and has lessened CP symptoms in his left hand and leg. His left hand especially tenses up and spasms much more rarely. Mentally, Ryan says he feels more confident, and according to his overwhelmingly supportive parents, Ron and Monica, Ryan has shown much more motivation and discipline in everythings he does  since he started training.


When asked about where his future goals and sees himself after graduating the Bearcat B.E.S.T. transitional program at Saint Vincent College, Ryan wants to work in a gym and eventually become a coach. He has been working Saturdays to help spot and cue a group of special needs lifters. He wants to help people see in themselves what he’s seen in himself over the last two years. As for his future goals in the gym, he’ll be chasing that 300 pound deadlift! Ryan will never stop lifting. He likes everything about being strong.


Here’s Ryan hitting a big PR deadlift at 280lbs.


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