A UCSB student was declared one of California’s strongest powerlifters this weekend after lifting over three-fourths of a ton in two days of competition.

Sophomore law and society major Max Higgins won first place in the 274 lb. weight class and best overall for the junior men division of the American Powerlifting Federation’s California state championship, earning himself a spot at the APF nationals in Los Angeles this June. The competition, held at the Sacramento Red Lion Hotel on Saturday, March 1 and Sunday, March 2, hosted over 100 competitors, eight of whom were in Higgins’ division.

“Winning was great. I put everything into this,” Higgins said. “It’s my whole life. I haven’t been able to find anything to beat it.”

Higgins lifted a total of 1,670 lbs. – 672.25 lbs. in the squat, 435 lbs. in the bench press and 562.75 lbs. in the dead lift. The squat and dead lifts were personal bests for Higgins. The total amount of weight each competitor lifts is added up on the last day of competition, with the highest total score winning.

“There were like 1,000 people there watching, and when you do a lift like that, they go crazy. It was such a rush,” Higgins said in reference to his 672.25 lb. squat.

Higgins works out four days a week for about 3.5 hours at the Santa Barbara Gym & Fitness Center. He uses the Westside Barbell conjugate method, a type of resistance training in which the lifter stretches elastic bands, ropes or metal chains from the floor over the bar and back to the floor, increasing resistance in the last few inches of the lift. This gives the lifter more stamina at the end of lifts during competition, when the resistance has been removed.

Higgins trains at the fitness center instead of the Recreation Center because the weights in the RecCen do not meet his needs.

“I have to use kilogram weights at the gym because the regular pound weights are too small and I’d have to pile way too many on the bar; I don’t think they’d even fit,” Higgins said.

He said diet is one of the most important parts of preparing for competition. He takes about 500 grams of supplements and eats about 5,000 calories, mostly from proteins, every day.

“Atmosphere is a big part of success at competition. But diet, food and rest are big too,” he said. “I can’t live out here in I.V. because I have to sleep a lot and it’s just too noisy.”

Higgins works part time at the gym twice a week while training and taking a full academic load.

“It’s challenging to balance weightlifting and school, but it’s worth it,” Higgins said. “Weightlifting keeps me going. It’s something I look forward to at the end of a long day.”

Higgins has been powerlifting since high school, when he discovered during football practice that he was better at lifting than playing. At a friend’s suggestion, he began training with the powerlifting team at the fitness center.

“It’s an escape. A lot of people get drunk or do drugs to get away from stress of worries, and weightlifting does that for me,” Higgins said. “When I’m lifting I can focus on technique and I don’t have to think about all that. It’s just ‘move the weight.'”