It doesn’t seem like the fitness regimen of a world champion weightlifter.

Stephen Lesage eats what he wants. He eschews the help of a personal trainer, improving his technique instead by watching YouTube videos. He never jogs, boldly claiming that “cardio is a myth.” And he only entered the local weightlifting competition as a show of solidarity and support for his roommate.

But lo and behold, when the dust settled and the barbells dropped back to the mats at that February 2015 competition in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Lesage was crowned the winning powerlifter for his weight group.

Stephen-Lesage-Lift-EMBEDAlong with a plastic trophy, however, came an invitation to compete that September in the Global Powerlifting World Championships 2015 in Las Vegas.

This was more than he’d bargained for; he hadn’t even expected to place in Myrtle Beach, let alone be invited to the world championships, a competition known to be where some of the world’s strongest people set strength records that Lesage could only dream of.

When the Boston native called home to tell his parents the news, his father seemed more excited than he was and suggested that the whole family travel to Las Vegas to watch Lesage compete.

“OK,” Lesage responded quietly. “I guess I better start training for that then.”

And so he did, at his own pace and direction. His regimen mostly entailed lifting weights at the George Street Fitness Center six days a week and eating a lot of meat and rice.

Lesage got bigger and stronger in the months that followed, but also achy and slightly bored. For the senior physics and astrophysics major, the championships could not come soon enough.

Upon finally arriving at the Riviera Casino Hotel in Las Vegas, Lesage could see that the competition would be stiff.

“I was walking around the hotel, and there were huge people, really big boys,” says the 5-foot-5 Lesage, who weighs just shy of 150 pounds.

Stephen-Lesage-medalThese massive competitors were screaming and grunting as they prepared to lift. Nearby speakers blasted heavy metal and rock music. Anticipating this kind of tense atmosphere, Lesage had previously warned his mother: “Just so you know, I get really angry and you’re not going to like what you see, but
just relax.”

Indeed, Lesage, dressed in a skintight black singlet and Captain America socks, began pacing angrily as he put on his game face, preparing to channel all the energy and adrenaline in his body into a few swift lifts.

The Cougar muscleman then proceeded to squat 403 pounds, bench press 303 pounds and deadlift 501 pounds. That’s a total of 1,207 pounds, more than eight times Lesage’s body weight.

It was also more than any of his competitors, making Lesage the world powerlifting champion for the sub-148-pound weight category. He earned a medal for his strength and proudly wore the pancake-sized prize around his neck on the plane ride home.

Since his victory, Lesage has relaxed his workouts and allowed his body to rest.

“I’m eating Oreos every night,” he says. “It’s great.”

But Lesage has an appetitie for competition, too, and by December 2015 he was back to competing. Not that he’s varied his lifestyle that much. Why would he?

“I did it my way,” says the world powerlifting champ, “and it worked.”

This article was first published in the spring 2016 issue of the College of Charleston Magazine.