Is Charles Okpoko the Next Great Thing in Powerlifting?

At the ripe old age of 21, Charles Okpoko has built quite an impressive list of powerlifting accomplishments. A brief list of his accomplishments can be seen below, and keep in mind, he’s only been formally competing for 3.5 years.

  • USAPL Collegiate National Champion – 2015, 2016, 2017
  • USAPL Junior & Open Men’s National Champion – 2016
  • IPF Junior World Champion – 2015, 2016
  • IPF World Open Silver Medalist

Okpoko competes in the -66kg weight class and has become more than a dominant force in his short tenure. After seeing him squat 317.5kg (an unofficial IPF Junior equipped world record) at the 2017 Collegiate Nationals (on a pulled right hamstring), I knew it was time to learn more about this young powerlifter.

What originally got you into the sport?

Prior to powerlifting, I played football since junior high. If you’ve ever played football, you would know that weight lifting is a big part of any football training program. The big emphasis placed on strength helped me to develop my passion for lifting weights. I enjoyed pushing my body to its limits and beyond.

After high school, I stopped playing football; however, I continued lifting weights. The second semester of my freshman year of college, I was introduced to the sport by a friend/classmate, who saw me lifting at the campus gym. He brought me to the Longhorn Powerlifting club practice to tryout, which went really well.

I liked the environment and was excited about the chance to compete against other strong individuals from all over the nation.

Do you have any advice for a new lifter who’s getting into the sport? 

I usually tell new lifters coming into the sport to train smart and listen to their body. Most lifters are in such a hurry to load heavy weights onto the bar, that they aren’t really paying much attention to proper technique.

Basically, it’s ego lifting. This could lead to over training and eventually injury. So I always tell them to take their time to develop proper technique and make smart progressions in their training. Eventually the gainz will come.

When did you make the switch to competition? Do you have any advice on knowing when to make the switch from recreational powerlifting to competitive?

I didn’t really have much of a choice when it came to making the switch to competition. When I started powerlifting, I had like a month or less to qualify for collegiate nationals. After that, I had another month and a half or so to prepare for collegiate nationals, which was only equipped at the time.

I had zero experience with powerlifting gear, so that was an interesting experience. For a novice, an ideal situation would be at least a few months to train and familiarize yourself with the sport, especially if you are interested in equipped powerlifting. And once you are comfortable enough, make the switch.

What are two lessons you’ve learned from powerlifting so far?

A big part of my success so far has been my self-confidence. In order to be successful at anything you attempt, you MUST be confident in your ability to achieve it. Nothing ruins your chance at success more than self-doubt. It’s like losing a battle before you even step out on the field.

Another lesson I learned is that you cannot do it on your own. Don’t be afraid or too prideful to reach out for help. There are many people out there that want to help you. All you have to do is ask.

Do you have any closing remarks for the beginning powerlifter transitioning to possibly taking the sport more seriously?

Just have fun and enjoy the personal victories! The only numbers that should matter to you at this point are personal PRs. That should be your main point of focus.

If you go into every competition with the mindset to be better than you were last time, then who knows what could happen? You may eventually find yourself at the top.

Feature image from @charlesokpoko Instagram page. 

Jake Boly

Jake Boly

Jake holds a Master's in Sports Science and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Jake serves as the Fitness and Training Editor at BarBend.

He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and has spoken at state conferences on the topics of writing in the fitness industry and building a brand.

As of right now, Jake has published over 1,200 articles related to strength athletes and sports. Articles about powerlifting concepts, advanced strength & conditioning methods, and topics that sit atop a strong science foundation are Jake's bread-and-butter.

On top of his personal writing, Jake edits and plans content for 15 writers and strength coaches who come from every strength sport.

Prior to BarBend, Jake worked for two years as a strength and conditioning coach for hockey and lacrosse players, and a personal trainer the three years before that, and most recently he was the content writer at The Vitamin Shoppe's corporate office.

Jake competes in powerlifting in the 181 lb weight class, and considers himself a professional knee rehabber after tearing his quad squatting in 2017. On the side of writing full time, Jake works as a part-time strength coach and works with clients through his personal business Concrete Athletics in New York City.

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