Raising the Bar


Andrew Lau (‘14) flashes a smile for the camera during his lifting workout in the Paly weightroom. Lau trains in the weightroom after school ends almost everyday for up to two hours.

Standing at just 5’10” and 161 pounds, Palo Alto High School’s Andrew Lau (‘14) is able to bench a whopping 220 pounds, squat almost twice his bodyweight at 315 pounds, and deadlift 365 pounds. Lau excels in a sport that remains unfamiliar to many people, powerlifting.

Powerlifting is a strength sport in which competitors try to lift the most amount of weight in three different kinds of exercises or movements: benchpress, squat and deadlift. Each person gets three attempts to try and max out while keeping track of how much weight he or she can lift within a specific age group and weight class.

At a powerlifting competition meet, the events take place in the following order: squat, then bench press and then the deadlift.

During his sophomore year, Lau played on the Paly boys’ JV lacrosse team, quickly realizing that the sport wasn’t a good fit. Not up for the challenge of balancing the sport his junior year, Lau decided to instead pursue his interest in powerlifting.

“I had been lifting for a while since my freshman year,” Lau said. “I basically found some video footage on YouTube and heard about [powerlifting] through the web and advertisements, which is when I started to get into it. The end of junior year though is when I decided to try it out and actually compete.”

When he isn’t competing in powerlifting meets around the Santa Clara and San Jose areas, Lau is training on his own in the Paly weightroom four days a week, with each workout lasting for about an hour and a half to two hours.

Though he trains for the majority of the week, Lau does not compete very often, with powerlifting being a sport in which competitors usually compete over a long period of time instead of weekly or even monthly.

“For me, I try and go compete when I feel like I can break a record,” Lau said. “I would want to make it worth it by spending extra time training.”

This past October, Lau broke the state record for the bench press in the Classic Raw Division of his weight class, 165.2 pounds, at the United States Powerlifting Association (USPA) Spartan Open in San Jose.

In Classic Raw, competitors are allowed to utilize knee wraps to stabilize their legs more and to protect their knees from injury. A lifting belt is also allowed, which keeps the lower back safe and stable while squatting or deadlifting.

“I’d definitely consider breaking the state record the highlight of my time in powerlifting so far,” Lau said.

Lau is not the only one at Paly who has recently gained interest in the sport of powerlifting. Lau convinced classmate and friend Fionn Ruder (‘14) to move towards powerlifting instead of simply lifting in the Paly weight room during a regular workout. Ruder praised Lau for both his amazing work ethic and personality.

“Lau is one of the most dedicated and hardworking people I know,” Ruder said. “He is also in the weightroom longer than anyone I have seen. It’s inspiring to me.”

The success of Lau’s intense training sessions have drawn positive results, but his dedication and time in the weight room have also caused injuries.

“During the warmup of my first meet, I actually did something to my back while doing a squat lift,” Lau said. “I slipped a disk in my lower back which caused a lot of pain. I think that affected my first meet experience but I continued lifting during that competition anyways.”

The amount of physical stress powerlifting places on the body hasn’t managed to stop Lau from pursuing his dreams of earning more medals and setting even more records as a talented competitive weightlifter.

Lau is aware of his goals for the future. He wishes to further his maxes, as well as to break more records including squat and deadlift for his weight class by the springtime.

As for his plans post-high school, Lau wishes to continue lifting. Not a heavily recruited high school sport, weightlifting recruitment and getting a scholarship is not very common. Lau, however, aspires to be a part of a powerlifting club team in college and even sees himself competing after college as well.

“There are no shortcuts or easy ways of cutting work [in weightlifting],” Ruder said. “You get in what you put out. In order to be successful, you must be strong headed and stubborn…These are all qualities that Lau has.”

Lau holds nothing but high hopes for the future, and his companions can agree that his dedication and strength will carry him to even more record-breaking wins.

“When others are slacking off, Andrew is pushing forward,” Ruder said.