Like so many of us, Luigi Fagiani has a fitness goal for the new year.
While the masses try to drop a few pounds, however, Fagiani is striving to lift a ton.
Fagiani, 23, set United States Powerlifting Association and International Powerlifting League records for his age and weight class (220 pounds) last month at the IPL World Championships in Las Vegas with a 1,764-pound total in the deadlift, squat and bench press.
Competing as a raw powerlifter – meaning he doesn’t use suits, shirts or wraps that allow for bigger lifts – Fagiani has lifted a total that currently ranks him fifth nationally by PowerliftingWatch.com and his 777-pound deadlift is ranked third.
Fagiani actually deadlifted 804 pounds at his last meet, but the lift was disallowed by the judges due to a technical error that Fagiani disputes.
At his next meet, Fagiani plans to put an 804-pound deadlift and 1,800-pound total on the books.
And with most powerlifters reaching their strength peak in their 30s, Fagiani expects to total more than 2,000 at some point in his future.
“He has a very bright future,” said Ron Primerano, owner of Primerano Fitness on Military Road, Niagara Falls, where Fagiani trains six days a week.
“His numbers are off the charts,” Primerano said. “There is nobody in the area, and really nobody that I know of in the region, that has the numbers he has on the deadlift.”
Fagiani, a former hockey player for Niagara Wheatfield High School and the Buffalo Junior Sabres, began weightlifting as a teenager because he was teased for being overweight.
After starting out with light-weight, high-repetition workouts, Fagiani began to fall in love with heavy lifting, particularly the deadlift.
He played half a season of hockey at Monroe Community College before coming home to work full time at a local car audio shop and focus on powerlifting.
At his second competition in 2010, Fagiani pulled 640 pounds off the floor at a body weight of 198 pounds.
“That’s when I realized I was stronger than most, and this became a big part of my life,” he said.
Fagiani has found competing in powerlifting to be more fulfilling than playing hockey.
“The competitions are like nothing else,” he said. “Everybody is rooting for you. Nobody is rooting against you. You could be in the back warming up and the guy you are competing against is helping you out and then when you are on stage, he is cheering you on.”
Fagiani’s success in powerlifting has led to sponsorships from Most Hated apparel, USPlabs Direct supplements and KT Tape kinesiology tape. He also has gained an avid following on social networks, where he regularly posts videos of his training lifts.
When Fagiani’s mother, Judy, died last year, training helped him through the grieving process.
“Lifting helped him cope with that,” said Fagiani’s girlfriend, Francesa Pelusio, a Niagara University junior training to compete as a figure athlete.
“She liked what I did and a lot of people say she was proud of me,” Fagiani said. “I do it for her. I hope she is proud of me.”
Powerlifting also has instilled discipline in Fagiani.
“I used to go out and drink at the club every Friday and Saturday,” he said. “Now I go out once every two months maybe, and I don’t like drinking any more because I don’t want to be hung over the next morning.”
“He gets his frustration out with the lifting,” Pelusio said. “He works all day, and lifting is his getaway. And this is our time together. It’s our home away from home.”
Fagiani had been thrown out of a local commercial gym for using weightlifting chalk and making too much noise when he met Primerano at a local powerlifting meet.
He found a home at Primerano Fitness, where several champion bodybuilders and figure athletes train, including Fagiani’s former Niagara Wheatfield classmate, Adam Ferchen, a competitive bodybuilder and powerlifter.
Yet, Fagiani is beginning to outgrow this gym. When he attempts his heaviest deadlifts, 45-pound plates spill over the end of the barbell and he must use duct tape to keep the weights in place.
The taped up barbells have become part of Fagiani’s online image.
“You might have beaten the game when you have to tape the weights onto the bar,” one commenter wrote on Fagiani’s Facebook page.
Primerano plans Fagiani’s nutrition and supplement regimen so that he can continue to gain strength while staying in the 220-pound weight class. He also designs bodybuilding-style accessory workouts that strengthen Fagiani’s joints and tendons to counter the stress of heavy lifting.
“And I want to look good with my shirt off,” Fagiani says with a laugh.
Fagiani’s bulging upper body muscles made it hard for Pelusio to buy Christmas gifts for him.
That inconvenience aside, Pelusio is proud of her boyfriend.