Giving a lift to father-son bond

Two generations of the Bardsley family broke powerlifting records this month


It's fair to say that Jim Bardsley and his son, James Bardsley III, have formed a powerful relationship over the past several months.

Jim Bardsley took up powerlifting in the early 1980s in college and competed for more than a decade, but he drifted away from the sport when he and his family moved in the mid-1990s from the Philadelphia area to Georgia.

Now living in Hanover, the elder Bardsley has returned to lifting, and he has gained a partner in his son.

They seem to have inspired each other. The younger Bardsley, a 17-year-old senior at Old Mill High, broke a state age record for the 165-pound weight class in the competitive bench press at the USA Powerlifting American Open on Dec. 10 in Valley Forge, Pa. James set a record by lifting 236 pounds. He beat that with a bench press of 242.

His father was so impressed that he went on to his own record-breaking day, bench-pressing 325 pounds in the 181-pound weight class. Then he improved on his own mark, lifting 347.

The elder Bardsley, 46, has trained with his new partner for several months. He said he's proud of how far James has come since his son began lifting in earnest last year. (The elder Bardsley had kept his son from taking up powerlifting until age 16.)

Both of similar size - the father is 5 feet, 8 inches and 170 pounds; his son is 5 feet, 7 inches and 156 pounds - they have fed off the newfound relationship.

"It's a lot more fun," Jim Bardsley said. "[When] he started ... he really took off. He's really moving along."

James has competed in just a handful of events. He attributed his success to his father, who began powerlifting when he attended Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pa. James said he struggled at first as his father showed him the right way to train and prepare for the competitions. Once the Old Mill student understood that, things became easier.

"I kind of got frustrated at first with all of the commands during the competitions," James said. "It was hard to adjust to. He made me train that way to get used to it, and it helped a lot. I pretty much got all perfect lifts the last two times."

The competitive bench press is a bit different from what is seen in typical gym settings. In this type of competition, lifters must rest the weight on the chest before starting the pressing, while the lower part of the body has to remain nearly still. Each person gets three chances to lift.

USA Powerlifting is a member of the International Powerlifting Federation, the sport's international governing body. Eighty-three countries on six continents are members of the federation. The sport is also different from weightlifting - a sport made up of two lifts, the snatch, and the clean and jerk. Powerlifting features the squat, the bench press and the dead lift.

These are the things that the Bardsleys work at. They work out two to three times a week for about 90 minutes each time. The Bardsleys have the necessary equipment in their house. Jim Bardsley said their typical workout is rather "regimented." They might focus on a certain muscle group and the support muscle, and also do a lot of cardiovascular work such as swimming, running, walking and bike-riding.

"It's not just a one-exercise routine," Bardsley said. "It's hard on the joints, and you need to do more than just the one routine."

Father and son also are together at work. Jim Bardsley is the co-owner and president of Anatomy Gifts Registry, and his son helps prepare cadavers for medical research there. James wants to become a surgeon in the sports medicine field.

James, an honor-roll student, has been accepted at three colleges. He said that if the school he attends doesn't have a lifting club, he won't hesitate to start one.

Brenda Bardsley knows about this sport more than most wives and mothers. She powerlifted several years ago and won a few awards before shoulder problems sidelined her.

"I guess [James] had the genetic propensity from both sides," she said with a laugh.

But even though they've got their equipment in the house and she has to work around it a bit, Brenda Bardsley is glad to see her husband and son finding so much success and happiness out of something they can do together.

"You don't see a lot of fathers and sons doing things together like in the old days," she said. "I think it's good for their relationship to do guy stuff. They have that one common thing."

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