SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Strength sports are on the rise, with more athletes competing than ever before. For Schenectady’s Justin Grygas, it means more than just lifting weights.

Twelve years ago, Grygas set out to take control of his physical health, but it turned into a whole lot more. “I sought advice for physical fitness to basically get healthier,” said Grygas. “Then we ended up powerlifting, and it’s been the greatest thing ever since.”

With a new passion for powerlifting, Grygas set a goal of qualifying for the XPC Worlds Powerlifting Meet at the Arnold Sports Festival, founded by Arnold Schwarzenegger. A decade later, he achieved that goal, but the pandemic threw a wrench in his plans.

“COVID kind of shut things down,” said Grygas. “I put the gym together here and started training to keep my qualification hopes alive.” Two years later, Grygas finally got his chance to compete, making the most of his opportunity.

In the Raw Classic event competitors bench, squat, and deadlift, the athlete who lifts the most total weight places first. In the 198-pound weight class this year, it was Justin Grygas putting up a total weight of 1,555 pounds who won.

“I’ve got to be honest, I’m proud of myself,” Grygas said. “At the end of the day, it’s always been about physical fitness. It’s always been about being healthy. It’s all about seeing the awesomeness that strength sports bring.”

Grygas, who credits his team at Metal Militia in Glens Falls, has also gotten his 9-year old son, Jayce, into strength sports. He said believes it builds both character and muscle.

“It’s changed my life,” Grygas said. “It’s physically changed my life health-wise. Even as a man, as an adult, it’s definitely made me a better person.”

Grygas looks forward to continuing his powerlifting career, sharing advice for anyone looking to chase their dreams: “It’s your own journey,” said Grygas. “You take control of it. It’s a matter of how bad do you want it?”