By Robert Timmons -- Fort Jackson L..." /> Fort Jackson takes gold in Salo, Finland – Millennium Magazine Columbia SC News

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Published on June 28th, 2015 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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Fort Jackson takes gold in Salo, Finland

Pictured Maj. Donald “Donny” Bigham

By Robert Timmons — Fort Jackson Leader

FORT JACKSON, SC – Chocolate milk as the drink of champions?

It might sound odd, but for a Fort Jackson “tactical” athlete, it helped him earn the title of “the best in the world.”

Maj. Donald “Donny” Bigham, with the U.S. Army Physical Fitness School, claimed the title after taking the gold medal in the Master’s 1 93-kilogram weight class at 2015 Classic World Men’s Powerlifting Competition earlier this month in Salo, Finland.

The father of two young men – Dillon, 24, and Derek, 21, – didn’t just win one gold medal at the games, he won three. He had the top squat and deadlift in his weight class. Overall, the native of Clinton, South Carolina lifted a combined 1,657.31 lbs., or roughly the weight of 222 M4 Carbines. His next closest competitor lifted 165 lbs. less. In one event, he squatted 596 lbs., or roughly three times his body weight. In an interesting dichotomy, Bigham was also the “lightest” guy in his weight class but lifted the most.
Getting to the world championships is no easy task, to earn a spot in the competition, a power lifter must first win their national-level contest.

Bigham, speaking with a gravelly voice with a soft Southern twang, said he is a “firm believer” in the benefits of low-fat chocolate milk because it has “eight grams of protein and 20 grams of carbs” and the calcium to keep bones strong. Of course chocolate milk isn’t a magic bean that helped him win, it was just part of a rigorous training program coupled with proper eating habits and expert knowledge of the human body.

The infantry officer, who hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Kinesiology said the key for him was listening what his body was saying. He would allow his body time to recover and work on the proper techniques.

As a Soldier, the only active-duty Service member on the U.S. National Powerlifting Team, Bigham has to balance the needs of the Army with his training needs. There are times he said that as a “tactical” athlete he would get more cardiovascular exercise such as running than hitting the gym. Tactical athlete is a term used to describe those who have the mental and physical abilities to withstand the rigors of combat.

Winning the title hasn’t just impacted him off duty, but also in his day-to-day dealings with Soldiers.

“He has a lot of credibility with Soldiers,” said Staff Sgt. John Wood, an infantryman and master fitness instructor from Austin, Texas. The students see Bigham as “someone who has book knowledge but who has experience as well.”

Bigham is almost robotic in the way he trains, Wood said.

“He doesn’t have a haphazard approach,” the former drill sergeant said. “He has experience and a science background – a scientific or robotical way he trains.”

Bigham’s training regimen includes different phases where he works his body up to higher weights through controlled sets. He used this regimented approach to his pre-competition lift preparations.
He said he would also go through “the technical aspects, through my focus points and let my heartbeat relatively slow” before attempting the lift. Bigham added that on any given day there can be a 1 to 3 percent difference in a competitor’s overall lift.

Of the three events, he really enjoys having the heavy bar across his back during the squat.
“It shocks your central nervous system,” he said. “It allows you to feel the total of that weight unlike the bench press where you don’t feel it until you are done with the (repetition). I like the feeling of walking out (with the bar across his shoulders) and taking it to the full range of motion and push it through my glutes and quads as I take it all the way to the bottom. It’s very powerful.”

Bigham has translated his athletic success and knowledge into strength-based training programs that are being used by initial military training companies at Fort Benning, Georgia.

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