Andrew Hedrich is not like other 8-year-olds.
“I lift a lot more than they do." Hedrich said. "All the girls go, ooooh, ahhh, when they see my muscles. ... It’s fun … I get to be the strongest kid in the world.”
He can back up statements like that. Hedrich, an Elgin native, recently set the world-record for bench press with the Raw Powerlifting Federation, at a competition in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
The youngster hoisted 57 ½ pounds. If that doesn’t sound impressive, consider his frame: the third grader weighs just 54 pounds himself. He broke the record for his weight and age class.
It’s something he’s been training for his whole life.
Hedrich’s father, Ken, who set a national record for his age group with a 330-pound press, started his boy on an exercise routine before he could crawl.
“Literally I started him from day one,” Ken Hedrich, 40, an exercise physiologist who runs Body Evolution training center in St. Charles, said. “I know it sounds weird but even when he was in his diapers I had him doing resistance training.”
Andrew entered into his first power lifting competition at the tender age of four, which is a little out of the ordinary, said Raw Power’s regional chairman Ed Horowitz, who oversaw Andrew’s lift.
“It’s pretty rare to have a kid that age in here,” Horowitz said. “Usually you don’t see kids getting into powerlifting until they’re at least into their high school years. But it’s great to see.”
Horowitz said Raw is the preeminent power lifting group in the country and that they don’t allow any extra equipment, like wrist straps or belts to assist with the lifts. They also test heavily for drugs.
The stringent rules usually dissuade all but the most hardcore of participants. While there are numerous older gentlemen who compete – a 74-year-old showed up – Andrew is an anomaly.
“Obviously he’s gravitated toward the sport because he’s got a role model in his father,” Horowitz said.
Ken Hedrich started lifting young, too, so maybe it runs in the family.
“I began when I was about 10 years old,” he said. “I was just a strong kid so the sport made sense.”
He parlayed his love of pumping iron into a career, and a way to connect with his kid. Andrew lifts with his dad, goes to competitions with him and even appears in his dad's commercials.
"Business picked up after I put him in the first one," Ken said with a laugh. "People are like, I don't remember you, but I know that kid."