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It’s hard to argue that powerlifter Morgan Nicholls isn’t genetically gifted.
His father is former bodybuilder and sports nutritionist Chad Nicholls, who’s worked with such giants as “The King” Ronnie Coleman, “The Baddest Man on the Planet” Mike Tyson, and Big Ramy; and his mother is Kim Chizevsky, a four-time Ms. Olympia.
And there are stories of his grandfather, a former college football player, not working out for months on end and then being able to rep out 405 pounds on the bench press.
“Genetics play a huge role,” Chad Nicholls tells Muscle & Fitness. “I’ve seen [Morgan] do things that just don’t seem to be physically possible for a kid his age.”
But Morgan also knows it takes hard work to get stronger, and he’s been practicing that his whole life. In his first year of training, he never benched more than 90 pounds and never got above 100 on squats.
“We did that every day just to get my body used to the motions,” Morgan recalls. “We went through all aspects of the movement — how the muscle felt, what part of the lift activated which muscle.”
When he did start training with heavy weights, Morgan’s strength came quickly, and just three years later at his first powerlifting meet, he set a 1,230-pound total (450-pound squat, 325-pound bench and a 455-pound deadlift).
Have we mentioned he’s only 13 years old? Yeah.
No other 13-year-old has been able to lift that much, according to openpowerlifting.org, and Morgan still has a couple years to become the strongest-ever teenager in America and on the planet.
Meanwhile, he’s been setting the internet on fire by posting videos of his insane lifts on his Instagram, @raising_mayhem.
We spoke to Morgan and his father about how the viral sensation got involved in powerlifting, whether he wants to do it for a living, whether it’s responsible for him to be lifting this much at a young age, and how it felt when Coleman gave him a shout out.
How did you get into powerlifting, and is it something you want to do full-time?
Morgan: We never really wanted to do powerlifting. I started doing this so I could be stronger for football. Football’s always been the main goal. So in elementary school I wanted to have the strength of a high-schooler, and in high school I wanted to have the strength of a college athlete, and when I’m in college I can have the strength of a pro athlete. I always wanted to be ahead of everybody.
Chad: We started when he was about 8, about to turn 9, and for the first year we just taught him the basics — we taught him about mobility and worked on technique and form. We spent a year on that, and in my opinion that first year was the most beneficial. Because when he did start lifting heavy his strength came up quick, and it just hasn’t stopped.
What position do you want to play in football?
Morgan: Running back or middle linebacker. Right now it’s going to depend on where my height is when I’m done growing.
A lot of people say it’s irresponsible for children and teenagers to train in a gym, and that it could lead to stunted growth.
Morgan: We get that a lot, but it’s actually scientifically proven that it will benefit you at a young age. My projected height has actually gone up an inch. I was projected to be 6’1” but now the doctors say I’m probably going to be taller.
So should other children and teenagers be doing this?
Chad: I think there’s a lot of pros to the training, but I think it depends on the type of training. There’s definitely a lot of kids who can benefit from it, but there’s a way to do it. You can’t just put them in the gym and have them lift heavy weights. You need somebody to show them the right form and the right techniques.
You get quite a lot of online trolls and haters on your social media. How do you deal with them?
Morgan: We get quite a lot of good stuff, but we do get the occasional person trying to bring me down. It’s mostly adults. I watch a lot of Gary Vee and these motivational speakers and they say that if someone is trying to put you down on social media, they’re at a very low point in their life and they need to get help. It doesn’t bother me much because I’ve seen professional athletes deal with this basically my whole life.
Chad: The biggest one we get is “No chance is he 13.” That’s probably the biggest one that people come up with. But yeah, you would think it would be the kids but 90 percent of the negativity is adults.
Take us through your training routine
Morgan: Typically our training is five days on, two days off, and we’ll destroy a body part for that one day and give it a week to recover. So we’ll destroy chest one day but then not do it for another week.
Chad: We do that for two reasons: One, it doesn’t burn him out in the gym and he just kind of continuously moves forward strength wise. It’s kind of a mixture of powerlifting and bodybuilding training.
What about your diet?
Chad: He can eat non-stop. He probably eats about five-times the amount of food a normal 13-year-old eats, and he’ll eat about every 2 and ½ hours. And it’s more bodybuilding-style food like steak and rice, fish and that kind of stuff. We’ll incorporate a few protein shakes.
Any favorite cheat meals?
Morgan: Probably pizza. Or cakes and donuts.
How’d you feel during your first-ever powerlifting meet?
Morgan: I barely got any sleep and when I was getting ready for a lift, I would get a little shaky or nervous. But once I got under the bar all the nervousness went away.
Any plans to break the national or world records?
Chad: Right now everything is on hold because of Covid, but luckily he’s got two more years to break the teenage records so it’s not really a rush for him.
How have you been dealing with the lockdowns?
Chad: We’re pretty lucky. We originally thought we were going to have access the whole time because we train at a very hardcore gym, but what ended up happening was they had to close down for a bit. I had a very good distributor who was able to get us some weights, so we worked out in the garage for a few weeks before the gyms opened back up. I would say it was only about a month we were without the gym.
How’d it feel for Ronnie Coleman to give you a shout-out on his Instagram?
Morgan: It was kind of shocking when he took the time to post a video of mine because I grew up around him and watching him. It was really cool.
Chad: It was a little funny because he only knew Ronnie as this amazing bodybuilder, but he didn’t know he was a powerlifter, too. So one day he brought up this video and was showing me these videos of his insane lifts.