Derek's off the bench with help of healthy lifting obsession

Derek Mason has turned to powerlifting to help battle Parkinson's disease.
Derek Mason has turned to powerlifting to help battle Parkinson's disease. Warren Lynam

DON'T tell Derek Mason what he can and can't do.

Age is just a number to the 74-year-old who will be representing Australia with his impressive bench press in the Oceania Powerlifting Championships in Sydney from December 7-9.

The Noosaville resident took up weightlifting after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease seven years ago.

Parkinson's is a progressively degenerative neurological disorder that affects the control of body movements and can lead to muscle atrophy.

Mr Mason, who holds the national record for his age and weight group after bench-pressing 82.5kg, said he had no idea just how tough the competition would be this week.

"I'm going to be doing my best. I've been training pretty hard," he said.

"This is a big competition; the biggest one I've been a part of.

"All I can do is my best. It's very hard to know what it will be like."

Mr Mason will compete in the bench press with others aged 70 and in the same body weight range.

Competitors will come from New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Nauru, Tonga, New Caledonia and other Pacific Ocean countries.

Mr Mason credited weightlifting with helping combat Parkinson's.

But it wasn't the first form of exercise to come to mind.

"I was a bit depressed for a while after I was diagnosed but then I decided to do something about it," he said.

"I tried swimming but I had trouble because I couldn't co-ordinate my arms or legs.

"Then I tried deep-water running, but that didn't work very well because my left side is weaker and I just went in circles."

He and his wife run the Noosa-Tewantin Parkinson's Support Group and are advocates for exercise.

"If I can do it with Parkinson's, then anyone should be able to do it and feel much better than they already do," Mr Mason said.

His trip to Sydney has been sponsored by Coolum Beach Bowls Club where he is a member.

In June last year at a powerlifting championship in Brisbane he became the proud holder of the Australian bench press record for over-70s in the under 66kg weight class by lifting 80kg.

He improved that record to 82.5kg earlier this year.

Earlier this year he competed at the Australian Raw Powerlifting Championships.



Workout schedule

  • Trains four days a week in the gym at the Noosa Aquatic Centre.
  • For the past few weeks he's been concentrating on his bench press, but he's also exercising his back and arm muscles.
  • He does 20 chin-ups in a set.
  • He performs single-arm rows beginning with the 25kg dumbbells and works his way down to 12kg.
  • He performs 10 repetitions with each arm.
  • Has a protein drink before and after workouts.


Breakfast: Porridge and fresh fruit.

Lunch: Ham and tomato sandwich with wholemeal bread. Sometimes with fruit.

Dinner: Vegetables with meat or chicken.


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Topics:  health lifestyle parkinson's disease powerlifting weightlifting

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