When you think of powerlifters, does your dentist typically come to mind? If you’re a patient of Dr. David Sultanov, the answer might just be “yes.” When he’s not exploring the intricacies of tooth preservation through biomimetic dentistry or seeing patients, Sultanov can be found in his local powerlifting gym, trying to beat his personal bench press record.
The Pittsburgh-based general dentist, who’s been working in private practice for the past 37 years, started pursuing the sport in 2015, following a surgery that left him temporarily sidelined from his usual cycling and running workouts.
“I had to have foot surgery and [it] didn’t go well,” says Sultanov. “I was on crutches for about 9 months.”
To help regain some of his strength he lost after being off his feet for a few years post-surgery, Sultanov decided to start doing squats and deadlifts, something he’d first gotten into as a student in dental school. After developing a passion for the sport, Sultanov began working with a nationally-ranked powerlifting trainer, and soon became eager to test his mettle in a powerlifting meet.
It wasn’t long before Sultanov, who competes in the 65 to 69 age group and 60KG weight class, made quite the name for himself in the powerlifting world.
“I actually set the national record for bench press in the meet,” says Sultanov, whose current bench press record is 176 pounds. His next goal is to squat 245 pounds—a feat that will earn him a new record. “The record is 242.5...I have squatted 245 in practice,” he explains, noting that he’s eager to tackle the 300-pound deadlift next.
While Sultanov admits that powerlifting—and the people who compete in the sport—may seem intimidating at first, he’s found nothing but support and camaraderie among fellow powerlifters. “Everybody is so encouraging,” Sultanov says. “Don’t be intimidated.”
Calling weightbearing exercise “the best thing you could do for yourself in terms of your health and longevity,” Sultanov says that going from newbie to experienced lifter often takes less time than people would expect. “If you just stick to doing stuff with weights, you just progress…I just learned how to deadlift in March and it’s progressed quickly for me.”
Powerlifting has also provided Sultanov some much-needed respite from what, for many people, has been a particularly troubling year. “The endorphin release from lifting seems to ward off any depression. You can get upset or bummed about events, but doesn't affect your overall wellbeing.”
While Sultanov’s sport of choice and profession may seem to have little in common, he admits that the former has undeniably affected the latter for the better. When you lift, “Your overall wellbeing is better, and the better you feel, the better a dentist you’ll be.”
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