Weightlifting can help meet fitness goals

Elisa Salas/Contributing Writer Published January 2, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Nick Hillemann

Phillip Brewer benchpresses at 365 Fitness in Conway while facility co-owner Anthony Sacomani spots for him.

People often want to start out the new year with a bang. They want to work hard at becoming the best they can be.

Weight loss and physical fitness are two of the top goals on many people’s New Year’s resolution list. People want to look great, have six-pack abs and become fit in time for summer.

When it comes to lifting weights, it is certainly not one size fits all. People have various needs, goals and starting points.

Brock Welch, 18, dripping sweat and short of breath after doing a set of barbell bench presses and incline dumbbell flies, moved to the side, grabbed a mat, got in plank position and rapidly did push-ups.

Welch said he started weightlifting in 2009 when he was in the ninth grade to become stronger for football. He said football is his motivation and passion, and he would like to join the University of Central Arkansas Bears as an outside linebacker or a defensive back.

A Sherwood resident and a graduate of Sylvan Hills High School, Welch said that when the offseason began for football in 2009, his coach introduced the team to the gym.

“At first, I could barely bench the 45-pound bar,” Welch said.

He said he got a membership at the North Little Rock Athletic Club and worked out in the gym every other day until his sophomore year.

Medley Hinman, a 19-year-old sophomore, is a physical therapy major at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and is a discus and hammer thrower for the women’s track team. Hinman said she started weightlifting in the seventh grade because of athletics. She played volleyball, basketball and softball, was a cheerleader and ran track.

UCA history professor Roger Pauly said he began lifting weights about two years ago.

“I wanted to have a little more muscle tone,” he said. “I’ve learned that there’s a legend that as people get older, their metabolism drops. What happens is their muscle mass drops, so your metabolism is apparently tied to your muscle mass.

“I had an angiogram because I was having heart palpitations, and it came out OK, but it was kind of a scare.”

He said lifting weights has reduced his blood pressure and heart rate.

D.A. Vu, 25, from Vietnam, said he started weightlifting in April 2012.

“At first, I just wanted to broaden my shoulders and wear a business suit better, and you know all of the guys want six-pack abs …,” Vu said. “I am skinny, and I wanted to gain some weight to look more lively.”

Vu’s goals changed, however, as he continued weightlifting.

“Right now I just go to the gym and enjoy it,” he said. “If you don’t enjoy it, you cannot keep up with it.”

Wes Burnett, 27, has been a certified personal trainer for four years.

“I’ve always been interested in exercise and working out myself, and in high school I started having a lot of people asking me how they need to be doing things,” Burnett said. “I just love being able to teach people about themselves.”

Burnett said a good weightlifting session takes 30 minutes to an hour, and that people can overtrain when weightlifting for more than an hour. He said most people want to lose weight, drop their body-fat percentage or gain muscle, and sometimes they need to do post-physical therapy training.

“Weightlifting made me feel good about myself. It kind of gets the endorphins in your head,” Welch said.

He said weightlifting has helped him work hard and taught him to never give up on himself or his goals. Welch said he weighed around 140 pounds when he started lifting weights, and now he weighs about 172.

Hinman said she has a better attitude about herself after every practice and workout because she feels she can conquer the rest of the day.

“Weightlifting teaches you to set longer goals because you’re not going to accomplish something very quickly with weightlifting,” she said. “When you put your time and dedication into your goals in weightlifting, you can actually learn to do that in real life as well.”

Pauly said that when he was on the high school football team, he could not bench-press 80 pounds.

“I remember the day I was in the [UCA] HPER Center, and I bench-pressed over 100 pounds for the first time, and it was a really cool feeling.”

Burnett said weightlifting “definitely improves a person’s confidence as they’re lifting and reaching new goals. Maybe their clothes fit them differently. They feel better about themselves. They have more energy.”

He said strength, flexibility, overall appearance, health, wellness and building relationships are some of the many benefits of weightlifting.

“People seem to be more outgoing when they’re confident. … If you push them hard enough, they’re ready to open up a little more with their trainers.”

Welch said he can easily leg-press 180 pounds, which is one of his favorite leg workouts. Aside from weightlifting, he said, he sprints for cardio.

“In 2012, I tore my cartilage in my left knee,” Welch said. “I either tore it in football or lifting weights. I know I should’ve been keeping my legs stronger. I think that’s one of the reasons why I got injured.”

He said using proper form reduces the risk of injuries.

Welch said he believes 45 percent carbohydrates, 45 percent protein and 10 percent fat is a good weightlifting diet.

“Lifting weights, keeping in good shape and eating well can help you stay away from getting sick,” he said.

He said that for weightlifting, the cheapest items he buys are clothes, and some of the more expensive purchases are food and supplements.

“I don’t think steroids should be used,” Welch said. “They can have a lot of mind effects on you. They can make you a mean person. It’s kind of cheating, in my opinion.”

Hinman said she has not had an injury since she began lifting weights in high school, and she eats pretty healthily.

“I cannot eat gross foods and lift weights. …,” she said. “Sometimes I get an urge to go get a burger, and I go get one, but as far as eating better, I’m definitely more disciplined in my food.

“My spending habits probably have gone up as far as food because fresh produce is not cheap. But I’d rather spend $70 on groceries every few weeks than thousands of dollars later in life because I can’t function.

“I don’t support steroids. I don’t like them. They don’t do anything good for your body. I think in the long term, steroids are going to hurt your body.”

Pauly said his diet has not changed much, aside from craving more protein, and he has been sick a lot less in the past two years. He said he spends more money on meat now than before he began weightlifting, and he does not use supplements.

“I go to the Chinese buffet. I used to eat noodles mostly, and now I go there and I’ve really got a carnivore mentality — more meat, you know — ribs, chops, chicken.”

Pauly said steroids seem counterproductive.

“To me, from where I am at middle age, they seem so counterproductive, … and the idea of taking something that could mess up my heart — you know, like Arnold Schwarzenegger — that just seems like the stupidest thing possible.”

Vu said he likes to bench-press with dumbbells, dips, shoulder presses, pull-ups and dead lifts.

“In the beginning, I kind of overestimated my capabilities,” Vu said. “I tended to lift too heavy, and it was a big mistake. I got sore the next few days, so it messed with my progress.”

Vu said he has lifted at a moderate level and he has not had any major injuries or been sick. He said that he has increased his protein intake but does not take any supplements and does not think steroids are worth the risk.

Burnett said he usually recommends chest-press machines, bench presses, tricep extensions, bicep curls, leg presses, leg extensions and any basic exercises that can be done safely on a machine for people new to lifting weights.

He said for those who are more experienced, he looks into what they want to do — like become a bodybuilder — and determines if they need to do power lifting.

“That’s a little more unsafe, and if I’m with them, I can have them do cleans, jerks and shoulder presses, a lot of stuff that is more risky for them.”

Burnett said one of the bigger mistakes people make is in the way they breathe.

“A lot of people either hold their breath most of the time, or they breathe backward,” Burnett said. “So I teach them breathing technique and then also proper form on when they’re lifting.”

He said weightlifting improves muscles and ligament and tendon strength, and it also builds muscle strength to allow activities in a safer range of motion.

“If you teach them how to do the weightlifting part — whether it’s just to squat safely when they squat outside to pick something up from the ground — they do that more safely,” Burnett said. He said people’s joints and ligaments are a lot stronger, which reduces the risk of injury.

“Weightlifting usually makes someone want to clean up their diet because they don’t want to feel like they’re only halfway doing it or feel like they’re wasting their time by lifting weights but then going out and eating trash outside of the gym.

“Weightlifting actually will build the immune system. Just exercise and proper food nutrition makes you more resistant to sickness. … A lot of times you can get rid of some of the viruses you catch early on before it gets bad enough to really affect you.”

“You want to get as much as you can from your food and nutrition,” he said, “and then anything you can’t get in that, you want to supplement from there.

“We definitely never encourage steroid use with anybody. It puts a lot of soft tissues and joints at risk, even organs. … Almost nobody that I know that does it does it safely.”

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