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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The weight room: A laughing matter?

    The Student Recreation Center’s weight room is a fantastic place to, well, lift weights. But take a look around, and it quickly becomes simultaneously the most laugh-worthy and most cringe-worthy place on campus.

    I like to play a counting game every time I enter the weight room.

    I count the top-heavy guys with twig-thin legs who spend their entire workout in front of the mirrors, doing bicep curls, shoulder shrugs and bench presses. Bonus points if they have an iPod strapped to their arm to show off how “”ripped”” and “”swole”” they are. Even more bonus points if they’re using the power rack to do their curls, which do not require the rack, despite the sign in front of them reading “”Bicep curls are NOT allowed”” and the people waiting to do squats, which do require the rack. (No, I’m not bitter at all.)

    I count the girls I see trying to do a hundred repetitions of some random machine exercise at low weight, as though they’ll benefit from it at all.

    I count the freshmen who come in, work out their arms for 30 minutes, get in a set on the leg press … and leave. These people invariably vanish in three weeks when they realize they can’t magically gain 50 pounds of muscle. Damn you, first law of thermodynamics!

    And, of course, I count the folks who come in, do some crunches or push-ups on the mats, then chat with their friends for an hour. Why even bother coming if you’re not going to break a sweat?

    Every time I play this game, I win. Yay! But a victory for me is a loss for Rec Center patrons. Developing bad lifting habits is a quick path to injury, slow results or discouragement from exercise altogether.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. Earlier this week, I bore rare witness to a series of students doing squats, sticking their behinds out as far as they could every time they went down. That’s a great way to squat if you want to cause deep, permanent back pain.

    Realistically, these people deserve credit for taking the initiative to work out in the first place. But this is an institution of learning. Why do we remain so ignorant regarding physical fitness? The principles of weightlifting, as agreed upon by serious trainers and scientists, have remained more or less constant for decades: Perform heavy compound lifts with free weights, not machines, to conserve or increase overall muscle mass and strength.

    It’s absolutely absurd that we, as college students, are clueless about lifting. So who’s to blame? That’s a hard question. But I can tell you who isn’t.

    It’s not unqualified sports trainers who dole out gimmicky advice involving medicine balls or who show their clients poor form. It’s not doctors who insist that heavy lifting isn’t worth the risk, despite the fact that it’s easy to avoid injury by keeping correct form. It’s not friends who “”help out”” new lifters by teaching them to work only their arms and chest, never their legs or core.

    And it’s not fitness rags who falsely tell women to do millions of repetitions with five-pound weights to “”tone”” their bodies. That’s especially ironic: actresses like Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Garner get sleek, toned physiques by lifting heavy weights the same way men do (or should, at least) – exactly what such resources will tell you not to do.

    The true culprit here is misinformation itself, and the onus is on us to inform ourselves.

    If you’re not interested in weightlifting … well, you should be. The health benefits are numerous, and physical strength and muscle tone are nice bonuses. But if you’re interested, learn to do it right. Trust only serious, qualified individuals to help you design a workout program based on good lifts, and consult a comprehensive website like www.exrx.net for in-depth analyses of important lifts.

    With any luck, you’ll gain quite a bit from the effort. You’ll be helping me lose at my little game, and that means a win for you.

    Taylor Kessinger is a math, philosophy and physics sophomore. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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