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The stigma of overtly masculine body sculpting calls to mind physically imposing figures such as Arnold Schwarzenegger or Dwayne Johnson.

Defying stereotypes of weightlifting culture, the Wade King Student Recreation Center employs a diverse staff of men and women. The instructors incorporate lifting weights into resistance training exercises for their clients.

Annie McCall, a senior kinesiology major and personal trainer at the rec center, believes anyone is capable of starting resistance training.

“From every end of the spectrum, there’s a form of resistance training that fits,” McCall said. “It should be for everybody and it can be.”

The rec center offers the opportunity for students and faculty to cultivate a lifestyle of healthiness using top-of-the-line equipment that might not otherwise be available to them.

While the rec center is welcome for all to use, it’s primarily a resource for those looking to be healthy, as opposed to being a place to engage in the more vigorous kinds of weightlifting practiced by competitive strength athletes.

“It’s more about adopting a behavior for a life full of healthiness,” Ron Arnold, fitness coordinator at the rec center, said.

Arnold and his staff have worked to bring about an inviting atmosphere to all, especially women, who in the past have not necessarily felt as welcome in the weightlifting community.

“[Women] are just as capable, they’re just as confident,” Arnold said.

Resistance training has been on the rise over the past few years thanks to its prevalence on social media. Clear information and the ability to share and learn from one another has helped to significantly reduce any lingering stereotypes about lifting weights.

There is even an entire subculture of so-called ‘fitstagrams’ built around individuals sharing their fitness-based lifestyles on social media and inspiring others to do the same.

Junior Kaylee Wells lifts weights in the rec center, Wednesday, April 12. // Photo by Rachel Postlewait

“It is just as popular to weight train for women, which is awesome,” McCall said. “But that’s totally an influence of social media.”

As a result of the growing popularity of weightlifting, women have emerged as a substantial portion of the active participants in a once male-dominated exercise community, Arnold said.

Kinesiology graduate student,

Patrick Castelli, is a World Champion record holder in the sport of strongman and a nationally ranked powerlifter.

“You’re seeing all of these badass chicks coming out of nowhere, and they’re just blowing records up and they look good doing it,” Castelli said. “I think it’s empowering and I think it’s just encouraging women to not be afraid to go into those environments.”

There are other competitive weightlifting sports, including powerlifting and strongman (also called strength athletes).

“I don’t think there’s as much of a difference in what I would call the ‘core lifts’ or the ‘main lifts:’ squat, bench, dead, press,” Castelli said. “The fundamental big movements are really similar and I think you’ll see them carry over between competitive athletes and your everyday gym-goers.”

In addition to competitive weightlifters and everyday fitness patrons, resistance training and weightlifting has proven beneficial to athletes at Western.

Despite having to reduce his resistance training during the spring race season, Brady Schmitt, a senior history and international studies major and hype captain of Western’s cycling team, still engages in lifting exercises.

“Just as a general concept, weightlifting has almost endless health benefits,” Schmitt said.

Schmitt said there are also positive mental effects including a greater sense of self-worth and accomplishment that comes with physical exercise.

Resistance training has found a home at Western, becoming a popular form of exercise accessible to all. Students can hire one of the rec center personal trainers to help design an exercise regimen specific to them. 


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