Beards and biceps

99 problems, but a bench ain’t one

Kyle Berg

This week I had the privilege and pleasure of interviewing one of Union College’s most dedicated gym rats, Spencer Curtis.

A champion of curls, kettlebells, crunches and a slew of other brutal biomechanical endeavors, Spencer is said to have 99 problems, but a bench ain’t one.

Spencer started taking his gym time seriously after coming to Union as a transfer student from Walla Walla University. “I still wasn’t very knowledgeable about weight lifting, but my roommate and I decided we were going to get consistent. I still didn’t know anything about diet and I did not know anything about the supplements I was taking. It was all just more dedication at that point.”

Up to that point he had been hitting the glamour muscles (biceps, triceps and chest) with friends from high school. He had no routine and little to no gains.

Now Spencer is working a four-day split that consists of legs one day; shoulders, traps and abs on another; then back and biceps together; and chest and triceps together. He rests on Sabbath and, if necessary, a few additional days due to a rotator cuff injury from back in the day.

What’s the most common mistake among amateur weight lifters? Spencer says it all comes down to correct range of motion. “I didn’t know about [range of motion] until about a year and half ago. I have been studying the techniques of professional body builder Ben Pakulski, who teaches a lot about using correct range of motion and tension, as well as the difference between engaging muscles and moving weight.”

Spencer sees a lot of people, guys especially, trying to lift more weight than they can, which doesn’t allow for full range of motion. “Guys will throw the entire stack [of weights] on the leg press and will only bend their legs 20 degrees, when they should be going 90 degrees.” Using too much weight and not allowing for full range of motion in one’s lifting exercises is a slow and dangerous way to try to build muscle.

“Here is the truth: make sure not to be so hard on yourself to the point of misery,” he said when asked for advice on healthy living. “It takes a while to appreciate the lifestyle as a fun thing. I remember when it wasn’t for me. Some people get inspired by something on Pinterest and they get burnt out so easy because they didn’t go anywhere. It takes time for it to grow on you. You have to give it a chance and you have to make sure it is fun.”

His words of wisdom to all gym goers?

“Do your own research, learn what you can and make it your own.  There are a lot of people who believe there is only one way to live a fit lifestyle. They go by the expression, ‘There’s only one way to skin a cat.’ In this case, I see it more like skinning a rhinoceros: you can skin him with anything from a scalpel to a chainsaw.”

Want to get to know the man behind the beard? Ask Spencer about frisbee golf, beards, the latest One Direction album or who will be this year’s winner on “Dancing with the Stars.” And of course, he’s always open to a good conversation about fitness.

Spencer’s Wellness Tips:

  • Eat a healthy diet. To truly optimize your fitness goals, adopt good eating habits. Yes, that means fighting the urge to go to DeLeon’s on a nightly basis.
  • Try to get enough sleep. Managing a hectic schedule in order to get your eight hours is tough, but your body will thank you.
  • Be intentional. Think about what you want to accomplish. Then turn those thoughts into actions.

Kyle is a senior studying language arts education.