MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- Every day barrel-chested gym rats who work and live on Cherry Point descend on the gyms here to heave, hoist and press their way to super-human strength and proportions.
A new club here focuses on one of the most popular lifts and a staple among those who worship at the iron altar – the bench press. Since the birth of the Devil Dog Bench Press Club in late-January, dozens of weight room junkies have joined the club to up their max and gain bragging rights. The club offers two competition classes for both men and women based on the minimum weight members can successfully press. Men compete in 250- or 400-pound classes, and women in 115- or 185-pound classes. The club records and displays personal bests but members looking to make the list of gym giants must use strict form. According to the USA Powerlifting Technical Rule Book, a lift can be considered a failure or incomplete for different reasons, but the rule adopted by the club is the rule on proper form. It states that any change in the elected lifting position during the lift, i.e. any raising movement of the head, shoulders or buttocks from their original points of contact with the bench, disqualifies the lift.
“We see people in here every day lifting their backs and feet up trying to get these weights up,” said Gil George, the fitness center manager for Devil Dog Gym. “There are two things wrong with poor form: one, it’s not safe, and two, it’s not proper technique. When we started this, it was decided to do this by the book.” George and the club members say the rules not only keep their bodies healthy but also keep it competitive. “This is a club that helps motivate the patrons to go above and beyond,” said Sgt. Sissy S. Gouin, one of the top female lifters in the club, sitting second in the 115-pound class for this quarter with a verified 145-pound lift. “You see someone lifting a weight higher than you and you get pumped and you say to yourself ‘OK, now I have to beat that weight.’”
The club holds a quarterly competition. The top lifter in each class is named the “top dog” of the quarter and receives a Devil Dog Bench Press Club T-shirt. Club members can attempt a lift for the official scoreboard only once every two weeks. This helps prevent the same members from coming in every day to one-up friends, said George.
Gouin, an unmanned aerial vehicle maintainer with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2, said the club is a great way to motivate and build morale among Marines aboard the air station. “You have to come in here with a reason,” said Robert Axselle, a recreation assistant with the gym and a club member. “If you come in here without a deep, burning motivation to get better, then you won’t put forth the effort needed to succeed in the gym.”