Friday, February 1, 2013

MATT WENNING- World Ranked Powerlifter and our Trainer!

Some folks  truly enjoy working out.  But most of us eye a training  regimen  with varying degrees of dread. Regretably,  I fall into the latter category. Lisa has a better attitude,  but she certainly falls far short of gung ho!  Nevertheless, both of us have kept  a consistent  twice-a-week schedule of weight training for over four years. The reason:  our remarkable trainer-  33 year old powerlifter Matt Wenning!   He tips the scales   at 300 pounds of massive  muscle with no discernible fat.  Touch his arm, and you  sense that he is composed entirely  of granite.  And Matt  is a major figure in the "under the radar" sport of powerlifting- a most demanding form of weightlifting competition in which the lifter seeks to attain the highest combined squat, bench press, and dead lifts.  Until recently,  Matt  held the American record for the heaviest squat- 1197 pounds! He is still a force to be reckoned with in the 308 pound class. Search his  name on You Tube, and you can watch  several of his milestone lifts. 

                                            Bill tries to outmuscle Matt         

But a trainer's sparkling credentials alone would not have been sufficient to overcome our  hardened resistance  to long-term training.  What is it about Matt and his coaching that has enabled  Lisa and me to stick with it?  First, he knows what he is doing.   Matt has made a lifetime study of how  to make  a body stronger. His masters degree in Biomechanics from Ball State speaks to that. He focuses on a trainee's weak spots. Before  I started my training, I was plagued with back pain, and my balance was poor for someone who  always aspired to be an  athlete.  Matt devised unique lifting and training techniques to attack these deficiencies.  As a result, I have been pain-free for years, and my balance is much improved.

Second,  Matt introduced us  to several eastern European and other novel training methods that made our work outs  anything but routine.  You might see  us pulling weighted sleds on the sidewalk outside Matt's "Ludus Magnus" gym on West Rich Street in Columbus's near west side. Another routine has us  pounding a sledgehammer into an industrial tire. How about bench-pressing with large chains attached  to each end of a barbell instead of weights (helps with balance)?

Third,  Matt is a great communicator, and somehow he  has figured  ways to make  our  hard work fun. While hard-nosed about getting the most out of us,  and generally unsympathetic to whining,  he nevertheless is good-natured and flashes quick-witted , though often politically incorrect, humor when we are flagging.  It is then when   Matt launches  into his Arnold Schwarznegger impression imploring, "Come on, girly-man, do it or I will put you in the hurt locker!" He works us at a brisk pace and  stretches our limits, but not for too long. Our typical workout lasts about 35-40 minutes.

Finally,  there is something about  the  no-frills  Ludus Magnus gym  itself (the name comes from the place  where the gladiators trained before entering the Colosseum to do battle) that we find  appealing. The entire focus of the place is training. No one pays attention to  the peeling paint  in the austere old warehouse or to the lack of amenities.   The ambience calls to mind the starkness of Rocky's Russian  training venue  in "Rocky IV" (although Mr . Wenning has not yet  made us chase chickens as  did  Sly Stallone's movie character).  Ludus Magnus  carries  an authenticity which  luxurious athletic clubs  cannot hope to match.

An interesting mix of people train at Ludus Magnus.  You will encounter  super-strong power lifters, including Matt's fellow trainer Christian Mello.  Most of the serious lifters  sport  facial hair, but precious little on their respective heads.  MMA fighters are on hand as well. Several female fitness competitors hone their bodies under Matt's tutelage. Firefighters,  cops,  housewives,  high school athletes, and retirees sweat  away.   Even NFL players and  old OSU coach Earle Bruce have responded to  Matt's  exhortations.

The only adornments on the walls of  Ludus Magnus are several   military units'  flags  signed by  grateful  soldiers whom Matt  trained pursuant to six figure contracts with the U.S. Army.  How  did this young trainer, relatively unknown outside  the  powerlifting community,  manage to land  these mega-deals?  He did his homework and capitalized on some good fortune. Matt made a study of military methods, and concluded  that there was far too much emphasis on building stamina (forced marches etc,)  rather than strength. Making the most of an unexpected audience in front of an army  general, Matt persuaded the top brass that today's soldier is often engaged  in house-to-house guerrilla warfare  requiring  explosive strength (knocking down doors etc.) which Matt specializes in providing. His ability to communicate his ideas resulted in the general's recommendation to contract with Matt. After Matt's methods were adopted by the units he trained, their levels of injuries and casualties dropped significantly.

Matt is an interesting character who is full of surprises. Best example: He took his over 70-grandmother on a cross-country motorcycle excursion last summer. Yes, Matt  definitely makes our lives more interesting and fun- not to mention healthier!

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