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Students working out in Pottruck Gym on Oct. 4, 2022.

Credit: William Bartoc

Penn Barbell Club has created a mentorship program to foster a new generation of lifters — from recreational to competitive powerlifters.

Club leadership has recruited a group of junior and senior powerlifters to mentor younger students on healthy and safe lifting practices as they settle into the daily swing of the fall semester. 

Many students frequent David Pottruck Health and Fitness Center’s crowded weightlifting and cardio wings — which have been named some of the country’s top campus recreation programs. For some first years, it is the first opportunity to get involved in fitness and have regular access to a weight room. However, several students said that it can seem intimidating to get started.

“When you don’t know how to use the equipment and when you compare your progress to others, you feel looked down upon," Nursing first-year Ryan Kwong said.

Several beginner lifters echoed this sentiment, especially regarding the Pottruck weight room. Barbell Club organizers mentioned that many of those who regularly go to Pottruck are experienced lifters and that it can be intimidating for students to create routines that suit their needs as learners. Further, students find it hard to balance their immense course loads with regular attendance at the gym.

One of the program’s mentors, Wharton and College senior Brandon Li, said that the aims of the program include “creat[ing] a welcoming and supportive pathway to learn the ropes of the gym.”

College sophomore Adrienna Davis, another student in the club, said that the program was also built to make the weight room a more inclusive space. More specifically, she said that the Barbell Club “focus[es] on female lifters" and added that "it’s just very intimidating to be the only girl in a room full of these big, strong men.”

When it comes to getting started with lifting, Li and Davis said that creating a routine that is easy to follow and implementing methods to hold yourself accountable are the best ways to stay on track at the gym. They both cited the importance of learning the correct techniques for certain exercises from experienced mentors.

The program is not limited to beginners. Li said that intermediate lifters who want "technique help, programming options, or help with nutrition” can also benefit. While lifting might be less intimidating for intermediate lifters who may have already developed some level of comfort in the weight room, Li said that there are still advantages to training with a more experienced lifter.

Beyond the weight room, Li and Davis emphasized that the Barbell Club was a “community” of people who are passionate about fitness and sharing it with their peers. Davis pointed out that mentors could go beyond their role to serve as “workout buddies” and “friends.”

Barbell Club runs a GroupMe chat and hosts workout events throughout the semester for those looking to get involved. Those looking to join this mentorship program, either as a mentor or a mentee, are encouraged to contact the club on social media for upcoming opportunities to join.