Column: Pump Room’s Culture: Bringing The Heavy to Light

Of all the rooms on campus, MizzouRec’s pump room is the most raw; while many find this place intimidating, there is a warrior culture that goes beyond heavy weights.
The Pump Room, at the Mizzou Rec, features many heavyweight machines and weights. Courtesy of Mizzou Rec

Corey Davidson is a junior journalism major at MU. He is an opinion columnist who writes about student life and politics for the Maneater.

It’s 2018 and the phrase “What’s your max bench?” has just edged out “What’s your major?” as the most popular question at MU. Daytime liquor is replaced with preworkout, and the only studying is that of one’s own deadlift form.

Of course, this all happens in an alternate timeline where everybody goes to the pump room. This universe is currently reserved for the mightiest at MU.

There are a few things to consider when figuring out what defines the pump room. For one, the very name is indicative of the mass amounts of power being flung around in this area. People are in the pump room to get a pump, not to simply work out.

“A pump is a theory of evolution proven in 90 minutes,” YouTuber and author Dom Mazzetti said. Getting a pump is seeing how big your muscles can be and eternally striving to be that size all the time.

There is a large distinction between going to the Student Recreation Complex to “work out” and going to the recreation center to “get big.” The pump room is for the latter. Anything over eight reps is considered cardio and heavy weights correlate positively with respect earned. This is not to say that you would be ostracized if you weren’t strong; everybody is paying attention to themselves, anyway.

But while everyone is paying attention to themselves, there is almost a pack mentality that comes to veterans of the pump. You come to realize the merits of doing chest at 5:30 a.m. on a Monday or empathize with the struggle of benching 225 pounds for the first time. You will almost never be laughed at or ridiculed, but instead offered a spot or a supportive “that’s a lot of weight!” by onlookers. Even the men who look like their muscles are eating their shirts were once small, which brings complete strangers to a common plane of understanding.

While the various fitness studios, pools and courts of the recreation complex also have people working hard, there is nowhere as evident as inside the pump room. Loud rap and contemporary music is accented by grunts, rattles and slams from exertion. While a cycling class may have music and constant positive reinforcement, the pump room invokes a tense atmosphere inviting its inhabitants to move something heavy.

For your most dedicated lifters, the gym is a lifestyle, not an activity. You enter the recreation center with a mission, not a goal. Casual gym goers may have vague goals of “I want to go to the rec at least twice a week, hopefully lose some weight, get more toned.” While there is nothing wrong with these goals, they indicate a lack of commitment to the gym. The gym is a hobby, or just another part of the schedule; it is not viewed as essential.

Compare this mentality to that of the average pump room lifter. Some goals overheard may be “I gotta work on my lats, my bench reps need to be deeper, and maybe I should do cardio at least once this semester.” The pump room denies trend exercise, such as Crossfit or circuit training. Instead, 45 pound plates beckon to be lifted in the forms of good old fashioned bench presses, deadlifts and squats. While the pump room also offers dumbbells and a handful of machines, the main objective of many is to push core exercises to their limits.

The pump room is not to be feared. While you may see giants with arms the size of your legs or people with definition comparable to the back of your textbook, don’t sweat it. Just make sure you’re out of the way when it’s time to take that post-workout mirror “swelfie.”

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