Artillery Marine Strives to Push Physical Limits

Artillery Marine Strives to Push Physical Limits

Sgt Ryan King, section chief, K Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, tightens the strap on his protective belt at the East Gym aboard the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. Photo by LCpl Levi Schultz.

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (July 14, 2016) Heaving 590 pounds onto his shoulders, Sgt Ryan King repeated a motion he had practiced thousands of times. As the new guy on the block, the section chief for K battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, broke two California state records during his first weight-lifting competition in May.

Weighing in at 205 pounds, the 25 year-old native of Livermore, Calif., set the squat record by squatting 590 pounds before setting the record for the combined squat, bench and deadlift weight totaling 1,615 pounds at the United States of America Power Lifting competition, Boss of Northern California, in Mountain View, Calif.

"It was my first competition so I just wanted to get a feel for it," King said. "At first, I didn't really see a reason to compete. I really enjoyed it and will probably still go back because everyone was so helpful and encouraging."

As an artillery Marine, King attended his occupational specialty training at Fort Sill, Okla. It was there that he first discovered weight lifting. 

"I didn't really know anything about artillery; I just knew I had to be strong to carry the heavy rounds," King said. "I fell in love with [weight lifting] there. I wanted to see how strong I could become by pushing my body."

Since graduating from his training, King has made great strides in both lifting and as an artillery Marine. He currently performs duties as a section chief and oversees other artillerymen as they operate an M77A2 Light-weight Towed Howitzer. Even after setting the state records, he still regards becoming a section chief as his greatest accomplishment.

"As a section chief, I'm there to verify that everything is safe," King said. "I check the round and fuse combination, powder charges and pretty much everything that goes on with the gun."

King believes that it's important for all Marines to maintain a high standard of physical fitness; beyond that of just training for the physical and combat fitness tests Marines conduct annually. 

"You're not necessarily in shape if you can just run three miles in under 20 minutes or do 20 pull-ups," King said. "Physical fitness is a complete aspect including running, jumping, swimming and lifting. The stronger you are and the more muscle mass you carry, the less likely you are to get hurt."

On week days, King conducts physical training with his gun section. Because of this, he spends many of his afternoons in the gym.

"During PT, we usually run or do a [High Intensity Tactical Training], so I get my cardio in," King said. "Mondays are bench and heavy deadlifts. Tuesdays, squats and overhead press. Wednesdays, I work accessories like lats, chest flys, incline press, triceps and biceps. On Thursdays, I do bench and deficit deadlifts."
Even though his unit is often training in the field, King always manages to find time for his fitness routine. 

"If there's something you want to do, you'll figure it out," King said. "If we're in the field we'll do round presses. Each round is about 95 to 105 pounds, so if you lift enough of them you're going to be strong."

According to King, in a typical training program of 12 to 16 weeks, it is important to begin light and work on form and technique to prevent injury. As he approaches the final week, he adjusts to higher weight with fewer repetitions to build strength.

"Setting these records made me feel pretty good," King said. "I worked really hard so it shows that hard work does pay off. I believe you don't have to compete to be proud of what you've done. It feels good when you reach a new max."

Deadlifting 660 pounds can be dangerous. In addition to properly warming up, King has developed his own way of dealing with stress before a big lift.

"I get completely quiet and try to clear my mind," King said. "I've done thousands of reps; maybe more. If you just clear you mind, you won't think about what could go wrong."

After setting these records, King is even more motivated to continue lifting. His eyes set on the national competition.

"By the end of the year, I'm aiming to squat 635, bench 405 and deadlift 725 pounds," King said. "My goal is to compete at Nationals in 2019."

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