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Army Strong: SSG Alan Weist

Minus a serratus muscle and an intact ACL, this Army staff sergeant has still managed to develop a strong, functional physique.

by CSCS
Army Soldier Alan Weist

The man with the archetypal warrior’s physique you see in the pics here has earned his body through sweat, pain and dedication. But before he was Army Strong, he was rejected, wounded and redeemed.

“I was born without my left serratus anterior muscle and formed winged scapula on my left side,” says Staff Sergeant Alan Weist.

This left Weist challenged from the get-go but he didn’t let that stand between him and a life of service. It took two separate attempts to enlist before he was medically cleared for the Army and he didn’t squander the opportunity. Since joining up 10 years ago, he has been on multiple deployments and suffered additional adversity. A complete ACL rupture in 2009 left him out of commission. He had the knee surgically repaired but tore it again in 2011. Instead of surgery, he opted to build stronger legs through therapy.

“My serratus anterior muscle will always be missing, but that does not keep me from pursuing my fitness goals and following my passion for fitness,” he says. “My other muscles have strengthened and compensated to the best of their abilities for the missing muscle. My ACL is still completely torn but I run faster and lift more with my legs now compared to when it wasn't torn. I continue to train my legs as heavy as any other body part that I train now.”

At this year’s 2nd Annual Artic Beast Competition on base in Alaska, Weist benched 355 pounds, deadlifted 495 and cleaned 245 to win first place. Safe to say that this alpha male is fit to serve.

SSG Alan J. Weist

Branch of Service: United States Army

Rank: Staff Sergeant

MOS (Military Occupational Specialty): 91L, Heavy Construction Equipment Repairer

Deployments: Two Deployments to Iraq. Delilah Providence, Iraq, April 2007-July 2008; Baghdad, Iraq, September 2009-September 2010

Current Station: Fort Wainwright, Alaska

Hometown: Hampton, Virginia

Birth date: April 30, 1986

Height: 6'4"

Weight: 243 pounds

Why the Army? How long have you served? What has your service taught you about yourself?

My background in the Army is reaching what we call the "hump" to retirement. I will have ten years in service on July 15. I attended Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I was then stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington for six years. I was with the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), 2nd Infantry Division. I completed my two tours in Iraq with the 4th SBCT. A few months after the completion of my second tour in Iraq, I got stationed at Grafenwoehr, Germany. I served three years in Germany before I changed duty stations to Fort Wainwright, Alaska. I have attended and graduated from Warrior's Leader Course and Advanced Leader's Course (both leadership schools). I also have attended and graduated from Air Assault School and Airborne School. My awards and decorations include three Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Awards, three Army Good Conduct Medals and three Certificate of Achievements.

I originally wanted to join the Air Force because both my father and stepfather were both retired Air Force. Following in their footsteps was what seemed to be in my blood. My plan solidified after 9/11. I wanted to serve and honor my country at a higher capacity. I joined the Army, however to follow in my grandfather's steps. He served three years in the Army in Paris. As an athlete, the Army has given me the opportunity to not only push myself to higher levels but to teach others what I have learned along the way. The Army has given me basic guidelines and facilities to stay fit and healthy but I try my best to exceed those standards.

Why is a high level of fitness important for you in the Army? How has it helped with your particular job in Army?

A high level of fitness is extremely important, especially in the Army, because we do not know the enemy that we will be engaging with next. On any given day, we can be called to deploy to anywhere in the world, whether that is fighting terrorism or helping with humanitarian disasters. We never know what our next mission will be and if we do, we are extremely lucky. Fitness has helped me with my particular job in the Army because I maintain large pieces of equipment. I fix and repair construction equipment -- bulldozers, scrapers, graders, bridges, tractors and route clearance equipment, just to name a few. Getting some of the components into the trucks requires lots of strength and at times holding the part in place while another soldier tightens the bolts. Fitness has also helped with my job because being a Noncommissioned Officer (NCO), it is my job to not only take care of the soldiers that I am placed in charge of, but to also teach, train and mentor them. Teaching the soldiers different dieting and proper lifting techniques ensures that my knowledge gets passed on and the soldiers tailor it their own life styles.

What can you tell us about what you did on deployment in Iraq? How did you keep fit overseas?

My first deployment, I went "outside of the wire" quite a bit with the engineers. We were in charge of clearing the roads and routes. On top of being a mechanic, I spent time rolling on 7-8 hour missions, clearing roads for convoys. My second deployment, I stayed on the Forward Operating Base and stuck strictly to maintaining the route clearance vehicles. In both deployments, we had many late nights and many early mornings. During the deployments we had several gyms that we could utilize but there were times that I would go to a Forward Operating Base (FOB) that did not have gym equipment. I would wake up in the mornings and run around the roads on the base. If we did not have equipment we made our own, fabricating benches out of old metal and seats. We would take a straight metal pipe and place chains on the end for bench press. We would curl water cans and fuel cans. We would take full sand bags and do sit-ups. Pretty much anything that we could get our hands on we would use as a piece of equipment to work out.

How does your dedication to country and mission come into play during a tough workout?

My dedication to my country and mission helps give me that extra boost of energy and motivation that I need when I am fatigued and trying to get that last rep in. I think of the rights that I have sworn to uphold and protect and it helps me go that extra mile.

When did you first get into lifting weights?

I first got into lifting weights when I was trying out for the basketball team my junior year of high school. I was 185 pounds at the time. My grandparents bought me my first weight set for Christmas. I did not get my first real taste of weight lifting, although, until I started lifting for varsity Football at Kecoughtan High School my senior year. I gained 20 pounds of muscle that year training and conditioning for our games.

What resources have you used to help you get where you are on your fitness journey?

I have been reading Muscle & Fitness now for about four years. I remember picking up my first issue from the Post Exchange in Baghdad. Flipping through the pages, I started to learn different workout techniques, information about supplements and nutrition ideas. I started applying some of the exercises from the workouts in the magazine to shock my body. I was getting stuck in a rut of the same exercises. Since then, I have been able to condition myself physically and push my body to higher levels with the ample amount of information that is found in the magazines.

When did training really become a passion for you?

Training really became a passion for me after my second deployment. I had not broken fitness down to a science until I got to Germany. I started eating healthier and spending more time in the gym. I continued to push myself and train others at the same time. I started passing on my knowledge and it wasn't until I talked to a retired soldier about his lifting techniques and etiquette that I thought about becoming a personal trainer. In February 2013, I decided to take the time and get my personal trainer certification. I had been helping people in and out of the military with their fitness goals, why not get my certification to go with it?

You’ve dealt with a lot of physical adversity but what has your most serious setback involved?

In April of 2012, I spent a little over a week in the hospital in Germany. My heart felt that it would build up pressure and then pump really hard. The German doctors conducted several tests on me throughout the week including; a bike stress test, wearing a heart monitor for 48 hours, and giving me a shot of adrenaline to try to recreate the heart pump. After all of the tests were complete, the doctors diagnosed me with ventricular arrhythmia. They stated that the main reason that I was still alive was due to the fact that I was physically fit and lifted weights.

What supplements do you like to use to keep your goals on track?

I try to stay away from supplements and naturally take in what I can through the food that I eat. However, there are times when I can feel myself plateau and I need to break through that ceiling. When I do take supplements I take creatine, BCAAs, beta-alanine, glutamine, and of course an ample supply of protein.

What do you feel has really been the key to your success in getting this fit?

The key to my success in getting fit is remembering that you will always have set backs. I do not get discouraged when I do not see results immediately. We see individuals in magazines and say that we want to be like them. My wife, Christina, also plays a huge role in helping me stay on track when it comes to workouts. She cooks and prepares our meals and tries new healthy twists.

You have plans for life after the Army?

I cannot see myself doing anything but something in the fitness industry after my time is up in the Army. I aspire to run my own gym and continue to train and mentor individuals in their fitness goals and aspirations.

Army Soldier Alan Weist

Heavy Leg Construction

In the gym and in his job, Sgt. Weist wields heavy equipment. “My favorite body part to work has become my legs,” says Weist, who at 6’4” and over 230 pounds is built more like a NFL strong safety than a soldier. “I enjoy the feeling of not being able to walk because your thighs and calves are burning and tight.  This is my favorite workout.”

Cardio: Elliptical 30 minutes Interval Training

Exercise

Sets

Reps        

Smith-Machine Squat - Superst w/

4

15,12,10,8

Smith-Machine Calf Raise

4

15,12,10,8

Hack Squat Machine - Superset w/

3

12,10,8

Hamstring Curl        

3        

12,10,8

DB Alternating Lunge - Superset w/ 

3

12,10,8

Seated Calf Raise Machine

3

12,10,8

Thigh Abduction Machine - Super w/

3

15, 15, 12 

Thigh Adduction Machine

3 15, 15, 12 

“I try to rest for 1-2 minutes between sets. I really enjoy supersets because I get to mix thighs with calves, calves with hamstrings and thighs with hamstrings.”

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