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No Pain, No Gain for this Chemeketa power lifter

Article and photo By Simson Garcia

There’s a power lifter at Chemeketa, and she has potential.

Carolina Ruvalcaba, 19, a first-year student, has been strength-conditioning since her sophomore year at St. Paul High School: squats, bench presses, dumbbells, you name it.

Her start and motivation to lift ignited after meetings with her physical education teacher in the seventh grade.

“We began going into the weight room every week. I continued to lift throughout high school, and with the training and guidance of Coach Tony Smith, I continued to improve and my passion for weight lifting grew” she said.

“By the end of my sophomore year, I had beaten the school record for bench press. During my junior year, I broke my record by 10 pounds.”

Even then, Ruvalcaba said she wanted more.

“I graduated high school holding fifth place in power cleans, second place in squats, and first place in bench press in the school girls record,” she said.

Her trainer now is Bob Wynne, Chemeketa’s strength instructor who has been at the college for more than 20 years.

“I used to train powerlifters and natural bodybuilders,” he said. “It’s been about 20 years since I’ve trained power lifters.

“When Carolina showed up to class and showed such good potential, then I thought, ‘Well, one more time.’ ”

Meeting with Ruvalcaba, Wynne said, brought his own story full circle.

“Thirty-one years ago, I was a student here,” he said. “I had a story done on me in the Chemeketa paper after I just got done winning my first powerlifting meet. Now, I’m here getting her ready for her first one.”

The focus and training is in preparation to compete in the U.S. Powerlifting Association this June.

For weeks on end, Monday through Saturday, both have been training hard together.

While daily weight classes and many people working out around the room in Bldg. 7, Ruvalcaba and Wynne focus their work on one end.

Ruvalcaba said she maintained her focus by concentrating on one squat, one bench press, one deadlift, one day at a time.

“You done warming up? Ready to do some lifting?” Wynne recently said to Ruvalcaba before a few squats.

Ruvalcaba’s daily routine and training regimen in the weight room include a Monday-through-Saturday workout schedule, supplemented with a healthy diet.

“Monday’s are always bench day. After we bench, we do some dumbbell work – flat dumbbells, incline. We do overhead presses, and then we do closed grips” she said. 

Tuesday’s are squat days.

“Hips tight, chest up,” Wynne said while spotting.

Ruvalcaba said, “The set and reps are always the same for all the lifts throughout the week.”

A typical squat set on a Tuesday morning usually includes four 45-pound plates, two to each side, plus the 45-pound bar. Two 5-pound plates, two 2 ½ers, and two 1-pound plates (called pennies) were added just for measure, amounting 240 pounds.

“Wednesdays are mostly a complete off day; we can do some ab workouts but not much, mostly rest,” Ruvalcaba said.

“Thursday’s are a light bench day, while Friday’s include light squats,” she said.

Saturday’s end the week with deadlifts and light dumbbells – shoulder shrugs to help the pull of the deadlift and wrist curls for better grip. 

The other important part to the training is an emphasis on a healthy diet.

“Diet at this point is 90 percent of the training,” Wynne said. “She’s got to make sure she’s getting enough protein and complex carbs before training, and stacking those carbs.”

Ruvalcaba said, “Our diet is a huge part of our training. Pretty much the night before I lift and a heavy day, I have to stack the carbs, so I’ll have a big dinner, like lasagna.

“In the mornings, I make sure I get 3 servings of carbs, so I’ll need a big breakfast. I’ll also start out by making myself a protein shake, and I’ll eat some oatmeal with that and then a little later some egg proteins.”

Ruvalcaba said she tried to stay away from eating sugary sweets.

Diet becomes even more important throughout the day, and especially around lifting.

“An hour before I work out, I have to have a … protein powder. Then after I work out, I’ll have another with some carbs added. From there, you want to make sure you eat every three hours up until dinner and then light on dinner,” she said.

Powerlifting isn’t all Ruvalcaba does physically to morph into the shape she’s in. In high school, she was a three-sport athlete in volleyball, basketball, and track.

“Playing sports and staying physically active have always been an enormous part of my life,” she said.

Lifting? Check. Diet? Check. Everything else? Check.

It’s about “applying the science,” Wynne said. “She’s doing a periodized training program, and form is critical.”

This means proper rest between exercises, speed during exercises, and a consistent pattern of exercises.

Along with her rigorous scheduled training, Ruvalcaba is a full-time student who works a job and is an assistant coach for a youth volleyball club.

She also is seeking outside help from sponsorship and donations for the USPA competition in June.

“Competitors are required to pay a registration fee, as well as purchase a uniform and equipment. In addition, competitors need lodging for two days,” she said.

Ruvalcaba said that she was able to pay from some of these expenses but would appreciate any outside help.

“I would greatly appreciate any donations to help me make it to this competition and reach my goals,” she said. She can be reached at

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