April 7, 2020
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Can 15 minutes of weightlifting make you thin?

Better question: Can it make you healthy?
Dave Hammelman (left) near Becky Elliot (right) promotes a healthy and safe workout in just 15 minutes a week.

After a workout in early May, my body felt like it was moving through water. Gravity’s gripping pull felt so much heavier than normal, but it wore off sometime during my 15-minute ride home – the same length as my workout.

Flex 151, a gym no bigger than an office, is located inside Jennings Station near Newburgh’s riverfront. Five pieces of MedX exercise equipment line a tan wall, and five face clocks have only the second hand spinning.

The interior is simple, but who needs ambiance? Clients spend 15 minutes a week in here. That’s all their bodies can handle from a workout so intense they need seven days to recover.

I’ve always been active, and recovery from exercise was never my forte. In college, I overdid workouts, often training for four hours a day. Considering I wasn’t training for a race or sport, these workouts were too long for an adult with a full-time job.

Still, even with a position that keeps me at a desk well past 40 hours a week, I lifted weights and ran an hour a day, at least four times a week for five years post-graduation. Then, in March 2011, I lackadaisically pushed my legs on an elliptical machine for one minute. I sighed and walked away.

I was bored. My feet had hit pavement, my arms had curled dumbbells, and my heart had pounded on the basketball court. I wasn’t seeing new results. I needed a revived motivation. Looking for a new program, I took a month off from exercise. Then I found Flex 151.

My first 15-minute session left me wiped. The premise is not new to Evansville, but it does defy popular opinion: People run ultramarathons (races more than 26 miles long), they pump out sets on P90X (about 60 minutes of nonstop exercise), or they strike poses in yoga (a 90-minute workout). Exercise takes time. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends Americans have “at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity” and weightlifting twice a week.

Yet, here’s David Hammelman, who launched Flex 151 a year ago, acting as a mouthpiece for a highly intense workout requiring only 15 minutes a week. If it sounds too good to be true, Hammelman has someone you should meet: Dick Conner.

At 17, Conner joined the U.S. Navy (he’d later become a member of the Army), and the Evansville native was stationed in California. This was the mid-1950s when a well-defined muscular man wasn’t the definition of an ideal body. Covers of men’s health magazines didn’t display men with washboard abs. Instead, popular opinion proclaimed more muscle meant less agility and speed, says Conner.

He believed that sentiment until the catcher on his intramural softball team in the Navy introduced him to weightlifting. Conner’s commitment to barbells made him not only stronger but also more agile and quick. This statement has no eye rolls from readers today when Olympic sprinters are as big as tanks, but the 1950s was a decade when doctors advised against rigorous exercise.

Conner didn’t listen. Weightlifting was his passion, and he learned everything he could in the burgeoning Golden State gyms which would later birth bodybuilding. When Conner returned to Evansville, he became a police officer and bought weights for his basement. Years later, Conner’s physique intrigued a colleague who brought his son to Conner’s house for personal training.

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