Staff Highlight

Meet Melissa Graham

Melissa is a new member of the YMCA staff and you’ll find her helping in one of the weight rooms. Melissa is also a weightlifter. Gone are the days when weightlifting was only a man’s sport and women worried about being left with bulky bodies. Today’s female weightlifters embrace their muscles and strength. They like the challenge and euphoria that comes with reaching a new weight level and competing with other to be the strongest. Melissa kindly say down with the YMCA and answered a few questions.


Why did you choose weight lifting as your sport?

Originally I started lifting to lose weight and get in shape. Once I realized how much I enjoyed lifting, my focus quickly changed for weight loss to how much weight I could lift. I see a difference daily in my strength and I get excited about how much weight I am lifting. Israel Peltz, the YMCA’s Health and Wellness Director, helped me with correct form for lifting. I also educated myself and tried different methods.


How does your family like having a weight lifting mom?

They love it. I have 3 children ranging in the age of 3 years old to 8 years old. They love going to weight lifting competitions and watching me do weights. They have little weights and lift with me at home. The Y community has also supported me in becoming a better lifter.


What is your typical training session?

I train a different muscle group each day for one to two hours. My three essential exercises are squat, bench, and deadlift. I track my workouts. I can see exactly how much I was lifting and how I was training. As long as the amount of weight on the ends of the bars keeps going up, I know I am progressing in the right direction.


What is your diet regimen?

I don’t worry about cutting calories. When I train for competition I cut carbs and eat more protein and vegetables. If you strength train while eating a normal amount of calories, you will lose fat on top of your muscle and leave behind the muscle you already have. That’s what gives you a toned look. It’s impossible for women to get too bulky from lifting weights.


It’s great to hear that you are studying to be a personal trainer and a group fitness aerobics instructor. You are teaching a program titled “Weights Empowering Women” that begins June 14 and 17. Can you tell us about it?

First we’ll work on form and knowledge before using dumbbells and barbells. Don’t worry about lifting weights at first. The most important thing is to make sure you’re doing it right. Weight lifting is a process and the process doesn’t happen overnight. I want to get more women in the weight room. There are so many benefits to weightlifting. It strengthens bones, reduces a woman’s chance of developing osteoporosis and burns calories long after a workout is done.


Can you tell me about your competitions?

I have been in 3 competitions in the Revolution Powerlifting Syndicate and I’ve placed first in all of them. I am now ranked #1 in Pennsylvania for my division. Competitors are judgers in 3 areas: squats, bench press, and dead lift. When I’m lifting, my focus is not about being better than someone else, it’s about being better than I used to be.


What is your next goal?

I want to make it to the “Arnold Weightlifting Championships.” (Yes, that Arnold.) I never thought I would get this far, but with practice I’m reaching my goals.


Do you have any questions for Melissa? She’s more than happy to hang out in the weight room and answer any questions you have relating to weight training, her upcoming class, and anything in between. We’re just excited she’s here at the YMCA.