KIRKLAND — Spending time in the weight room can be a necessary evil for NFL players, but two starters on the Seattle Seahawks’ offensive line see it from a different perspective.
There’s no place this duo would rather be.
Center Chris Spencer and left guard Rob Sims count weightlifting as one of their favorite pastimes, and the results have carried over to the football field.
“Especially on double teams, when it’s me and him, there aren’t that many people who can get through there,” Sims said. “It’s been pretty cool playing with a guy like that.”
Sims and Spencer combined to blow 300-pound Cincinnati defensive tackle John Thornton into the secondary during a Shaun Alexander run in the first half of Sunday’s game. Later in the game, they each pushed their defenders 5 yards off the ball on Alexander’s longest run, a 22-yarder.
“They’re not just big, strong meathead guys; they’re also powerful,” Seahawks strength and conditioning coach Mike Clark said. “They can’t just move weights slow; they can move a decent amount of weight, and they can move it fast.”
And they actually enjoy moving weights, giving the Seahawks one of the strongest inside tandems of any line in football.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Sims, who has lifted 515 pounds on the bench press. “We push a lot of guys around out of there. I hope to be doing that for a long time.”
Spencer was an accomplished lifter while growing up in Mississippi, setting two power-lifting records during his days at Madison Central High School. Sims doesn’t have quite the pedigree, but he’s just as dedicated in the weight room.
Both Sims and Spencer did 30 repetitions at 225 pounds during their respective combines for NFL scouts — Spencer in 2005, and Sims the following year. Even more impressive is the fact that both players have lifted more than 500 pounds in the bench press at one time or another.
Their combined total of 1,015 pounds in the bench press is more weight than the mass of the entire defensive line the Seahawks will face this weekend. San Francisco’s starting trio carries a combined 931 pounds on their bodies.
Spencer’s best bench press of 500 pounds helped him set the Mississippi state record in an event that combines the bench, squat and deadlift. He lifted a total of 1,665 pounds as a high school junior, then beat his own age-group record by lifting 1,675 the following year. He also set a state record by lifting 700 pounds in the squat.
Spencer, whose listed body weight is 312 pounds, said that his days as a competitive weight lifter paved the way for his future in the NFL.
“It’s a tremendous help,” he said. “It gives you that base, and once you’ve got that base all you have to do is maintain it. That’s what it’s all about now: maintaining it. You don’t want to be stupid and throw all that weight on there.”
Lately, Spencer hasn’t been throwing much weight on anything. After undergoing minor surgery on both shoulders in January, he’s been relegated to doing more repetitions at lower weights.
“It was hard watching (Sims) over there throwing up all that weight, and all I could do was keep doing my shoulder rehab,” Spencer said.
But during his first two NFL seasons, the former first-round pick made quite an impression in the Seahawks’ weight room.
“He’s is pretty darned strong, and he’s getting more and more powerful,” Clark said. “So is the young Bam-Bam; he’s really getting powerful too.”
That would be Sims, who also weighs in at 312 pounds but can lift much more than his own body weight. He started seriously getting into lifting as a high school senior and continued to develop in Ohio State University’s strength program.
“Actually, there were a couple guys at Ohio State who were a little stronger than me,” Sims said. “(Being in Seattle) is the first time that there have not been as many, actually.”
But there is Spencer. When he regains full strength, he should continue to be Sims’ most able workout partner. Just don’t expect the young linemen to ever get into a contest to see who can lift more weight on the bench press.
“The whole maxing out thing, that’s a high school-college showoff thing,” Sims said. “Here, weightlifting is more about building up your speed and other things. It’s not about who’s the strongest anymore.”
Not that Sims is against competing with some of the strongest men out there.
“I always told myself that if I didn’t make it in football, I’d be in one of those strongman competitions,” he said. “If I put some weight on, I think I could be good at that. I know I’d have to train for a while, but I think I could do it.”
Defensive tackle Ellis Wyms, who joined the Seahawks after getting cut by Tampa Bay on Sept. 1, is among those who have taken notice of Sims’ power.
“Rob is probably one of our strongest players in the weight room,” said Wyms, who faces Sims in practices four times a week. “A lot of guys can do a lot of work in the weight room but can’t transfer it to the field, but Rob can definitely transfer that strength to the field.”
Both Sims and Spencer seem to have bright futures in the NFL while playing alongside each other in the starting lineup. Clark, who has been the Seahawks’ strength coach since 2004, said that both players benefit from having such a solid background in lifting.
“We were able to rush them along quite a bit that first year,” he said. “So both of them are doing things as if they’ve been in the program three, four, five years.
“… At least they had a background (in lifting). Some of the guys, you wonder if their college even had a weight room. But that’s not the case with these guys.”
These guys have been in the weight room many times before. Turns out it’s one of their favorite hangouts.