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The Value of a Positive Attitude in Bodybuilding

When in Doubt, Don’t

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Another day in a long stretch of many, how many we don’t know and dare not speculate. Let’s just assume they go on forever, and while we’re at it, pretend they get better and better with practice and devotion each passing day. Be positive, good and wise muscle builder.

Be positive -- the almighty declarative. I’m tired of being positive, aren’t you? Don’t you ever feel like being downright negative and miserable? It’s so much easier. No smile, no bright greeting for this person, no cheery response to that person, no jokes and funny one-liners among your acquaintances and no song in your voice as you say goodbye. I want to hiss today, if it’s all the same with you, hiss, snarl and pound my fist on the lifting platform.

Big Bomber Bummer, Bozo. You’ll be sorry.

If you go to the gym negative and miserable, you will not get a pump, the last rep or your one-rep max. You won’t make any friends; you’ll act like a jerk and probably injure yourself. Science and instinct tell us misery, like stress, is catabolic, and that’s where I draw the line. As negativity and misery engender catabolism, positiveness and joy engender anabolism. See how it works? Joy is like protein to muscle building and positive thinking is testosterone. Smile and get ripped, laugh and get huge, put on a happy face and bench 450. I can do this.

There’s something to the theory, though I might have overstated and oversimplified it a bit in my enthusiasm, my positive spirit. A negative spirit on the job, in a passing car on the freeway or at the restaurant two tables down is as plentiful as mud around a swamp and hard to avoid in a stormy world. The best place to dry off and regain your comfort is the gym, the mud-free zone, where a full-size grin can take an inch off the waist.

I was very serious during the beginning of my workout today; it wasn’t any fun and I felt that my teeth-grinding efforts were for naught. That’s why I’m obsessing slightly over the negative and the miserable. Serious is good -- serious and concentrated, serious and dedicated, serious and intense. But serious and cold, serious and stiff, serious and grim are seriously bad. I wasn’t mad, mean or wretched, but no life-giving blood was reaching my finer capillaries, pumping me up like a happy beach ball; I felt no tingling heat in them thar repetitions and no electrical charge in the lifts as the weights plowed through the air -- plowed like weary old farm horses through rocky, rooted soil. I was a plug stuck in a hole, a punctured, discolored and fuzzless tennis ball wobbling frantically over a torn and sagging net. The thrill was gone.

It was nothing, really, just one of those less-than-perfect, muddy days. I knew it immediately, but insisted on wallowing in the malodorous mire long enough to get stinky and smudged. Kids love to play in mud puddles, ya know. Though training malaise for me is rare and short-lived, I have experienced it often enough to have concocted a remedy. I rummaged through my first-aid kit -- splints, oxygen, resuscitator, defibrillator, scalpels -- seeking the appropriate medicine, the whatever-feels-good fix 'n' mix, or “whatever fix 'n' mix” for short. I took a slug, which went down smooth and left a pleasant aftertaste. I’m good, I’m cool, here I come, stand back, look out.

The “whatever fix 'n' mix” consists of whatever; that is, whatever feels good, sounds appealing, rings a bell, is of interest, stimulates the senses, charges the energy, inspires and is not a cop-out, a deception, a sneaky escape or a cheap evasion.

This is what I did this bleak and despairing day in the safe yet troubled confines of the gym to save my workout from the devil’s fiery furnace, the receptacle for training sessions that are not stimulated by the daring and ingenuity, passion and integrity of a true believer in muscle and might -- a bomber:

Wait, you should know I had already completed my mid-section training, 175 crunches of various affect on a 15-degree incline followed by 5 x 25 incline leg raises supersetted with 5 x 15 hanging leg raises. Pure, uninspired work… had to be done, did them sufficiently.

And I should add that my schedule called for legs: extensions, curls, calves, squats and farmer walks. Usually, I greet this particular training session with enthusiasm, squats being a favorite challenge. The reasonably heavy weight on the bar and appropriately slower pace, the limited exercises and the internal thunder are also attractive. Recently, after months of prime leg workouts, my knees and a hip flexor are getting cranky. Overtraining is rearing its ugly head, and I wondered in the back of my mind if I would wait until it screamed bloody murder before taking sensible training precautions. I noticed I was approaching the weight rack the past two weeks with trepidation. “Let me at them” was replaced by “Can I go home now.” Bad sign. Today as I strapped on my lifting belt I thought I heard “I want my mommy” come from the stereo speaker overhead. There, I heard it again. “No, Draper, that’s Aerosmith singing ‘You’re my baby’.” Right! I knew that.

So, as you are fully informed, I did forearms for starters. You’re disappointed. I know, far cry from squats, and my fix 'n’ mix whatever bears every indication of an authentic cop-out... but I was limping, Coach. I chose the Apollon thick bar for the wrist curls, the bent bar for reverse curls and triceps pushdowns with the prototype of the Stealth Tri Bomber* -- a short, angled, two-inch thick handle for triceps cable work. This three-part superset is not exactly a rare diversion for me -- it’s as old and as used as my favorite t-shirts -- but it hits the mark every time: smaller muscles at work, unthreatening, agreeable pace, always a gratifying pump without exhausting or fatiguing, exhilarating searing burn without major sacrifice and a pleasing upper body participation and stimulation for free.

I performed five tri-sets of 15-20, 8-10 and 15–20 reps, respectively. No race, but kept moving.

Now here’s where I strayed from the norm, boldly stepped away from convention, expressed my freedom, cut loose, unbound myself from society’s bonds and went where few men dare to go... into the woman’s locker room... no, no, no... that was a typo, a slip on the keyboard. Feeling invigorated, reassured and no longer hearing voices from childhood, I let myself wander the premises of the gym. Deltoid work is a problem with many weightlifters after a few years of pushing too much iron, in the wrong direction, without warming up, without practice or without sufficient preparation... without brains, just passion (AKA ego). I’m no exception. Add to that a fall I had about 25 years ago that broke something in the infra- and supra-spinatus region (right side, if you must know) and my pressing is abysmal. I cannot do side-arm or forward lateral raises. Rats. I do the lying things -- they’re cool -- but they torment my elbows occasionally, so I decided to try something else. Are you ready for this one?

I’m slightly embarrassed, but we’re old friends, so I’m gonna tell you what I do. Don’t laugh... you’ll cause me to withdraw and live with emotional problems the rest of my life. A dysfunctional weightlifter is a frightening sight.

I stand relaxed with a pair of light-weight dumbbells hanging by my sides (start with fives, or five-pound plates will do). This is a swinging movement that requires looseness, some practice and close attention to accomplish the muscular effect. From the standing position take one step forward (left or right, your choice), while at once swinging the dumbbells forward. The step is not completed; it is more of a rocking forward and a rocking back, keeping rhythm with the swinging weighted hands. Step forward and the dumbbells swing forward, rock back and the dumbbells return -- with your focused resistance -- and past the neutral hanging position to a point behind you. Keep going with unbroken rhythm, rocking forward as the weights move forward and up, and rocking back as the weights drop back and to the rear. Forward and up with concentric muscle contraction, back and down with eccentric contraction and continue. By Jove, I think you’ve got it.

It’s easy, swinging and rocking, but becomes a challenge as you apply control, as you reach higher with muscle and might in the forward thrust (concentric application) and resist the return of the weights from the peak position (eccentric application), down and to the rearmost position. I do five sets of 15, 12, 10, 10, 10 reps, starting with 15 pounds and working up in two-and-one-half-pound increments to 25 pounds.

Play with this exercise before applying intensity: discover the action, determine its potential aid or aggravation (damage control), and prepare and condition the mechanics of the shoulder cuff for the work ahead.

I’ve been working on this top secret for weeks and I like it. Swinging the dumbbells under control becomes a reasonable version of the lateral raise I can no longer perform. Though the absent spinatus/deltoid recruiters prevent total muscle engagement, I get a muscle activity, muscle pump and positive burn I cannot otherwise achieve. Let’s see if the exercise affects any substantial shoulder stability or muscle growth -- thickness, density, shape, definition or strength -- in the next weeks and months. I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, drift to a remote corner of the gym and when no one is looking, try the loopy exercise. Tell no one of its origin. We’ll keep this physiological breakthrough between us, unless it works, which it will and then, of course, I’ll humbly accept credit.

Bombers must be stealthy at all times on all occasions.

God’s strength... Dave Draper, the Bomber

*Will have photo and info on The Stealth Tri Bomber next week under Top Secret, Eyes Only -- Classified

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