First Things First

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Monday, Monday -- Two More Reasons to Lift Weights


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It’s Monday morning and you look at the alarm clock like it was time bomb. You’re not a violent person, but you want to snatch the cunning device and toss it out the window before it explodes in your face. You mollify your displeasure, drag your sorry butt out of bed and direct it toward the bathroom door. Mondays are like that.

Dead man walking.

You’re about to face the world of struggling masses who regard the first day of the week as you do, with anxiety, fear, irritability and regret. Hmmph! No relief from that throng. "Why was I born?" you ask. The toilet flushes and you mount the merciless scale behind the door; was it bad luck, an accident, poor planning, spite, a quirk of fate, a sick joke? Cloudy thoughts not worth registering pass through your mind while your eyes focus on the tell-tale dial vacillating between your bare feet.

You strain to see the numbers and wonder why. No one wins at this juncture of life. If you’ve gained weight, you’re fat; if you’ve lost weight, you’re skinny; if your weight remains the same, nothing’s happened in spite of all your hard work. You knew it all along. Why bother? Mondays are cruel.

The kitchen is more hopeful. By now the teeth are brushed and the face is washed and a coffee pot sits on the countertop like a genie. At the flick of a switch it growls and snarls like a well-trained leopard and the aroma of Columbia’s finest rises from its spout. Yeah, life’s a struggle, you muse with sudden inexplicable generosity, but how frivolous it would be if it was predictable and trouble-free. Where’s my cup?

One cube of sugar isn’t gonna kill ya any more than one cup of coffee -- so what if the cup’s the size of a fruit bowl. And, yes, that bran muffin looks like cake, but it really is a bran muffin, full of useful carbs and whole grains and fiber. The protein from which big muscles are made comes from the super shake made with 16 ounces of low-fat milk, a small banana, a couple of raw and meticulously clean eggs, a cup of Bomber Blend, a half-cup of papaya juice and ice. Mmm... enough for two servings. You’re rich. Kitchens have been known to transform despair into hopefulness and build strong bodies 12 ways.

Kitchens also prepare you to leave your fortress and confront the mobs. First stop, the gym. Only the strong survive and you’re not taking any chances. It’s barely dawn, a pathetic sacrifice, but worth the pain. Start the day by moving a ton of steel and the rest seems like a walk in the park. It’s also comforting to know you’re not the only crazy person on the planet.

They’re a good bunch, the 6 AM crowd. But then, who’s gonna pick a fight at this hour of the morning? You nod and smile (small lies) while you stumble around the gym floor; everything’s a haze. The stationary bike looks like a wild thing, as you mount it from the side. Whoa, boy... easy. After some brutal prodding and coaxing, the legs begin pumping and the miles roll on by. You’re warming up and letting go and the internal juices are kicking in. The world is a nice place when the heart and lungs are in sync and the endorphins are released in abundance. Your black and white world fills with color, and a real smile worth a fortune covers your face. With two fingers to the carotid artery, you note you’re alive at last.

What day is it? It’s Monday. How could you forget? But that’s not what you mean. You’re over the Monday thing. It’s chest-and-back day. That is, of course, after gut cuz a weekend can do weird things to the abdominal area. Besides, you’re not quite ready for presses and deadlifts yet.

You notice most lifters train midsection in a half-hearted manner. You don’t see them performing their array of ab exercises with the same intent and intensity as their bench presses and standing curls. They crunch without any functional extension or tight, purposeful contraction. When performing leg raises, they flounder about without muscular focus or control -- fish out of water. They roll about on big rubber balls (cute) or do twists with bars across their backs until something gets tired or they give up. What’s that?

Tough section, the midsection. It manages to collect fat efficiently and hide muscle successfully without any help at all. Knocking out sets and reps without witnessing a gleaming six pak -- most everyone’s secret dream -- can be a nightmare. And the exercises available for developing a lean muscular waist are about as much fun and effective as paddling... upstream... in a leaky boat. We’re sinking fast, captain.

Keep paddling. Paddle harder.

So much for the gut and onto the real stuff, chest and back. Whoever invented the bench press must be worth a small fortune (probably has shoulder injuries, as well). The royalties alone could make him a multimillionaire. Everyone knows the exercise; tell a little girl in pre-school that you lift weights and she’ll immediately ask how much you can bench press. She can’t ride a bike and she wants to know your bench.

The bench press is popular even though it’s not all that good for muscle building and it’s commonly done wrong. Go to any gym and watch the eager trainees. They lift their butt off the bench while arching their back till the bar touches their ribcage (one rep); they bounce the bar off their chest like it was a truck spring (two reps); the right side goes up long before the left side (three reps), the bar comes half-way down and goes almost all the way up (four reps); the bar comes down on the body hard and stays down while the lifter gasps and squeals and gets assistance from a nearby innocent victim... he strains his back for life (five reps); and finally the plates on the left side slide off the bar followed immediately by the plates on the right side -- end of lift. High fives all around! What a champ!

I say use dumbbells whenever you have a choice.

The bar in all its rigidness prevents you from rotating the hands just enough to engage the pecs correctly and more fully. Dumbbells offer this advantage. Further, the unyielding hand position forces the mechanics of this joint-like apparatus to remain fixed throughout the entire exercise. This control causes an unnatural tracking and a subsequent impingement of tissue and nerve. Injury eventually rears its ugly head as power and intensity are applied. Does this ring a bell, bombers? Another seldom reviewed benefit of dumbbell training is the powerful clean necessary to set the weights in place, and the fight to return them to the starting position and back in the rack upon exercise completion. This is called good old-fashioned work -- bull work -- that builds the body in functional and muscle and energy connected ways static exercise does not and cannot. Go for it.
Guys, you crave cantaloupe delts? You betcha! Dumbbell inclines -- 45 to 75 degrees -- do the job like no other exercise. Girls, you want strong and substantial shoulders that ripple when you smile? Wow! Dumbbell inclines. They tie the shoulder into the upper- and mid-pectorals exalting the upper body. Triceps are fired up and the serratus fight for recognition. Biceps and forearms participate significantly while getting the iron in position, keeping it there throughout the set and returning it to its starting place. You always wanted to move the iron... you’re movin' the iron. And your back with all it powerful parts isn’t exactly hangin' out for odd jobs and minimum wage. It’s working overtime, pulling, pushing and pressing.
Dumbbell presses in their variety of angles and grooves work both front and side shoulders as well as the whole pec range. I’m not shooting the bench press in the foot; I’m suggesting you use it smartly, enjoy it and don’t put a crown on its head. A baseball cap placed backwards will do. While you’re at it, add cable crossovers to your chest routine and bentover lateral raises that somewhat resemble rows -- go heavier than usual with a sufficient thrust to build some needed mass back there. Bentover tweakies don’t do the job. Tweakies don’t work anywhere, anytime. Tweakies are for tweaks.

Being a responsible professional and anti-tweaker, I would be remise if I didn’t emphasize the need for heavy back work for thickness and density, as well as profuse lat work for width and dramatic taper. According to moods, urges and needs, I alternate between bentover barbell rows, dumbbell rows and seated lat rows for power and mass. I throw in widegrip pulldowns to the front as a secondary set to chest and shoulder pressing (supersetting). I enjoy pulldowns behind the neck as well, as they mimic the famous overhead double–biceps pose hit under heavy lighting by bodybuilding champions. Very inspirational, most effective.

Close-grip pulldowns work well as an infrequent change of pace. An under-grip pulldown tears lovingly at the lats, serratus and biceps, a very cool movement when hoping, wishing and dreaming of hitting biceps on an off-arm day. Toss in some stiffarm pullovers for sets of 8-12 for further lat stimulation and a tug on the tris (classic superset exercise).

Look at the clock, the day’s half over. We never want to chase time away, bombers. That’s why we lift weights: to spirit us through yet another Monday, to make the best of the hours we have, to learn to appreciate our presence on the earth and extend, perhaps, the number of our days for maximum fulfillment. Besides, we want to be strong and have big muscles.

If your plane doesn’t fly, push it. God’s speed... DD

----

A main reason for Dave’s morning grumpiness -- and really, he’s exaggerating a whole bunch, you know that don’t you? -- well, that grumpiness he gripes of comes mostly from aches and pains of workouts gone by. Furniture building in the '70s that included hoisting and shoving and, er, hammering without the customary tool, all come together now to contribute to the aches of arthritis.

I want to talk about that in more detail, but for the youngsters and the rare others whose aching wrist, elbow, shoulder or knee isn’t foremost in mind, why don’t I send you off to expand on your next hardcore workout? This link is Dave’s heavy-duty advanced lat workout; and this one is a collection of abdominal routines that will set your midsection on fire.

The rest of you, you ready to spend a little research time? I’ll make an overview as simple as possible, and there’s a lot of material here for those who want to dig a little deeper. First, look to your diet -- is your sugar intake higher than it should be? Are you eating foods you’re allergic to? Do you overeat? Smoke? These are all contributing factors to inflammation, the first indicator of impending arthritis. This link will spell out the details, and at the left of the page you’ll find the reference sheets for extra credit.

Now that you know what causes arthritis pain, would you like to know what you can do about it? Aside from pharmaceuticals -- and better than medications if you take heed of the recent reports of arthritis drugs that have been removed from the marketplace -- there really are a selection of successful natural remedies. How well they work depends mostly on how early you take hold of the problem -- how far along you are in the degenerative process. What this really means is don’t wait until things get worse to take action. Cartilage with little damage can be fully repaired; let the arthritis take a stronghold and the treatment results decline substantially.

Here’s an overview of the natural supplements.

We sell most of the nutrients known to decrease joint inflammation and rebuild cartilage; these are manufactured by companies we have a personal relationship with and trust with our own health. I’ve collected these competitively priced products in a Joint Health section so it will be simple to find your chosen remedy.

Dave uses the Body Ammo Joint Connection daily and is testing out Celadrin & MSM, new from NOW Foods. And I’m pretty confident the combination of Joint Connection, SAMe and Omega 3 was the magic that made the arthritic ache in my shoulder disappear.

I found minor relief from inflammation within a few days, and better yet, a second wave of pain relief kicked in a couple of months later as the soft tissue began to repair. It’s worth a couple of month’s testing if that dull ache is full-time; my much-better-than-last-year’s workouts are daily proof.

Finally, the free solution: water. We need plenty of water to cushion the joints. Simply increasing your water intake can make a big difference in the aches and pains of aging. Start each morning with a glass of water, and keep it going throughout the day.

Dave's new Thick Bar Power Handles will energize your workouts

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Other extreme Muscle Beach measures are hidden like gemstones in Dave’s workouts. Our friend Henrik (you remember him, The House, from Denmark) transcribed a section of Dave’s workout log sheet from the early ‘60s. Here’s what he discovered in all that hen scratching.

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