First Things First

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Bodybuilding, Dancing with the Iron

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Lucky for us, bombers, the timeless declaration "You can’t teach an old dog new tricks" does not apply. Sure, there are plenty of old dogs, but there are no new tricks. The tricks are either old tricks in a slick disguise or they are some dopey distortion of the old to look new -- high-tech, cutting edge, out of the box, as they say, if you’ll excuse the sappy idioms. Nothing cutting-edge has appeared in lifting since the pre-dawn introduction of barbells and dumbbells over a hundred years ago. Any old fleabag knows that. 
Once you’ve trod the straight path to the center of things, why wander circuitous routes in the name of advanced technology? We’re dealing with the physics of gravity -- what comes down must go up; the mathematics of addition -- one rep plus one rep equals two reps; the science of nutrition -- garbage in, garbage out; the logic of persistence -- push that iron intensely; and the philosophy of mankind -- only the strong shall survive. Thank God for straight lines, clear views and commonsense: obstacles that challenge, injuries that instruct, plans that stimulate, deeds that reward and goals that motivate -- blessings available to all of us, not just the elite.

I roamed from gym to gym over the years in search of revolutionary ideas and methodologies. Truth is, I’d settle for anything out of the ordinary. My mission was to discover and unveil the newest, latest, hottest exercises and schemes of training on the gym floor. I wasted no ink recording blistering training ideas and remarkable breakthroughs.

Heads bobbed up and down as musclebuilders to varying degrees of involvement performed familiar routines. There’s the curl, there’s the bench press, there’s the squat. Even the most hardcore gyms offered no novel exercises or exercise patterns. The bigger and stronger ironheads, those you might find hanging out on the steps of the pharmacist’s backdoor, lifted heavier weights in the simplest manner and with as much hi-tech influence and finesse as an ox.

Just as I suspected, just as I’ve declared -- no secrets, nothing new. This, a testament to hard work and perseverance, does not make our mission any easier, but it does make it clearer and more certain. All we need to do as individuals is heft the weighted objects we have in hand and awe the riveted audience with our endurance, performance and grit, the audience comprised of us, or more precisely, ourselves -- the only real audience.

Furthermore, that there is nothing new does in no way suggest we are lacking or without copious means. We have single sets, supersets, tri-sets and multi-sets, high reps, low reps and mixed reps, volume training, power training and fitness training, and various intensities of training depending on one’s goal, health and constitution. There are several dozens of essential exercises and multiple combinations of muscle groups to form a routine, and these routines can be applied throughout the week or month in different patterns, based on one’s time, training involvement, desire, purpose and ability to recuperate. We are in fact rich. One might say loaded.

The choices above in their entirety change with the flow of life, trial and error, and maturity in training. Add time of the day-by-day variety, plus attentive application of the basic exercises, plus the patient observation of progress, plus the ever-growing understanding to render modifications, plus endurance of the mind, body and emotions augmented by sound genetics, right eating and living -- got it so far -- to determine the extent, direction and swiftness of one’s development.

There you have it. Not a secret or hot idea in the lot. It’s up to us.

Surprised? Disappointed? The magazines are crammed with inspiring photos, but the information is spare and redundant. The Triple X muscle-bursting substances, pills, caps, powders and sublingual drops are full-page, large-print hyperbole bordering on liable. The weights have nothing to offer but their heaviness and that ear-splitting clang. What are we to do now? How do we go on?

Before I lifted weights I was child, but now after years under the steel I'm a full-grown kid. Maturity is desirable when we keep aging in check. When we ask what do we do and how do we go on, we are admitting we are lightweights; we are impatient, undisciplined and childish; we lack creativity, innovation and finesse. We wonder less and doubt more. This is a calamity: without wonder we shall not find our way; when we doubt, we are no longer vital and productive. None of the above are acceptable.

Step back, take five and rewrite your program. Make it so simple you’d think a kid wrote it. Now you’re getting back to the basics, that which works best for all occasions. Sometimes the less we demand of ourselves, the more we are willing and capable of applying ourselves. We shorten the routine, removing the twists and tricks and additions, and blast the undiluted truth. We’re in, boom, we’re out. The pump follows us, the endorphins are not exhausted, fatigue is withheld and catabolism is contained. Your eyes are not bloodshot and your family greets you at the door with open arms. You’re home!!

In due time the metal ball, continuing to roll, picks up speed and momentum. The muscles grow, the fat burns, you learn and the money comes pouring in.

I lied about the money.

Instead, in response to the frustration of bombers convinced there’s more to weightlifting than lifting weights, here are two free ‘n easy routines they can alternate week after week to get them over a hump. They’re designed with assurance, simplicity and order for men and women, young and not-so-young, who dare to say they can’t go on, threatening to jump off a four-inch lifting platform. They jest, of course.


Crunches and leg raises (2 sets x maximum reps, 15 to 20)

30-degree incline dumbbell press (2-4 sets x 8 reps)

Close-grip pulldown (2-4 sets x 8 reps)          

Sidearm lateral raises (2-4 sets x 8 reps)

One-arm dumbbell row (2-4 sets x 8 reps)

Machine dips (2-4 sets x 8 reps)


Stiff-leg deadlift and rope tucks (2 sets x 10-12 reps)

Leg press (3 x 10-15 reps)

Calf raises (3 x 12-15 reps)

Standing barbell curl (4 sets x 8 reps)

Pulley pushdowns (4 sets x 8 reps)

Aerobic exercise (walking, jogging, cycling, jumping rope) is not a bad idea three to four days a week for 15 to 20 minutes when you get the urge.

Yeah, yeah! I know. Cheesy routine. It’s not enough, it’s too much, where’s the originality, the expertise?

How about this:

2 to 4 sets x 8 reps needs explanation. Two sets per exercise are for the light-hearted lifter or the out-of-condition, resuming lifter who is progressing to four sets. Four sets is for the dogged liter with ambition who is reestablishing his prowess and might. Eight reps per exercise is a comfortable and productive approximation of repetitions that can be modified as the lifter engages the weights and determines his response, direction and needs. That is, if he’s paying attention and cares, the two primary prerequisites to successful weight training, AKA muscle madness.

The idea of the iron tango is multi-faceted: (immediately) to enjoy yourself, satisfy and fulfill yourself; (eventually) to build muscle and strength, to burn fat and diminish stress, to improve your health and well-being, to bolster your character and personality and to ready you for daily living and protect you from the enemy. Thus, perform the moves with your eye on continuing practice and perfection of form. Push when passion arouses you and withdraw when inspiration ebbs. Be graceful, but accept an awkward misstep and occasional fall. Picking yourself up and carrying on are the most elegant movements you will make. Let them happen naturally.

There’s no room for negative thinking in our wonderful act, but it will, like the devil, force itself upon us in the form of monotony, fatigue, doubt, disappointment and selfish desire. Don’t give into the forces over which we have growing control. To quit is to lose to the loser within. Losing sucks.

Smile. The winds are onshore at 20 knots and the lucky old sun is making its pitch toward the horizon. Great time of day for gliding and soaring, take-offs and landings, or oiling and fueling your winged craft for tomorrow.

It’s all good... Have fun... God’s might... DD


First of all, your body is fully fortified, right? No matter what time of day it is, when your workout is before you, you should be amply supplied with vitamins and minerals and protein, fats and carbohydrates. You know by now to unfailingly fuel yourself prior to and soon after your workout for maximum training effect -- cellular energy and endurance, gratifying muscle response, hormonal health and muscle recovery. These enrichments result in mood augmentation, enhanced vigor and confidence, maximized tenacity and spirit and sharpness of mind and creativity. I won’t get into longevity, bone density, quality of life, the immune system...
We acquire a ton of equipment, commandeer half the garage and park the car in the driveway, or we buy a platinum membership at The Club, drive across town, park somewhere, anywhere and sweat, strain and tear up our joints, all in the name of health and strength. And, then, we proceed to feed ourselves like junkyard dogs -- cheap protein and two-for-one vita-paks from Wal-Mart. Crazy, man!

Bodybuilders are like little kids (hi, Ma!), you’ve got to remind them to tie their shoelaces, flush, zip, button and stuff like that -- the obvious. That’s why I advise a vitamin fortification and a protein shake before and after each and every workout.


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