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The Thanksgiving Story


Michael Boyle's new book
Advances in Functional Training, in stock next week

The cover athlete is Ingrid Marcum, during her win at the 2009 Nationals

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in printable, live-link, pdf format, here.

We are literally a drumstick and a yam away from Thanksgiving, a gentle holiday for everyone to celebrate. Originally designed by a team of 17th century New England strongmen in pursuit of bulking up and building muscle, the festive theme proved popular among the common townspeople and has been honored ever since.

The growing and gathering and consumption of superior food high in protein and medium in wholesome carbs and essential fats was the central activity and naturally accompanied by hardy work and hearty laughter. All for one and one for all, the participants grew in might and in number and in thankfulness.

“Happy Thanksgiving, neighbor” and “Chins and dips, pilgrim” and “Here’s to the iron, ya big turkey” were the cheerful exchanges of the day.

Alas, personal responsibility waned as time went on and some ate too much and some did not eat enough, some worked hard and some played hard and some did nothing at all. Some got fat, some got skinny and only a disciplined few, the American Republic of Muscleheads (ARM), got huge and ripped. And, then along came McDonald’s and Starbucks, iPods and texting. The rest is history.

History is not as complicated as some historians portray it. The same goes for arithmetic (1 + 1 = 2) and spelling (Girl - G, i, r, l - Girl) and bodybuilding (train, eat, sleep, grow).

Listen up, fit and able Armsters: Between now and the end of the year I want you to work out with the bars and the bells and make sweet music -- no major compositions, no concerts, no concertos. Get out there, practice and play and jam. Perform the same old jazz, make up a new ditty, or just hum and strum and drum. Throw in a little dance while you’re at it, the one-rep, two-step.

Better to enjoy a few strands of a simple jingle than miss the whole song and dance.

And about the second helpings and the pumpkin pie? Those looney tunes who stuff themselves silly must sleep on a bed of rusty rebar, twisted spikes and iron filings in the buff -- without their steel woolies.

It’s Saturday. I just returned from the gym where two other guys and I snorted and grunted over dumbbells and bars for an hour or so. One guy, a tall, fit and quiet kid about 30, did the usual bench presses, dips and dumbbell flies, while the other guy, a bulldozer near 40, did leg presses and watched the game on TV, a popular Saturday afternoon superset.

There was an occasional burst of howls from a cluster of bobbing heads and shoulders at the juice bar, which blended well with the sounds of Chicago and Steely Dan and the kathunk of heavy metal. I added a minor clink and a tone-deaf clank in the background to supplement the lead and bass. I’m cool.

The low-key Santa Cruz Weight Room Symphony was in progress.

I needed order and rhythm and expression to make my training session work. The gym looked like a torture chamber when I entered and I was tempted to back out before I or anyone else noticed. This would be easy to do ‘cuz I was the only whacko there and I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention. Oops, three guys exited the men’s locker room at once. A sudden crowd.

“Hi, guys... gotta card game going in the john? Sorry I missed it.”

Rats! Witnesses.

Let’s make this baby short, I said to myself. A few years ago I would not offer such a deal. Enter the gym, blast everything in sight and take no prisoners. Today I was looking for an easy exit, an open window, a skylight, a few loose boards in the wall... a crawl space where I could hide.

What I did would not have amounted to a workout a few years ago... there I go again... “a few years ago.” It’s becoming a mantra. Knock it off, Draper. Today is today, and it’s a good day. You do what you do -- you do the best you can. Here’s to metal and might and a good fight, lads and lassies.

Oh, spare us the dribble. Get on with it.

Leg raises on a low-incline bench -- 10-inch elevation -- supersetted with standing rope tucks (4 sets x 25 reps). The reps were maximum effort and I burned and huffed and puffed. The rope tucks were done with a lengthy, vigorous thrust to the front, left and right to work the core and a bunch of upper body muscles in the line of fire. The leg raises throw a hefty demand on the thighs and hip flexors and lower ab and oblique areas.

I did not leap and pirouette between sets, nor did I play the fiddle and sing, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t having fun. Lord, have mercy.

Close-grip lat rows with individual handles from a high pulley while sitting on the floor six feet from the cable apparatus is a new all-time-favorite movement. Long stretch forward and pulling to a tight, back-arched, well-paced contraction is exhilarating, strong and multi-muscle inclusive. The action mimics rowing a boat, with less constricting bend at the hip and back area than typical seated lat rows, which, with my limited breathing ability and capacity, is most welcome.

Unless your heart’s ejection fraction is dismal, you won’t understand my delight with my newly christened rowboat movement.

Superset the rowboats with machine dips, applying subtle variations in body position to hit this, that and the other thing, and you’ve got that rhythm and order and creativity I underscored earlier. Pull, push, pump (4 sets x 15 reps).

Slim Jim split, the bulldozer cheered, the TV blinked and the Iron Butterfly soared.

Right about now I’m staring at the back door between sets. Lord, deliver me! I have just enough oomph for wrist curls and thumbs-up curls and pulley pushdowns in a triset. Somehow, for some reason, I push each set like it was the last (4 sets x 12, 8 -10, and 20 reps, respectively).

Pedal to the metal... zoom, zoom, zoom... and I’m home in time to write this IOL Headline:

Happy Thanksgiving and God’s blessings, bombers.

Rejoice... DD

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