First Things First

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Now Here's a Novel Idea

Front cover of Dan John's new manual, Mass Made Simple

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I come from the old school of weightlifting and musclebuilding; that is, from the basement, the closet, the garage, the shed, the warehouse, the storage room, the backyard and the YMCA boiler room. My texts were a collection of Weider wall charts featuring the muscular images of the Brunet brothers hefting the iron on a stark white backdrop. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. I looked, I yearned, I practiced, I learned. I grew.

Progress was slow. As a nimble turtle makes his way across the rugged prairie, so I proceeded to build muscle, set by set, rep by rep, one curl at a time. Lift, eat, rest and lift again was the methodology, never quit was the creed.

Today, 50 years later, musclebuilding has developed into a severe science, assisted by black and white technology and guided by deep and abstruse principles. There are more unknowns than knowns, more questions than answers, more puzzles than pieces.

Lifting is unacceptable, dare I say prohibited, unless accompanied by a Master’s degree, a field of experts, volumes of books, the internet, forums, a pharmacy and a personal trainer… oh, and don’t forget the iron.

I lift, eat, rest and lift, yet I know nothing. I remain devoted and directed, ever-applying and never-quitting, yet I have no answers. It’s a magical mystery tour.

To bulk up, I ate more. To trim down, I ate less. To get stronger, I lifted harder. “We’re not launching rockets, girls,” was my rebuff to more comprehensive training regimes. Lift, eat, rest and shut up.

Bulking up was my thing; growing in power, gaining mass, getting bigger, seeing the scale go up: 160, 170, 190, 200, 220, 230, 240, 250. I was in heavy heaven… I was stuffed, bloated, bulging and waddling, and my lips were always parted with my moist tongue protruding slightly. Cute, huge, strong… smooth and dumb as a nail.

Though bulking up is no longer on my agenda, building muscle has never departed from my list of important things to do before the sun sets. Musclebuilding, when you’re a B-68 adrift in outer space, is essential to the prevention of muscle mass deterioration. Even the chunky among us want to build solid muscle mass, and without all the confusion.

Oh, boy, are you going to be excited. You’d better pull up a bench and have a seat. Water?

Wait for it…

We just received the first shipment of Dan John’s latest publication, Mass Made Simple, and it is absolutely splendid. That the presentation is packed with in-the-brown-bag dietary principles and under-the-iron training methodologies for building muscle mass wisely and steadily is certainly important, and that a comprehensive six-week workout log is included at the journal’s end is superior, yet it’s the fact it is so stunning to behold that makes it particularly sensational... gym-bag worthy.

It’s a Dan John production, after all: the bold statement, Mass Made Simple, cast on the rusty-metallic cover, the usability of the hunky, plastic, spiral binding, the feel of density in your eager grip and the sureness the combination offers to achieving quality gains ASAP.

Dan John is the perfect teacher for the classic ironhead. He talks like a guy who carries assorted plates in his pockets and knows exactly what to do, how and when because it works. He takes university learning and heavyweight championship performance and mangles it into common sense for you and me. Fun, straightforward, simple yet comprehensive, obvious but cunning, we are taught as if we knew it all along.

Muscleheads are lousy students, but they sure are sponges for discipline and form, logic and understanding.

It’s winter. Let’s build muscle mass in preparation for spring training, whether we’re thin or thick, young or old, male or female. Muscle is where it is.

Bim Bam Boom… the Bomb


January 23, 2011

Sad Times, Mighty Muscle Makers

I will not be lengthy in my exaltation of our dear friend and super hero, Jack LaLanne. He’s gone and we’ll all miss him… a lot. Oddly, gratefully, his presence has been so ubiquitous in our lives -- for all our lives -- that he is indelible.

Thinking of Jack, a dozen different images flash across our minds: the fit guy doing jumping jacks on TV in the ’50s and ’60s; the slick muscle man in black with the white German Shepherd; the sinewy, ineffable fellow swimming from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf while handcuffed and towing a 1,000-pound boat; the lean, energetic older man telling us of the advantages of juicing raw fruit and vegetable;, the dude descending multiple flights of high-rise stairs on his hands… the list goes on and on and on.

Not long ago, when asked about the difference between the exercise world “then and now,” Jack laughed and replied with a gleam in his eye, “It is most gratifying for me to see that everything that I was preaching and advocating for over 75 years has come to fruition. Then I was a crackpot and a charlatan, today I am an authority… and believe me I can’t die, it would ruin my image.”

Well, if he says so, that’s good enough for me.

God bless Elaine LaLanne, as strong and fine and enduring as her rascal of a husband of 53 years. Neat lady…

God’s peace… Dave and Laree


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