When Sanity and Intelligence Fail, There’s Always Absurdity

Dan John's Never Let Go, released to Kindle 5/19/2011

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Here we stand once again on the bold and daring edge of musclebuilding discovery. I’m reminded of the Grand Canyon where the span, depth and wonder are spectacular and astounding. I sense the excitement, the marvel, of the frontiersmen as their rugged, creaking wagons pushed westward beyond the rivers and prairies and toward the towering mountain ranges ahead.

Do you think I went a little overboard with my description? Laree’s nodding. Perhaps a vacant lot tucked between two tenements in Detroit is more appropriate, a 100- by 100-foot weed patch scattered with rubbish, broken bricks and glass and discarded appliances. Puddles form as a steady rain covers the forsaken ground; a bent figure huddles with nowhere to go. 

Gee, I’m getting depressed.

First signs of depression and I’m off to the gym like a wild goat. The weights are to depression what antibiotics are to a virus -- defense, eradicator, cure. For the less intellectual, more aggressive among us, they’re like a bat to a bully -- a feel-good quick fix.

Pushing the iron returns courage to discouragement and replaces the ease in uneasiness, while simultaneously removing the prickly point from disappointment and the grunt from disgruntled. Weightlifting is also known to take the ouch out of grouch, the rank from the crank and the rumble from grumble. Some even say the if in the center of life is no longer in question when muscle meets metal.

Ooph, clang, thud…

Here’s a puzzle for you, followed by a comment, a statement and a request: Why doesn’t everyone lift weights? The world would be a better place. It tastes so good and it’s good for you, too. Hey, buddy, can ya spare a dime? That would be a 10-pound plate, mate.

Why, just the other day I was off by a mile in judgment and burdened with a ton of doubt, and this for a guy who never wanders beyond his outhouse or bears a load heavier than a thin film of dust on his shoulders. Rather than apply a tourniquet, call 911 or stagger into the overwhelmed ER, I -- you guessed it -- went directly to the gym.

Now that we have a GPS in our vehicle I seldom get lost.

What’s that, Mister? Yeah, the Santa Cruz Weight Room is in Santa Cruz ’bout 10 miles in the other direction. You alright? You look depressed.

Zoom! The gym was there, racks, iron and all, just where it was meant to be, around me, to my left and right, under my feet and over my head and within my grasp. Safe and sane in the nick of time!

How am I doing so far? 420 words and I haven’t said a thing. I’m here today to dispel the notion that weightlifters are anything but muscleheads and have a brain secretly stashed somewhere between their pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi. This is neither a complicated task, nor a difficult deed. In fact, I think my mission is complete.

However, referencing the pecs and lats in the preceding paragraph reminds me of my favorite combinations of exercises for those days when I want substantial muscle achievement without a lot of exhausting input.

They involve the relief and extension of pulling and tugging movements rather than the compacting action of pushing and pressing that squeeze this B-69 into exhaustion and submission. Pulling is fulfilling whereas pressing is depressing.

Widegrip pulldown behind and forward the neck (3, 4 sets x 12 reps)
Two-arm cable crossover (2, 4 sets 10-12 reps)

Seated lat rows (3, 4 sets x 10, 8, 6 reps)
Stiff-arm pullover (3, 4 sets x 10-12 reps)
One-arm cable crossover (3, 4 sets 8 reps)

You’ve got to try these multi-sets, bomb bums. What have you got to lose? If you say time, money, muscle and might, you’re a stiff, and stiffness must be worked out through stretching and extending, reaching out and letting go.   

The widegrip pulldowns I do lately are performed with my back to the cables as I sit legs stretched before me on the end of the seat. I use a sufficient weight for focused action, rather than a heavy weight for power thrusting. The first eight of the 12 reps are done behind the neck as if I was like some guy called Sergio (remember him?) hitting a back shot under the lights before a screaming audience -- steady, slow, super-contraction. The last four reps are performed with my body leaning back and pulling the bar to the schnazzolla minor. Here some friendly thrusting is used to dig those last burning reps and to shift some action and resistance to front of the torso. Don’t ask me why; it just works.

The two-arm crossover is most effective when standing slightly forward of the cable-neutral position and performed with straight arms, high for the first difficult reps and lowering the handles as you proceed, thus adjusting to the muscle demand and engaging the full range of the pecs. Your last rep resembles Big Louie the Hulk, whoever or whatever that is, on a good day or a bad day. Dream on.

The remaining exercises are done with vintage bombing oomph, or instinctive need, zeal and finesse.

Remember, full range of motion on the seated lat row to involve the lower back, an ever-engaged muscle sweep throughout the movement and arched, tight contractions at the peak of the row for muscle power and thickness. Lotsalats!

Stiff-arm pullovers are stiff arm pullovers. Focus, feel, breathe, revive, rejoice.

One-arm cables do what and get where the two-arm cables cannot and dare not. Don’t stand there like a Girl Scout selling cookies -- cute cables, nice and neat crossovers. Bend over and dig in and affect the muscles that need affecting. Be rude, get ugly. You’re done.

Me, too. See ya. Dave


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