First Things First

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My head resembling an over-ripe melon is pressed against the keyboard, and my arms dangle at my sides like disconnected dirigible tethers. My breathing is that of a tuba in tedious repetition. Yuk! Is that drool? Does this mean I’m not going to bolt upright momentarily and express in frilly detail a revolutionary training methodology to accelerate muscle growth, improve power, increase speed and extend your lifespan?

A goodhearted soul dropped me an email this week to say hi and send good wishes. He’d been a member of Santa Cruz World Gym during the ’90s, loved it, missed it and was returning to the iron after a ten-year layoff, eager to learn the latest updated 21st century techniques in musclebuilding and weight training from and IronOnline.

Gee, hi, nice, thanks, sure.

And then I thought, ‘What updated techniques? Did something take place, a trick, a change, an advancement I didn’t hear about: Supersetting to the 3rd power, or training upside down in a pressurized sub-zero tank in total darkness, or 60-second workouts wearing an electrified chrome-plated cap and rubberized gloves in alternating gravitational fields? Something nutritional, an ingredient, a food, a chemical -- like a molecule-accelerating component from the pituitary gland of an unborn Mongolian Mountain Panda or a bitter yet rich tea blended from alpha-negative blood cells of the Indonesian Gray Bat and the larva of the common Indonesian Polydamas Swallowtail Butterfly, a three-to-seven proportion?

Perhaps something slick out of the labs across the border, I mused. By Jove, I think you’ve got it. My musing stopped and my head sagged forward to greet the computer screen and my hands resumed their hanging, motionless posture. I’m bored.

Bodybuilding, musclebuilding, the iron, isn’t about thinking; it’s about doing. The answer is not in the question; both, the question and the answer, are in the action. Intelligence doesn’t rule; commonsense is king. Not the written word; wisdom defines.

“Mommy, how do I walk?”

“Well, my precious little munchkin, hold my hand, stand up and… umm… err… duh…”

Good luck with that one, mother-mom-mama-ma.

Yeah, I know, I know… I hate that… I’m being arrogant, a wise guy, a snot, an arse, who’s about to rave about how he’s been lifting weights since dumbbells were chiseled from granite and squat racks were constructed from Brontosaurus jaw bones. “Lift and learn, ya lump. There was no Dungeon in my day. It was a cave and ya had to be a man, raw, instinctive and driven by survival… did I mention focus… supersets?”

Tapping out these words caused me to ask myself the question, “Where would we, I be without the Weider wall charts and the rock-solid Brunet brothers?”

It was in Tommy Livigne’s basement near the furnace where they hung, all six of them -- all crooked, all black and white, all-instructing, all inspiring, all Canadian. The weights lay on the concrete floor. Four runts stood knock-kneed in a hunch tentatively peering downward. Now what?

Bob Hoffman out of Pennsylvania also had charts, might have been the first, but I remember Joe’s, and the side-arm lateral raise and Yvon B’s coconut delts and the one-arm concentration curl and twin brother Pierre’s baseball biceps.

Really, I think that’s all I needed for starters. The rest was trial and error and time; insecurity, curiosity, accident and God’s grace; discontent and satisfaction, losing and winning; strength and health and being broke and broken. The weights were always there, causing trouble and saving my life; a blind habit, a clear-eyed intention and a cool game and hot passion, a burden and a relief.

Oh, my aching back! Wow, that feels good. 

And now I’m told in an email this stuff with the iron has been modernized. What I’ve been doing all these years is old and outmoded. No longer fresh and cutting edge, that there is a secret -- and it’s not that there is no secret. Dog poop!

Where do I go, who should I ask? Are there still muscle magazines? I never bought one; I never read one. The internet? There’s a YMCA in San Jose. I know, I’ll ask Laree. She knows everything.

But wait… I train this afternoon and it’s too late to uncover and learn a breakthrough technique, never mind apply it with confidence, proficiency and zeal. Rats!

The only thing left for me to do is go back to the basics, the old-fashioned way, the way of Grimek and Reeves and Colbert, the lumps; the way of Howorth and Scott, the bone-racks; Zane and the Schwaz, Lee and Lee, Haney and Labrada. The way of the pencil-necks.
Here’s my plan when confronting the weight rack this afternoon, which just might change before I arrive and during the primitive meet: antiquated standing bentbar curls supersetted with (tee hee) over-the-hill overhead triceps extensions, 4 sets x 6-8 and 12-15 reps. Seriously, how can you beat that combination in this century or the next?
Next (embarrassing, so I’ll just blurt it out), incline dumbbell presses (how gauche) supersetted with (there he goes again) silly stiff-arm dumbbell pullovers (let me guess, 4 x 10-12 reps).
Tired because I exert forcefully with form and focus and fervor despite my fever, faintness and failing features, I’m done after four sets of one-arm cable crossovers, back and forth with full and varied ranges of motion to engage the torso and lats as well as the pecs and bis (4 surging sets x 12-15 rapacious reps).

Having presented this routine with exhaustive vigor and devotion, I can forego its actual engagement. I’m already fully pumped. Rather, I think I’ll go out to dinner with my family and friends, the Tuna and Water Shack down by the pier. They have great hamburgers.

Hey, look. Is that a dumbbell? Looks like a dumbbell. Feels like a dumbbell. Okay! It’s a dumbbell.

Go… God’s Speed… Zee Boom


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