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"I'm a healthy 15-, 20-, 30-year-old and want to lift weights to build strong and functional and nifty muscles. What should I do in the next 30 days?"

Nifty muscles?

Welcome, young man, young lady, and congratulations on your commendable endeavor. Smile with delight. You're at the beginning of an instructive and rewarding adventure. Endure and you will learn and grow in ways you never expected.

First of all, inquisitive young person, you need the tools to do the job. Back in my day, the tools were rocks and timbers. But today, in the age of the iPhone, a set of weights or a kettlebell will do nicely -- a membership to a local gym could prove to be handy as well.

I'm going to make the giant assumption you know the elemental barbell and dumbbell movements for the various muscle groups. Since the creation and subsequent evolution of Joe Gold's gym in the mid-60s, curls, presses and deadlifts, biceps, triceps and shoulders have become inherent in mankind's understanding.

What's not clear is the discipline, perseverance and humility to apply, pursue and achieve.
Man, have I got clichés for you: Just do it; Never quit; Lift and shut up; Press on, be strong and courageous; No one said it was easy; Only the strong survive; One more rep.

Is it time for lunch yet?

If I were you, I'd start the weights clanking with the performance of the standing barbell curl. It feels indescribably fantastic to wrap your hands around the bar in the perfect position. You do have a perfect position, don't you? Mine is hip-width, palms forward.

Many young lifters curl from a sort of bent-forward position, hands too close for comfort, while doing a half-curl as if that was all there is. What's that all about? They use enough thrust to launch a rocket.

Building muscle is a battle, but it's not a war.

I have a sneaky suspicion they won't be around to claim victory and enjoy peace -- that building of a pair of complete, healthy and powerful biceps.

I prefer the following sequence: Grasp the bar, stand upright, allow the bar to hang fully, inhale and tip the body forward to accommodate the resistance upon commencing the curl, bring the bar toward the chin to complete the motion, and, exhaling slowly, return the bar with controlled might to the original start position.

That was one dandy barbell curl. Let's do more; let's do it again.

And do you really think the biceps are the only muscles involved in this dynamic muscle-building movement? Next time, note the engagement and flexing of the legs, buttocks, lower and upper back and abdominal muscles. Jackpot! You've struck it rich.

I like eight or 10 reps to suit the biceps, a relatively small and frequently engaged muscle. Ten to 12 reps are agreeable. Sensible, calculated thrusting to coax the curl is useful. Nasty thrusting is nasty. Two sets for today -- apply mild strain, Jane; don't be mean, Gene.

Next? Ready for it? Dips between a pair of improvised parallel bars, two sets of 12 reps.

Dips, assisted with your feet on a stabilizer if needed, are a valuable exercise. Get to know them well: Upright position for triceps, back and delts; lean forward for more pec and deeper muscle activity.

Every exercise, every movement, every action should be done with precision and exactness in mind. The focus and thoughtfulness, care and control, even if you're a sloppy mess, are present in your mind and assist you in your overall development. Trust me.

Trusting me is like trusting a seeing-eye dog with a monocle and walking stick. Woof.

One day you might want to do the two exercises one followed by the other, like the pendulum on a clock or the swing of the wrecking ball on a demolition crane. Let's call it supersetting, or SuperSetting when referencing the latter metaphor. Saves time, gets the work done, provides rhythm.

There was a time (when I was attempting to grow up) when barbell curls and dips were the only exercises I did -- back and forth for the afternoon after I did my homework and before I shot hoops.
Today I think you need a license to shoot hoops.

About feeding those hungry muscles: What do you think of sardines?

My secret mission is to remind you of the need, the good and the delight in smart exercise, healthy eating and productive thinking.



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