Knowing What I Know Now
When I’m not frivolously occupied racing my NASCAR entry, traversing a tightrope over the Niagara or performing piano concerts abroad, you’ll find me in the gym attending to the development of my biceps, pectorals and latissimus. We all need a serious physical activity through which we can express ourselves, and what’s more expressive than weightlifting and building muscle? Thank goodness for the silent and still steel, poetically arranged and creatively accessible on the soul-saving gym floor.
Here’s the big bonus: The art of muscle building enables me to pursue my less significant aforementioned hobbies with ease. Having dutifully applied myself to my designated life’s work, I’m guilt-free in my trivial pursuits. Cool!
No cradle, the gym today, nor is it a battleground. A comfy place of recreation is out; I have no interest in conversation or socializing. Nor am I here to hide from the rest of the world—a refuge amid the chase—though I shall welcome the gym’s distance from the crowd this early afternoon. Today is a day of pure appreciation of the honest relationship between metal and man.
The two entities are emphatically different yet combine like seed and soil. The iron is cold and lifeless and dumb, and, though there are people we know who match the same description, humankind is warm and alive and intelligent. Put the two together, and, given the essential criteria, they become one: One pushes, the other pulls; one hoists, the other yields; one acts, the other reacts. Simpatico. Apart, neither is.
Today, knowing what I know now, I choose the best to produce the most—one exercise from each muscle group to take me most directly from the edge to the center of things. I want to savor the qualities of efficient barbell and dumbbell movements, taste the muscle’s action, pump and burn and revel in the finesse of iron-to-muscle engagement.
A workout isn’t something to grab and drag like a rag doll or go through like a turnstile or endure like the passing of a kidney stone. It’s another once-in-a-lifetime experience of being strong, growing, learning and becoming. Think, focus and don’t look away, I say. Be here now, I vow.
A succinct summary: Chest, back and shoulders followed by biceps and triceps has always been the most efficacious sequence of exercise for this lifter of barbells and dumbbells. Legs and midsection join aerobic exercise on another day.
One step further: Chest calls for low-incline dumbbell presses, back demands one-arm dumbbell rows, shoulders require behind-the-neck presses, biceps scream for standing barbell curls, and triceps insist on either overhead or lying triceps extensions.
On the other end, legs, the rascals, will have nothing other than squats; the core and midsection settle for cable tucks (a.k.a. rope tucks); and aerobics mutter incoherently about supersets and walking, jogging and biking. You know what they say about aerobics: “*&^@v%$#*.” I’m teasing; aerobic exercise, like fertilizer in flower beds, is important for health and vitality.
Listing the movements for clarity, we have the following: low-incline dumbbell presses, one-arm dumbbell rows, front presses, standing barbell curls, lying triceps extensions, squats, rope tucks and walking or jogging.
Two sets of each prime movement serve as a reminder, three sets will arouse the muscles, four will pump you up, and five sets will produce maximum development—if you have serious bones in a well-equipped body seeking victory. Typically, I vary the reps from a meaningful warmup set to 12, 10, eight and six.
The prize package, neatly wrapped and presented with a ribbon and bow, isn’t exactly a surprise package. It’s like getting a set of tires for Christmas—how personal—just what you always wanted. Somehow, somewhere, someway, you’ve seen and heard it all before.
Remember, these are my choices of the best of the best, a decision that comes from decades of training trial and error, hits and misses, aches and pains, imitating and copying and rejoicing. You can do the same thing with whatever level of experience, progress and understanding you have. Make your own choices and compare.