“What I like most about this issue is the diversity of people we cover,” publisher Pam B Kessler introduced further the July/August 2009 issue of her ad rag Walnut Creek Magazine. “They range in age but share a common belief—staying fit is key to feeling good.”
Trust me, the fad-crazed, self-conscious and superficiality-obsessed natives of Walnut Creek aren’t that deep: looking—not feeling—good is their prime preoccupation even if one is reflective of the other. And as is typical in most plastic places looks reign supreme. Small wonder then so many get so frustrated and despair after investing so much time, effort not to mention money in all those “hottest fitness trends and trainers,” but getting in return for that investment next to nothing by way of real results—that is, tangible, visible and progressive changes or improvements in their physical appearance. Or what’s known in the fitness trade as “body composition.” Or what physical culturists of times past referred to simply as physique development.
“We believe in a constant change to your exercise routine and we provide the highest level of variety for that change,” is one smart gym’s advertised claim to prospective fitness clients, representative of the nice-sounding notion that variety spurs change.
What kind of change and what sort of variety? Typically that so-called variety translates to mostly useless “fitness gadgets and gizmos.” In a word: gimmickry. And any so-called changes that result are not only coincidental(if not accidental)but negligible as well.
“In many cases,” wrote all-natural classic physique bodybuilding icon, STEVE REEVES, “our choice of conditioning activities are almost as counterproductive as our daily living habits. Everyone seems to be looking for a gimmick or fad—the easy way. In response to this demand, everywhere you turn there is a new diet, exercise gimmick or conditioning tool—anything to make us look younger, thinner, sexier, bigger, smaller or better. Few people seem satisfied with approaching their health in a SCIENTIFIC manner. No matter how bad the economy, people will always find a way to afford the luxury of beauty.
“Truth be told, there is no quick fix. There is no miracle way to fitness or weight loss. But there are good and practical ways to achieve a firmer and more shapely body. THESE PRINCIPLES WILL NOT AND HAVE NOT CHANGED.”(caps added for emphasis)
When it comes to weight-resistance training in particular, you’ve got to become your own physique architect or exterior decorator since no two physiques are alike. In my own case, like Steve Reeves I aspire to possess a fully-developed physique that’s balanced, proportional and symmetrical as opposed to merely big and bulky—or size for size’s sake.
“So many people,” wrote STEVE REEVES, “including bodybuilders and other weight-trained athletes, just don’t know how to train to get the most benefit out of the time invested in their workouts. Their training program, instead of being well thought out, is haphazard at best. If you ask them why they work a certain body part first or do a certain exercise before another in their routine, they either have an illogical answer or no answer at all…
“If, by a rare streak of luck, they’re given a logical, well-thought-out routine, nine chances out of ten, they will not follow it.”
Whatever your personal fitness or physique aspirations happen to be always aspire to SENSIBLE AND SPECIFIC GOALS, whether those be strength, muscular growth, maximum muscular development or any combination thereof. Such goals should fulfill three requirements for TRUE fitness: muscular strength, muscular endurance and cardiopulmonary conditioning.
“In order to get the most benefit from your workouts in the short time,” wrote STEVE REEVES, “you must choose the right system of training for your SPECIFIC GOAL.”(caps added for emphasis)
Now when I went to that smart gym for my first rigorous weight-resistance training workout after an absence from the gym game of some four years, I was treated right off to the sorry spectacle of two of those “hottest fitness trainers”—a grandstanding Mutt-and-Jeff pair(one bulky, one scrawny)showing off at the flat bench press station.
The bulky Asian one with humongous arms and fat calves, pressing comfortably 225-pound repetitions, boisterously boasted about how picky he was(out of “respect”)in permitting the scrawny one to “spot” his reps. When it came to his turn to lift the scrawny one exaggeratedly huffed and puffed, straining to complete his set in a piss-poor display, arching his lower back off the bench so that his shoulders and upper back could give him enough leverage to bounce the weight bar back up to the rack. Not a pretty sight!
“Strength demonstrations should be performed only at contests and shows and not in the training room,” wrote STEVE REEVES. “A truly strong person can impress and inspire thousands from the stage. Who are you impressing in the gym? A few newcomers? The guys that have been working out for a while are more concerned about what they’re doing and not how much weight you are using.”
So if these two characters most mistakenly thought they were impressing me—as I was the only other participant present on the gym floor at that time—then I’m afraid they both failed miserably.
“Your purpose for coming to the gym is to develop muscle and strength—not display them!” STEVE REEVES emphasized.
Ironically those two less-than-impressive characters represent perfectly two extremes of ill-fitness.
“The majority of bodybuilders and other strength athletes have a great deal of anaerobic energy enabling them to perform at a high intensity level for a short period of time,” as STEVE REEVES put it. “They look healthy and strong and muscular, yet they lack one thing—the aerobic capacity to run, swim and bike for an extended period of time. In other words, many of these big muscular guys lack endurance and get tired in a hurry.”
About the only aerobic exercise I ever witnessed the bulky Asian guy engage in was walking at a snail’s pace on an abnormally inclined treadmill whilst holding on to the elevated hub of the machine for dear life to avoid falling off! Clearly overweight for his stunted height, he typically wears very baggy tank tops and long shorts, exposing his humongous arms and fat calves, but cleverly(he thinks!)concealing the blob that’s likely rest of his body.
“On the opposite end of the pendulum are the aerobically-trained athletes such as long-distance runners and marathoners who have a high degree of cardiopulmonary fitness,” STEVE REEVES wrote, “but don’t have that strong, healthy muscular look. In fact, the majority of world-class marathon runners look emaciated.”
Now the bulky Asian guy’s scrawny counterpart boasts some moderate upper body musculature but cleverly(he thinks!)habitually wears elongated shorts to conceal his spindly bird-legs.
As the reputable International Sports Sciences Association(ISSA), one of my own fitness trainer certifying boards, puts it rather bluntly:
“Many trainees have a tendency to focus on the beach muscles: chest, biceps and abdominal muscles. Lower body development has taken a back seat to the aforementioned “show” muscles. Developing the legs seems to be less and less of a priority as evidenced by legions of these pant covered, tank top wearing WONDERS. Bench pressing and bicep curling fanatics cringe when they hear the words ‘leg workout.’ Nothing looks more RIDICULOUS than an individual whose arms are bigger than his legs. Our legs are the foundation of the body.”(caps added for emphasis)
So never automatically assume you’re going to get anywhere with your own individualized and specialized fitness goals simply by copycatting some bulky guy with humongous arms.
“I think the poor form is the result of trying to use too much weight,” wrote STEVE REEVES, “or by watching some other guy working out who was using poor form and then copying him. Let’s say you’re sixteen or eighteen years old and the guy you’re watching is 25 years old and he has big arms and big lats—you might automatically think that what he’s doing must be the right way. However, it may have taken him ten years to get those big arms and lats, when it would have taken him only two years if he did the exercise correctly.”
So carefully observe and critically assess and appraise any of these prospective so-called “hottest fitness trainers.” Otherwise once you start to emulate them all you’ll ever attain is their piss-poor training habits—and piss-poor physiques.
One rather precocious kid posting at the popular YELP review website puts it like this and makes for a great closing tip: “I have patented a phrase when it comes to trainers: ‘Your body is your business card.’ Never let someone train you who is in worse shape than you.”
Or as STEVE REEVES put it: “Too many people today BLINDLY follow somebody else’s dictates. They’ll see somebody with big arms and they’ll do the routine that this individual utilizes—not that his program will necessarily work for them…You have to be a THINKING bodybuilder; you can’t just go by somebody else’s routines—there has to be a METHOD, a LOGIC to your training.”(caps added for emphasis)
Finally, practice correct gym etiquette, mind your manners and show good form not only with your weights but also to your fellow trainees. Just a couple tips concerning common courtesy recommended by four-time Mr Universe(1953, 1961, 1967, 1971), BILL PEARL:
“Always be concerned of your actions. Be polite and courteous to everyone. Make it a habit to say hello and good-bye to people. Call them by their proper names and don’t be ashamed to say Sir or Mam.
“Watch your language closely and be sure not to offend people you are talking to or people who may hear your conversation.
“Don’t discuss controversial subjects with just anyone, or enter into arguments. If a subject becomes heated, drop it…
“In the gym be sure to PICK UP AFTER YOURSELF AND REPLACE ALL EQUIPMENT TO ITS PROPER LOCATION making it easy for the next person.
“DO NOT MONOPOLIZE EQUIPMENT but encourage others to WORK-IN with you. Spur them on while they perform the exercise and lend them a helping hand if they commence to get into difficulties…
“Do your exercising with training gear that covers most of the body and if you perspire a great deal, USE A TOWEL TO CLEAN UP THE SWEAT ON THE BENCHES, etc. Keep your shirt on and DON’T SPEND MORE TIME LOOKING AT YOURSELF IN A MIRROR, giving the appearance you are self-centered…”
On that last note it’s pretty silly to pose and flex your “pumped up” muscles in mirror whilst you’re working out when you’re actually breaking down, not building up, muscle tissue.
As STEVE REEVES put it, “Now, growth stimulation and growth production are two entirely separate animals. When you stimulate growth in the gym, that’s only half of the equation. The second half involves recovery and growth—and that only happens when you’re at rest.”
At that smart gym I’ve been patronizing its supposedly “hottest fitness trainers” are habitually the worst repeat offenders of these commonsensical rules of gym etiquette.
One black fellow spends the majority of his time and effort there constantly swaggering and loudly bragging to everybody within earshot about how great he and all his supposedly superior cohorts are, speaking of offensive—not to speak of unduly distracting “language.”
Other “trainers” sit on the benches or the seats of weight-resistance machines they’re not using whilst “instructing” clients, whom they indulge to sit likewise during breaks in-between sets. If you really want to loaf and loll around then stay at home, lounge in your easy chair and be an “armchair athlete.” Either that or they’ll indulge their trainees to loiter right in front of the free-weight racks, blocking access, whilst they stand there—undirected—with absolutely nothing to do. Either that or they’ll leave light free weights they’ve used where they lay to litter the floor.
“When I tell you to rest two minutes between exercises,” STEVE REEVES wrote, “I don’t mean for you to PLOP yourself down on a bench and do nothing! I want you to remain STANDING AND NOT SITTING DOWN. If you’re not helping your training partner with a spot, KEEP YOUR BODY IN MOTION by walking slowly or shifting your weight from foot to foot.”
Monopolizing exercise equipment can cover a variety of offenses but—as witnessed more often than not at that smart gym I patronize—loitering around the free-weight area and hovering closely over other trainees trying to work out, or worse still, cluttering the free-weight area further by dumping their workout gear and paraphernalia(duffel bags, beverage bottles and other trappings)on the floor in-between benches because they consider themselves privileged and special characters, rank amongst the rudest and most obnoxious.
Next time we’ll get down to some practical fitness brass tacks!