Friday, February 27, 2009


Part of the trouble with contemporary gym training is that it thinks it's a lot more scientific than it is. It's like the scene from Modern Times, the Chaplin movie, where he's strapped into an automatic feeding machine. The very last word in efficiency, don't you know. All figured out. What could possibly go wrong? Or the '50s idea about how to care for babies. Have them all laid out in ranks and files of cribs, with meticulously timed feedings and changings. Exactly 1.32 minutes per hour allotted for cuddling and cooing. Cuz the babies will conform, y'see. We're all cut to a pattern, just an assemblage of organs or a complex but manageable interaction of chemicals.

Uh huh.

As for the gym, the standard model is to have arm day and leg day and ab day and back day and uh shoulder day and er neck day and huh kneebone day that's connected to the hipbone day. How very scientifical. Cuz y'see that way you give duh udder parts uv yer body a chanst tuh rest!

Alas, what's been forgotten in that otherwise very-brilliant-indeed theory is that the actual purpose of being in the gym isn't to move weights around, not to spend a lot of time making painful faces and emitting grunts and other impressive hard-working sounds, not to show off your latest choice in skin-tight gym fashion. All of these things are very beneficial and productive, it must be admitted. But the actual theoretically intended purpose of a gym, with the attendant work presumed, is to stimulate the release of hormones.

You can move as much weight around as is humanly possible, and if there's no hormonal response all you've done is tear muscle down and deplete your biochemicals. On the other hand, if you could generate a tide of hormones, you wouldn't have to do much work at all, and you'd gain lots of muscle. That's what steroids are about. A cheat. We don't cheat, now do we.

So what is it that stimulates the release of hormones? Loud groans and tight shirts? Well, uh, yes, sometimes. But in the gym? The thing that tells your brain that it had better send out the signal to get the hormones flowing is engaging major muscle mass during the workout. That is the key. It's all about hormones, and not very much about weight. Except that the thing that provokes the brain, frightens it into reacting powerfully, is the weight.

So you have to move a lot of weight. Otherwise the hormonal signal is proportionally small. So arm day? Well, the biceps are small muscles. Doesn't really matter how much you work them, they are still going to require only a small hormonal response. Add some other body part into the workout and you'll get a little bit more of a response. And if that's what you want, a little response, keep doing arm day. Cuz that's so scientifical and stuff.

Or you could engage the whole body, every workout. Take something like dumbbell swings. Move the weight from knee level to overhead, in a straight-arm arc. Now, what part of the body does that work? The legs? -- back? -- shoulders? Is it an arm day? No, it's body day. Db swings work everything, athletically. Major muscle mass is involved, so the signal to the brain is very clear: Need help, send hormones. This is why heavy squats are so productive. Two-thirds of the the body's muscle mass is below the waist. Lots of muscle doing hard work, therefore major hormonal response and significant strength gains. Easy. Why, it's almost like ... like science!

Case in point: something called deadlift static holds. This is not something anyone should do without proper training. But the protocol is simply to lift a lot of weight at waist level, moving it only about an inch, off a rack. Hands hanging down, holding the bar, and just a little lift at the knees. Hold the weight for a count of ten. Then you're done. How much weight? Well you work up, only once about every week or so, adding weight every workout, 20 pounds or 40 or 5% or 10% -- doesn't really matter -- it's not a race -- just being safe and consistent. How much weight can you hold? Well, grip strength is a limiting factor, but lifting straps or lifting hooks take care of that. You can lift hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pounds. You don't believe it. But it's true.

Why do this? Because there is a major, massive hormonal signal, that comes from lifting that much weight under those conditions. It's a Gatorade drench of testosterone. Testosterone and human growth hormone. It's perhaps the single most productive thing you can do. But don't do just one thing. In any case, there's so much more T coursing through your blood that your muscles can't use it all. So there can be a significant increase in libido. Highly significant. Whether or not this is a good thing is a personal consideration. But it happens. Understand that testosterone is not a male hormone. It is a youth hormone, for both male and female, correlated with thicker skin (less creped or wrinkled) and denser bone mass and greater energy. You know -- youth. It's one of the innumerable secrets of my own unbearable masculine beauty. The upshot here is that this higher libido is direct and undeniable confirmation that there is a significant hormonal response, which is the point of the weightroom and of all those tight sexy gym clothes.

And it validates the theory, that body day works, whereas arm day and glute day is for posers, poseurs, wannabes and steroid users.

But that's not you.



bob k. mando said...

all of these fruitless hours spent shifting weights too and fro.

here, some much needed exercise for your mind:

Jack H said...

Bob Co-man-do sitting in a tree
Looking like an egg and wishing he had T.
Chocolate on his face, Menudo in the air,
Occupies his mind such as it is with largely futile undertakings and very frequently evinces an inability to discern subtlety and has an inappropriate sense of tone and timing here and there.