First Things First

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I Heard the News Today,
Oh Boy

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I watch the news regularly just in case somebody blows up the world while I’m not looking. The list of outrageous things happening daily around the globe is lengthening, and many of them are in my own backyard. The rest are no doubt in yours. Gosh! What are we to do? I shrug my shoulders and put on my favorite workout shirt. It’s arm day. Maybe it’s just 'cuz we have instant and up-close coverage that the list appears to be growing. Or maybe the thirst for violence is growing, that the list of atrocities is growing -- longer, thicker and more threatening.

Worrying will get us nowhere, that’s what I always say. To match my nifty muscle-T, I put on a happy face. Be nice and nice things happen. All smiles now, I take the last slug of my Bomber Blend and slip on my flak-jacket -- a bit snug but gives me a sense of security. Wish they came in brighter colors. I check my ammo, grab my helmet and I'm out the door. Hi, neighbor, give me five. My mission: the gym, where I’m going to blast it.

My little grey-cloud cynicism has a little silver lining. I’ve aroused ample worldly stress to accompany my Bomber Blend, creating a high-powered fuel mixture for my workout. Which weights will bounce off my body today? What method of attack shall I employ? Will it be quick and crude, or measured and meticulous? I always have an idea or sneaky suspicion which way I’ll go, but I’m never sure. Not till I circle the equipment, sort through my gym bag for the day’s necessary gear and make final assessments of the body and mind.

The gym bag’s looking bad. Laree -- she’s a sweetie -- gave it to me for Christmas in 1989. What’s holding it together and what the heck is in it? It weighs 25 pounds? Collars, lifting belt, miles of wraps, DSMO, Tri-Flo, water, tuna, small tools, duct tape, chains and carabineers, and a protein drink. No signs of anything alive, which is the only surprise. A gulp of water is the first thing I withdraw from the sorry, formless heap of essentials.

Sitting, bending, reaching and choosing my gear, standing and pacing serve as feelers and sensors -- my radar. Shall I lift heavy (ha... inside joke), press, superset, work midsection, squat, stimulate or blast it? I pick up straps and toss them back. More water. I try on my belt and let it drop to the floor. More water. I circle a bench press and rotate the empty Oly bar resting in its rack. Hmmmm! What, hmmmm? It’s an Olympic bar and bench. Lift or don’t lift. I tug on the Smith Press upright to stretch my lats -- left, then right -- to locate areas predisposed to vigorous exercise. Ahh, that feels good.

I’m zeroing in; I’m locating my target; I’m planning a routine, a scheme of attack. More water. Everything is in good working order. That is to say, nothing’s on fire, nothing’s swollen and the joints are bending freely. The blood sugar is fine, no outstanding fatigue drags me down like an anchor and the familiar stiffness will vanish once the iron is set in motion. And, though the day is dull (winter hangs on, 3 weeks and counting), my mood is sufficient. Hopes are picking up as the psyche is aroused by the clatter of weights and nearness to the iron. Endorphins lay waiting in the shadows. The first push is the toughest.

Once in motion there’s no turning back, no stalls, doubts or regrets, only focus and locomotion, power and needs satisfied. Push that iron. Haul that steel. Be strong. Build muscle. Fight fat. Blast it.

If the gauges don’t pop or register in the red zone, I press while the pressing is good. The fact is the pressing is never good. I get the job done, but my shoulder mechanics are bent and tweaked like the springs of a Model-T that’s seen too many miles of bad road. The ride is not comfortable. Hang on, buckle up and keep your mouth shut, lest you bite your tongue or let out an embarrassing scream. Leave the driving to me and I’ll get us there without a scratch. Internal hemorrhaging, bruising and separated joints not included.

Though gauges rattle and hiss, I’m still able to pull hard. Curls and back work go forward. Heavy is out of the picture, stimulation takes its place. Meters tremble when injuries cry out like a hyena or muscle fatigue from overtraining settles on my body like a reclining rhino. It’s a jungle out there. If, while I’m pouring through my well-stocked gym bag, I fall face first into the wretched thing and cannot move, I abort the mission. I do this once a year, whether I need to or not.

My training gear is in a little heap, I had three gulps of water and I’ve checked the fuselage, wings, ailerons and other bomber things. Let’s get this bird off the ground. What will it be today?

Shoulders, men. Have no fear. Fear is the absence of faith, trust and hope. Bombers seldom experience the dreadful emotion, and only that we might recall its paralyzing nature and feel compassion for those who submit to its forces. Get up and walk, we exhort. Arise and fly.

I gulp at the thought of pressing. I get the shivers. I’m nauseous. Feels like fear to me. The pain is terrifying only if I push real hard. If I don’t push real hard nothing happens. And when I push real hard, the puny weight I engage rises like a mist from a meadow warming in the early morning sun. Lovely. The weights do not go up like a surge of boulders from an erupting volcano, or the colossal rocket lifting off the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. Zzzzzooooooommm....

This is where I tell you about the mysterious advantages of maximum muscle exertion within an exercise despite the limited weight one uses. Sounds like a rationale to me... I’ll spare you the details. Next thing ya know, we’ll be discussing the proper fit of pantyhose or how to choose a power tie to match your eyes for that presentation you’re giving at the alumni fundraiser. Maximum muscle exertion for the feeble -- it works, thank God.

Since talking with Bill Pearl during our taped conversation some months ago -- the one during which we talk about things of musclebuilding interest to us, and is about to be released in small booklet format, along with the July 2005 Bomber Bash Pearl and Draper Seminar DVD -- I have been persuaded to reinstate the infamous press-behind-neck (PBN), my all-time favorite exercise, for complete shoulder development. Many champs agree the press-behind-neck is the best movement for big delts, while admitting it’s not a smart exercise if you care at all for the health of your shoulders. It stresses the rotator cuff. They then turn around and knock off a few sets of the forbidden exercise. It’s like suggesting the guillotine, one of the best methods for removing the head. It works, but it’ll kill ya.

I rely on the Smith Press to accomplish effective shoulder training (dysfunctional deltoid, remember) and it’s perfect for performing the PBN. After warming up, I load a 2.5-pound plate on each side of the bar. (I do this without help.) I exactly position myself on a fixed-back utility bench to assure the perfect groove, and engage the double-edged exercise. It’s a great movement and I feel the delts respond, but the painful act causes me to make hideous faces.

There was a time when I thought hideous faces were very uncool, and I strained not to make them... or be caught making them. Besides being ugly, I was told they caused premature age lines. I got over the fear by the time I was 18 and decided strong dudes don’t make stupid faces for other reasons: sign of no control; reveals one’s true nature; exposes squirming inner-self under struggle; people snickered and mocked. Lately I don’t care. Whatever it takes, I do it. I find myself, in fact, assessing the worth of a rep or set by the extremity of my facial distortions. Eyes crossed, lips curled back, tongue darting between periodically clenched teeth, quivering chin... you probably know the gruesome combinations. A hideous face is about as accurate as a pump or burn in determining the effect of an exercise.

The press-behind-neck brings back shades of the Muscle Beach days and the original Gold’s gym, when hideous faces were less hideous and less frequent. And I find an old-fashioned '60s superset to be as inviting and biting today: PBNs supersetted with widegrip pulldowns behind the neck. Lots of upper back, rear delt and caps, lats and a hint of biceps and triceps mixed with spontaneous snorting, spitting and snapping... wild boar intensity. A popular alternate, PBNs and sidearm lateral raises. Ah, if only I was a kid again.

I’m charged. The sets are rolling, the pain is contained, broad smiles alternate smoothly with severe expressions and the pump and burn ignite the body. I move across the floor like a lion, king of the jungle.

Ever try to land your craft in the jungle? Me neither. The lush green terrain is tranquil and beautiful from our winged view. Stay aloft; fly high, above the natives in their restlessness and the vines that entangle.

Ze Boomer


In keeping with our modesty, neither Laree nor I boasted that Muscle and Fitness magazine in a current award critique announced Brother Iron Sister Steel earned the coveted Best Bodybuilding Book award. We also noticed you, in your sensitivity to our humble nature, withheld publicly celebrating our triumph and, thus, embarrassing us. We are touched and deeply grateful.

In our gratitude we have retained a few pristine copies of Brother Iron for those of you anxious to possess your very own copy but who are reluctant to inquire. We say throw aside your fear of imposing upon us. We are humble, but we are big.

With a steady hand, though my head is bowed low in profound appreciation, I shall sign each tome with clarity and respect.

Get one for your dog.

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