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Where Do We Go From Here?


Squatting Old School, 2005
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Ever get one of those wild days when you are so alive and bursting with energy you just don’t know where to go or what to do? Think back... way back...

Well, Speedo, I'm having one of those days. Laree says I'm acting like a kid (she doesn't want to go for a ride in my weighted wheelbarrow), I'm being silly (quit rocking the porta-potty, now) and it's about time I grow up (get down from that flagpole). I could drop the top and take the Ferrari for a spin, or mount the Arabian and let him stretch his legs on the beach, or race the jetski to Mavericks and hit a few monsters... nice day for skydiving, chute’s packed.

Boorring!! I need a serious outlet for this awesome and dynamic charge. I thirst for extreme exhilaration. I hunger to go where I’ve never gone before. I crave the cliff’s edge, the mountain’s peak, the sky’s outer limit. I must experience life at its grandest moments. I know what I’ll do. I’ll go to the gym and blast the iron, melt the steel and rip the reps. I might even (gasp) superset.

Stand back, step aside, or, as they boldly and urgently say in emergency rooms, CLEAR!

I’m outta here, taking the dirty four-wheel drive beast in case I need to climb over traffic, dividers and rails, roadside debris, fire hydrants and parked cars.

It’s hot, very hot, and it’s Sunday on the gold-lined coast of sunny (and flourishing) California. The gym will be empty and quiet, but for us, me and you, my imaginary friends, whooping and hollering and hoisting metallicus objectus supremus. I never party alone.

So, who wants to ride shotgun? The rest of you can pile in the back -- no standing, no hanging over the tailgate and no mooning the other cars. It’s arm day with a brief exchange of legs and midsection.

I’ll spot you, you spot me, we’ll have fun. You go first. Put your weights back when you’re done. Training gear only, no jeans or street shoes. No cellphones. Hands off the mirrors. Keep your voices down, no cussing. Don’t clang the dumbbells, and don’t drop them after your set... put them down.

You wouldn’t want to train with me, bombardiers. Trust me. I’m boorish, grim, sulky, negative and given to sudden outbursts of anger and the tossing of plates.

Train hard or go home, Bozo... squat or rot. Hey, I’m using that bench, and that’s my bar. Scram!

Time for Disneyland, Looney Tunes and stability ball exercising, girls and boys. Give me the iron, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, right? Right! When nobody was looking, I rolled out the giant purple exercise ball -- the Swiss ball -- and gave it a few whaps and a squeeze before alighting upon its gushy surface. Hmmm, same height as a bench, flexible and bouncy, too (duh!). This could be useful.

Secure in myself and my lifting prowess, I thought, gee, maybe this playful circular doohickey could be an assist to my... um... limited shoulder training and deltoid development. Seems those dumb ’bells don’t go up with the ease they used to and the muscles don’t engage as cheerily. Maybe it’s something I ate, bad night’s sleep, low-grade virus, allergies, moon risings, atmospheric pressure, overall mood of the nation, biological cycles, Satan.

Who knows, but the disturbance needs attention, and Now. Being a Now kind of guy, I’m thinking with the submissive surface of the ball beneath my back, I will have less stress on my scapulae, more muscle comfort and improved range of motion. Just what the doctor ordered. The rigid surface of the bench resists the scapulae’s freedom of natural movement and contributes significantly to the shoulder damage proud bench presser’s endure. Oops!

Don’t you hate that?

There’s another thing: Having come a long way in personal maturity -- wisdom, values, understanding women -- I no longer depend on how much I lift to determine or display my rugged, yet humble, strengths. (Get the hook!) It’s the resistance I bear, and how I manipulate that resistance that matters. The muscles of those whose years have accrued love to be warmed up, coaxed, urged and enticed into action.

Explosive motion is kid stuff, sudden max effort the way of the young and foolish. Tsk tsk! Real lifters lift the steel slowly but surely, with a hint of friendly persuasion. Here’s where the flex of the big round bouncy purple people-eater comes into play. I chose a lighter weight from the rarely visited end of the dumbbell rack (yeah, right! Last time he wandered past the 50s they were wearing bellbottoms), and heft it over my head as I assume a prone position on the properly inflated ball.

Whoosh... easy, big fella. Positioning takes practice and courage and three or four spotters till you get the hang of things. I, of course, practice alone in the dead of night with a flashlight. It’s an image thing.

It gets better all the time. Once balance is understood, you can position yourself variably like a rag doll and engage the muscles as you please, need or are able. Lots of stabilizing muscle activity is required, lots of focus and, when you need it, just enough bounce -- that hint of friendly persuasion -- to affectionately force out another satisfying and productive repetition.

These are the reps that count, the missing reps in those sets that were colorless, fell flat, had no tone, served little purpose, were a half-step along the way.

This is not cheating. This is finessing -- hardcore finessing. The rep you could not get on the strict and lifeless bench ‘cuz the triceps stagnated, or the elbow yelped or the shoulder growled like a bear, you now complete with loving persistence and a bump from the flexible and giving stability ball, or, as we here at Draper Advanced Research call it, the Bubble Bomb.

Go, bubbleheads. Circulate, get round, ball up, roll on.... the Bubble Bomber

THE BEST KEPT SECRET -- TOP SECRET TOP SQUATS

Save your shoulders, be nice to your back, improve your squat, delight in the action and build thunder thighs. Grasp the handles of a Top Squat, settle the padded bar across your back and lower yourself safely, comfortably and precisely to your favorite depth, and in the same way lift yourself up.

You can’t squat -- you will. You squat poorly -- you’ll squat properly. You hate squats -- you’ll adore them. You like squats -- you’ll love them. You love squats -- you’ll marry them.

----

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