Wednesday, July 24, 2013


The gym where I lift is not what you'd call hardcore; Park & Recs took over a middle school and tricked out an aerobics room and weight room, plus they teach yoga and guitar and dance and crochet and like that in the classrooms up and down the hall. Not a sexy place, and most of the folks who use the iron there aren't dressed to be seen.

Even so, there are the usual machines, a few thousand pounds of plates and dumbbells, and certainly sufficient gear for anybody who wants to do so to get a good workout.

Though it isn't hardcore, there are some things that amuse me no end. We have our share of pencil-necks who make a whole lot of noise, grunting and groaning and dropping their weights, to the end of moving very little poundage.

You know, the guy who goes to the squat rack and proceeds to do curls with the empty bar? Or does a set of dumbbell flyes with fifteen pounds and drops  them from a foot up? 

Usually these are young fellows, and if they think all that huffing and puffing and clanking impresses anybody other than unfavorably, they are sadly mistaken. 

Two really funny things happened recently during my workout. For those of you who sometimes go to public gyms, let me see can I amuse you:

Pencil Neck was doing squats in the rack with what looked like 160. Blowing out a lot of air, rattling the bar when he locked out. So, okay, I can't say anything because I don't do squats any more, it's incline leg press for me, but still. 

Big beefy guy I'd never seen before, ragged shorts and cut-off sleeves sweatshirt moves over to watch. The squatter finishes, clangs the bar into the slot, walks off breathing hard.

Beefy smiles, steps in, and proceeds to do curls with the barbell. Six reps, 160. Now, that's not  a steroid monster's numbers, but still, it's a lot stronger than I am. Brzycki Formula says that guy might be able to do a one-rep max of 186. 

The Pencil Neck who'd been squatting was surely impressed. 

At that moment, I decided that sometimes a guy doing curls in the squat rack is okay. 

Second event:

A couple of teenage boys, maybe twenty-ish, are doing chin-ups on the bar. (Pull-ups, the palms face away from you; chins, the palms face toward you.)* First one guts out four. Second one laughs and manages five, beating his buddy by a rep. Calls him a pussy.

They move over to the triceps press-down station, same machine, and load a small amount of weight onto the stack.

A small woman in shorts and a a T-shirt moves to the chin bar, jumps up, grabs it in a palms-forward chin grip (chins are harder than pull-ups, in my experience.)

She proceeds to do six reps in good form.

I wished I had a camera so I could have gotten the expressions on their faces.

Pussy, huh?

* Pointed out to me by folks who know better–thanks to Mich and Coach–that I got the chins/pullups designation wrong: It's the opposite, and pull-ups can be remembered by using the anatomical position "pronated," to remember this: P=P. Mea culpa. I fixed it, and thanks for the correction.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this post. Liked both vignettes, but especially the second one.

Small quibble: I thought it was the other way around:
- pull ups = pronated grip = hands facing away; and,
- chin ups = supinated grip = hands facing you.
with the P in Pronated serving as the mnemonic.

Steve Perry said...

Could be, that's just what I was told, back in the day. Palm away is harder, I know that.

Coach Sommer said...

Yep, chinups are palms facing you and pullups are palms facing away. Most people do indeed find pullups a little more difficult.

If I could ever twist your arm enough for you to come out to a seminar, I could repair these deficits in your education! ;)

Steve Perry said...

Too many deficits, I suspect, Coach, though you'd be the guy to do it, could it be done ...

Anonymous said...

Loved the post. I remember being schooled in a similar fashion when I was young, dumb and had something prove.

Steve Perry said...

Now and again, I resist the urge to walk over and ask one of these kids: Excuse me, why are you dropping those weights like that? If it's too heavy, you should use less. There are classes going on underneath this room, and it bothers them when the ceiling goes thud! like that. And it's considered poor form unless you are moving really big weight, and trust me, you aren't. I'm three times your age and I use three times as much weight and I don't drop them ...

Be a waste of time, I suspect. In such instances, "Young and stupid" is an oxymoron ...

Jim said...

Don't be that guy at the gym:

Steve Perry said...

Funny vid. Jim.

Justin said...

The more I go to the gym (5-6 times a week as of late), the more things I notice that really grind my gears. They range from stuff that bothers everyone like dropping weights, to individual inconveniences like not racking weights or not wiping off equipment, to just goofy things like really poor form.

I find there are always bigger and smaller beasts whenever I go to work out. Hard to not compare yourself to the other cats in the cage. As long as there's at least one stronger and one weaker, I figure I'll be okay.

Stopped doing dips lately, despite my love of them, as my pro-wrestler buddy's personal trainer says they're a really unnatural movement.

steve-vh said...

yeah, can't do dips anymore either. After having your labrums surgically repaired, that bottom position just isn't worth it. I have discovered dumbell extensions on an incline bench can approximate though!