Thursday, July 1, 2010

Gym regimen – July 2010

1 July 2010
88kg, BMI 25
110 mins
"A3" workout: Hams and Back: 4-set pyramid

Warmup: 60 jumping jacks, calisthenics/stretching, exercise bike 10 mins (120 pulse)

Abs (one exercise per set): Incline curls: 30x @ 10lbs, Russian twists: 30x @ 20lbs, Russian twists + floating crunches: 26x @ 15lbs, Supine leg lifts: 40x

Straight leg deadlift: 12x @ 25kg, 10x @ 30kg, 8x @ 45kg, 6x @ 60kg (?)

Leg curl: 12x @ 30kg, 12x @ 30kg, 12x @ 30kg, 12x @ 35kg

Underhand barbell row: 12x @ 30kg, 10x @ 50kg, 10x @ 60kg, 6x @ 70kg (?) [sloppy form on last set]

Wide grip lat pulldown: 12x @ 60kg, 10 x@ 60kg, 10x @ 65kg, 6x @ 70kg

One arm dumbbell row: 12x @ 12.5kg, 10x @ 15kg, 10x @ 17kg, 6x @ 32kg

Wide grip cable row: 12x @ 72.5kg, 10x @ 82.5kg, 10x @ 90.5kg, 6x @ 100kg [sloppy form on last set]

Cooldown: Cross-country ski machine: 15 mins (forward and backward stepping; 160 pulse)


Felt some good "pump" this workout. Especially on the leg curls, barbell row, and cable row. This is what I mean about crew giving me a good foundation: By my second set of cable rows, I was already bored with almost the total weight stack for 10 reps. By the third set, I was using all the weights and added a few extra reps to my prescribed eight rep set. I asked the trainer––who distinctly reminded me of Jabba the Hutt in jogging shorts… so again, Taiwanese gyms, wtf?––about it and he recommended I use the seated leverage rowing machine in the free weights section. It was a good feeling to realize I am already quickly wearing out my time in the equipment room. There are of course some exercises that require cable machines (e.g., rope lat pulldowns or lat pulldowns), but I'm a big fan of free weights, as are many lifters. With the underhand dumbbell row (one knee and one hand on a bench, the other hand pulling up a dumbbell like starting a lawnmower in slow motion), I was quickly bored with the weight I limited myself to for my 12- and 10-rep sets, as a warmup, and was loving the steady pump for my last two sets. I did get ahead of myself on my last set of the underhand barbell row and seated leverage row, but I doubt I will actually have much soreness in the coming days.

Where I will feel it, however, boys and girls, is in my hamstrings. I really worked the leg curls. My last two reps of the third set had me grunting and my entire last six reps of the fourth had me grunting all the way up. I hopped off for a second, considered dropping it down to 30kg, but instead got right back on and put the pad just a tad higher on my soleus. This gave me two final "cheat reps," I know, but I'm of the philosophy in weightlifting that you should always finish your set amount. What else are spotters for? Not having a spotter, I just lowered the fulcrum closer to my knee joint, which helped me crank out those last two curls. But cheating or not, they were beauties! I'm making sure to stretch well before I sleep.

Now, it turns out I must retract something I wrote in my 29 June entry. I complained about some beefcakes with obviously large musculature but terrible form: tuggers, as they are sometimes called. I said this kind of trivial yanking on the weight just to add mass is vain "bodysculpting" as opposed to dignified "bodybuilding", yet not a day later I heard Arnold (in this footage, beginning at about 3:15) say that bodybuilders are just like sculptors! Hence, I must defer to the master on this point and concede that "bodysculpting" is a legitimate concept in bodybuilding, or, indeed, just another word for it, if properly understood––if the idea of "bodysculpting" is properly understood in "bodybuilding." My point still stands that doing exercises with bad form goes against everything in athletics and authentic bodybuilding. Since the use or abuse of the word "sculpting" is a semantic quibble about a genuine distinction, I suppose I must devise a different expression to differentiate disciplined weightlifting from mere vain bulking up. Muscle-tussing versus bodybuilding? I like it. Just Say No to Muscle Tussing!

Notice also how Arnold describes the criteria for a winning bodybuilder in terms of "muscularity, proportion, symmetry, the whole thing." That is a profoundly classical notion of beauty and excellence, which stands in marked contrast to contemporary the notions of bodybuilders as "super freaks" or "muscle monsters," a perception fostered not only by critics of bodybuilding but also by numerous bodybuilders themselves. This is why the caveat of this article about "the Greek physique" is very much to the point, since modern bodybuilders really have broken the bounds of classical proportion, whereas vintage "old-school" builders like Reg Park, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steve Michalik, Gregg Valentino (before he went berserk on steroids!), et al., did have an Apollonian finesse cum Herculean power. Along these lines, I have a strong intuition that if there is any hope in seeing a genuine renaissance in "classical education," which is a current buzz-term among increasingly numerous homeschooling families, it must include a noble physical regimen. Just tonight I was daydreaming, in fact, about developing a "fitness-catechesis curriculum" for underprivileged students either in American ghettos or in less advanced foreign countries. Or maybe I am just trying to reinvent the YMCA wheel all over again!

In any event, I want to bring attention to a brilliant philosophical point Arnold (inadvertently) makes in the same footage, at around 4:00. (I will not comment now on the fertile comparison he makes between sculpting one's own body and an artist working on the clay of a sculpture, and how this contrast throws striking light on the adage that "art is pain.") He acknowledges that many people look at bodybuilders as strange, but, he says, that is because they don't know much about it. Once however they understand it, Arnold argues, they realize "it's just like another thing." He continues, "I mean, it's not any stranger as, uh, going into a car and trying to go in a quarter mile five seconds. I mean, that's for me strange." (We must pardon Arnie for his adorable Germanisms here… though the idea of going five seconds in a quarter mile might be the most authentic post-Einsteinian way to describe car racing I've ever heard!) Arnold's point is simple: driving cars and building bodies are both equally 'silly' things humans love to do. His deeper premise is that taking delight in silly human things should not be gainsaid. And while I find Arnold's adolescent jettisoning of his family's Catholicism comically shallow––I read last night in The Education of a Bodybuilder that, at 15 or 16, reading Pfaffenspiegel (loosely, "A Mirror for the Vicar") and getting a lecture from an "intellectual" weightlifting mentor about you building your own body rather than praying to God for muscles, sufficed to validate his already carefree worldliness (… but I digress, as always)––, I think his vintage European good sense shines through in this clip. For as James V. Schall has written, games and other 'silly,' 'strange' human endeavors have a profoundly wholesome place in the public square and in the Church. In an interview with Ignatius Insight, when asked about his book on this topic, On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs: Teaching, Writing, Playing, Believing, Lecturing, Philosophizing, Singing, Dancing, Schall states (I quote him in full, though without some of the original italics):

About the only thing I read carefully each day after breakfast is the sports page. That is almost the only place left in which you can still come to grips with the drama of life as most people live it. On sports pages we still find cheating to be cheating, we find glory in what is earned, we find corruption and repentance, honor and competence, vanity and genuine humility. ...

I did a book years ago called Far Too Easily Pleased: A Theology of Play, Contemplation, and Festivity in which I tried to spell these things out. There is a chapter in Another Sort of Learning called "On the Seriousness of Sports." This essay often brings comments from students who never thought that there was anything to be said for sports but a kind of goofing off. They are delighted to learn that what fascinated them about sports is not so frivolous but brings them to the heart of the highest things, something they always suspected but did not know how to articulate.

In fact, it all begins with Plato and Aristotle. The seminal modern books in all of this field are Pieper’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture, his In Tune with the World: A Theory of Festivity, Huizinga’s Homo Ludens, and Hugo Rahner’s Men at Play. None of these books are to be missed. I should have mention [sic] sooner the importance of Josef Pieper to all branches of knowledge, including this one. He is the clearest mind of our time in so many ways and by himself (the same is true of Chesterton) can give us almost all we need to see how things are, to see, what is.

But it all goes back to Plato and Aristotle, as I said, and some passages in Scripture. They are the ones who discovered the delight in things to which we respond, as Chesterton said, by being grateful. Plato said in the Laws that we should spend our lives "singing, dancing, and sacrificing." How remarkable! And Aristotle, in an idea that I often state in my own words, implies that the closest the average man comes to pure contemplation — something to which we are ordered by our very being — is to watch, not play, a good game. This does not mean that there is anything wrong also with playing it.

Students wonder why games fascinate them because they do. It is because they behold there something that need not exist, that could be otherwise, but which exists according to the rules, according to the drama of the game. We do not know how it will turn out. Our lives themselves are exactly like this if we think about it.

So play is both an introduction to ethics — play fairly — and to metaphysics, to the fascination of the things that are but need not be. Msgr. Sokolowski often makes the point, as does Pieper, and Aquinas for that matter, that the world need not exist, but does. Games need not exist but do. Life cannot be properly lived and games cannot be properly played unless we know their order, how they proceed. As spectators we behold something unfold before us, how things will turn out, according to the rules of play that need not be, but are.

Drama itself is like this unfolding also. Bloom in his Shakespeare’s Politics, another fine book, observes, speaking of Greek and English drama, that while watching a drama before us, we actually live a higher life than we do ordinarily, when we are mainly brushing our teeth or figuring out taxes. It is there in the unfolding plot that we see what is the human condition played out before us. We are struck by awe and pity and even fear as we see our lot. Aristotle says that games are not so exalted as drama, but none the less they are like unto it. They take place in freedom. We can see in them that there really are things that are worthy for their own sakes," we suspect that there might be other things even more worthy."

A short essay of his on the same topic, "On the Meaning of Sport", begins in the same vein:

The Greek philosopher Aristotle (d. 322 B. C.) remarked that play or sport is the closest thing most human beings come to contemplation, to the highest of human activities. Sport perhaps lacks the "seriousness" of contemplating the highest things, yet it contains a liberty and a joy of its own that can only be had if we seriously engage in the play before us. Play, by demanding all of our energies and skill to perform either badly or well, takes us out of ourselves.

Hear, hear! Sport is literally ek-static,drawing one outside of one's monotonous standing self, and thus an analogous dimension of all genuine spirituality. While I grant that Christians must never make an idol of their own bodies or of a sports team/star, an issue discussed in this Christianity Today article (Jan. 2010), I think the key difference between healthy "ecstatic" athletics and stunted, cultish sport-fetishism has very much to do with how much the devotee puts into the sport himself. People make idols of sport figures as easily as they do because, given the genuinely spiritual energies at work in sport, our sports stars are virtual mediators to that higher plane, saviors from our own humbling, smoldering mediocrity and anonymity into a higher world of vicarious glory and immortality. A sane athlete, however, realizes his role models are indeed just models, not saviors or mediators to deliver him from his own hard walk of discipline and sacrifice.

I know I might sound like a broken record the past few days, but there is something profoundly virtuous in developing the body's power. Virtue of course comes from the Latin virtus, which means power, so it is hardly a circumstantial link. It may sound corny, but last night while reading The Education of a Bodybuilder, I was almost brought to the faintest of tears when I read the following lines (on pp. 25–26) about Arnold's vocation to bodybuilding:

People recognized my athletic talents; but my choice of a sport confused them. … "Why did you have to pick the least favorite sport in Austria?" … I didn't know. It had been instinctive. I had just fallen in love with it. I loved the feeling of the gym, of working out, of having muscles all over.

Now, looking back, I can analyze it more clearly. My total involvement had a lot to do with the discipline, the individualism, and the utter integrity of bodybuilding."

Discipline, individualism, utter integrity––these are patently essential for any growth in the spiritual life and life in general. At the same time, though, it's important to keep in mind the social, I-Thou nature of human identity, lest 'individualism' be take in its runaway ultra-libertarian sense so popular these days, a caveat which, again, accounts for spotters, trainers, and fans in the gym--and fellow believers, confessors, and patron saints in the Church! No one makes you lift those cold, inert plates of iron and steel. No one makes sure you go through the full range of motion rep after rep, set after set. The weights are no consoling. They don't chit-chat. They just wait for you to demonstrate to yourself the integrity of your discipline and growth. Weightlifting, like gongfu, is mostly "inner work," an interiority which other sports also engender, but which gets more easily lost in the self-conscious tussle of visible competitors on the track, in the other swimming lanes, in the pack you're drafting, in the paint as you drive for a layup, or in the very next boat as their coxswain calls for a sprint. I will leave it to the curious reader to follow up on the surprising tenderness and wisdom of "the Iron" by reading the lengthy quotation from Henry Rollins found in this thread. It's certainly idiosyncratic to Rollins's own life, but nonetheless touching and more than a little illuminating.

Anyway, my right pec feels good, but I have rearranged my 4-day routine to make the chest/calves the final day in the cycle. This gives my chest as much recovery as possible between last Saturday and what will be a Sunday chest/calves workout. Time to stretch and sleep. G'night. Stay tuned, stay psuched.

1 comment:

mightygreekwritingmachine said...

Son, I had quite a workout reading this, so I took a nap to regain my strength and let my muscles rest. Great day in the morning! Yet, I'm inspired.