Not long ago, I posted a piece about how I’d finally put aside my skepticism of gyms and started lifting weights. Once something I sneered at as the pastime of over muscled and under brained bros, I realized that this was a key part of getting myself back into shape. The fancy term for this type of exercise is “resistance training”, which is what pretentious people say instead of “lifting heavy things”.
And I don’t need to bother with a gym membership. Thirty minutes a day in my house is enough. And I’m glad I can do it in my house. Not just because of my natural misanthropy (common amongst CPAs), but also because I probably look ridiculous as I do this. Staying away from the gym prevents witnesses to my bumbling attempts at jockery and the embarrassing photos on Instagram and Facebook that would inevitably come with it.
I’ve been using an app called FitBod that generates various exercises for me. It’s not the only one out there. I’m sure there are plenty of other options when it comes to weight lifting apps. But they all do roughly the same thing: produce an exercise regimen which will produce massive “gains” (such a jock word) by putting you through a punishing series of Herculean tasks. Typically also resulting in pain levels the next day that would make the Marquis de Sade blush.
But don’t let that discourage you. The muscle soreness is offset by the increased self-esteem and feeling of self worth. Also, there’s the whole “less likely to die of a heart attack before you qualify for Social Security” benefit. So now that I’ve started broing out with the weighty thingies, I figured I’d go over some of my favorite exercises in the new regimen.
So let’s start with the normiest of all exercises, pushups. If you are a man and your primary motivation in exercise is vanity, the push up is a good place to start. Because your primary goal is to get to the point where you can move your pectoral muscles independently. Face it, even if you’re in your nineties, looking good for the ladies is always a greater motivation than the “good health” nonsense.
Anyway, the push up will strengthen those pectoral muscles, as well as the assorted arm muscles. Regularly doing sets of pushups is a great way to feed your personal narcissism and make you a healthy person. And I’ve learned there are multiple variants of the pushup. Such as the tricep pushup. Which is really just a pushup you do with your hands near your midsection, instead of pushing straight up from your shoulders. These, as the name implies, give you a bit more work on the triceps. Which are actually bigger than the biceps, so if you’re trying to build up the old gun show, you should try these.
Then there is the “Push Up on Knees”. Which we used to call “girly” push ups back in the day. But despite the fact that we used to laugh at anyone doing these in our younger, more immature years, these are actually good for you. Because of the angle of the push, they also provide a good workout for the triceps. And they also provide yet another reason to exercise at home, since there won’t be any witnesses and I won’t have to surrender my man card for performing these things.
And if you want to add a six-pack to those pectoral muscles, the sit up is the next thing to include. This will tighten up those core muscles. As I lose more weight, the gut that used to look like man-pregnancy is gradually being replaced by abs that you can bounce a quarter off of. And if my lower back is a bit tired (a common condition as we get older), there’s always the crunch. Originally, I thought this was just what happens when people try to do situps and fail, but apparently as long as you sit up just enough to flex the core muscles, you’re still getting a benefit.
But lifting your own weight is not the only option. Those twenty pound dumbbells that had been sitting in the shed for years suddenly became useful to me, as the app spat out numerous exercises I could perform with these. One of these is “rowing”, because I guess it sort of vaguely resembles the rowing motion. You either stand holding the two weights in front of you and lift and lower, or bend over and do the same thing. This simple exercise will strengthen your back and biceps. And unlike many of these exercises, you can do it without looking silly. Unless you drop a weight on your foot.
Another of my favorites, because it can give me proper, bulging, Popeye arms, is the curl. This exercise builds the biceps and forearms. My favorite version is the “concentration” curl. This involves resting one hand on my knee while seated, then raising and lowering a weight in the other by bending the elbow. I basically get ripped while posing like Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker. Vanity and narcissism and preening reach peak levels. Or they would if I was doing them in public. Which I’m not.
Then there’s that exercise that overly muscled, shirtless bros post videos of themselves performing all over the Internet. The deadlift. I mean, they really like posting their W’s with the deadlift thing. It’s one of the many “powerlift” exercises that dudes do to impress people in the gym or on Twitter or whatever.
One that I often do is called the Romanian deadlift. Because it was, unsurprisingly, developed by…some Romanian guy. Who was in the Olympics. It involves standing with the weights at my sides, then bending over at the waist, then straightening. Easy peasy. And this will work my hamstrings, back, glutes, and lower back.
Another exercise that apparently has Cold War oppression origins is the “Russian Twist”. One sits on the floor, slightly lifts the feet, then takes a weight and lifts it from right to left over the torso. This is good for the abs, shoulders, and lower back. Although I’m a bit bothered that so many exercises are named after former Iron Curtain type places. A disproportionate number of elite strong men appear to have been former gulag inmates or some such. I mean, I know Eastern Bloc Soviet Era Olympians were just a bunch of juiced up roid ragers, but still, the free world needs to up its game. I should invent some crazy hard and dangerous lifting exercise and call it the “Florida Man”.
Not to get off on a tangent. I do that sometimes. Frequently, really. But back to the resistance stuff. Such as the broiest of the broiest power lift exercises. The O.G. strength training exercise. The bench press. Normally, one does this with barbells or machines at the gym. But I’m too cheap for that. Besides, I can do it with dumbbells too. I just lie on the floor, and push up one dumbbell in each hand, then lower and repeat. This exercises the chest, shoulders, and arms. So it’s everything a man needs if he wants to strut about in muscle shirts and peacock for the fairer sex.
But the best overall exercise I’ve found is the “Clean”. Which involves squatting and raising the dumbbells quickly to shoulder height. So obviously the name of this exercise is the “Clean”. I guess it’s obvious. To someone.
Despite the inexplicable name, this exercises just about everything. The hamstrings, calves, forearms, lower back, quadriceps, and trapezius muscles all get a little work. Also, the bootay will tighten a bit because of this. And for a little more arm work, one does the “Clean and Jerk”, where the “Jerk” is just lifting the weights over your head. This is a slightly more rational name than the “Clean”, although technically “jerking” with weights is a really good way to hurt yourself.
The last two are two with strange names, but that I’ve found beneficial despite this. First, there’s the exercise with what may be the most unfortunate name ever, the Iron Cross. Given that this name invokes images of Tiger tanks conquering Europe, the name might be considered problematic by some. Fortunately, I’m well aware that this is originally a Teutonic symbol, and doesn’t necessarily have to be a reference to angry, goose-stepping Germans of ill repute.
And the exercise itself is fairly good. Usually performed with a weight in each hand, one starts by performing a squat, then standing and extending his or her arms out to the sides, ending in a position roughly resembling the Cristo Redentor. Albeit often a panting, sweaty, and disheveled version of the Cristo Redentor. This is a good workout for the shoulders, chest, lower back, and the thigh muscles. Also, the bootay.
Lastly, I thought I’d mention one of the body weight exercises that is good for me, but I sort of love to hate. The Superman. You lay prone on the floor, arms outstretched (like Superman, duh), then raise your arms and legs slightly, lower, and repeat. This is good for the lower back and the hamstrings. And also the bootay. And this exercise is yet another reason to do these exercises in the comfort of your own home. If someone were to walk in on you making this motion it could be…misinterpreted.
So those are just a few of the exercises the FitBod app has thrown my way. And I’m in way better shape for doing them. But I think I should close this out by dropping a few helpful tips with resistance training. Some dos and don’ts. Actually, it’s just two dos. There are no don’ts today. Maybe I’ll put those in another piece.
You may have noticed that a fair amount of these involve exercising the lower back. And for people who are entering their 30s, 40s, or later, this can be a problem. Old people aches can start in the lower back. This is why it’s good to have a back brace. I know some of you might be thinking this is “teh lame”. Yes, I said “teh”. I’ve discovered that young people somehow think that misspelling the word “the” adds emphasis. I’ll never fully understand the Internet.
But that’s beside the point. It’s not lame at all. I remember my days working in a warehouse in my twenties. Failing to wear a back brace while lifting boxes all day had painful consequences even for my young and virile self. Swallow that pride and wear the thing. Unless you want to look like Quasimodo in your old age.
Another trick to apply in this kind of training is rotation. I used to rest between sets, but I’ve discovered that that is actually “teh lame”. By rotating from one exercise to the next after a set (say, from an arm thing to a leg thing to a bootay thing), the workout is more punishing. But in a good way. I’ll be sweating so much that any excess sodium my body has collected is washed away in a deluge of perspiration. And I’ve noticed that my heart is pounding hard after a workout, far more so than just jogging. This is as good as cardio, and is probably the reason I’ve reduced my resting heart rate by about twelve beats per second over the past two years.
I know what you’re thinking. That nagging question on your mind that won’t leave you alone. Why does he keep saying “bootay”? Well, there’s a reason. I lost about thirty pounds while my wife was away for a few months in her native Zimbabwe. She came home and, instead of complimenting my weight loss, she asked “Where’s your bum?”. I suffered from a shrinking posterior as a result of my drastic weight loss. So now I’ve been working on building that back.
In general, my wife has benefited from my gains. And I don’t mean that way. Get your mind out of the gutter. I mean, that’s part of it, but that’s none of your business. The other benefit for her is that now that my arms are bigger, my wife gets me to do more stuff for her. Lifting and moving and so forth. Fortunately, I don’t mind. I’ve mentioned before, doing the domesticated, marriage chores can be good exercise too.
So, the moral of this ridiculous post is, resist. We must resist. Resist like the wind (not sure what that would look like). And I don’t mean resist like some tiresome political movement. That’s for Twitter nerds. I mean resist obesity and early death. We should all get into shape, and resistance training (lifting stuff) is a good way to do that. There are literally hundreds of exercises you can perform in the comfort of your own home. These are just a few. Download an app, spend maybe twenty to fifty bucks on some hand weights, and join the resistance. You’ll be healthier, happier, and live longer. Also, it’s good for the bootay.
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