I had finished my workout and was arranging some belongings in my locker. Momentarily, I was overtaken by a couple vigorous sneezes. A guy getting dressed nearby smirked and said, “Maybe you’re allergic to exercise.” I smiled back and said, “Or maybe I’m allergic to stopping.”
Fear can be a positive force in the gym. For example, fear that an uneven lift could catapult your weight plates across the gym encourages you to secure your barbell collars. On a primal level, there’s fear of rejection – even fear of death – that motivates you to go to the gym in the first place.
But along the fear spectrum, you can head into a place where the feeling is less useful. If you’re lifting heavy, your fear of injury increases your concentration, but might at the same time cause you to cut short your range of motion. In my case, when I perform low bar squats (Rippetoe style), my fear of the weight sometimes causes me to slide the lift forward onto my quads – where it’s more comfortable, rather than back onto my weaker hamstrings and glutes – where the form is right.
At the far end of the fear spectrum resides personal trainers, and the functional training fad. As I’ve written before,
It seems like every trainer is trying to see how much “functional/balancing” crap they can use on new trainees … They jump up and down on benches, use a medicine ball and other toys.
Today, I saw a trainer order his client to perform history’s most awkward set of push-ups. He instructed the poor woman to rest her shins across the top of a giant swiss ball, while she gripped two handles placed on the floor below. After mounting the wobbly ball, the terrified woman cried out: “Hold me, I’m afraid!”
Now, I question how much intensity can be directed into a set when you’re training in fear. But regardless, the client completed the movement, dismounted, and then summed up in one sentence the entire state of functional fitness. “Well,” she said, “it’s not too bad if you hold me.”
So I guess it’s time to acknowledge that the wheels have come off the Arnold Schwarzenegger bus. I was all set to write a post about the irresistible attraction of literally the world’s biggest alpha male. But then pictures surfaced, and pundits began discussing the impact of steroids on libido, and Arnold’s raging insecurities, and character flaws uncovered by opposition research. With the Internet awash in prurience, I was inspired by an article that decided to remember happier times – a recap of the Top 5 Arnold movies. I thought I could make my own contribution with an analysis of the Top 3 muscle moments in Arnold’s movie career. So without further ado (and not a moment too soon):
#3: The handshake in Predator
This scene was actually a 2-for-1, with Rocky legend Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed) on the other end of that monster grip. Arnold has said that he always filmed his muscle scenes first on any project because maintaining his conditioning on set was so difficult. I imagine they shot this scene on day one.
#2: Shirt-ripping from Twins
The movie Twins was full of gratuitous disrobing by Arnold. But 20+ inch arms remain an impressive thing regardless of the marketing. I remember thinking at age 15 that it was pretty cool to be able to tear apart the sleeve of your shirt by flexing your bicep – and I still do today.
#1: Opening scene of The Terminator
Only organic material can travel through time, so Arnold always appears in his birthday suit at the beginning of the Terminator films. In 1984, when the first Terminator was released, Schwarzenegger had just embarked on his film career and was only four years removed from his 1980 Mr. Olympia title. He was still able to show off his perfect v-taper, with his massive traps, shoulders and lats. Radio personality Howard Stern once asked Arnold on his show if shooting these opening scenes ever bothered him, with the full production crew watching, and given the rumors about the “undesirable” effects of long term steroid use. In response, the Terminator said simply: “There is nothing small on Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
It’s been a while since I’ve been scolded by gym staff for dropping my heavy dumbbells at the end of a set. Not only do I try my best to treat gym equipment with care, but most gyms have also upgraded to rubber-encased dumbbells. Iron missiles now impact resilient, high-tech floors with barely a thud.
Still, gym staff trying to look busy can always shuffle over to the dumbbell rack and hassle someone training hard.
Over the past few years, the fierce competition among gyms has perhaps caused the demeanor of gym staff to improve; or possibly, the modern gym’s high ceilings and bright colors have softened the typical employee’s disposition. Either way, I have to say that the reprimand I got this morning almost made my day: “Hey there – yes you – you need to be more careful about dropping your weights … otherwise, I was very impressed.”