“We are Forerunners. Guardians of all that exists. The roots of the Galaxy have grown deep under our careful tending. Where there is life, the wisdom of our countless generations has saturated the soil. Our strength is a luminous sun, towards which all intelligence blossoms… And the impervious shelter, beneath which it has prospered.”

Domain Query: The triumph of steel

by | Sep 3, 2019 | fitness, gym idiots, Uncategorized | 4 comments

Longtime reader and friend of the blog Kapios asks an excellent question related to the severe and dreadful infestation of gym idiots that plagues pretty much every gym, anywhere:

If you were a dictator what rules would you change about gyms? I know you mentioned heavy metal music while exercising and I agree with that. I would definitely exile crossfitters and give medal of honor to strongman people. I admit I never did it but it looks so natutal [sic] and powerful. I think the squat rack business would go bankcrupt [sic] if we all lifted heavy truck tyres [sic] in our yards. Ok maybe I’m fantasizing too much.

Well, now… What would I do, in the absolutely impossible event that people come to their senses and appoint yer very ‘eavy, very ‘umble servant the Didact as the Supreme Dread Lord of Mankind?

And yes, it would be MANkind, because men are just better. If you are a woman and you dispute this, I welcome you to go to the nearest public toilet in a crowded shopping mall and wait in that horrid uncomfortable silence that women have to endure while desperate for a pee, while we blokes simply saunter in, do our business, and walk out.

The first and most important thing, of course, would be to ensure that the Ten Commandments of the Iron God are carved into consecrated steel tablets, which would then be dipped into a mixture of pre-workout and BCAAs in order that they might be baptised properly, and then placed at the entrance of every gym in the land, with extra copies mandated by the squat racks, cardio areas, and free weights sections.

The next thing would be to enforce the NO CURLING IN THE MUDDAPUCKIN’ SQUAT RACK!!! rule. Let’s be clear about this: anyone who curls in the squat rack deserves to be face-punched without warning. However, since I am kind, I will instead dictate that anyone who curls in the squat rack will be given ONE verbal warning. If the bro in question chooses to ignore it, anyone in the gym, from the head trainer right on down to the newest of n00b lifters, has the right and the duty to expel the idiot forthwith.

Preferably face-first onto the concrete pavement, of course. Hey, you were warned.

Repeat offenders will simply be banned from any gym that they enter – but not before a solid tasering to the nuts.

Look, it’s a SQUAT RACK. The curl station is NOT a squat rack. It’s not that hard to figure out, even for a bodybuilder.

As for musical selections – this might come as a bit of a shock, but I don’t actually think that it is such a good idea to mandate that heavy metal should be played in every gym in the land. For one thing, my tastes in metal are pretty eclectic – I don’t just listen to Cookie Monster growling all the time, and in fact if you look at the music on my phone, it is predominantly classic metal mixed in with power metal, thrash, and rock. I do like me some melodic death metal – quite a lot of it, in fact – but that preference is restricted to a relatively small number of bands, like AMON AMARTH or IN FLAMES or DETHKLOK.

So, in terms of music, I would generally leave most gyms alone to play whatever they see fit – except for rap, hip-hop, R&B, and EDM. I do not consider these to be “music” in any way, shape, or form.

If I had my ‘druthers and were able to start up my own steel gym, I would likely play classical music, mostly, and recommend that all attendees bring along their own headphones. The virtue of listening to Bach or Handel or Vivaldi or, especially, Beethoven and Wagner, when working out is that the music is both complex and soothing.

In my own case, I am actually pretty boring when it comes to music at the gym. On the two days a week that I do squats and deadlifts, I always play IRON MAIDEN’s The Book of Souls on the volume day, and Book of Souls: Live Chapter on heavy days. (For a better idea of what I do, take a look at the post that I wrote a while back for our friend Adam Piggott, the Gentleman Adventurer.)

The reason for this is simple: the songs on these two albums are almost perfectly suited and timed to my squat sets, and for my deadlifts I almost always switch over to other IRON MAIDEN tracks because they are simply so epic.

On days when I do bench presses, power cleans and barbell rows, or heavy bag work, I listen to whatever I fancy – SABATON, AMON AMARTH, GLORYHAMMER, EXMORTUS, TYR, etc. Basically I will listen to whatever has a solid groove and good lyrics that allow me to get into a good rhythm while stretching, lifting, or striking.

Now, let’s get onto the subject of strongmen.

If it were up to me, I would setup a special section of any serious gym just for strongmen. I do have immense respect for those guys, and I do think of them as something approaching demigods among mortal men. Make no mistake, those guys do take a whole hell of a lot of Vitamin S, ifyaknowhatImeanrite, and I do not recommend the strongman lifestyle for anybody. It is incredibly hard on your body over time, which is why there are not too many active strongmen over the age of 40.

That section would contain Atlas stones, farmer’s carry tools, a place to flip tractor tires, and a Panther sled for “cardio” workouts.

Actually… come to think of it… my ideal gym would look a lot like this one:

The one area where I disagree with Kapios, albeit mildly, is in the notion that flipping tractor tires removes the need for squatting. This isn’t quite true.

See, the technique for flipping a tractor tire requires you to grab the bottom of the tire with both hands, ram your chest straight into it, drive mostly horizontally with your legs, and then pop the tire off the ground and onto its side with all of your available power.

This is very, very hard work, no question. But it actually combines several fundamental lifting techniques from the Big 5 – squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press, and barbell row.

The most fundamental and important of those exercises remains the squat, and no matter how many times you flip a tractor tire, you still need to train for squats and deadlifts, at bare minimum, in order to be genuinely strong.

The reason for this is because every single major muscle group in the body is worked using just these two exercises. Throw in bench presses for chest and arm development, and you have a fully rounded lower and upper body workout that will make you strong and lean in a big hurry.

Furthermore, the squat is already a difficult technical exercise, even though it is a highly fundamental one. Doing squats requires a lot of practice and repetition, and you have to get good at that particular movement pattern before you move on to something more complex.

That is why Olympic lifters, who only really do two main lifts – snatch and clean-and-jerk – use the squat and the deadlift as fundamental or warm-up exercises. And Olympic lifters actually have better form and – in my personal opinion – greater strength than powerlifters, because on their squats they go right down to arse-to-grass.

ATG squats are much harder than regular parallel ones. The deeper into the hole you go, the harder it is to get back up and out. Olympic lifters use high-bar squats to achieve that level of depth, and are very careful about their form in a way that a lot of powerlifters are not, because powerlifters have very different judging standards and have to do very different exercises.

The fact remains, nonetheless, that the squat and deadlift are the meat and potatoes of pretty much all strength training. You can get strong without these lifts, don’t get me wrong – it will just be more difficult, and if you train using isolation exercises, then your body as a whole will not have the same level of interconnected strength that you will have from doing squats.

As for CrossShit… pretty much everyone who reads this blog knows that CrossShit is just a class.

I should really end my criticism of the idea there, but I can’t. There is simply too much to take apart when it comes to CrossFit. Whether we are talking about the atrocious form, or the idiotic exercise combinations, or the insistence on timing every rep out to infinity, or the absurdly lax coaching standards, the fact remains that CrossFit is an incredibly stupid exercise fad that almost invariably leads to injury and pain because of the sheer idiocy of its programming.

Would there be any room in my fantasy world for bodybuilding?

Well, actually, yes. I don’t mind those guys too much. I think that their entire approach to life is seriously messed up and actually quite gay, but that is really on them. If they want to spend their lives in the gym doing body-part split routines, hey, that is no never mind to me.

I don’t really have anything against machines in the gym. It’s just that, if I were building a gym myself, it would be for the serious iron addicts who are concerned primarily with how much weight they can lift, not how good they look in spray-tan and a bikini.

What about the cardio-bunny crowd?

Again, I don’t mind them too much either. I have spent quite a bit of time in gyms in Moscow at peak hour, and let me tell you, NOTHING is better for a red-blooded man’s soul than watching hot girls in tight yoga pants bouncing along on the elliptical machines, treadmills, and spinning cycles. Yes, what they do is stupid and pointless, and yes, those women are primarily there to socialise rather than to get anything real done, but that’s their choice.

Unfortunately, hot Slavic women are primarily to be found in, well, Slavic countries. The porkified hambeasts and landwhales that clog up most Western gyms are eyesores that make us want to lose our lunches, not work out our muscles.

So, that is about the sum and substance of what I would do in my ideal world, if I were made the Iron Fist of Mankind.

Now, put on some GRAILKNIGHTS, get your ass into the gym, and start squatting.

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  1. Kapios

    Perhaps putting the cardio machines with the hot girls out of sight from the heavy lifters would be beneficial. That's were bromance is being built. Sort of like an all male barber shop with brown walls.

    As far as strongmen vs squat/deadlift, etc., if you think of it in terms of every day practical strength and having good stamina and concentration it makes a bit more sense to go strongman. Thing is I don't want to hold myself up to olympic level standards for either strongman or squats and deadlifters. Im not talking about the amount of weights, but the benefits of the exercises on the rest of my activities throughout the day. If you think about it, you don't want to pull any muscle while lifting heavy objects around your house. You would use the squat position, but its going to be far more imperfect. Yes the bar allows for much greater freedom of movement compared to machines, but in terms of lifting objects and carrying them around strongman seems to be superior because you get much greater freedom of movement.

    Perhaps there needs to be a strongman lite for the folks who don't dope themselves and eat like bears to get into competition. Unlike debates about marshal arts, you can probably get some doctors, chiropractors, etc., to determine what is doable by the average fitness guys like us.

    • Didact

      The part that you are missing is that strongmen do powerlifting exercises as their core workout.

      If you look at the World's Strongest Man competition, for instance, two events that almost always feature in them are the squat and the deadlift, in various forms. The WSM always makes both exercises much harder than they are in the gym – by using a bar where the weights DO NOT freely move, for instance, which does make the lift much more challenging – but the competitors do need to be able to squat and deadlift well.

      I argue that you are falling into a bit of a logical trap here. You are thinking the way that CrossFitters do, about "functional strength". The thing is that functional strength is just a catchphrase without much by way of meaning. The virtue of doing squats and deadlifts lies in the fact that they simply make you stronger overall, which is what you need in order to get good at doing any form of athletic activity.

      I'll give you an example from my own experience. I was in Dubai about 6 months ago and was invited by my host for a "cross training" class. He is fat and out of shape but goes once a week to what is, basically, a CrossShit class. I went along in order to be a good guest.

      Now, the workout at that place was all kinds of stupid – lots and lots of reps of squats without the coach ever really bothering to explain to anyone the technical details of how to squat, followed by lots of deadlifts and dumbbell lifts and chin-ups. No explanation of form whatsoever at any point.

      Because of my background in powerlifting, I was able to do everything that was required, I was lifting much heavier weight than everyone else, and I was pretty much the last man standing.

      Why was that? It wasn't because I was really strong. It was because years of powerlifting had made me strong OVERALL, not just at powerlifting exercises. Meanwhile, the clowns who focused entirely on "functional fitness" couldn't lift the weights that I could, and couldn't lift what they managed with anything approaching good form.

    • Kapios

      Haven't thought of it that way. If you personally know anyone who does strongman non professionally do these people also perform pretty much the same exercises as non-professionals?

      I used to go to the gym for years and then foolishly stopped for 3 years, mostly because of laziness and lots of poor excuses. I started again 2 months ago and I'm only just regaining my strength.

      Contrary to most lifters, I don't have leg day, because I do isolation exercises for parts of my legs in between my upper body exercises. Also, because I never had chicken legs I always thought it was ok to skip the squat rack and as a result only did it once under supervision just out of curiosity. Once I regain lower body strength I will go for it. I hope that my misaligned feet are not too big of a problem.

    • Didact

      If you personally know anyone who does strongman non professionally do these people also perform pretty much the same exercises as non-professionals?

      I haven't had the privilege of meeting any strongmen personally, whether professional or otherwise, so I cannot really comment. All I can tell you is that, based on what the pros do, the Big 3 lifts are at the core of their workouts, and the other two from the Big 5 are used as accessory lifts.

      Contrary to most lifters, I don't have leg day, because I do isolation exercises for parts of my legs in between my upper body exercises. Also, because I never had chicken legs I always thought it was ok to skip the squat rack and as a result only did it once under supervision just out of curiosity. Once I regain lower body strength I will go for it. I hope that my misaligned feet are not too big of a problem.

      I don't really consider squat/deadlift days to be "leg days". Most lifters tend to think of them as "full-body total pain" days, because that is pretty much what they are.

      If you are looking to regain strength overall in a hurry, then squatting will do this quickly. If you have knee or leg injuries that are stopping you from doing too much by way of squats, then consider doing leg presses instead, as these will help you get hamstring and quad strength back a bit faster.


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