The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The Bad #4

4. Future cripples in the weight room

I’ve written at length about the numbnuts in the swimming pool. It’s time now to turn to the numbnuts in the weight room. As a qualifier, I’m definitely a novice in this field. But even I know when certain things are being done wrong. So, in honor of a previous post I wrote about horrible swimming strokes, I now give you: the five worst weight-room maneuvers in China.

1. The London Bridge – Specifically the “is falling down” portion. There’s a small group of middle-aged men who come into the weight room all the time, and virtually live on the bench press. Instructions for their technique would go something like this: put far more weight than is healthy on the bar; lie down beneath the bar; hoist the bar, lower it; lift the bar, arching your back as far up as you can (ideally you would look like one half of a parentheses here); make sure all the force for the lift is coming from your abdomen and upper colon. This particular collective lift all the time, but each member has pectoral muscles that look like withered party balloons, and bellies that are pooched-out, as though all were diabetic. That tends to happen when you lift entirely with your colon. “Falling down,” indeed. I’m waiting for the day when one of them snaps his spine in half.

2. The Tarzan – You wouldn’t consider yelling and posturing to be a standard weight-room maneuver. (“Standard,” as opposed to “common.”) I’ve always thought it to be more appropriate among, say, gorillas, for whom yelling and posturing is a legitimate form of social expression. Yet somehow it’s standard here, too. The guys who lift tend to do one set, preferably with as much gasping or yelling as possible, then go to stand in front of the mirrors lining one wall and stare at themselves for at least ten minutes, usually while flexing different muscle groups in turn. One guy in particular accompanies his lifting with shouts and shrieks of such volume and intensity that when he’s working out you feel like you’ve accidentally walked into a Khmer Rouge torture cell instead of the campus weight room. I predict he’s going to be not only mute, but without effective joint or cartilage fluid in under five years due to the amount he keeps trying to curl.

3. The Hungry Hungry Caterpillar – Much thanks to Eric Carle and his beloved children’s book for this one. Anyone out there ever actually seen a hungry hungry caterpillar move? They crawl with a kind of accordion motion, drawing momentum from their rear and extending that wave-like from body section to body section, finally ending in a kind of slow-motion whip-crack at the front end. That would be precisely how 90% of the guys look on the pull-up bar here. They hang from the bar, puffing dramatically by way of preparation, then whip-saw their feet out and back, using the momentum to yank themselves up. One guy, who is admittedly VERY well built, prefers tying a ten-kilo weight to his waist with a length of chain and whip-sawing himself about like a flag in a high wind while he “pulls up.” You don’t have to be a licensed physician to guess what that’s doing to his, and their, shoulders. And as I wait for one of the London Bridge guys to snap his spine, I wait, too, for one of the hungry hungry caterpillars to shriek, then fall to the floor with his arms still clinging to the pull-up bar, shoulders ripped out of their sockets.

4. The Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em – Remember M.C. Hammer’s signature running-man dance move? (If you do, you’re over 30 and/or have horrible taste in music.) I think of that whenever I look at one particular student on the exercise bike here. He has apparently decided to create a new exercise combo which fuses vigorous biking with push-ups. He never sits down on the bike, and as he bobs up and down as fast as he can, with each down-pedal he also drops his torso and head to a near-collision point with the bike handlebars, then pushes up, eyeing his biceps as he does so. It really does look like he’s dancing. Injury prediction? His hands are going to lose purchase on the handlebars one of these days when he’s snapping down into his “push-up” posture and he’ll go head-first into the metal support rod. They’ll just chuck his unconscious body onto a pile with the other guys.

5. The Good-Night – There actually is a lifting maneuver called a Good Morning which is done almost entirely with the back, but it’s something you should only attempt if you’re a VERY experienced professional. For some reason it’s becoming more and more popular these days in our weight room. The first time I saw it, two of the London Bridge guys had set up a bar on the floor with at lest twenty kilos on each side. I was stretching on the other side of the room, and only noticed them because I heard them shouting and shrieking. I looked over and saw them straining, and I mean REALLY straining, to lift this bar while bent over at the waist. No pushing up with the legs, no bracing against something, just bending over at the waist and attempting to lift a very heavy bar. Seriously, what do these guys have against their spines?


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