This is a story about a workout that I witnessed somebody perform about 10 years ago in a university gym in Canada. It’s a true story (just ask the ambulance driver!).Now, if you’ve spent any time in a gym, you’ve probably seen people using exercise form that is less than perfect. What I was about watch, however, was the most atrocious exercise technique I’ve ever seen in all my years of training.
It was about 1 in the afternoon and I was just starting into my workout when I noticed “Dave” (not his real name) lay down on the bench adjacent to the one I was on. Like me, he was doing flat barbell bench press that day.
He was fairly short, medium build, wearing a tank top to show off what he plainly thought was a magnificent physique. It wasn’t, let me tell you that right now.
“Dave” proceeded, without an ounce of warm-up, to load 225 pounds on the bar. He convinced some poor sap to spot for him then took the weight off the rack. It dropped straight down onto his chest like a stone. His spotter freaked out and pulled desperately to get the bar off his chest while “Dave” struggled and kicked to get the weightup. It was a titanic struggle. He looked like a fish out of water with a tomato stuck on his head. That’s how red in the face he was.
Finally, they got the weight up and his spotter attempted to put the bar back on the rack.
“Dave” said “What are you doing? I’ve got 5 more reps!”
I almost choked. This was going to be an interesting workout…
“Dave” finished off by struggling out 2 more reps, then did 2 more sets just like that (with a new spotter each time, of course – nobody in their right mind would go through that twice!). “Dave” must have learned his lesson though, because instead of letting the bar drop and stop like on his first set, this time he actually bounced the thing off his rib cage like a trampoline, arching his back like he was being electrocuted.
It was time for squats. Now, I wasn’t supposed to do legs that day but I just had to see this spectacle so I did legs anyway, just to be in the area.
“Dave” put 315 pounds on the bar right away. I watched him wrap his knees and cinch his lifting belt so tight he looked like a toothpaste tube that had been squeezed in the middle.
He recruited another sucker… I mean spotter, for his first set. He stepped under the bar, unracked it, stepped back and started to lower it.
It was like putting a bowling ball on a celery stick. His legs were shaking like Elvis on 10 cups of coffee. His back was so rounded over, you could have set a dinner plate between his shoulder plates without dropping a potato. He lowered the bar exactly three inches then held his breath and began to try and come back up. No luck. His spotter stepped in, helped him back up and tried to guide him to the racks. No dice. He immediately dropped back down again. Two inches this time. I swear his knees didn’t shake this time simply because they bowed in so much, they were braced up against each other!
He made his spotter do one more rep after that one, dropping only an inch on the last rep. Two more sets just like that followed.
By this time I had pretty much scrapped my workout for the day, completely out of morbid curiosity. I told the weight room attendant to dial “9” and “1” and keep their finger on the “1.” His workout wasn’t over yet!
“Dave” unloaded the bar then set up in the same rack for barbell curls. He put a pair of 35’s on the bar, which he had no business even doing for the “squats” he had just finished with, much less for barbell curls.
Luckily, he hadn’t yet uncinched his lifting belt from the previous exercise, thereby saving precious seconds of time and, also, evidently cutting off the flow of blood to his brain.
He stepped up to the bar, took as wide a grip as I’ve ever seen anyone take on a bar, then lifted it to the start position. He took a deep breath and held it. Then, with totally straight and locked legs, he thrust his rear end backwards then forcefully thrust his hips forward, catapulting the bar up and off his thighs. He looked like he was trying to ring a doorbell with his hip bone.
The bar made it about halfway up before he locked his elbows and leaned back about 45 degrees to keep it moving.
Finally, the weight made it to the top. He held it there for a microsecond then dropped it heavily to his thighs.
Then he did it again. And again. And again.
The only good thing I can say about it is at least he had the decency not to subject a spotter to it this time.
I sat there wondering what he could possibly come up with for a finale and I was not disappointed.
He walked, or rather, strutted over to the pec deck and set the pin to the bottom of the weight stack.
I motioned at a few nearby people to watch this as I felt something special was coming.
He sat on the machine, arms covered in sweat. He wrestled one arm pad up to the center position. Impressive. He turned and, with Herculanean effort, wrestled the other one to the center position. Veins starting popping out and his face was beet red.
I had a feeling this was it.
I was right.
With the loudest bang I’ve ever heard, both his arms slipped off the pads, the weight came crashing down, and “Dave” was shot 6 feet straight out of the machine across the floor, skidding on his face right at somebody’s feet.
Now, as an adult, I have never wet my pants, but I have to tell you, that moment was the closest I’ve ever come. That’s how hard I was laughing.
I didn’t see “Dave” back in that gym ever again.
The moral of the story? Big weights only look cool if you can lift them without getting shot 6 feet across the floor on your face.
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Nick Nilsson is Vice-President of the online personal training company BetterU, Inc. (http://www.fitstep.com). He has a degree in Physical Education and Psychology and has been inventing new training techniques for more than 14 years. Nick is the author of a number of bodybuilding eBooks including “The Best Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of” and “Gluteus to the Maximus: Build a Bigger Butt NOW!”, both available at (http://www.fitness-ebooks.com). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.