Saturday, June 14, 2008

Power Cage

What a great name for an apparatus. This one is built by Body-Solid. They call it a power rack, but I like "cage". The language is more muscular somehow.

The power cage is the world's greatest spotter. It doesn't help when you don't need it, and it never fails when you do. You can use it to hold up heavy weights or to keep them from crushing you if something goes wrong. You can pull a bench inside or use the top for a pullup bar. It's not just a great tool, it's a place to be.

For me, the power cage is a symbol of my most ambitious strength goals. It's where I do my heaviest lifting. If I ever build a home gym, a bench and a cage will be my first apparatus purchases.

The cage is also where I load the bar for deadlifts. It inspires me somehow. Yesterday, I started there, and after running out of gas after one set the day before, I lifted a new personal best. It was a great start to a great workout that focused on my chest and upper back.

One thing though -- proper form is crucial when you do this lift, and proper form requires you to keep the bar movement as vertical as possible, right up against your shins and thighs. I made the mistake of wearing shorts and no leg wraps and really barked up my shins on the knurled part of the bar. I'll remember to cover them next time.

One of the guys I really admire approached me during my workout yesterday. He complimented me on my progress, then asked what I was eating to lose weight. He's frustrated that he can't drop pounds. This is a guy who lifts close to his body weight on the bench. I've seen him on the stair climber for close to an hour at a time. He is tremendously fit and he's asking ME how I'm losing weight. I told him about smoothies, salads, fish, and an occasional cheese burger. I also said that when I get stuck, I make a change to my workout, never repeating the same routine twice. I didn't want to say too much because A) he doesn't really need my advice and B) I don't really know what I'm talking about anyway. It made me realize that even athletes can be distracted by an idealized body image.

On the other hand, there's a woman at the gym who has always struck me as a natural. She is lean and muscular and works out like a fiend. I have always admired her, not so much as a sexy woman - which she is - but as a role model for the kind of work ethic I want to bring to the gym. The other day, while talking with one of the handsome young men, she mentioned that she weighed over two-hundred pounds when she started at the gym! This woman is built like an olympian!

There's just no way to tell how your body is going to wind up. You can work your butt off, eat clean, and do everything else right, but ultimately your genes set the limits. One of these people looks like a gymnast, the other like a shot putter. Both inspire me and both work as hard as a person can work. They just have different programming. It's a little daunting to know that no matter how hard I go at it in the gym, my genetics and my age are only going to let me go so far. On the other hand, i really want to find out how far that is. Not so I can look like a body builder or a marathoner - but so I can look and feel like the best Pennsy possible.


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