Rich helped me with diet and training back in the 1980's and won the Pan American Championships in bodybuilding and also placed well in the Mr. America. He had a physique like Tim Belknap- if anyone remembers him. Massive dude. His workouts and intensity were legendary in those days, everyone knew his name in the Maryland /DC area if they were into bodybuilding. And bodybuilding was pretty cool back then. It didn't even seem like the competing was a big deal. It was the training. Platz, the Barbarian Brothers, Franco, Viator. Strong guys who trained like crazy, lifting heavy ass weights and looking healthy while they did it.
Rich has been a personal trainer since the early 90's in the Washington DC area. He has made a very good living out of it, all the while maintaining his integrity and not selling out to the bosu ball crowd. And that's what he talked to me about today. He was telling me how it really was in the gyms where he trains folks, what he sees that is so freaking unreal. Men using 2.5 pound dumbells , no squats or deadlifts being performed, nobody breaking a sweat from a real, gut busting workout. He was saying how the other trainers in his gyms where he works thinks that he is crazy, and that he is wrong for having his clients do the basic stuff that works. He was getting agitated as he was telling me about it, lamenting the fact that it was a symptom of our society: Weak minded folks who want results but don't want to to put in the work. "You wouldn't believe it, Jimmy!", he said, his voice rising. "It's crazy, it doesn't even make sense what they have the clients do!" I told him that he was a dinosaur and he agreed.
It should be the opposite, but it isn't and I wonder where and when it all changed. And just why did it all change? When did this huge separation between the hard lifters and the gimmicky "trainers" begin? It's pretty recent, I believe. It wasn't that long ago that if you lifted weights, you did the basics, because that's all there was, the squats, deadlifts, presses. And then, at some point, abdominal training became this huge thing, and they became a bodypart that the magazines told you that you HAD to have visible to be in shape. Not a huge back, huge quads or huge traps and shoulders. Abdominal training and the dreaded CORE word came into vogue, and the crunching began, and along with the ever present environment crushing unbelievably stupid water bottle(Oh my god! A water fountain! What is that thing?) the fitness "revolution" began. Never mind that doing a press , deadlift, and squat works your abs more than crunches and in a way that they were supposed to work, the ball got rolling and the gimmicks took over.
But you know what? Although I share Rich's frustration about it, I secretly sorta enjoy it. Because there is an underground movement rising up against it- witness the success of Rippetoe's stuff, of Wendler's stuff, of the Purposeful Primitive. The Meat Eating Crowd has a following (I know, Paleo, but its been around forever)that has gained some acceptance, proving that the York boys and the original Golds Gym crowd were right about about that stuff long a go. So it's there, it is special and here lies the rub: Once folks get a taste of real strength and the exhilaration of a hard fought set of squats, they are hooked. It brings them to place where they feel tough, where there is immediate reward. A reward that will not and can not come from Dance Revolution or lateral raises to get you "toned"......