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You've noticed in the old movies, the strongmen? They don't look like much, do they. Barrel chests, but sort of spindly-looking arms. Not all that impressive. But oldtime strongmen really were strong. Really. Looking like that, they could lift grown men over their heads with one arm. Not the way dancers lift ballerinas, as a kind of balancing trick. Hoist them up and toss them around. And they did it with those average-looking arms.

Here's the clue. Don't look at the biceps, the arm muscle. Look at the delts, the corner shoulder muscles. We've been fooled, nowadays, into thinking that big manlyish guns are the same as strength. No. It's a part of strength, but by itself it's just a vanity thing, and functionally useless.

It's the whole package that counts, not some disproportionate bodypart that some dude thinks will make him impressive. All those curls, to pump up those arms, and the guy is still weak in terms of getting real work done. Nobody lifts boxes like doing curls. It's a weakest-link thing: all having disproportionately big biceps will do is give you an eventual injury, in the underdeveloped auxiliary muscles. Rrriiiiiiip.

You've seen them in the gym, all grunting and huffing, pumping up those guns. Grrr. And maybe they do something for the triceps as well, cuz they read an article to do that. And working those pecs, with maybe something for the lats because otherwise, um, well they're not quite sure but anyways just be sure to work each of those individual muscles.

Cuz gym bodies are so very attractive. Even though you can see that there's something a bit off, something not quite right, with the picture. Something about balance, about symmetry. It's not really, truly, the Classical Ideal, is it -- not at all like those eternal Greek statues. Something's askew.

Well. There's a lot of talk about the "core" -- by which seems to be meant, the abs. Yes, abs are very nice. But, again, it's not about bodyparts. What are we, grave robbers? -- Igors on a mission from the Doctor? -- with a shopping list for one brain (not evil), a spleen or two, and a half dozen posterior deltoids? The "core" is important because it's what supports everything else. We are not squids, all appendages. There has to be a core.

We say it a lot.  We're not a collection of body parts. It's the difference between pushups and benchpresses. With the benchpress, you're trying to isolate the upperbody pushing structure. You're on a bench.  Sounds so scientific. But in the meantime you're lying down, and nothing else is getting a workout. Is that how the body actually functions? When you have to push your Oldsmobile out of the ditch, you only use your arms? -- maybe first go look for a bench to lie on? Whereas with pushups, you have to support your midsection. It's working. It's part of the exercise.  Pushups are less work, and more. 

This is a very good thing.

You see the point. As much as is reasonable, all parts of the body should be used in all exercises. Whether it's golf, or bowling, or throwing or swimming ... the whole body is involved. Walking up the stairs, unloading groceries, getting out of the car. Exercise isn't about the individual muscles. It's about using the body the way bodies are used, only more intensely, and under control.

The oldtime strongmen knew what they were doing. They got strong by lifting heaving things off the floor to over their heads. They had no conception of isolating a muscle. How would that make them stronger? The application here is that strength, real strength, translates into beauty. If those oldtimers had wanted bigger arms, they could have gotten them. It was a different aesthetic. They were fundamentally right in their approach, whereas virtually everything you see in a modern machine-and-mirror gym is fundamentally wrong.

For almost everyone, the steroid-user workouts, the musclemag workouts that constitute the contemporary approach are totally ineffective. The essential hormonal signal is minimal. The aesthetic result is appealing only to the uninformed. Worse, the whole approach is largely a waste of time. That's why most people quit. That's why the time you've spent in the gym hasn't yielded the results you've wanted. How could those workouts give you good results? Since you didn't take steroids, they almost always have the effect of taking up a lot of your time and effort. If you have lots of time to waste, that's not so bad. But it was disappointing, eh?

If you want to gauge a man's real physical strength, don't look at his arms. Look one muscle up, at the delts. If he's got deltoids, he's most likely been doing real work, and gained real strength. Test it yourself. We do know a bit more about it all nowadays than the oldtimers. But us whippersnappers have become beguiled with a theory, like Narcissus falling in love with his reflection. Just a little pathetic.

It's  about a balanced approach. Be primarily pragmatic. Theories are comforting, but results are what matters. Practice should lead to success. If it doesn't, the technique is, well, garbage. Weights? Yes, absolutely. Some of the time. Isolation movements? Sure, once in a while.

But the body is not a collection of hinges. It is a spring. It all works together. It's great to  enjoy the benefits that come from this understanding put into practice.  Because exactly nobody has all the time in the world.  Time runs out.  Eventually there's no time left even for doing ineffective things sitting on a bench in front of a mirror.

Be excellent.


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