The Ineffective Workout

The Ineffective Workout

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What follows is the sort of workout that is endemic throughout the world even for bodybuilders of next to no experience. In Cyprus the accepted wisdom is to get on this sort of routine as soon as possible- within a few months of joining the gym. Cyprus isn't much different from the rest of the world. This is pretty much how it is in gyms everywhere, and it applies equally to men and women.

After exiting from the changing room, the trainee picks up a lifting belt, which he wears for just about everything following abdominal work-even for the numerous little exercises. The trainee works his abdominal area with the obligatory two or three different exercises, even if he is an extremely skinny hard-gainer. After only 15 minutes or so of waist exercise, he begins to show signs of initial fatigue.

Next comes chest. First off are bench presses. Three or four progressive sets work up to three supposedly top sets. The intensity of effort given forth is tempered by the knowledge that there are another two or three chest exercises to go. Following the regular bench presses, the trainee sets up the incline bench and performs a similar number of sets. He's obviously becoming tired and cuts a few reps off even the "top" sets. The trainee now gets out dumbbells and does three sets of flys. The zest for training is gone, replaced instead by a wilting patience for so much work. With the dumbbells back in the rack, the trainee now plays with cable crossovers. He places himself in front of a large mirror, and it's his face that gets the most exercise as the grimacing features try to give the impression that the body is actually being trained.

With his chest pumped it's time to do something to the legs. Feeling rather worn out and wanting to be sure that his knees are completely warmed up, he starts with leg extensions, then follows four or five sets of these with the same amount of work on leg curls. Strange how his thighs feel pumped but not at all deeply worked over.

Sets of partial-depth leg presses are next, and after that, having read that squats are important, the trainee heads toward the squat rack. Warming up his knees has almost eradicated his already small appetite for squats, however. A few wishy-washy sets of squats-above parallel at that-end the thigh workout.

Shoulder work starts with lateral raises done in front of a large mirror. The grimacing image and the beat of the music coming out of the adjacent speaker synchronize. A pity that the synchronization is no compensation for the tiny dumbbells that the trainee is waving around. With the opening four sets of laterals finished, it's time for presses behind the neck. Because his shoulders are so tired, he can only take a small barbell from the stands to get the exercise started. Another four sets later and he loads an even smaller barbell for upright rows. The exercise has become a joke as he throws the reps up with momentum produced by his legs and lower back.

The final lap now. Just triceps to go today. Three sets each of lying overhead presses, pushdowns and dumbbell kickbacks bring the dying workout to its death.

There's no elation from a workout done well-just a relief of another workout done and gone. The mind tries to block out the thought of having to return to the gym tomorrow to do the other half of the split routine-the calf, back, biceps and forearm work.

There is no challenge of competing with previous poundage and rep bests. No pushing a set to its true limit. Even subconsciously there's the urge to save energy for later work. The high of real effort is never experienced. The joy of handling substantial poundages is but a faded memory. The pain of the gain has become the frustration of the stagnation.

Though the initial few weeks of the routine saw the trainee achieving some increase in poundages, that's all in the past. Just getting through all the work is difficult enough. Adding poundage is out of the question. Another candidate for the long list of bodybuilding failures is but a few workouts away.

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