T Nation

The Greatest Gym in the World


By Keith Wassung

Scott tightened the laces of his Converse athletics shoes and then glanced at his watch. The digital display on his Timex sports watch read 9:53 am. Scott took a sip of coffee and looked around at the spacious and well designed locker room of his gym. It was a beautiful autumn Saturday and Scott was preparing for his traditional weekend battle with the weights. Scott was 37 years old had been training since he was in college.

He had been in many gyms and health clubs over the years including the upscale spas where they enthusiastically welcomed hard training when you were signing the membership application and then silently scorned and prohibited it as soon as the check had cleared. He had trained in the hardcore dungeon gyms that were filthy and loaded with demented characters. After years of searching for the perfect place to train, Carter�??s Gym had opened its doors in Scott�??s neighborhood a few years earlier and he was among the first to join. He loved everything about the place. You could leave your belongings in un-locked locker with complete confidence that they would be safe.

The locker room also had a hot tub as well as a washer and dryer where members could do a load of laundry while they trained. Scott�??s watch beeped signally him that it was the top of the hour and time to get the workout started. He walked across the locker room and through the door into the main floor of the gym. The left side of the gym was lined with state of the art exercise bikes, Concept Two rowing machines and cross training equipment. The majority of the room was devoted to resistance training and though free weights dominated the space, there was also a decent assortment of machines. All of the equipment had been selected by the owner on the basis of functional application, as opposed to aesthetic design appeal. The benches and racks were constructed of heavy gauge steel, with exposed welds and burrs.

The center of the free weight area featured a professional weightlifting platform, which was flanked by racks of olympic bumper plates and chalk boxes. There is no such thing as a bad gym, which contains a lifting platform.

A hand painted sign on the wall adjacent to the platform showed a modern hexagon barbell plate with a giant red circle and a diagonal slash through it, demonstrating the owners distaste for hexagon plates.

The right side of the gym contained boxing and martial arts equipment including a leather Everlast heavy bag, a speed bag and an assortment of old fashioned medicine balls. A small area by the back door contained resistance sleds and two weighted kegs, which members could take outside the gym and use in an adjacent vacant lot. The gym often attracted visiting athletes from all over the world and it was not un-common for Scott to occasionally lift next to professional bodybuilders and world class lifters.

Scott tossed his gym bag into the corner and climbed onto a Cardgirus Pro Model stationary bicycle for a quick warm-up. He began with a slow to moderate pace and quickly accelerated that as he navigated the difficult Tourmalet in the Pyrenees. Fifteen minutes later he was warm and ready to begin. Years earlier Scott had begun the habit of training his mid-section before anything else. Most people do their mid-section work at the end of their workout, which is another way of saying that they often skip it altogether. Scott had done this for many years, always promising himself that he would do abs at home while watching television. This of course had never happened to him or to anyone else in recorded human history.

He began his workout with incline sit-ups, an old school exercise that had fallen out of fashion with the exercise elite, but was still performed by boxers and mixed martial artists to strength and protect their midsection. Sit-ups in general were considered to be harmful to the lower back. When he was a kid, Scott had taken the annual presidential physical fitness test, which included doing as many bent knee sit-ups as possible in two minutes. This is how many kids learned to do sit-ups and when done in rapid-do as many as you can-it would of course lead to low back pain. Scott did his movements with a controlled cadence, slowly unlocking each vertebra until the back of his shoulders just barely touched the bench and then with little bounce, would sit back up. 15 reps per set for 3 sets, and then a 4th set with a 25lb plate held tightly against the upper body, which allowed him to only do 5 controlled reps.

Scott loaded a forty-five pound plate on each side of the bar to begin his barbell rows. He methodically applied chalk to each hand and then readied himself to begin his first warm-up set. His heavy calloused hands meshed perfectly with the sharp knurling of the stiff olympic bar and he began pulling the bar into his upper abdomen with a powerful precision. Barbell rows, when done properly, are a tremendous exercise and can help just about every other resistance movement, including squats, bench presses, deadlifts, overhead presses and both of the olympic lifts. Scott had learned many years earlier that the keys to a proficient barbell row was to set up in the strongest possible position-in the same way that a down lineman sets up in football and to time the breathing between reps. The barbell row puts a lifter into a position where the chest and lungs are somewhat constricted making breathing difficult, especially towards the latter part of the set. Scott had often observed guys in the gym doing rows who engaged in more heaving than a bulimic cheerleading squad. A little bit of body English on the heavier sets was permissible, but nothing more.

Scott finished up his rows and then performed several sets of chin-ups followed by snatch high pulls He then moved over to the power rack to perform five sets of power shrugs. When it came to upper back and trapezius development, Scott had never found a better exercise than the power shrug. Scott had never experienced DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) as the result of power shrugs, but rather IOMS (Immediate Onset Muscle Soreness)

Scott finished out his training with some front squats in the power rack. He trained legs twice a week, with one workout focusing on full squats and the second workout on front squats. He moved quickly through all of his sets and then loaded the bar for his last exercise of the day�??a torture set in which he would superset a set of front squat for 8 reps with set of full squats for 12 reps. This set would hurt, which is why he saved it for last. He was running out of time and considered passing on the last set when he noticed two beautiful women standing near him, watching him with great intensity. There was no way he was going to pass up a chance to impress them so he got under the bar and ground out each rep of the painful, yet very effective set. He could hear his two admirers encouraging him as he finished the final few reps. Scott re-racked the bar and hobbled out of the power rack and smiled at them. The shorter of the two ran towards him shouting �??Daddy�??, you�??re the strongest man in the world�??maybe even in the whole neighborhood�?? Scott hugged his 8 year old daughter and then looked up at his wife. She smiled back and said �??Well Mr. Carter, I hope you have worked up a good appetite, because lunch is just about ready�?? Scott replied �??I am hungry lets eat�?? He gathered his assortment of wrist wraps and tools and placed them in his training bag. As he was leaving the gym he turned around and took one last look at his garage gym, the bikes, wagons and scooters along the far wall jammed next to his rusty monarch stationary bike.

He looked at his power rack, the plywood platform, his bars and plates along with his homemade equipment and the stuffed laundry bag that served as his heavy bag. On the walls above the weights hung pictures of champions from the various iron sports including bodybuilding, weightlifting, power lifting and strongman. Scott often felt that their silent stare encouraged and motivated him during especially difficult training sessions. He turned off the light in the garage and walked through the laundry room thinking to himself that he had just completed another great workout in the greatest gym in the world.

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