Sunday, March 31, 2019

Maximum Effort - Part One - John McCallum

George Handle was a young man who trained rather vigorously in a small downtown commercial gym. George had been training for three years now and, it must be admitted, didn't look too bad. He didn't look too good, either, but he didn't look too bad. Results, however, had been slow of late. Progress was dropping off and George's spirits were dropping with it.

One Monday evening as George came in for his workout, the gym owner called him into the office. 

"Georgie, my boy," he boomed. "So nice to see you again." 

"Again?" George said. "You just saw me on Friday." 

"Did I?" the gym owner said. "Amazing how the time flashes past." He put his hand to his forehead. "Sort of scares you, doesn't it?" 

"Not really," George said. "I mean I never thought about it before." He cleared his throat. "Is there something you wanted?" 

The gym owner pointed to a filing card on his desk. "I've been going over your record, Georgie." He studied the card a moment longer and then looked up. "Did you know you have the same name as a very famous composer?" 

"I know," George said. "George Frederick Handel. The spelling's different."

"Different?" the gym owner said. "How many ways can you spell George?"

"Not George," George said. "Handel. The E and the L are reversed. My parents were wild about Handel's music and that was the best they could do." 

The gym owner thought it over for a moment and then his face brightened. "So they gave you the same handle," he chortled.

George coughed slightly.

"Get it?" the gym owner said. "Handle. They gave you the same handle." 

"Yeah, right," George said. "I thought it was funny as hell the first time I heard it. I was about four at the time." 

The gym owner's face fell. "I see," he said. He studied the filing card again. "Anyway, Georgie, in looking at your card I happened to notice that you're about three months behind in your dues." 

"I know," George said. "Does it matter?" 

"Matter?" the gym owner said. "Not a bit, my boy. Why would it matter? I'll just give up a few incidentals like food and it won't matter at all." 

"I'm sorry about it," George said. "I ain't been working, you know, and I'm a little short on bread." 

"A most interesting tale," the gym owner said. "Most interesting. I'll lay it on the sherriff when he comes to evict me." 

George slumped into a chair. "Look," he said. "I just can't pay you right now. I'm sorry." 

"I'm sorry too, Georgie," the gym owner sighed. "But the wheels of commerce grind exceedingly hard." 

"I gotta have some place to train," George said. "Can't we work something out?" 

The gym owner tilted back in his chair and studied the ceiling. "You know, Georgie, it's strange you should say that." 

George's eyes narrowed. "Is it?" he said. "Why?" 

The gym owner took a pen off the desk and looked carefully at the point of it. "Actually," he said, "I've been looking for someone to work on a little program I have in mind. Someone sufficiently motivated," he added.

George stood up. "And so you went through all the files looking for somebody who was behind on their dues so you could pressure them into being a guinea pig." 

The gym owner leered. "I figure training my way's better'n not training at all." 

"How long would your program take?" George asked him.

"Not long," the gym owner said. "A couple of months." 

"And you'd waive all the back dues?" 

"Waive, hell," the gym owner said. "I'll hold them in abeyance for a while." 

George spun around on his heel. "Goodnight," he said.

The gym owner ran after him. "Hold it," he yelled. "Wait a minute." 

George stopped and looked back.

"It ain't gonna be all one-sided, you know," the gym owner said. "You'll get terrific results from this program." 

George waited.

"You ain't been gaining all that well, lately," the gym owner said. "You could stand something different." 

"I don't need anything different," George said. "I need something good." 

"This is good," the gym owner told him.

"And I'll make gains?" George asked.

"I guarantee it," the gym owner said. "You'll make more progress in the next couple months than you woud've believed possible." He put his hand to his mouth. "If you live through it."

George leaned forward. "Pardon?" 

"I said it's an interesting program and you'll enjoy it," the gym owner said.

"And if I don't do it?" George asked him.

The gym owner sighed. "Then, my boy," he said, "I'm afraid I shall have to invoke clause twelve of the collective agreement." 

"Which means?" 

"Pay up or we boot you out." 

George slumped. "You got me." 

"Good," the gym owner said. "I thought you'd listen to reason." He draped an arm around George's shoulders and steered him to the locker room. "Jump into your sweatsuit, my boy, and we'll put you on the path to a Mr. Universe title." 

"Now," the gym owner said, when George was ready, "you'll be working four days a week on a split routine. Legs, chest, and upper back on Mondays and Thursdays; shoulders, arm, and lower back on Tuesdays and Fridays." 

"What's so special about a split routine?" George asked him. "I've done them before." 

"It isn't the routine that's special," the gym owner told him. "It's the way you'll be doing it." He sat down on a bench. "I've been hearing a few reports about this system and I read a couple of articles about it, and I saw it mentioned in a Strength & Health article about Casey Viator. A guy named Art Jones seems to have perfected it." 

"What is it called?" George asked.

"I don't know what it's called," the gym owner said. "But the idea, as I understand it is to tire out the muscle you want to develop before you start the heavy stuff. You want the muscle weakened relative to the assisting muscles. Then you work on a basic exercise until it's absolutely impossible to budge the weight in any position." 

"That sounds pretty rough," George said.

It does indeed," said the gym owner, and we're truly fortunate to have a young man of sound mind and limb yourself who volunteer his services for this experiment."

The gym owner took a piece of paper out of his pocket. "I took a few notes from the Strength & Health article," he said, "and then I added a few ideas of my own. You're gonna do it like this: 

"You're gonna do it like this:

"You'll work your thighs first," he said. "The basic exercise will be the squat, but you'll tire you'll tire your thighs with leg presses and thigh extensions. You'll do one set of leg presses, a set of thigh extensions, and a set of squats in that order. You'll take no rest at all between exercises. You'll do them in fairly high reps. And, most important of all, you'll do each exercise to the point of compete failure - until you can't budge the weight even a fraction of an inch." 

George stepped back. "You gotta be kidding." 

"Not at all," the gym owner said. "It takes sense to me. You wouldn't mind having legs like Casey Viator, would you?

"You really think that could happen?" George asked.

I have every confident," the gym owner said.

"Now, don't forget, the idea is to tire out your thighs with the presses and extensions so that they're temporarily weaker than your hips and back. The you can work your thighs to death on the squats without your lower back giving out on you. It should by possible to work your legs harder than you've ever worked them before - right into the ground."

The gym owner slapped George on the back. "Now," he said, "get in there. Give it everything you've got and don't worry - I can have an inhalator crew here in five minutes."

George crawled under the platform and started his leg presses. He made 16 reps and then stopped.

"C'mon, c'mon," the gym owner said. "You're not even warmed up yet." 

George shoved the platform up again. He made another rep and another and at 21 he stopped again.

For crisake," the gym owner shouted. "You're nowhere near your limit. Get going!"

George pushed again. The platform moved slowly up. He did three more reps, each one slower than the last, and then the platform collapsed on the stops.

"Push!" the gym owner shouted. "You're not even trying." 

George pushed. The platform moved three inches and then settled back.

"Again!" the gym owner yelled.

George pushed again. The platform jiggled slightly.

"Harder!" the gym owner yelled.

George strained. His legs trembled but the platform didn't move.

"Okay," the gym owner said. "On to the extensions." 

He dragged George out from under the platform, jerked him to his feet and pushed him on to the thigh extension machine.

George's opened and closed but no sound came out.

"C'mon, c'mon, for crisake," the gym owner said. "I ain't got all day, you know." 

George did 22 extensions with his mouth open and his eyes closes and his fingers digging into the padding on the bench and then he strained against the weight until it wouldn't budge.

"Okay," the gym owner said. "Let's not dawdle." He pulled George out of the machine. George's legs buckled and he fell against the side of the bench.

"All right, let's not fool around," the gym owner said. "Other people are waiting to use the equipment, you know." 

He shoved George to the squat rack.

"My legs," George whispered. 

"Never mind your legs," the gym owner said. "Think about your dues." He pushed George's head under the bar. "Get going!" 

George did 14 squats and looked at the gym owner with glazed eyes.

"Keep going!" the gym owner yelled. "Man, when I was your age I used to train harder than that for the sheer sport of it." 

George did another shaky squat and then another.

"Harder!" the gym owner said.

George dropped down, came up a few inches, and then sank down again. He strained until his thighs trembled and then sank lower. The gym owner rushed over and hauled the weight off his back and George rolled over backwards on to the floor.

"There, the gym owner said. "That makes the old blood circulate, doesn't it?" 

George rolled on to his stomach and mumbled. 

The gym owner leaned down. "Pardon?" 

"I'm gonna be sick," George whispered.

"Nonsense, my boy. Nonsense," the gym owner said. "Just take a little rest and we'll get on with the rest of the program . . . 

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