Monday, April 1, 2019

Maximum Effort, Part Two - John McCallum

George Handle lay on his stomach on the gym floor while the sweat formed a growing puddle under his face and the gym owner scribbled notes on a piece of paper.

"There," the gym owner said. "Recorded for posterity." He looked at George. "Upsy-daisy," he said. "Let's get with it." 

George made a gagging sound.

The gym owner walked over, hooked his hands under George's armpits, and jerked him to his feet. "Let's go," he said. "Time's a wastin'." 

He pushed George towards the leg press machine. George stumbled forward six steps, weaved to the side, and collapsed on the incline bench. He lay back and closed his eyes.

"C'mon," the gym owner said. "You're supposed to do another set." 

George shook his head. "Wiped out," he whispered.

"What d'ya mean, wiped out?" the gym owner said. "You're supposed to do another set of squats. That was the deal." 

George opened his eyes and looked at the gym owner. "No way, man," he said. "It'd kill me." 

The gym owner leaned over and peered closely at George. "All right," he said. "Call me a sentimental old fool, but I'll let you off with one set tonight." 

He scribbled some more notes on the paper. "Now," he said, "on to the chest work." He pulled George up to his feet and steered him to the prone bench. "This is the ideal time for chest work," he said, "now that you're all warmed up from the squats and raring to go." 

George's knees buckled but the gym owner caught him before he could fall. "Yessir," he said. "Once you get the old blood pumping through the muscles, chest work becomes an absolute pleasure." 

He dropped George on the bench.

"Now, he said. "The basic exercise will be the bench press, and you'll use the same principle on your chest that you did on your legs. You'll do a direct pectoral exercise first, and then work on the bench press until you can't budge the weight a fraction of an inch." He beamed at George. "Doesn't that sound interesting?" 

George made a sobbing sound.

"Yessir," the gym owner said. "There's many a young man who'd give his eye-teeth for the opportunity you've got. A chance to train under the watchful and personalized care of an expert." 

He put a foot on the bench, leaned his elbow on his knee, and adopted his best professional manner. "Remember," he said. "The trouble with using the bench press purely as a chest exercise is that your arms get such a terrific workout too." 

George opened his eyes again.

"Not that there's anything wrong with working your arms," the gym owner said, "but in most cases, your arms will give out before your chest is sufficiently worked. It's like the weak link in the chain. Your arms can be completely exhausted and your chest might not even be stimulated." 

George sat up.

"Therefore," the gym owner said, "the trick will be to tire out your pectorals before you start the bench presses. That way your arms will be relatively fresh and you can work your chest hard enough for real big gains." 

George wiped the sweat off his face. "And you figured all that out yourself, eh?" 

The gym owner coughed slightly. "Actually, no," I read it in an article by Arthur Jones." He took his foot off the bench. "I did, however, recognize immediately the wisdom of it and perceived it as the most practical method of developing a magnificent body." He leered at himself in the mirror. "Something like my own." 

George closed his eyes again.

"Anyway," the gym owner said - he walked over to the rack, brought back two dumbbells, and set them down beside the bench - "anyway, you're going to do the flying exercise on the flat bench and then the bench press. You'll do the flyes first and then the bench press immediately after with no rest at all between the two. And you'll do both exercises to the point of complete failure - to your absolute limit." 

George cleared his throat. "Like I ain't really all that excited about it, you know." 

"True," the gym owner said. "Very true. I, however, am." 

"Why don't you do the work, then?" George asked.

"Because," the gym owner said, "I am the boss and don't you forget it." 

"Now," he said, "take hold of the dumbbells." 

George took hold of the dumbbells.

"Lift them, you idiot," the gym owner snarled. "You can't exercise while they're on the floor." 

George hauled the dumbbells to his chest and lay back on the bench.

"Okay," the gym owner said. "The flying exercise. Let's go." 

George pushed the dumbbells over his chest and lowered them out to the side for the first repetition. 

"Don't bend your arms too much," the gym owner told him. "Get a good stretch on your pecs." 

George did two more reps.

"Lower," the gym owner said. "Make it tough." 

George did two more reps and then paused for breath.

"C'mon, c'mon," the gym owner said. "Let's get with it." 

George did another rep and then stopped.

"For crisake, Georgie, let's get going," the gym owner said. "I can't wait around here all day." 

George let the dumbbells fall out to the sides and then, with his teeth gritted and his arms visibly shaking, pulled them over his chest again.

"Once more," the gym owner said.

The dumbbells fell out to the sides. George strained against them for 10 seconds before they crashed to the floor.

"Watch it, man," the gym owner said. "That carpet's six bucks a yard." 

George sat up and clutched his pectorals. "I'm getting a cramp," he gasped.

"And I'm getting a headache," the gym owner said. "Get back down there." He put his hand on George's head and pushed him back on the bench. "The bench press comes next," he said.

"I gotta have a rest," George whispered.

"No rest," the gym owner told him. "We already discussed that." He took the bench press bar off the supports and held it for George. 

"C'mon," he said. "This thing's getting heavy."

"I can't," George said. "Not yet." 

"Grab it," the gym owner said, "or I'll drop it on your head." 

George took the bar.

"Now press," the gym owner told him.

George pressed while the gym owner shouted the count at him.

The presses got slower. 

"Nine!" the gym owner said. "Keep going!" 

George arched his back and got three more slow reps.

"Twelve!" the gym owner yelled. "Get another!" 

George bounced the bar off his chest, arched his back and pressed it to the sticking point.

"Push!" the gym owner shouted.

The bar moved slowly upward.

"Keep it going!" the gym owner screamed.

George locked his arms. 

"Thirteen!" the gym owner said. "Get another!" 

The bar bounced off George's chest, moved upward three inches, and fell back. 

"Push!" the gym owner shouted. 

George pushed till the saliva sprayed from his lips.

"C'mon, man," the gym owner said. "I'm getting cold standing here." 

The bar pressed deeper into George's chest. He rolled his eyes wildly.

The gym owner stepped forward and took the bar. "That's disappointing," he said. "I figured on 15 reps."

George sat up and gulped in air. His pecs were pumped hard and beet red. "What d'ya think?" he gasped.

The gym owner squinted at him. "I'd say about a D cup," he said.

George lay back on the bench again. "Man, that's like too much." 

"Take a good rest," the gym owner said. You got two more sets." 

George wiped his face. "No way," he said.

"And don't give me any more of that no way crap," the gym owner said. "I let you off with one set of squats. You ain't conning me out of the bench presses." 

George rested five minutes, and then he did two more sets of flyes and bench presses. 

"Great," the gym owner said. "And now we slip into the lat work." 

"I think maybe I'll slip home," George said.

"Lat machine pulldowns and the regular rowing exercise," the gym owner told him. "No pause between them, and each one done to the point of compete failure." 

George did three sets of pulldowns and rowing with a five minute rest between cycles and then he sat on a bench with his arms wrapped around his torso and groaned.

"There," the gym owner said. "That wasn't so bad, was it?" 

George said, "It was worse." 

"Go home now," the gym owner told him, "get a good night's sleep, and tomorrow night you can do the other half of the program." 

"Maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll die during the night," George muttered. 

"I hope not," the gym owner said. "I'd hate to start all over again."

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