Once upon a time when I started this blog, I made some promises. One of those promises was that I wouldn't blog about "my body." This post may or may not cross that line, but today JM and I started a weight-training program. I have not had a hard core weight-lifting regimen since before the car wreck that fucked up my shoulder and neck a few years ago. Repeated attempts to get back into lifting resulted in re-injury, meaning I would end up back in the old neck brace. It wasn't worth it. So I just went with all the cardio exercises and yoga and pilates, and trusted that this would maintain strong, healthy muscles. And for the most part, I guess it has.
But when JM mentioned that he was interested in training with weights, I bit. We even bought a book, which is JM's way (ask him about his books on cleaning the house or individual retirement accounts). This book is called New Rules of Lifting. There's one for men and one for women, but since JM doesn't have masculinity issues (and I apparently do), we bought the one for women. The cover says "how to lift like a man and look like a goddess."
I actually don't aspire to either of these, nor do I appreciate the author's attempts to appeal to women by using punning chapter titles such as "Core of Babylon"--does he know that he's replacing whore?--but I do like the philosophy of this book, which goes against most everything I've ever been taught about weight training.
The author claims that isolating and working little muscles to exhaustion (e.g., bicep curls, tricep extensions, etc.) accomplishes little in terms of the body's overall strength and capacity. Instead, the book promotes weight-training exercises that work a lot of muscle groups at once, and they all involve core muscles (e.g., squats, upright row, pushups). The argument here is that these exercises train the muscles in the way we use them everyday, imitating movements that are familiar to us like standing and sitting (squats) or picking one's self up off the ground--though I guess in academia that's more typically metaphorical.
The book gives, like, 10 different workouts. And it occurred to me when I was working on the step-ups with dumbbells, that the isolation approach might be exactly why I kept reinjuring myself. If I stick with movements that recruit other muscles as well, I might avoid injury. And yes, I know that this is the very logic in favor of isolation exercises--that the muscles will get stronger precisely because they can't recruit bigger muscles to help. But I'm willing to suspend that in the interest of experimentation. I'm pretty sure I won't end up looking like Athena, but maybe--just maybe--I'll be able to avoid the neck brace.