A few days ago I publicly stated I was going to get ripped this year. The first step in getting ripped is finding a simple workout plan. As a beginner, good form is a priority lest I injure myself. The heaviest object I lift on a daily basis is my dinner plate. If my wife goes all out on breakfast with scrambled eggs, sausage, and biscuits, it’s my breakfast plate. But usually it’s dinner. Anything heavier than a plate of food is progress.
From a full body standpoint, I’m not as strong as I’d like to be. Aside from yard work, my body doesn’t get much of a workout except for my legs when I run. My legs are strong. The rest of me: not strong. There’s an imbalance. To correct this imbalance, I started looking for seated chair workouts with dumbbells since the emphasis within this type of workout is strengthening your core. If you have a strong core, your entire body benefits. Right now my core and lower back rely heavily on my legs and arms to do all the work.
I’m weak in my opinion — painfully weak. I don’t have a manual labor job. I once did but it’s a thing of the past now. Today my days are spent sitting at a desk and working on a computer. Because of modern conveniences, I no longer even need to hold a pen or pencil which, at the least, works my forearms a smidgen. All I do is press my fingers down on a keyboard and voila! words and code appear. If carpel tunnel was a workout, I’d win Mr. Olympia.
In 1895, H.G. Wells wrote and published the novella The Time Machine. Wells’ book is the basis for what we think of when we think of time travel. If I were able to travel back in time to the era of my grandfathers, one who was a plumber and the other who farmed, I have no doubt both would crush me in an arm wrestling competition even though both were significantly smaller than me from a build standpoint. My dad, too, based on one simple fact: he cut and split his own firewood on a daily basis for our outdoor wood stove. He may have had an ice cream belly when he was my age, but his forearms were massive.
In 2016, Men’s Health published the article Why Men Are Weaker Today Than 30 Years Ago. It’s based on a research study by the Journal of Hand Therapy (it’s a thing apparently), which found that men’s grip and pinch strength is considerably lower than that of their dads at the same age thirty years prior. Grip strength is a marker for overall health and strength in men.
When I pulled up the YouTube video from Hotel Workout titled Seated Upper Body: Chair Workout, beside me were two 20 lb. dumbbells. I don’t know what I was thinking. I couldn’t even complete one full repetition from the first exercise, a curl press, before hitting pause and running upstairs to grab my daughter’s bright pink 9 lb. weights I snagged for her at Play It Again Sports.
For the record: I can curl a 20 lb. dumbbell and then some. What I can’t do is curl the dumbbell then lift it above my head over and over. This has more to do with a weak core than noodle arms. I’m not a powerlifter by any stretch, but my arms aren’t that weak. My core is though.
To avoid bad form and ensure I do the exercises as they are intended to be done, I clicked the Settings cog and adjusted the playback speed to 0.5. With the speakers up and the video rolling tape at half speed, the woman leading the workout sounded like she was medicated on quaaludes.
She kept asking, “How are you feeling?”
All I could muster was, “My arms are burning.”
I used to laugh at those Richard Simmons workout videos when I was a kid; but that guy, who was no spring chicken when those videos used to air nationally, would run circles around me. He’d probably do jumping jacks on my corpse, too.
By dropping 11 lbs. from my dumbbells, the 9 lb. weights made it possible to follow along and stick to good form. After the curl press, I moved on to the curl lateral, pelvic lift, row, reach, external rotation, heel lift, rear delt, and spine twist — exercises I have never heard of in my entire life much less done. Well, maybe the spine twist. I think I did that by accident one day scrambling for a loose ball in basketball.
But man oh man did this seemingly easy seated chair workout kick my butt sideways. Here are a few questions that went through my head after coming to following the seated chair workout:
Did I feel like a chump because 9 lb. weights was all I could manage?
You bet I did. But it’s progress. Yesterday, I lifted no lb. weights. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. The same as the day before. In a few months those 20 lb. weights for this workout may not seem like such a pipe dream. Right now I envision them sitting on the floor sticking out their imaginary tongue and talking about how weak I am behind my back. But until then, 9 lb. weights are a step in the right direction.
Even if they are bright pink.
Am I able to complete this seated chair workout 3-5 days a week?
Yes. If I summoned up enough strength and willpower to do it from start to finish on day one, I can do it again. If I’m not able to remain consistent, I will fail. Consistency is key.
Would I recommend this video to others who are interested in getting started strength training?
Absolutely. You may need to do what I did and start with a lower weight than you thought. There’s no shame in using 3 or 5 lb. weights either nor in using body weight depending on your current strength level, age, or injury history. I’ve torn my shoulder labrum in both arms twice and my rotator cuff once so I have to be careful with lifting anything above my head.
Who knows? Maybe in July of this year, I can take Robbie up on his offer to do indoor rock climbing.
Thanks for reading. I hope you found this essay a touch humorous and maybe even a little inspiring. Subscribe below to get updates of new posts by email:
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