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The Heart of the Matter


bodybuilder exercise

The questions we ask, the unknowns we face and the curiosity, wonder and inquiry that baffle our minds could fill the space between Earth and the shrinking planet Pluto (I miss Pluto). And I’m only talking about building muscle. What, good heavens, makes the process so difficult, heady and mysterious?

There ya go again—three more questions to clutter our limited space and ability to reason.

The answers are not in the brain matter alone; they’re in the heart of the matter—your instincts, the place between what you think and what you know. And the answers are in action, for without action the answers are mute.

More instinct and less brain and lots of action—that’s what I always say. My dad wanted me to go to college; I went to the gym. My mom wanted me make something big of myself; I bulked up.

I had a plan: work out, eat and play dumb. Inner wisdom resides in the least intelligent creatures and offers its insight in natural action. I find that comforting. But recommending that you apply basic instincts like dogs, cats or gorillas doesn’t suggest that you should curl up in the corner and scratch your fleas, or rub your back on the leg of the girl behind the juice bar and purr —feed me—or swing by one arm from the gym’s overhead-lighting fixtures.

Get serious. We’ve got work to do, muscle to build, fat to lose and a mind to expand. Coconut delts don’t grow on trees, and veins don’t appear like snakes on a plane. And where do you suppose muscular definition comes from, the dictionary? Ha!

You’re one of those who pedal to the all-you-can-eat smorgasbord to build mass and plan to get shredded, ripped and cut when you fall off your bike on the way home. Bodybuilders are a scream!

You need brains, instincts and action, bombers.

Instinctive training, or training by intuition or gut feeling, can be applied by anyone with a brain who has accomplished the training basics. That means any person, male or female, who is awake and aware, familiar with the essential resistance exercises and has practiced them sufficiently to know what muscles they engage and their nuances of action.

Some folks never get it; they and the iron remain separate. There is no affinity, no relationship, no communication, no understanding of, with or for the inert hunky stuff. Instinctive training is not for them. They need order, a defined routine, thoughtful change, prescribed sets and reps, starting and stopping points, occasional hand holding and lots of affirmation.

What they really need are hard work and eyes that see, a body that senses, the boldness to risk and a leap of faith.

We all have brains. Resources are endless, and it’s up to you to choose the direction to go—up, down, sideways, backward or forward—any of which can become entwined and tangled. Separate the good from the bad, the garbage from the hype, the poop from the scoop. Learn a little, practice a lot, and grow strong; you’ve been doing it since you were born. Don’t stop now; don’t make life more complicated.

Are there advantages to instinct-guided training? How does one recognize instincts and, thus, apply them? Where do they come from? Can they be trusted? How do we differentiate between intuition, whim, guesswork, randomness and laziness?

This naturally hidden and purposely concealed characteristic cannot necessarily be called up; it must be prodded, nudged and stirred up. And though instinct cannot be fully revealed, we can catch a glimpse of its mysterious workings.

Do not confuse instinct with whim; they are not the same. Instincts are inner knowledge; whims are external emotion.

Instincts direct us forward; whims lead us into trouble. Instincts behave like warriors wearing armor; whims, like loons, run around naked. The whimsical look in the mirror and see a face with crossed eyes, a protruding tongue and waggling fingers stuck in ears. The intuitive waste no time with mirrors, images and silly expressions; they see and feel and perceive and act for goodness sake.

“The Bomber’s beginning to sound like a stiff,” said the Hulk to the Oak.

I heard that.

It has been suggested that I lighten up, and I cannot deny the wisdom of the words. Therefore, I agree: Hardcore muscle builders are allowed to be whimsical, and even presidents and kings should visit the fanciful place. Whimsy is necessary to remove the sharp edges of reality, the stiffness in the spine, the scales from our eyes. I estimate that one goofy workout every six weeks for the driven muscle builder should suffice to loosen the chains.

Of course, it can be argued that driven lifters don’t want loose chains. That’s a matter of deep discussion for another time. I’ll add it to my calendar.

—Dave Draper

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