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Iron Halos, Steel Commands

We may never arrive at the destination we sought, but we’ve arrived where we are, and that’s good. Sing-song quad sets work when the gym and training seem like hell. I got me a halo made outta tempered steel.

Ah, the weekend to myself. Laree’s gone to visit her mom north of the Napa Valley in California’s charming wine country. The sun clings to the thin edge of fall, unable to conceal the restrained cold of a restless winter. There’s a lot said in the candid utterance, “Brrrr,” on the lips of those whose sleeves are too short for the chilly day.

I miss Laree already. It’s dinnertime. I’ll open a can of tuna. Mugsy will join me. I’ll ruminate, Mugs will purr, and the world’s problems will diminish; we shall solve them one by one. What’s this? We’re outta tuna? You’ve got to be kidding!

Wall Street falls, Washington’s bailout fails, Main Street fumbles and now this: a devastating home-front fish-flop. We’re finished.
Just kidding about the tuna.

Trouble is contagious. I’ve been getting more and more e-mail from guys who are having difficulty looking the iron in its cold, hard mug. I’ll bet there are an equal number of gals, but they don’t complain. They don’t see what they used to see—playfulness, pump, promise, progress—and shrug their shoulders in dismay.

It’s a bleak place, an ugly viewpoint, a revolting predicament, when what was once the answer is now the question. The vital activity that eased yesterday’s pain is now the source. The invigorating challenge of earlier days is today’s burden too heavy to bear.
I don’t have the energy, the endurance, the strength, the will. I don’t care.

I’m weary, I’m frustrated, I’m sore all over. Oh, my aching back.

Oh, no, you don’t, you wingless pretender. Get ye behind me, thin tin fake. You, unguarded and susceptible bomber, are listening to the wrong voice within—an imposter of the soul, an agent of threat to muscle might and all that is good. Confront the lying demon, the deadly enemy! There’s no time to waste. Grasp the iron now. Pump or burn. Curl or curl up, push or be pushed, pull up or be pulled down, press on and on—or be depressed.

Screech, scream, clang, clank, thump.

We must be prepared on all occasions. I prefer not to exhibit necessary harshness in the public square, but believe it or not I just resisted the temptation to abandon today’s workout and submit to sulking and brooding and counting my woes. How scary is that? Instantly I shall don my favorite shredded T-shirt, have a slug of Bomber Blend and head to the gym, where angels are known to reside.

Upon my return, I’ll recall in sufficient detail my continued defeat of the will to quit, which attacks us all when we least expect it.
Well, I’m back from my workout, and it’s now Monday, a day later. I entered the weight room, and it was mine. Not a sign of life—only the music, unaware of itself as it danced around the equipment. I decided to follow the impetuous sounds and set up the apparatus for a quadruple multiset blast.

Four cycles of four consecutive exercises—torso-demanding rope tucks, incline dumbbell presses, straight-arm pullovers and wide-grip pulldowns—composed my scheme to light up the upper body. Reps ranged from 35 on torso- and cardio-demanding rope tucks to 10s and 12s on the three basic muscle makers that followed.

It worked. Anything works—everything works—after the first 10 years of devoted weight-training madness. It’s all in the way you approach the iron, your attitude and finesse, intensity and sufficiency.

Be encouraged, lad and lass. When you’re new and just starting, unsure and unpracticed, anything and everything works. As you continue, though, should you continue, patterns and plans evolve that assure sound muscle and strength development. Favorite routines and even misguided schemes drag us through the tangle of weights and cables, sets and reps and injury and repair.

We may never arrive at the destination we sought, but we’ve arrived where we are, and that’s good. Sing-song quad sets work when the gym and training seem like hell. I got me a halo made outta tempered steel.

The four-set roam-a-gym workout went well. Haste-in-pace would have ruled 50 years ago, but slow walks from gear to gear with purpose minus the hurry took control. I’ll blast it when I get there. Meanwhile let me breathe…deeply.

Let’s see: Directly and indirectly, I excited the abs and torso; the shoulders, chest and back; the bi’s and tri’s and dimly lit up the cardio system. What area would appreciate and enjoy an extra charge?

I think back to my origins and what always worked when I was a kid. When in doubt, without knowledge or equipment, a job or responsibility, knock out some dips. They get everything and anything every time. There are 99 grooves to choose from, invent or discover. As when you find a purse full of loose change, you can’t buy much, but you sure feel rich.

The purse is emptied without haste or waste, and the rear exit is my final exercise—one set of one rep, and I’m outta here. Hello and good-bye, stacks of steel. It’s been a blast. En route I pass a very seductive combination, a sturdy upright only six feet from the 25s. I am weak.

I grab a single dumbbell with hand A and the sturdy upright with hand B and arouse the shoulders and outer biceps with a series of one-arm lateral raises. That exercise has become a recent favorite because it has spirit and personality and is very forgiving. My shoulders love to work, but they’ve grown a little grouchy lately. They, left and right, often prefer to work alone—much more productive.

Done! More to do, but I have nothing left. That might be my biggest mistake, my biggest regret. More to do but nothing left. I’m still learning and have yet to discover when enough is enough. In the meantime, I press on.

We have single sets, supersets and a range of multisets at our fingertips. Single sets and supersets have made up the majority of my training menu over the years. They provide the feast for bulking up, cutting up and just plain celebrating. We wish we were younger, most of us, but aren’t you glad you can pull up a bench anywhere at the table and dig right in?

It’s kinda like flying, bombers. Once you’ve done it, you never forget how.

Higher and higher; the sky’s the limit.

Editor’s note: For more from Dave Draper, visit and sign up for his free newsletter. You can also check out his amazing Top Squat training tool, classic photos, workout Q&A and forum.

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