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Treat All Your Children the Same

Jeff had apparently been following my diet recommendations over the three weeks since he’d treated me to lunch at the Chinese buffet. I knew that because his gut appeared to be smaller—it definitely didn’t stick out further than his chest anymore. They looked to be neck and neck, and the chest soon would be winning the battle of the bulge. I was doing cardio and watching him train chest. He sure did train chest a lot.

After he’d done flat-bench presses, flat-bench dumbbell presses, incline dumbbell presses and cable crossovers, he ambled over. I wasn’t sure if he was done or taking a break before he launched into four or five more chest exercises, but he had a smile on his face.

“Yesterday I fit into a size 36 pair of slacks,” he said. I assumed that was good news.

“Awesome,” I replied. “I take it you normally can’t?”

“Ron, I have been barely squeezing into 38s for a long time, and if I really want to be able to breathe, I have to wear a 40 waist.”

I knew what he meant. There were a few years when I was a chubby man living in denial, trying to convince myself that the only reason I had to wear size 36 pants was because of my giant ass. It had nothing to do with my expansive belly, which I spent most of my waking hours trying to keep sucked in. One time a brass button actually popped off the fly and nearly put someone’s eye out. That’s when I finally realized that I needed either to lose some weight or buy bigger pants.

Since my own mother had blamed her gradual slide into obesity during the 1970s on polyester pants with stretchy waistbands, I knew that would be like putting a pet turtle in a larger tank. The more room you give those little suckers to grow, the bigger they get—and we all saw what happened to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles once they had the entire New York subway system to roam around in.

Jeff rolled up his sleeve and flexed his biceps in my general direction.

“My next mission is to get these babies bigger,” he informed me. “What do you recommend?” I didn’t miss a beat.

“Start working your back a lot harder,” I said. He looked puzzled and must have thought I had heard him wrong.

“Yeah, maybe, but right now I want to focus on my biceps. I’ve never been totally happy with them.”

“Join the club,” I deadpanned. “And I mean it. Your biceps would be better if you did more for your back.”

“How do you figure?” he asked.

“Your biceps get some work when you do curls with 40- or 50-pound dumbbells and 120-pound barbells,” I began, noting the weights I had seen him use on many occasions. “But don’t you think they would get some more stimulation if they were helping out on 300-pound barbell rows, 150-pound dumbbell rows, and 400-pound deadlifts?” Currently, he couldn’t handle any of those weights on back day, but he certainly would be able to if he really applied himself for a few months. “You know what else would help your biceps grow?”

Jeff shrugged and shook his head, waiting to see what wackiness I would come out with next. “Heavy leg training.”

“Oh, come on!” he exclaimed, laughing. “Now you’re just being ridiculous.”

“Am I? Think about it. Working the big-muscle groups with heavy compound movements causes the body to release lots of growth hormone, which is going to have a positive impact on muscle growth all over your body, including your biceps.”

“Huh,” Jeff said, pondering my revelations.

“And something else you have to understand is that the arms are part of an overall physique. If you gained some serious mass overall, like say you packed on 10 or 15 pounds of muscle, I guarantee your arms would be bigger than they are now.” As I continued, I got an idea of how to get through to him.

“How many kids do you have?” I asked. I knew that he had older kids from a first marriage, though I wasn’t sure how many. The only one I’d ever seen was Jared, the 14-year-old who knew my daughter.

“Three,” he answered.

“Which one is your favorite?”

“What? None of them,” he said. “I love them all the same.”

“Good answer for a dad,” I replied. “That’s how you should think about your muscles.

“I’ve had pro bodybuilders joke to me that they don’t have kids, but they consider their muscles their children,” I continued. “Considering how much money they spend on their physiques, it’s really not as ludicrous as it sounds. But what I’m getting at is that you should treat all your muscles equally instead of just favoring a couple.”

“Well, I don’t do it on purpose,” Jeff said. “I just like certain exercises better,”

“Jeff, the only bodyparts I ever see you training consistently are chest, shoulders and arms. You hardly do anything for your back or legs. You need to get on a schedule where you hit everything hard once a week, giving every muscle group equal attention. I promise you that if you do that, you will be looking and feeling so much better in just a couple of months that you’ll kick yourself for neglecting those areas for as long as you did.”

I wrote out a little workout plan for him on the back of an aerobics schedule at the front desk. As I jotted down a couple things he should do for abs, I came to the realization that I had really been slacking on my own abdominal training. Instead of walking out the front door after I handed Jeff the workout notes, I took a left into the room with all the ab mats, benches and equipment.

“What are you doing now?” Jeff asked.

“Taking care of the kids I forgot before I get a letter demanding child support.”

Editor’s note: Ron Harris is the author of Real Bodybuilding, available at IM

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