Glenn Reynolds strongly recommends Mark Rippetoe’s weightlifting program, Starting Strength. I trust Glenn, and when he says something is good, if it’s in an area of interest to me, I take a look. The Instapundit holiday beefcake photo didn’t hurt, either – Glenn’s getting some pretty good beef on him there:
Vitamins don’t give you that: strength training does.
So anyway, there are some things about me and weight training: I don’t like complicated programs; I don’t like long workouts; I don’t like droppiing weights on myself or otherwise being crushed by them; I don’t like gyms (I never can make myself go regularly – I’ve burned thousands on gym memberships over the years that died after the first month). The only thing that really works for me is something I can do on my own schedule and is easily and immediately accessible – bikes, home gyms, like that.
When I was younger a weight bench with a rack worked okay, but now that I’m in my late sixties, I want something a bit safer and more secure than pure free weights.
So I hacked my own weight machine. I bolted a standard 1″ barbell bar to the crossbar. That gives me a couple of advantages: The bench slides completely away, leaving me an area where I can easily stand, squat under the bar, place it on my shoulders, and then lift it into the upright position for further reps, but still have safety limits as to how far the bar can fall.i. The ends of the barbell bar also allow more weight to be added beyond the 230# already in the machine’s weight stack.
This setup seems to work well enough for squats, bench presses, and seated shoulder or military presses (the latter is my substitute for Rippetoe’s standard shoulder press, which should be done standing upright).
For the deadlift, right now I’m using a curling bar I had lying around. I bought a couple of 25# weight plates to lift it further off the ground, and I ordered a standard barbell bar from Amazon. When I’m accustomed to the weight, I’ll splurge on a couple of 50# plates, which will raise the bar even further off the ground, to Rippetoe’s recommended 8-9″ ground clearance for this exercise.
The exercises Rippetoe recommends are squats (in every workout – 3×5 with a much weight as you can lift, same weight for all three sets – bench press or shoulder press (alternating workouts), deadlifts and power cleans (also alternating workouts).
Now, a power clean is just a deadlift shoved up to shoulder height, but again, I’m not terribly thrilled about pushing heavy free weights above my waist – they can fall on you, you know. That’s not a problem with the machine squats and presses, nor the deadlift, but I may leave the power clean out and just use deadlifts in both workouts until I find out how I’m doing. If Rippetoe does turn out to be for me, than I’ll probably invest in a power cage and bench, and get rid of my current gym. These things are easy to come by cheap here in fitness-crazed SF. I checked Craigslist and some guy was selling a brand new Body-Solid power rack, never used, he assured me – for $175. It retails new for $1000. But then, I got my cu;rrent CalGym for $100, and it’s a $2500 dollar machine. New Year’s resolutions – gotta love’em!
Anybody familiar with Rippetoe will understand that this setup deprives me of one of the primary goals of his approach, which is increasing balancing skills along with strength. I’m willing to forego that in the name of safety, and just settle for getting stronger. And if he’s right, that will mean getting a lot stronger than I already am.
So I’ll give this Rippetoe stuff a spin, and let you know how it works for me. We’ll see.