Bitterly cold L.A. morning [local exaggeration: off]. It was a deadlift morning. Deadlifts are the most grueling of the major lifts. If you do them right and do progressively heavier weight, they knock you squarely on your ass. Day 2 of my workout week is Deadlift day. Thursday. I open with 4 sets of relatively light squats, followed by 4 sets of incline benches. Minor stuff, a prelude and warm-up to the hardcore shit which is the routine of the morning: 5 sets of increasing deadlift poundage. A couple of years ago, on the 4th rep of my 5th and final set, I felt an electric twinge in my lower right back. It was quickly replaced by a foreboding dull, stiff pain that prevented me from standing straight. I was hobbled for the rest of the day. I thought I had really done it this time. I was in bad shape for the next week. Eventually my back healed without major medical intervention and I worked my way back up to 270 pounds (took months, almost a year) while concentrating closely on form. I’ve learned to take my time and focus on form with this lift. If you rush deadlifts, you risk killing your back. At higher weights (for yourself, it’s generally a relative number), your form must be close to exquisite. My deadlift injury was owing to the fact that I curled my back in order to compensate for a knee injury at the time. If you bend your back, you end up shifting most of the weight’s load to your spine, which is exactly what you are not supposed to do during deadlifts. This prevents you from jutting your hips forward during the pull. It was a massive failure of form that injured me.
The squats and incline benches are just extended warm-ups for my deadlifts. I do squats and benches more intensely the other 2 days of my work out week.
This morning, during my incline benches, my Tuesday flake came out of the shower and prepared to leave for work. I finished up the second rep of my inclines and we hugged and at that moment, her eyes looked down past me and she snidely remarked, “Oh, that looks safe.” I turned to see what she was looking at. Ah. She was checking out my “incline” bench, which is a makeshift piece of embarrassing gym equipment at best.
Her snarkiness was appropriate, of course. She saw it clearly because she is not…Mexican. It really is a Mexican thing, this incline mess. Who the hell inclines a bench with old telephone books? I don’t know where the lateral bar is that came with the bench. In the perfect world, you slip it into the opposing slots in order to sanely and dependably prop up the bench. I lost it a long time ago. But I need to do my inclines, damnit! Inclines are a vital part of a good work out routine. Incline benches augment the normal bench press because they target the upper pecs. My inclines are very weak so I don’t mind placing my well-being in the hands of 2 local phone books to provide support for my faint vertical lift. But yes, it does look a little Third World, doesn’t it? I’ve done this for so long I don’t even recognize how precarious the situation is. I’m so used to it. I’m relying on these phone books to support 165 pounds of iron which would love the opportunity to crush my face.
I wanted to tell her it’s the Mexican in me. My incline bench is reckless, careless, dubious, but it gets the job done. That’s how we operate South of the border and East of Los Angeles. Mexicans are some of the most crazy-ass dangerous-minded people. The “safety-first” sensibilities of the SWPL nanny American state are completely alien to Mexicans. We use scotch tape and gum to patch up our path to safety and security. Our self-preservation is etched in a patchwork of improvised piecemeal solutions. We entrust our fate to ratty old telephone books.
I’m reminded of a hilarious photograph jewamongyou published in his blog a couple of weeks ago after returning from a Mexican trip.
This spells out the Mexican approach to safety which basically is nonplussed endeavoring at tempting fate in as many ways as possible. It seems the local news is constantly abuzz with a parade of tragic stories detailing preventable deaths and injuries in the Mexican-American community that reads like a litany of Final Destination death scenes. I don’t know, maybe it’s a perception thing. Maybe Mexicans are no more careless than other ethnicites, but based on the daily, off-the-news-grid behaviors I see in my neck of the woods, that seems doubtful.