Winfield Village has a little fitness room. From our townhouse it’s very handy—right across the parking lot.
It has an odd selection of equipment. There are perhaps 8 pieces of aerobic equipment—more than half treadmills, but also an elliptical machine and a couple of cycle-type machines. There are a pair of leg machines—leg extension and leg curl. There’s a fancy configurable machine with a pair of weight stacks hooked up to a pair of pulleys with interchangeable handles that can be set at any desired height, so you can adjust it for various kinds of rows, presses, swings, etc. And there’s a huge selection of dumbbells.
After two decades of doing my lifting with machines, I’d already been gradually switching away, so this new facility is nicely in line with what I was already headed towards.
My inclination to change away from machines started when I wanted to start doing squats (instead of doing the leg press machine). Maybe it would be more accurate to say it started when I wanted to be able to squat.
Being able to squat had always seemed like one of those basic capabilities a person ought to have (like being able to stand or walk), but like most westerners—like most people who own chairs—I lacked both the strength and the flexibility to squat properly. When I had to squat down—to look at something on a bottom shelf, let’s say—I could do it, but my heels would come up off the floor and I’d end up squatting with my knees way forward and my weight up on the balls of my feet. (Don’t do this—it’s dangerous for your knees.)
Primarily because of my taiji practice, I’d gained both a lot of control over my body and a lot of insight into how it ought to move, and some months back it occurred to me that I was probably at a point where I could do a proper squat.
I did some preliminary practice squatting, and found that doing it correctly wasn’t hard. (Keeping your heels down on the ground is only possible if you bend at the hips, stick your butt back, and lean your upper body forward. If you keep your head up, the result is a squat that looks just like the pictures of proper squat form.)
I experimented with squatting in the Smith machine at the Fitness Center, and did some squatting with a bar over my shoulders, but ended up deciding that bodyweight squats did the job just fine.
So I’m not really missing the bar or the squat frame. I can imagine wanting to add weight to my squats, but so far I’m happy just adding reps. When that’s not enough, I can add weight with dumbbells.
Since I have all those dumbbells at my disposal, I thought I’d look for some workouts that made use of them, and found an excellent dumbbell workout page over at Art of Manliness.
I’ve started doing something closely modeled on that page’s upper-body workout, with the addition of some qigong exercises from my taiji practice, and some exercises intended to help me work up to being able to do pullups.
I’d not had much success with the assisted pullup machine at the Fitness Center, so I was ready to do something different even if we hadn’t let our membership expire when we decided to move here. The replacement that I’m experimenting with at the moment is negative pullups: I use a bench to climb up to the top of pullup position, then lower myself down to hanging.
As I was writing this post I read a bit about working up to pullups. It looks like before I go all-out with the negatives, I should practice my dead hangs.
I’ll come up with a lower-body workout shortly. It’ll include squats.
With the fitness room right across the parking lot, I’m hoping to get a lot more regular with my lifting. If I succeed, I expect I’ll be posting about it here. If not, I suppose I’ll quietly start posting about something else.