Ever since I was a little kid I can remember my grandfather’s weight set. He had benches and barbells and free weights and I think there was even a kettlebell or two at some point. He would always try and get his four grandsons to work out under his supervision. For quite some time he even helped one of the neighborhood kids train (and now that guy is actually a cop – a very, very strong cop). He loved weight lifting his whole life. I even have this great newspaper picture of him from back in the 1950’s where he’s doing a one-arm press with a barbell of 152.5lbs for a competition. (He won, by the way.)
I worked out under his care for several years in my early teens. I eventually stopped once I got a job, a girlfriend, mounds of homework, a car, etc. On the one hand it was understandable that I would stop. I was a teenager and there was a lot of exciting stuff out there for me to experience. But on the other hand, I know I lost a lot of potential by not keeping up on my exercises. Fitness in one’s teens years can set one up for a whole boatload of strength in the future.
Fortunately I did always maintain some degree of my fitness thanks to my general activity and my metabolism. Even without working out I tend to be a healthy person, and for that I am lucky. But what made me even luckier was the fact that I had learned so much under my grandfather’s tutelage. I may have lost strength (not particularly fitness), but I never lost the knowledge of technique, form, and breathing that he taught me. Take this technically difficult exercise for example:
This is one that I do rarely. Part of the reason is that the majority of my working out in the past several years has been in basements with low ceilings. I could manage that exercise in my grandfather’s basement at age 13, but now it’s just too likely I will hit something. Fortunately, I have taken to using a gym for various reasons, so I will be able to incorporate the clean and split jerk into my work outs in the near future.
Another reason why that exercise is not in my current plan is that I do that one arm side press I mentioned earlier. I don’t do it with a barbell, nor do I do it with 152.5lbs, but it is part of my work out. And it’s tiring. I can’t find any videos of exactly what I do, but this is close:
The difference between that and what I do is that I don’t hop and split my feet. Instead I press and squat all in one motion. (Unfortunately YouTube searches for “one arm press and squat” either yield kettlebell exercises or simple one arm presses coupled with separate squats.)
While I love technically challenging exercises (they do a ton plus they’re just fun), I think the most fundamental exercise is the barbell bench press. Now, this obviously depends upon what one’s goals are. So, no, this exercise is not fundamental to everyone. But I’ve always felt it has made up the cornerstone of my work outs. In fact, I generally think of most of my other work outs in terms of how they can help my bench press. That may not be the best mindset, but I can’t say I’m disappointed about where I am. (One of my exercises, the dumbbell bench press is specifically for the sake of improving my barbell bench press.) There is just something beautiful about the simplicity of some exercises.
I am endlessly happy that I had the grandfather that I did. He taught me a lot about fitness (and so much more). This knowledge is something that I plan on utilizing for the rest of my life, just as he did for his entire life. I couldn’t be more thankful.