A Bodybuilder Is Born: Episode 38 - Stimulate, Don't Annihilate!

'You know, you could have a much better physique if you gave your muscles a chance to grow.' Here's a great tale about a kid who was clearly in need of intervention and why it's important to stimulate your muscles and eat better.

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Article Summary:
  • Ron wonders if he may be getting old as he becomes more annoyed at the kids in the gym.
  • One of them approaches Ron for advice on abs, but finds his entire routine under fire.
  • Ron quickly sets the young man straight on his training, nutrition, and recovery plans.
  • When do you know you're getting old? That's tough to say. You hear all types of tired clichés like, "you're only as old as you feel," and "age is just a number."

    There are other markers that let you know when you're really stepping into your golden years, such as pulling your pants up to just under your nipples (what's up with that?), and buying giant, boat-like sedans built by Oldsmobile and Buick. Seriously, when was the last time you saw someone under the age of 65 behind the wheel of one of these things?

    I think I have come across a far more accurate indication of when you can be sure you are getting old. It's when you suddenly realize that you consider the current crop of teenagers a bunch of shiftless, illiterate, punks.

    The worst thing is, as I write this, I am still just 35 years old. I still like the latest hits on the radio, and I still spend an average of fifteen hundred bucks a year on Nike Shox and Air Max sneakers - what geezer would do that? But I have to accept that I have at last aged enough so that there is a generation gap between myself and the youth of today.

    This is evidenced by my distaste for the two big cliques of kids at my gym. No, they aren't gangs like the Jets and the Sharks and they don't rumble, but they are clearly distinct groups with their own style of dress that sets them apart.

    I Have To Accept That There Is A Generation Gap Between Myself And The Youth Of Today.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    I Have To Accept That There Is A Generation
    Gap Between Myself And The Youth Of Today.

    The Gotti Boys

    The first group's name was assigned to them by my wife Janet, who dubbed them 'The Gotti Boys,' after the reality show Growing Up Gotti. This show follows the filthy-rich grandchildren of infamous Mafia boss John Gotti as they struggle with typical adolescent problems such as whether to take the Ferrari or the Lamborghini to pick up a group of young supermodels for a night of decadence, and then which club to go to, since they are on the VIP list at all the night spots in Western civilization, as well as some happening joints in unexplored areas of the Amazon rainforest and Antarctica.

    Who Was John Gotti?
    John Gotti Jr. John Joseph Gotti, Jr (October 27, 1940 - June 10, 2002) was the Boss of the Gambino crime family after the murder of the previous boss Paul Castellano. John Gotti was the most powerful crime boss during his era. He became widely known for his outspoken personality and flamboyant style that eventually caused his downfall.

    He was known by the media as the "The Dapper Don" because he wore expensive clothes and "The Teflon Don" because the majority of attempts to convict him resulted in either a hung jury or an acquittal.

    In 1992, Gotti was convicted of 13 murders, conspiracy to commit murder, racketeering, obstruction of justice, illegal gambling, extortion, tax evasion, and loansharking where he was sentenced to life in prison. He died there 10 years later of cancer.

    The Gotti Boys at our gym all have hair that has been slathered in industrial-strength gel and spiked up to resemble a nest of daggers jutting up from their skulls. They wear Adidas pants, white wife-beater tank tops, and thick gold or silver chains. The look is completed by various trendy tattoos they will all surely regret later in life, such as tribal bands around the biceps, and Japanese kanji characters that in reality probably mean 'pansy white boy' or 'egg roll with pork fried rice.'

    The age range for the Gotti Boys is around 16-20, and there seem to be about six to eight of them. In my day, we called this general type of look "guido," and it also went along with certain brands of cars they drove, such as Monte Carlo SS Turbos and Iroc Z-28's.

    Now the young kids all get little imports and trick them out with tinted windows, fancy rims, spoilers that make them resemble small aircraft, and neon lights below so that police officers at night have an easier time spotting them and pulling them over.

    Now The Young Kids All Get Little Imports And Trick Them Out With Tinted Windows, Fancy Rims, And Neon Lights.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    Now The Young Kids All Get Little Imports And Trick Them
    Out With Tinted Windows, Fancy Rims, And Neon Lights.

    The Abercrombies

    Their rivals are the Abercrombies, the modernized version of what we used to call 'preppies.' Back in my day, they wore tight Izod golf shirts with the collars turned up, and painted-on jeans with the ankles rolled up.

    This group at my gym either all works at the clothing store Abercrombie and Fitch, or does a great deal of shopping there. There are a lot of cargo pants and T-shirts with the sleeves ripped off, carefully faded to look like they have been worn for ten or twelve years. And of course, we can't forget the backwards baseball caps. Both groups annoy me for several reasons.

    Number one, they are the laziest bunch of twerps I have ever seen disgrace a gym floor. I happen to be of the opinion that a gym is meant to train, and train hard, not to socialize. But these brat packs lounge around and yap, half to each other, and the other half on cell phones to brats in some other location.

    When they do train, it's endless sets of bench presses and curls, with horrible form and weight my wife would laugh at. Both the Gottis and the Abercrombies look emaciated, so skinny that I wonder if they are so busy trying to look cool that they genuinely forget to eat.

    They Only Do Endless Sets of Bench Presses And Curls With Horrible Form.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    They Only Do Endless Sets of Bench
    Presses And Curls With Horrible Form.

    The Exception That Proves The Rule

    There is one exception out of this entire mélange. Scott is probably about nineteen or so, and is the only kid out of both groups to have any type of physique, though it's far from complete. He is close to six foot and has to weigh around 170 pounds. He has decent arms and chest, and his shoulders and traps aren't too shabby either.

    From what I have observed, these are the only body parts he trains, and he does far too much for them. For instance, there have been times when I have come into the gym to train something like back or legs, muscle groups that take me roughly an hour to finish, and Scott would be working biceps.

    When I finish, he's still not done. It's only when I do my cardio that he will wrap it up, meaning that he has spent about ninety minutes or more just on biceps, performing at least eight to ten exercises for four or five sets each.

    Respected bodybuilding guru John Parrillo has been famously quoted as saying there is no such thing as overtraining, only under-eating and under-sleeping. Even John would have to take issue with Scott's methods.

    I had watched this go on for months and was committed to staying out of his business. After having been lashed out at by defensive types over the years when I tried to offer unsolicited advice that they were in dire need of, I had a strict policy of non-interference. If asked, I will help. Otherwise I let people continue on in ignorance, failing to see results.

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    An Excuse To Meddle

    Of course, I will use any type of approach as an excuse to meddle. John Parrillo sends me a little stack of his magazine every month (where this series appears), and after distributing them to family members and hoarding a couple at home to look at when I am truly old someday and want to wax nostalgic over my once-muscular body, I bring the rest to the gym and leave them on the magazine rack next to People, Car and Driver, and the rest of the reading material that keeps members occupied on the cardio machines if they choose not to watch the little TV's that they all have mounted on them now.

    The kids didn't seem to be much into reading, so they rarely went near the rack. But one day last week, Scott picked up a copy of and was flipping through the pages. I was only ten or twelve feet away on a stair stepper. He stopped and squinted at the page, then looked over at me. This happened three times before I finally got sick of it and blurted out, "Yes, that's me in the picture."

    He ambled over. It had been chest day for him, and his pecs were red and swollen behind his wife-beater tank top (Scott seemed to move in both groups and would wear both of their clothing styles at various times). His chest was also a bit droopy, as he did tons of flat benching with the bar, dumbbells, Smith and Hammer Strength machines, as well as endless sets of cable crossovers, but very little incline work for the upper chest.

    "How did you get your abs like that?" was his question, which I had no intention of answering. Instead, I saw my chance to jump right in and criticize his training.

    "You know, you have a pretty good physique shaping up," I replied, catching him off-guard. If I moved fast, he would forget about the abs. That was good, because I had forgotten about mine lately by eating more junk than usual, and they were seriously blurred out.

    "Oh, thanks," he said, looking around and wondering if he should bolt.

    "You know, you could have a much better physique if you gave your muscles a chance to grow." This clearly addled him, as he just looked at me like I was crazy. Which I'm not, at least according to the court-appointed psychiatrist. I continued.

    Do You Give Your Muscles Enough Time To Grow?

    Yes Of Course.
    Probably Not.
    You're Supposed To Rest Them?

    Stimulate Don't Annihilate

    "I see you in here all the time, and you train pretty hard," I said. "But you're doing way too much for each muscle group. Have you ever heard of a guy named Lee Haney?" Scott shrugged.

    "Eight-time Mr. Olympia? Totally Awesome? Nothing?" Scott stared back at me blankly. "That's okay, he's been retired since you were in kindergarten. Lee was a smart guy. He never had a training injury to speak of, and he went out a winner. When it came to training, Haney had a very famous saying, 'stimulate, don't annihilate.' Do you know what that means?"

    "Not really," Scott said.

    "It means that you should work the muscle hard enough to stimulate growth, but not over-work it with so much exercise that it can't recover and grow. Tell me, are you trying to get bigger?"

    "Yeah, of course," he shot back. "Why else would I be in here every day?"

    "Trust me when I tell you that if you did half as much as you are doing now, you would probably put on ten pounds of muscle in the next month."

    That hooked him, and we spent the next twenty minutes going over changes he needed to make with his training and eating. It turned out he wasn't eating nearly enough protein or calories, so I briefly informed him that he needed to add a couple more quality meals plus a shake or two a day to his current nutrition plan.

    I also explained that he needed to work each muscle group equally, even if he wasn't interested in ever competing as a bodybuilder, which he wasn't. Hitting the big muscle groups like the back and legs stimulates overall growth, and being proportionate all over makes anybody look more impressive.

    I Informed Him He Needed To Add A Couple More Quality Meals To His Diet.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    I Informed Him He Needed To Add A
    Couple More Quality Meals To His Diet.

    Not Such Bad Kids

    When it was over, he rejoined the Gottis and the Abercrombies, who had convened at our juice bar to discuss such crucial topics as the best illegal music downloading programs, and who had dumped his girlfriend or had been dumped recently, so that newly available girls could be asked to 'hook up' that weekend by those in need of female companionship.

    Looking at them, I had to conclude that they weren't really such a bad bunch of kids. And no doubt, older adults had once looked upon my friends and I with disgust in my obnoxious teenage years in the Eighties.

    I glanced over at my reflection in the mirror, so close I could reach out and touch it, and couldn't help but notice a few gray hairs peppering my coif. I made a mental note to pick up some Grecian Formula if it got much worse. I thought again, and picked up my cell phone to call Janet.

    "I'm afraid I'm going to be a bit late, babe," I informed her. "I need to stop by the mall to get some clothes at Abercrombie, then to that auto place on Route 138 to look into some fly new rims for my Infiniti." I had made up my mind. I would get old someday, for sure, but not quite yet.

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    About The Author:

    Ron Harris is the author of "Real Bodybuilding: Muscle Truth from 25 Years in the Trenches," available at www.ronharrismuscle.com.

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