Sunday, January 11, 2009

Shoulder Season

I was recently reading an anecdote by a guy who wrote about how when he was a boy in a farming family, he shoveled so much hog "output" that, at 15, he had the shoulders of a man. And what's more, he notes that he's kept those shoulders for more than 30 years, despite having adopted a more urban lifestyle. "I don't think I'd have the form if the heaviest thing I'd have slung was a Wii remote," he noted.

On reading this, I was immediately consumed by jealousy. I've been lifting weights semi-seriously for a year now, and it feels like I'm not making any size progress at all.

One of the problems is that, since I started at age 44, my body doesn't have any growth hormone left to plump up the muscles. And it doesn't help that I'm a woman. Trainers and fitness experts are always saying, "Ladies, you don't have to worry about getting big muscles if you lift weights." Turns out they're right! Sadly, if you want big muscles, as I do, this is not a benefit.

Oh sure, I've been making small, incremental progress. And I can lift more poundage than the average woman my age (unless she grew up on a hog farm shoveling manure). But short of getting on the black market and locating some human growth hormone, it looks like my desire for 15-inch biceps just ain't gonna happen.

Still, I am getting some definition, as you can see in the photo. This is due, I think, to my enjoyment of shoulder exercises.

Even though I've been reading a fair bit about the theory that working muscles in isolation isn't as good as working several muscle groups at a time (though exercises like presses, pull-ups, and dips, rather than activities like curls), I do love me some shoulder work.

I start with a few sets of upright rows with a 50-pound barbell. I recently added behind-the-neck presses with a 40-pound barbell, thinking that I needed to develop the back of my shoulders more. Then I discovered that these are just another exercise to develop the front of the shoulders, but I like them, so I'm keeping them in the rotation. Besides, as they say in the Gumball Rally, "What's behind me is not important." I finish up with some Arnold presses using 15-pound dumbbells.

In addition, several other exercises I do involve the shoulders to a greater or lesser degree: Lat pull-downs, clean-and-presses, bench presses, and triceps dips (note: I do not add weight when I do these--I can barely do them with my body weight at this point.)

Maybe by spring I will have added an inch to my shoulders. Then comes the hard part--dieting out all the extra fat so that whatever definition I've been able to create really pops.

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