This Old-School Workout Program Puts the 'Hard' in Hard-Core
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
That couch is not going to get out from under you.
By Eugene S. Robinson
The story stays with you: A couch-bound man in his 30s has the most crucial kind of moment of clarity. He’s disgusted with himself, the weight gain, the inevitable process of aging, the weakness and the fact that he’s grown comfortable with it. He wanders out to the garage and fills an old duffel bag with bricks. Not so many bricks that he can’t lift it, but enough bricks to get his body’s attention. He heads out through the open garage door, with duffel bag slung over his shoulder.
About three blocks away, he passes out on a neighbor’s front lawn. The neighbor runs out to help and our protagonist, who is on his knees, his head tilted into the duffel bag on the ground underneath him, waves him off. “I’m FINE.” He eventually gets his bag and his bricks back to the garage. So concludes the first workout of a new approach to working out courtesy of the Kentucky-based lawyer and exercise apostate Brooks Kubik.
“I was diagnosed with asthma when I was 9 years old,” says 61-year-old Kubik by phone from his home office. Back then the doctor’s recommendation for a cure was, well, nothing. Something that didn’t sit well with Kubik, who first started running to school as soon as he cleared the bushes by his house, away from his parents’ watchful eyes. Then, when he was 11, after reading about how Theodore Roosevelt dealt with asthma, he started lifting weights.
Kubik will show you what he means. By lifting a huge anvil festooned with about 65 pounds of log chain overhead.
Fifty years later and now retired from daily law practice, Kubik is all-in and knee-deep in about 20 to 25 books (including his first and foremost primer, Dinosaur Training), DVDs, courses and consulting gigs with strength coaches and competitive athletes, online, through the mail or in person. And he still finds time to lift and lift heavy.
“Unofficially? Most of the machines in most gyms were originally designed for reasons of rehab,” says chiropractor Rick Tsai. But building from the uninjured ground up? The machines and the places that house those machines are a “whole hell of a lot less effective in building strength than just lifting heavy, unwieldy things,” says Kubik after a lifetime of research, a lot of it culled from the Golden Age of the Stage, 1880 to 1930, where most strength exhibits were part of traveling shows.
Standard weights and barbells didn’t resonate with audiences, so old strong men started lifting things people could relate to. Bags of grain, bales of hay, eventually cars and car parts. But Kubik, from a background that includes everything from being a high school Greco-Roman state wrestling champion to being a repeat, drug-free powerlifting champ, discovered something that it seems like they knew. Lifting these things generated real functional strength.
With five-time national bench press wins and over a dozen national and world records in bench pressing, Kubik is not a fella to be trifled with. And unlike other guys who might try to make that don’t-mess-with-me claim, Kubik will show you what he means. By lifting a huge anvil festooned with about 65 pounds of log chain overhead. Kubik will also sell you a DVD of him doing this in case you’re having a hard time believing your eyes. Eyes that should show you that lifting stuff around the house or in the yard or anywhere else in the real world is a lot harder because a lot more muscles are involved.
So later, when starting my usual run up a hilly incline, I grab a bag of gravel from a nearby construction site. Ten minutes in, sweating in the street like sweating in the street is going out of style, muscles in my neck, shoulders, biceps and forearms aflame, a cop car pulls up.
“Excuse me, sir? You OK?”
“Fine, fine.” I wave him off, shifting the bag to my left side and feeling my fingers uncurl from how they’ve been gripping the bag. As he drives off, I look to see my car still about 300 yards away. And get to hauling. After all, that bag is not going to haul itself.