They said they wouldn’t mind, so I did it. I sat and watched my friends in close proximity today, me still sweaty from my kickboxing/racquetball workout, from a black vinyl bench, four feet away, still donning my do-rag and reddish face from my harsh, self-imposed, calorie-thrashing workout. I wanted to sit a few minutes before showering, and besides, the conquer-the-world-testosterone-driven activities of my male gym- rat buddies are pretty fascinating to watch. My three guy friends rotated doing squats in the corner of the weight room on a squat rack with a multiple 45-pound-plate-loaded, 385 to 495 pound bar. I was mesmerized, but not just because they hefted that much weight across their shoulders and didn’t throw their spines out of whack instantly, but rather, I was captivated by the motivational methodology that they used on each other, right before each lift.
As each lifter, in turn, prepared to grab the bar, psyching himself up as much as humanly possible, having girded his waist with a leather or neoprene weight belt, and even wrapping up knee joints for additional stability, it seemed that there was nothing else to be done but grit his teeth and power up.
How wrong I was.
Each guy, during his turn at the bar, had a definite rhythm, concentration, and expectation that was understood by the others. And every person had someone right next to them as a safety net, a spotter, during the weight attempt.
First, the lifter stood and squeezed the bar, almost seeming to massage it; he then took some intense, full- cheeks -of -air breaths accompanied by small rocking movements in the sagittal plane at the heels, in preparation for the hoist. As he went to lift, to my utter shock, the “spotter” WHACKED the “squatter” SQUARE in the middle of the back… the middle trapezius… and I mean HARD… with his open hand, and yelled something unintelligible to me… something like, “GET IT!!!” I was so taken with the sudden commotion of the violence that I missed the verbage.
It made a tremendous noise, and made me jump and grimace, because it looked and sounded incredibly painful. Each of my friends completed their squats with puffed-up faces (even purplish… red… blue?), grunting, quads braced, and backs strong, and after a few moments of a single or several squats, let the metal bar fall with a sharp, metallic CLANG that pierced my eardrums and resonated through the iron jungle. You could almost see the reverberations. The audio waves of metal crashing seemed to float right through my body.
While the strength required to pull off a feat such as this was impressive, and I congratulated each of them on their accomplishment, what struck me the most peculiarly was the animalistic, primal impetus they used to get to the place where they had pure drive and incentive. Survival instincts. Rage.
It reminded me of hitting a horse on the rump on its way out of the starting gate for a race… or brandishing a whip against the back of a team of oxen to get them to pull faster and harder. Or a bull in an arena, nostrils flared, ready to defend and charge.
After each had finished, I asked them why they slapped each other like that, and their responses were thoughtful and they were eager to surmise about that question with me, to my surprise and delight. They didn’t seem offended or annoyed that I wanted to know. They each grinned, almost a little sheepishly, and admitted that it hurt, a lot, and made them feel a rush of anger that fueled them.
“It just works,” they nodded, with pride and humility all rolled into one satisfied, male- bonding emotion.