Harry TheBicepsFlexKilla unracked the rusty barbell and entered a state of complete concentration. He was no longer hearing the rhythmic sounds of the cardio machines tortured by permacutting bunnies in black legging pants. The infantile screams of the polished gym brahs wearing oversized or undersized tank tops were muted too. It was just him and her, the barbell.
“When will I get married?”, “What about my promotion?”, “What’s the point of life?” were questions that no longer needed an answer. He was in a vacuum, alone with the iron.
Harry was in the middle of his second bench press repetition when the intensity intensified. The barbell felt heavy, cold and mean. His left wrist buckled under the pressure and cracked ever so slightly. Harry knew right away that he was going to need a serious strength transfusion to complete the other 3 reps part of the original plan.
His heart was beating so fast that his wild mind convinced him that the display of his cheap heart rate monitor may shatter in pieces that could fly straight into his eyes. Similar thoughts together with the struggle not get squeezed by a heavy weight pushed Harry’s adrenaline production to the absolute limit. The fact that Harry did not have any spotters was the finishing touch of his epic battle against death.
Before the 4th repetition, Harry remembered a wise thought that he had read in a weightlifting book. He planted his feet firmly on the ground and grabbed the floor with his toes. Then he squeezed the bar so hard that the damn thing nearly started crying. Harry took a deep breath and let the bar descend under control. When the bar touched his chest, he pushed the barbell as hard as he could. His whole face turned red; the skin on his forehead wrinkled so hard that he aged 6 years in 1 second. It took him so long to complete the repetition that in the meantime a dog could’ve written a comprehensible e-mail on a phone.
Harry’s program called for one more repetition, but he already knew that it was pure gambling. He was beginning to doubt himself already. However, he decided to continue and play the popular gym game known as “push & pray”.
A few seconds later, he attempted one more repetition. On the way up, he inserted five extra large trucks of effort, but about midway, the bar hit a dead end, just like his salary after the first three months of work. Harry kept on pushing, but there was no upward movement. After 3 more seconds, the bar started going down and eventually sank into Harry’s chest.
Harry was in shock. He wanted to get out of the barbell’s claws as fast as possible but couldn’t. Ironically, the other brahs in the gym had moved to the leg section of the gym. He was left alone – crushed on the bench like a cockroach.
Finally, Harry recalled that there were no clamps on the bar. He had read online that in similar situations you can just lift one end higher than the other and let the plates slide.
He used some of his pre-death strength to tilt the bar so that the weights on the right can slide and fall off. He didn’t have many plates on the barbell, which was a massive plus in this case, and the iron circles dropped fast. Thereupon the heavier part of the barbell with plates on it hit the ground. Harry was finally free. He found himself on the floor in a squat position and immediately began damage evaluation. There were no holes.
“I almost died,” thought Harry.
“Hahaha. That was close,” said somebody with a ghostlike voice.
Deeply ashamed of what had happened, Harry turned around and a saw a weird guy in the corner sitting under the shadow of the lat pulldown machine. The man was ancient and had tough life written on his face. Apparently, he was also getting fashion advice from his fellow garbage men. Instead of a belt, he had a dirty shoelace with many knots on it. His shoes were antiques too, but surprisingly, he was wearing top of the line jeans and a new T-shirt with “Careful: Backfires!” written on it.
“So, the janitor lifts,” thought Harry but said, “Who are you?” instead.
“The guy who saw you get crushed by 135lbs/62.5kg on the bar,” replied the alleged janitor.
“150lbs! You should learn to count,” said Harry.
“Why didn’t you help me?”
“Do I look like the bench press ambulance to you?”
“Not really. You look like somebody who spends most of his time in the garbage.”
“Nice one. But you know what? The year I touched tits for the first time, I was already benching 150lbs for reps. It feels like yesterday even though I was five,” said the mysterious man and smiled because he knew that this was a nice recovery.
“You know what? Touching the tits of your mom or a doll does not count,” said Harry back.
“Look, kid, you are just a girly man. Your bench press proves it.”
Out of all the insults, this one hurt Harry the most. “Is this motherfucker, right,” thought Harry.
“Hey, how much do you bench press,” asked Harry.
“4 plates,” replied the man.
“You want me to show you? You want me to show you, girly man?”
“Fine. Show me. Then take the trash and get out,” replied Harry.
In a few minutes, there was a bar loaded with 4 plates on each side. The guy made a fist with both hands and began rotating his wrists. They were cracking intensely. He sat on the bench, looked at the ceiling and then at a poster of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Thereupon he cracked his neck and took a dirty little box of mint candies out of his pocket. The box contained a small piece of weightlifting chalk. After covering his whole palms and fingers in chalk, he got on his back, pushed his chest out as much as possible and took a pretty wide grip on the bar. He unracked the barbell and did 5 reps with the weight like it was nothing.
After the lift, the man got up, pulled his sagging pants upwards and said, “Do you have something to say to the king of the bench press? Talk to me, bitch.”
Harry was impressed. The guy didn’t fully extend his elbows at the top, but his form was pretty good nevertheless. “He didn’t even warm-up,” thought Harry and felt like a little bitch. His ego was completely crushed. “Garbage men lift more than me,” he thought.
“Ok. I admit that you are super strong. Can you teach me,” asked Harry.
“Hmmm…teach you? You have some paper on you?”
“20 bucks to show you my program and 50 bucks per training session.”
Harry paid for the program but had no intentions to train under the wing of this psycho.
“Come to my car outside, and I will give you my secret routine,” said the bench press king.
5 minutes later Harry was standing in front of a large white van.
“This is my place,” said the bench press hero and opened the back door. The imagery before Harry’s eyes reminded him of a swamp. There was a dirty bed with sheets covered in all kinds of organic pigmentation, parts of eggshells on the floor, hundreds of bodybuilding magazines and many posters of bodybuilders proudly wearing their thongs, I mean, posing trunks.
Apparently, Harry’s new bench press hero was living in a van right next to the gym.
“Are you living here,” asked Harry.
“Yes. It’s great. I have everything I need, and I am really close to the gym. I want to keep the dream alive, you know.”
“To become a champ.”
“Champ of what?”
“Bodybuilding champ, of course.”
“But why do you have to live in a van? Show me a ‘champ’ who lives in a car.”
“You don’t understand, boy. I sold everything I had to move to Venice, California and train in Gold’s Gym. I will out-bench, out-deadlift and out-squat everybody and earn my place as a champ,” explained the guy.
Harry realized that he was dealing with a mental case suffering from a severe delusion, but decided to keep quiet to get the workout.
There are many people like that by the way. They all think that some arbitrary numbers will turn them into the next Arnold. That can never happen because each individual has a different destiny, and your bench press numbers are not exactly the key to happiness.
The weirdo went to a small homemade wooden drawer and began going through it slowly. He was looking for the mystic bench press program. “It has to be somewhere around here,” said the 4-plate bencher and began whistling. The pitch was very annoying as one could expect from a similar individual.
After a while, he finally found the routine. It’d been published in an old issue of a popular muscle magazine known as “Power and Muscle”. Harry had heard about it a few times, but seeing it in person was new to him. A muscular guy with a strong mustache was on the cover. Right next to his left arm there was a catchy title saying, “Get a World Record Bench Press Fast”.
“There you go,” said Mr. Bench and handed the magazine to Harry who put it in his backpack right away. He was planning to read his new bench press manuscript on the bus.
“Thank you for the program. Bye,” said Harry.
“Be careful, kiddo! It’s not for the girly man,” replied Mr. Bench and closed his van.
Half an hour later, Harry was already on the bus. He opened his backpack and pulled out his new purchase. He immediately began searching for page 64 which allegedly contained the key to bench press magic.
Strangely, page 63 was followed by page 65. “Where is it,” asked Harry.
There were no indications that the page had been cut. “Weird,” thought Harry.
In a minute, he found the culprit. Page 63 and 65 were glued together. There was no way of separating them without causing unrecoverable damage.
“’Real men bench press heavy.’ Yeah, right! More like people who live for their bench press are psychos,” thought Harry and left the magazine under the bus seat.