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They want to pump you up

And now for something completely different. Today's topic is weightlifting, something I'm sure you're not too familiar with. I know this because I've seen you at the beach.

Judging from your shape, you think leg curls are what your wife gets when she doesn't shave, and the dead lift is something you do when your brother-in-law calls and asks for a ride home from the bowling alley.

I've researched this subject and found that weightlifting was invented in 1838 by a Prussian immigrant named Ignats Klodney, a man who is affectionately referred to by lifters as "The Father of the Squat Rack." Another little-known fact about Klodney is that he organized the first Cher fan club.

For the most part, weightlifting was a clean sport in its early days. Occasionally a lifter would paint two balloons black, write "5,000 Lbs." on them, and try to pass himself off as a man of great strength. But these men were quickly found out and most of them returned to their original jobs as politicians.

Then came The Golden Age Of Steroids which, oddly enough, coincided with The Golden Age of Acne, Baldness and Violent Mood Swings. Rather than undergoing years of brutal training to get big muscles, lifters found they could look like a Masters of the Universe action figure in a matter of weeks. Be a broom in May, the Michelin tire man in July. It was great.

The problem was that, suddenly, everybody was starting to look like The Thing That Ate Cleveland. There were no little guys left. Soon, the steroid users had no one to pick on except each other, and they started to become extinct.

As a result, today's lifters don't use steroids quite as much. Instead, they eat, drink and smear themselves with a variety of vitamin and mineral supplements. These supplements have mean, lifter-type names, such as Mega Mass, Animal Pack and Squash The Sissies.

Many people _ and you may be one of them _ think weightlifting is a foolish waste of time. Since we're no longer an agrarian society, there's really no need to be excessively strong. We don't have to clear the back 40 with our bare hands. If you want that stump out of your front yard, tie it to the back of the Buick and pop the clutch. All we have to lift are forks and phones.

To a large extent, that's true. This trend is reflected in the names parents used to give their sons. Names such as Bruno, Rocco and Moe have given way to Justin, Chad and Morning Sunshine.

But there are pockets of resistance. Weightlifters, although hounded by society in recent years, are still alive and well and working out daily in gyms. Shockingly, these gyms are probably not far from your home or office, although most of them are disguised as harmless-looking model train shops.

Now I have a confession to make.

I work out at a gym.

I can't reveal the name for security reasons, but I can tell you that those of us who go there share a common bond. We can't figure out why we go there every day, but we know that if we don't, we'll turn into Raymond Burr. Or worse, we'll look like Everybody Else.

Most of the guys don't like to use their real names. They'd rather be described by their appearance or their occupation. For instance, at my gym there's a guy named Richie The Back, Paul With The Big Pectorals, Gary The Bug Man and Brad The Guy Who Plays Guitar In A Band. We're really creative when it comes to nicknames.

We do more than lift in the gym. We listen to the radio, rub chalk on our hands, and look at ourselves in the mirror. We also spot each other. Spotting is when one lifter gets in the face of another and drools on him and screams at him while he tries to move the weight. The spotter has to shout just the right words to inspire the lifter, and every lifter has his own personal phrase that works for him. It's like a mantra. Some of the more popular phrases are "Come on!", "Come on!" and "Come on!"

Contrary to popular belief, we don't go around beating people up or otherwise using our size to our advantage. Nor are we conceited and hopelessly hung up on our appearance.

We're just trying to uphold a noble tradition.

And while we're holding the tradition up, if our massive biceps bulge a little and our rock-hard chest expands so much it rips our shirt, that's okay.

Because if you don't like it, we'll find out where you live.

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