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But, last night, inspired by Marty Gallagher’s advice to quit the resistance machinery and go “primitive,” I descended into the pit and discovered . . . all sorts of regular folks. Sure, they were all in better shape than I am, and they all seemed to know what they were doing, but nobody kicked sand in my face or threatened to toss me back up the stairs just to prove they could.

In fact, once I kind of oriented myself, I didn’t feel any more out of place than I do in the rest of the gym.

And Gallagher was right about the free weights vs. the resistance machines. I spent maybe a half hour down there: some previously hazardous goblet squats, lunges, curls, overhead presses, triceps extensions and even a couple of sets of the exotically named Sumo Romanian Deadlift, and I can really feel it this morning — way more than when I was doing my normal routine on the machines. And it’s different muscle groups, which I take to be a good thing. As Gallagher puts it in The Purposeful Primitive, there’s a good reason why dumbells and barbells are better:

“The very rawness of hoisting the barbells and dumbbells is what makes them so effective for muscle and strength building. Smooth and efficient is not nearly as good as crude and difficult when the name of the game is triggering hypertrophy. Free weights trump movement-mimicking machines every single time and in every single instance.”

What was interesting was that I didn’t hoist nearly the poundage that I generally use on the machines, but I’m feeling it a lot more than I usually do. Plus, I didn’t drop any iron on my toes. An auspicious beginning, I’d say.

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