Lest We Forget the Back Arms Guy

by Adam benshea on July 28, 2016

Lest we forget the Back Arms Guy…


You know this man by sight.  The bulk filling out his shirtsleeves are called “back arms,” not triceps.  He bases his workouts on intuitive intensity, not on a blind adherence to scientific solutions or a sardine like willingness to be stuffed inside the can of fitness BS being sold to the general public.

Lenny MacLean

During high school I worked out at a local gym that provided a great selection of training equipment and a rich cast of characters.  One of the lifters who frequented this gym was a bouncer at the local strip club.  Over time, our conversations ranged from the emotional unbalances plaguing some exotic dancers to unorthodox training techniques.  One example of the latter came from his time ‘inside.’  From this experience, he spoke of a dude named ‘Red’ who had a massive chest (or ‘hood’) and the biggest ‘back arms’ he had ever seen, both of which he developed by doing 500 push-ups every morning before ‘chow.’


Without the benefit of glossy magazine foldouts and strip mall supplements, these back arms were built with methods that run contrary to the newest advances in kinesiology, nutrition fads, and fitness trends.  While this does not make sense from a scientific perspective, it occurs in gyms, cells, and outdoor workout facilities every day.  That is, on a regular basis, focused strength and combat athletes are producing results without following the advice of the latest academic studies.


How can this happen?


It happens because real strength and conditioning gains are made by the broad-backed strength soldier in the trenches, not the pencil-necked doctor in the lab.  This dismissal of science for intentional intensity is best exhibited by that man we can call the ‘Back Arms Guy.’  He cares not for theory, but focuses on fury.  By believing in hard work over hard data, he works out harder and longer than he should.  In an age where crowds rush to broke financial ‘experts’ for retirement advice and late night infomercial salesmen spout the benefits of dance workouts to solve the obesity epidemic, there is comfort when a man stands alone with his strength.


As Rudyard Kipling warned (“lest we forget”) about the dangers of imperial hubris in his famous poem, ‘Recessional,’ the same caveat can be issued for the arrogant belief in scientific progress.  If the Back Arms Guy teaches us anything, it is that a lab coat is not the lone beacon of light for those wanting real gains.

Catch Wrestling

So, when you chalk up, gear up, and get up for you next workout, do not be afraid to place faith in your own intestinal fortitude because it should not be shackled by the latest systematic spreadsheet study.  With this, you will join the lost battalion of vaudevillian strongmen, gypsy bareknuckle boxers, British doormen, Hawaiian watermen, and old-time shootwrestlers whose training methods are short on theory, but high on results.

Waterman Dave Kalama

Perhaps, few workouts scream back arm style training like a burpee circuit.  The burpee, or squat thrust, may remind you of junior high gym class, but it is a favorite on the ‘yard’ and in any fight school.  Requiring no equipment and limited space, its functional benefits include mimicking the movement of sprawling to stop a takedown attempt and the way in which most fights fluctuate between standing and grappling.


Jump and Tuck

To complete the workout below, do each movement for as many reps as possible within one minute, take a thirty second break between movements, and work to complete three rounds of the circuit:


Burpee without the jump

Burpee with jump

Unilateral/One-Legged Burpee

Unilateral/One-Legged Burpee (opposite side)

Burpee with jump and tuck (bring the knees to chest during the jump)

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