Like everything you scratch your head about in Latin American culture, all the absurdities come from Spain. The Spanish Legacy.
But not all the backwardness comes from Iberia. Some are made in Latin America — staggering corruption and crime. I also thought the idiotic stuff you see in gyms was American-made. But this video surprised me in proving that it too is in fact from the motherland.
Before we look at the video, a little background. Because like almost everything in Latin American entertainment, it’s not an original idea but a gringo creation remixed into Spanish.
The concept was first developed by California Strength, one of the world’s most esteemed strength gyms home to athletes like Jon North and Mark Bell. Their guys made the trek from the Bay Area to Los Angeles to show off at Muscle Beach, the world-famous see-and-be-seen gym featured in Pumping Iron.
The idea was for competitive weightlifters to show up the crowd by lifting twice the loads as a bunch of bodybuilders twice their size. One of the guys squats 500 for five reps. That’s strong even at an Olympic training center. He later jerks 400. Unfortunately Muscle Beach was nearly deserted, just a few regular Joes were training.
But even if there were tanned bodybuilders, the bigger problem is that most people don’t get the joke. You’d have to know the difference between weightlifting and bodybuilding, and you’d have to be into weightlifting and irreverent toward bodybuilding.
And that’s not many people, which is why the video has 370,000 views in four years. But digital media company Thrillist seized on the idea and remixed it in a way that would go viral.
Thrillist went to the same place in Venice Beach but filmed just one athlete – a CrossFit athlete (not like your dork friend who posts his wads on Facebook, but the dudes competing on ESPN) dressed up as an 80-year-old man doing impressive lifts to the shock and awe of the crowd. Thrillist got the timing right so there would be buff dudes training and plenty of passersby, and the video has attracted over 11 million views.
The problem with this is that the gym isn’t filled with bodybuilders doing whack exercises. One guy does a muscle-up-to-handstand-pushups on a bar. That would impress anybody who isn’t trying out for the U.S. men’s gymnastics team. Another dude snatches 205. But the biggest beef with the Thrillist remix is that it introduces a dishonesty which just ruins the point. It’s just a prank, like Bad Grandpa.
But then the Spaniards had a turn with the El Hormiguero-produced video, Youth is a Mental State.
The Spanish Maricada
The Spanish Maricada attracted 23 million views on Facebook, and it is just awful.
It embodies everything that is wrong with the training scene in Latin America, largely detailed in an article I wrote seven years ago (after two years as an expat), which largely holds true today. Let’s break it down by screenshot.
Unlike the Thrillist video, El Hormiguero uses an actual old man in 72-year-old Rafael Vera, a professional bodybuilder still competing in senior shows. But they use deception by dressing him up in a fat suit and having him, accompanied by untrained senior citizens, walk around the gym making a big show of asking stupid questions.
Then they have to establish the bona fides of how hardcore this gym is, because they’re not at iconic Muscle Beach. Their first clip is this dude doing partial-rep pull-ups. This is the only respectable exercise seen in the whole video, and the dude does not do one full pull-up.
Shout out to those who spot his super-wide grip, which reduces the distance he has to pull himself before incorporating the real cheating.
This dude is wearing fucking gloves. He’s not the only one in the video wearing gloves, as you’ll see in most Latin American gyms.
[“WTF?” wonder non-expat gringo meatheads reading this. Yes, many dudes in Latin America wear gloves.]
BroScience’s Dom Mazzetti said it best: “Maybe I should start wearing lifting gloves so I can continue to give my boyfriend smooth hand jobs with my buttery man paws.”
Or as I wrote in my training guide Sucker Free, “Gloves are for girls and transvestites.”
Gyms like this are actually safe zones for gay men, which I applaud as a straight ally. But this dude’s hair! Be careful with those cable rows!
Nothing immediately wrong with this dude … in the pic. But in the video you can see he’s chewing fucking gum. Hence we can conclude beyond the shadow of a doubt that he’s not doing any real work. O sea NOT a macho que se respeta.
It’s an old joke to make fun of women who wear makeup to the gym. I can’t tell if this one has any, but she has all the trappings of what I like to call a “stretchibitionist.” In her defense, the original FB video shows her doing fairly strict hanging leg raises, stricter than the partial pull-ups above anyway.
Squatting in the Smith Machine. This is not even acceptable for girls. It’s not for anybody. The Smith Machine is for geriatric trainees to bench or press, or people recovering from serious injuries such as broken arms. And for pressing motions.
I’ll tell you the bright side of the Smith Machine in Latin America – the squat rack is ALWAYS open. Even at your closest gym, right now. You can jump right in.
Sneaky hashtag thrown in there. Of all the motivational fitness videos and all the companies in the world, this video is sponsored by McDonald’s. Perfect.
Four 10-kg plates on each side of the bar instead of two 20s. This is unbelievably common in Latin America. I haven’t figured out why they do it, but I have two theories:
- Their Spanish brains think four 10s look heavier than two 20s.
- The 45 lb plates are too hard to load on the bar.
If you don’t even lift bro, understand that loading a bar with quarter plates is something you’d never see in Gringolandia. You just don’t do that. Like grabbing a girl by the pussy if you’re not a star.
Somebody might ask how eight 10kg plates and a bar add up to 94 kilos, instead of 100. I have no idea.
That’s the moment when the decrepit old man act comes to an end and Vera starts wowing all the fitness models with the incredible feat of three-board pressing 207 pounds. If you don’t even lift bro, he’s taking a page from the partial-rep pull-up all-star above. Vera is not bench pressing because the bar is not touching his chest.
The board press is an ancillary exercise powerlifters use to build strength in the arms and shoulders by lifting weight they can’t get off their chest. Or for Spaniards to lift more weight than they can bench to impress a room full of dumb asses.
Somebody out there is going to point out that board-pressing 207 for a few reps is not bad for a 72-year-old man. I would respond that I’ve seen dudes in their 60s not on steroids push-press that at Eagle Gym. So a three-boarder for three wouldn’t impress anybody there.
Doesn’t get more hardcore than half-rep cable crossovers with 20 or 30 pounds plates on each side!
For a bonus laugh, check out the trainer’s short shorts in the background. We found the guy who teaches people to squat in the Smith Machine!
Typical of the fitness model circuit, it’s bench-and-biceps day. Also known as every day. After partial bench presses and cable crossovers, it’s time for a curling contest with the short bar. Vera beats a younger guy who is clearly not the strongest dude in the room, but the crowd’s reaction implies that nobody in the gym caught that Vera cleans the bar up, using more posterior chain (back, ass and hammies) than arms.
But of course these dudes don’t notice. They play soccer.
For the record, I can clean 99 pounds from the floor with my dick.
Finally, the climax. Vera strips off into his bikini bottom for the pose down, the language these people really understand.
I believe that is the Brazilian-style bikini and wax.
But the worst part of this video, as bad as it has been for three full minutes, is incorporating a moral to the story. You can’t just leave it at that. You have to appeal to a higher ideal.
Age is a mental state! You too can be like this guy …
… and chew gum at the same time!
For all the smack I talk here, you see a lot of whack shit in Gringolandia. Just check out Gym Fuckery on Facebook.
Spain sent four weightlifters to the 2016 Olympics. Respect!
And in Latin America, Colombia is phenomenal in sending nine Olympians and ultimately ranking higher in than medal count than serious weightlifting nations like Turkey and Belarus, including a gold.
The rise of CrossFit and bodyweight culture is arriving in Latin America, so things are getting better down here … albeit very slowly. You still see all that shit in the video. Apparently it comes from Spain.
But like I said, there’s a bright side. The squat rack is open.
I developed Maca Nitro capsules after taking coffee tablets in Colombia to power through my strength-training workouts.
My PRs are nothing fancy but enough to talk shit on the prissy Spaniards. Some highlights:
- 405 lb squat
- 465 lb deadlift
- 300 lb bench
- 225 lb clean and press
- 175 lb power snatch
To do that kind of work, you sometimes need a pick-me-up for intensity and alertness. I don’t like the synthetic nature of pills like No Doz, so I developed an organic blend of green coffee and maca powders. Wanna try? Visit a.co/0lPxMMB.
Tangent from the Hood
They recently erected this statue, “The Apprentice,” facing the park I train at, Parque Castilla in Lince, one of the better bodyweight scenes in Lima.
HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean you see truly comprehensive strength. Despite being home to many guys who can do muscle-ups, ring dips (yes, the park has rings) and even those mime-style bar routines, you only see upper-body work. I’ve never seen a pistol squat if it wasn’t me doing it.
And that approach to training is perfectly embodied in the statue. An unbelievable attention to detail and commitment to carving out every square inch of muscular perfection in the torso and arms. And the motherfucker didn’t even bother with legs. Just a big slab of platform.
Gotta love the angle the apprentice is swinging that hammer. His first day on the job.
I get my bodyweight “apprentice” on in Castilla a.k.a. “Touring” every other Monday, Wednesday and Friday. O sea, alternating Monday and Friday one week followed by only Wednesday next week, and so on.
This was a fun read. One glaring omission though… the dreaded fanny pack.
I am a girly-man, and I do girly-man moves on girly-man machines. But I’m happy with my condition at 61. It’s not great, but it’s not bad. Then again, I don’t post YouTube videos trying to show off. Colin, are you really an impressive physical specimen? I didn’t notice from the few photos that I have seen. You seem to get some satisfaction out of slamming other people, but it was an interesting read anyway.
@ Steve – I’m 6’2 230 lb with a good layer of fat now as a 38-year-old father of three, but yes I’m strong as fuck. If those numbers I posted don’t make any sense, this is me before kids. Today I’d add 10 pounds of fat with thicker arms but less traps and chest: pic