Shoulder to Shoulder

by Tom Swift

Like most people, I made a birthday wish. Unlike most people, my birthday wish involved the voluntary exhaustion of my deltoids.

I cross paths nearly daily with Calvin, Ed, and Nayo, three bodybuilders who train together at our gym during the early morning hours. The three of them are like synchronized swimmers, constantly moving between sets and supersets with minimal rest and even less conversation. Rather than move to a shared beat, they each have their own headsets on. In place of splashes, they toss dumbbells, barbells, and plates around, always seeming to know where the other two guys will be. Sometimes they will give a quick hand signal. Light dancing is not uncommonly involved — most usually on leg day.

Earlier this week, I asked Nayo and Calvin what was on their docket for today.


Perfect. Easily my weakest of the major body parts areas.

I asked if I could try to keep up. My birthday challenge to myself. They were totally down with that.

“It would be my pleasure,” is how I think Calvin responded, “to inflict pain on you.”

We did presses, a lot of raises (front, side, over), and some pulls. I was, not surprisingly, always the one using the the lightest weight — or doing the fewest reps. But I almost always stayed within their hypertrophy-building range of eight to 12 reps. I followed my personal rule to not go to absolute failure and, in the end, I, more or less, kept up.

Most importantly, I learned new ways to grow my delts — if you look closely in the picture while using powerful instruments you can see that I have them!) — and I had a lot of fun. My kind of fun — purposeful activity shared with good people.

I should say it made for a great start to my birthday.