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Pull-ups, Chin-ups, and Dips: My Bodybuilding Mantra

by Dr. Joel Clyman, CI-CPT, ACE-CPT, CYT, CINHC
Originally published in Frank Zane’s 2018 edition of Building the Body. Used with permission.
Center for Nutritional Healing

A gym teacher once told me if you do dips regularly you’ll maintain good upper body strength for life. That was nearly 50 years ago. I took him for his word. I never stopped exercising. I bought a power stand about 26 years ago that has both dip and pull-up bars…thus my mantra “Pull-ups, chin-ups, and dips…”

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Around that time I stumbled upon Frank Zane’s book Fabulously Fit Forever. I was intrigued by his scientific, measured approach to bodybuilding — written by a true Renaissance man steeped in science, art, philosophy and driven by curiosity.

About three years ago I rediscovered Frank’s book and found his website. There I found out he offered one-on-one personal training. So here I am, a 62-year-old retired dentist and pianist turned personal trainer (CI-CPT) and yogi (CYT), training with the Master, Frank Zane.

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So why now? In addition to running and weight lifting since my teens, yoga has been the foundation of my fitness for over 20 years. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with the best. Frank is someone whose life’s work has been devoted to be fit forever, not just physically but emotionally and spiritually — a true spiritual warrior.

Last October, I met Frank in his studio for 4 days of immersion as part of his VIP program. We covered all aspects of training, focusing on my workout, nutrition, and meditation as spelled out in The 91 Day Wonder Body and 91 Day Wonder Abs. These books serve as the perfect template for achieving my goals. Frank also guided me through the compulsory poses and developed a posing routine for me. We have since had 6 biweekly consults by phone where we reviewed my updated photos (poses) and my progress. Thanks to Frank, I can now critique my photos, target areas in need of work, and select exercises to accomplish these goals. But there’s much more.

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I have found a new type of meditation. Bodybuilding requires keen focus and concentration. Posing is no different than practicing yoga asanas. Both require present moment awareness where the level of detail is up to the observer. So whether I’m working out or posing, both are meditations — deep connections of mind and body sewn together by the breath.

Integrating bodybuilding and yoga is quite challenging. My goal is to maintain the level of flexibility I have developed with 20 years of yoga practice while bodybuilding. Weightlifting inherently will lead to tightness of the muscles which is alleviated by stretching between sets. Nonetheless the level of my yoga practice requires compound movements which are more complex. Recently I switched from my 3 way split routine to alternating full-body workouts in between my yoga practice, as I like the look I have achieved. Some days it’s yoga. Other days it’s weightlifting. They have become one practice, one lifestyle to me. This may vary from week to week. Sometimes I may need more than 24 hours in between sessions. Often times I combine yoga poses into my weightlifting sessions. The most important thing is to listen to the body. How I proceed is driven by the goal I have set above, to maintain flexibility while bodybuilding. I’m not afraid to experiment with my sessions and improvise. With this process I go by what I feel is needed at any given moment. Sometimes less is more.

I have found the two disciplines complement one another. Yoga alone did not lead to my level of muscular development. For that I needed to lift weights. I believe weightlifting has enhanced my yoga practice and vice versa. By integrating both, I strike a balance of strength and flexibility. Form follows function facilitated by daily review of body movement and periodic photos.

I also cannot emphasize the importance of nutrition. A well-balanced diet is integral to this process. Changes in weight dramatically effect form and function. Finding what is sustainable is the key to success.

Where do I go from here? The yogi in me says I’m already there. What’s next? A 60-year-old-and-over competition perhaps? Most of all, I wish to express my gratitude to Frank Zane for the experience of working with him. He has shared his life’s work and taken me to a new level of fitness that transcends the body and elevates the spirit. Thank you.

We dip to the earth, then push or pull up to the sky. “Pull-ups, chin-ups, and dips,” truly a mind-body connection integrated with the world around us. Namaste.