Saturday, April 2, 2011

I'm on the front page of the newspaper today.

I'm also apparently the most memorable part about my episode of Wipeout to Jessica Phillips.
 None of that is the point today though. I work with a guy named Lenny Islami. His real first name is Latif but he's gone by Lenny ever since he was a kid. His mother is Catholic and his father is Muslim but he describes himself as "not religious." Either way, at 42 years old he's one of the strongest guys I've ever worked with. Yesterday I saw him press a 214 lb stainless steel square over his head, and he doesn't even work out! His previous best was a 210 lb piece of steel and that was years ago.

Lenny used to work out when he was younger and he lived at the YMCA. When you live at the Y you get to use the gym for free and Lenny saw no reason not to take advantage. When asked about his best lifts, he claims he once bench pressed 350 lbs at the end of a chest workout just to see how much he could do. He told me his old workout routine once and there was nothing special about it. The standard bodypart split, three to five sets of eight to 10 reps, something like that. Nothing particularly unique about it. By his own admission he never put much effort into training his legs or his back.

When he moved out of the Y, he no longer had access to a gym but he still wanted to work out and here's where it gets interesting. Taking his inspiration from former NFL star Herschel Walker, Lenny started doing pushups. It sounds like pushups were pretty much the only exercise he did. While Walker also included sit-ups in his own routine, Lenny doesn't like sit-ups. So twice a week Lenny would do a deck of cards' worth of pushups. It didn't take long before this wasn't enough and he'd start having to do the deck twice. Before he knew it he was doing 1000 reps a day twice a week. He worked out a system where the minimum number of reps he could do at a time was 10. So if he drew a three, he would draw again and if he pulled an eight, that was 11 reps. If he pulled a two, drew again and pulled a five, he'd draw again, so on and so on until he'd gotten a minimum of 10 and then do that many reps. Resting between sets for as many seconds as he had just done reps, so if he did 15 reps he would rest 15 seconds. Face cards and aces apparently all had different values to him and I wish I could remember the exact details of that right now. Maybe I'll edit this later on after I talk to him again on Monday.
The exact details of Lenny's pushup routine are not important anyway. He doesn't work out at all anymore, just quit smoking (and he smoked A LOT) and he can still manage to pick a 214-lb steel square up off of a table, press it over his head and then carry it in that position to another table. No small feat of strength. When he was bodybuilding (recreationally), his workouts were nothing special. A 350-lb bench press is well above average but hardly Earth-shattering. A thousand pushups twice a week, however, is very unusual indeed. He trained that way for about a year or two before eventually losing interest in working out. He says his best time for doing 1000 reps was 38 minutes. Every once in a while the bug bites him again and he'll spend a month or so doing pushups beside his machine in sets of 50 every hour on the hour. Even that is still pretty good but it's always short-lived and he stops before he gets himself back into shape. In any case, he obviously built for himself a foundation for pressing strength that's going to last him a long time. That says a lot about pushups. They're a very underrated exercise by most people. When pushed to their extreme, they're one of the best exercises you can do.  - The mighty Lenny's facebook page. Because you know you want to be friends with him.


  1. Sincere congrats, Glen!! your pics are awesome!
    I laughed out loud at the library. several times and had to chokehold myself to stop. Kudos

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