Hey all, welcome to Sisyphitness: An Exercise Blog, where I will post humorous anecdotes, questionable advice, and serious musings about the role of exercise in modern culture.
Ah, squats. A great exercise. I’ve heard that doing deep squats releases some hormone that helps muscle growth, or maybe even helps fend off the slow reduction in testosterone that accompanies male aging. Who knows. (Some day, not today, I’ll look this up.) But it’s certain that squats work a lot of different muscles, many of them big, making it a great bang-for-the-buck exercise. You'll work your quads, hamstrings, glutes, hips flexors, abs, and low back. I’ll admit to feeling a bit scared by squats in the past, as they seem like they might put one’s back and knees at peril. As with all things exercise, they actually don’t cause much trouble (assuming you don’t already have a bad back or knees) if done correctly and without more weight than you can handle. They do require a certain degree of flexibility in the hips and low back, so if you’re really tight in those areas maybe do yoga for a couple of months before you start squatting deeply. (If you're curious about good squatting technique, check out videos here and here.)
Anyway, today I had a new squatting experience. During my first rep with weight on the bar, when I reached the bottom of the rep, that wonderfully precarious position where you look like an Indian (subcontinent not New World) taking a shit, something tore. I was unsure whether this was my ACL or my Achilles tendon. Either way, my body’s pain messages just hadn’t as yet reached my brain. I’ve seen people tear their ACL’s playing soccer, and we’ve all heard the infamous line from pro athletes: “I just felt a pop.” Not searing pain, not like you’ve been stabbed. Just a pop—at least at first. It takes a moment for the writhing and keening to begin.
Miraculously, it seemed, I was able to straighten my legs and stand erect without pain. Only then did my brain do a little back-of-a-napkin math and calculate that the origin of the tearing sound was in the vicinity of my ass. Luckily, it was not my ass or its central hole that tore, but rather my boxer shorts. This was a great relief.
The reason these particular boxers were rent as I squatted was that they are long and made of un-stretchy cotton. With my legs straight, they hung loose beneath my shorts, but when I bent my knees, my thighs, set at a wide stance, stretched the material sideways while my ass thrust backwards and put pressure on the seam in back, pressure that eventually became too much for my poor boxers to bear.
Which brings us to today’s probably-mostly-just-for-men lesson (there won’t always be a lesson): Don’t wear boxer shorts to lift weights. In fact, it could be argued that one shouldn’t wear boxer shorts at all. Briefs and the boxer-brief hybrid, with their snugness and flexibility, are far more versatile undergarments.