Okay, fine. I don't know exactly what muscles I used, nor why they throbbed painfully for the fortnight thereafter. I do know that a quick run through Reps!, a mag for noncompetitive bodybuilders, might have saved me a few hundred bucks in chiropractor-assisted spinal realignments.
It's not a magazine aimed at soft typewriter monkeys like me, of course, which I learned upon checking out its mission statement. It reads in part: "We are vehemently opposed to inactivity [no problem there], obesity [still safe], gluttony [uh-oh], recreational drugs [hi, Mom!], tobacco [depends -- is peer pressure involved?] and alcohol abuse [looking around nervously, whistling, hands jammed in pockets]." I kid, I kid -- I'm a Puritan. Really, though, I don't think I'd have much common conversational ground with the editors, especially the one listed in the masthead as Robert "Fortress" Fortney. From here on out, I'd like to be referred to as Larry "Cozy Lean-To Constructed of Balsa Wood" Dobrow.
If you're of more hardy stock than I, and like to prove it by hoisting multiple metal plates over your head while grunting bestially, Reps! is the publication for you. If you like gazing at bulky, shaved, oiled dudes wearing no shirts, it's a solid choice as well. The shirtless aspect shouldn't be understated: A nutrition item in the summer issue features a shirtless guy stuffing his face with what appears to be an unprocessed chicken. A short piece on knee pain features an agonized shirtless guy clutching at his legs. The six pages of healthy recipes feature three random shirtless guys, obliterating the record set in the February issue of Everyday Food.
Outside of the shirtless dudes with "Zoolander" facial expressions, I quite like the way Reps! looks. It's a perfect match of style and subject, with the big blocky fonts resembling those on gym equipment. The mag understands what its readers want -- big-ass pictures -- and delivers them in spades.
As for the features, their titles tell you everything you need to know about them ("Train Less, Gain More," "Don't Be A Dumbbell"), with a single exception ("McQuay's Abs," which sounds like the title of Arnold Schwarzenegger's big-screen comeback vehicle). Much to the mag's credit, each of the features is clear and concise, listing in simple terms the exact steps readers should take to achieve a desired result. Any number of enthusiast and how-to publications could benefit from such clarity.
"First Rep" smartly surveys a range of training and health topics, though the tasteless bit on Saddam Hussein's final-day treadmill regimen doesn't earn points for class. Just as good is the "Iron Grapevine" compilation of personality and industry nuggets, which makes Reps! the rare long-lead quarterly title that does news/gossip reasonably well.
Still, Reps! comes across clumsier than an overly muscled lummox at times. The plugs for the other titles in the Canusa publishing arsenal, including the too-sexy-for-its-shirt American Curves Presents Duos, get a bit annoying after a while. A title of this kind could use more in the way of "Gear" recommendations for bicycle shorts, gloves and hair gel, if not tank tops or blouses. Why any magazine would trumpet a "Win A Free iPod!" contest on its cover in mid-2007 is beyond me.
The back-of-book Q&As, one with a 1960s bodybuilding star and another with a "teen phenom" of yesteryear, also deserve a bit more space, if only to explain how one achieves teen-prodigy status in the world of weightlifting. Just imagine some of the parent conversations: "My kid got a 1300 on the SAT." "Oh yeah? Well, my kid looks awesome in a banana hammock."
So what'd we learn here today? One, that triceps kickbacks don't build triceps mass (duh!). Two, that those with hairy shoulders cannot enjoy the skin-glistening benefits of body oil. And three, that Reps! is a fine magazine for weight-room disciples and exactly nobody else. In conclusion, I will not be removing my shirt in public for a long, long time.