Boofhead Engineering: Things that make you go…uuhhh?

Boofhead engineering is a mystifying art. Those Picasso pictures are easier to understand.(They’re some kind of anatomy diagram… right ???). Yes, we have ‘boofhead engineering’ to thank for prehistoric blunt tools, flint knives, and stone axes. But the modern boofhead has been resting on those particular laurels for a few thousand years now.

Using gym floor equipment to improve existing machines? Well, at least it’s a contribution. Here, meathead innovation never fails to surprise me (though it may fail to actually work). As a personal trainer, you quickly learn that the inventions of the …um…construction-vulnerable?  are a wicked delight to watch. A responsibility, yes – any rescue sprint is a test (of how your reflexes match your peripheral vision). But the truly great ‘improvements’? They’re the stuff of dinner-table stories. (Always told without identifying details, of course).

Don’t consider these inventors unfairly mocked – we’ve all done gloriously stupid things. Think of it as giving joy to those who want to protect you from bodily harm. You’re bringing a little sunshine to our fluoro-lit world. (We’re P.T.’s. We’re in a gym from 5am til 10pm. We don’t get out much.)

Besides, some of these equipment ‘interpretations’ actually do work. In a Darwinian sort of way. That is, they’re likely to kill or seriously injure the innocent that invented them. There are so many of these pieces of tomfoolery to be seen in a gym over the years, that there should be a book. Complete with diagrams. (Perhaps the book already exists on WikiLeaks. As a banned publication of right-to-die group  Exit International).


*Page One – B.Y.O. seatbelt loop. Place around forehead. Connect loop to 140kg/250lb weight stack by cable. Use your head to bull charge forward, into oncomers. (Caution: this could make your neck stronger, if it doesn’t snap.)

*Page Two – Pile all available weight plates on leg press machine. There are people who will sit on them and ride to increase the load for you as ‘human weight plates’.( Suggestion: make closed coffin arrangements beforehand.)

*Page Three –  Advanced – Take a pin that is too short for the assisted chin-up machine. Use pin to lock the body-supporting platform to the floor (unstably). Take feet, hang yourself upside down by hooking them over chin-up handlebars. Align upside-down head with loosely-held platform. Crunch abdominals, so head moves towards feet. Then fall off handles, to crunch head. (This is known as a ‘full range of motion’).

– Alternative: Perform abdominal crunches upside down, until pin comes loose and weighted platform springs up. Head compacts between shoulders (like an aluminium can). This option is suitable only for 110kg+(240lb+) individuals. (Those capable of a ‘fool range of motion’).


The true gift of the (surviving) boofhead? It’s in ‘reverse engineering’. That is, breaking stuff to see how it used to work. Or, so it works ‘better’  in a way no one else understands. A way that highly resembles broken.

For instance: the basic concept of a Smith machine involves inbuilt guards, brakes for an Olympic-style bar that might otherwise end up on your forehead. Or vertically compress your spine and give you space-saver vertebrae. Naturally, the first thing to do with a smith machine is forcibly remove those brakes. That way, you can use the Smith machine rather like the Olympic bar that’s sitting across the room. (It is a long walk, and you don’t want to lose muscle with too much cardio).

My recent favourite is the creation of a brilliant civilian engineer, Shrug-a-lugs. Thing is, with the shrug movement, you can break stuff so quietly. Because shrugs are a small movement, metal crumples beneath the load, rather than clanging spectacularly. (Yes, you could use a Smith machine, barbell or dumbbells instead. Shrugs are a relatively natural body movement. That is, if you are using a load guided by the principle of “Can’t put it down? Then don’t pick it up”).

But for the gung-ho fans of overloading, invention is demanded. Specifically, by the new sign saying ‘This is a shoulder press machine. Please don’t stand on the seat to do shrugs’. Inconvenient…but it can be worked around. All you need is to use the deadlift machine instead, with one of those plyometric boxes wedged under the handle. Okay, so the legs of the box buckle past 100kg (220lb). And the frame of the deadlift machine bends too. But why else do you pay your membership fees, if not so they can buy another one?

The strangest thing is, once an ‘improvement’ has made it to the gym floor, it reappears, repeatedly. Until there’s a  whole group of die-hards pretending they can’t see the ‘Do Not (Improve This Machine Like That)’ sign. Exactly how this happens, I don’t know. Yes, you can copy an example – if you’re there to see it. But I think it must float in the gym ether too. Either that, or  Shrug-a-lugs dropped the design plans in the changeroom.

(Tip: If a gym bothers to laminate a sign – they mean it. Really. Really, really).

The tools of …well, tools, are a cultural treasure. They prove Picasso painted muscle anatomy. You can end up with one half of your face smushed sideways into the other. How we survive our Stone Age smarts… it’s enough to make you…well…(shrug).


One thought on “Boofhead Engineering: Things that make you go…uuhhh?

  1. Pingback: Oops… | savingboofheads

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