How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?
Episode 4

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 4 of
How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? ?

Not only is How Heavy Are The Dumbbells You Lift? infectiously enthusiastic about the appeal of exercise, it seems to have a keen understanding of its general appeal as a series. For as much as the show touts serious weightlifting, that passion almost never feels like a pressure, and plenty of attention is paid to easing people into exercising, down to showing off sets you can do at home at the end of every episode. This fourth entry focuses even more on that aspect, revolving entirely around getting gym-work done even when the gym isn't available to you.

There's a decent smattering of general gym culture factored into how our heroines navigate their exercise routines. Back when I was working out regularly (at a small apartment gym), I was no stranger to busy times leaving me to improvise when spots I'd normally use were all taken up. And anybody with gym-thusiasts in their social media circle has probably seen complaints about ‘resolutioners’ crowding gyms at the beginning of the year. It hadn't occurred to me that summer might see a similarly busy uptick, but it makes sense in hindsight. At any rate, the educational takeaway from all this boils down to 1) Weight machines tend to be less taken up in a crowded gym of newcomers and 2) Despite hardcore weightlifters like Akemi having a stigma against them, these machines are just fine for exercise.

The bodybuilding science aspects of Dumbbells are as eye-opening as the cultural and general exercise trivia I'd never really considered. Last week, we learned about working out opposing muscles for better results, and now they helpfully explain how using machines is less broadly stimulating than free weights, but more focused on the specific areas you're working on. It feeds into the general theme that carries this episode, that there are many options available to you and “It's important to change things up once in a while”. With that in mind, Ayaka also wanders in this portion to formally join the cast at Silverman gym. It was obviously going to happen, but I like Ayaka so it's nice to finally have her join the team all the same. It also seems like new arrivals catching feelings for Machio is going to be a running gag. That's funny enough, even as I find myself more questioning how many tracksuits that guy goes through per day. (Silverman must pay him pretty good.)

But no sooner does Ayaka join up for the gym membership than the whole place closes for the day, escalating these gym junkies' woes as they wander, wondering where to work out. Of course, as the show has espoused since the beginning, ‘in the comfort of your own home’ is a perfectly acceptable option. But Dumbbells actually ends up playing off of that, when the girls point out that they already know about things like squats and push-ups, so they're actively looking for more advanced movements. The exercise video they find starring the inimitable ‘Toshio Ozu’ proves to be one of the most funny bits of the whole episode. This grinning literature professor/man mountain is basically doing his own twist on Machio's bit (Machio even makes a cameo in his video!), with viewers definitely getting an eyeful of him throughout his surreal narration of more complex home exercise routines. The starring sets are the dips and reverse push-ups, the latter of which are the post-episode participation exercise. My hubris at having an okay time with the past three weeks proved to be my undoing, as these exercises really took it out of me! In my defense, it's quite hot around this time of year, and I had consumed an entire basket of Robertito's carnitas fries for lunch earlier, but my point still stands: these exercises made noodles of my arms.

Our heroines can't even catch a break this episode when they aren't specifically out at the gym, with a closed-off ocean on their beach trip leaving them high and (literally) dry. Oh right, we're busting out the swimsuit scenes just four episodes in, because when Dumbbells isn't about stimulating muscle growth, it's about stimulating other things. I honestly have no problem with the fanservice that's been part of Dumbbells's package since day one, since it's generally good-natured and there are certainly worse uses of cheesecake shots than encouraging exercise. I stand by that point even as the girls' beach regimen of burpees and jogging in swimsuits pushes it even further into the ‘horny exercise video’ category than before. At least this is a show with the animation chops to back up its ambitions. Besides, given the kind of content Doga Kobo was using its powers to create in recent seasons, I for one welcome our new workout-girl overlords.

It's nice to know that even in the necessary vignette structure of Dumbbells, we'll still be able to string whole episodes together with some sort of theme as the show goes on. This week's focus on the advantages of alternate training environments that pretty much anyone can find was on-brand for its particular style of encouragement. It's also getting more deft in entertainment value—there's a bit in the middle that seems to be simply demonstrating an advanced form for dips using a backpack for weight, but then it abruptly cuts to a gag of Hibiki accidentally destroying the supporting chairs. Seeing the show drop its format for the sake of a well-timed joke made it the funniest moment of the episode for me. It's good to see Dumbbells knowing exactly how seriously to take itself; it's got a lot of genuine confidence for a silly hobby show.

Rating:

How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? is currently streaming on Funimation.


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