Seventeen-year-old Sakura Hibiki has a problem. She wants to be slim and beautiful, with a lot of hot guys chasing after her. However, she also really, really, likes to eat, and doesn’t do much in the way of exercise.
However, she experiences a rude awakening when a friend tells her that she looks like she’s getting fat. Fearing the worst, she steps on a scale and discovers her friend was right. She has been plumping up, and she needs to take drastic action if she is to be beach-ready by the time summer rolls around.
Luckily, a branch of the famous Silverman Gym has just opened near her school and is offering free memberships. She goes to visit and begins her fitness journey. How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift is released by Seven Seas in the west both physically and digitally.
The characters of How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift
This manga centres around three characters. There’s Sakura as mentioned above, a student at an all-girls high school who is a complete beginner in the gym.
There is Akemi (Sakura’s classmate), who is the school valedictorian and, at seventeen years old, already a seasoned gym rat. And Machio, the handsome personal trainer who acts as their instructor: The cast of characters eventually grows a bit by the end of the volume, but these three make up the core.
What’s the story?
Sakura and Akemi meet by chance in the gym lobby and decide to train together, with Machio as their guide. That’s as complicated as the story gets. In fact, there’s not much “story” here in the traditional sense, because this isn’t so much a manga as it is a weightlifting guide for beginners. Each chapter follows the same basic pattern.
This book can absolutely serve as a teaching tool for fitness beginners who want to learn more about lifting.
First: the exercise. Every chapter begins with a specific weightlifting movement. Chapter one, for example, starts with the bench press. Akemi serves as the model, while Machio explains in detail how to perform the exercise correctly.
After an explanation of the exercise and its benefits, it’s Sakura’s turn to try. And that’s pretty much it. The whole book follows this same basic pattern. If that seems straightforward, it’s because it is. So where is the entertainment value? Well…
How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift Spoilers
Author Yakobo Sandrovich finds all sorts of smart ways to insert humour into each chapter, and the best tool is trainer Machio, who seems normal enough until he randomly starts striking bodybuilder poses.
Akemi’s modelling is also hilarious, as she takes the poses meant to explain the benefits of an exercise and turns them into mildly erotic art.
Funnier still is Akemi’s real reason for joining the gym. She tells Sakura that she is there to maintain good lifelong health so that she can devote herself to the betterment of society. But that façade quickly falls away when she lays eyes on all the buff dudes working out at Silverman. Little personality quirks like this – and the exchanges they lead to – create much of the humour and fun of this book.
Later on, another character joins the fun: Tachibana Satomi, a 29-year old teacher who works at Sakura and Akemi’s school. Satomi has what she thinks is a shameful secret, and her guarding of this secret leads to more light humour. I wouldn’t dare spoil that secret for you. You’ll have to read the book to see what it is.
Watching these women interact with both Machio and each other as they slowly get in shape is fun nonetheless. It’s not high drama, but it is fun.
Research and science
I am a Master Fitness Trainer in the US Army. Fitness and fitness science is my bread and butter. I mention this because I want you to know I’m in a position to judge how accurate the diet and exercise advice is in this book. And I have to say; it’s pretty good. Here’s my favourite example from the book.
In chapter four, Sakura and Akemi go swimming to work out some soreness after a hard week at the gym. Sakura sits down to stretch, and Akemi immediately stops her.
Akemi then tells her that static stretching has been proven actually to reduce performance and increase the chance of injury. She instead leads Sakura in a series of dynamic stretches, movements designed to limber up the joints and raise the heart rate without the injury risk of stretching cold muscles.
This example falls precisely in line with current research, which states that static stretching reduces performance and that dynamic stretching is the way to go. The two girls even have a conversation about how this research isn’t widely known yet, which is why so many people still static stretch prior to exercise, despite its detrimental effects.
The whole book is painstakingly researched in this manner. Going through each exercise, I didn’t find anything that I would consider bad advice. Each movement is clearly labelled and explained, with key points, and common errors pointed out. This book can absolutely serve as a teaching tool for fitness beginners who want to learn more about lifting.
Anatomy is vital in a manga about muscles and lifting, and artist MAAM seems to have an excellent grasp of human anatomy. Bodies are realistically proportioned, and even the exaggerated muscles on the superfit characters are still in the right places and look correct. The book is primarily about bodies, and the artist draws them very well.
However, it is also a book about characters, and each character has a unique look and is very expressive. You learn a lot about each character just by their facial expressions, which, in my opinion, helps you bond with them and enjoy their journey that much more.
Is How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift worth reading?
Yes. The book isn’t high drama, and it isn’t meant to be; it’s just a slice-of-life anime that centres around fitness. The characters are goofy but likeable, the humour is genuinely funny, the art is well-drawn, and the fitness information is solid. How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift by Seven Seas is a manga that is definitely worth your time.