Day 1, Gym

I spent most of the train ride trying to decide if/how to tweak my workout routine. I blogged earlier that I was going to switch from Big 3 to an RPT split, but then started second guessing my decision.

There’s a definition of “beginner” that relates to weight training and it’s not necessarily how heavy you can lift, but moreover how quickly you recover from lifting. After a few months of Big 3 and StrongLifts I can still make progress doing the same 3 lifts 3x/week. The only major issue is the lower back soreness that comes from doing deadlifts. When that started to happen, I switched the programming to 3×5 instead of 5×5. So there’s an argument for me to remain classified as a beginner and stick with the simple Big 3 routine.

The argument for switching to a split routine is time and variety. The ultimate success of a program isn’t about the minor changes made to a lifting routine or a diet, but the ability to stay motivated and not abandon the program prematurely. Doing the Big 3 routine is fun for the first 2 months, especially when you start loading big plates on to the bar. But it’s an exhausting workout. And even though I have a full 50 minutes to dedicate to lifting if I go in the morning, there are times when that isn’t enough. Squat racks are very popular at my gym and sometimes it’s 10 or 15 minutes until I can start my first work set. The potential stress of getting to the gym on time and being able to complete the workout directly affects my motivation.

But variety is a big motivator as well. Striving to increase weight and maintain good form for all 3 big lifts 3x/week is taxing, but only having one big lift per workout could be a boost to my ability to focus.

2015-03-23 07.00.24I walked over to the weight room area still undecided, but the crowded conditions quickly helped me to decide. My gym is linked to a university, and despite this week being spring break the weight room was packed and all 3 squat racks were occupied. So instead of waiting around, I decided to go right to a deadlifts/chins routine.

After a few warm ups, I did 185 x 5 x 5 with 2 mins rest in between. And despite my lingering lower back soreness, the sets got easier as I progressed. From there I 3 sets of reverse grip seated pull-downs (since I’m too weak for body weight chin-ups) using RPT (6×140, 8×120, 10×100). And with 10 minutes to spare I finished up with some much needed foam rolling and a couple of sun salutations.

Meshuggah-DestroyEraseToday’s workout soundtrack was “Destroy Erase Improve” by Meshuggah. I’m hoping to find some time before Wednesday to make some custom playlists, but there will always be certain albums that are good to workout with from start to finish. This being one of them.

So I think I’m going to stick with a 3 day split using classic 5 x 5 programming for the big lifts and RPT for the ancillary exercises (basically chins and push ups) .

Now, with all that out of the way, I can focus on eating. Today is a carb day and I’m soooo ready for it!!

Day -2, Strength Assessment

2015-03-20 11.47.20Back from the gym and pleasantly surprised that my strength hasn’t dropped too much since my last lifting session. Before today, my last workout was on 2/18 which is over a month ago. On that day, my big 3 lifts were:

  • Squat 160 x 5 x 5
  • Bench 160 x 5 x 5
  • Deadlift 190 x 5 x 5

For today’s workout my stats are:

  • Squat 155 x 5 x 2
  • Bench 155  x 5 x 2
  • Deadlift 185 x 5 x 2

Note that I only did 2 work sets for each just to be safe and not overdo it. The good news is that I felt strong and only dropped 5 pounds on all lifts.

Starting Monday (the official day 1) I plan to split up this routine into 3 days with the following program:

  • Monday: Deadlifts & Chins
  • Wednesday: Bench & Dips
  • Friday: Squats and Overhead press

Instead of 5×5, I’m going to try a reverse pyramid rep scheme. The 3 main reasons for this programming change are as follows:

1. I have limited time in the morning and trying to get a squat rack every day occasionally proves to be difficult. With this new routine, I only need the squat rack on Friday, which is the least busiest day at my gym.

2. The workouts themselves look shorter on paper which should give me more time for stretching. Cramming the big 3 into a single workout  isn’t too difficult when the weights are light, but when rest periods increase the workout can easily span over an hour, which is too long for me.

3. Variety will keep the boredom at bay and should increase motivation to go on days when I’m not feeling it.

The downside to all of this is that squat and bench 1x/week might not be enough. So after the first 4 weeks if any changes are to be made I will probably start here.