The time has come for me to take a break from lifting. My body is in desperate need of some extensive healing and stretching. The timing couldn’t be more perfect though. Friday I’m on vacation, Monday I’m working from home and next Friday my gym will be closed for graduation. Trying to shove a lifting session in the middle of all of that is probably not worth the effort. So I will spend the next 11 days stretching, resting and doing a bit of cardio.
So now is the time to check the numbers and evaluate my progress.
Starting numbers as of April 1st. Three sets of five for all lifts (3 x 5)
- Squat: 135
- Bench: 160
- Dead: 195
- Press: 70
Latest numbers as of June 3rd.
- Squat: 225 (+90) 67% increase
- Bench: 205 (+45) 28% increase
- Dead: 265 (+70) 36% increase
- Press: 115 (+45) 64% increase
Looking at these numbers I have to say that I’m pretty impressed. I remember a time ten or twelve years ago when I was *about* this strong, but I wasn’t doing squats or deadlifts. So it might be valid to say that I’ve never been stronger! That’s amazing to me and something I wasn’t even expecting!
Obviously these types of gains cannot progress forever and I’m sure that I will eventually switch to a 3 day split. But for now I plan to continue the StrongLifts progression and finally add in the desperately needed barbell rows every other workout.
The common advice is to deload by 10% on all lifts after a week off, so this is where I will be starting on June 15th:
- Squat: 200
- Bench: 185
- Rows: 155*
- Dead: 240
- Press: 95
Regarding rows, on my first day back to the gym I will increase the weight every set until 5 reps becomes difficult and that will be my work set weight for the next session.
Whew! That’s a lot of number crunching. And I haven’t even mentioned my diet yet!
It goes without saying that I’m hoping to stay on target with my macros during the week off from the gym. My new numbers (200/150/50) seem to be working well for me (so far at least). The next few days will be fraught with temptations – 3 birthday parties and a trip to Atlantic City – so I need to stay focused and plan around these calorie bombs!
I’m not sure how often I will post to this blog. 2 or 3 times at least just to keep myself accountable. Here’s to the next 8 weeks!!
Yesterday’s macros were not as difficult to stick to as I thought. I logged everything as precisely as I could, including trace macros. The only thing I excluded was the green veggies from the 2 salads I ate. Here is the final tally:
- Protein: 183
- Carbs: 60
- Fat: 80
The largest amount of carbs (22g) came from the 1/2 cup of brown rice that I added to my eggs and turkey sausage for my first meal. The interesting thing was that at no time during the day was I ravenously hungry. In fact I needed to force myself to eat my afternoon snack.
This morning I returned to the gym after 4 days off and did
- Deadlift: 265 x 5 x 2, 265 x 4
- Overhead Press: 110 x 5 x 3
- Cable Rows: 100 x 10, 120 x 8, 140 x 8
The deadlift and press are new PRs, but I failed to get the last rep on the last set of deads so I will do 265 again next time. I haven’t done cable rows in a long time and didn’t know where to start. 140 seems to be a good weight to stick with for next time.
And now the rest of the day will be cake. My workout is done and I have 200 grams of carbs waiting for me to consume!
Not sure how this happened. I woke up this morning super groggy and sore all over. But I dragged my ass to the train and 1:15 later I was in front of the squat rack, stretching everything in every which way and dreading the first work set of 200.
200??? Seriously? I weigh 200. Are you telling me that I am strong enough to squat my own weight 15 times? Ok, well maybe this had something to do with it…
At the beginning of the workout this thing was full of double strength cold brew iced coffee. No milk, no sugar, just a straight up blast of Good Morning! For those interested, I used this recipe.
The first squat set was tough and I chalk that up to my creaky old body needing a little more time to warm up. But sets 2 and 3 were strong.
After squats was overhead press for 100 x 5 x 3 and finally the granddaddy of all vein-popping, hernia-inducing exercises, the deadlift. After *warming up* with 225 x 3 (I smile as I type that!) I blasted through 250 x 5, trying to hold my breath through the entire movement, which is really tough!
So now I’m facing a new dilemma. Should I do squats again on Friday or start skipping every other workout? I could probably manage 205 on Friday with enough rest and sleep but trying to fit squats in on the same day as bench and barbell rows takes a long time. One of my primary goals for this 12 week program is to hit 225 on the squat, and I think I can accomplish this with squatting 2x a week. I haven’t decided yet. I think I will wait until Friday morning and see how I feel.
I ate breakfast again this morning. Not sure if this is a permanent break from intermittent fasting or just a temporary one…
Wow! What a way to finish up the first 4 weeks of workouts! All the planets aligned and my train was on time and I found a squat rack at 6:45 giving me plenty of time to warm up and rest between sets.
Squats: 175 x 5 x 3
This might be a new PR, honestly I’m not sure. I seem to remember getting to 185 a couple years ago. But it sure felt pretty good to squat that much weight with confidence. I’m really in the zone now with the squat movement. Ascending back out of the squat with the hips and butt is definitely the key and I can feel the difference when I don’t do it that way. On almost all the reps I lifted properly and weight felt easy. I could have done 5 sets.
Overhead Press: 85 x 5 x 3
My least favorite lift for sure, partly because of my neck and shoulder issues. I don’t think 85 is a PR.
Deadlift: 235 x 5 x 3
Another PR! This one was tough. I warmed up with 135 x 5, 185 x 3 and 205 x 3. Then I rested for about 4 minutes before doing the workset. The reps were hard and I needed to pause an extra 2 seconds before the last one, but all in all I had good form. Man that kicked my ass too. I needed to take a long breather once I was done.
I also started using the StrongLifts app for iPhone. It’s really the best app available if you’re following that program. Very simple and intuitive, with built in timers that remind you when rest times are up. Best of all, it’s free!
So that’s it for the first 4 weeks. I received a response on the IIFYM message board from someone who seems to have a lot of experience (1000 posts on the board). He (she?) recommended upping my protein and fat and dropping my carbs a bit. So the new macros will be:
- protein: 150
- fat: 60
- carbs: 240
- calories: 2100
Nice round numbers, I like that! So I’ll working with this starting today and through the weekend. And then a 24ish hour break from Monday afternoon until Tuesday afternoon. I plan to do IF on Monday morning and then finish my last meal on Tuesday by 8 or 9. But between those two times I’m disregarding macros.
Scale at home read 208 again, while the gym scale read 205. Is it possible that I’m losing 3 pounds of water weight during my workouts?
Squats were much better today. I studied a squat coaching video with Mark Rippetoe (the founder of the Starting Strength program) and tried to focus specifically on 1) bar position, 2) feet position and 3) using hip drive for the primary movement. I didn’t concentrate on getting below parallel, but I’m pretty sure I got down pretty far. Added 5 pounds since Monday so 140 x 5 x 3. Still 20 pounds less than what I was doing in February but lighter weights = better form. On Friday I will try to make a new video of my form to compare to last Friday.
After squats I did overhead press 70 x 5 x 3. The movement is much easier after watching Rippetoe explain that the movement should involve the “hips moving horizontally with locked knees“. Once I tried adding this movement to the reps, the weight seemed lighter and I didn’t strain my neck as much.
Finally, I hit a deadlift PR of 195 x 5 x 1, which was pretty satisfying.
The weather is finally resembling spring and my hot tub is back in action. So I hope to add a bit of cardio and some moist heat therapy to my life very soon.