Doing and Trying

bench press
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In theory, with the challenging changes I’ve been making to my workout routine over the past several weeks and months, I should be getting stronger, right? How do you measure that? Well, common sense should say that over time, I should be able to lift heavier weights than in the past, or I should be able to lift the same weights for more reps.

In a strength training workout scheme, the reps are limited so you’d measure progress more by adding weight and seeing what happens. Well, I’m splitting the difference plus seeing if I can add sets as well reps.

Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. Here’s what I mean.

Since I’ve got more time at the gym on Saturday’s than I do during the week, I can be pretty flexible about trying new things. Saturday is when I work on my core (lower back and abs) plus get an extra cardio in (and it’s not an “extra” anymore since I don’t have time on Wednesdays to do cardio).

I switched from doing Roman chair back extensions to straight leg deadlifts for my back work, frankly, because it appeals to me, plus compound lifts work more muscles and burn more calories than isolation moves.

I won’t detail everything I did last Saturday, just the relevant exercise.

Straight Leg Deadlifts

  1. 10x 110lbs/49.89kg (warm up)
  2. 10x 130lbs/58.96kg
  3. 10x 130lbs/58.96kg
  4. 8x 150lbs/68.03kg
  5. 8x 160lbs/72.57kg
  6. 6x 170lbs/77.11kg
  7. 5x 180lbs/81.64kg
  8. 5x 180lbs/81.64kg

As you can see, including the warm up, I did 8 sets of deadlifts, progressing up from 110lbs to 180lbs, which is the heaviest deadlift I’ve performed to date. I did 62 reps over 8 sets, or, discounting the warm up, 52 working reps over 7 sets.

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Not bad. Certainly a lot more reps than I would have been capable of if I were deadlifting a standard 3 sets at 8-15 reps per set.

That’s the up side. Here’s the downside.

Sunday night, Monday morning, I got a max of about 4 hours sleep. Don’t ask me why. I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and when I went back to bed, I couldn’t fall back to sleep. Finally, the clock said 3:35 a.m. and I knew that I might as well get up since the alarm was going to go off at 4 a.m. anyway.

I still made it to the gym on time and I think I had a reasonably good workout, but not as good as I wanted.

As above, I won’t list everything, just the one barbell exercise I do for chest day.

Barbell Bench Press

  1. 5x 100lbs/45.35kg (warm up)
  2. 8x 110lbs/49.89kg
  3. 6x 120lbs/54.43kg
  4. 6x 120lbs/54.43kg
  5. 5x 130lbs/58.96kg
  6. 3x 140lbs/63.5kg

Okay, that wasn’t horrible, but before continuing, let me compare yesterday to what I did for chest day the previous week.

  1. 8x 110lbs/49.89kg (warm up)
  2. 5x 120lbs/54.43kg
  3. 5x 120lbs/54.43kg
  4. 5x 130lbs/58.96kg
  5. 5x 130lbs/58.96kg
  6. 5x 130lbs/58.96kg

Actually, yesterday I didn’t mean to start warming up at 100lbs. I thought I’d loaded 110lbs on but miscalculated. Once I realized my mistake while lifting, I stopped at 5 reps and took the weight up a notch. Actually, between last week and this week, I managed to get in 1 additional rep since I increased the number of reps I did while lifting 120lbs. Where I feel I didn’t quite make it though was attempting to stretch myself and perform 5 reps at 140lbs. I have never tried to press that much weight before. I barely made the third rep and knew I’d be courting injury if I tried to force the fourth one.

bench press
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I don’t know if I couldn’t complete the fourth and fifth reps because of lack of sleep or that I’m just not strong enough yet. I know on Saturday morning, I was a lot more rested and felt on top of my game.

I’m trying to get one more solid week of lifting in before attending this pesky conference which will knock out any exercising for the beginning of next week. I guess having a few days off from the gym won’t kill me, but I’m looking forward to beginning my 5×5 strength training/bodybuilding workout starting the week of Memorial Day. I’d like my body to be in reasonably good shape when I approach that, since part of the program includes progressively adding weight week over week.

I tried that with bench presses yesterday and it didn’t work out so well. You win some and you lose some. Still, I’ve got to try. Or should I be listening to Master Yoda’s advice?

Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.

William James


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