Today, I Could Have Used a Spotter

close grip bench press
Photo credit:

I’ve written before about how doing my new 5×5 exercise program seems more difficult at 5 a.m. than at 8 a.m. Today was the first time I did workout plan B at five and it really showed. Even dialing down the weight, I still wasn’t prepared for how difficult my workout was compared the other day.

Let me show you what I mean. As always, I rested ~60-90 seconds between sets:

Close grip bench press 5×5

10x 115lbs/52.16kg (warm up)
5x 125lbs/56.69kg
5x 125lbs/56.69kg
5x 125lbs/56.69kg
4x 115lbs/52.16kg
10x 95lbs/43.09kg

Barbell hack squat 5×5

8x 135lbs/61.23kg (warm up)
5x 145lbs/65.77kg
5x 145lbs/65.77kg
5x 145lbs/65.77kg
5x 145lbs/65.77kg
5x 145lbs/65.77kg

Barbell straight leg deadlift 5×5

8x 135lbs/61.23kg (warm up)
8x 145lbs/65.77kg (warm up)
6x 155lbs/70.3kg (warm up)
6x 165lbs/74.84kg (warm up)
5x 175lbs/79.37kg

Overhead barbell press 5×5

10x 40lbs/18.14kg (warm up)
8x 50lbs/22.67kg
5x 50lbs/22.67kg
5x 50lbs/22.67kg
5x 50lbs/22.67kg
5x 50lbs/22.67kg

Arnold's standing barbell curls
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Straight bar curl 3×8

15x 45lbs/20.41kg (warm up)
8x 65lbs/29.48kg
8x 65lbs/29.48kg
8x 65lbs/29.48kg

As you can see, in contrast to my previous plan B workout, I really had to lighten the weights up by quite a bit.

The first sign of trouble was the close grip bench press. Just lifting the warm up weight up off the rack and over my chest felt really heavy. I was taken by surprise but muscled through the warm up and into the working sets.

What you don’t see above is at set four, I tried lifting 125 pounds and didn’t even make a single rep. In fact, it seemed so heavy, I couldn’t re-rack the weight and had to lower it to my chest, then roll the bar down my body and onto the floor.

It was pretty embarrassing.

Even setting the weight back to 115 pounds, I still could only manage 4 reps. I wanted to do all 5 sets, so I put the weight at something ridiculously light (I hoped) so I could do something.

Remember, I said that I tweaked my lower back a few days ago and unfortunately, it remains tweaked. Previously, I had warmed up on hack squats at 135 pounds and lifted 155 pounds for my working sets, but today, I went 10 pounds lighter and concentrated on getting my thighs down parallel to the floor during the squat without straining my back.

For the deadlifts, some piece of intuition told me to do them straight leg instead of bent leg. Yes, I felt it in my lower back, but it was more of a stretch, which felt sort of good, rather than actual pain.

I started at my normal warm up weight, but increased the weight on the subsequent warm up sets very gradually, My one working set was well below what I did on Wednesday and certainly nowhere near my personal best of 205 pounds.

On the other hand, I didn’t injure myself further, which was my main goal for today’s workout.

Continuing to approach my workout somewhat timidly, I went 5 pounds lighter, both on the warm up and working sets for the overhead presses. For the curls, I did the warm up set 10 pounds lighter than previously, but used the same weight I did two days ago for the working sets, which turned out fine.

lower back pain
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When I was done with curls, I’d been at the gym for about 50 minutes and my shirt was soaked with sweat. I was thankful it was over and that I could walk out under my own power.

My back is still sore, but no more so than it was before I walked into the gym earlier today.

If I go to the gym this weekend, I’ll probably just do cardio and maybe some light ab work. I’ll leave my back and everything else alone and hope I’m ready to hit the gym again on Monday.

This finishes my first week on the 5×5 resistance training program and I think I’ve figured out my baseline weights which are lighter than I’d hoped. On the other hand, I have to conquer what little I can do now, so I can employ the principle of progressive overload and start regularly adding weight to my lifts. I suspect my progress will come more slowly than I originally imagined, but if I’m to progress at all, I need to train myself to lift more. I’ll just have to do so gradually.

That means I may well stay at my baseline all next week just to establish some good performance at those weights before trying to nudge things up.

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.

Maya Angelou


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