The Other Beast At The Gym

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Killed it at the gym this morning, but oh, do I feel it.

Yesterday, I wrote about the spiritual beast within but there’s another beast lurking at the gym. Michele’s comment reminded me of this monster. In my case (and not Michele’s), it’s ego.

My wife has repeatedly suggested that I back off of my routine, at least somewhat. While she supports my dedication to working out, I think she’s just waiting for me to injure myself, or conversely, she’s trying to prevent such an injury.

I’ve been reading plenty of advice that suggests people my age (I turn 61 in less than a month) and older should cut back to two heavy sessions at the gym per week. Heck, in Logan Franklin’s latest news letter, “Return of the Terminator,” he even quotes Arnold Schwarzenegger talking about cutting back his workout due to age.

“There are certain exercises you don’t do as much anymore, because I don’t need to develop a chest. I do circuit training, going from machine to machine without stopping. It’s like weight training with cardiovascular training. After we finish talking, I’m going to ride the bicycle down to Gold’s Gym and work out for a hour and ride the bicycle back.”

Logan follows up that quote with:

Notice how he has tempered his training to make it more age-appropriate. Like Arnold, at some point all seniors are wise to concern themselves less with how much they bench-press (or maximum efforts on other lifts), and focus on all around fitness. If even Mr. Olympia must accept the laws of nature, we regular folks should too. Depending on the distance of his bike ride to and from the Gold’s Gym, his workout format seems sensible to me.

Senior beginners especially must be careful about doing too much too soon. A good place for them to start is right here. At all stages, training should be balanced and regular, but not all consuming. There is more to life than that.

Of course, I’m not necessarily a “senior beginner,” well, as far as 5×5 strength training, I guess I am, but I’m not exactly a beginner at lifting.

It’s good advice, but seeing as I’m only in the middle of week five of a 12-week trial period, I’d hate to back off without finishing the course.

See what I mean about ego being a beast? Let’s see what the “beast” did today.

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I pretty much gave up at resting as little as 60 seconds since, even for bench presses, that isn’t always practical. For hack squats and deadlifts, it’s absolutely impractical, and even 90 seconds isn’t enough past the first or second set. Call it close to 2 minutes or in one or two cases, a little more.

Since my son is home with his wife, son, and newborn daughter for a few weeks, I realized today that I didn’t have to finish as fast as I can, and was at the gym the full sixty minutes. I was prepared to stay as long as it took since without commuting into work with David, I’ve got more discretionary time. It was kind of liberating.

Barbell Hack Squat 5×5

5x 140lbs/63.5kg (warm up)
5x 155lbs/70.3kg (warm up)
5x 200lbs/90.71kg
5x 200lbs/90.71kg
5x 200lbs/90.71kg
5x 200lbs/90.71kg
5x 200lbs/90.71kg

Barbell Close Grip Bench Press 3×5-8

8x 115lbs/52.16kg (warm up)
6x 125lbs/56.69kg
6x 125lbs/56.69kg
6x 125lbs/56.69kg

Barbell Bent Leg Deadlift 1×5

5x 145lbs/65.77kg (warm up)
5x 165lbs/74.84kg (warm up)
5x 185lbs/83.91kg (warm up)
5x 195lbs/88.45kg (warm up)
5x 205lbs/92.98kg (warm up)
5x 225lbs/102.05kg

Overhead Barbell Press 5×5

5x 45lbs/20.41kg (warm up)
5x 65lbs/29.48kg
5x 65lbs/29.48kg
5x 65lbs/29.48kg
5x 65lbs/29.48kg
5x 65lbs/29.48kg

straight bar curl
Zack Ryder preforms the perfect workout. Photo credit:

Barbell Straight Bar Curl 3×8

8x 50lbs/22.67kg (warm up)
8x 75lbs/34.01kg
8x 75lbs/34.01kg
8x 75lbs/34.01kg

Underhand Grip Body Hang

x30 seconds

I have to admit, as I approached my first working set of hack squats, I felt a little intimidated by the weight. I remembered how difficult it was to get the barbell off the floor on Monday. That’s probably why I threw in two warm up sets instead of just one. I hoped it would give me an edge and let me become more accustomed to squats at lower weights before starting my working sets. But I also remembered that I could lift the weight and do the squats, so why hold back?

That said, it was almost a relief to get past the last set and move on to close grip presses. That’s practically resting, since I have to use relatively light weights in order to focus on working my triceps rather than my chest. I managed the same weight with more reps per set this time, so I think I’ll keep 125 pounds as my working weight until I do a consistent 8 reps per set.

Then came the deadlifts. My goal working weight was 225 pounds for 1 set of 5 reps. It’s the heaviest thing I’ve ever lifted at the gym (or probably anywhere else). It was also my goal to lift above 100kg, and 225lbs is 102.058kg.

Instead of doing four warm up sets progressively increasing the weight toward target, I did five. Just as with the hack squats, I wanted to be thoroughly warmed up and prepared before attempting a new personal best at deadlifts.

I was a little surprised to find that DLing 205 pounds, while certainly an effort, wasn’t as hard as I remembered it being. Hopefully that’s a good sign.

I did it. I deadlifted 225 pounds for five sets without breaking my back or shredding my spine. A new personal best.

Needless to say, I’m staying at this working weight through next week, and we’ll see about upping the weight again after that. For little ol’ me, 225 pounds is plenty heavy. It took every bit of “beast” in me to get it off the floor, and then move correctly through each of the five reps.

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I was really disappointed no one said anything. I put two, big, fat, 45 pound plates on each end of the barbell. The thing looked massive. There were several people around while I was loading the full weight on the bar and while I was lifting.

Yeah. I’ll admit it. I wanted a standing ovation or something.

Nada. Nothing but crickets (metaphorically speaking).

Guess I’ll have to settle for personal gratification. Even my long-suffering wife looked at me like I’d gone crazy when I told her about it.

I’d like to say that after deadlifts, the rest of my workout was anti-climatic, but such is not the case.

The overhead presses were still challenging, even though I’d successfully lifted all five sets at this weight last week. I can still feel it in my traps and delts, although the deadlifts could have contributed to that soreness as well.

I increased the weight by five pounds for my straight bar curls to 75 pounds for the three working sets. I’d tried this weight before and could never make 8 reps for all 3 sets, but today, I was determined. I’d been successful with the deadlifts. I was going to do these curls as well.

It was hard but doable for the first two sets, but that third set was incredibly difficult. I barely got the seventh rep done and momentarily thought about quitting right there, but I rested for about a second and then pulled the barbell up as hard as I could. I wasn’t sure I could do the full range of motion and get the bar all the way up to my chest. I watched my face turn beet red in the mirror, forced myself to breathe rapidly like a pregnant woman in lamaze class, and completed the rep.

After all of that, facing just “hanging around,” albeit with delts and biceps engaged, for 30 seconds seemed just as challenging as anything else I did this morning.

And I even accomplished that, though the faces I made in the mirror weren’t pretty.

Walking out of the gym, I was a sweaty, aching mess, but I also felt a great sense of accomplishment. My shirt was just as soaked as if I’d done my regular cardio session. I wish the mornings were cooler here (lows in the 70s F and triple-digit high temps), because a nice, refreshing breeze would have felt wonderful.

I made it. It was fantastic. I felt like the strongest guy at the gym, even though I also felt as weak as the proverbial kitten by the end of it all.

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Every time I stand up, I can feel it in my knees and quads. My biceps still feel pumped. Even my hands feel sore because of how I had to grip and hold on to all that weight.

Protein is my friend today. I need to repair those muscles and coax them into increasing in size, at least a bit, but also in density and strength.

Friday it’s back to workout A, but because the third is considered a holiday where I work (since the 4th of July occurs on a Saturday this year), I’ll be able to get more sleep and hit the gym at 8 a.m. instead of 5. I’m looking forward to the additional rest improving my workout performance.

The pain of discipline is nothing like the pain of disappointment

Justin Langer


6 thoughts on “The Other Beast At The Gym

  1. So after killing it Monday, I am so sore that walking up stairs is a chore, and even my ribs hurt. Can’t work out today …. something to be said for a little moderation in my case so that I don’t do one slam-dunk day and 6 days of rest. It seems backwards.


  2. Thanks James! As usual I leave your blog with lots of useful information!!! Thank you for your dedication in the Gym and in your blog!!


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