Hack Squats Are Dragging Me Down

barbell hack squat
Photo credit: workoutplan.com

Today, I really, really struggled with my hack squats. They’re always heavy, but given my relatively successful performance on Monday, I was shocked to find that even pulling the weight up off the floor practically pulled me down to my knees. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do all five sets and by that fifth set, I was in survival mode, just trying to complete the five reps and be done.

I thought maybe my Long Suffering Wife (LSW) was right and I was overtraining. I thought about completing this sixth week of my 12-week trial and then dialing down the frequency to two lifting sessions per week.

But what if I’ve hit a wall in terms of lifting in a fasted state?

Since I wake up no later than 4 a.m. to be at the gym by 5, I typically just drink a glass of water and a cup of coffee before exercising. If I feel any hunger pangs, they vanish the instant I start lifting.

I wonder though, with the increased demand for energy that pulling 205 pounds off the floor requires, if I need to start eating something before working out?

This occurred to me when I was reading Lethally Fit’s blog post about ADF or “Alternate Day Fasting”.

I do find that I can’t do heavy lifting on my fast days. I just don’t have the energy for it. So I do my heavy lifting on my feast days, and save the fasting days for smaller, non-compound exercises. This works well.

If you look at what she lifts (click the link above), you can see that in most areas, she is stronger than I am. I can only lift more than she can with the bench press and bent over rows. For everything else, “Lethally” far exceeds my current limits.

Speaking of which, since I managed to survive hack squats and push through the rest of my workout, I might as well share the details with you. Between sets, I rested from 90 to 120 seconds, and on a few occasions, pushed the rest out to around 2 1/2 minutes. For bench presses, rows, and triceps extensions, I got away with resting between 60 and 90 seconds since they aren’t so exhausting.

Barbell Hack Squats 5×5

5x 145lbs/65.77kg (warm up)
5x 145lbs/65.77kg (warm up)
5x 205lbs/92.98kg
5x 205lbs/92.98kg
5x 205lbs/92.98kg
5x 205lbs/92.98kg
5x 205lbs/92.98kg

bench press
Photo credit: background-kid.com

Barbell Bench Press 5×5

5x 135lbs/61.23kg (warm up)
5x 135lbs/61.23kg (warm up)
5x 160lbs/72.57kg
5x 160lbs/72.57kg
5x 160lbs/72.57kg
5x 160lbs/72.57kg
5x 160lbs/72.57kg

Barbell Bent Over Rows 5×5

5x 135lbs/61.23kg (warm up)
5x 160lbs/72.57kg
5x 160lbs/72.57kg
5x 160lbs/72.57kg
5x 160lbs/72.57kg
5x 160lbs/72.57kg

Cable Triceps Extension w/Rope Attachment 3×8

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

Overhand Grip Pull ups 3×5-8 (bodyweight)

5x
5x
3x

Underhand Grip Body Hang w/Shoulders Engaged (bodyweight)

x30 seconds

As you can see, I hit my goals for hack squats, but I’m sure my form wasn’t pretty. Especially for that last set, I doubt I always got my thighs down to completely parallel with the floor. My quads and hams were really complaining and I just wanted to be done and “rest” during my bench press.

Well, “rest” may not be the proper term. This was the first time I increased the weight on this exercise from 155 to 160 pounds. It didn’t feel like that much more weight, and after all, it was only 5 pounds. I did struggle a tad during the last set and had to focus to push the barbell all the way up for the last two reps, so obviously the small increase made a difference.

barbell bent over row
Photo credit: bodybuilding.com

Barbell rows felt more challenging and I increased the weight by the same amount as for the bench press. Still, neither the bench press or bent over rows were as brutally difficult as the hack squats. Even knowing my right hand is weaker and trying to compensate, I still couldn’t keep a good grip on the bar during squats. I don’t know what it is. Right now, even my hands are tired.

I also increased the weight for the working sets of my triceps extensions from 70 to 75 pounds. The trick here isn’t just muscling the weight, but making sure I keep my elbows tucked in so I can work my triceps effectively.

I decided to forego the lat pulldowns and go back to doing standard overhand grip pull ups just to see where I was. Since my son David wasn’t there to watch my form, I paid extra attention to my reflection and made sure I extended myself all the way back down after each rep so I’d employ full range of motion.

I was surprised that doing 5 reps in that first set felt almost easy (well, “almost”), certainly easier than at any time previously. I decided not to push my luck and try for a sixth rep since I still had 2 more sets to go.

The second set was successful, but I could tell by that fifth rep that I was tiring. I was almost completely wiped out from the rest of my workout, and I barely got all the way up on that fifth rep.

I crashed and burned on the third set, only managing 3 reps before running out of steam.

I forced myself to do a 30-second body hang with my shoulders and biceps engaged, but it was a very long 30 seconds.

I left the gym wondering about Friday, my next lift day. Will I be able to manage the hack squats? Should I not go to the gym at all tomorrow, setting aside my ab and cardio session, just so I can rest up?

I still feel pretty well wrung out, but I’m pleased that both yesterday and today I hit my lightest bodyweight in probably the last ten years.

scales
Photo credit: WebMD.com

This morning (remembering I’m nearly 6′ 3″ or almost 75 inches/190.5 cm tall), I officially weighed in at 190.4 pounds (that’s about 86.36 kg or 13.6 stone). I checked my exercise log, and a year ago today, I weighed 21 pounds more or about 211 pounds (95.7 kg or 15.07 stone).

Technically, I’ve got about five more pounds to lose to get down to my target weight. I double-checked to make sure this means my waist is getting smaller by putting on a rather snug pair of shorts that are a regular fit 34 inch waist. They went on comfortably. I think this means continued success.

Whatever my shortcomings at the gym today, what I’m doing is paying off. I just hope I can keep up the pace.

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Alan Kay, Chief Scientist at Apple

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