Hacking My Body at the Gym

Photo credit: t-nation.com

Oh but my traps, glutes, and lower back are sore right now. Actually, so are a lot of other parts of my body. This is the sure sign of a good morning workout at the gym. In some ways though, it only hit the expected targets. I did just one bonus set at a higher weight which we’ll visit in a moment. On the other hand, I think I found the max or near max weights for my heaviest week in Workout B.

As typical, I rested 60 to 120 or more seconds between sets, although especially with deadlifts, I actually sat down and made myself be still for a full two minutes between my working sets, just to pull as much effort as I could out of my body.

Barbell Back Squat in Squat Rack

3x 170lbs/77.11kg
3x 195lbs/88.45kg
3x 215lbs/97.52kg
3x 215lbs/97.52kg

Barbell Close Grip Bench Press

5x 115lbs/52.16kg
5x 125lbs/56.69kg
3x 145lbs/65.77kg
3x 145lbs/65.77kg

Barbell Bent Leg Deadlift

3x 190lbs/86.18kg
3x 215lbs/97.52kg
3x 235lbs/106.59kg
3x 235lbs/106.59kg
3x 240lbs/108.86kg (Bonus)

Photo credit: t-nation.com

Barbell Overhead Press in Squat Rack

5x 60lbs/27.21kg
5x 65lbs/29.48kg
3x 75lbs/34.01kg
3x 75lbs/34.01kg

Barbell Standing Curls

8x 70lbs/31.75kg
8x 75lbs/34.01kg
5x 85lbs/38.55kg
4x 85lbs/38.55kg

Body Hand w/Shoulders Engaged

x30 seconds

Dead Hang

x10 seconds

Bodyweight at Awakening:

190 lbs, or about 86.18 kg, or 13.57 stone

Height: (Of course, my height is static, but I mention it just to give my bodyweight some context)

6′ 2 3/4″ or 74.75 inches/1.89865 meters or 189.865 cm

Although I slept reasonably well, I felt that I was at my max this morning for back squats. 215 pounds was more than enough for 2 working sets at 3 reps per set. Although I’d been thinking about getting in a bonus set at 220 or 225 pounds, today wasn’t the day for that. Maybe I’ll revisit extending my maximum on Friday depending on how I feel.

I’d have to say the same thing for close grip bench presses. 145 pounds was almost too much for even 3 reps and I suspect that I engaged my chest and front delts more than I should to move the weight.

For deadlifts, on the other hand, I was feeling kind of feisty.

Still, I wasn’t sure at first if I would go for anything extra. Even pulling 190 pounds off the floor for my first warm up set felt heavier than I expected it to. But then again, that’s what warm ups are for. Once I got up to my working weight, muscling the barbell up pulled a loud groan from me but when I got to the starting position, I was ready for my 3 reps for both working sets.

Photo credit: livehealthy.chron.com

After that, I debated how much to increase the weight, and based on how I felt moving 235 pounds, I only bumped it up another 5 pounds.

Part of me was amazed at even lifting 240 pounds off the floor. I wasn’t sure for a moment if I’d just let that be 1 rep so I could quit while I was ahead. But then, since I was on my feet, I figured I’d try for some reps.

One rep, two reps, finally three reps.

I really didn’t know from one rep to the next if I had another in me. At three, I called it good and slammed the barbell back to the floor. 240 pounds. My new personal best and the only bonus set I’d do today.

I do admit to having to visualize the Incredible Hulk perform some astonishing feat of strength right as I’m lifting. Hey! Whatever motivates you, right?

Both the overhead presses and standing curls were challenging and I’m glad I didn’t set the working weight any heavier. I barely got the barbell over my head for 3 reps on that last working set. No bonus here for me.

For the curls, I really tried for that fifth rep on the last working set, but no go. Time was running out and I figured that the effort I’d put into my deadlifts had taken its toll. That, and I found myself resting longer between sets as my routine progressed, so I was giving just about all I had.

Lou Ferrigno as the Incredible Hulk

I almost skipped the hanging exercises, but I had just enough time to do them and I wanted to do a little decompression for my spine.

No time at all for any bonus zercher squats. Maybe I’ll be able to get to them on Friday.

I wrote about resting between sets a couple of days ago, and since then, I’ve read an article about workout recovery at Men’s Health. Turns out, I’m not very good at any of their suggestions.

Sleep: Rob MacDonald at Gym Jones (no, I’m not kidding) recommends a lot of sleep, with 8 hours being the minimum. I’m lucky to get a good 6 hours sleep, and that includes waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.

Release Your Knots: It probably makes sense to get a massage or use a foam roller or something like that, but I never really think about it between one day at the gym to the next. MacDonald suggests working on tight spots for 15 to 20 minutes before going to bed. I usually do some light reading during that time to quiet my mind. Where does the time go?

Walk it Out: Sometimes I’ll walk to and from the local library on my lunch hour, but that’s only 8 minutes each way and I spend most of the time at the library reading or browsing books. Supposedly, the walking helps improve overall performance at the gym because:

…a 30-minute walk gets blood pumping through your muscles, which can help reduce soreness and reset your central nervous system. You’ll be able to go harder next time.

Rob MacDonald
Rob MacDonald

Chow Down: OK, if I were training to get huge and I had an infinite food budget, maybe I’d eat more…a lot more, but I’m trying to lose my belly fat. Granted, my gut is a lot smaller now than it was before, and it isn’t even obvious unless I completely relax my abs, but I’m not down to where I want to be yet.

MacDonald says when he’s training hard, he’ll wolf down 6,000 calories a day. Yikes! But he’s 6 foot even and weighs 260 pounds, which looks like mostly muscle based on the photo to the right. I’m almost 3 inches taller but 70 pounds lighter.

MacDonald says he works out up to 10 times a week, which means multiple sessions a day. I don’t have that kind of time, and I’m sure our goals are a lot different. I also doubt that MacDonald is anywhere near 61 years old, so the workouts he’s capable of would probably send me to the hospital.

On the other hand, one of the featured links in the article points to another write-up titled “This Guy Lost 30 Pounds and Got Absolutely Shredded. See How He Did It.”

There’s all kinds of advice out there and some of it doesn’t match up very well.

It is true that being healthy is all about lifestyle and not just about specific activities. It takes more than just going to the gym or whatever you do for exercise. It also takes more than just being focused on what you eat and how much. It’s about everything you do that involves any aspect of your life, whether it’s work, leisure, family, spiritual, or anything else.

My wife gets a lot of suggestions listening to Bulletproof podcasts about “hacking” your body. I suppose that’s what I’m doing, too…trying to bypass normal channels, or at least accepted lifestyle behaviors for someone my age, and challenging my limits.

Truth be told, in many ways, I haven’t even scratched the surface as far as what I can and should be doing to “hack” my life.

me straight outta the gym
I need to update this photo of me

Each day, each week, each month, I try to change something and make positive adjustments, but I know I need to be more diligent. Thanks to my long suffering wife (LSW), I eat a lot better than I would if I lived alone, and she’s forever making suggestions about how to improve physically (whether I always welcome those suggestions or not).

You don’t (and probably shouldn’t) take on each and every idea about improving your health and life that floats your way, but I think it’s wise to at least consider them and do your research. A few might make a real difference and result in you being able to do things you never thought were possible, even a few months ago…

…like doing deadlifts with a 240 pound barbell…

…and I don’t think that’s my ultimate limit, either.

Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.

Arnold Bennett


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