The Sleepy Weightlifter

hulk liftThat’s it. Except for tomorrow’s ab and cardio workout, week 2 of round 2 of my mutant strength training is over. Finished like a champ (at least in my humble opinion).

It was one of those rare mornings when I was the only person in the weight room at first. It was wonderful. Then one by one, a number of the regulars straggled in. Even Chase’s little training class came in as I finished up my squats. Fortunately, except for having to wait a few minutes for the pull up bars to become free, I had unfettered access to the equipment I needed right when I needed it.

My rest requirements for each exercise were all about 120 seconds or less. I felt winded between sets, but not debilitated, and recovery seemed easier, except for the very end of my morning routine. For the most part though, 2 minutes was more than enough. Here’s what I did:

Barbell Back Squats in Squat Rack

8x 135lbs/61.23kg
8x 160lbs/72.57kg
8x 180lbs/81.64kg
8x 180lbs/81.64kg
8x 185lbs/83.91kg (Bonus)

Barbell Bench Press

8x 115lbs/52.16kg
8x 135lbs/61.23kg
8x 145lbs/65.77kg
8x 145lbs/65.77kg
6x 155lbs/70.3kg (Bonus)

Barbell Bent Over Rows

8x 115lbs/52.16kg
8x 135lbs/61.23kg
8x 145lbs/65.77kg
8x 145lbs/65.77kg

Cable Triceps Extension w/Rope

8x 55lbs/24.94kg
8x 65lbs/29.48kg
8x 80lbs/36.28kg
8x 80lbs/36.28kg

Pull ups (Bodyweight)

5x (barely)

zercher squats
Photo credit:

Zercher Squats in Squat Rack (Bonus)

6x 165lbs/74.84kg
6x 165lbs/74.84kg

Body Weight Upon Awakening:

193 lbs/ ~87.54 kg/ ~13.78 stone

Height (for reference):

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

For my warm up sets, my squats were great and deep. At 180 pounds though, it was a struggle to sit quite as far down into the squat as I’d have liked. Nevertheless, I decided to add a bonus set at just 5 pounds heavier but doing the full 8 reps.

At this point, a few more people were coming into the weight room, so I’d timed ending my squats and claiming a weight bench well.

After my regular program of bench presses, I decided to add a bonus set here too, putting 10 more pounds on the bar but only achieving 6 reps. I’m a little timid with bench presses after being caught under the barbell twice. Not taking chances with this one.

Since I can only use a single weighted cable station for my triceps extensions, I felt a little anxious about getting to that part of my routine, so I only did the 4 required sets of bent over rows. 145 pounds for 2 sets at 8 reps per set seemed plenty. Also, I didn’t want to exhaust my lats and turn my pull ups into a hot, smoking mess.

The triceps extensions went fine, though at 80 pounds I struggled with the last rep or 2 for each working set.

Pull ups were good and bad. Like I said above, someone got to the bars before I did and I had to wait until he finished his final set before I got my turn. That was OK, since it gave me time to recover fully from the effort exerted from the triceps extensions.

Image credit:

Set 1 of pull ups went fine. For set 2, the final rep was a bit of a struggle, but I made it. Set 3 was a pain. I just barely made the fifth rep by hanging there and pulling with everything I had. I must have been under tension for 5 to 10 seconds trying to make that last inch or so up to the top.

When I was done, I almost left, being pretty worn down, but I had time left on the clock and the squat rack was free. I probably didn’t need to do bonus sets of squats, but I figured, what the heck.

I set the weight on the bar 10 pounds over what I did for zercher squats previously and knocked out 6 reps for both sets. I was huffing and puffing between sets and dripping sweat on the floor. You wouldn’t think 165 pounds would take so much out of me. I just hope it burned a ton of calories, since my body weight went back up again.

I slept reasonably well last night but my long-suffering wife still worries. She’s trying to hack my sleep with a few substances such as HTP-5 at bedtime and XYMOGEN RelaxMax after workouts and at bedtime.

I just started using them in the past day or two, so we’ll have to see if they are effective. The reviews for RelaxMax (click the link above) are pretty encouraging, but HTP-5 seems less than reliable.

The relationship between sleep and weight (fat) loss seems to be one of poor decision making by a sleepy brain. Since I only drink black coffee to get my caffeine boost, I’m not going to gain calories by sucking down an overpriced latte, but lack of sleep also messes around with hunger hormones, so that could torpedo even the best laid plans for calorie control.

Research tells the story. A study in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” found that when people were starved of sleep, late-night snacking increased, and they were more likely to choose high-carb snacks.

A second study found that sleeping too little prompts people to eat bigger portions of all foods, increasing weight gain. And in a review of 18 studies, researchers found that a lack of sleep led to increased cravings for energy-dense, high-carbohydrate foods.

Add it all together, and a sleepy brain appears to crave junk food while also lacking the impulse control to say no.

sleepy weightlifter
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And according to Men’s Fitness, there are genetic factors involved.

Previous studies have shown that genes can influence weight by controlling many of your body’s functions, such as glucose metabolism, energy use, storage of fatty acids, and feeling full. By affecting those genes, sleep can also alter weight. “The less sleep you get, the more your genes contribute to how much you weigh. The more sleep you get, the less your genes determine how much you weigh,” Dr. Nathaniel Watson, one of the study’s authors, told USA Today. Is it possible to sleep the pounds off? Not quite. Sleeping more than nine hours a night, though, can reduce the influence of your genes on your weight. That gives more power to environmental factors—like diet and exercise—things that you can consciously control.

So if your genetic predisposition is to squirrel away a few extra pounds of fat for a cold and rainy day, the less sleep you get, the more control your genes have and the less impact diet and exercise have over hoarding vs. burning fat.

I tend to have a build like my Dad’s which is lean and built to burn fat, but my body isn’t as effective at doing that as his is (mine is watered down by my Mom’s genes). I know I can overeat my metabolism and when I get really hungry, I tend to throw caution and reason to the winds.

The article went on to state that tired people also may just skip sessions at the gym routinely in order to get more rest. Over time, lack of sufficient exercise results in weight (fat) gain.

That’s not me. I’d have to be practically dead to not go to the gym, especially on a day I’m scheduled to lift.

But is there a relationship between sleep and the effectiveness of a weightlifting program? As it turns out, the answer is “yes”. states what you’d probably consider the obvious. Lack of sleep, or approaching weightlifting or weight training with a sleep deficit, will result in poor performance when you lift.

cold and flu
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However, there are other interesting effects lack of sleep has on a person’s health.

Sleep debt also creates a window for opportunistic infections to enter the body. Invariably, I get a cold or the flu after two or three days of inadequate sleep. Since even these relatively benign diseases take a week to run their course, they inevitably lead to compromised training.

I don’t get sick very often, but this is certainly something to keep in mind. If you are a victim of chronic colds or bouts of flu, you aren’t going to be working out as often or as effectively.

Another thing the article said though, was to avoid working out too early or too late.

Training should not occur too early or too late in your waking hours. You do not want to train early in your day because you will not only be somewhat groggy during your workout, but that workout will sap your energy for the rest of the day.

On the other hand, you do not want to train too late in the day either. You will be tired from the day’s activities and training will not be optimal. That much is obvious. However, there is another reason you don’t want to train late. This is because for sleep to come easily the body and, more importantly, the mind should already be in a somewhat relaxed state before going to bed. Heavy workouts require a higher level of arousal.

I don’t have the slightest desire to workout after my day job, but given my schedule, I don’t have much choice but to be at the gym at 5 a.m. and ready to squat. Groggy or not, here I come.

Both and Muscle & Fitness report that there are additional hormonal factors involved.

muscle vs fat
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The article states:

As Dr. Dement notes, growth hormone is key, and “stimulates protein synthesis, helps break down the fats that supply energy for tissue repair, and stimulates cell division to replace old or malfunctioning cells.” If you wish to alter your body’s hormonal balance to accelerate recovery and supercompensation from your training program, a full night of sleep may again provide the answer.

As you fall into your deepest phase of sleep-“stage 4” sleep-the quantity of growth hormone released into your bloodstream is increased due to the action of growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH). GHRH is itself a sleep inducer, which fits with the suspected function of sleep: a physical state which serves to augment tissue repair, conserve energy, store sugars, and boost the immune system. Conversely, wakefulness appears to reverse these processes, at least in part.

While Muscle & Fitness says:

Along with inhibiting the production of growth hormone (GH), which increases during deep stages of sleep, sleep deficiency can curb energy levels, diminish alertness, weaken the immune system, and cause you to be more … uh … forgetful.

For the average person, the recommendation is to get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly.

I wish.

Photo credit: shutterstock

On the other hand, recommends up to 10 hours of sleep per night as the optimal amount.

That’s all fine and well, but how does age factor into it? 71-year-old bicycle racing guru Joe Friel suggests:

Younger athletes can make many mistakes in training and still perform at a high level. Aging athletes can’t. This is certainly true when it comes to recovery. As we get older adequate sleep is especially important. If you follow my suggested guidelines above, training will become more intense and serious strength training (or walking or running) adds to the accumulating physical stress. Sleep regularity, quantity and quality are necessary to allow the body to cope with this stress for it’s during sleep that the body releases testosterone. Aging athletes must be very careful not to compromise sleep in order to fit more activities into their daily lives. The standard I use to determine if an athlete is getting enough sleep is this: If you have to use an alarm clock to wake up in the morning then you didn’t get enough sleep. Go to bed earlier.

I’ve heard that from him before. That said, he doesn’t recommend a set number of hours so much as sleeping until you wake up naturally, as opposed to waking up when your alarm clock goes off.

I always wake up before my alarm because I hate the sound of the thing, but I also tend to wake up a number of different times during the night, sometimes to use the bathroom, sometimes just to check what time it is, and sometimes just because.

jackman skull crushers
Photo credit: Hugh Jackman/Instagram

The take away for me seems to be “get more sleep” consistently. That’s nice. Time to focus on my wife’s “sleep hacks” and see if they do the trick.

Next week is round 2, week 3 of my mutant strength training program. Once again, the weights go up and the reps go down to 5 for each set. Time to up my game.

Stop hating yourself for everything you aren’t. Start loving yourself for everything that you are.



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