Scratched cornea aside, I have no idea what happened at the gym this morning. It’s like I ran out of gas halfway through my routine. I don’t get it. I think I slept reasonably well, and I rested really well all of yesterday, so what gives? I even had a banana for carbs along with my coffee and water this morning.
The only thing I was kind of worried about was the photosensitivity in my right eye, but it seemed to tolerate the lights in the gym just fine.
I suppose before I go on (and on and on), I should just show you what I did. I rested on average about 120 seconds between sets, although from my working sets in deadlifts onward, I extended my rest periods, sometimes to nearly 3 minutes between sets.
This is the only Workout Plan B I’ll do this week.
Barbell Back Squat in Squat Rack
Barbell Close Grip Bench Press
Barbell Bent Leg Deadlifts
Barbell Overhead Press
Barbell Standing Curls
As you can see, no special “glory” to be had with today’s program. No extra sets, no bonus weights. Just what I had written down in my gym log. But let’s start with first things first.
For squats, I tried to remember everything I’d read in the Kelly Starrett book about shoulder and feet torque, establishing a neutral spine, moving my knees apart to open up my hips, and being able to take a wider than shoulder length stance.
This all worked, at least to a degree, especially the wider stance part. My first warm up set at 135 pounds seemed to go like a breeze. While I couldn’t get my thighs perfectly parallel to the floor, I found with the altered stance, I could go a bit lower than before, especially with the lighter weight.
But I was interested in how this would go at my working weight of 175 pounds for 10 reps per set. It actually went pretty well. I got lower, not parallel, but lower than usual, and I really felt it in my thighs but not so much in my back. Also, I didn’t feel the usual loss of balance, but I did get down to a point to where I didn’t feel quite in control. That’s the point where I started my ascent.
I’m convinced I got a really good quad and ham workout with the changes I made, and doing my working weight for 10 reps per set really had me huffing and puffing by the time I walked out of the squat rack.
There was only one other guy in the weight room at this point, so I had no worries at getting my usual weight bench set up. Nevertheless, it didn’t even occur to me to get an extra set of squats in. With my focus of opening up my stance and getting lower (still not low enough) in my squat, I wasn’t worried that I’d somehow cheated myself out of a good lower body lift.
Next came my close grip press. The warm up weights especially let me get the bar right down to my chest, so I got a great range of motion for the first 2 sets. The working weight must have been just about right for the last 2 sets, especially for 10 reps per set, since I really struggled with the last few reps in each set. I managed to make all 10, though.
That’s when things started to get tough.
Going into them, I figured I had the deadlifts dialed. I regretted not covering Starrett’s material about deadlifts again, but I figured I’d do my 4 sets and do the review later.
The first warm up set was a snap, but I started to feel the effort in the latter reps of the second warm up.
205 pounds seemed a little hard to drag off of the floor, but it was even harder to do the full 10 reps. In the first working set, my body said “just 8 reps” but I let my brain and my determination force me to do the complete 10.
That’s when I started needed more rest…between the first and second working sets of deadlifts. I remember when I first started doing deadlifts months ago, trying to treat them like any other bodybuilding lift, doing 3 sets at 8 to 15 reps per set and working to near failure.
That’s what it felt like today doing 10 reps, deadlifting 205 pounds.
I was kind of worried going into the second working set. I got the barbell off the floor OK, but by the fifth rep, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it all the way. 7 reps, 8 reps, I thought I was done. 9 reps and then in the tenth rep, I wasn’t sure I could stand up all the way.
I briefly paused and then pulled up with everything I had left, tightening my abs and glutes and standing tall with a 205 pound barbell gripped in both hands.
It came down with a powerful “clank”.
I still had roughly 20 minutes left to get through my overhead presses and standing barbell curls.
That’s where I found out I had a problem.
The warm up sets for my overhead press went fine, but by the last couple of reps in my first working set, I had a hard time getting the barbell all the way up. I rested around 2 1/2 minutes, hoping to recover my strength, but by the fifth rep in the last set, I knew I wasn’t going to make it. I got it up 6 reps but barely made the seventh rep…
…and then I was done.
I wasn’t going to chance a bonus set at a lesser weight. I probably just had time to do my curls. I figured I was stronger in my curls than my overhead press, so I could still salvage the end of today’s workout.
I was wrong.
Warm up sets were fine, but that first working set of barbell curls at 75 pound was hard for the last few reps. I saw the writing on the wall, so to speak, and it ended even worse than my presses, with me completing only 6 reps for the last working set.
At this point, it was just after 6 a.m. and I’d been at it for a little over an hour. My shirt was soaked with sweat and I was still recovering my breath as I walked out of the weight room and into the main part of the gym.
I think the deadlifts took too much out of me and I didn’t have enough “mojo” left to finish up clean.
I decided to check my progression for deadlifts, overhead presses, and curls for week 1 in both circuits 1 and 2.
My round 1, week 1 occurred in the middle of July and this is how my lifts for the exercises in question went:
Barbell Bent Leg Deadlift
Barbell Overhead Press in Squat Rack
Barbell Standing Curl
Round 2, Week 1 occurred in about the third week in August. I did 2 Workout Bs in that week. Here’s what the relevant lifts on the second “B” looked like:
Barbell Bent Leg Deadlift
8x 205lbs/92.9864kg (Bonus)
Barbell Overhead Press
Barbell Standing Curl (Fixed Weight Barbells)
So the working weight progression for deadlifts round over round for 10 reps per set was 175 pounds — 195 pounds — 205 pounds.
I bumped it up 20 pounds from round 1 to round 2 and another 10 pounds from round 2 to round 3. I wonder if even that 10 pounds was too aggressive since it took so much out of me.
For overhead presses, the working weight progression was 55 pounds — 60 pounds — 65 pounds, or a 5 pound increase round over round. That doesn’t seem too aggressive at all and in fact, it seems pretty reasonable. So why didn’t it work?
Standing barbell curl weight progress was 65 pounds — 70 pounds — 75 pounds, again a 5 pound increase round over round. What happened?
Instead of starting round 3, week 1, I thought of doing a zero week where I really backed away from the weight and practiced on form but not so much on strength. I could even do a zero circuit, where I could extend that idea into a full five-week progression, not stressing my body so much and seeing if after finishing zero round, I could ramp things up.
The other thing that’s crossed my mind is extending the rests between lifts from one day to two. That would mean, for example, lifting on Monday, Thursday, Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, Tuesday, and so on. I’d get 48 hours rest between lifts instead of 24.
Both of these changes have merit, but I think I’ll see if I can stick out circuit 3 all the way to completion. Unless this gets worse, I’ll keep moving forward and consider making a significant change after round 3 is done.
I can’t say today was a complete waste. Even though I didn’t make my goals for my last set of overhead presses and my last set of curls, I still got a great workout in. I’ve got the tired body to prove it.
A will finds a way.
–Orison Swett Marden