Finished Week 5 of Round 3 But Not With Glory

lumbar back injury

I really did it this time. I should have paid attention to Onomatopoeicbliss when he said that “back squats are where my lumbar gets hurt more than DL.” My lower right lumbar region was already somewhat “tweaked” from deadlifts last Wednesday, and I was hoping that two days of rest would have healed it up enough to tolerate squats.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I was more or less OK with my first warm up set at 185 pounds, but the second set at 205 pounds did me in, especially once I re-racked the bar and ducked under it to step out of the rack. Ouch!

I didn’t want to quit. Testosterone was flowing much too freely for that. So I just didn’t increase the weight and continued do to sets. You’ll see below my full workout. I don’t think I had to rest quite as much between sets as usual because the weights never got high enough to stress me that much.

Barbell Back Squats in Squat Rack

4x 185lbs/83.9146kg
4x 205lbs/92.9864kg
4x 205lbs/92.9864kg
5x 205lbs/92.9864kg
4x 205lbs/92.9864kg

Barbell Bench Press

4x 155lbs/70.3068kg
4x 165lbs/74.8427kg
3x 185lbs/83.9146kg
4x 185lbs/83.9146kg (Bonus Rep)
3x 190lbs/86.1826kg (Bonus Set)

Barbell Bent Over Row

3x 155lbs/70.3068kg
4x 165lbs/74.8427kg
3x 185lbs/83.9146kg
4x 185lbs/83.9146kg (Bonus Rep)

lat pulldownCable Lat Pulldown

5x 160lbs/72.5748kg
4x 170lbs/77.1107kg
3x 170lbs/77.1107kg

Cable Triceps Extension w/Rope

8x 75lbs/34.0194kg
6x 85lbs/38.5554kg
4x 100lbs/45.3592kg
4x 100lbs/45.3592kg

Barbell Bench Press (Bonus)

8x 135lbs/61.235kg
8x 135lbs/61.235kg
8x 135lbs/61.235kg

At 205 pounds, I could squat more than 3 reps per set so did what I felt I could tolerate. During the actual act of squatting, the pain wasn’t bad, but the movement of ducking under the barbell after I racked it was intense, at least momentarily. For everything after that, I had to be careful, because one wrong twist, lean, or bend sent my lower right back from sore to YIKES!

I thought I’d catch a break with my bench press, but I still had to be careful when reclining back on the bench. And if I wasn’t completely stable, my body would slightly twist during the lift, aggravating my back. That said, I felt pretty strong on this lift today, and decided not only to do a bonus rep on the last working set, but to add five more pounds and do a bonus set of 3 reps at 190 pounds, a new personal best.

Of course, I couldn’t get the bar as close to my chest as I wanted to, so you might even consider these partial reps, but I tried to make up for it later on.

As a side note, Chase’s training class was in the weight room this morning. They have an annoying habit of entering my personal space when I’m about to lift (also I must admit my personal bubble expands a lot when I’m lifting heavy). Chase usually has his class do several circuits of different exercises and this morning that included bench presses. He was having one fellow, maybe about my age or a little younger, do bench presses at 135 pounds, but lowering the barbell until it actually touched his chest. Fortunately, Chase was there to spot him, but I’d consider that a little too low.

barbell rows for batwings
Photo credit:

I pantomimed the action of a bent over row without the barbell to see how my back felt and there was no pain. The real thing was another matter.

The first warm up set at 155 pounds was surprisingly uncomfortable, but determined to get through, I pushed myself to do the next warm up set and both working sets. Once the barbell was off the floor, I felt pretty good, but the action of pulling it up initially and setting it down was difficult.

I should have done my triceps extensions next, but all of the cable pulleys were being used. Since two of them are under the pull up bars, I couldn’t even do that. I settled for 3 sets of cable lat pulldowns which even at relatively modest weights, were still difficult, especially that last set.

Finally, my favorite cable pulley for extensions was free and I knocked out my expected number of reps and sets, although there’s one point in pulling the rope handle over my head that tugged my back a bit.

I still had time at the end, and was considering what would put the least amount of strain on my tender area. I settled on more bench presses, keeping the weight light and upping the reps to whatever I could do, while still lowering the barbell as close to my chest as possible (but without touching it).

Surprisingly, after I finished, I still had 10 minutes on the clock, but I’d already been more than stupid working out this long with an injury, so I decided to call it quits.

This morning, when I got up, the house was pretty cold. About 62 degrees F (roughly 16 or 17 degrees C) in the house and 40 F (4.44 C) outside. I put on a pair of sweat pants and on a whim, I decided to wear them over my workout shorts when I drove to the gym. I figured I could take them off when I got there, but decided to leave them on, at least for a while.

hans and franz sweatpantsThere are a couple of guys who habitually workout with some from of pants on, one with sweat pants and the other in jeans (neither were at the gym this morning). I figured it wasn’t completely out of bounds to do so (although it kind of reminds me of Hans and Franz).

Doing squats when you can’t see your legs is interesting. The sweat pants were a little confining but I actually managed to get my squat pretty low, almost to the coveted parallel position on occasion (which probably didn’t do my back any good). However, after my bench press, I was just too damn hot and pulled them off.

After my workout, given the condition of my back, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to twist and bend my body in order to put them back on, especially over my shoes. Besides, I was still sweating from my workout, and decided to heck with it and just put on my hoodie.

I looked up the heat vs. cold debate for injuries, and ice definitely wins for injured tissue. Heat, according to the article, will aggravate the heck out of an injury and should only be used for muscle soreness like DOMS.

So I’ve got an ice pack shoved in between my lower right back and my chair in the hopes that it will help. Bending is an adventure and sometimes so is walking.

About three times a year, my employer treats us all to an afternoon of bowling (2 games, actually), 2 free beers of soft drinks, and all the greasy fried foods we can eat. Today is one of those days (a pre-Halloween bash), and I’m hoping I’ll feel up to it by the time 3:30 p.m. rolls around and it’s time to go to the lanes.

If this back pain doesn’t resolve significantly by the end of today or tomorrow morning, I’m going to have to look into my wife’s video Treat While You Train and make use of her training balls. I’m sure at least one of the listed exercises will help with lower lumbar discomfort.

This has definitely made my mind up about next week. I’m going to incorporate some sort of “Zero Week” into my routine next week. Worst case scenario is I don’t lift at all for a week and just do light cardio and, if my back will tolerate it, some ab work (which I’ve been neglectful of lately).

Photo credit:

A better scenario is that I lift but I do so off program, shuffling different exercises at different weight, set, and rep combinations, all lighter than this week, in order to focus on form.

The jury is out on which I’ll be doing, probably until Sunday night when I assess the state of my back. Right now, sitting down, even bending the wrong way hurts.

I’d like to say this is just a natural consequence of being active, but if I have to be truthful, I must say it’s really a consequence of being dumb and continuing to exercise when I knew I was injured. My ego didn’t want me to quit and now I’m paying the price. Being an older guy, I have to face the fact that my recovery time is going to be longer, which doesn’t make me happy, but then, I’ve only got myself to blame.

I suppose I could say that at least I didn’t quit, but as I just mentioned, now I have to face recovering from an injury and the amount of time that will put me out of action. I want to push my limits and extend just how far my “personal best” can go, but I may end up having to be more moderate and shoot for more volume and less intensity, much as that galls me.

Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.

Chuck Close


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