Circuit Zero, Day One

hugh jackman curl
Photo credit:

After completing three full circuits of my adapted Mutant Strength Training Program (and still not feeling anywhere near being a “mutant”), I decided it was time for a small change of pace. Of course, this was also prompted by me significantly tweaking my lower right lumbar region last week.

I had two good, full days of rest over the weekend and figured I had some options come Monday morning. Option one would be to so some “off program” lifting, but only two days a week, Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday, depending on how I felt Monday morning.

Option two would be to do only cardio for the next week and reassess my back at the end of that time. This option probably makes the most sense given that I’ve injured myself and that, being older, it is going to take me some time to heal.

Of course, as you are about to see, I don’t always follow the option that makes the most sense.

In deciding what sort of lifts to do for the next week or so, I revisited since it is more of a “purist” strength training website, focusing on the 5×5 workout routine.

So I developed my “Zero Circuit” program thus:

Workout A:

Squat x5
Bench Press x5
Barbell Row x5
Pull up x3

Workout B:

Squat x5
Overhead Press x5
Deadlift x5
Curls x5

arnold deadlift

This adaptation is really more of a traditional strength training program than what I’ve been using. It does away with close-grip bench presses and cable triceps extensions altogether. I kept pull ups and curls, but everything else is pristine 5×5.

Given that I finished last week with Workout A, my next workout should be B as I’ve listed it above.

When I got up this morning and “checked in” with myself, I felt that I should probably rest at least one more day and just do some cardio and light ab work. Yeah, that’s what I figured. But I was still undecided as I walked into the gym, and when I saw that the one regular who I’m sure to compete with for the squat rack and weight bench space wasn’t there, I figured what the heck.

I also thought that maybe zercher squats would be kinder to my back than regular back squats. It’s tough to leave something alone if you love it, even when it hurts.

Zercher Squats in Squat Rack

5x 135lbs/61.235kg
5x 155lbs/70.3068kg
3x 185lbs/83.9146kg
3x 205lbs/92.9864kg

Barbell Bench Press

10x 115lbs/52.1631kg
8x 135lbs/61.235kg
5x 155lbs/70.3068kg
3x 165lbs/74.8427kg
3x 165lbs/74.8427kg

overhead press
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Barbell Overhead Press in Squat Rack

5x 45lbs/20.4117kg
5x 55lbs/24.9476kg
5x 60lbs/27.2155kg
5x 60lbs/27.2155kg
5x 60lbs/27.2155kg

Standing Barbell Curls

10x 55lbs/24.9476kg
8x 65lbs/29.4835kg
5x 70lbs/31.7515kg
5x 75lbs/34.0194kg
5x 80lbs/36.2874kg

Cable Lat Pulldowns

10x 140lbs/63.5029kg
8x 150lbs/68.0389kg
7x 150lbs/68.0389kg
5x 160lbs/72.5748kg

I was planning on doing five sets of all of my lifts, increasing the weight progressively to whatever I felt was comfortable or at least doable. The first two sets of zercher squats (felt strange to start out my day with them) seemed OK. Only some slight soreness in my lower right back.

I set the barbell to 185 pounds, which I’m pretty sure is the heaviest I’ve ever lifted doing zercher squats. Oh yeah. I reinjured my lower right lumbar. No mistake about that, which is why I held it down to 3 reps instead of 5 for that set. If I was smart, I would have kept the weight at 185 pounds or better yet, quit while I was ahead.

But I wasn’t smart, increased the weight to 205 pounds, I did 3 more reps. Ouch! That was it. Just setting the barbell back in the rack was torturous.

bench press
Proto credit:

I considered what to do next. Deadlifts and Bent Over Rows were definitely out if I wanted to preserve whatever was left of my back. Bench Presses seemed like a more or less safe bet while I was deciding how to proceed.

I started out especially light so I could get a good range of motion and then kept nudging the weight up. I could have done 5 reps for each set if I kept the weight at 155 pounds, but I really wanted to do more, so I increased it to 165 and settled for 3 reps for the last 2 sets.

Since Deadlifts and Rows weren’t on the table, I figured I could still do overhead presses and curls. Especially for the overhead press, I kept the weights light to moderate so I could do 5 reps per set, and I managed to achieve this goal.

For curls, I started out relatively light, but felt I could tolerate increasing the weight on the bar since my biceps have become noticeably stronger and more filled out.

My son’s work schedule changed today so that he goes in about 30 minutes later, but I wanted to take the increased traffic into account and actually leave nearly an hour before he had to be at work, just in case. That meant no extra time in this gym this morning.

I still had a few minutes left and decided on lat pulldowns rather than pull ups. I wasn’t all that tired, but my back was tender so I decided to take it easy and just do 4 sets.

It was close enough to 6 by this time that I called it good and got ready to head out.

medium-grip lat pulldown
Medium-grip lat pulldown

As I was sitting at the lat machine resting between sets, Gary, one of the older regulars, came up behind me, patted my shoulder once and said “hi”. Guess I wasn’t expecting that, but later, when I was talking with Gary again on my way out, one of Chase’s classroom regulars also gave me the “manly” pat on the shoulder.

I don’t know if something about me today said “Go ahead and touch,” or whether I’m just being accepted by the “tribe” after all this time.

Anyway, right now, I’ve got my trusty ice pack pressed against my lumbar and am hoping to lift again on Thursday. Guess I’ll have to settle on those 4 sets of squats for my lower body work and hope I’m not too far out of balance between upper and lower body lifting.

Why must we fight for the right to live, over and over, each time the sun rises?

Leon Uris


2 thoughts on “Circuit Zero, Day One

    1. If I wanted to do a standard bodybuilding routine, that would probably work, Bear. However, I’m aiming more at strength training which, by definition, means less reps, more sets, and more weight. The trick is how much more? Sticking to abs and cardio today and tomorrow and we’ll see how I feel on Thursday.


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