Circuit Zero, Day Seven of Lifting and Back to the Drawing Board

zercher squat
Photo credit:

Yesterday, I introduced my wife to the joys of the free weight room. Today, it was my turn to go back in for myself and kill it.

Turns out I may have “killed” me instead. No, not literally. But even after my wife’s confirmation that my back squat form was off, I was still determined to do zercher squats and rack pulls.

I woke up this morning with my lower right back already aching, which is not a good sign. It’s also a sign I chose to ignore, at my own peril, evidently.

Oh, I made it through and used heavier weights than I did last week, but the result is that I’ve got my trusty ice pack pressed against my right lumbar region and three ibuprofen hasn’t even touched my “ouch” factor.

But I did what I did. Here’s what happened.

Zercher Squats in Squat Rack

8x 155lbs/70.3068kg
6x 185lbs/83.9146kg
5x 205lbs/92.9864kg
5x 215lbs/97.5224kg
5x 220lbs/99.7903kg

Rack Pull in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg
10x 135lbs/61.235kg
8x 185lbs/83.9146kg
6x 205lbs/92.9864kg
6x 225lbs/102.058kg
3x 245lbs/111.13kg

Barbell Bench Press

10x 135lbs/61.235kg
7x 155lbs/70.3068kg
8x 155lbs/70.3068kg
5x 165lbs/74.8427kg
5x 170lbs/77.1107

dumbbell shoulder press

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

8x 22.5lbs/10.20583kg
6x 25lbs/11.3398kg
6x 25lbs/11.3398kg
4x 30lbs/13.6078kg
3x 30lbs/13.6078kg

I have to say it was a beautiful morning to lift, not because of the weather outside, which was damn cold, but because I had the weight room all to myself. Only one regular was there, and he only uses some of the weighted cables. I had free run of the place and no pressure to move from one station to another quickly for fear of losing access to the bench or equipment I needed. It was glorious.

My best zercher squat (i.e. heaviest) from Friday was 210 pounds for 2 sets at 3 reps each, and the previous Wednesday, my max weight for my z-squat was 205 pounds for 5 reps. Naturally, I decided to exceed all that to the best of my ability, so I did 5 reps at 215 pounds and another 5 at 220. I also managed 5 sets instead of 4, but this left my lower back in a rather vulnerable position. I’m convinced now that even doing zercher squats, I’m not using proper form. Alas.

This was my second go at rack pulls and this time I was determined to do them well, pulling the barbell up from the pins and then slamming it back down at the end of each rep. That part went OK.

I started, as you can see, with just the bar so I could practice the move using full range of motion. Then I slowly took the weight up, just like I did previously. However, rather than stopping at 225 pounds, for the final set, I added 20 more pounds and managed 3 reps at 245. Even with the barbell resting about a foot off the floor, pulling that much weight up was a bit of struggle. I was hoping that I could do 5 reps for the final set, but that wasn’t going to happen.

bench press
Photo credit:

Interestingly enough, during the pulls, my back felt fine. It was standing up straight afterwards that told me I had a major tweak in progress.

My bench press was almost a relief after all that. I was huffing and puffing and dripping sweat on the floor, telling me that at least I was putting in the effort.

I decided to cut back just a little on the number of reps so I’d have something left at the end. My max weight for the bench press in Zero Circuit is 165 and I nudged it up to 170, doing 5 reps in the last set.

All this was eating up time and I knew I’d barely make it through my shoulder presses before 6 a.m.

This is one of my biggest challenges and I think my lower back is contributing to it. On the other hand, so is the triceps for my left arm, at least when trying to push a 30 pound dumbbell all the way over my head. I tried to take it easy on the previous sets, but no matter how much I tried, I could only get the dumbbells up 4 times on the fourth set and a mere 3 times on the fifth.

As the morning progressed, my back became more difficult to work with. It repeatedly spasmed on the drive home and hasn’t shown much of an improvement (if any) since then. I can walk, but not very fast. Standing up is a real challenge. Oh yeah. I did it again.

barbell back squat

Since it’s coming up on Thanksgiving (in America) and I have the day off Thursday, I will probably just rest and not hit the gym again until Friday (unless a miracle happens and I heal completely overnight). Looks like I’m stuck lifting only twice a week for the duration.

I may decide to revisit my wife’s suggestion to hire a trainer for a session or two, just so I can correct whatever defects I have in establishing and maintaining a neutral spine. If I can’t do that, I’m going to always be limited in how much I can lift and probably always be in pain.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Martin Luther King, Jr.


3 thoughts on “Circuit Zero, Day Seven of Lifting and Back to the Drawing Board

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