The Unexpected Sunday

sleeping inI hadn’t expected to lift today. I figured the missus and I would go to the gym and I’d help her with her dumbbell lifts and other exercises just like we did last Sunday. But things didn’t go as planned from the moment I woke up.

I enjoy staying in bed late on the weekend. Even if I’m not sleeping, and especially since it’s cold outside, I like the comfort and warmth of just lazing around until whenever.

So I finally pulled myself out of bed sometime after 7 and went looking for a cup of coffee. When my wife said “Hello” from the darkened living room, I was a little surprised. Then she said, “I’m going to the gym.”

Wait. I’m supposed to go with her. She had pity on me and let me sleep in, but she was determined to get to the gym when it opened at 8 or soon afterward. I’d made a committment to her, so I asked her to wait 10 minutes so I could join her.

I quickly got dressed in my gym clothes and a heavy hoodie (it’s really cold out there), grabbed a cup of coffee to drink on the go, and we headed out.

Since she starts out with cardio, so did I, doing 25 minutes on the elliptical plus a 5 minute warm down.

I’d started a little ahead of her, so she was still on her machine when I finished. Afterward, she favors the ab crunch and back extension machines, so I hadx a little time until she’s ready for me.

Since I had time to kill, I did a few things:

dead hang pull up
Photo credit:

Body hang w/shoulders engaged (bodyweight)

x40 sec

Dead hang (bodyweight)

x25 sec

Spine-supported ab crunch (bodyweight)


I saw her doing machine rows and was a tad puzzled so we had a conversation. She just doesn’t feel safe using free weights, even with me standing right there with her, and would prefer to stick with the machines for a while. Since this is all about keeping her motivated, I didn’t argue. At least she took my advice and got a notebook to use as her exercise log so she can keep track of her progress.

But since she didn’t need my help, I had time on my hands. Anticipating tomorrow’s new 5/3/1 workout, I decided to get a little practice in on the Assistance Work I’d be doing on Wednesday. This meant fairly light Overhead Presses and Deadlifts. Here’s how that worked out.

Assistance Work Overhead Press

10x 40lbs/18.1437kg
10x 40lbs/18.1437kg
10x 40lbs/18.1437kg
10x 40lbs/18.1437kg
10x 40lbs/18.1437kg

sumo deadlift
Photo credit:

Assistance Work Deadlifts

10x 115lbs/52.1631kg
10x 115lbs/52.1631kg
10x 115lbs/52.1631kg
10x 115lbs/52.1631kg
10x 115lbs/52.1631kg

Using a 40 pound fixed weight barbell for overhead presses seemed pretty light at first. I only rested about 30 seconds between sets just to keep my energy up. But by the fourth and fifth sets, I was resting for 60 seconds and the reps were getting a little harder.

Then I had the bright idea to do light deadlifts.

Trying to keep a good form and probably failing anyway, I managed to pull a 115 pound barbell up for 5 sets of 10 reps per set. After each set, I was breathing pretty heavy and had to rest a full 2 minutes between sets.

As I was doing my deadlifts, I thought I’d progress to heavier rack pulls just for giggles. As I was setting up the bar in the squat rack, my wife came over. I asked if she needed help with anything. It looked like she was just about done but could find other exercises to do while I finished my workout. She still didn’t want my help, which is OK. I know what it’s like to need control of my own workout.

I watched her and saw she was doing bent over dumbbell rows with both hands at the same time, rather than leaning against a bench. Good for her.

After I finished my first set of rack pulls (besides the 45 pound warm up), she said she wonders about my form and again suggested hiring a private trainer. She said the gym offers individual instruction for 6 classes and it would be Chase, yeah Chase, who leads the rather annoying weekday morning class, who would be my trainer.

I agreed to give him a call and meet with him. If the kid knows his stuff, maybe he can help out after all. It could be the break I need to learn how to do these lifts right.

bent over rows in squat rack
Credit: Kaung S’s Yelp page: Gold’s Gym in Augusta, CA

I returned to my rack pulls. Here’s how they worked out.

Rack Pulls in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg
5x 155lbs/70.3068kg
5x 185lbs/83.9146kg
5x 205lbs/92.9864kg
5x 225lbs/102.058kg
5x 240lbs/108.862kg

I wasn’t sure how heavy I wanted to go, but after each successful set, I kept loading plates onto the bar. 225 pounds was definitely a challenge to lift for 5 reps but I still felt I had more in me and that I could lift heavier without injury.

I decided on a final set at 235 pounds but then said “to heck with it” and put the weight up to 240. Yikes. I thought maybe 3 sets was going to be my limit, but kept going to a max of 5. Man, that felt good. I didn’t think I’d get this kind of workout in on Sunday. I regret that my wife doesn’t want to stick with the dumbbells and other free weight work, but at least it gave me a chance to see what Assistance Lifts are like and to still do some “heavy” work.

Tomorrow, comes a new challenge, with the caveat that hiring a personal trainer may be a game changer.

Your love for what you do and willingness to push yourself where others aren’t prepared to go is what will make you great.

Laurence Shahlaei


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