Practicing Form and Working Around My Injury

couples in gymOn Sundays, my wife and I go to the gym together, although our workouts are so different that we don’t interact between entering the gym and exiting it.

However, today as we were driving back home after exercising, she said she’s staying at her current super-light weights for the foreseeable future. I mentioned the concept of progressive overload, but she told me that she’s still working through injuries and if she pushes herself and gets hurt, she’ll probably have to quit working out altogether, and ultimately, things would get worse.

That caused me to think about my current situation.

I woke up this morning, but since it’s Sunday and blissfully dark in the early morning, I stayed in bed. I couldn’t fall back to sleep (alas), but I rather enjoyed basking in the warmth of the blankets. I was also aware that as I shifted positions in bed, my lower right lumbar area was being pretty annoying.

I wanted this to get better, not worse. I would really like to heal up so I can apply what I’m learning from my trainer Chase to lifting heavier weights and hopefully, even re-enter my 5/3/1 program as adapted to my recent experience.

I didn’t really have much of a plan when I went to the gym this morning. I knew I wanted to do back squats and bench presses as my “main lifts,” but that doesn’t mean very much since really, I’m just practicing form while I’m waiting to heal. I always start these “main lifts” just with the bar or at 45 pounds, and then work my way up to whatever I feel I can lift safely and without (much) pain.

Although, I’m technically not doing a 5/3/1 routine right now, I still divided today’s program into main lifts and assistance lifts, just for giggles.

Main Lifts

Back Squat in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg
8x 95lbs/43.0913kg
6x 115lbs/52.1631kg
6x 135lbs/61.235kg
5x 155lbs/70.3068kg
5x 165lbs/74.8427kg

woman bench pressBarbell Bench Press

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg
8x 95lbs/43.0913kg
6x 115lbs/52.1631kg
6x 125lbs/56.699kg
5x 135lbs/61.235kg
5x 140lbs/63.5029kg

Assistance Lifts

Barbell Stiff-Leg Deadlift

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

Dumbbell Bench Press

10x 35lbs/15.8757kg
10x 35lbs/15.8757kg
10x 35lbs/15.8757kg
10x 40lbs/18.1437kg
10x 45lbs/20.4117kg

Cable Low Rows

10x 110lbs/49.8952kg
10x 115lbs/52.1631kg
10x 115lbs/52.1631kg
10x 115lbs/52.1631kg
10x 115lbs/52.1631kg

weighted cable crunch
Photo credit: musclemag.com

Ab Work

Weighted Cable Ab Crunch

10x 115lbs/52.1631kg
10x 130lbs/58.967kg
10x 140lbs/63.5029kg
10x 150lbs/68.0389kg
10x 150lbs/68.0389kg

Spine Supported Ab Crunch (Bodyweight)

x40
x40
x50

I’ve been doing back squats very light these days, with a max of 135 pounds six days ago and only 125 pounds nine days ago. In fact, the heaviest squat I’ve done since learning better form was 160 pounds for four reps almost two weeks ago.

But while the weights are light, the volume is higher, and this is all for the sake of practicing form, not necessarly anything else. But today, I was happy to bump my max weight for the last set up to 165 pounds and do five reps. I don’t think my back was the limiting factor today. Rather, squatting that low and pushing back up. The muscles required for that sort of move need to get stronger. I think they are slowly, but my back is going to have to completely heal before I can really challenge myself.

From squats, I moved on to a basic barbell bench press. Remember, I’m doing bar to chest (or bar to nearly chest), so the weights are necessarily lighter as well. About twelve days ago, my max was 140 pounds for 3 reps. About a week ago, when I last tweaked my back, I did very light presses, maxing out at only 125 pounds for five reps.

Today, I was back up to a max of 140 pounds, bar near to but not on my chest, doing five reps. Needs work.

straight leg deadlift
Photo credit: Bodybuilding.com

Last Thursday, to help with my back tweak, Chase had me doing stiff-legged deadlifts with very light barbells, 30 to 40 pounds. Today, I decided to do them again, only using a 115 pound barbell. Since I was considering it an “assistance lift,” I treated it like a “boring but big” exercise and did five sets of ten reps per set. I tried to get my torso parallel to the floor, but my main goal was to stretch out my hams and lower back. It wasn’t really for strength as to increase mobility and flexibility.

One thing that surprised me is that my forearms and biceps were really getting challenged just maintaining my grip on the barbell.

In spite of the light weight, I was feeling kind of tired afterward, and so chose the dumbbell bench press so I wouldn’t have to stand, and also to work a complementary set of muscles. For the last two sets, I decided to go slightly heavier just to insert a bit of a challenge. I must say that after each set, sitting up was really aggrevating my lower right back. As light as I was going, this was still being a problem for my lumbar injury.

I wanted to do some sort of rows to work my lats and chose the cable low row as the safest option. I made a slight weight adjustment upward after the first set and things went fine after that.

Technically, I was done with my lifts, but I could see my wife was still doing some work, so I decided to add some ab work. I took a chance at weighted cable crunches but kept the weight a bit lighter than what I’ve done in the past. I still had time left when I was finished, so I ended my workout with spine-supported ab crunches.

At this point, the missus and I had been the gym nearly 90 minutes, and it was time to go home.

I guess I’ll have to settle for lighter weights for the present, both for the sake of my back injury and because using correct form, I can’t lift nearly as much as when I was using a partial range of motion and bad form (and also injuring myself).

weapon of mass destruction
Image credit: fitchef.co.za

My fourth training session with Chase is this coming Wednesday the 23rd, and if we keep to our schedule, our fifth and final session will be on the 30th. I’m sorry to see them end. If I wasn’t working around an injury, I could have used our time together to have him monitor my back mechanics and other areas of my form lifting heavier weights.

I can also tell the holidays have taken their toll as my weight is creeping up a bit and my pants are feeling somewhat tighter. Since I’m taking two weeks off from work, maybe I can throw in more cardio along with my lifting and see if I can reverse this unfortunate trend.

You must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul.

–Gusteau (voiced by Brad Garrett), Ratatouille (2007)

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