The Day After Personal Training Ended

back squat
Photo credit: Tribe Sports

Thursday the 31st was the day after my training with Chase ended and I hadn’t intended to go to the gym. After all that lower body work, my legs were well and truly sore. Squats and deadlifts were definitely out, and even I know the value of rest and recovery.

But my wife wanted me to go to the gym with her so I figured I probably should. I briefly entertained the idea of doing cardio, but like I said, my legs were shot and 30 or 40 minutes on the elliptical didn’t sound at all appealing.

But I could still do other lifts, the ones I was planning on doing Friday, and focus on my upper body. That really did appeal to me and I figured, why not?

I didn’t go in with any sort of 5/3/1 styled plan. I figured I’d just start working out and see what happened. I probably rested about 2 minutes between sets but I didn’t really keep track of the time, hitting my next set when my body felt ready for it.

Overhead Press in Squat Rack

8x 45lbs/20.4117kg
8x 45lbs/20.4117kg
5x 50lbs/22.6796kg
5x 55lbs/24.9476kg
3x 60lbs/27.2155kg
3x 65lbs/29.4835kg

Rack Pull in Squat Rack

10x 95lbs/43.0913kg
8x 115lbs/52.1631kg
6x 135lbs/61.235kg
5x 185lbs/83.9146kg
5x 205lbs/92.9864kg

Barbell Bench Press

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg
8x 95lbs/43.0913kg
6x 115lbs/52.1631kg
4x 125lbs/56.699kg
3x 130lbs/58.967kg
2x 135lbs/61.235kg

bent over rows
Photo credit:

Barbell Bent Over Rows

8x 115lbs/52.1631kg
8x 125lbs/56.699kg
6x 125lbs/56.699kg
6x 135lbs/61.235kg
5x 145lbs/65.7709kg
5x 145lbs/65.7709kg

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

10x 20lbs/9.07185kg
10x 22.5lbs/10.20583kg
10x 25lbs/11.3398kg
10x 25lbs/11.3398kg
10x 25lbs/11.3398kg

Roman Chair Back Extensions (Bodyweight)


Ab Crunch with Feet Braced (Bodyweight)


The last time I did overhead presses, I got the weight up to 70 pounds, but only did one rep. Today, I figured I’d just do what my body felt like handling and a max weight of 65 pounds for 3 reps in the final set was it for me. Once I got up to 60 pounds, I took a staggered stance, with one leg behind me to better manage the weight and keep it off my spine.

Since I was in the squat rack already, I figured I’d chance some rack pulls. I should mention there were a couple of guys in the “bro zone” right next to me doing bent over rows in the smith machine. Really? That’s a thing?

I had to time it so we wouldn’t collide at the closest proximity between the rack and the machine, so that meant I had to wait a bit between sets so I could change out the weight plates.

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

I also have to admit that even the modest weight I used felt heavy, at least starting at 185 pounds. That’s why I stopped at 205 rather than jacking the weight up even more.

I did notice the difference on those reps when I set my lats and stood up in a single, clean motion vs. not giving myself enough time to prepare for the rep. No, I didn’t hurt myself, but better form means a better lift. I’m guessing the feeling of it all being “heavier” had to do with proper form vs. the train wreck I was before I went through personal training.

Frankly, with the two “bros” doing what I thought was some pretty odd moves on the smith machine, I was glad to be done with the squat rack so I could put a little distance between them and me. By the time I moved on to my bench press, one guy was chinning himself on the machine’s bar while his partner had a hold of his ankles, presumably helping him pull himself up for more reps.

I really do want to get better with my bench press. In the bad old days, I could “bench” 185, but it was only a partial range of motion. Getting the bar to my chest on each (or most) rep limits how much I can put on the bar and successfully complete the motion.

In this case, 135 is my absolute limit for now if I expect to move the bar back up after it’s on my pecs, and I could only do that for 2 reps safely. Of course, I didn’t put collars on the bar, and if I became trapped, I could dump the weight off the barbell, but that would be pretty embarrassing. I’d have a lot of witnesses since the weight room was starting to fill up with guys hoping to work off all the booze they plan to put into their bodies later tonight (as I write this) to celebrate the last day of 2015 and welcome 2016 in the door.

Bent over rows (with a free-standing barbell, not the smith machine) was a different story. I usually do rows as an assistance lift, which means lighter weight and more sets and reps, but I decided to go a little heavier this time.

Since I’m bent over in a vulnerable position, I still have to be careful lifting the barbell off the floor. No use in going through all that training just to hurt myself again. On the other hand, now that I gave my pecs a workout, it was time to work on the reverse side of my upper body.

seated dumbbell shoulder press

While I was working through my rows, I noticed that all of the benches I typically use for dumbbell work became occupied. “Buff Asian Dude” pulled one into the squat/power rack and was doing incline bench presses. The two “bros” were using a couple of them for dumbbell bent over rows, and other regulars were working with the rest.

Fortunately, my timing was good, and one of the women finished up just before I needed her bench.

I did my seated dumbbell shoulder press in “assistance lift” style, 5 sets at 10 reps per set. I started out modestly with a couple of 20 pounders and then worked my way up to two 22.5s, and finally a pair of 25s. I was a little surprised I could use 25 pound dumbbells for 3 sets of 10 reps per. Last Sunday, I started out with 25s but had to go down to two 20s because I didn’t think I’d be able to manage the weight for a total of 50 reps. Must have had a good day.

Technically, that was it, and for once, I was glad to clear out of the weight room. The two “bros” were still dominating the place, and there were plenty of other guys and a few gals who were all over the map, making it pretty crowded in there. Precursor to New Year’s resolutions, maybe.

I’m going to pause my usual narrative to mention one guy, though. He stood out because he was walking on a pair of prosthetic legs, probably joined mid-thigh, though it was hard to tell through his shorts and I certainly didn’t want to stare.

Whatever you think your excuse is for not working out and not lifting free weights, you don’t have as big an “excuse” as this guy. He probably gets stared at all the time or the opposite; people don’t look at him at all.

But he showed up with the rest of us to work out wearing shorts, walking into the place, and starting his routine. He showed up and worked. A lot of guys and gals who have their four original limbs can’t say the same and are otherwise healthy enough to get their buns into the gym of their choice.

Good on that guy. Next time you need an inspiration, I just told you about him.

Anyway, my wife was still working out, so I decided to get a little core work in starting with back extensions. Even by the single roman chair, it seemed pretty crowded and I had to ask a guy doing push ups on a mat near the chair if it would bother him if I worked out next to him.

He was good with it, so I started out. My wife was positioned almost directly in front of me doing ab work on a mat and I was tempted to mess with her a little bit. But she was in the gym doing what the rest of us were doing and she has the same right to respect and space as anyone, so I stayed clear.

I did point Chase out to her between sets. He was working with an older guy, older than me, on some of the LifeFitness leg machines. I wanted to tell his client he had a good trainer, but this is Chase’s business and you don’t interrupt a trainer when he or she is working with a client.

Doing my back extensions, I had to keep reminding myself that holding my head up and maintaining a neutral spine was just as important here as it is doing squats and deadlifts.

weighted bench crunches
Photo credit:

Up until this point, I didn’t feel even a twinge in my lower back. But then I tried my ab crunches and all that changed.

I laid a mat down, slipped my ankles under a piece of equipment to hold them in place and started my crunches…and ouch. No, I didn’t tweak my back and it feels fine now as I’m writing this, but each time I came up off the mat, that sore spot reminded me it was there.

Somewhere in all this, my wife queried a guy who was using the ab crunch bench, and I thought it was kind of cute for some strange reason. I guess I usually think of the gym as my domain and I just have to share it with the rest of the world, so fitting my missus into my mental scenario at the gym was a little different for me.

But like I said, my back was complaining a little bit, so when I saw my wife was done with her workout, I was done, too.

No, I’m not hurt. This is just a weak spot that needs to get stronger. If I hadn’t done so much leg intensive work the previous day, I probably would have thrown in a few sets of lunges (imagine that), but like I said before, my legs were done.

That was the last workout of 2015, not that it means anything in particular.

However, now that training is over, I’ll burn out the rest of the week, either just resting, or maybe squeezing in a cardio day, and then start next week, this coming Sunday probably, with the return of 5/3/1 strength training.

Should be fun.

Oh, by the way. Happy New Year.

Going to the gym is great for the body, but it’s also great for your mind.

Rory McIlroy


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