I did not want to get up this morning. First of all, we had our grandson over last night. My wife’s been helping him with his homework and afterward, he stays for dinner and we play board games for a while. So by the time we got him home it was getting late (for me).
I’d had a particularly frustrating day at work and was still pretty wound up from that, as well as the difficult commute home. So naturally, I couldn’t sleep.
I must have finally gone to bed around 9:30 (I know that’s early for most people) and when I opened my eyes again, it was 3:45 a.m. and I was still really tired. I almost made today a rest day and thought about moving days three and four of this week’s lifts to Thursday and Friday respectively.
But I steeled myself and got out of bed.
I was still pretty loggy for a bit while waiting for the coffee to brew. I noticed some soreness in my pecs, thighs, and lower back which didn’t speak well for my ability to do back squats and bench presses this morning. Oh well. If I needed to go lighter, I’d go lighter.
I drove to the gym through a light rain and arrived about a minute before it opened. When the lights popped on and the doors opened, I made for the squat rack and blessedly, the entire weight room was empty. The rack was mine.
I had the warm up set and working sets for my main lifts all programmed in my log, so it was just a matter of seeing how well I could perform. I remembered on Sunday that much past 125 pounds, I couldn’t quite get my butt all the way down to the bench I was using as a target. I made do without the bench this morning and was determined to “go low” to get the most out of this lift.
As with all of my other lift days this week, I didn’t really break much of a sweat until my assistance lifts, which means I need more rest between sets at that point.
Here’s what happened.
Back Squat in Squat Rack
5x 95lbs/43.0913kg (warm up)
6x 145lbs/65.7709kg (5+)
3x 160lbs/72.5748kg (joker)
3x 175lbs/79.3787kg (joker)
2x 190lbs/86.1826kg (joker)
Barbell Bench Press
8x 75lbs/34.0194kg (warm up)
5x 125lbs/56.699kg (5+)
3x 135lbs/61.235kg (joker)
3x 145lbs/65.7709kg (joker)
1x 150lbs/68.0389kg (joker)
Barbell Bent Over Row (5×10) 115lbs/52.1631kg
Dumbbell Bench Press (5×10) 45lbs/20.4117kg
Bodyweight Roman Chair Back Ext (low setting)
Buns down and thighs parallel to the floor through 125 pounds on my squats but I couldn’t quite make it down that far on my last working set and into my jokers. I still concentrated on getting nearly to parallel, but kept wondering if my knees were wandering too far forward. No pain in my back and I want to keep it that way, so I need to be constantly mindful of my form.
I decided to try for a PR (post-training) and on my final joker, set the barbell weight to 190 pounds. On the first rep, I noticed that I couldn’t get as far down as I wanted, possibly because of flexibility/mobility, and definitely because, if I was that low, I knew I wouldn’t be able to lift the weight back up.
I wanted to try that again to see if I could do better, but when the second rep was the same as the first, I knew I’d hit a strength limit. I may have to make squats an assistance lift on a subsequent day to work on squat depth at a lighter weight.
By now, a few of the regulars had come into the weight room as well as several “new” regulars, people I’d seen in the gym for the past several days to a week. I exited the squat rack but no one seemed to have an immediate need to use it (much later, someone started working in it). I claimed my favorite bench and got set up to do bench presses.
I got the bar all the way down to my chest through 125 pounds, which was my final working set. OK, that’s not much weight, but it’s a full range of motion and I’ve got long arms, so that’s an accomplishment for me.
For my first 2 jokers, I got the bar very near to my chest, perhaps briefly touching it for several reps on each set, but on the final joker, 150 pounds was pushing it and I could only do 1 rep with the bar close but not on my chest.
I could feel the “stall” coming on about halfway up on that final rep. I kept the bar moving, but I knew I didn’t have a second rep in me at that weight.
My experience earlier this week told me 115 pounds was the right weight for bent over barbell rows as a “boring but big” assistance lift. I also remembered that it would be best to pick up the bar and lift it as if I were setting up for a deadlift. I forgot that once and could feel it in my lower back in a rather uncomfortable way.
For the rest of my time at the gym, I periodically felt a soreness, though thankfully not a “tweak,” in my lower back, although interestingly enough, it seems localized on the left side rather than the right, which is the typical site of my injury.
The final assistance lift was the dumbbell bench press. Just for giggles, I tried the first set using a pair of 50 pound dumbbells and it worked so well, I just kept going. I made it through 3 of the 5 required sets before I felt like I needed to go lighter. Doing the fourth set with 45s was “doable” but barely, so I did the fifth and final set with a couple of 40s. Man my chest and arms were worn out.
I still had a few minutes, and noticing my continued lower back soreness, resolved to do some back extensions on the roman chair.
I treated this just like any other assistance lift and did 5 sets at 10 reps per set. That pushed me to just past 6 a.m. and it was time to go home.
As I sit here writing this, my lower back still feels sore and a bit tender. I took a few ibuprofen, but didn’t bring my ice pack with me to work, so we’ll see how things go. The last thing I need is to re-injure myself, so if need be, I can move my next lift day from tomorrow to Friday. That’s overhead presses and deadlifts, and if I’m really going to tweak something, it’ll be doing deadlifts.
Of course, I have what I learned in my personal training to fall back on, although 5 one-hour sessions hardly makes me any sort of expert. It just gives me a few tools to help me lift more safely.
Interestingly enough, yesterday, I came across an online article written by Mark Rippetoe called Good Trainers vs. Bad Trainers: How Can You Tell the Difference?. I have to admit after reading it, I was a little disappointed since, based on what Rip wrote, I still wouldn’t know how to choose a good trainer, at least anymore than I did before.
His opinion on training certifications is:
The American Sports and Fitness Association offers 26 different online certifications, none of which you pay for unless you pass — the most expensive certificate is $249, and most are $99. Although it’s not an online product, CrossFit allows you to open a CrossFit affiliate with the successful completion of their $1000 “Level I” weekend course.
And here’s what Rip has to say about actual university degrees in this area:
Believe it or not, the kid at the GloboGym may have a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science. They’re not very hard to get at most schools, and as a result there are lots of them awarded every year. With this degree, the graduate is qualified to work … at the GloboGym. And that’s about it. Any additional expertise and experience he obtains will have to happen on the job and through his own efforts.
I have to interrupt this narrative about trainers to talk about GloboGym. What the heck is a “GloboGym?”
I tried “Googling” the name thinking it might actually be a gym chain but I think it’s just a parody, in spite of this BreakingMuscle.com article that suggests the contrary. I did find a couple of YouTube videos (I’ve added one to the bottom of this blog post) about “Globo Gym” and this very much looks like an effort a making fun to “box gyms,” particularly of the Planet Fitness variety.
OK, I finally figured out this is from the film DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story (2004), which I’ve never seen (I only like maybe 1 or 2 Ben Stiller movies). Explains why I’m totally unaware of this reference.
Anyway, Rip’s opinion about the nature of “box gyms” and why they offer personal training is:
The mainstream fitness industry subsists on membership dues and personal training fees. Enrollment fees and monthly dues pay the bills, and the club’s share of the personal training is the gravy. This can work because the mainstream fitness industry relies on machine-based exercise programs and, more recently, “boot-camp” calisthenics, not barbell-based strength training — it relies on low-quality exercise that can be administered by minimally qualified personnel.
So far all this is fine and well. Rip writes with a rather dismissive and sarcastic style, probably both because it’s part of his personality and because it’s entertaining for his readers. But what about real, useful information that the lay person can use to select a good and competent trainer?
A good trainer will be found in a good gym. A good gym is usually owned by an individual, not a corporation, because of the personal nature of this type of practice. A good gym will have good equipment: quality bars and plates, bumper plates for the “quick” lifts, useful racks for squats, presses, and bench presses, perhaps a decent rack of dumbbells for certain types of assistance work, and the obligatory chalk box that always accompanies a serious approach to strength training.
So, to revisit the question: How do you differentiate yourself from the “Trainer” at the GloboGym? First, don’t work in a GloboGym. Second, find a good gym or open your own place. And finally, do a good job of teaching movement under the barbell — word gets around in this business.
Was that particularly helpful? The answer, boiling all this down, is to look for a gym owned by an individual rather than a corporation, because of the increased probability of finding a good trainer there. But how do you assess the trainer’s level of expertise. The article gives no clue.
This is the second article I’ve found on Rip’s site that mentioned using chalk as if it were the Holy Grail of strength training and anyone who doesn’t use chalk is a weakling “girly man” of Hans and Franz fame.
Muscle and Fitness states:
Want a massive lat spread and traps that start up by your ears? Stack plates on a barbell and pull from all angles. In most commercial gyms, however, you won’t find barbells designed with this purpose in mind. They’re worn, they’re slick, and they’re not manufactured with raised knurling—the diamond-shaped cross-cut pattern that helps you hang onto the bar.
Proceed with caution, though, because even though chalk can eliminate the need for lifting straps—accelerating your grip and forearm development—most commercial gyms have banned the practice to keep dust levels in check. the staff at your typical commercial gym doesn’t want to break out the vacuum every time you deadlift, and the membership—the same folks who can train only to Lady gaga—don’t want to see anything even remotely “hard- core,” either. The way we see things, however, chalking up is essential for real progress in both strength and size.
LiveStrong.com said something similar:
Chalk is a grip agent commonly used in any sport in which losing your grip can be a problem, such as gymnastics, rock climbing and lifting weights.
When you exercise, you sweat. If your palms sweat, it may make it difficult to maintain your grip on a weight bar. Although this is merely embarrassing when knocking out a set of light dumb bell curls, the results if you’re doing a maximum weight bench press can be catastrophic. Rubbing chalk on your hands absorbs the sweat, allowing you to maintain a better grip.
OnlineStrength.com also supported the use of chalk to maintain your grip on a heavy barbell.
Got it, and I’ve also got why most commercial gyms prohibit using it. No one wants to deal with the dust, and only a serious strength trainer would look past the mess to see the benefit of applying chalk. Needless to say, I’ve never seen chalk used at my gym and I suspect it’s banned there as well. I’ve seen a few of what I could classify “serious” bodybuilders and strength trainers at my gym from time to time, and although one person periodically uses wrist straps, none of them have brought out a chalk sock.
I decided to Google “individually owned gyms in boise” to see if a place more appropriate to strength training is available nearby, and I found this Facebook page listing Boise area gyms. I found it interesting that Anytime Fitness is listed as “privately owned,” which probably means that someone bought the rights to operate a franchise.
Johnny’s Fit Club Fitness is supposed to be locally owned and operated, but the tanning salon advert immediately turned me off. I find it hard to believe that a place where serious strength trainers lift heavy barbells would also lie around in “tanning coffins”.
I discovered four separate gyms with the word “CrossFit” in their names, and a smattering of others that, although they didn’t say so in their titles, nevertheless were CrossFit gyms.
The Gym is described as “luxurious and contemporary” which was a deal breaker for me, and all of the gym I’ve mentioned so far, were just part of the list on the first page.
I don’t have time to deal with this much information about local gyms. So far, I’ve got a place that works for me at my modest level of achievement. If I ever manage to start accomplishing more significant lifts and want to up my game to the next level (and need a gym where using chalk is embraced), I might revisit the idea of switching gyms, but I’m nowhere near that place yet.
As far as how to find a good trainer? My suggestion would be to look up his/her qualifications, talk to people the trainer has trained, and then schedule a single session with him/her to see how they perform. If they are clueless about how to help you meet your goals, or even worse, suggest useless or dangerous methods of lifting/moving, broom them like the dirt on your kitchen floor.
Oh, several hours and a few pain killers later, getting up out of my chair renders “tug” at my back, but it seems more like “oh, this is really sore” rather than “oh, this is really tweaked.” I’ll continue to pay attention to that area as I plan for tomorrow and the next day.
If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.