Starting Week Two of Strength Training Reboot and Doing 3/3/3+

Boise, Idaho winter inversion

In Southwestern Idaho, particularly in what we call the Treasure Valley, we get winter inversions. Basically, we live in a bowl, and when an inversion hits, it gets cold, gray, and we get bad air. Usually, there’s a ban on burning wood, so no fireplaces are going. It’s kind of miserable until we get a storm to blow the whole thing away.

This morning we got an inversion. I was expecting it but not looking forward to it. The sky was the color of shale when my missus and I drove to the gym. We got there a few minutes early and just let the car’s heater run. The receptionist guy, who my wife found out is named Bryce, arrived right on time and opened up. He flipped on the lights just as I was walking into the free weight room. So far, there were only a couple of other guys in the gym and neither were free weight lifters.

I was a tad worried, as always, when I woke up this morning with a sore lower back and sore thighs. After all, I’d really worked the heck out of my legs on Friday doing squat practice and barely 48 hours later, I was going to be doing squats again. Is that enough rest time? I hoped so as I set up the rack.

I started out warming up with just the bar. Decided to drag a bench in just to see how heavy I could go while still putting my butt right down on the bench’s surface. I think the 3/3/3+ made a difference because all I really had to do in each set was 3 reps.

Rest periods were as they’ve typically been in my post-personal training period.


Main Lifts

personal trainer squat

Back Squat in Squat Rack

5x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
3x 95lbs/43.0913kg (warm up)
3x 120lbs/54.4311kg
3x 135lbs/61.235kg
5x 150lbs/68.0389kg (3+)
3x 160lbs/72.5748kg (joker)
3x 175lbs/79.3787kg (joker)
2x 185lbs/83.9146kg (joker)
1x 190lbs/86.1826kg (joker)

Barbell Bench Press

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 95lbs/43.0913kg (warm up)
3x 100lbs/45.3592kg
3x 115lbs/52.1631kg
5x 125lbs/56.699kg (3+)
3x 135lbs/61.235kg (joker)
1x 150lbs/68.0389kg (joker)
1x 155lbs/70.3068kg (joker)

Assistance Lifts

Barbell Bent Over Rows (5×10)

10x 120lbs/54.4311kg
10x 120lbs/54.4311kg
10x 120lbs/54.4311kg
10x 120lbs/54.4311kg
10x 120lbs/54.4311kg

dumbbell bench pressDumbbell Bench Press (5×10)

10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg

Core Work

Bodyweight Roman Chair Back Extension


Bodyweight Bent Leg Ab Crunch


Bodyweight Bar Squats


Bodyweight Dead Hang

x60 seconds

I successfully got my buns down to the bench during my warm ups, and then during my working sets, I did that as well, but not for every rep. I only got down all the way for 1 of my reps at 135 pounds, something I’ve never done before, and boy was it tough. This is an improvement, but I’ve got a long way to go before I can go “ass to grass” at any respectable weight for all of my reps in each set.

I will say that I did try to get my rear down as close as I could to the bench, less than an inch clearance in most cases. I could really feel the strain on the outside of my thighs.

box squat training

But happily, I didn’t feel any strain in my lower back. The soreness seems to go away once I get warmed up. This is the single most successful part about my post-personal training.

I pushed my jokers as far as I could, but at 185 pounds, I could only do 2 reps getting down to any decent depth. At 190, I could tell I was becoming unstable as I got lower and lower, so I called it at a single rep.

This isn’t a new PR. I did 190 for 2 reps last week, but I didn’t go as low then. Sure, I want the weights to go up, but I also need my buns to go down more consistently so in a way, it is a new achievement.

I had similar success in my bench presses. I consistently got the bar to touch my chest in each rep through 135 pounds (my first joker) which is something new, and got it pretty close thereafter. I got it down really far at 150 pounds, but when I tried at 155, I knew I wasn’t going to make it all the way down, so did just 1 rep and stopped.

However, 155 pounds does represent a PR for my bench press post-personal training, even though it needed work.

On to the assistance lifts.

I increased the weight of my barbell bent over row by 5 pounds and was still able to do the usual “boring but big” routine of 5 sets of 10 reps per set.

The real surprise was my dumbbell bench press. I decided to start using a pair of 50 pounders and see how many sets I could do before having to go lighter. I never had to go lighter. Maybe this is just an effect of hitting the gym at 8 a.m. instead of 5, or maybe this program actually works.

We’ll see how it goes.

Since I’ve got more time on Sundays than during the week, I figured I’d get in some core work, back extensions and ab crunches, and then work on my squat form by doing some bodyweight squats, concentrating on keeping my knees over my ankles.

bodyweight squat

The missus wasn’t quite done by the time I finished, so I rounded everything out with a 1 minute bodyweight dead hang. After 60 seconds elapsed, I lowered my legs to the floor and the thing that hurt the worst was my fingers. My hands still feel tired.

Tomorrow, the main lifts will be the overhead press and deadlift. I’ll see if my “success” continues remembering that my biggest achievement is lifting with good spinal mechanics and not being in pain.

I should mention that in between sets of my bodyweight squats, I happened to notice a fellow putting 275 pounds on the barbell in the squat rack. I was really interested if he could squat and get his thighs absolutely parallel to the floor at that weight.

He looked like he was fit, but appearances aren’t everything. I also noticed he was wearing a weight belt for support, which is no surprise, but also had a pad velcroed on the barbell, supposedly to protect his traps, which did surprise me.

Maybe his skin is really sensitive, but especially at heavier weights, I really need to feel the bar on my back.

He did a lot of stretching before approaching the bar, finally lifted it off the pegs…and did about a half-squat if I judged the angle correctly. Of course, he also did 11 reps in that set, but since I’m slowly becoming a “purist” about squats, I wondered if he’d benefit from going lighter and deeper.

None of my business of course. He does what he needs to do, and I do what I need to do. There are so many different workout styles I see in the free weight room. Shaved head guy was there again, and again it was biceps and triceps day. I did see one really interesting older guy, probably late 60s or maybe even early 70s. Big, white, handlebar mustache.

He seemed to be doing some powerlifting-style bench presses, multiple sets of 5 reps per set at 115 pounds. He also did some standing dumbbell work, but it was hard to figure out exactly what effect it was supposed to produce. It looked like some sort of fly, but it had a limited range of motion.

I suppose all of my observations would get me banned for life at a place like Planet Fitness, since apparently it’s “lunk” mentality. For that matter, after each set of dumbbell bench presses, I just dropped the dumbbells on the floor. They made a nice, loud “clunk” which would probably set off their lunk alarm (although the guys in that video probably deserved it).

portable pizza

Speaking of Planet Fitness, I saw an article touting the benefits of a clear, plastic pizza slice container you can wear around your neck, I guess for those emergency stack attacks.

I once saw a guy bring his coffee into the weight room and spend more time fooling with his mobile and chatting up with a friend than actually lifting. If anyone wears one of these pizza things when walking into the gym, I’ll have to tell him he’s in the wrong place. Monday is free pizza day at Planet Fitness. Tradition has it that in most other gyms, Monday is chest day, at least if you’re a traditional bodybuilder.

The only competition worthy of a wise man is with himself.

Washington Allston


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