Week Two of My Strength Training Reboot and I Learned Something New About Back Squats

coffee mug
Photo credit: homewetbar.com

The first clue that it was 4 a.m. and time to get out of bed was my wife getting up.

I know I woke up around 2-ish to use the bathroom, but I must have fallen back to sleep hard. Woke up all groggy and with a touch of a headache. Again, I briefly considered not going to the gym and pushing my lifts back by one day, but I forced myself to get up and get moving instead.

The missus had started coffee for me (she drinks a completely different type so only my daughter and I use the regular coffee maker) which I appreciated and really needed. I thought about getting some carbs in me but really didn’t feel like scrounging around for something quick to eat. Figured I could lift in a fasted state this morning and hope for the best.

I was interested to see how I’d perform, both because I wasn’t quite feeling myself and because I wanted to up my game, particularly in my squats.

Here’s how I started my day.


Main Lifts

Back Squat in Squat Rack

8x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 95lbs/43.0913kg (warm up)
3x 120lbs/54.4311kg
3x 135lbs/61.235kg
5x 150lbs/68.0389kg (3+)
3x 165lbs/74.8427kg (joker)
3x 185lbs/83.9146kg (joker)
2x 200lbs/90.7185kg (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)
2x 150lbs/68.0389kg (joker)

Assistance Lifts

reverse grip row
Photo: Bodybuilding.com

Barbell Bent Over Rows (5×10) 120lbs/54.4311kg

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

Dumbbell Bench Press (5×10) 50lbs/22.6796kg

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg
10x 45lbs/20.4117kg
10x 45lbs/20.4117kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg

Core Work

Bodyweight Roman Chair Back Extensions


I made it to the gym just about a minute before it opened, got inside once the doors were unlocked, paused to take off my hoodie, and then hit the free weight room just in time to see a guy about to use the squat rack. Damn!

Actually, he’s a regular who’s been coming for several months. When he first started at the gym, he was working out in his jeans. Since then, he’s moved up to sweat pants. We’ve never really talked except to say “hi” or to ask one another if we were using some piece of equipment.

Photo credit: bodybuilding.com

Today, he asked if I needed the squat rack. He’d gotten to it first fair and square, so I hold him I could do my bench presses while he was in the rack. I also admitted that between primary lifts and jokers, I’d probably be in the squat rack a while. Don, that’s his name, we introduced ourselves, said that all he was doing was shrugs and he could use the smith machine for that.


He also told me that Iran had released those 10 sailors like they said they would. I was grateful for that and a little surprised Iran moved so fast. I wonder if the Iranians stripped out any electronics and other equipment they thought they could from those two naval vessels? Oh well.

Anyway, I dragged a bench in the squat rack with me and successfully got my butt down on it all the way for all my reps through 135 pounds. After that, it was a chore to get quite that far down, but I got close. The cost was the major effort to push back up again, plus some groaning, funny facial expressions, and flushed face.

I incremented the weight on the bar a little more aggressively than last Sunday, resulting in fewer jokers but with a final weight on my last set of 200 pounds even, 10 pounds heavier than the last time I did squats. I even managed 2 reps instead of 1. A new post-personal training PR for squats.

Bench presses on the other hand, weren’t as good. I got the bar all the way down to my chest for all my reps through 135 pounds, but when I increased the weight to 150, I could tell my game was off. The first rep was lousy, nowhere near my chest. I decided to try one more time, but it was the same. I called it rather than do something stupid.

crowded weight room
Photo credit: bdgsmlj.wordpress.com

By this time, the weight room was really filling up. Don was gone by then, he only works out for about 30 minutes at a time, but shaved head guy and his daughter were there doing biceps/triceps work, and another couple of gals, one a regular and one semi-regular were there.

There was also a new kid, maybe early 20s, wearing a Chicago Cubs ball cap who started using the squat rack.

I’m always interested in how people do squats in terms of weight and form, so between sets of my “boring but big” barbell rows, I watched him. Even with a 95 pound barbell, he did about a half-squat. If you’re supposed to have a 90 degree angle bent at the knees so your thighs are at or near parallel to the floor, he was doing a consistent 45 degree bend.

I didn’t know if this was deliberate or not since some lifters do a limited range of motion to produce a particular effect. I didn’t give it all that much thought until he kept increasing the weight, going past 225 pounds.

His squats were exactly the same, set after set. He’d increase the weight and still do only a partial squat for all his reps.

I polished off my bent over rows with some effort, especially for the last set (I thought about changing to a reverse grip since you’re supposed to be able to lift more, but I figured I should try that another day), and moved on to dumbbell bench presses. I was still not feeling 100% so I used a pair of 45 pound dumbbells rather than the planned 50s. Glad I did. I used the 45s for the first 3 sets, but managed to move up to the 50s for 4 and 5.

rippetoe squat meme
Photo: thedreamlounge.net

I was resting between sets when I saw the kid, who was still in the squat rack, put the weight on his barbell up to 300 pounds. I’ve seen some strong guys in that squat rack, at least in terms of my little neighborhood gym, but I think the most I’ve seen anyone squat was 225 or 235 pounds (When I was doing “mutant strength training,” I’ve done partial squats at 230 pounds for 3 reps, but between that and 250 pound deadlifts, it cost me a lot of back pain).

This kid wasn’t a mass monster. As far as I could tell through his t-shirt and sweat pants, he seemed to have a more or less average build. Even for partial squats, 300 pounds is really pushing it unless you’re really strong and know what you’re doing. This kid didn’t.

Good thing he had the safety bars in place. Now I know why people use them.

It was like watching a car wreck…an ugly disaster, but you just can’t look away.

He got under the bar, lifted it from the pins, and did the walk back. He descended into the squat or started to…and then WHAM!

He lost control of the barbell and it made a big, loud, BANG as it hit the safety bars, which were a little higher than waist level for the kid.

He quickly ducked under the bar and when we briefly made eye contact, he looked understandably embarrassed. After that, he quietly unloaded the bar and disappeared out of the weight room.

Actually, as I slowly increase the weight for my own squat, I’m going to more consistently use those safety bars. The kid taught me a valuable lesson about how to get out from under a failed squat (hopefully, that’ll never happen) without killing myself. I’d thank the kid (assuming I see him again) if I didn’t think it would totally humiliate him. But this is proof that you can always learn something new.

After I finished both assistance lifts, I still had a little time left, and figured I could get some back extensions in. That was all the time I had, or rather, all the time I wanted to allot to working out this morning, and headed back home.

squat muscles used
Image: myprotein.com

Tomorrow is my last day in week 2 of the 5/3/1 reboot. I’m pleased and somewhat amazed that I remain uninjured. This is lifting day 5 of the reboot and between back squats and deadlifts, my back still feels fine. It got a little achy after my back extensions, but no tweaks and no pain. My glutes and quads bother me more when I get up from my chair than my back does.

Tomorrow, it’s the overhead press and rack pulls for my main lifts, and then deadlifts and dumbbell shoulder press for assistance lifts. Let’s see if I can pull some new PRs and increase the barbell weight on my “boring but big” deadlifts.

Failures are divided into two classes – those who thought and never did, and those who did and never thought.

John Charles Salak


One thought on “Week Two of My Strength Training Reboot and I Learned Something New About Back Squats

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