Starting 3/3/3+ Week and Gym as Church

into the gymI didn’t want to get out of bed again this morning. I woke up briefly a couple of times during the night and went right back to sleep. Then 6:30 a.m. rolled around and I didn’t want to get out of bed. My wife got up and I still stayed under the covers. Finally, at about 5 til 7, I decided I’d better get going if I wanted to go through my usual wake up routine before hitting the gym.

I don’t think I was still quite awake when the missus and I got out of the car at couple of minutes before 8 and headed toward the gym. Bryce was just walking up, unlocked the doors for us, and we scurried inside.

Turns out the remodeling is to knock out the walls behind the 2 changing rooms and expand the little, private workout room. I guess people can pay a little extra to work out without a crowd around them.

I’ve looked inside. There’s one bench and a bunch of dumbbells. Maybe some exercise balls and a few other things, but nothing to get excited about.

I really wanted them to expand the weight room.


Bryce turned on the music and lights as I was dragging a bench into the squat rack. Someone had really messed up things the night before. Benches were all out of place and I had to spend a few minutes straightening the place out.

The gal who I think is a medical practitioner and who favors black clothing and Don were both in the weight room by the time I started my warm up sets for squats.

It’s Sunday. The start of a new week. Here’s what I did to welcome the sunrise.


Main Lifts

squat rack
Photo credit:

Back Squat in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 95lbs/43.0913kg (warm up)
3x 125lbs/56.699kg
3x 135lbs/61.235kg
5x 145lbs/65.7709kg (3+)
1x 155lbs/70.3068kg (joker)
2x 160lbs/72.5748kg (joker)
2x 165lbs/74.8427kg (joker)
2x 170lbs/77.1107kg (joker) PR

Barbell Bench Press

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 95lbs/43.0913kg (warm up)
3x 105lbs/47.6272kg
3x 125lbs/56.699kg
5x 135lbs/61.235kg (3+)
3x 145lbs/65.7709kg (joker)
1x 150lbs/68.0389kg (joker)
2x 155lbs/70.3068kg (joker)
1x 160lbs/72.5748kg (joker) PR

Assistance Lifts

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

10x 125lbs/56.699kg
10x 125lbs/56.699kg
10x 120lbs/54.4311kg
10x 120lbs/54.4311kg
10x 120lbs/54.4311kg

Dumbbell Bench Press (5×10) 55lbs/24.9476kg

9x 60lbs/27.2155kg
10x 55lbs/24.9476kg
10x 55lbs/24.9476kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg

Core Work

Start Superset
Bodyweight Roman Chair Back Ext
x10, x10, x10, x10, x10
Bodyweight Captain’s Chair Leg Lifts
x10, x10, x10, x10, x10
End Superset

squatting to a bench
Photo:’s YouTube channel

As always, my first warm up set makes my legs complain at me, particularly the outside of both thighs. Second warm up set isn’t quite so bad.

I felt pretty good through my 3 working sets but the first joker took me by surprise. I put my rear end down on the bench with a 155 pound barbell on my back and I almost couldn’t get up. I was planning to do the next joker at 165 pounds, but being able to only do 1 rep at 155 made me change my plans.

Must have been a fluke or something, because I did 2 reps at 160 just fine. Yeah, it’s harder as it gets heavier, but it wasn’t a total disaster and I didn’t feel like I couldn’t do it.

Last Thurday, my final joker and a new PR was a 165 pound squat for 3 reps. Today, I increased the weight just 5 more pounds and managed 2 reps at 170 pounds. Another new PR. I thought about trying for 175, even for just a single, but some other guys, a few who I recognized and some I didn’t, were filtering in and I didn’t want to take the chance at missing out on 1 of the 2 bench press stations.

Besides, 4 jokers are plenty.

The first warm up at the bench press with just the bar is a breeze, but even a 95 pound barbell doesn’t feel trivial.

I managed the first 2 working sets for 3 reps fine, but I had to dig deep to lift the barbell up from my chest those last 2 out of 5 reps for the final +3 set with a 135 pound barbell

Then came the jokers.

I managed 3 reps at 145 pounds well enough, but I barely got in 1 rep at 150. That was my PR for last week and I wanted to exceed it. According to Mark Rippetoe and probably a thousand other strength training gurus, someone at my beginner’s level should be getting stronger week over week. Isn’t that happening to me?

Here’s where we find out.

I added 5 more pounds to the barbell and managed 2 reps with a 155 pound bar. I debated about that second rep and it was hard. I almost stalled halfway up, but got the barbell all the way to the top.

woman bench pressI wondered if I could pull off a single at 160 pounds. It was risky, but I didn’t put collars on the bar, so if I got trapped, I could dump the weights.

I just barely made it. I was nervous when I lifted the barbell off the pins and pressed it all the way up. Then I slowly lowered it, wondering if I dared put it right on my chest.

I did. Then came the really hard part. I pressed back up and my triceps really didn’t like that. I stalled on the press and thought I wasn’t going to make it. Then, the theme song from The Incredible Hulk television show blaring in my head, I gave it all I had and finished the lift, succeeding with the single and hitting a new PR for the bench press.

That was all she wrote. I was done…well, with barbell bench presses.

I set the weights for barbell bent over rows as my first assistance lift. I was glad it was Sunday, since it was already a quarter to 9. The missus and I usually spend about 75 minutes in the gym on Sundays, and I was grateful I had extra time.

I was also grateful to have control of 1 of the 2 bench press stations, since I guy I’d never seen before got to the other one.

I decided to try to increase the weight from 120 to 125 pounds, but could only do 10 reps for the first and second sets. For the remaining 3 sets, I took the weight back down to 120. Guess I’m not getting that much stronger.

I don’t think of myself as an intimidating person, especially in the gym, but there was a moment when I was changing the weight plates on the barbell. The bar was still on it’s pins and the guy right next to me wanted to take some plates off of his bar. I stood aside and told him to go ahead so we wouldn’t bump into each other, and the look on his face made me think he didn’t quite know what to do with me.

bench press in power rack

True, I think the heaviest he benched was about 105 pounds, but I’m not that much stronger. That said, I noticed quite a mix of people were in the free weight room at that point. Really buff asian guy was in the squat rack. He pulled a bench in with him and was doing 205 pound bench presses. He’d set up the safety bars, I assume just in case he got trapped under a heavy barbell.

Most of the guys in the weight room though weren’t lifting very heavy at all. I had to remind myself that I’m no gorilla and have no business judging them, even in the privacy of my own thoughts.

We’re all on a journey, doing what we can to make ourselves better, physically, mentally, and even spiritually. This isn’t the first time I’ve thought of the gym as my “church”. Even lifting weights gives you time to pray between sets.

I finished up my bent over rows and even though it was nearly 9, I started out with dumbbell bench presses.

I decided to chance it and try a pair of 60 pound dumbbells just for the first set.

I must have been more tired than I thought because on the ninth rep, my right arm (I would have expected it to be my left) gave out and as I was lowering the dumbbells, I dropped the weight, clunk, onto the floor.

Fortunately, no one was very close to me, so there was no chance anyone could have gotten hurt, but that was that.

I switched to a pair of 55s, but I could tell my arms were too tired. After 2 sets, I finished the final 2 using just a couple of 50 pounders.

dumbbell bench pressI don’t think I’m getting weaker, but I think pushing myself in my main lifts wore me down more than I expected.

After that, I had barely enough time to do some core work and stretch. The wife and I spent a total of 80 minutes working out. It was quite a ride and I enjoyed it.

What I won’t enjoy is getting hammered by Kasey in my chiropractic adjustment later on. I know it’s good for me, but my body doesn’t want to move the way he tries to move it.

If God brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it.

Zachary Weixelbaum


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