The Squat Rack Was Lonely Without Me

changing horses

I’m changing horses in mid-stream. More accurately, I’ve decided to switch to lifting only twice a week right now in the middle of my third 5/3/1 cycle rather than wait until the cycle is over.

I thought about continuing to lift four times a week for the next two weeks, but figured if I did my 3/3/3+ week and my 5/3/1+ week using a frequency designed to maximize rest and recovery, It would be a good mini-laboratory to test out this theory.

Granted, two weeks isn’t much, but it should give me some indication if an increased recovery period between lifts has any merit.

I also switched around a few things. I’m not even approaching the squat rack today, but rather, doing the bench press and deadlifts as my two main lifts.

Believe me, it was tough not squatting.

My wife and I got to the gym about 5 til the hour, and we saw Bryce’s car was already there. On a hunch, we got out of our car and tried the gym doors. They were unlocked, even though it was still dark inside.

I saw Don, one of the Sunday regulars, get out of his car and head for the door after us.

The lights popped on as I was stuffing my hoodie in a locker. For once, I didn’t have to care whether or not Don or anyone else beat me to the squat rack.

But Don headed for the incline bench press station as usual. That left me to choose my favorite bench press bench, straighten out all of the mixed and unmatched weight plates some bozo left behind yesterday, and get to work.

Here’s how Sunday morning and the start of my workout week went.


Main Lifts

bench press
Proto credit:

Barbell Bench Press

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 95lbs/43.0913kg (warm up)
3x 110lbs/49.8952kg
3x 130lbs/58.967kg
3x 140lbs/63.5029kg (3+)
2x 145lbs/65.7709kg (joker)
2x 150lbs/68.0389kg (joker)
2x 150lbs/68.0389kg (joker)

Barbell Bent Leg Deadlift

5x 135lbs/61.235kg (warm up)
3x 170lbs/77.1107kg
3x 195lbs/88.4505kg
5x 205lbs/92.9864kg (3+)
5x 235lbs/106.594kg (joker)
3x 260lbs/117.934kg (joker)
1x 275lbs/124.738kg (joker) PR

Assistance Lifts

Barbell Bench Press (5×10)

10x 115lbs/52.1631kg
10x 100lbs/45.3592kg
10x 105lbs/47.6272kg
10x 105lbs/47.6272kg
10x 105lbs/47.6272kg

Core Work

Weighted Cable Ab Crunches w/Rope

20x 120lbs/54.4311kg
12x 135lbs/61.235kg
12x 135lbs/61.235kg
12x 135lbs/61.235kg
12x 135lbs/61.235kg

Standing on One Foot
30 seconds each side


Leg Back Raises
Lx10, Rx10
Lx10, Rx10
Lx10, Rx10

Leg Side Raises
Lx10, Rx10
Lx10, Rx10
Lx10, Rx10

Alternating Arm/Leg Raises (Bird Dog)
10x each side
10x each side
10x each side

I was disappointed with my bench press as usual. Of course, technically, I haven’t had a chance to test out the effect of increased recovery periods yet, so I should have some patience with the process. I looked at my exercise log for last week and doing two joker sets lifting a 150 pound barbell for two reps per set was a slight improvement.

Of course, it’s nowhere near where I want to be, but you have to (re)start somewhere.

By this time, a few regulars and a lot of people I didn’t recognize were in the free weight room. There were two male/female couples working out, one on the other bench press station, and the other on a pair of benches doing a dumbbell routine.

The guy right in front of me (with a shapely girlfriend who was wearing the tightest pair of yoga pants imaginable) was a big, muscular brute. He warmed up his bench press using a pair of 60 pound dumbbells, and he’d eventually top out with two 100s.

Made my lousy 150 pound barbell press for 2 reps look pretty pathetic.

However, my deadlifts made up for that.

I warmed up with a 135 pound bar and quickly progressed through my working sets. 205 pounds only felt a little heavy as I did 5 reps during the 3+ set, and then I moved the weight up to 235. I pumped through 5 reps and still felt fine. I was trying as best I could to watch my form in the mirror. I still think I don’t get my butt down far enough, but it didn’t seem to be a problem on my back.

I was intending to do a single at 260 pounds but after the first rep, I decided to see if I could do another. The second rep worked and I tried for a triple and made it.

snatch grip deadlift

Not that I wasn’t breathing heavy and sweating a bit. Then I thought I’d go for a new PR and increased the barbell’s weight to 275 pounds, five pounds more than last week’s PR.

I waited over two minutes to make sure I was recovered enough to make the attempt.

I grasped the barbell, looked up, assumed the position, tightened everything, set my lats, took several deep breaths, and pulled.

The barbell came up off the floor, but oh…so…slowly. Part of me was worried that I wouldn’t be able to come up all the way, it was that slow. Most of me wasn’t worried about a thing because I was pouring everything I had into the rep. Inch by inch, I focused on pulling, on standing up, on pressing down with my legs, on becoming more erect in my posture.

Inch by inch I came up with the barbell, and then finally I was finally standing with it in my hands. That has to be the functional limit for my deadlift because it took so long to complete the rep. Well, the rep isn’t completed until the barbell does back down, so I started reversing my movement and the weight hit the floor like a hammer.

I looked around. People had to have noticed this if, for no other reason, than I generated so much effort just to move the barbell. But no one made eye contact or acknowledged the deadlift in any way.

Of course, I was surrounded by people doing bodybuilding-style weight training, so powerlifting and strength training might not have been in their vocabulary.

It seems so strange that I can feel so strong in my deadlift and so weak in everything else.

Speaking of weak, I switched my assistance lifts on the fly and decided to do a “boring but big” routine for the barbell bench press. I figured deadlifts gave my lats and traps enough of a workout, so I didn’t have to do bent over rows. I had thought about dumbbell bench presses, but all of those benches were already occupied. I had the bench press station anyway, so what the heck.

I did the first set using a 115 pound barbell, and although I went through all ten reps, I knew I couldn’t sustain that weight for another four sets. I lowered the weight to what I thought was 105 pounds, but when I looked after the set, it was only 100. I knew I could do more than that, so I increased the weight up to 105 and finished the final three sets that way.

I still had some time, so I decided on weighted cable crunches to hit my abs, then did my “balancing act” (I’m getting marginally better), and then the rest of my Kasey the Chiropractor core work.

Photo credit:

My wife has been having a tough bout with allergies but she decided to come to the gym with me this morning anyway. I found her by the lockers. She was done, so I called it a day as well.

I talked with my son last night and we debated when I should lift again. I said Wednesday, but he suggested Thursday, so I’ll have to make a final decision in a day or so.

In the meantime, the cardio and core work frequency increases and maybe some light assistance lifts as well.

I still miss the squat rack. It was lonely without me. In the over sixty minutes I was in the free weight room, no one stepped into the rack. Later this week, I’ll give it some company. In the meantime, my deadlift was fabulous.

If you think lifting weights is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous.

Bret Contreras


2 thoughts on “The Squat Rack Was Lonely Without Me

  1. Nice work James. It sounds like you won out on that DL. You sure worked the low back hard, so I think waiting until Thursday to Squat will prove to be beneficial.
    Sometimes those yoga pants can be inspirational.


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