The St. Patrick’s Day PR

Photo credit: shutterstock

I almost gave into the temptation to lift yesterday instead of just doing cardio. For about the first half-hour or so after the gym opened, the free weight room was practically empty and the squat rack was completely free.

But I didn’t have my lifting program written in my workout log yet, so I thought better of it. Also, I’m still trying to get my body and brain to adjust to the time change, so I needed another “light” day to ease myself into things.

Like the rest of the mornings this week, as time crept closer to 4 a.m., I resisted getting out of bed. But also just like the rest of the mornings this week, I forced myself to get up, make coffee, and mentally prepare for the gym.

I was anxious to see if I could set some new PRs this morning, and by anxious, I don’t mean just looking forward to it, but feeling actual anxiety. I’m always worried about hitting a functional wall that I’ll never be able to get past.

But to quote an old saying, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” It was time to finish off week one of my fourth 5/3/1 cycle.

I pulled into the gym’s parking lot a few minutes early and was surprised to see I’d beaten all the regulars. Joe wasn’t there and Everett and Dora never showed. A couple of the younger regulars came around by the by, but I was the first one in the gym when receptionist gal popped the lights on.

Wasting no time, I shoved my hoodie in a locker and got to the squat rack. For once, it was in halfway good shape, though I did have to chase down a pair of 35 pound plates as well as a couple of 2.5 pounders.

Thursday morning and St. Patrick’s Day to boot. Here’s what got my blood flowing.


Main Lifts

squat rack

Back Squat in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 95lbs/43.0913kg (warm up)
5x 115lbs/52.1631kg
5x 130lbs/58.967kg
6x 145lbs/65.7709kg
3x 155lbs/70.3068kg (joker)
3x 175lbs/79.3787kg (joker)
1x 190lbs/86.1826kg (joker)

Overhead Press in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 55lbs/24.9476kg
5x 65lbs/29.4835kg
6x 75lbs/34.0194kg
1x 85lbs/38.5554kg (joker)
3x 90lbs/40.8233kg (joker)
1x 95lbs/43.0913kg (joker)
1x 100lbs/45.3592kg (joker) PR

Assistance Lift

Barbell Bench Press (5×10)

10x 100lbs/45.3592kg
10x 95lbs/43.0913kg
10x 95lbs/43.0913kg
10x 95lbs/43.0913kg
10x 95lbs/43.0913kg

Core Work

Balancing on one foot
30 seconds each side

bird dog

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 pulled a bench in the squat rack with me as usual, made a few positional adjustments, and started my warm up sets. The second warm up felt a little heavy for some reason, probably because I was making a greater effort to keep my knees from drifting forward.

I moved into my working sets of back squats which went fairly well, including the +5 set, though I could feel the effort in my outer quads.

I decided not to get too ambitious with the first joker and only increased the weight by 10 pounds. For the second joker, I did get ambitious and increased it by 20, still pulling off 3 sets.

Then I made a mistake. Well, I’d made it previously. I thought my prior PR was 2 reps at 185 pounds, which is what I wrote in my log, so I increased the weight on the bar to 190 figuring for a new PR. It wasn’t until I got home and compared today with previous weeks that I realized 190 was my previous PR. I’d done 1 rep and failed a second last week.

Oh well, at least I’m not getting any weaker here, and who knows, maybe I could have done 195 today. I’m close to my goal of squatting 200. Very close.

In between sets, I kept looking around for tall, strong, formerly broken foot guy. I know he likes to get into the squat rack when he arrives, and I didn’t want to hog the thing. I was actually hoping he’d changed his schedule and not show up, so I wouldn’t have to feel guilty.

rippetoe training squat

I didn’t want to rush through my routine, but face it, there’s only one squat rack, and I need it to do my main lifts on Thursdays. I wanted to do things right, so I rested 2 minutes or a little more between sets.

So far though, only the two younger regulars were in the weight room. But as I was setting up for my overhead press, plenty of other people started to show up, including Big Daddy (but without Hit Girl).

The warm up set of overhead presses went really well and the bar hardly felt heavy at all. My reps were explosive and satisfying.

My working sets felt somewhat challenging, making me doubt that I’d get my PR here today. Still, I did 6 reps with a 75 pound barbell in my 5+ set.

However, in my first joker, something must have happened because I could barely get 85 pounds over my head for a single rep. This felt ridiculous. I have no idea what was going on.

I increased the weight to 90 pounds, rested for a couple of minutes before my next attempt. I did notice that strong tall guy showed up, but he was using some machine at the other end of the gym, so I hoped I could finish up before he wanted the rack. I have to admit, this made me feel little nervous, and I found myself rushing my rest periods between sets a bit.

I gripped the barbell, took several deep breaths, did the lift out with the bar resting on my chest, walked back, and pushed up.

I actually managed 3 full reps at 90 pounds with no hint of stalling. I tried again with 95 pounds, last week’s PR, and settled for 1 rep. I wasn’t done. I wanted that new PR.

I increased the weight to an even 100 on the bar. Strong tall guy still hadn’t walked into the weight room, so I thought I could to one more set and beat last week’s record.

I gave myself plenty of time to rest (ignoring the thought of tall strong guy as best I could) and then addressed the bar. Same as before, I set my grip, walked forward so my chest was pressing against the barbell, did the lift out and walk back, took several breaths, and pushed…

…and stalled.

I didn’t want to quit so I pushed up again after resting a second, got stuck, kept pushing, pushing, the barbell was going up…I put all my effort into the lift and finally, barely got the weight completely up, locking out my arms.

overhead pressWhen I lowered the barbell again, it came down a little too fast, but I safely rested it against my chest and re-racked the weight.

Success! A new PR and at one of my most difficult lifts.

I unloaded the barbell and decided on bench presses for my assistance lift, since my other difficult lift continues to elude me in terms of strength gains.

As I was setting the bench up, tall strong guy glided in and took over the squat rack. He only squats 135 pounds after warm ups, but he does 10 reps per set and his form is perfect.

Although it’s not typical for assistance lifts, I decided to do a warm up set just with the bar, and it seemed all too easy. Then I put enough plates on so that I’d be doing my first “boring but big” set at 100 pounds.

I completed the set, but it felt really heavy. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do all 5 sets at that weight, so I reduced it to 95 pounds, which was still heavy but more manageable.

By now, Big Daddy had finished with the other bench press station and was using some plate-loaded machine to work his pecs. I felt distinctly foolish benching a mere 95 pounds, but my triceps need the work if I’m ever going to get past my plateau.

I finished my assistance lifts but I’d burned off a lot of time. Most of my hour was done. Just time enough to do my Kasey the Chiropractor core work, which I’d blown off yesterday (some days, I’m just lazy).

Now my arms feel extremely tired. Of course, the overhead press and bench press are both very arm intensive, and one lift complements another, so I’d really worked my biceps and triceps as well as my “main muscles”. My biceps still feel pumped, even though it’s been a few hours since I left the gym. I work on the first floor of my building but had to visit the third floor this morning, so I took the stairs. Ouch! Oh my legs!

LouPlenty of protein on today’s menu. I need those muscles to get stronger, but as Kasey keeps telling me, muscles are stupid. I need my nervous system to get on board and tell stupid muscles to lift heavier.

Oh, since it’s St. Paddy’s Day, and since they give out prizes at work for wearing green, I’m wearing this t-shirt. So far, no one has gotten a good look at me yet, but I expect the comments to start rolling in soon.

I’m just celebrating Happy PR day. Here’s to hunting more PRs and better, stronger lifts as the days and weeks go by.

Growth is a spiral process, doubling back on itself, reassessing and regrouping.

Julia Cameron


2 thoughts on “The St. Patrick’s Day PR

    1. Hope you had a good St. Patrick’s Day, Jerry. I watched my favorite St. Paddy’s Day film last night, “The Fugitive” (there’s a St. Patrick’s Day parade scene, so it’s something of a personal tradition).


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