Bench Press, Deadlifts, and an Answer to My Back Squat Problem

leg pain from squats

I think I’ve finally got a line on why my left thigh is having such a tough time and what to do about it, but that’ll have to wait for a bit.

It’s Sunday. The weather, as I write this, is bright, sunny, and a bit breezy. The missus got back from San Francisco yesterday about noon. She did a face plant on a sidewalk in the Mission District, so it looks like I beat her up. Fortunately, it’s healing fast. She still doesn’t know how she managed such a feat.

My left leg’s been acting up pretty consistently, and I started to worry it was a joint problem. Maybe I messed up my hip somehow. Couldn’t wait to see Kasey the Chiropractor and was hoping he had an idea of what this is all about, and more importantly, a solution.

But first things first. My wife and I were in the gym parking lot about a minute before 8, but no Bryce. Other gym members were waiting too. Bryce blazed into the lot about a minute late. Said his alarm clock didn’t go off or something as he was hurriedly unlocking the doors.

Anyway, no harm done. I was at the bench press station before he even had a chance to turn the lights on.

I wasn’t feeling my best, probably because I woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep. This is the last week of cycle 5, and I figured no new PRs for me. I’d just try to hold the line and finish out the week. I had (and still have) no idea what squats are going to be like in a few days.

Sunday morning at the gym. Here’s what happened.


Main Lifts

Barbell Bench Press

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
10x 95lbs/43.0913kg (warm up)
5x 110lbs/49.8952kg
3x 125lbs/56.699kg
2x 140lbs/63.5029kg
2x 145lbs/65.7709kg (joker)
2x 145lbs/65.7709kg (joker)
1x 145lbs/65.7709kg (joker)

2013 Open workout descriptions with Julie Foucher
Photo: 2013 Open workout descriptions with Julie Foucher

Bent Leg Deadlift

10x 145lbs/65.7709kg (warm up)
5x 195lbs/88.4505kg
3x 215lbs/97.5224kg
5x 240lbs/108.862kg
3x 255lbs/115.666kg (joker)
1x 270lbs/122.47kg (joker)
1x 280lbs/127.006kg (joker)

Assistance Lift

Dumbbell Bench Press (5×10)

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

Core Work

Bodyweight Captain’s Chair Leg Lifts

x10, x10, x10, x10, x10

Kasey the Chiropractor Core Work

As you can see, my bench press s*cked. My third working set felt really heavy and I could only do 2 reps when, at that weight, I typically do 3. The jokers weren’t any better. After barely doing 2 reps at 145 pounds, I decided not to increase the weight and just keep doing low rep jokers. Very low rep indeed.

After that humiliating defeat, I decided to keep the weight on the barbell the same, put it on the floor, and made 145 pounds my warm up for deadlifts.

Deadlifts went better than bench presses, but for some reason, things still felt heavier than I’d anticipated. Like I said, I was feeling kind of puny and doubted I’d even be able to approach my current PR.

For my second joker, 270 pounds came up pretty slow, and I was tempted to make that my last joker set and call it a day. But I figured “what the heck” and increased the weight to 280.

By now, there were plenty of people in and out of the weight room. Liz (dresses all in black and is a medical practitioner) is a fixture there on Sundays. There was some other guy I didn’t recognize. A couple of women I’d never seen before were using the weighted cable equipment. Other people wandered in by the by.

muscles used for a deadlift
Photo credit:

I finally faced the barbell, bent down, took my grip, tightened my lats and everything else, took several deep breaths, and tried to stand up.

I was successful and I even surprised me. I did mutter something like “C’mon up you furball” to the barbell in mid rep, but victoriously did the lock out at the top of the lift and held the barbell there for several seconds before lowering it again.

Matched my current PR. Momentarily thought about trying 185, but today’s not the day for that.

Decided to do some dumbbell work for my assistance lift and as I recall, my weights for dumbbell bench presses today were a little lighter than previously. If there’s one lift that seems to be going backward, it’s bench presses. Have no idea how to make that one get better.

While I’m doing all this, I’m frantically thinking about what I could do to strengthen my squat with another assistance lift. I thought about lightweight box squats, squatting raw light, or doing lunges, but if I’m really injured, chances are, any of that will just make things worse.

I decided to wait until I saw Kasey later in the morning.

So after I was done with the dumbbells, and by the way, I was really worn out, I did some gut work and proceeded to the usual Kasey Core Work routine.

Still stuck at balancing on one foot. I can barely manage 30 seconds with eyes wide open and fixing my gaze on a nearby object. If I look away or even let my concentration falter, I start to fall over. Once the 30 seconds are up, I try closing my eyes, but usually I lose my balance in 3 seconds.

Finished the rest on the mat and that was it for me. At least my deadlifts didn’t s*ck.

The missus and I got out of the gym after 9 and our appointment with Kasey was at 11. After a breakfast of protein powder and an apple, recording my workout in my online log, and showers, we still got out to his place a few minutes early.

The little mother-in-law house on his property that he uses for an office was occupied by his youngest daughter and a friend, and I felt a little inhibited moaning and groaning with two older teens within earshot (not that they probably cared).

The wife went first, and all that walking she did in San Francisco must have taken its toll, because when Kasey was working her over…uh, worked on her, she laughed louder than usual (for some reason, that’s her reaction to being mangled by a chiropractor).

When it was my turn, I told him about my thigh/hip and knees. He chose to work on the former. Interestingly enough, I’d also noticed some stiffness in my mid-right back but didn’t think it was a big deal. When he hit that area with his industrial strength vibrator, I thought I was being beaten by a jackhammer.

chiropractic spine

He also got the offending area on my left leg, something I think he called my “ATC” (I tried different search strings on Google, but no useful results), and oh yeah, it hurt.

Turns out though, this is the result of a shortened hamstring. Guess when you squat, if you don’t stretch things out again, they just get shorter. So I have a new Kasey and Chiropractor exercise to do to lengthen my hams.

Funny it’s only on one side, but I tend to be left-side dominant anyway. He also said my mid-right back spasmed and (for some reason) it’s connected to the leg issue.

Still no idea what’s going to happen on Wednesday/Thursday when I do back squats. I may have to eat this one for 5/3/1+ week and program in a deload for the following week just to give my hams a break.

Now that I’ve been adjusted with a vengeance and had lunch (and am composing this wee missive), I’m ready for a nap. But since my wife is back home, I don’t think I’m going to get one.

Wonder if I can sneak in another cup of coffee?

Don’t ever believe you have nothing to lose. There’s always something to be lost when you change something or try something new. Nothing is ever free. Not even experience.

Paul Carter


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