Two New PRs and the Return of the Bench Press

sleepy weightlifter
Photo credit:

I’ve been pretty lazy this past week. I lifted last Sunday and Wednesday, but other than that, I didn’t go to the gym. Part of it was the slow recovery from the stomach flu, and part of it was that I was must plain tired. I didn’t even go to the gym on Friday to do rack pulls.

The missus has been in California all week with my daughter. My daughter got a new job at a posh resort as the Assistant Manager and Sommelier for one of the restaurants. This is exactly the next step in her career plan she’s been shooting for, and I’m absolutely thrilled she’s progressing with her adventure.

Of course, the down side is that she’s moved away and we won’t see her all that often. But kids move out and move away in order to establish their own lives, so in this, she’s right on target.

I’ll miss her anyway.

All that said, my daughter moves into her new place tomorrow and starts her new job Wednesday. My wife, as I write this, is about to take off on the last leg of her journey back to Boise (and by the time I get around to publishing this missive, she undoubtedly will be at home).

The missus will be back at about 10:30 or so this morning, so working out starting at 8 a.m. concerned me a little. Figured I could hold the gym time down to an hour so I could get home, get showered, and still make the airport by the time she arrived.

Glad I went to the gym. It was great.

I arrived about 6 minutes before the hour, but Bryce got there and opened up at 4 until 8, so I was setting up at the bench press station while the gym was still in semi-darkness. The lights popped on by the time I was ready for my first warm up set.

Here’s what happened Sunday morning.

Cycle Six 5/3/1+ Week Day One

Main Lifts

Arnold's bench press
Photo credit: – Arnold’s bench press

Barbell Bench Press

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
10x 65lbs/29.4835kg (warm up
10x 95lbs/43.0913kg (warm up)
5x 115lbs/52.1631kg
3x 130lbs/58.967kg
3x 145lbs/65.7709kg
1x 150lbs/68.0389kg (joker)
1x 155lbs/70.3068kg (joker)
1x 160lbs/72.5748kg (joker)
1x 165lbs/74.8427kg (joker) PR

Barbell Bent Over Deadlift

10x 135lbs/61.235kg (warm up)
10x 155lbs/70.3068kg (warm up)
5x 205lbs/92.9864kg
3x 225lbs/102.058kg
5x 245lbs/111.13kg
3x 270lbs/122.47kg (joker)
2x 285lbs/129.274kg (joker)
1x 295lbs/133.81kg (joker) PR

Mobility Work

Hamstring stretch #1 30 seconds x2
Hamstring stretch #2 30 seconds x2

Quad stretch 30 seconds x2

Again, I allowed myself 3 warm up sets for the bench press, and was determined to rest more between sets, even if I felt ready to lift sooner.

The third warm up set at 95 pounds felt a bit tedious for the last 5 reps or so. Managed the first working set OK and did 3 reps on my 1+ set.

My first joker at 150 felt heavy, but not so much as expected. I was tempted to try for a second rep, but I decided to keep doing singles and see if I could get back up to my old PR of 160. I did in my third joker, but pushing the weight up wasn’t horrible. I only experienced a slight pause halfway to the top.

bench press
Photo credit:

I figured I’d set the weight to 165 and see with maximum effort, if I could (finally) make a new PR.

For once, 165 pounds didn’t feel that much heavier than 160, and it felt like the same amount of effort to push it up for a single rep and a new PR.

This either meant that I was full of energy and could get a new PR in deadlifts as well, or that, for each victory there would be a defeat and my deadlifts would crash and burn. I had to know which one it was going to be.

I noticed a couple of regulars (not Liz, though) come in and out of the weight room, but up to this point, I had the place pretty much to myself. Then I saw a younger guy set up for back squats. He warmed up at 135 pounds and then set his working weight at 225 for starters.

Yikes. Lots stronger than I am.

Meanwhile, I set up for my first warm up set at deadlifts, and threw in a second warm up just for giggles.

I didn’t anticipate any problems with my working sets. Yeah, it started to feel heavy at 225 pounds, but I still did 5 reps at 245 pounds for my 1+ set. After that, it was a matter of seeing how far I could push myself.

A new guy came into the weight room. The first thing that struck me was the rather poor comb over on his head, which was not made the least bit more attractive by the fact that he was all sweaty. Guess he decided to warm up by doing cardio and his hair paid the price.

He was also somewhat heavy-set. I wasn’t sure what he was going to do, then I saw him set up for deadlifts at the other bench press station.

He kept the weight constant at 275 pounds. I mean he started lifting 275 pounds cold, without any warm up sets.

His first set was for 8 reps, and subsequent sets were 6 each. I can deadlift 275 pounds, but for me, the weight is no joke, and I typically do a max of 3 reps, and that’s f0r a joker set.

In fact, my first joker was at 270 pounds for 3 reps and I was huffing and puffing and sweating all over the place.

I decided to go for broke and try for a new PR. That meant I did my second joker with a 285 pound barbell, just 5 pounds under my PR up to that point. It felt heavy coming up, but once I was at the top of the lift and locked out, I tried and succeeded with a second rep.

If I can do 2 reps at 285 pounds, I thought I could do a single at 295. Only 10 pounds more, and only 5 pounds over my existing PR.

snatch deadlift
Photo credit:

I waited over 3 minutes to give myself the maximum rest time. I also didn’t want to try for a new PR while the other guy was knocking off reps at 275. Didn’t need the distraction.

Finally, while the other guy was resting, I approached the barbell, took the usual stance, gripped the bar, tightened my lats and everything else…and pulled.

It felt heavy, but amazingly, my memory of last week’s PR at 290 told me I was performing just a bit better today. There was that inevitable moment several seconds into the lift when I thought I was going to fail, but I took everything I learned last week and applied it to the effort.

I was pulling and near the top of the lift. During previous sets, I’d been watching myself in the mirror thrusting my hips forward as I did the lockout each time, and that was my goal…shove my hips forward and my shoulders back and stand up straight. Struggled inch by inch to stand up straight.

And I did.

I forced myself to stand there holding a 295 pound barbell for several seconds just to savor the victory and to establish to myself and anyone watching that I made the lift and could hold onto the weight.

Then I reversed the rep, or did so as much as was practical, then slammed the barbell onto the floor with a very loud and wonderful BANG!

I looked at the clock, and including getting into the gym 2 minutes early, I’d been there for 46 minutes. I wanted to hold myself to an hour (or a little less) at the gym, so no time for assistance lifts.

I don’t think I was in much shape to lift anymore after that anyway.

My water bottle was all but empty, so before stretches, I went to the water fountain to fill it. As I was holding the bottle under the water stream, my hands were shaking.

As I did my first set of ham stretches, my legs were shaking, too. I guess that means I’d put myself under a pretty substantial strain for today’s workout.

As I type this, my wife is in the air. I want to time this so I get there before she gets her luggage, but also so I don’t have to wait forever. The little online flight tracker says she’s been in the air for 20 minutes and lands in 21.

Once more reflecting on today’s workout, I made it.

Photo credit:

I made two PRs, especially in the very difficult bench press. I don’t even remember when I made 160 as the PR but I’m pretty sure it was months ago. Glad I’m not stuck there. I was worried that I’d adapted and wasn’t going to get any stronger. Maybe those bench dips have been paying off.

I also thought I was crazy to try for a new PR at 295 pounds. Last week, I made a new PR at 290, and the previous week, I made a new PR at 285.

I wonder if a 300 pound deadlift is out of the question? My PR for rack pulls is a single at 300. Is my posterior chain getting that much stronger that fast?

No pain in my back, though I can certainly tell it’s been worked hard. No pain in my knees at all during my workout, and I didn’t even realize that until I got home.

I’ve sucked down protein to feed my muscles. Now it’s time to go fetch the missus. I’ll have to edit and publish this later.

Never confuse movement with action.

Ernest Hemingway


4 thoughts on “Two New PRs and the Return of the Bench Press

  1. Nice lifting James. That guy DL 275 without a warm up is looking for trouble. When I Lifted at Iron Island Gym some of the PL where 700+ deadlifters and even they would do warm ups starting with 135 . As for the daughters move, I had my son along with his wife and daughter move two years ago to NC because of his job.


    1. I thought it was kind of nuts to DL 275 without warm ups. The guy’s looking for trouble.

      My daughter will have to come back at some point to pick up the rest of her stuff. Figure that’s when I’ll have to rent a truck to schlep it to California.


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