Cycle 12, 3/3/3+ Week, Day One, Plus Why People Are Not Taught Strength Training

old school gym
Photo credit:

Last week’s scheduling craziness has sort of spilled over into this week or at least Sunday morning. My wife and I had the grandkids again and of course, she went on her morning walk (one of them, anyway) at 7:20 and was hoofing it for an hour or so.

I was dressed and ready to go when she returned, bid my grandchildren a brief good-bye, and was off to the gym.

I arrived at about 8:30, thirty minutes after the place had opened, and was hoping no one had gotten to the squat rack. I walked in and absolutely no one was in the main part of the gym, which meant that folks were all in the weight room.

Fortunately, there were only two of them, Liz being one, and neither was doing squats so I was golden.

I had only two days of recovery under my belt, having done bench presses and deadlifts on Friday, and only five days ago I had done squats and overhead presses achieving new PRs for both. What would Sunday morning hold for me with less than my usual recovery time? Only one way to find out.

3/3/3+ Main Lifts

Back Squat in Squat Rack (raw)

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
10x 75lbs/34.0194kg (warm up)
3x 130lbs/58.967kg
3x 150lbs/68.0389kg
4x 160lbs/72.5748kg
4x 175lbs/79.3787kg (joker)
2x 195lbs/88.4505kg (joker)
2x 205lbs/92.9864kg (joker)
1x 215lbs/97.5224kg (joker)

overhead press

Overhead Press in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
3x 70lbs/31.7515kg
3x 80lbs/36.2874kg
4x 90lbs/40.8233kg
3x 95lbs/43.0913kg (joker)
2x 105lbs/47.6272kg (joker)
1x 110lbs/49.8952kg (joker)

I got through my warm ups with squats okay and the weight on my back didn’t start to feel heavy until my third working set. In fact, that first joker felt heavier than I expected, making me wonder if my lack of recovery time was going to have a negative impact.

I only did 2 reps for my second joker set at 195 pounds when I’d done 3 reps at 200 last week. Did 2 at 205 but it felt so heavy I almost decided to make that my last joker. But I went for broke and attempted to match last week’s PR. I did it, but barely. Don’t think I’ll be trying to increase the weight again until I feel more confident with it.

By this time, there were a few more guys in the weight room and who knows if any of them wanted to squat. However, I still had my overhead presses to do, so I ignored them as best I could and got to work.

I felt really confident with my first working set. 70 pounds went up and down 3 times pretty easily which pleasantly surprised me.

I even got 90 pounds over my head 4 times for my 3+ set, which had me worried a little. Not so long ago 85 to 90 pounds was my absolute limit for the overhead press for even 1 rep.

I modestly increased the weight to 95 pounds for my first joker, then decided to go up 10 pounds to 105 for the second, realizing I might not make more than a single. I did a double and tried for 110. I got it up with some effort and managed a controlled descent of the barbell. I don’t think I could have done that twice.

I might try 115 pounds for next week, but we’ll see about that. Overall, I was really pleased with my performance. No new PRs but no losses either.

Just to round things out, I did three sets of bodyweight leg lifts on the Captain’s Chair and the usual mobility work before heading home. I’m definitely not lifting again until Thursday. I need the rest.

Photo credit:

Topic switch.

I came across an article at the Starting Strength website the other day called Squats, Presses, and Deadlifts: Why Gyms Don’t Teach the Only Exercises You Need which piqued my interest.

The author, who remained anonymous, pretty much blamed box gym trainers for not teaching basic strength training and instead, driving new gym members to the Nautilus-style weight machines. That’s fine as far as it goes. When I first started going to my current gym, the person at the front desk, probably not a trainer, gave me a demonstration of the various machines and how they worked, but didn’t take me into the free weight room (as far as I can recall).

On the other hand, I don’t think we can blame gym trainers 100%. Most people who are new to the gym are intimidated by free weights, especially barbells. Also, most people (at least at my little suburban gym) don’t hire a trainer. They get the same basic demonstration of the machines that I did, probably by the receptionist, and that’s what they do.

In other words, we don’t know any better, not because some trainer didn’t teach us, but because we had no trainer at all.

Also, you really have to know what you want. By the time I got around to hiring a trainer, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, I just didn’t know how to do it correctly.

All that said, it might be beneficial for gyms to have a better orientation process, a sort of interview to find out what the new person’s goals are, then the gym trainer could present a number of options which could include free weight work.

Of course, getting back to the Starting Strength article, it requires specialized training to help a person learn to do squats, deadlifts, overhead and bench presses correctly, while the machines are pretty easy to get all by yourself. The gym would likely have to charge for that training, and cost might drive most people to choose the machine option, especially older people like me who likely do not have the confidence to “risk” lifting barbells.

back squat position
Mark Rippetoe, Credit:

Bottom line is that you can’t blame the gym or the trainers 100% for why strength training and compound barbell lifts aren’t taught on a regular basis at all the suburban gyms across the country. Decades of marketing have trained the masses to believe that weight and cardio machines are the norm for working out and only a very few people actually can use barbells and do crazy things with them like back squats and deadlifts.

If this understanding is to be changed, then some gym or gym franchise should start marketing it like crazy. Yes, you too can lift heavy barbells and no it won’t kill you. Call up our gym today and find out how.

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.

Ernest Hemingway


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