Getting Stronger and Weaker at the Same Time

eagle fitness
Eagle Fitness

The holidays have screwed up my schedule, but not too badly.

I have from last Friday through this Monday off from work. Gym was closed on Sunday for Christmas but opened up this morning at 7 a.m.

I should say that since my wife and children are Jewish, we don’t celebrate Christmas. Please, no outcry.

We do celebrate Chanukah which this year began at sunset on the 24th, but Chanukah is a minor holiday on the Jewish religious calendar, so it’s pretty low key (the food’s great, though).

I’ve been sleeping in over the long weekend, which is glorious. Dragged my bones out of bed about 10 after 6, had some coffee and water, but wasn’t feeling hungry. Got on my gym clothes and prepared to leave the house.

It’s been bitterly cold here lately, especially in the mornings. Temps are down to the teens and even single digits F, plus we got about eight inches of snow, so although the driveways and sidewalks in my neighborhood are clear, the streets are covered.

I backed out of the garage onto the street and drove on a snowy skating rink to the main drag leading out of the subdivision. Once there, the roads were clear.

Got to the gym a few minutes before the hour, and there was only one other car in the parking lot with its engine running.

McKenna opened up right at seven and I was in like a shot. Claimed the squat rack, straightened out the weight plates and got to work.

Only one other person in the gym, Yoga pants woman, and she started out doing cardio, so for the longest time, I had the weight room to myself. Yeah, my “Kingdom”.

Since the scheduling and timing of my workout was off, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. But as you see below, this is what occurred once I got started with 5/3/1+ week in cycle 14 of my program.

Main Lifts 5/3/1+

squat rack
Photo credit:

Barbell Back Squat in Squat Rack (raw)

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
10x 65lbs/29.4835kg (warm up)
5x 145lbs/65.7709kg
3x 175lbs/79.3787kg
3x 190lbs/86.1826kg
2x 210lbs/95.2544kg (joker)
1x 230lbs/104.326kg (joker)
1x 240lbs/108.862kg (joker) PR!

Barbell Overhead Press in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 90lbs/40.8233kg
3x 100lbs/45.3592kg
0x 110lbs/49.8952kg -failed rep-
0x 105lbs/47.6272kg -failed rep-
1x 100lbs/45.3592kg
1x 100lbs/45.3592kg
1x 100lbs/45.3592kg

Assistance Lift

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

10x 20lbs/9.07185
10x 20lbs/9.07185
10x 20lbs/9.07185
10x 20lbs/9.07185
10x 20lbs/9.07185

The good news is that I got another new PR in the back squat, but just barely. I squatted down into the hole making sure I descended until my thighs were parallel to the floor. Oh, but coming back up was hard. I thought I was going to stall for a minute but managed to push through the stuck part. I deffo felt it in my lower back, so I think this is my functional limit for the time being.

why women squat

Satisfied with the back squat, I moved on to the overhead press. Here’s where things get really depressing.

On 5/3/1+ week in cycle 13, I made a new PR on the overhead press, doing a single rep at 120 pounds, which for me, is pretty impressive. On the same day, I did 5 reps at 90 pounds and 3 at 100. I did singles at 105, 110, and 115 pounds before performing the PR.

I haven’t been able to duplicate that since.

In the current cycle on 5/5/5+ week, I actually did 6 reps with a 90 pound barbell, 1 at 100, 1 at 105, and 1 at 115. I failed the rep at 120 in my fourth joker set.

Last week, which was 3/3/3+ week, I managed 3 reps at 95 pounds, 2 at 105, and failed the rep at 115. What the heck is going on?

Week over week, I seem to be getting weaker on my overhead press.

Today, I managed 3 reps at 100 pounds for the second working set, but completely failed the 1+ set at 110 pounds. I reduced the weight down to 105 and still failed the rep. I settled for doing singles with 100 pounds, doing 3 sets of those, but what’s happening to me?

I think I’ve increased the weight on the working sets too aggressively and need to back off. I galls me to say (write) that, but failing a working set means there’s a problem.

By this time in my routine, a number of the regulars had shown up and the place was being well used. Even Chase, my former trainer, came in to do his personal workout (no pressure in working out in front of your trainer).

I decided since I had the day off and no grandkid duties, I could spare the time to do an assistance lift, and just like last week, I chose a “boring but big” routine: 5 sets at 10 reps per set doing seated dumbbell shoulder presses.

The only difference was this week, I did all 5 sets using twin 20 pound dumbbells and didn’t have to reduce the weight for the final set.

After that, I did the usual mobility work and then I was done. I kind of hated to go because since I don’t have to work, it’s like a free day to play at the gym. But I had to be mindful of wearing down my body too much. Strength is built during recovery, not while actually lifting.

overhead press
Photo credit:

I’m back home now, and every time I get out of my chair, I feel it in my legs, arms, and traps. I’ve got to get past this pesky problem with the overhead press. If I lifted stronger before, I can do it again. I’ll try more modest goals for the next cycle and see how that works.

Picture your brain forming new connections as you meet the challenge and learn. Keep on going.

Dr. Carol S. Dweck
from her book Mindset


6 thoughts on “Getting Stronger and Weaker at the Same Time

      1. I really wish I could help Mark, but I’m clueless here. You’ll need to consult with your doctor’s office and, worse case scenario, you may have to skip workouts for a month or so.

        I had the same problem last summer when I got sick and needed nose surgery on top of that. Couldn’t workout for four weeks. When I got back into the gym, I had to lower all my weights by 25% because I’d lost that much strength. I’ve finally gotten it all back and then some, but my cardio still needs a little help.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s