Category Archives for Strength Training

Week Two at the Gym is the Worst


I’ve spent many an hour at the gym over the course of many years. Like anybody else who has a decades-long exercise habit, I’ve faced my share of downtime. We closed the dojo for the last two weeks of December, as we always do over Christmas. My plan had been to spend those two weeks hitting the gym hard to get a head start on the new year.

Alas, reality intervened. I caught bronchitis over Thanksgiving. It took me a few weeks to get rid of that. And then I caught a sinus infection two days later. So instead of spending those two weeks working out hard… I spent them doing next to nothing.

I managed to kick the sinus infection right before the New Year, so I did what I could: I hit the gym on December 31st, and at least got some head start on the new year. My normal lifting days are Tuesday and Saturday… which means that yesterday was officially day 1 of my second week back on track.

As I learned years ago, week two sucks.

Week one is good. You feel great, your body is pulsing with energy, and have no problems staying motivated. Then week two hits and your body reminds you that you’re not used to this anymore. Your energy levels sag, dragging your motivation down with it. And then the soreness sets in.

By week three these problems will all pass. The soreness will diminish. Your energy will return, restoring your motivation as well. You’ll start to settle into a routine, and things will finally pick up.

But you have to survive week two, first.

Quite a few people will begin their week two over the next few days. Many of them will quit, thus giving up on their New Year Resolutions before January’s even out.

Don’t be one of them. Week two will pass. By early February, you’ll feel awesome – and you’ll want to keep going. Push through. Persevere. You’ll thank yourself later.

Strength Training Works


barbellLast night I finished my first 4 week rotation of the 5/3/1 strength training program (very slightly modified to match my schedule).

One thing I like about the program: the deloading week. Though hardly unique to the 5/3/1 program, I’ve found it to be extremely useful. I’d been reading about it lately and planning to incorporate it anyway, even before trying this program. Previously, I’d simply taken a random night or a random week off. After my first week of deloading, I think I like it a lot better. The idea is that you lose less of your gains than you would from a week fully off, but you still ramp everything down enough to really give your body a chance to recover.

In this case, the lifts were basically dropped down to roughly half of what I’d been doing for the previous three weeks – and that’s where things got interesting. I commented to Morgon on both deloading nights that I hadn’t lifted that light in years. To check it, I dredged up an old blog post from a defunct blog. The results shocked even me. From almost exactly five years ago (4 years and 11 months to the day):

Squats: 5×275 (up from 5×265 last week)
Deadlifts: 5×135 (up from 5×125)
Pull-ups: (three sets of: 4, 2.5, 2.5; kind of lame, but significantly up from 3, 2.5, and 1 last week and WAY up from 1,1 only a few weeks ago)
Bench Press: 3×190 (up from 3×165 last week, which was actually <em>down</em> from 3×185 the week before)

I didn’t do pull-ups last night, so I don’t have a good comparison there [side note: I need to work those back into my routine]. As for the others… here’s what I did last night on my deloading night:

Bench: 5×115, 5×145, 5×175
Squats: 5×140, 5×180, 5×215
Deadlifts: 5×155, 5×195, 5×230

On both the Bench Press and the Deadlift, my new “very, very light” night numbers still show me pulling numbers comparable to what I was proud of five years ago. One small caveat: deadlifts were new to me at the time. My numbers from them were almost embarrassingly low.

Proof positive that resistance based strength training works.

As for the 5/3/1 program itself, I’ll report back after a few more cycles through. One month simply isn’t a good test.