Shoot for the stars: you may miss a rep on occasion, but there’s always next week

Today, I missed a rep (and set) on squats today for the first time ever. You could say that I successfully completed two sets at 205. But it was that third set, which I hadn’t originally intended to do, that got me.

I had done 2×5 at 205, working toward my third set of five. I got two reps in, then on the third one, I squatted down, then tried to get up, and all of a sudden, the bar was sitting on the rails.

Of course, there’s a business metaphor for this. It came in the form of an admonishment to me some years ago – someone said “shoot for the stars, even if you don’t make it, you’ll have gone a long way.

As an old guy, I have to be careful about the weights I lift. Inching up brings perils with it. Still, a couple of weeks ago, I managed to deadlift 3×300 lbs. The big numbers no longer scare me as they once did.

Today, I did one set and two reps more than I originally intended. I’m going to shoot for 250 on squats for at least a couple of reps, before the end of the year. I’m very confident I’ll get there. I’m really happy with the kind of training volume I’ve been doing.

A low-bar position on the squat puts more stress on your glutes and hamstrings, and less on your quads and knees

A “low-bar” position on the squat puts more stress on your glutes and hamstrings, and less on your quads and knees (from Mark Rippetoe, “Starting Strength” pg 55).

By the way, one of the perils of squats is NOT hurting your knees. One of the reasons why there’s a big discrepancy in what I can squat, and in what I can deadlift, is because I had been doing squats the wrong way, and I was fighting a case of patellar tendinitis.

But there’s a right way to do squats (the “low-bar” variety) that puts more of the work on your glutes and hamstrings, and goes far easier on the quads and the knees. My knees actually feel better once I start lifting the heavier weights with good form.

See Mark Rippetoe’s book “Starting Strength” for details, or check him out on YouTube.

Baseline for my 2017 Training

John_baseline_at_gym

Pardon me for the shameless self-portrait here, but this is where I’ve gotten to after a year and a half in the gym. Compared to my former puffy self, I’m very proud of this pose.

Before you start any new endeavor (especially over 50), it’s always a good idea to set a baseline for your goals. That’s the purpose of this blog post. In training for the Tough Mudder competition later this year, I’m going to need to maintain my strength training, I think, while adding cardio work (most likely that will be long distance walking and running, but also some HIIT cardio). That will come as I figure out what I’m doing. Toward that end, I’m going to be revisiting The Hybrid Athlete from time to time here, as a guideline.

For now, I’m working out four days a week in the gym, alternating the “big four” exercises (squats, overhead press or “OHP”, bench press, and deadlifts). I’m working each of these exercises two days a week, alternating them as follows:

Monday: heavy OHP, light squat
Tuesday: heavy bench, light deadlift
Thursday: light OHP, heavy squat
Friday: light bench, heavy deadlift

I also try to walk or run on my off days, but given the winter weather, I’m not always successful at getting that in.

Within that framework, it’s fair to say that not all the heavy days are personal records (some are), and my light days are not all that light. Additionally, on my “light” days, sometimes I do more “volume” (“reps” and “sets”), and on my heavier days, I also alternate “heavier” and “lighter” in such a way that I don’t always try to set personal records (PRs), but sometimes I do.

Just for posterity’s sake, here are my personal bests at the moment:

Overhead press: 3x3x115 lbs.
Bench press: 3x5x150 lbs.
Deadlift: 3x4x250 lbs.
Squat: 3x5x185 lbs.

Of all of these personal bests, I’ve been able to make the best progress on the deadlifts because that lift is least affected by injuries. Over the year and a half, I’ve had to contend with a nagging shoulder injury that affected by ability to bench and OHP, and a knee injury that affected my squatting.

All of this works on a “play it by ear” kind of basis. I’m very proud of this program, and very pleased that I was able to come up with it. At one point last year, my sons had me doing the “Stronglifts 5×5” program, which was very good for realizing what’s called “beginner gains” in strength, but which, I found, is very hard on an old guy like me. Prior to that, I had been working with a trainer who was more into bodybuilding than strength training (there is a difference), and I believe those programs prepared me very well – with some exceptions (things that caused those injuries in the first place) – to the strength training that I have gotten involved with.

I don’t want to get into programming right now, but that’s something that will be very important moving forward. Not only for me, but for anyone who takes up weight training or strength training for any reason.