I started a new workout routine Monday. I’ve fallen so far from my peak of about 18 months ago that I had to get back on the wagon. I was doing so well, then right around Thanksgiving of 2010 all my motivation simply fled, and it’s been downhill ever since. I’ve managed to rein in my weight when it threatened to get out of control, but I’ve lost a ridiculous amount of muscle mass. I’ve made a few false starts, but nothing as regular as I was doing.
Sunday night I was searching for a workout routine, because the one I’d been using from Men’s Fitness was worn out. I’d decided to go back and do the modified DC-style workout a previous trainer had me on that worked pretty well, and I’d gotten as far as planning my workouts and setting them up in a spreadsheet.
I hadn’t written down, and couldn’t find in the old forum I’d used to track my progress, the proper technique for some of the exercises, so I started hunting. I stumbled upon an article about compound exercises on skinnybulkup.com, which led me to stronglifts.com. It sounded intriguing, and I couldn’t find anything wrong with the theory, so I put in my email address, downloaded the report/instructions, and started reading.
Some of the writing sounded a bit “As Seen On TV!”, which initially made me detect a whiff of snake oil, but as the author is from Belgium I cut him some slack; his English is far better than my Flemish (or German, or French). Besides, anyone casually throwing around the word “bullshit” in his writing is unlikely to be a salesman.
The gist is this: three workouts per week, three exercises per workout, fives sets of five reps per exercise (one set for deadlifts). The kicker is that you start the program with an empty 45 lb. barbell. The next time you do the same exercise, you add 5 lbs. (total, not per side). The other main point is that you do squats in every workout: three times per week, adding 5 lbs. each time. I HATE squats, but they really are the most effective compound exercise you can do; they work nearly every muscle if you do them right.
After reading through most of it (skipping the overabundance of testimonials and before/after pics), and still finding no sales pitch, I decided to bite the bullet. It sure beat what I was doing, which was nothing.
Because technique is so heavily stressed, I decided to wait until 10pm Monday to hit the gym, so I could practice getting everything right without hogging the power rack. It went pretty well, though I was concentrating so hard on getting everything right, I forgot to put weight on the bar for the barbell rows (one of the two exercises that start with more than an empty bar). Jumping from 45 lbs. to 70 lbs. next time I do them will be interesting.
Tonight was the second workout, which also went well, but let me tell you this: NOTHING will test your ability to ignore what others are doing, or what they might think of you, like lifting an empty barbell for five sets.
There was a short blonde kid working out next to me, in a “U of M Medical School” hoodie and “US Naval Academy” shorts. Tight, muscular body; very intense; had “future officer” written all over him. He’s doing barbell chin-ups, then crunches, then one-armed rows, then running over to do lat pulldowns, then repeating the whole cycle at least five times.
Meanwhile, I’m standing there with my barbell, a 2.5 lb. (yes, I said two-and-a-half) plate on each side, doing squats, then taking those OFF to do overhead presses. I feel like a complete schmuck, while Mr. Type-A is engaged in warrior training not five feet away. Still, I gritted my teeth, focused on doing everything right, and kept my eyes off of him while doing my sets.
I console myself with the fact that, if all goes well, I’ll be squatting more than my own body weight by the middle of April.