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Day 16: Legs

Working out chest the day prior, I knew my upper body needed a day of rest to deal with the strain.  My legs however felt fine, which meant it was their turn to do some work in the gym.

I’ve been amazed at how quickly my legs have gotten their strength back.  At the start of October I was just getting back into the rhythm of squatting and was struggling with 135 on the bar and getting down to depth while holding form.  Now I’m approaching 225 for a PR but and I’m in the 200’s for reps now.  It shows what can be achieved with persistence.  The most I’ve ever squatted was 225 some years back but now I’m about to hit that mark while feeling much better about it.  Last time I got to this mark I was a young lifter throwing weight on the bar I couldn’t handle.  I was shaky and cheated aspects of the lift, but now I feel much more confident.  My leg feel like they can handle the weight but more importantly my secondary muscles like core, and back can handle the weight as well which makes the lift much safer.

Warmup:

  • 5 minutes on stairclimber to get the blood flowing
  • Static leg stretching

Workout:

  • Squats (pyramid up and down):  95 for 12, 135 for 8 for 3 sets, 155 for 8, 175 for 8, 185 for 6, 195 for 3, 205 for 2, 215 for 1, 135 for 8
  • Leg Press: 360 for 6 for 4 sets (normal), 180 for 15 for 3 sets (narrow legs)
  • Quad Extension (drop sets) 60 for 10 then drop to 40 and go till failure.  4 sets
  • Calf Raises (plate machine): 70 for 10 for 4 sets
  • Walking Lunges: 50lbs barbell on back, walk for 10 sets each leg, turn around then walk back
  • Hip Abductor machine: 175 for 12 reps

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

Day 15: Chest – Dealing with Injuries

When I woke up in the morning, I felt something every lifter fears.  The day before I had hit some heavy deadlifts and felt great when doing it.  But the morning after, I woke up feeling like I pulled or strained something.  It was a weird feeling on the right side of my neck down to my right shoulder.  Now I’m no doctor, so I can’t give official advice on lifting and injuries, but I can talk on knowing your body, and give some basic tips on what you should and shouldn’t try to work through.

Injuries and setbacks are common, don’t let people tell you otherwise.  This is why so often form is preached in the gym, because it reduces the likelihood of injuries.  A basic explanation of lifting weights is you tearing you muscle fibers apart so they can regrow stronger and bigger.  With this will come some sore days, and days you’re feeling a little stiff.  This is something you can work through.  Through stretching, better diet and staying hydrated, you can alleviate soreness and stiffness.  This is why I never let a little stiffness keep me from the gym.  Just hit the stretching area for 10 minutes and you feel like a new man.

The thing I always ask myself when I have an injury, is “can I work through this without making it worse.”  If the answer is yes, then head to the gym and keep working out.  These workouts aren’t go big or go home type workouts.  You can rehab and workout at the same time.  Rehab can still get you sweating and build muscle.  At the gym I go too, there are bodybuilders who will spend 15 minutes with a 5-pound weight solely focusing on rehabbing shoulders as a part of their workouts.  If you drop the ego, lifting for rehab and recovery can help you recover from injuries and setback quicker than rest.

If you answered no to the above question, then you still have a few options on how you can proceed.  With injuries and setbacks, you can always take a few days off to see how your body reacts to some rest.  If rest treats you well, then listen to your body and you will know when it’s time to head back to work.  Another option that you have is to work out different body parts.  There have been times where my shoulder is sore from past dislocations so I take time to focus on lower body workouts or working out on my core.  On these days, I’ll mix in some rehab and when I feel comfortable I’ll try a light workout with the body part that I was feeling was injured and go from there.

For this workout, I felt like I could continue to work out.  The strain felt light so I hit the gym for a light chest day.  I knew going in that I was going to have to concentrate on form with low weight to see how my body reacted to the strain.  About half way through the workout I felt like I was just making the strain worse so I laid off the weights and did some stretching and got in some core work.  I didn’t walk out feeling defeated because I still go a sweat going and knew I would need to avoid certain types of workouts and focus on some rehab and stretching going forward to help with this setback.

Warmup:

  • 5 minutes on stair climber to get my blood flowing.
  • Upper body stretch for 10 minutes.  Focus on shoulders to get them loose, also focused on neck stretches to see if I could loosen up my neck.

Workout:

  • Bench-press (pyramid up and down): 95 for 12, 135 for 10 for 3 sets, 155 for 6, 155 for 4, 155 for 2, 135 for 8
  • Inclined Press (Drop set): 50’s for 6 then drop to 30’s for 10.  Three sets of this
  • Chest press machine: 100 for 12 reps for 4 sets
  • Fly machine: 115 for 8 for 2 sets, 130 for 6 for 2 sets (focus on squeezing contraction)

Stretch:

  • Static stretches at different angles for shoulder and neck

Core Work Circuit:

  • 15 situps, 20 Russian twists, 20 flutter kicks, 20 leg raises. 3 sets of this
  • Declined situps: 3 sets of 20
  • Oblique twist machine: 3 sets at 100 lbs

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

 

Day 14: Back Day – Confidence

I walked into the gym feeling confident, which for me is huge.  After my rest day, my body had recovered well and I was feeling strong.  For a lifter looking to make some gains, confidence is huge.  It gives you that extra boost you need to push yourself through obstacles, challenges and setbacks to achieve what you have set out to achieve.  But the reality is that for all things in life, confidence is huge.  There have been stages in my life where my self-confidence is real low, and this affects you outside the gym, but since this is a fitness blog, I’ll stick to talking on confidence within the sanctuary of iron.

There was a time in my life where I was a bigger guy, and I’m not talking about muscle.  During the college days, I skipped the freshmen fifteen and put on the freshmen thirty.  I was considered overweight, had no confidence in my body, and just kept to myself most of the time.  My lowest point was when I stepped on the scale and weighed in at 210 pounds (for reference I’m 160 now).  The feeling I had in that moment of just wanting to break down and cry and hating everything about my body is something I won’t forget.  I would try to go to the gym to workout but that’s where I saw what having no self-confidence can do to you at the gym.

During the periods when I had no confidence in myself, I felt like everyone was watching me.  I thought everyone was looking at me and thinking “he’ so weak for his weight” or “man he’s out of shape.”  I was afraid to work out around other people for fear of judgement, and these were people I didn’t even know.  I would show up to the gym and leave within thirty minutes because I would get anxiety from thinking everyone was watching me in the mirrors.  It kept me from the gym for weeks at a time and it was a tough cycle that kept going for months.

What changed things around for me was when I got a job working nightshift.  I would work out before I went in at midnight, or after work when I got off at 3am depending on the shifts I had.  At this time, the gym is a ghost town, just me and the weights.  This is where I built a foundation of muscle and confidence in my lifting.  I could practice form with low weight without the fear of embarrassing myself around others.  I gained a little strength and saw a little change in my body and the effect that had was astounding.

Eventually I started working out during the day and even thou my confidence was still low, I put my headphones in, put my head down and focused on the work at hand.  This grinding mentality is something that stuck with, and it’s all thanks to the gym.  I had to realize that every guy in that gym started somewhere too, and that through consistency, I could make positive changes, but only if I stuck with it.

Now, it’s easy for me to spot someone at the gym who has no confidence in themselves.  They try to do workouts but don’t know how.  They try to lift weights they think they can lift, but they can’t do it.  They show up and leave shortly after, and when they leave they have a look of defeat on their face.  This is why encouragement in the gym is something that we need more of.  If I ever see someone struggling, or fail on a lift and I can see they are struggling with confidence, a pat on the back can go a long way.  Telling them “you’ll get it next time” or “keep at it, it will come” can make a huge difference for that person.  How do I know? Because I’ve been where they are.  I had guy’s show me technique when I was struggling, I’ve had guys motivate me by encouragement.  Guys I didn’t even know, but they encouraged me instead of judging me, and that little nudge they gave me pushed me through the tough times.

At the end of the day, the only person you’re competing with at the gym is the one you see in the mirror.  So, if you’re reading this, next time you’re in the gym I challenge you to drop the ego and judgement and create a positive community that other can feed off of.

Warmup:

  • Stair climber for 5 minutes
  • Hamstring stretches
  • Shoulder stretches

Workout:

  • Deadlifts (pyramid up and down): 135 for 12, 155 for 12, 185 for 10 for 3 sets, 205 for 10, 225 for 6 for 2 sets, 245 for 4 for 2 sets, 265 for 2, 285 for 1 for 2 sets, 155 for 6, 135 for 10
  • Lat Pull Down: 115 for 10 for 2 sets, 130 for 6 for 2 sets
  • V Bar Pull Down:  115 for 8 for 3 sets
  • Lat Pull Machine (drop sets to 40 after till failure): 50 for 12, 60 for 8, 70 for 8, 80 for 4 for 3 sets
  • Bent over row (barbell) 65 for 15, 85 for 12, 105 for 8, 125 for 4, 105 for 6, 85 for 10, 65 for 10
  • Aussie Pullups: 15, 15, 15, 15
  • Lower Back Extension Machine: 205 for 12 for 4 sets
  • Superman: 3 sets of 10
  • Shoulder shrugs: 45’s for 15, 55’s for 12 for 3 sets

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”