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Tuesday, September 6, 2022

A Few New PRs

A pretty strong month of lifting overall. Isometrics are continuing to yield decent results, even in lifts I no longer train dynamically. A miracle for aging lifters who need to baby their joints a little.

Squat: 490 lbs. x 3, 505 lbs. x 1, 525 lbs. x 1, 545 lbs. x 1 (tied all-time PR)

Front squat: 275 lbs. x 3, 315 lbs. x 1, 335 lbs. x 1, 355 lbs. x 1 (PR)

Also had a close front squat fail with 365 lbs.

Seated overhead press: 190 lbs. x 2 sets x 5

Bench press: 320 lbs. x 3 sets x 6, 385 lbs. x 1

Of course I gave 395 a shot. Of course I didn't make it.

Incline bench press: 265 lbs. x 5, 310 lbs. x 1 (PR)

Deadlift: 520 lbs. x 2, 535 lbs. x 1, 570 lbs. x 1 (PR)

I made some adjustments to this 12-week bench press cycle. Substituted seated for standing overhead presses, and will be using these exclusively as my bench press assistance exercise. So instead of:

Day 1: standing OHP + close-grip BP

Day 2: regular BP + incline BP

I'll be doing:

Day 1: seated OHP (heavy) + CGBP

Day 2: regular BP + seated OHP (light)

Not 100% sure, but back when I did both seated and standing presses regularly I recall them being about the same. E.g. my all-time best standing press in 245 lbs. for a single, and I may have gotten 255x1 on the seated press. So I'm curious to see how it goes this time round.

I can't tell if the close-grip bench presses are doing anything for me. I use them as a light second BP day, but lately I've been wondering if they're just useless volume and if I wouldn't be better off dumping them altogether, focusing on going heavier on my regular BPs. Adding volume in general has been pretty much of a crapshoot for me when it comes to strength gains - sometimes it works, mostly it doesn't. I'll probably stick with CGBP for another training cycle at least.

Monday, August 1, 2022


 Another squat/deadlift cycle down, another (significant) deadlift PR. I did not expect to improve much on 550, but 5 weeks later I've added another 15 lbs. After years of zero pulling progress, it feels almost too good to be true, but I'll take it.

I'm still working on the 12-week progression for the bench press. It's going mostly according to plan, I've started missing reps here and there as the weights get heavier, but that tracks with my previous experience with the program. Moving into two low-rep weeks, working up to a max single day on 13 August. If I had to predict a 1RM, it would be 380-385 lbs. We'll see how close I get.

Squats went okay, but I just couldn't hit the groove with front squats, so those were a bit disappointing. An abominably ugly 325 lb. single was my best effort.

Squat: 475 lbs. x 3, 495 lbs. x 2, 500 lbs. x 1, 510 lbs. x 1

Front squat: 325 lbs. x 1

Bench press: 350 lbs. x 2s x 3 (plus a double), 355 lbs. x 3, 365 lbs. x 2

Incline bench press: 270 lbs. x 2s x 5

Standing overhead press: 190 lbs. 3s x 5,  200 lbs. x 3

Deadlift: 505 lbs. x 2, 545 lbs. x 1, 565 lbs. x 1 (all-time PR)

Bodyweight was at 216 lbs. this week, lowest it's been in a while.

Monday, June 27, 2022

RIP Wei Ruis

On Monday morning, I put on my weightlifting shoes and headed over to the power rack to do some squatting. Immediately I tripped over something and stumbled. Looking down, I saw that the bottom of my left Wei Rui lifting shoe (rubber sole plus raised heel) had come almost entirely unglued and was hanging by a patch under my toes. Glad it didn't happen while I was walking out a heavy barbell from the rack. So the Wei Ruis went into the trash, marking the end of an era.

They had a good run. I bought them in October 2011, almost 11 years ago, and they're the only weightlifting shoes I ever owned. I might buy a replacement pair, but squatting in my thin-soled, $10 Everlast gym shoes actually felt better and way more solid. It even eliminated the knee pain I've been dealing with for a while. Maybe this is the year I discover that elevated-heel squats are not for me.

Lifting has been going well. I changed up my press training program and am not deloading (doing singles) every fifth week like before. Squat and deadlift, I follow the usual cycle of 4 weeks regular training, then one week of heavy (submaximal) singles.

Squat: 465 lbs. x 3, 485 lbs. x 2, 495 lbs. x 1, 505 lbs. x 1

Front squat: 275 lbs. x 3, 300 lbs. x 1, 320 lbs. x 1, 340 lbs. x 1 (PR)

Bench press: 325 lbs. 3 sets x 5

Incline bench press: 270 lbs. 2 sets x 5

Standing overhead press: 180 lbs. 2 sets x 6

I widened my grip a bit on overhead presses. For the past decade, I've been pressing from the rack or from stands, but have stuck with the narrow grip I used in my clean-and-press days. Which seems unnecessary. A wider grip lets me use more shoulder strength and less triceps, and alleviates some of the shoulder pain I've been dealing with on and off. All fairly basic logic, but it's funny how we tend to stick to ingrained patterns.

Deadlift: 465 lbs. x 3, 500 lbs. x 2, 510 lbs. x 2, 530 lbs. x 1, 550 lbs. x 1 (PR)

Back when I started lifting (seriously) for strength, I set 550 lbs. as my lifetime squat and deadlift goal. It was encouraging to finally hit this number on one of the lifts. Squatting 550 is not a realistic goal anymore, but I feel like I have a few more pounds to squeeze out of the deadlift. Either way, it feels good to still be setting PRs at this geriatric lifting age.

Thursday, April 28, 2022


Won't get to complete this training cycle, as I'm taking the next three weeks off for travel.

I've decided to tweak my bench and overhead press training a bit, and will move to a more sets x reps approach when I come back. It's a 12-week routine I've used with decent success in the past, going from sets of six to a 1RM in a gradual progression. Squats and deadlifts will be trained as usual, with regular deload/low volume weeks.

Some recent highlights:

Squat: 485 lbs. x 3, 490 lbs. x 3

Standing overhead press: 150 lbs x 11, 170 lbs. x 9, 190 lbs. x 4

Bench press: 325 lbs. x 8, 345 lbs. x 2

Incline bench press: 240 lbs. x 2 sets x 6

Deadlift: 475 lbs. x 2, 480 lbs. x 2, 500 lbs. x 2

It feels like I'm getting better at reps on the bench press, but my heavy sets have stalled almost completely. This new routine should shake things up a bit.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Lifting Weights and Ruminations

First full cycle down after I restarted weight training in March. There are some strength losses across the board, but nothing dramatic.

I also took some time to assess my training goals going forward. Not ready to give up working toward PRs yet, but it's no longer the focal point. For me, a personal record is the maximum weight I have ever lifted for a single complete rep. I.e. not adjusted my lifts for age, bodyweight, speed, or number of repetitions (e.g. "three-rep max"), as I don't see the point in that. However, I also no longer see a point in basing my workouts around glacially slow 1RM increases. Progressive resistance is the name of the game, but max singles are not the only progression in town.

"Getting older" is often blamed for slowing/ceasing gains, but that's never made much sense to me. A seventy-year-old who takes up lifting weights for the first time ever will build considerable muscle size and strength. It seems to boil down to reaching one's "genetic potential". After 10-12 years of correct, hard training and decent nutrition, you'll have built all the strength and size your body has the ability to build. From there, you have two options: anabolic steroids, or getting sloppy-fat to keep lifting heavier weights (and deluding yourself the lard gain is really muscle). Neither of those options seem particularly attractive to me.

Without formulating any kind of bullshit theory or philosophy about working out (BTW anyone who uses the term "weight training philosophy" ought to be slapped upside the head), here are some general guidelines I have settled on. None of these are new or different - I've been working out like this for the past 5-6 years at least.

  • Base the workout around compound barbell lifts with a strength focus.
  • Assistance exercises are done for high reps - I use a modified version of DoggCrapp sets, i.e. try to hit 20 reps with two rest-pauses. When I can do more than 20 reps, I increase the weight by 5 lbs., but am not slavish about the weight progression.
  • Add some pump work at the very end, as applicable.
  • Pullups get their own day, and are paired with biceps.
  • Isometrics are done as a warmup, for assistance work, and sometimes as stand-alone sets.
  • Focus on low-intensity cardio - daily walking, jogging once, and sprinting/jumping once per week.
PRs are welcome when they happen, but no longer the focus.

The cycle itself went well. My shoulders seem to have magically healed, or maybe it's just that the pain has migrated into my right knee. I've brought in my grip for close-grip bench presses, and now lift considerably less weight, but feel like I'm hitting the triceps more.

Squat: 405 lbs. x 5, 425 lbs. x 5, 475 lbs. x 3, 500 lbs. x 1.

Front squat: 275 lbs. x 3, 320 lbs. x 1

Overhead press: 165 lbs. x 10, 185 lbs. x 4, 205-215-225 lbs x 1

Deadlift: 405 lbs. x 5, 470 lbs. x 2, 505 lbs. x 1, 525 lbs. x 1

Bench press: 320 lbs. x 9, 340 lbs. x 4, 355 lbs. x 1, failed with 365 and 375 lbs.

Close-grip bench press: 315 lbs. x 1

Incline bench press: 275 lbs. x 1, 295 lbs. x 1

At least now I know that I can fail heavy bench press attempts safely in the rack?

Bodyweight dipped slightly to 218 lbs. this week, and stayed fairly consistent.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Back In Lockdown

COVID-19 cases are rising steeply in my area, and my gym isn't requiring patrons to show proof of vaccination. So I'm heading back into voluntary lockdown. I.e. working out at home and outdoors. As before, I'll keep an eye out on the numbers and 

During my first self-imposed gym absence (16 months), I was annoyed about the situation and worried about losing size/strength. This time it doesn't feel like a hardship at all. I enjoy the flexibility of exercising at home, fresh air in the park and recreation areas, and the absence of non-mask-wearing/potential unvaccinated idiots in my immediate vicinity. Moreover, I have figured out a training system that lets me maintain my lifting gainz without touching a weight. The first 16-month no-weights experiment was a roaring success, and I don't anticipate this second "lockdown" taking anywhere near that long.

In the short time that I deemed it safe to go to the gym this year (June-December), I hit some numbers I have not been capable of in years. I almost tied my all-time best bench press and squat, was only 10 lbs. off matching my top standing overhead press, and set all-time PRs in the front squat and deadlift. Frequently pulling and squatting over 500 lbs. for reps. 2021 turned out to be one of my best lifting years ever. 

I turned 40 a couple of months ago. Last time I was anywhere near these numbers was in 2014. Was really looking forward to bench pressing 400 lbs. before my 40th birthday, but oh well. It gives me hope that one can maintain, if not increase, strength and muscle mass as one cruises into middle age. Don't want to attribute it all to isometrics, but for high levels of joint-sparing muscle tension, they can't be beat.

Hopefully this will be a short hiatus, but I won't be holding my breath. I know the weights are there when I'm ready to go back to them.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Deadlift PR, But Still No 400 lb. Bench Press

Another 5-week cycle down, the last one I'll complete this year.

Started out with high hopes of hitting 400 lbs. in the bench press, as all the stars seemed to be aligned. Last week I did 355 for a triple, and this week my warmups went great. 325-355-380 lbs., the last one popping up as if it were 50 lbs. lighter.

Then I unracked 400, lowered, strained. The bar stayed welded in the bottom position.

I took a few minutes to collect myself, got under the bar, tried again. Shoved so hard the world turned red. This time I moved the weight about halfway up before it slowly, inexorably, started its downward descent to failure.

Back to regular programming, with a few adjustments to the assistance exercises. I think I'll have 400 once I can triple 365 lbs. or so. Maybe do some isometrics at the halfway point to get stronger.

I've hit a wall with close-grip bench presses. After managing a set of five with 330 lbs., I've been unable to get more than two reps with 335 lbs. for two consecutive weeks. Feels like I'm doing too much heavy work for the shoulder girdle, and my bench press days are painful and sluggish. My pecs hurt, my shoulders twinge, and my triceps feel like they're about to rip off the bone. In other words, normal everyday meathead feelz.

It could be that my narrow- and regular-grip weights are too close together. E.g. the program I'm using calls for "close-grip bench presses to a five-rep max", then a separate bench press day. But the guy who wrote it (Marc Keys) uses a much lower percentage of his BP max for his CGBP sets, so I guess he's able to recover more quickly? Either way, I don't want to drop the CGBP completely, but I might lower the weight to 275-300 lbs. and start over.

Just for kicks, I did a few sets of incline presses, another lift I train only with isometrics, and worked up to a really hard single with 255 lbs. Not bad, but I was sort of expecting more.

Squats and deadlifts are progressing nicely. At this point, I'm just interested in maintaining, but will pursue a modest PR whenever possible. I hit a double with 500 lbs. in the squat (no belt - not for any RAWISWAR reasons, but b/c I forgot it at home) and a triple in the deadlift with the same weight, which I'm extremely pleased with. Then a deadlift single with 545 lbs., which is an all-time PR.

Squat: 410 lbs. x 5, 500 lbs. x 2 (beltless), 515 lbs. x 1, 530 lbs. x 1

Front squat: 335 lbs. x 1 (PR)

Bench press: 335 lbs. x 8, 355 lbs. x 3, 380 lbs. x 1

Close-grip bench press: 330 lbs. x 5, 335 lbs. x 2, 365 lbs. x 1 (PR)

Incline press (NEW): 255 lbs. x 1

Standing overhead press: 195 lbs. x 6, 210 lbs. x 4, 215 lbs. x 3, 235 lbs. x 1

Deadlift: 500 lbs. x 3, 525 lbs. x 1, 545 lbs. x 1 (PR)

Barbell curl: 120 lbs. x 3