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Sunday, June 27, 2021

The Great Reset

 Monday was my first day back in the gym since mid-February last year. After a sixteen-month layoff from lifting weights, I posted the following lifts over the week:

Bodyweight: 220 lbs. - a bit heavier than before pandemic, but also less fat.

Back squat: 430 lbs. x 5

Bench press: 285 lbs. x 5, 305 lbs. x 2

Overhead press: 170 lbs. x 5

Deadlift: 445 lbs. x 2, 465 lbs. x 1

There's obviously a lot of work to do to get back to my old numbers, but the results are way better than expected. My biggest drop was on the bench press, but this seems to be more of a form thing than a lack of strength. E.g. on my very first day back I struggled to press 225x5, but by the end of that same workout I ground out a tough but confident 275x5. Being unable to bench press three plates brings great shame upon me and my ancestors and whatever, but I'm sure I'll get back to that pretty quickly.

My overhead pressing is also piss-weak, but that has more to do with pain in my left shoulder, which wasn't a problem before. Will have to monitor that and see whether it goes away as I practice the lift more. On the squat and deadlift, my strength has been impacted very little, if at all, which is a huge surprise.

I used to have reservations about isometric training, but now have proof positive that they work as advertised. During the layoff, I kept all my muscle mass and apparently most of my strength without touching a weight (with the exception of a 40-lb. kettlebell I use for swings). Going forward, I'll incorporate isos in my regular weight training and am hoping to see even better results.

Assistance exercises don't seem to be affected - on some, e.g. leg press, dip, and preacher curl machine, I'm maybe even stronger than before. Another testament to the effectiveness of isometrics and band-bodyweight programs.

Another positive thing about taking 16 months away from weights is that I'm now basically a lifting noob. So even the simplest and most straightforward programs will deliver good strength gains. I'm thinking of 4-6 weeks of a bare-bones training program focused on sets of 5, plus a bit of assistance work. Think Starting Strength with extra bench pressing. Then once this stalls switch back to Old Reliable and ramp up the intensity.

Overall, I'm pretty pleased by my quarantine results and the fact that I can keep my squat in the 400s and my bench press in the 300s, pull close to 500 lbs. without touching a barbell. Kind of makes me question the purpose of lifting weights and dealing with commercial gyms... ever again. I'm not getting any younger, the minor aches and pains are adding up, and grinding my joints to splinters chasing elusive 5-lb. PRs has never felt less appealing.