Two weeks ago I came to the conclusion that it was about time I got back into the gym. After a few months off, and some weight gain during my wife’s pregnancy, I wanted a routine that was familiar and had worked for me in the past.
Ultimately I took the Starting Strength program, Wendler 5/3/1, and the routine that I had done with a trainer at my gym, and sort of blended them all together. The idea was to take the four main lifts and add plenty of volume. I’d also blend in accessory work as time allowed.
The initial plan was to figure out a way to work out four days each week. I’ve had a really good two weeks, in terms of schedule, and was able to get to the gym six days. I do the four main lifts on independent days, work arms on day five, and do mostly cardio on day six.
I’m sure my routine is far from perfect but it allows me to work in plenty of volume. The hope is that I can get back on track more quickly than a 3×5 or 5×5 program would allow. It is also a big plus that I’m genuinely enjoying the routine.
Over the past fourteen days I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to make it to the gym on twelve of those days. Each workout starts and finishes the same way – with cardio. I like to hop on the elliptical and program it for an interval session. I set the resistance to 12, the time to 30 minutes, and try to maintain a speed of 7mph.
The elliptical isn’t a very manly machine but it keeps the stress on my legs down and works up a sweat. I initially chose it because I was doing a fair bit of outdoor running – which was taking its toll on my legs. The elliptical was a mostly pain free way around it (I say mostly because my toes ache after about 20 minutes).
The Life Fitness machines that Anytime Fitness of Gilbertsville uses have an automated cool down period tacked onto the end of the pre-programmed workouts. Even though I roll right from the elliptical into other exercises, I like to complete the cool down for an easy five minutes of extra activity.
To kind of bookend my workout, I close out each gym session with some time on the Power Mill (stair stepper). I chose this machine over the others because at one time I felt like it was a torture device. Even at slow speed it would wipe out my legs and it bothered me knowing that I sucked at it.
I started out slow only going something like 36 steps per minute. I like to set the machine for a distance climb and the magic number was 50 floors. After a few days I was able to periodically boost the speed and increase my average speed (cycling up and down depending on how tired I was).
These days I’m doing 20 minutes at an average speed of 54 steps per minute (sometimes I can maintain 56 throughout the entire session but that depends on what else I’ve done that day). I find that the power mill is an awesome way to cap off leg day.
Down below you’ll see a list of timed activities I’ve completed over the past two weeks. In addition to cardio in the gym, I try to get out for a run or walk and some time in the yard with my daughter (she likes to play soccer and football).
Monday has sort of become my default Leg Day and focuses on the Barbell Back Squat. On my first day back in the gym my plan was to do squats, leg press, calf raises (in the leg press), leg extensions, leg curls, and step-ups. Unfortunately, the place was really busy and had I left the rack I would have been waiting on equipment. Rather than stand around, I wound up staying in the rack and doing a drop set.
I liked the workout I got from over 100 reps of squats and have since fell into a groove with it. I don’t know that I necessarily need isolation exercises and have since stuck with doing a ton of squats. At times I feel bad for tying up the rack for a long period of time but if the other stations I want to use are occupied, I’m just fine with staying put. I also like to grab a low platform, or some 25 pound plates, and do calf raises if time allows.
The day after my first squat session my legs were annihilated. The muscle soreness was intense and I spent the next couple of days hobbling around with an odd grin on my facing knowing that all the work I had done worked my legs over well.
Much like Monday has become my default Leg Day, Tuesday I have been working chest. Depending on when I can get to the gym, I do various exercises after working on the bench press. Unfortunately, the gym has been pretty busy and I’ve been calling it a workout after my bench session is complete.
I’d like to also incorporate cable crossovers, incline dumbbell press, and the peck deck. Again, these are done if other stations aren’t tied up and I don’t have to wait around. I suppose I could easily add in some push-up variations but the thought hasn’t occurred to me while in the gym (I’ll have to remember that for next week).
One thing that is worth noting is that my bench press has suffered severely in my time away from the gym. I went from doing 5 reps with 240 pounds to barely being able to squeak out 10 reps at 135. Because I couldn’t hit 5 Sets of 10 Reps, I just kept adding in extra working sets until I was able to meet 50 total reps. I don’t plan on adding more weight to the bar until I can complete all 5 sets – at which point I’ll bump it up to 140 pounds.
For whatever reason, Wednesday has been the busiest day in the gym. When I’m ready to start lifting all of the racks have been occupied and I’ve been forced to head into the functional training room (I don’t know what else to call it – other than the Crossfit Room) to work on my Dead Lift.
Fortunately, there is typically a barbell free in this room that I can use without waiting. It kind of works out better that way since I don’t really like to dead lift on the main floor (too many people walking around you).
Wednesday tends to be my lightest day because I don’t like doing drop sets on the dead lift. Doing too much causes my lower back to ache. After a few sets I like to move on to lateral rows on the TRX Straps and lat pull-downs. If I’m feeling particularly good, I’ll super-set my drop set with TRX Rows.
Again, if the stations are too busy I generally move on after my main lift is complete.
Out of all my days in the gym, I think I like Thursdays and the Overhead Press the most. The overhead press isn’t a particularly exciting exercise but I feel like I get the most out of doing it. My shoulders, triceps, and traps begin to burn and working in a set of Face Pulls afterwards really rounds out the workout.
I’m not sure where I stand on a set rep range just yet. I’d like to bump it up to 50 total reps at my working weight but that would add a significant number of reps or a serious reduction in weight.
In the future I’d like to work in some front and side lateral raises and maybe a kettle bell clean and press.
With all of the main lifts out of the way, at this point, I like to work arms on Fridays. What guy doesn’t want bigger arms?
I’ve been treating the Preacher Curl like my main lift, working up to 5 Sets of 10 Reps, then following it up with a drop set. I’m not sure how I feel about that just yet. When I was working out previously I never touched the preacher curl station and instead focused on dumbbell curls. I think I was getting a better burn / workout with the dumbbells and I may switch back.
By the time I work through Tricep Push-downs and get back to curls, my biceps are shot. I struggle to curl as little as 20 pounds (I used to do 3 sets of 10 – single arm dumbbell curls, dumbbell hammer curls, and cross body hammer curls with 30 pounds).
This week I super-setted the curls with Tricep Kick-backs on an inclined bench (I saw CT Fletcher do it in one of his videos and I liked what I saw).
Next week I may add in tricep push-downs and rotate out the preacher curls. I’m not sure just yet and may just make the change on the fly.
I’ve been treating Saturday as an Extra Workout and trying to keep it fairly light. The initial plan was to only do cardio and call it a day, however, since my Anytime Fitness has introduced the Workout of the Week I have been doing that between the elliptical and power mill.
Both workouts have been very deceiving and are far harder than I anticipated. I don’t mind the hard work but it is humbling to see my completed times. This week included 10 Push-Ups, 10 Air Squats, and 10 Sit-Ups done in 6 Sets for Time. I guessed a good time for me would be about 12 minutes but I came in at 16:58.
I expected the push-ups to be the most difficult part of the exercise (I’ve never been great at doing them). To my surprise, I struggled the most with sit-ups. I was having a problem with my feet coming off the floor during the motion and had to wedge a 25 pound medicine ball between my feet (which made it a leg workout as well – damn they were hard).
Next week may wind being very complicated. My wife’s due date is Tuesday so I’m not sure if I’ll be taking time off for the baby. Time off is a definite but when I’ll be taking time off depends on when our daughter decides to put my wife into labor.
I’m thinking that I’m going to give this routine a month or two before making any significant changes. I may switch up the main lifts to four working sets of 20, 15, 12, and 10 reps with increasing weight.
In the meantime I’d love some feedback from the readers of my little blog. What sort of regimen do you follow in the gym and what progress have you seen as a result?