Lifting smarter…and harder!

I’ve lifted weights on and off for 15 years with no real gains, until now.

I became frustrated by not seeing any real increases in my 1 rep maxes, eventually quitting whatever routine I found in the most recent issue of Men’s Health or quit lifting all together, and chances are most of you have done the same thing.

I have always been a fan of reading the latest magazine or website article to find what I thought was the “best” workout routine.  The fitness industry is booming because everyone is trying to sell the next latest and greatest supplement (we’ll tackle supplements in a later article) or “get fit quick” routine.  The truth is if you’re wanting to get stronger you need to lift heavy, lift with more intensity, and most importantly, have a goal and a plan.  Getting stronger takes time, lots of time.  There’s no silver bullet or “3 Week’s to Bigger Biceps” plan that’ll get you where you want to be.

Put in the work and the time!

Power lifting is making a major comeback in the fitness world with Olympic power lifting gyms beginning to take over the standard strip mall gym.  Crossfit uses Olympic lifting as part of its curriculum as well.

What I’ve learned through my failed attempts is you must treat lifting and exercising the same as anything, you MUST budget time and have very specific goals.

Enter Jim Wendler and the 5/3/1 program (check out the link for detailed information). The program is straight forward and takes the thinking out of lifting.  When I lift, I don’t want to think about what I have to do anymore than is necessary.  I have shit to do, and worrying about every little workout routine isn’t one of them.  I typically calculate my new 1 rep maxes (1RM) around the first of every month using a standard spreadsheet I created (feel free to contact me for a copy is you’re not Excel savvy).  My workout plan for the month is 80% complete in a matter of minutes.

I’ve been doing this program for 3 months now, and my increases have been around 10% each month.  Below is my month-by-month improvements:

Month 1 (Baseline) @ 90% 1RM
Squat = 255 lbs
Military Press = 105 lbs
Deadlift = 245 lbs
Month 2 @ 90% 1RM
Squat = 275 lbs
Military Press = 115 lbs
Deadlift = 255 lbs
Month 3 @ 90% 1RM
Squat = 290 lbs
Military Press = 125 lbs
Deadlift = 285 lbs

The Routine:

I currently do 1 major lift each workout day.
Monday’s are for squats, Wednesday’s are for presses, and Friday’s are for deadlifts

Week 1: 
Set 1: 5 reps @ 65%
Set 2: 5 reps @ 75%
Set 3: 5+ reps @ 85% 
Assistance work

Week 2:
Set 1: 3 reps @ 70%
Set 2: 3 reps @ 80%
Set 3: 3+ reps @ 90%
Assistance work

Week 3 (5/3/1):
Set 1: 5 reps @ 75%
Set 2: 3 reps @ 85%
Set 3: 1+ reps @ 95%
Assistance work (bodyweight movements)

Week 4 (Deload):
Set 1: 5 reps @ 40%
Set 2: 5 reps @ 50%
Set 3: 5 reps @ 60%
I typcially don't do assistance work on the deload week, rather go for a long 
walk or something similar

*Next month I plan to begin full body splits each training day by incorporating 
the bench press (I haven't purchased one yet since).

The takeaway:

Treat your workouts like life.  Set a realistic goal, develop a sensible plan to achieve it, then budget the time and resources.

When I’m lifting, it’s my time.  No one bothers me, I don’t care what the rest of the world is doing.  I leave all my thoughts and cares at the gym door, the only thing that matters is the next lift.

Limit your workouts to 30 minutes a day.  You’re not a professional lifter, you’re not getting paid to lift.  You’ve got shit to do: work, family, life.  Get in an intense workout and get back to life.

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