Or… “How I got to Squat and Deadlift 225lbs…and you can too!”
I had been doing bodyweight exercises for about three years before I finally took the plunge near the middle of 2014 and began to learn how to lift. Near the end of my calisthenics period, I had been incrementally adding a small amount of weight to my workouts via dumbbells and a weighted vest. If memory serves, I added upwards of 65lbs during those years, it was a great way to trim down and lean out. I went from 199lbs when I began to 176lbs. So, I am definitely not going to despise the “small beginnings”.
After reading a metric shit-ton of articles online about proper form and then reading Mark Rippetoe’s “Starting Strength”, I decided to give lifting a go. I focused on the Bench Press, Deadlift, Overhead Press and Squats; the “Big Four”. To compliment the work I was learning with the iron, I incorporated a few bodyweight exercises such as planks, pull ups, and lunges. As time progressed, I slowly let go of the lunges and planks as I was getting a good workout head to toe using the lifts plus pull ups.
Having never seriously lifted before, I started small with the “Big Four”. Add in an early A.M. workout time and zero partners, small weight increases over time were the order of progression. Looking back, even though I probably could’ve progressed faster, I don’t regret a single day of the work I put in learning form and proper technique.
What I want to bring to attention in this piece is the process; those small, incremental gains one must continue to make in order to meet the goals you have set for yourself. Now, I’m not going to go into a lot of detail as I am already violating my self-imposed 500 word limit on posts for this. But I want you to get the gist of what I am saying and how I am progressed.
First, let’s create a base line so we can compare two separate years of work.
Squats (11/29/2014) 1×10 @Bar(45lbs), 1×5 @115lbs, 2×5 @135lbs, 2×5 @140lbs, 1×8 @105lbs
Deadlifts (11/29/2014) 1×10 @Bar, 1×5 @155lbs, 3×5 @195lbs, 1×10 @135lbs
Bench Press (11/27/2014) 1×10 @Bar, 1×5 @115lbs, 1×5 @135lbs, 3×5 @155lbs, 3×11 @115lbs
When I hurt my back in January 2015, it set me back a few paces. I went back to cardio and light calisthenics as I visiting a chiropractor weekly and stretched and stretched and stretched. I didn’t start lifting again until around late September or early October 2015. For all intents and purposes, I was starting at square one again.
Squats 11/28/2016 3×10 @Bar, 1×5 @135lbs, 5×5 @205lbs, 1×10 @185lbs
On 11/24/2016 I hit my 2016 Squat Goal, the work I did that day was as follows: 4×10 @ Bar, 1×5 @135lbs, 1×5 @205lbs, 5×5 @225lbs
Deadlifts 11/12/2016 2×10 @Bar, 2×5 @135lbs, 2×5 @205lbs, 5×5 @ 225lbs (2016 Deadlift Goal)
Bench Press 11/26/2016 3×10 @Bar, 3×5 @135lbs, 1×2 @180lbs, 1×1 @180lbs, 5×3 @175lbs
Overall, taking this journey has been a rewarding experience. Through physical, mental and emotional challenges that I’ve encountered I have used the iron as an anchor and I learned a lot about myself. What I can go through and endure, what I can overcome. I feel like I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of my potential.
For me, I focused on finding balance between solid form and increasing the weight over time. For example, I follow the 5×5 routine. When I increase the weight, I would back it down to 5×3, focus on form and build back up to 5×5, rinse and repeat. This way, I was always making some form of incremental gains, either in weight, reps or both.
This isn’t anything groundbreaking or new. And that’s really the point of this post. You are going to have to put the work in. Don’t be fooled by the infomercials selling you the newest MMA based workout routine, or Yoga-Brazilian-Booty craze. You might see some movement in the short-term, which is good, but use that momentum to propel you forward. And keep moving forward!
It’s going to take hard fucking work to continue. None of this jumping around from workout to workout bullshit.
The only “magic” in it is dedication and commitment to your goals.
Day in and day out.
Keep. Moving. Forward.