Did You Take A Few Months Off?

All of us who've taken a hiatus from working out have probably suffered from what I like to call "Ego Tripping".   This is when you remember what you previously were able to do and you think you still can!  

Remember when you ran that half marathon 5 years ago.  You should probably be able to run at least 10 miles yet.  FALSE!

Remember when you bench pressed 225 pounds for reps in high school?  You're older and you weigh more now so you should be able to easily lift that.  EPIC FAIL!

In the last 6 months I really haven't lifted heavy weights.  I would still weight train, but not at the usually intensity or volume.  I had other focuses like work, family, house, upcoming kid, etc.  I did enough exercise to maintain my health and energy.  

This last week I got the urge.  Those who've trained hard and heavy no what I mean.  After a little time off it seems that one day your body and mind just tell you it's time again.  I've been down this road numerous times.  Periods where I lift heavy weight and then periods where I resemble a yogi and lose all muscle mass.  I've made numerous mistakes before when I've began to lift heavy again.  Similar to those examples above I would usually over estimate where I was at or I would progress myself too fast.  

I would like to think that I've finally learned my lesson after numerous times of thinking I'm immune to losing strength.  No more injuries, no more early plateaus, no more burn out due to ASSuming I could still lift 500 pounds.  

I'm actually doing what I have my clients do!  I'm following a program.  A well designed programs can keep you in check and prevent you from being Superman on day one.  A good program gradually increases your intensity, volume, and weights in a specific manner to limit the chance of injury and plateau.  

My goal as of this week was to get back into lifting heavy weight.  So the program that I started following is Jim Wendler's 5-3-1.  Jim was a powerlifter whose in the record books.  He's done it all in the sport and has made quite a name for himself not just in powerlifting, but also in the strength and conditioning world.  

I believe Jim's 5-3-1 program is the best powerlifting program for beginners and people getting back into powerlifting or heavy lifting.  The program is:

  1. Simple -based around 4 main lifts
  2. Doable- only 4 days a week
  3. Structured- percentage based
  4. Flexible- never ending varieties 

Those 4 aspects are a must when getting started again in an exercise program.  Whether it's powerlifting, Olympic lifting, bodybuilding, running, or sport specific training they are a must.

A simple program allows for multiple things to happen.  You are a able to focus on the core movements that make you stronger and or more in shape(whatever your goal is).  By just focusing on the basics you are able to retrain your body on movement patterns you probably perfected before, but need some reminding.  Also 90% of your gains come from the base movements.  In my case this is squats, deadlifts, horizontal and overhead presses. 

When getting back into an exercise program you have to make sure you can actually keep up with it.  Sounds simple, but most don't anticipate this potential problem.  P90X is one of the top home workout programs of all time.  However, numerous people I've talked to about it have only lasted a couple weeks. Why?  It's 6 days a week for an hour.  Most people don't have that time or the motivation to keep up with that.  Especially when you are just starting out again.  The makers of P90X are smart and developed abbreviated programs.

The 5-3-1 program I'm following is a four day a week program.  It gives plenty of time for rest and depending on my accessory lifts I can be done fairly quick.  

Structure is what most people lack when getting back into exercise.  Not so much in the sense of knowing what to do, but in the sense of how much.  How much weight, how many sets, how many reps, and how many exercises.  My fault is always in how much weight I choose to lift.  Jim's program is great for someone like me who wants to lift too much too soon.  The lifts are based off a percentage of your estimated max.  There are numerous formulas you can use to figure out your 1 rep max.  Jim suggests the following:

weight used x reps performed x 0.0333 + weight used = 1RM

Say you bench pressed 200 for 6 reps.  The formula would be 200 x 6 x 0.0333 + 200=240.  

The kicker is he then has you base your lifts off 90% of your one rep max.  For the above example the lifter wouldn't use 240 pounds, but 216.  Let's face it, we usually always over estimate our max or lose form when pushing near maximum weight.  By working off 90% of your max this allows you to keep form and prevents you from hitting a plateau early.  

Not to go into his whole program, I'll just lay out the percentages for week one using the above bench press example.

Set 1- 5 reps at 65% of of 216 = 140

Set 2- 5 reps at 75% of 216 = 162

Set 3 5 reps at 85% of 216 = 184

You can see how it is very structured.  Again, I love this concept for beginners or people getting back into working out.  When I'm consistently lifting I personally listen to my body more than percentages.  My body just lies to me when I'm getting back at it!

Lastly, is your program flexible?  We don't want it too flexible with the basic and the main structure.  However, we do need flexibility in the accessory lifts to specialize and to focus on your weaknesses.  This is the hardest part for abeginner and sometimes the advanced person to know what to do.  These accessory lifts are what pushes a person across that barrier from an average Joe who lifts to someone who is smashing their goals!  There are so many aspects that go into this.  Guess what?  That will be next week's blog!

Think about these 4 aspects and how they may apply to you.

Comment, Like, Share, and have a great week,

Mark Radio