Getting large and in charge

So, rather than start out with a nerdy post, like I originally intended, its late and I desperately need sleep, but I thought I’d mention my first (significant) quantifiable progress.

Around the start of the year, I came across the writings of Mehdi from, and thought I’d give it a go. Where previously I’ve been a keen, if somewhat sub-par participant, in CrossFit, due to a factor of limited time, money, and desire for a (short) workout that is rote, process-driven and quantifiable, I decided I’d try a 5×5 routine.

The idea of Stronglifts 5×5 is that you start ultra light, adding 2.5kg to a number of fundamental free-weight exercises every couple days, aiming for measurable, constant, positive progress where you’re ignoring chasing chiseled abs and pure aesthetics, in favour of a pure strength focus.

While the first few days I was thankful that I wasn’t in a public gym (I have the blessing of a little home gym in our apartment complex with a squat rack included) because doing 20kg back squats is unlikely to earn much respect, I’ve resisted the temptation to fast forward the process, and have more or less exactly followed the recommendations of Mehdi’s stronglifts smartphone app (about the simplest, best designed app I think I have ever seen btw). Even including a couple weeks off while travelling and a persistent left shoulder injury (I fell over skiing at walking speed, and totally wrecked myself), I’ve been making decent progress.

And so it came to be that a couple weeks ago, I stepped up to the squat rack, aiming for a body-weight squat, at 85kg. Busting, straining, and tomato-red in the face, I ground out 5 sets of 5 reps, with what I believe was decent technique – FOR THE WIN! Extremely happy with myself, I jumped on the scales, only to have my heart broken as they registered me at 86.4 kg!!

Still happy, but feeling mildly, hilariously, cheated, I came back the next two sessions, hitting 87.5 and then 90, respectively, including the mandatory boomshakalaka-fist-pumping-fuck-yeah moment when I hit first the heavier-than-body-weight goal, and then the nice round 90kg goal.

A few days break due to work deadlines and some poor time management meant that I had to lower the weight again (a recommended de-load, again, following Mehdi’s app’s recommendations and not trying to let my ego get in the way), but I’ve worked back up and, after deciding to intentionally plateau at the same weight for a couple sessions to let my body settle a little, today I hit my 3rd session of 5×5@90kg back squat while at a body weight of about 86.

While I know that this hardly counts as an impressive lift to anyone serious about strength training, I felt like this experiment is working to cement in me the idea that

  • having a plan (or program),
  • trusting in that plan,
  • believing in and sticking to the plan, even when encountering bumps and setbacks,
  • and keeping a track record of results (progress?),
  • while making informed adjustments where necessary

can  indeed result in steady, pleasurable, measurable improvements.

Oh, and shout outs to my mate J.L. for his pep talks, motivational discussions and dietary and lifting advice.


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