Keep Going And Power Through The Workout
Wasn’t it great to be young? To just go and go and feel like you will never give out? To practice football in the August heat in the morning and then do it again in the afternoon and then lift weights afterwards, and then do it again the next day and the next day after that. To be able to barbell squat heavy and then do it again in a few more days, to bench press every day and still get stronger, to go out partying with your friends and then have a great training session early next morning.
The years go by and sometimes, the bumps and bruises add up. My friend Rich Salke told me one time that a lifter has 20 years of hard training before the body starts to break down some, and after talking to a bunch of lifters that have put in the time, the axiom proves true, give or take a few years.
Just because you aren’t so young and spry as you used to be, you can still train, you just have to be a little smarter than when you were so young and dumb. You sometimes have to do some other things just to be able to train effectively, stuff that you wouldn’t do when you were younger, like warmups.
I usually squat on Mondays. This week, I decided to do some squats in my basement. I started thinking about the session the night before and I was determined to have a good one. The next morning before the workout I did a bunch of warmups with no weight and also stayed down in the bottom of a squat and pushed out on my knees. I did this for a long time, like 10 minutes. It seemed like it took 30 minutes to me because I absolutely hate to warm up except for a few sets of the exercise that I am getting ready to perform. But I felt like I needed to do all of that because I have some kind of groin pull that has been with me for years. I have to get it warmed up. And doing this also warmed up the quads. When my quads feel loose, my knees feel better. The knees are okay, just wear and tear. I think I have a slight meniscus tear, but it really doesn't mess with me much. Locks up after running, so I stopped running. Squat or run? Squats were my choice.
While I was warming up with no weight plates on the Olympic bar I laughed, recalling many years ago how my first set with (no warmup) was at times, 315 pounds. Maybe that contributed to my issues. It’s just that I always found warmups to be so boring.
After doing the no weight warmups, I put Inzer knee sleeves with Velcro on my knees and pulled them just as tight as I can. Then I took a super wrap (the ones you wrap your knees with) and I wrapped it just as tight as I could around my groin. As a side note, when I train other body parts, I also use sleeves. For the upper body, I put sleeves on my forearms sometimes, but usually I just put them on my elbows. The only time that I don't wear sleeves on my elbows is when I am doing biceps or back. It's the elbows on the pressing that need the sleeves. I highly recommend them for longevity and for support. I have had a couple of elbow surgeries and the sleeves really help with support. I wear a weight belt sometimes. It lets me use more weight but doesn’t make my back feel better using it. I had back surgery a few years back and the surgeon recommended that I wear a belt, but if I put it on too tight, sometimes It squeezes some nerve and that’s not pleasant. So, I’ll wear it when I go heavier, and I just move the belt around until it feels right.
Back to the squats. By this time, I’m mummified, but I can train. On the first set, I just called myself a wussy, took a huge breath and just went down. By the third set I got a little warmer but the groin and knees never really felt totally warm and lubricated, never 100%. It’s just the way it goes and I accept it. But you know what? I don’t care. I’m gonna do it anyway. What am I going to do, not train? If there is a way for me to train, I will find that way. I suspect you will also. It really is not that hard when one thinks about stuff that is really hard. I had a coach in college who said to a teammate when he was complaining about the heat, “Listen, dudes crawled out of rice paddies in Vietnam with their legs blown off, and you are worried about it being too hot?” Perspective helps. Think about it, our forefathers had it much rougher than we do. My parents were born right after the Great Depression. They went through many wars. They didn't have money, they never had it easy. Let me tell you, exercising just for the sake of exercising was unheard of back then. People were too busy just surviving, working and working. Go for a jog? I don’t think so. Everyone was tired enough just from life.
Can you train hard and not get banged up? Maybe you can. But depends on your definition of hard. Can you train steadily but never really push the weight and not get injured? Yes, you can, but you won't make gains. Plus, what is the fun in that? Shoot, you gotta go for that 500, 600, 700, 800 pound squat, don't you? You gotta see how muscular you can get, or if you can bench 315, 405 or 500! Do it while you are young and the joints feel great. Push it as hard as you can!
The way that I look at it is like this: I accept my body feeling like it got run over by a truck when I wake up in the morning because I chose to see how far I could take my body. I had to squat over 800, bench over 500 and deadlift over 700 in a meet. I absolutely had to and nobody could tell me differently. And when I think back on that meet where I accomplished my goals, I remember how fun it was and how happy that I was and how it was worth every minute of feeling this way to accomplish those goals.
So, now I change it up all the time. I do a mix of exercise machines and free weights, like barbells, dumbbells and even kettlebells, and my reps are usually higher and I focus on squeezing the muscle. However, I keep the squats around 5 reps and also the deadlifts. There is less chance of losing form doing low reps with the big exercises. If I have something that flares up, I will usually work around it and then push something else until something else gets irritated and I repeat the process. It's no big deal, it is what I have to do to keep it going, to keep training. And really, just to keep going, no matter what, to train and to keep training is what it is all about, isn't it?
About The Author
Jim Steel has been immersed in athletics and the Iron Game for most of his life. He has been a college football player and coach, powerlifter, Muay Thai fighter and is currently a competitive bodybuilder. In 1999, Steel was named Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania, and moved up to Head Strength and Conditioning Coordinator in 2004. He is the owner of the blog basbarbell.com, and is a motivational speaker, frequent podcast guest and the author of two books, Basbarbell Book of Programs and Steel Reflections. Steel is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association.