Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Weight Routine Adjustments

During the semester, I'm trying to get to the gym to do strength training at least twice a week. I don't always meet that goal, of course, but last week I finally used up the last blank on the chart I printed in August.

I work out with arms/abs and legs/back on different days, so these days I'm basically doing each one only once per week. This results in slow progress, but I'm still progressing, so that's good.

My arms/abs routine consists of assisted pull-ups, assisted dips, shoulder presses, one-armed rows, bench presses, and ab crunches (with weight). My legs/back routine has traditionally had squats, stiff-legged deadlifts, calf raises, and back hyperextensions. (The links are to pictures, most of them from the wonderful I do two sets of each thing, with about 8-12 reps per set, depending on what I can handle. When I can do two sets of 12 reps of anything, I increase the amount of weight I use, and for some of the moves, I increase the weight even earlier than that.

Up until very recently, I wasn't ready to try squats using a bar. I was just doing the squats with my body weight, and that was plenty. The first time I ever tried them, I did 5 or 6 and was basically crippled for a week. Now I can do two sets of 15! So it's time to move on to using a bar and, eventually, a bar with weights on it.

So last night I did a lot of experimenting, using the large aluminum bar at our rec center. The regular bars are made of iron or something, and they weigh 45 pounds, but this aluminum one is an easy-to-handle 15 pounds. I set everything up in the squat cage and had Mosch help me figure out the mechanics of the movement. I eventually did 2 sets of 10 squats with this bar.

Afterwards, I wasn't able to do the stiff-legged deadlifts, because my thighs were so weak that I couldn't stand without locking my knees, and that's not a good way to do those. The stiff-legged deadlifts are questionable in my mind anyway: they can be dangerous if you do them wrong (which is easy to do, it seems to me) and, although they are supposed to work your hamstrings (back of the thigh), the back hyperextensions seem to work my hamstrings much more.

So I think I'm dropping them from my routine completely. That pushes my legs/back routine down to just three things - squats, calf raises, and back hyperextensions. (I was able to do the calf raises and back hyperextensions even with my weak legs, so there's no major conflict there.)

I'm thinking of adding the machine that is for hamstrings and glutes to the routine to bring it up to 4 things again. I'm not sure what the machine is called, but it is similar to this picture. I don't normally use these types of machines, but I think it will help round out the workout, plus give me some intense work on that area (hamstrings are my primary concern, but anywhere I can build muscle is good).

Anyway, I absolutely love strength training. I don't like that my progress is so slow with it lately, but still, every other week or so I am raising at least one weight, and sometimes several, so things are going well.


sally said...

Just FYI - I read recently that it's better to use two individual barbells than one bar because people typically have a weaker and a stronger arm and the barbells make sure that one arm isn't compensating for the other. Probably a non-issue for the lower body program that you're talking about here - but I thought I'd mention it in case it ever does become relevant.

Tam said...

Thanks, Sally. I do use individual dumbbells for the shoulder press, but for the squats, calf raises, bench presses, pull-ups, etc., there is definitely a risk of one limb compensating for the other. I'm just hoping they'll each keep advancing anyway. I hate working with individual dumbbells!

Tam's momm said...

I hate working with dumbbells too, individual or groups.