Starting With Strength

Over the past few months, I have been trying to get bigger and stronger by lifting outside of my regular CrossFit classes. I sought out advice from some of my coaches and fellow gym members, which inadvertently opened the floodgates. While their eagerness to help is appreciated, it turned out to be too much data to process. I was trying to implement too many changes at once and saw little in the way of results.

I recruited my friend Rab to be my lifting buddy and we started with a recommended Power-Muscle-Burn program. We met two mornings a week. The first day was dedicated to chest and biceps and the second to shoulders and triceps. For example, the chest workout, courtesy of Muscle & Strength, consisted of the following:

Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press – Power 4 3 to 5
Incline Bench Press  – Muscle 2 6 to 12
Dumbbell Bench Press – Muscle 2 6 to 12

While it felt good to get in these extra workouts, I was very weary of the movements, especially the “skull crusher”. Laying down on a bench and lowering a barbell with weights on it to my forehead seems very risky. Both Rab and I have multiple degrees between us and we both value our brains. Neither of us were happy to endanger them.

We reassessed the situation and have decided to focus on the three lifts that make up the CrossFit Total: the back squat, press and deadlift. For the past month, we have been meeting twice per week at 6:45AM and driving over to the local L.A. Fitness, which has the necessary equipment and a low “bro” count in the morning.  One day is back squat and bench press and the other day is press and deadlift.

warmupThe first few weeks we just did a few warm-up sets and then did 5 sets of 5 reps for each movement. This morning, we made a small adjustment and followed the suggested warm-up sets calculated by Starting Strength Warmup, a mobile app. All you have to do to use the app is enter what weight you will be working with for your main sets then all of your warm-up sets are automatically generated. It is based on Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe, which I will discuss in subsequent posts.

Rab and I kept to 5 sets of 5 for our main sets for the bench press and the back squat today. We are now discussing whether to switch to just 3 sets of 5 as advocated by Rippetoe. Whichever we decide, it was a great way to kick-off the week.

2 thoughts on “Starting With Strength”

  1. I’m having the same problem with my strength. I guess in a way I’ve hit a plateau. Do you usually do this on days you don’t do the WOD? What’s your schedule? If you don’t mind me asking! I’m trying to workout my schedule…

    1. During the work week, I try to consistently lift outside the gym two mornings per week and go to CrossFit three evenings per week. So sometimes that means they overlap. I don’t have an exact system yet and need to explore that with my coach. To date, I haven’t found that doing two-a-days affects my performance during the WOD. The much larger factors are sleep (or lack thereof) and diet.

Leave a Reply