Tomorrow my friend James and I have an opportunity to put in a longer than usual lift. We get together at least twice a week to pull iron, usually Tuesday and Thursday, and very often Saturday as well. Tomorrow happens to be Tuesday. Tuesday sessions are always followed up with a protein-heavy BBQ (so are Saturdays, to be honest… we like BBQ).

Our Tuesday sessions lately have also included a round of Rory McIlroy PGA Tour on the Xbox after the lift and meal. It’s a nice little ritual. We put in a lot of work, but we enjoy ourselves. It’s something we both look forward to.

All major food groups represented.

This past weekend I was away at a cottage, so naturally we didn’t get an opportunity to lift on Saturday. And since we have a bit more time tomorrow, I figure it’s an opportunity to enjoy a more substantial training session.

The plan is to work through a full body workout, but with a slight emphasis on the deadlift and bench press.

I like to start all my training these days with banded warm-ups. They help me warm up my shoulder for a wide range a movements, whether pulling, pushing, or gripping the barbell comfortably for a low bar squat. I take a light band and loosen up my shoulders for roughly five minutes. This would typically include movements like face pulls, band pull-aparts, banded rows, and band pass throughs.

I won’t include warm-up sets below, but I’ll surely include them in the workout I complete. Complete as many warm-up sets as you deem necessary for the barbell lifts.


  • Squats: 3 sets of 5 reps
  • Pull-Ups: 1 set of AMRAP (as many reps as possible)
  • Inverted Rows: 1 set of AMRAP
  • Barbell Bench Press: 5 sets of 3 reps
  • Incline Bench Press: 2 sets of 12 reps
  • Deadlifts: 1 x 5
  • Banded Deadlifts: 2 x 10
  • Barbell ‘Cheat’ Rows: 2 x 5
  • Strict Barbell Rows: 1 x 12
  • Push-Ups: 2 sets of AMRAP
  • Pull-Ups: 1 set of AMRAP

Good old fashioned hard training. Any questions?

Ready to put in work at ‘The Office’.

It’s been a while since I’ve written. I don’t exactly know why I stopped, but here I am, once again posting. Something triggered me to write today. I’m not going to dwell on what that trigger was, I’m just going to ride this motivation train, and see where I end up. See if I can keep the momentum alive past one post. Wish me luck.

A New Decade Begins

2020 has been great so far. The year started with Liz and I wrapping up a trip to the US South-West. We spent Christmas in San Diego, where we celebrated my parents 50th anniversary with our extended family. We had a blast hanging with cousins and nephews. Although we ate and drank too much, sporadic walks peppered our schedule, hedging some of the negative activity. And either way, it was a vacation, with the family together. Our intention was to live life, and so we did.

As part of the visit, we took a spectacular – albeit short – road trip through Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. The landscape was absolutely breathtaking. We found ourselves constantly in awe and appreciation of the hues of red that cover the dessert. I simply can’t get enough of this landscape.

Well, it’s back to reality now. The vacation offered a small break from heavy lifting, but I’ve been back to the barbell the last few weeks, slowly ramping up the workouts. Training has been productive and enjoyable lately. I’ve been working on checking my ego at the garage gym door, attempting, though not always succeeding, to stick to appropriately heavy weights. This approach has certainly contributed to lowering instances of injury, and helped me maintain a more consistent and predictable regiment into the new year.

Brief Deadlift Update

I’m happy to note I have now surpassed a 400 lb pull. In fact, I’ve since gone as high as 420 lbs, though I would be lying if I told you my form was on point. If all goes well, I’d aiming to pull 425 lb+ on my 35th birthday, coming up in less than two weeks. And for the end of this year, the goal is to hit 450 lb for a single. Safely! May as well record this goal here and now.

What’s Next?

Honestly, I don’t know. I want to continue to leverage this blog as a forum to practice my writing, express myself, and hopefully, share some useful anecdotes with readers along the way. Maybe this morning’s post will act as the catalyst for many more. Maybe not.

September 2020 update: here’s a shot repping out a few deadlifts @ 405 lbs.

For the past year or so I’ve been working towards achieving a 400 lb one-rep max deadlift. This would represent a fairly significant lift for me, coming in at roughly 2.5 times my body weight. Thus far, however, the lift has eluded me.

In November 2018 I thought I was coming close, pulling 385 lbs off the floor. This PR (personal record) was set shortly before my wife and I departed on our two-week honeymoon. Although not a terribly long break, I disappointingly found my deadlift lost some steam when I returned. Disheartening? Sure. Part and parcel of the game? Definitely.


The process to improve strength is slow and arduous. Many factors can slow progress, or even set you back all together. If you’re like me, these moments will test your resolve to maintain your program or routine. Changes can be so slow that it can prove difficult to remain motivated, but ultimately it’s the consistent work that compounds over time that provides meaningful results. Easy to understand. Difficult to accept.


In recent months I’ve been improving my five rep max, recently hitting 375 lbs on that lift alone (though to be fair, the five reps were ugly, and I used straps for assistance). I haven’t attempted a single rep max deadlift in many months, though I suspect I’m now approaching the 400 lb mark. That said, given the inherent risk in heavy deadlifts, I’m not rushing towards this target. Rather, I’m taking my time progressing, and will attempt a PR once I feel I confident I can safely execute it. Regardless, progress is being made.

A Note on Tracking

Tracking has helped me recognize and appreciate the often small, incremental improvements I make. A couple of months ago I started using Gravitus (no affiliation), an incredibly intuitive app that helps me quickly record my reps and sets. When I start an exercise, Gravitus will automatically show the previous weight, sets, and reps performed previously (and the date on which they were performed). This has proved indispensable in ensuring I continue to properly challenge myself week to week, something that can be difficult to do when you primarily work out at home, alone.

Enjoying the Process

Coming to peace with the fact that muscle growth is slow, and only gets slower the further you improve, has helped reduce my obsession with constantly achieving new heights. I certainly wish to set new records often, but I understand that PR’s will be harder and harder to obtain the more experience I accumulate. And at some point, I will inevitably peak. Does that mean I stop resistance training when I can no longer improve? Hell no. If anything, weight training becomes even more critical – helping slow muscle atrophy.

And so I do my best to avoid being singularly focused on PR’s. Instead, I’ve come to love the challenge, love the process, and love the weekly grind. I’m energized knowing that I’m putting in the work day-after-day that other folks can’t, or simply aren’t willing to.

If it were easy, we’d see many more individuals deadlifting 400 lbs, but we don’t. And honestly, I don’t want it to be easy. The harder the challenge, the more satisfying the reward. Bring it on.

I can’t wait any longer. My intention was to use this two-week trip as a complete break from barbell training. Get out of my routine, and give my body a break from the heavy squatting and pulling. We’re now on the eleventh day of our vacation, and the iron is calling my name.

Today we leave our cottage outside of Halifax and head into the city centre where we’ll spend our next three nights. Since we have a number of spare hours today between the checkout at the cottage and check-in at the Airbnb, our plan is see if we can drop-in at a local gym for a workout. Assuming we’re successful and locate a gym today, I’ll have enjoyed a solid ten day break from any heavy lifting. Not the complete two weeks as originally intended, but a solid rest period nonetheless.

If and when we find a gym we can use, I want to ensure I cover the main compound lifts. The core of the workout will therefore look something like this (specifically, the working sets):

  • 5 x 5 Squat
  • 5 x 5 Overhead Press
  • 5 x 5 Barbell Row
  • 2 x 5 Deadlift

It’s a simple workout, but it covers everything I need. Squating, pushing, pulling, and finally, hinging. Of course, I may chose to add some accessory exercises to the workout, but the overwhelming majority of benefits will stem from completing these primary compound lifts alone. They are the unsexy, no bullshit lifts. They are fundamental, tried and tested. They are relatively simple to learn (though the squat in particular can take years to really master), and translate directly to actual day-to-day human movement (dare I say ‘functional’?!). Why would I use anything else?

I’ll keep you posted.

Update – Later that day…

We ended up at the GoodLife in the Clayton Plaza in Halifax (for those who might be familiar with the area). The staff was extremely friendly, especially a young gentleman who was very helpful.

The workout didn’t unfold exactly as planned, but it was decent and I’m glad I went. In the end it was just five working sets of squats and overhead press, plus two sets of pull-ups. Got the push, pull, and squat, but missed the hinge. If we have time, we’ll come back once more for a deadlift session.