Discovering life beyond the barbell / by Dana McMahan

531 Go

I like my training just fine – the bodybuilding style is hard enough to make me feel like I’ve accomplished something every time I walk out the door and even my dad, who has rarely commented on the way I look, told me this weekend my legs look more muscular than before, so clearly it’s getting results. But I never pay any attention to what the weight I’m moving is because there are so many other factors. And I miss the chase, the work toward a number. Bench is the only remaining powerlift I can still do, and even that is altered – I have to press with my feet on the bench, which is a definite handicap.  Taking away the power of my legs to drive as I press leaves all the work to my shoulders, chest, triceps, biceps — a lot of smaller muscles. This means my numbers are down from before, even though I think my upper body strength is probably back to my earlier level.

Anyway, I’m still determined to bench at an ‘elite’ status (I’m one pound away from ‘advanced’ starting out with my current 100lb max). It may take a year or more, but if I learned anything, it’s to let things take the time that they should. My shorter-term goals are to bench bodyweight by my birthday and 115 by the end of the year. Brian’s big goal this year is a 300lb bench, and when you factor gender and bodyweight into the equation, that’s equal to 115 for me, so we’re training together on our goals, using the classic Wendler 5/3/1 program.

I started it yesterday on a 90-degree day in our garage and was immensely gratified to see the look on Brian’s face after my final set. It’s the last set, where you go all out for as many reps as possible, that “puts the hair on your chest,” according to Wendler. I was pressing 75 lbs. I’d done 5 and Brian, spotting me, said “3 more.” I kept going at 8, so he said “two more.” His hands hovered, ready to take the bar after 10 but I shook my head violently and pressed another, slowly and gasped NO, one more, so he would leave the bar alone. The final rep crept up slowly but surely and I whooped as I got up. I’d done 12, even without assistance from my legs. For a few moments I didn’t feel like damaged goods. I felt strong and in business. Brian’s eyes were wide. He hadn’t seen me bench in almost a year. “Your arms …” he said, trailing off. “They looked like a guy’s.” Only in my little world would that be a compliment coming from a husband.

I know it will get harder every week – the first week on 5/3/1 is the easiest. I can’t wait.

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One response

  1. Citlali T Contreras Moreno

    It’s a great feeling, that of demanding more and getting it done! Congratulations, and keep lifting “like a guy”

    May 7, 2012 at 8:26 am

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