This post is rather lengthy, so feel free to skip whatever sections bore you.
What’s the sensible thing about?
I recently experienced some nasty hip pain that put me out of commission for a week...and then some debilitating knee pain that took me off cardio and leg work for a week.
Thankfully, I learned some physical therapy exercises (anyone else here use the foam rollers?) which, if I dedicate about a half hour to 40 minutes a day to doing them right, leave me pain-free--and took care of my plantar fascitis, which I've had for years as an annoying but rarely debilitating pain that had ceased to respond to the usual calf stretching.
It feels great to be pain free, and I just saw an orthopedist today who said my knee is completely normal, that I am in great shape and have excellent muscle development
, and that I have the go-ahead to resume training as usual! That being said, however, I shouldn’t squat below parallel (and preferably not beyond 45 degrees), I should not lunge too deep, and I should keep my weight light and my reps high. Fine by me, since my legs are my bulkiest feature. I’m not saying this to put myself down, just as a statement of fact—I’d like to build more symmetry by building my upper body and calves. But back to the training plan…
What’s the clever thing about?
I have a sneaking suspicion that these PT exercises are going to be a necessity for a looooong time, perhaps indefinitely. That’s 30-40 minutes to tack on to my workout. My current routine involves an hour to 1:15 to warm up and get done with weights, followed by 35 minutes of foam rolling and stretching, followed by 20 minutes of cardio. You can see that takes over 2 hours if done properly. I want to keep the workouts to 2 hours from entering the gym to hitting the shower. That’s the clever part…and it’s sensibly so, because limiting the length of workouts is practical not only time-wise but as a way to guard against further injury.
OK, so what’s the new routine?
Big picture: between July 29 and the end of the year (this week is dedicated to finishing out the last week of this training cycle), I will complete two 10-week training cycles with the 11th week devoted to rest (whether I do cardio during rest weeks remains to be determined). That leaves Xmas week available for rest, which works perfectly, as I intend to fly to MA to visit family during that time.
What the split looks like: I’ve been doing a total split routine for the past year and a half or so (i.e. chest and biceps; butt, legs, calves, and abs; back and triceps; butt, legs, calves, and abs; and shoulders). I’m going to do an upper-lower split instead for two reasons: from what I’ve read, it’s important to change the split up every so often, and because I am prone to left shoulder and neck pain, which I think may be somewhat relieved by spreading the types of upper body stress around instead of devoting an hour straight to shoulders, chest, or back. So here’s the split for the first 10-week cycle (may use for the second or go back to total split):
M: butt, legs, calves, obliques (stationary lunges, bent-knee calf raise, leg press, and trunk twists)
Tu: chest, back, shoulders, bis/tris (lat pulldown, pushups on medicine ball, db shoulder press, seated dip machine, 21s)
W: rest (12 hour work day)
Th: chest, back, shoulders (incline press, narrow grip pullup, rear delt machine, decline press, cable pulldown)
F: butt, legs, calves, abs (hack squats, SLDL, decline crunch, wall sits, and standing calf raise)
Sa: chest, back, shoulders, bis/tris (bench press, cable row, db shoulder press, hammer curls, and rope pushdowns)
Su: rest (leisurely hike, bike, or recreational activity optional)
I’ve reduced the number of shoulder exercises from 6 to 3 (eliminating shrugs, which I am sure aggravate the shoulder-neck pain, front raises, because I think front delts may be sufficiently targeted by the incline press, lateral raises, which I’ve replaced with the overhead press on another day, and rear delt rows, for the same reason as shrugs--we'll see how the rear delt machine is). I’ve added one chest and one back exercise for a total of 4 per week (was 3 before) and reduced tris and bis from 3 per week to 2.
The cardio will be interval training on upper body days and steady state on lower body days. During every workout, I will listen to my body and stop what I’m doing if it hurts. Failure to do this is what resulted in my having to lose time in the gym and go through a lot of knee and hip pain! I humbly acknowledge I am out of my twenties and cannot afford to ignore my body when it tells me “Holy f#@%, that hurts!” and that exclamation comes from a joint rather than a muscle.
Finally, I will follow Saturday’s workouts with a gentle yoga session at my gym—very relaxing and stretching-oriented.
What the cycle looks like:
51 reps total per exercise; 5 exercises per weight training session (has been 6—this will help with cutting down workout time).
Week 1: 3 sets of 17 (no warm-up set necessary—aiming for 2 minutes on the wall sits)
Weeks 2-4: warm up set of 15, 3 working sets of 12
Weeks 5-7: warm up set of 15, 4 working sets of 9
Weeks 8-10: warm up set of 15, 6 working sets of 6
Week 11: rest
EXCEPTION: first 5 weeks, lower body work will remain at 3x17; second 5 weeks will have a warmup set of 15 and 2 working sets of 12. I think my calves and abs may respond better to higher reps throughout...I've heard this may be so for some folks.
What the workouts look like:
5 minutes cardio warm up
45 minutes weights (no rest between sets—using super sets)
35-45 minutes foam rolling (physical therapy) and stretching
20 minutes cardio (intervals or steady state)
5 minutes cool-down
On Saturdays, 1 hour yoga class
Discussion of food plan/approach and the "why" behind keeping a training journal/my goals for this "challenge" of sorts will be delineated in future posts. I'm open to feedback and looking forward to sharing my journey!