Looking back on the year I’m pleased with the training and productivity I’ve had. A big thing is that we moved beyond bad sleep, although Ruby is still prone to wake up 2 or 3 times per week at some early morning hour…like 1 AM. This is pretty terrible, to be honest. I’m not a fan of interrupted sleep, that is for sure. But, most of the time we get back to bed.

That means, training progress. And this year I finally figured out how important recovery is and stopped pushing myself unnecessarily. Two days per week weight training is just fine for me. But beyond that, something happened to me in June. First, I hurt my back lifting too heavy. This is where I really learned the pushing lesson.

How much weight do I need to lift?

See, that is the question. It’s not much. I’m a dad, a husband, an office worker…I’m not a football player. I want to feel strong and vital and have energy for life. Heavy training pushes the risk to reward ratio outside the favorable area and it just isn’t worth it.

The simple program

Sometime during the year I watched this Elliot Hulse video about four exercises to be really strong. This video was like the saturation point for me that made it all click. It combined a lot of the education I’ve gotten in physical culture and gave me a framework to apply it all. Four big exercises: Dips, chins, deadlift, squat.

I’ve modified it to be movement. So a deadlift could be a double clean, a swing, or a snatch…or just a deadlift. Likewise the squat could be a pistol, a goblet squat, a front squat, a cossack squat, and so on. Then I combined this with a 5×5 type program. Finally, I made it into a circuit to save time and give me more cardio. I’ve written about this for the past six months and it’s been working great.

Hitting all the angles

I have a few recipes that I’ve kept for a decade or so. They change slightly over time. The same thing is happening with this training. It is continually evolving to become more effective for me and I’m changing exercises from time to time. I’ve even started doing curls again. And tbar rows. Curls are more of a pulling auxiliary movement but in my mind they help to pull back my shoulders and I like the carrying strength they provide. Tbar rows also help with the posture and are just plain fun.

As I’ve modified my routine, I’m starting to hit angles I haven’t hit in a long time. It started with a strange desire to do the incline dumbbell bench press. That got me to thinking–what other angles am I missing? Then I started thinking about hack squats. Of course, people talk about knee issues with these, but if you stay light and keep good form they strengthen the knees.

Getting variety

In the circuit I have right now, I just repeat all the exercises. Now, I’m thinking I’ll plug in different exercises in the subsequent circuits. If the circuit contains all movement-based exercises, you just plug in different exercises that target the same movement. So, floor press for the first circuit, then incline press, then bench press, then dip.

The point of this isn’t to get super strong, it’s to be really strong and have good endurance and get a workout in with limited time, typically 20-25 minutes per session.

Ideas to try this

If you want to try this, check out my progressing with 5×5 post. A big caveat to this whole thing is that each exercise is executed with full concentration, proper breathing, and an expansive I’m getting stronger focus. Lastly, I do a lot of relaxed stretching with my kids around, I take about 10-20 minutes on a third day of the week. So I’m putting in about 60 minutes of focused time and maybe an hour of incidental whenever I have time stretching throughout the week.

The other caveat here is that I’ve built up a lot of training time on each of these exercises so I don’t have to learn new movements. Most of them I have tried at one point or the other.