Evaluation after 8 months of strength training


A review of current programming, results, injuries and future ideas

Now 8 months into my strength training experiment, it's time for another review. I've continued to follow a 5x5 program much like StrongLifts and bounce between 2 and 3 workouts per week. My confidence, ability to lift heavier weights and weight have increased but not at any incredible rate.

I've hit plateaus on all lifts now and have experimented with 2 different methods for moving past. The first method, as described by strong lifts, is basically to deload by 10% and work back up after failing at a given weight 3 times in a row. The second method is to deload by 20%/25% and perform 10 reps at this lower weight. The idea is to promote hypertrophy and that sets of 5 do not include enough volume to accomplish that as effectively. I gravitated to the lower weight and higher reps for a few reasons: I liked being able to concentrate more on form at the lower weights and with more reps, due to easier control of form I felt it was less likely to promote injury and doing so many more reps helped me be more familiar with the movements. Looking forward, I'll probably bounce between both methods and as long as I'm trying hard each workout I'm not too concerned over which is more efficient.

Injuries (Tweaks?)

My left knee, or somewhere just below my knee, experiences some discomfort after some sessions. I think that I have a tendency to collapse onto my left side a bit. So far the discomfort hasn't prevented me from doing any motions, but it certainly is noticed.

From climbing, I strained something in my right wrist in late December. This prevented me from doing barbell rows and deadlifts for a couple of weeks. I have a history of pain in my wrists and need to investigate more methods for training, rehabbing and avoiding this injury in the future.

Form progress and confidence

Squatting continues to be under review. Feet stance, lower back safety, torso lean, etc There are a lot of aspects where I still don't have a strong preference.

Overhead press was my first lift to stall and I used lower weight and higher reps to move forward. No serious thoughts on form right now, but I expect I'll need to focus when I hit the next plateau.

Barbell rows are honestly neglected more than any of the other exercises. Due to fatigue of being at the end? I'm not sure, but now with my wrist being tweaked am not in a position of confidence to pursue heavier weights and the corresponding form critique.

Bench pressing has steadily progressed and I'm currently trying to improve my ability to keep my lower body tight and involved as I push the barbell up. I've also become more comfortable with the practice of keeping my back arched and shoulder blades retracted and pulled towards each other.

Deadlifts are another exercise that I approach with caution as I worry about the strain I feel in my lower back as I approach weights that are difficult for me. A certain amount of strain is expected, but I think that I can do a better job of feeling the weight in my hips, hamstrings and glutes with more form review and adjustments.

Effects on climbing

Since September I've been back to lead climbing and have been happy with the progress. Without specific climbing training, I've still been able to get back to nearly my highest level of climbing performance at while weighing, at least, 10lbs more than before. Cardio has been almost completely absent from my training and there have been times when I really am fighting to breath as I climb. I hope to reintroduce some more cardio work into each week's training (intense yoga, focused ARC sessions and jogging) and see what effects are felt. Finger strength is also lagging a bit at my new weight. Another round of hangboard training will begin in mid-jan and last thru feb.

I do notice that my upper body feels stronger and on overhanging routes with large holds I feel more confident making big moves. Additionally, strength training's requirement of pushing closer to my absolute maximum output has helped me more consistently bring that attitude to climbing routes.