Movin’ on Up!

Exercise and going to the gym have become fun again.

The last few weeks weren’t rewarding because I felt like a weakling. There’s a sense of demoralization when you realize that you’re not as fit as you once were. But this past week I had very good sessions where I left feeling like I’m making progress. Today I went to the gym for weightlifting.

Barbell squat (warm up sets and 3x5x95)

Deadlift (warm up set and 3x5x125)

Dumbbell bench press (warm up set and 1x10x30)

I’m really happy with my new PR in dumbbell bench press. Last fall I had been stalling on the bench press (1-2 reps at 80 lbs). The usual advice for when you stall is that you deload and work back up to that set. Personally I find that this strategy doesn’t work well for me. Micro-loading (where you add very small amounts of weight) is another technique. I haven’t tried micro-loading simply because I don’t have little weights that I can add. Instead what I found very useful was to do a different variation of the exercise that I was stalling on.

Dumbbell variations are more difficult than the barbell version because the weight is unstable.  Saeterbakken and colleagues (2011) found that for the bench press, one can bench 17% more weight with a barbell compared when lifting with dumbbells. I’m sure the exact % difference between dumbbells and  barbell depends upon the exercise, but the study provides empirical support that dumbbell versions are harder and you can’t lift as much as the barbell versions.

I lifted 60 lbs total (30 lbs for each dumbbell) for 10 reps. When I’m able to do 10 reps, I go up to the next weight. Unfortunately the next weight up will then have me at 70 lbs total, which is a huge leap. But I do think that I’m in pretty good shape to see what I can do with 80 lbs for the barbell bench press. According to the study, bench pressing with 30-lb dumbbell is equivalent to bench pressing 70 lbs with the barbell. I can definitely bench more than 70 lbs; I’m at 75 right now. But I think the differential between dumbbells and barbell is greater than 17% for me (and the study was only done with males with weightlifting training).

I should try to calculate what the differential is for me some day.

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