This past week was supposed to see me testing 8 lifts to get a sense of where I’m at & where I want to go. Had it all plotted out in my notebook. Neatly.

I tested 4ish. Then it turned into a deload week.

What happened is no reason that’s important to you, I guess. Life things. This is why I almost always regret making fancy plans & writing in my notebook in ink — I’m capable & willing to handle the plans, but some outside influence always rolls through to derail things. And then my nice notebook has a bunch of irrelevant shit scribbled in it. In ink. 

Fuck it, I only do this for exercise & fun. I’m not an athlete. On to the PRs. I’ll leave the only good one to last. Stick with me, it’s worth it.



Let’s get this out of the way: I press like your elderly gingersnap-baking nana with the pins in her hip. I know that. Working on it. I’m asking Santa for bigger & stronger shoulders next Christmas.

That said, I pressed 117#, a +5# PR from a few months ago. Got 120# halfway up but hit a sticking point. Someday I’d like to press the big-boy plates. Someday [he said wistfully, gazing out the window at the cold, unforgiving winter sky].


Front squat

I wasn’t going to test this in my original plan, because I don’t front squat that often.  In 2014 I probably front squatted maybe 2, 3 times. The original plan was clean & jerks. But the day I went to test, we were hit with a cold snap & it was 5°F in the garage. Just holding an iron bar without gloves hurts at that temperature. And I can’t clean with gloves on — I can barely clean without gloves. So I switched to front squats because why not.

You don’t practice, you don’t make progress. Front squatted 225#, only matching my old PR.  Dumped 235# onto the floor unceremoniously.  Just by virtue of having stronger legs, I should’ve beaten this. But I have little practice holding that much weight in the front rack position, so down it went. Fuck.



After the frustrating front squat crapfest, I threw some random weight on the bar & practiced some jerks. I kept the gloves on, which isn’t great, but it was too fucking cold to lift without them. Plus I was wearing a short-sleeve T, a long-sleeve T over that, & a thick hoodie over that, restricting my mobility a little. I figured I’d work up to a max if I felt OK.

Disappointed again. I split jerked 155#, only +5# from last test, & it was ugly as your elderly gingersnap-baking nana. Yeah, I said it. She’s not a looker.



This is the good one. I had an estimated 376# max, so wanted to pull something around that. Had some nice heavy warmup sets up to about 325 x 2, then started pulling singles. I matched my 355# PR, then got impatient & decided to make a big jump to 375#.

I couldn’t break it off the ground. I rested a few minutes, tried again. Couldn’t budge it. Rested & tried again. Couldn’t lift it.

I tried again like 2 or 3 more times. Nothing.

Finally I dropped the weight back to 365# & that was very tough, but it came right up so I felt I had a few more pounds in me. I rested a couple of minutes, put on 370#, & tried to lift it. Nope — wouldn’t break off the floor.

I tried again a few more times, but no. Wouldn’t come even a fraction of an inch off the mats.

This, I should point out, is far beyond the point where a smart person would’ve said Obviously I’ve hit my max, so I should go back inside. Really, after like 3 tries, you should be done. Every failed attempt is wasting ever more energy, so you just become increasingly tired & worn out. You have to call it a day & try another time, because it’s just not going to happen after a while.

Instead I took a minute, psyched myself up by reminding myself of some cues: don’t lift with your back or arms –push the earth away with your legs. I tried it again. Nope.

I tried again once more after a brief rest & it wouldn’t come up.

By this time I’d been out there in a cold garage trying to deadlift a too-heavy bar for an hour or more. I pulled my belt off & threw it in the corner, & started to put my things away in my backpack to go back inside.  At some point while I was doing this, I realized I had become incapable of leaving the garage until I lifted 370#.

So I put the belt back on, stood in front of the bar, & tried to lift it. It still would not move.

Without taking my hands off the bar, I adjusted my fingers, growled & said FUCK, then tried again. I could feel for moment the plates struggling against the pull of gravity, & then it was up. Once it was past my ankles, the rest was easy. I locked out that son of a bitch & set it back down. I’m just 30# away from 400. Hoping to hit that sometime early this year.

That’s also +15# more than the last time I tested in September.  I was all proud of myself for a while, walking around nodding to myself, like Yeah, you’re a badass motherfucker — then I saw a video of a 125-pound woman squatting that like it was nothing. It was a fun few minutes, anyway.


The rest of the lifts & what comes next

After that, the week became busy & I wasn’t able to exercise at all — & it was so cold that I couldn’t even ride my bike to work a measly 2 miles both ways.  I did nothing. Not even push-ups. I couldn’t test my squat, bench, clean, push press, & power snatch. I have ideas as to where they are, but I don’t know for sure. I guess that doesn’t matter. I don’t compete. This is all for shits & giggles anyway.

Moderately disappointed as I am, it’s still progress so I’m weak but happy. I was looking at my old numbers — my first maxes from when I started lifting in 2012. I don’t have all of them, but here are some relevant maxes from the first year. I’ll include bench even though I didn’t get to test it yet, because it’s seeing some improvement — plus it’s one of the few numbers I have from 2012:1

  • Press: 85# (I do that for easy reps over many sets now)
  • Bench: 125# (not a problem doing that for 10 over multiple sets now)
  • Front squat: 165# (very easy now)
  • Deadlift: 220# (sometimes I warm up with that now)

So as long as the numbers keep going up, I can’t really complain.

Now that testing week is over, it’s time for my another adventure. I’m doing a Smolov Jr. squat & bench cycle. Smolov Jr. is pretty intense (but not nearly as intense as the full Smolov program, which is advanced & for competitive squatters only, with weak dilettantes like me sometimes trying it once in a lifetime & never making that mistake again). It’s four days a week of squatting and benching, nothing else. No conditioning, no accessory lifts, no deadlifting, no WODs. Bench, squat, & eat. A cycle lasts 4 weeks. Not sure if I’ll do one or two cycles in a row. Depends on how it makes me feel. After that, I have planned a few cycles of a more complicated  variation on 5/3/1 with squatting 3x a week, cleans 2x, pressing 3x, & even some curls for arm size #gainz. GASP: Curls aren’t functional. But they make bigness. That might be nice.


  1. I have a squat number, but my squat was so pathetic then that I don’t really count it — my squatting wasn’t valid until a year or so in, after I finally figured out how to do them somewhat properly.