Most of my life whenever I have done some amount of exercise, usually, they have been isolation exercises that target individual body parts. Isolation exercises were too overwhelming for me…. there are many of them. I was frustrated not knowing which is the most effective. Plus I did not have time to be in the gym for an hour every day, which I would have to do if I wanted a uniform body.. Not like you see people with big arms, thin legs and narrow chest or big chest and thin legs.
With that in mind I looked around and came across compound exercises. These exercises affect multiple body parts at once. Next question was “What are these compound exercises and which ones are most effective?”.. I got on the web and started exploring for my answers. I came across StrongLifts5x5 by Mehdi, which had squats, bench press, overhead press, barbell rows, and deadlifts. To prove to myself that I am on the right path I researched the benefits of every exercise that is mentioned in the StrongLifts5x5 program. To my satisfaction the benefits were what I was looking for. So, I decided to give it an honest try last year and was impressed with the results. Exercises are short, effective and I started feeling stronger.
However, after 6-8 weeks I started hitting my max capacity, which was not a lot. I figured I did not have the base strength. Not that the program was not working, but I felt I was weaker to start with. No worries… I sat down and clarified few things for myself. I started laying down clear goals like do I need to gain strength, lose weight, or lose fat.. or even work on increasing my endurance. Here’s what I came up with
- Strength and Muscle gain
- Strong Back
- Strong Core
- Strong legs (especially knees)
- Fat loss
Lesson Learned: Having clear health goals will help to define your path
I was not overly concerned about the weight, which was almost 170lbs. A little on the higher side, but I thought if I could bring down the fat around my abs, which was quite a bit, I should be able to bring down the weight too. Even though muscle gain could have offset that because muscles weigh more than the fat.
I did not want to get too bulky like Wolverine or Thor :) (wish I had the height haha) but I wanted to gain some muscle and strength. Clearing my focus surely helped in embracing the StrongLifts program. You can read the StrongLifts5x5 Guide, which is a free download where Mehdi explains the after effects in plain simple words. **No I am NOT affiliated to StrongLifts or a close friend of Mehdi**.
Ok, I cheated a bit with the StrongLifts program this year. I added some cardio between the gym days. I also used machines instead of olympic bars. Agreed, I may not have gained as much strength but there were limitations on my side too. They were
- Not enough base strength
- No gym near me that had squat rack or power rack
Lesson Learned: Acknowledge your constraints/limitations
So I modified the StrongLifts5x5 program to suit me by finding similar machine exercises. However, I religiously exercised every week, 6 days a week for 12 weeks, 3 days of strength training, and 3 days of cardio. Details on the training regimen will be in my next post.
5×5 means 5 sets of 5 repetitions each
Squats – 50lbs
Chest Press – 50lbs
Lat Pulldown – 50lbs
Leg Press – 70lbs
Machine Rows – 50lbs
Shoulder Press – 30lbs
Lesson Learned: KISS – Keep It Sweet & Simple
I went to the gym before coming up with my starting weights because I did not want to start too light or too heavy. As long as I could do 5×5 comfortably without feeling too much stress on my body I was good. You will have to be your own judge. Don’t feel discouraged if you cannot start at 50lbs. For example, I had to start my shoulder press at 30lbs because 50lbs was way too heavy. Shoulders were my weakest link and I knew that.
Guess what??? :) After 12 weeks I surprised even myself :) :)
Squats – 130lbs
Chest Press – 125lbs
Lat Pulldown – 120lbs
Leg Press – 155lbs
Machine Rows – 150lbs
Shoulder Press – 90lbs
I will be switching back to StrongLifts5x5 exercises starting next week. I hope to get better and better. I am also working on changing my diet, which I will share with you too. So hang on… while this journey continues..
Lesson Learned: Being healthy is a journey… not a destination
Please share this post with your social network. What did you do when you started your exercise? I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.