Culinarily Adjacent FAQ: On Picking Up Heavy Things, and Putting Them Back Down Again

About 8 months ago we got married, which means that (accounting for vacations and lazy days) we’re coming up on 6 months of weightlifting, seriously, as beginners. After the honeymoon, with so much free time left over from NOT WEDDING PLANNING, we re-examined our lifestyle and thought it could use some more cross-training. I suggested some light weight training. Salt Boy inhaled everything reddit had to say on the subject, and came back with a plan. For more background and info, read as much of that link as you can.

We work out Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, in the evening after work. We start with 30 minutes of cardio (usually elliptical) to warm up before lifting. I really like Zombies! Run!, interspersed with bubblegum pop music during my cardio, but to each his own.

Then we do whichever of the following workouts we didn’t do last time (alternate).

Workout 1

Dumbbell Split Squats; 10 reps, 3 sets, 2 min rest in between each.

Dumbbell Bench Press; 10 reps, 3 sets, 2 min rest in between each.

Barbell Rows; 10 reps, 3 sets, 2 min rest in between each.

Workout 2

Barbell Deadlift; 10 reps, 3 sets, 2 min rest in between each.

Lat Pulldown machine; 10 reps, 3 sets, 2 min rest in between each.

Dumbbell Overhead Press; 10 reps, 3 sets, 2 min rest in between each.

In your first workout, calibrate by choosing something medium-heavy that you can lift 10 times in a row. Don’t stress about it being too light. If you can ever do all three sets of 10 (not 8, not 9, but 10) with correct form, then you’re lifting too light and you should add the next logical increment (5 lbs? 10 lbs? whatever the weights you’re working with will allow you) the next time you do that workout. Your goal is to fail at 8 or 9 with good form, because it’s slightly too heavy every week.

We keep a little paper notebook to help with our workouts. For each day of workout, we write the name of each lift and next to it the proposed weight for that lift. If it turns out I can make 10×3 repetitions, I write a little arrow next to the lift in the notebook after the workout. The next week, when it’s time to do that workout again, I look back and copy last week’s weights unless there was an arrow, in which case I write a proposed weight that’s larger. It’s useful to only increase one or two lifts in a workout per week. Above all, no injuries! These can come either from lifting with bad form or from dropping weights on your head or chest.

Salt Boy likes to watch youtube let’s-play videos of other people playing Europa Universalis VI or somesuch while he lifts. I just listen to more pop music. Or Hamilton. Having a training partner to enforce the commitment mechanism of going to the gym at the same time every week has been vastly important.

I should note: we use the little gym in our apartment building because it means we don’t have any excuses when it snows or rains. That means we don’t have a squat rack. We use dumbbells to substitute for some of the big barbell movements. It means we’re more symmetrical I guess, but someday we’ll have to upgrade to a real gym.

Here’s the multimedia portion. It’s really important to get your form correct. Really important. Youtube can help you with that.

To start doing squats, I think it was helpful for me to think about goblet squats with a bench or chair behind me. This video and this video are instructive.

Mark Rippetoe is a good teacher and hilarious. Here’s a video from him on deadlift form.

He’s kind of odd and he seems to be allergic to shirts, but Mark Herman puts out an astounding amount of quality content. Here’s his video on bench press.

There are a bajillion people on the internet (male or female) who want to show you a version of correct form for free, so there’s no excuse not to watch a few of them before you lift to make sure you have a good idea of what you’re supposed to be shooting for with your body. We tend to watch new videos each time, because you notice new things with different explanations and different people’s bodies. Here’s a lat pulldown video. And some woman doing a seated dumbell overhead press.  A really intense dude doing barbell rows. Goblet squats, or plain dumbell squat, or split squat. Or hey, bulgarian split squat.

Soon we’ll be out of our beginner program. We will want to tailor our lifting plan to more specific muscle groups, and move away from the big, all-purpose, lots-of-muscle-at-one-time lifts. It’s been a fun ride. There’s something about lifting 140 pounds of deadlift on a Friday evening, showering, and going to grab a drink with friends. It just makes you stand taller. And feel better about ordering the calamari to go with that cocktail.

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