Training for pure strength has been a passion of mine for years. That’s why I was drawn to powerlifting in the first place. It’s a test of absolute strength in some of my favorite lifts (I’m still trying to make friends with the bench press) and the training itself is so different from what I’ve experienced in other sports.
But sometimes you have to color outside the lines and try something new. If all I ever did was focus on improving strength, I might never get to explore power exercises like med ball slams, satanic tools like the prowler, or mess around with bands, kettle bells, battle ropes and Airdyne bikes.
With a back injury that made lifting for absolute strength a no-no, I was forced to explore these other elements instead. Turns out, training for pure fun and enjoyment, plus physique was exactly what I needed to pull me out of my rut and help my recovery process.
Here are a few workouts I’ve done this past month, each with an element of Fun, Volume, and Build infused into it.
Workout 1: Upper body
A1) Incline Dumbbell (DB) Bench press 3×12
A2) Chest Supported DB row with 1-sec pause 3×12
A3) Chest Supported DB reverse flyes 3×10
B1) Hack squat 3×10
C1) Cable face pulls 3×12
C2) Decline push-ups 3×6
C3) Suitcase carry 3x a Distance that makes it suck
Workout 2: Lower body
A1) 5 Rounds of Power clean complex of 1 shrug + 1 high-hang + 1 mid-hang + 1 Front squat
B1) Walking DB lunges 4×20
B2) Barbell Hip Thrust 4×15
B3) Farmer’s carry 4x Distance
Workout 3: Upper Body + Conditioning
A1) Pull-ups (alternating grips per set) 3xAMRAP
A2) Elevated push-ups 3×12
B1) Inclinde DB press 3×8-12
B2) One arm DB row 3×12
C1) Chest supported revere DB flyes 3×12
C2) Side plank with leg raise 3x20seconds
D1) Prowler sprints for 3 rounds at 135lbs
Workout 4: Lower body + Conditioning
A1) Barbell back squats 4×8-10
B1) Speed deadlifts 3-4×3-5
C1) Walking DB lunge 3×20
C2) Cable pull-throughs 3×15
C3) Swiss ball plank 3x 20sec
D1) Row 150m + 15 wall balls for time (10 minutes)
Fun, Volume and Build
You may be wondering where the Fun, Volume and Build is so let me clarify.
FUN is anything that involves an element of play at the end of my workout. The prowler sprints, wall balls, and even the back squats are things I consider “fun” but this could really be anything you simply enjoy. Plug it in at the end of your session.
VOLUME has everything to do with the number of sets, reps or rounds I’m doing. Given that I rarely lift for more than 5 reps (because powerlifting), doing anything in the 12-20 rep range felt like cardio to me. Doing 4 sets of 10-rep back squats, for example, is an example of this, but you can manipulate it however you want. Volume feels brutal but it’s effective in shedding fat and building an athletic physique.
BUILD is the emphasis on muscle building. Sticking to compound movements that build muscle and strength with a few isolation exercises sprinkled in (like lunges, chest presses and DB flyes) I got to build up my physique in the areas I felt needed a bit more focus.
When our focus isn’t solely on competing, we have to find creative ways to keep us excited and inspired to train. In six months, I’m sure my training will look a lot different, but this is what has been working for me since my back injury in April.
(NOTE: I was seeing a physical therapist and a trainer before I started heavy weight training again or infusing a lot of volume. These workouts are NOT a workaround for an injury. Heal up first!)
Adding in conditioning at the tail-end of my workouts serve as my “cardio” and they’ve been instrumental at helping me shed some body fat that had accumulated during Purgatory (the time between being injury and unable to workout so I sat at home feeling sad and eating chocolate).
Time to go get ’em!