OK so before I start, I’m going to get a bit of rambling out of the way. Fair warning; this post is going to be long. You won’t miss much if you skip it, but it’s for my reference as much as anything else. It also just provides a bit of context for what I’m doing now for anybody who’s interested.
Training history -
Played sport as a kid, and through high school.
2012 – finished high school. At this point, I had never lifted, but always been active. Not ‘muscular’ by any stretch, but ‘athletic looking’ is probably a good way of putting it.
2013 – first year at uni. Spent the first half partying every weekend, eating way too much crap, stopped playing sport etc. I don’t know the numbers, but I undoubtedly gained fat and lost muscle during this period. Didn’t become massively overweight, just stopped looking athletic and started looking like a marshmallow.
Circa July/August 2013 – realised I couldn’t go on the way I was. I’d been walking past the campus gym on my way to class every day, so one day I actually stepped inside. Googled ‘how to lift weights’ or something equally moronic and was lucky enough to stumble on to T Nation. Never looked back.
October 2013 – Started my own bastardized version of a 5x5 program. This is when I started keeping a training log, so I can’t accurately comment on anything I might have been doing before then.
April 2014 – tore the EHL tendon in my right foot, had it surgically repaired, commenced a long rehab process. No squatting or deadlifting for 8 weeks, and then started with the empty bar and worked back up. The thing about this was that because I had been walking around in a moonboot type thing since my surgery, my hips were uneven. This meant I couldn’t hit depth when back squatting, so I tried front squatting and discovered that not only was it much easier to get to the proper depth, but the movement kind of felt ‘self correcting’ in the sense that my body almost had to sort its position out so it could actually complete the movement. On the other hand, I could just have kept grinding out uglier and uglier reps on the back squat until I did myself another injury.
Thanks to a good physio, my hips are pretty unfucked now. To this day though, I very rarely back squat. The front squatting is just a habit I never got out of – except throughout 2015 (keep reading)...
January 2015 – my university gym had to temporarily relocate due to construction work. They had very little space in the new location, so could only bring limited equipment. Somehow this meant I had access to a smith machine and a preacher curl rack but not a squat rack. They didn’t even bring a proper barbell with them (someone in the gym management hierarchy had really messed up priorities). I had to deadlift with an EZ curl bar. I also did goblet squats, kettlebell swings, and DB pressing from various angles.
I consider that two good things came out of this. Firstly, I started using the smith machine for hip thrusts. This turns out to be a really good idea that I might well not have stumbled on to otherwise. The second is that it really drove home to me that you can always find a way to train in a suboptimal environment. I spent that whole year with limited equipment, limited space, funny opening hours, inconvenient location and as many other things as I could find to complain about. But I made progress and I managed not to rip anyone’s head off.
In short: find a way. Not an excuse.
February 2015 – started playing football (soccer, if you prefer) again. I did pre season training the previous year, but then injured my foot and couldn’t play.
February 2016 – gym moves back into its proper location. I can finally (front) squat heavy (by my standards) again. At this point I was basically just doing 531, up until:
July/August 2016 – two surgeries in 5 weeks to repair an abdominal hernia. Once I got back into the gym I just radically lowered my training maxes on all my 531 lifts and went from there. I didn’t progress very fast, because it’s really taken me a while to feel confident in my ab strength. I’m getting there now though. This takes us up to when the gym closed for Christmas a month or so back. It reopened on January 9, which is when the current block of training started.