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Gutted out one of the toughest workouts of my life.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

Squat area of my gym.

Squat area of my gym.

All of my workouts have been excellent so far on this cut, but the two leg training sessions leading up to yesterday’s workout were particularly noteworthy. Yesterday when I was heading into the gym I knew I was going to have a serious battle on my hands if I was going to best last week’s performance…

The leg workout I’m doing right now is very high volume (you can find the actual workout here), and very demanding. After checking some old workout logs, last week I realized that I’d just used more weight for 4 sets of 20 than I was using for 3 sets of 12 this past summer (and with less rest!) Because I hit all my target reps, this week I had to add even more weight.

I added 5 pounds to leg extensions and 5 pounds to lying leg curls, and hit my target reps (each 4×20, 60 seconds rest)–barely. The last few reps were extremely difficult, but that’s exactly what you want with this workout. Of course those two exercises are designed to pre-exhaust the legs before the Big Show: SQUATS. As you (hopefully) know, squats are a very demanding exercise under the best of circumstances; doing 4×20 reps on weakened legs is another whole level of pain. Toss in the added challenge of very short rest intervals and, well, you better be ready to work.

I was, in fact, in the mood to work. 😈 I decided to add another 10 pounds to my squats. I told myself before I started that I was not going to rack the bar unless I hit my target reps; anything short of that number and the safety spotters would be catching the bar.

The first two sets were very tough, but I was feeling good. The third set is where things got interesting. By the 10th rep I was hurting pretty bad. I have little mental tricks that help me when things get tough. Because I train alone, I have to be my own spotter/internal motivational voice. “Come on, five more reps!” I focus on the numbers, not the pain. Once I hit 15 reps I screamed at myself, “You’re three-quarters there–give me two more!” Bang! Bang! “Now what? You’re going to quit with just 3 more reps to go?!” 1…. 2…. 20!!!

I looked at the clock, and I knew that the 60 seconds was going to tick by in a flash. I sat down on the bench and tried to control my breathing and get ready for the last set of squats. My legs were shaking, I was drenched in sweat and my heart felt like it was coming out of my chest. 15 seconds to go. I got up, got in position under the bar and took a couple of deep breaths. This time I felt my legs going at 8 reps. At 12 reps I told myself “3 more – you can do it!” At 15 reps I said, “No racking the bar, you finish or you fall.” 16… 17…. I wanted to collapse–I thought for sure I was going to collapse. I told myself, “Mentally and physically these next three reps will benefit you more than all the reps you just did combined.” 18… 19… I don’t know how I got 19 up. My legs were shaking so badly that I thought I was going to fall straight to the floor. I went down for my 20th rep, and halfway up I stalled. I struggled at the halfway point for what seemed like an eternity… my legs were wobbling like jello in a wind tunnel and I felt like I was about to pass out. I screamed and pushed as hard as I could with the last bit of energy I had in my tank. The bar went up. Done.

That was one of the toughest workouts of my life.

John Stone Fitness Comments

7 Responses to “Gutted out one of the toughest workouts of my life.”
  1. Great and inspirational workout story, John! I think a lot of us can take it to heart and use it to help grind out the end of a tough workout.

    I wish I could have had that frame of mind when I was doing squats a year or so ago–I was on the last rep and struggling, and I finally had to drop the bar or collapse on the floor. Glad to hear a squat story with a happy and successful ending!

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  2. Huge respect for training this way…

    “A beginner does eight repetitions of a certain exercise with his maximum weight on the barbell. As soon as it hurts, he thinks about stopping. I work beyond this point, which means I tell my mind that as soon as it starts aching it is growing. […] The last three or four reps is what makes the muscles grow. This area of pain divides a champion from someone who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.” — Arnie

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