7 Months of Lifting At Home

I picked up a new hobby this year 1! For years I viewed weightlifting as a form of benefial drudgery that I occasionally tolerated but one I have mostly avoided post-college. Then last November I joined a cross-fit style gym and was introduced to Olympic/Powerlifting style barbell lifting. The gym didn’t stick for reasons that had more to do with schedule than anything else, but I pulled my favorite part of it out and have been consistently doing barbell lifting at home since May.

My home gym setup

This has been an unexpectedly rewarding experience for me. It’s allowed me to develop a consistent exercise routine with 2 kids in the house (something thats eluded me since Elena was born 4 years ago), reminded me that I can still learn new things at 35, and helped me feel physically the best I’ve felt in a decade. My original goal was to help myself have energy for my kids, and I definitely think I’ve achieved that.

I’ve been running through the Starting Strength program, unmodified for 3 months and then shifting to a 4 day schedule for the last 4 months. In practice this meant primarily focusing on 5 exercises: the Squat, Bench Press, Overhead Press, Deadlift and Power Clean 2. Initially the schedule looked like this, alternating between A & B 3 days a week

Workout A Workout B
Squat 3x5 Squat 3x5
Bench Press 3x5 Press 3x5
Power Clean 3x5 Deadlift 3x5

Doing that much squatting became exhausting around the summer, the workouts became long as I needed longer breaks between sets and I decided I wanted a bit more upper body focus (and better legs for when I was playing basketball and going for walks). So I switched to a 4x a week schedule:

Tuesday Wednesday Saturday Sunday
Squat 3x5 Bench Press 3x5 Deadlift 3x5 Bench Press 3x5
Power Clean 3x5 Press 3x5 Light Squat 3x5 Press 3x5

Those are the core lifts – this doesn’t include warmups (I usually did a Peloton strectch workout and worked my way up to heavy weights) or accessory exercises (I tried to do rows / ab workouts / pushups on days I was feeling good and having time in the 4xweek schedule)

Because I had effectively never trained for any of these lifts in a serious way before, I got to see a lot of relatively easy progress just from staying consistent in lifting. The chart below shows the change in my 5 rep max #s throughout the year (these are training numbers – I haven’t been trying to set up for specific max attempts).

Screenshot on 2022 12 28 at 13 25 00

Other than a lag in August / September when I traveled and then got sick, I’ve been able to make fairly consistent progress on all of the lifts throughout the year, with some exceptions where I was reworking my form/technique (for DL in June and Squat/Powerclean recently). Overall I’m really pleased with my progress.

Exercise Initial 5RM Best 5RM % increase
Squat 175 320 82%
Bench Press 135 240 77%
Press 95 145 52%
Deadlift 205 385 87%
Power Clean (3RM) 65 170 161%
Pendlay Row 130 190 46%

I do think I’m reaching the end of my “linear progression”, and going heavy on legs also wears me out for basketball, which is still my favorite form of exercise. So going into the new year I’m going to be switching to 5/3/1 with a goal of slower but steady progress while also keeping my legs a bit more intact for basketball and exploring other goals rather than just moving numbers for the core lifts.

  1. Technically 2, I also started smoking meats – a nice complementary habit to lifting :) ↩︎

  2. The original program also includes back extensions and chinups – I’ve been swapping in rows instead, but I want to get to chinups in the new year ↩︎

Ben McCormick @benmccormick