Another common conversation: “I want to lose more weight but my bench press will suffer.” Well bud, no one cares how much you can bench and it’s not going to help you once you leave. What I care about is longevity. How can I continue grow stronger while increasing my mobility, speed and endurance along with simply getting exercise to stay sane.
There are several components to my workouts that have been challenging, and in a good way. Something to work towards that provides entertainment here and benefits once I’m free. The following are the ones that come to the front of my mind.
The first is the weighted cossack squat. It’s different from most other lower body exercises in that you’re working in the frontal plane and moving side to side, which isn’t common for most leg day exercises like back squats, dead lifts, lunges, etc as they are performed in the sagital plane. Working lower body muscles and joints from a different angle opens up new workouts and uncovers weakness and tightness. This also assists with increasing mobility and stability. The cossack squat has improved the range of motion in my hips, knees and ankles. People occasionally look at me like I’m a complete weirdo when I’m doing it, but then they try and frequently quiet down. Picture a lateral lunge very low to the ground, back and forth. Or just Google it, something I am unable to do.
Second, foam rolling and stretching every day. The gym has three foam rollers for three hundred inmates. Fortunately, they are not a highly sought after piece of equipment. I foam roll as a warm-up or when recovering from leg days. Quads, hamstrings, IT bands, calves, lats, thoracic spine – it’s magic.
Third, dead lifts. Prior to coming here I thought these were a great way to hurt your back. However, when done correctly it is actually a fantastic compound movement to continually improve on. Along those lines is the single leg-press. Isotropic movements are common in everyday activities and also highlight muscular imbalances, so why not focus on them in the gym? Plus, doing these and at times limiting the range of motion to focus on the final quarter of the movement helps build your VMO, vastus medialis oblique, a muscle which I’m likely far to obsessed with. It’s the tear drop shape at the bottom of your quadriceps, directly above the knee.
Fourth, for most exercises I perform sets of 4-6 reps at 80-85% the weight for my one rep max. Wow, there’s a lot of jargon there and I promise you all I’m not coming back a gym bro. It might feel productive to lift weights for hours on end, and a lot of people do it to burn through time, but it’s far from the most effective route. Among many things, lifting here has taught me that without proper rest and diet you’re going to get nowhere, but same goes for not loading up the weight. If you can perform ten reps of an exercise, you need to add more weight. My additional recommendation – make the best you can with a commissary list that includes an exceptionally high percentage of unhealthy items by falling in love with packets of fish that don’t expire in the next two years.
Fifth, pickle ball. You walk out of the weight pile feeling gassed and are instantly badgered for a pickle ball game, which is roughly 100x more enjoyable than running on a treadmill so of course I oblige and say yes to the offer.
Finally, the humidity. I never was one for AC anyways. On hot days we leave the gym soaked and if you’re not showing up with your all, the humidity pushes you over the edge. Considering the absolute mass of people in them, the two weight rooms are small and the industrial fans are no match for so many people working out in cotton on hot and sunny days. All that to say, I’d take the crowds, humidity and unsolicited advice over no gym at all.