So this morning I decided to work through all the exercises for the first time and decide which ones I can do and at what power for now. A “starting” point, if you will.
Initial stretching. I don’t have a good stretching routine set up yet, so I’ll have to add that to my list. I did the basics:
- Achilles Tendon and Calf –> Hands on wall, one foot back and lean in;
- Qaudriceps –> Pull one ankle up behind your butt while standing;
- Hamstrings –> Leg up on third step (almost horizontal) and lean towards feet;
- Rotation –> Grasp alternate wrist, and rotate trunk to side;
- Shoulders / lats –> Put hand up by opposite ear, and pull in on the elbow with the free hand;
- Sternum, pecs, lats –> Hands clasped overhead and arching lightly back;
- Neck –> Seated, with one hand under seat and lean head opposite direction;
I have a workout mat for later in my efforts to be able to do some basic yoga, and I’ll eventually incorporate Tai Chi stuff too but I’m a long way from there. Heck, I’m going to have to add a milestone that even my stretching routine isn’t taxing for me. Sigh.
On to the chest exercises!
Chest #1 — Bench Press…The first one in the book is the ever-popular Bench Press. It is designed to work the Pectoralis Major, Deltoids and Triceps. It is a seated exercise, as you can see from the diagram below that comes from the owner’s manual for the BowFlex PR3000.
It’s a good exercise, and I’ll keep it in my repertoire probably for just about every routine. There are two more in the book that change the angle of attack for the “decline” (downward) and “incline” (upward).
When I started planning, I thought the main question was going to be simply spreading the “load” so that I knew which areas I was targeting (chest, arms, etc.). However, while the gym is designed in a way that prevents having to do multiple “pulley adjustments” throughout the routine, it quickly became clear that those aren’t the only variables.
For example, it is easier to start with only “seated” exercises. It reduces the risk of injury in the early stages, in particular as it makes for very controlled movements. There are 10 of those to choose from in the list.
However, I had more or less expected that the exercises would generally all use similar grips and pulleys in a run. Obviously, they don’t. For the first three above, they all use what is called the “centre bar” i.e., the pulleys attached to the centre bar that runs horizontally across the gym. Which means switching from one exercise to another that uses the same bar is pretty simple — you’re already holding the grips! If you switch to the top bar for the next exercise, then you have to reach around to find it.
Not a big deal for the top bar option or the centre bar option, they’re not too far away. But switching to the squat/lower bar is a bit more work to adjust. For simplicity, it would probably be easiest if I do all top bar exercises first, then centre bar, and then squat bar ones. If I was doing the full 26 in a run, there would be 5 top bar, 10 centre bar and 11 squat.
If I tried to combine them in some semblance of order, it would mean 10 seated exercises to start, 2 with the top bar (narrow pulldown and reverse grip pulldown), 7 with the centre bar (bench press, decline bench press, incline bench press, seated shoulder press, triceps extension, and abdominal crunch), and 2 with the squat bar (biceps curl and leg extensions). The last one requires installing a separate attachment, but as the last exercise in a routine, that shouldn’t be too much of an imposition.
How did I do?
I ran through 16 exercises, 1 set of 10 reps, mostly with everything set at 60 lbs (30 per side). Plus some additional stuff at the end along with some other testing. Call it 9600 lbs for the main workout and another 3000 lbs, or 12600 lbs in total.
But I made four errors in the workout.
Form…I will still need a lot of work on that over time. Some of the exercises seemed easy from the diagrams, but even if I start with the easiest of all (bench press), the tips are not as easy to do all at the same time:
- 90 degree angle between upper arms and torso;
- Tighten chest muscles;
- Limit and control range of motion;
- Head back;
- Keep elbows in front of shoulders;
- Pinch shoulder blades;
- Maintain spinal alignment.
Oh, and just for fun, you’re supposed to do them all slow — three seconds out, three seconds in. I know from earlier training, as well as numerous articles, that all of this comes together over time. Some recommend picking one and “nailing” it for muscle memory in the first few weeks, and as you get more comfortable, work on the other parts of your form. But as long as you are not going for much larger weights, i.e., keeping the entry-level down, you avoid risk of serious injury while letting you work on flow and motion at controllable weights.
Hydration…I’m an idiot. I honestly didn’t even think about it while I was working out. Obviously, I need to, but it’s been so long, and I was so focused on the machinations of the new tool, I didn’t really think of it as a normal “workout”. Easily rectified, just silly.
Constant weight setting…This is more of a choice than an error. In theory, of course, each of the exercises will be at a different weight / resistance setting so that you can tailor every exercise to your specific muscle group. It’s not rocket science, you are going to be able to do less weight on trunk rotations than on leg extensions. I set it low (30 lbs a side) and that was fine for the whole exercise except trunk rotations. I fatigued a lot faster on that one, and in fairness to the book, it did tell me to reduce for that one, and I chose to ignore it in favour of a smaller number of reps and ease of process. Long-term, I’ll be able to adjust all of them, and be more willing to as well.
One challenge that I mentioned earlier for me is the need to adjust settings, including pulleys and grips, and this gym was chosen in part because that is addressed through the design to limit the number of changes required. Four areas of change are still built-in though … switching from top bar to centre bar to the squat bar (and I’ve ordered extra grips so I don’t actually have to MOVE the grips too), seated vs. standing exercises where it recommends you remove the seat but I feel I can do most of them without doing that, attaching the leg extension (no option to avoid that), and the big one, changing weight settings. Whichever one is the most annoying is the one you “sort” your routine around to limit the changes required as you go.
Cooldown…I was taking notes, writing things up, trying to almost pre-blog as I went, and in all of that, I didn’t think about what the cooldown would look like. If you don’t do it, your muscles cramp up and you’re even sorer the next day. I didn’t really think about it in advance, kind of like the hydration thing, so I was about 20m post-workout and was like, “Oh, wait, I missed something, why am I feeling THAT there? Oh right, cool-down.” I did some basic stretching, and went for a walk around the block with Jacob, but I need a better cooldown routine.
But I did my first workout. Now I have a day off to recover. 🙂