Always Moving

I’ve had kind of an up-and-down week. I’ve had great days and great workouts, but I’ve also been feeling a little down…always on days I’m not lifting.

Now, this tells me something. It tells me that lifting improves my mood. This isn’t surprising in the least. It’s probably pretty normal. If I lift, I feel like I’ve accomplished something and perhaps triggered some endorphins to release. Who knows.

But here’s the problem with that fact.

Starting Strength calls for a three day per week lifting schedule if you do it by the book. While I’m generally a fan of the program, there are problems that I’ve recognized even beyond my previous review. At this point, I’ve been doing it for three months, and I’m seeing some lifts lag behind a bit while others do incredibly well.

Further, the lack of anything in between is problematic for me considering what I’m seeing regarding my mood.

So, with that in mind, I’ve decided I may need to reevaluate a few things.


I still have at least some novice linear progression left in me. Probably not much, but at least a few weeks. So how do I take this time, alter it in such a way that I don’t completely ignore what works about Starting Strength, but make it so I’m doing more than three days a week?

That answer dropped in my lap recently when the Barbell Logic podcast, hosted by two Starting Strength coaches, mentioned they preferred four day per week splits. Two days are lower body, two are upper body.

This ups the volume on three of four lifts, all but the squat, which is then performed one fewer day per week. But that’s fine because, frankly, I’m not sure I’m getting much out of the light squat day each week.

The plan is:

Squats (3 sets of 5)
Deadlifts (1 set of 5)

Press (3 sets of 5)
Pendlay Row (3 sets of 5)
Bench Press (3 sets of 5)

Squats (3 sets of 5)
Deadlifts (1 set of 5)

Bench Press (3 sets of 5)
Pendlay Rows (3 sets of 5)
Press (3 sets of 5)

My thinking here is that I’ll get a bit more volume on most lifts, a little less on one that can really beat me up going heavy three times per week on, and hopefully set myself up for future success. Several programs I’ve encountered and want to try use a similar layout for lifting, so this will probably be a split I can use for some time to come.

The one difference I can foresee is there being too much of the main upper body lifts, meaning I might need to go with a variation on one day. Say, pin presses instead of press on Friday or close grip bench press on Tuesday.

We’ll see how that shakes out down the road.


Right now, my programming has absolutely no conditioning. That was alright when I first started lifting, but three months in, I seriously need to up the game. That means I need to work some kind of conditioning into my training, and there are a few ways I can see to do that.

First and most likely will be kettlebell swings and/or kettlebell complexes.

I love kettlebells. They’re awesome pieces of iron, and you can get some serious workouts with these. A session with kettlebells can match cross-country skiing uphill for cardiovascular training, and it doesn’t require a massive piece of equipment.

A lot of people swear by doing 75 to 150 swings twice per week, and I can probably work that into my split somewhere. For example, doing it on lower body days makes a lot of sense, since it’s mostly a lower body movement.

I can also add it in on Wednesday and Saturday when I have nothing scheduled. Who knows.

Another way I’m going to work in some conditioning is with a jump rope. Now, I’m not some jump rope fanatic or anything, but fighters have been using the rope for years, and it’s a brutal conditioning exercise that can go on for a few minutes or however long you want.

Plus, you can wow people by doing tricks with the rope as you jump. I’m sorry, but that’s kind of cool.

A third way is sled pushes/pulls.

You see, when I got the Titan Yoke, part of my logic was that the setup could be used as a sled. This is something I need to start taking advantage of and utilizing. Move it out to the yard and start pushing it around for a while.

I can also tie a tow strap to the thing and pull it, though I also have a plan to make a pulling sled with an old tire I have. Either way, this is yet another way to get in some conditioning.

The final way I have in mind is to do strongman movements for conditioning.

When you think of the World’s Strongest Man competitions, you rarely think about conditioning, but the more I watch how these guys train, the more convinced I am that despite their massive size, these are some seriously conditioned athletes.

You see, it’s not enough to pick up a massive weight. You also have to move with it or lift it over and over again for a certain period of time. A quick, one-time burst of power isn’t going to be enough. You need to sustain it.

Strongman movements do involve strength, but they also require conditioning and involve all kinds of cool things.

Now, which will I go with? I’m not sure. Right now, I’ll probably mostly work with what I have, and that is mostly kettlebells. I’ll pick up the jump rope soon, though, and I already have some stuff for strongman movements so I may do a combination of all of them from time to time. My plan is to take it relatively slow so I can get used to things first, then kick it up as I go.


Rest is important, right?

Well, to a point. But you can recover better if you engage in active recovery. That’s doing some kind of movement while you recover from your actual training. Playing basketball or softball, going for a hike, kayaking, anything you could do for fun can easily count as active recovery so long as you don’t try to kill it.

But because of my mood, I can’t help but think that I need to do something every day, even if it’s just going for a walk.

I don’t really play much in the way of sports these days, but I do plan on doing BJJ. While the school I plan on attending does Monday and Wednesday classes, which means I’ll do a class on a training day, it also means I’ll have a class on a day when I don’t train. Plus, Saturday is open mat, which means rolling without a class. That gives me another bit of exercise to keep things up.

That’ll just leave Sunday, but honestly, even if I just jump rope for a few minutes, I’ll count that as a win.

Here’s the thing about rest that many people don’t think about. Our bodies are built to move and exert itself every single day. When we were hunter-gatherers, there were no days off. You either worked or you starved.

Modern-day hunter-gatherers are also moving and working every day, and they’re in better shape than the vast majority of people who spend all this time worrying about rest.

The trick is, they don’t go full-bore every couple of days. They maintain an even amount of effort, ramping it up as it becomes too easy.

It’s kind of like people who do farm work all their lives. They start moving bails of hay and shoveling other stuff at a young age and rather than kill it one day and be unable to work the next, they exert themselves to an amount they can manage where they’re still tired, but able to go the next day.

Now, when they do that for years and years, they end up “farmboy strong,” and they do it without ever touching a weight.

The trick is balancing rest with exertion, and I’m not talking about killing myself every single day. In fact, I actually want to make the conditioning relatively minimal so I can do every single day.

My mood isn’t enhanced by not moving. I write for a living. I sit on my butt and type on a keyboard to earn my pay, then I have a lot of other things I do that basically look the same as when I’m working.

This hasn’t been pleasant, in a lot of ways. While not every day has been bad by a long shot when I do have bad days, they seem to line up with days I’m not exerting myself to some degree. It’s time to change that.

The fact that it may also help with weight loss is just a pleasant, pleasant bonus.

Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

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