Michael asked me yesterday if I remembered what it was like the first time I squatted with a bar. It’s funny that he asked me that, because I have recently been thinking about those first early months of training. In all honesty, I don’t remember what it felt like to squat a bar for the first time. I know that I’ve only been training for not quite 2.5 years, and yet those early days are quite hazy. I didn’t begin to keep a training log until I had been training for almost a year. Since I always train with my coach, there isn’t a need to take video very often. From time to time, I look back at the video that I do have. It is fascinating to see where I was compared to where I am now, at least I think so.
The earliest squat video I have was taken on June 9, 2014, roughly seven weeks before my very first powerlifting competition and almost 9 months into training. In the video, I did a set of 5 high bar squats with 145 pounds, which would have been my bodyweight at that time. The third rep was a tough one. The fourth was a bit better, but the last rep looked like it required some effort.
Fast forward to September 14, 2015, roughly five weeks before my most recent competition and almost two years into training. I don’t have video of it, but I did a set of 5 low bar squats with 205 pounds. Just a few weeks ago, on January 11, I replicated that PR of 5 reps with 205 pounds but with a high bar position. My memory on these two sets is already hazy, but I am fairly certain that they felt marginally easier than that first set of 5 at 145!
I don’t think there has ever been a time, since I have begun using an actual bar, that I have ever not begun my session with a preliminary warm-up with just the bar and no additional weight added. Sometimes it feels incredibly light and almost redundant to warm-up with just the bar, but there is benefit to doing just that. Even when I do that bar only set, there is a disconnect in my brain between how that feels now and how it felt way back at the beginning. I remember being out of shape and overweight. I know what that feels like! I know how hard I worked to get where I am today. I know how pathetic I was in many ways in the beginning, like I don’t think I could even do a single “real” push-up at the beginning, but I don’t remember what it felt like to be new to squats and deadlifts.
I do sort of remember how I felt the first time Michael let me do an actual bench press…with just the bar! It felt heavy and awkward and I felt so terribly weak. Okay, some days still feel that way when I bench press, but at least now I know I can press more than just the bar. Although I will admit that I had a moment of panic at my last competition concerning the bench press. Prior to the start of the competition, we had the opportunity to check our rack heights for the squat and bench press. I positioned myself on the bench and went to unrack the bar, just the bar, in order to ensure the height was correct, and the bar felt insanely heavy! It felt so heavy that I almost had a moment of anxiety about my bench press and the goals I had set for myself. Thankfully, with a proper warm-up following an awesome squat session, I did just fine with my bench press and exceeded my expectations.