A Pair of Back-to-Back Workouts

“…Philosophers and ploughmen
Each must know his part
To sow a new mentality
Closer to the heart…”

~ Rush

Hat tip to Richard, at Free the Animal, for reminding me of my own freewheeling Rush days with this post. Ah, those wondrous, glorious days of no responsibility 🙂

Throwing the body a down-and-in curve ball

I don’t normally perform hard-core workouts back-to-back, as I think it is unwise on so many levels.  However (and, as there is an exception to every rule), my upcoming schedule is such that I’ll have plenty of time to recover over the next week (with no access to a full gym and/or weights of any sort, until January 6th). The main reason I don’t recommend doing this (tough, back-to-back workouts) often,though, is that it can quickly result in overtraining, and an eventual state of under-performing, injury, and just an overall run-down, irritable and depressed feeling. Now there are a couple of tricks that can be used to “minimize the negatives” in this scenario, but I don’t like to push my luck all that often.  An overtrained state is much like an addiction, in that it sneaks up and ties you down before you realize just what the hell is going on.  It also takes — I can say from personal experience — a long time to recover from an overtrained state.  Just say “no”, kids!

OK, enough evangelizing, moving on…

Both of these workouts were completed in approximately 40 minutes total time, and both were performed on an empty stomach, with the last meal prior to each of the workouts having come 11 hours before hand. Here’s how I divided the workouts over the two days in question (and remember, I knew ahead of time that I was going to go “back-to-back”, so there was a little more pre-planning here than is my usual):


  1. Heavy Front Squats x 3, 3, 3, 2, miss, 1

  2. Heavy Power Curl (from the floor) x 3, 5, 3, 3, 3, 3

I did these in superset fashion, with a full recovery between the execution of each exercise.  The emphasis on “heavy” means that I skewed toward the strength end of the modality spectrum, at the expense of speed (and overall power output).  In other words, the front squat reps were “ground out” as opposed to “snappy”.  The power curls were done at a weight that was just shy of what would have caused poor form.  And I added a little spin to the front squat, to ramp up the difficulty even a bit further. Initially, I set the pins of the power rack at a level that would accomodate a front squat at a one-quarter depth. Then, starting with a weight that was highly challenging for three reps in this range (actually, the weight was challenging just to un-rack and hold), I progressed, set-by-set (and while keeping the weight constant), by sequentially lowering the pins prior to the start of each subsequent set. I continued in this manner until I finally hit a set (and a squat depth) where I “bottomed-out” and failed to complete a single rep. In other words, on the first set I managed 3 reps at a pin height consistent with what would be considered my quarter squat depth. I adjusted the pins prior to the next set so that they allowed for another couple of inches or so of squat depth. So on and so on I went, until I finally hit the “fail” point which, incidentally, wound up being right about at the thigh parallel-to-ground depth. Then, for the final set, I raised the pins back to the last “good rep” depth, and did another single there.  This final set was indicative of my working philosophy of “never ending on a failed attempt”.  This is something I was tought at a very young age, and a philosophy I’ve employed in every sporting event and training scenerio.  I’ve also coached others in this way.  I don’t want to start treading on Anthony Robbins’s territory here, but consistantly ending with accomplishment works.

I’ve found that the Power Curl works well in combination with a heavy front squat, with the combination of movements being complementary to one another; it’s also quite taxing to the hips, core and lower back.


I woke up feeling pretty damn sore from Tuesday’s heavy bout. Performing squats the way I did (progressively lowering the squat depth, set-to-set, while maintaining a consistent working weight) on Tuesday is a good way to trick your body into going well beyond what you’d normally be able to do if you were to perform the usual set/rep method of maintaining a constant depth while increasing the working weight set-to-set. Anyway, this resulted in a good bit of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) throughout my core, hips, and upper and lower back. I expected as much, though, with the amount weight that I was pushing in the movement. In any event, I decided to skew more into the power realm (bringing the speed element back into play) with Wednesday’s workout so as not to pummel my body with back-to-back similar modalities. This, in effect, serves to “minimize the negatives” associated with the performance of back-to-back (or same day splits, for that matter) workouts, at least from a neurological standpoint. Here’s what I did:

  1. Dumbbell Snatch + Split Jerk x 3, 3, 2 (each arm)

  2. Muscle-up (on gymnastic rings) x 2 full muscle-ups (+2 additional dips), for 3 sets

I did the above two exercises as a superset for three rounds, then I hit a total of 5 additional singles in the DB Snatch/Split jerk, each arm (full recovery between each rep, swapped arms each rep – i.e., L (recover), R (recover), L (recover)…). I wound-up fairly pressed for time by the workout’s conclusion, however, I did manage to squeeze-in a quick steam/cold shower contrast to help speed my recovery. As of this writing (Wednesday evening), I can tell you, though, that I’m pretty much toast, and in no shape for brining in the new year!  The time off will be much appreciated.

In Health,