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Workout Wednesday: Upper Body Madness

Team photo from my year at Rutgers.

My freshman year in college, I played Division III volleyball at Rutgers University’s Newark campus. Towards the middle of the second semester, I was recruited to play Division I volleyball at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus. Transitioning between NCAA divisions was something I was excited about, competition wise, but I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to training. Everything is so different between DIII and DI teams, honestly. You are with your teammates seemingly every day and night, you travel for days (or even weeks) at a time, and you play against people who end up on the National Team. In the off season, and especially in the summer when you’re not at school, you are expected to maintain a strict training regimen and diet. Soon enough, I would find out just how different the training would be…

The summer before my sophomore year, my coach mailed each of us a binder with workouts and some dieting info. I was instantly intimidated, and was afraid that I was in way over my shoulders. Why did I agree to transfer schools again?

The binder contained spreadsheet after spreadsheet of a program called Body For Life. The binder contained a detailed introduction and explanation of how the program works. The back of the binder had images for each of the exercises, as well as information on how to complete each of the exercises. Well, at least they made it easy to understand, right?

The goal was to complete three lifting days a week, which would be supplemented by cardio days. Of course, for my cardio days, I chose to play volleyball. I mean, why wouldn’t I? Our coach directed us on which weeks to complete two lower body days, and which weeks to complete two upper body workouts. For example, let’s say for the first week, we had three workouts scheduled. On Day 1, you do upper body; on Day 2, you would do a lower body workout; and finally, on Day 3, you would complete another upper body workout. Does that make sense?

The intensity of each workout progressed with each rep for each exercise. You would keep track of how much you lifted, and how many reps, and from week to week, you would definitely notice an increase in strength. It is actually a really amazing program. Really! I was in the best shape of my life that summer, until disaster struck. I got some kind of weird blood infection that caused me to lose 15-20 pounds in about a month, and I was really tired all the time. I had gotten super skinny (100 pounds at 5’7) and my doctor told me that I had to cut back on exercise FOR A MONTH while I took my medication and recovered. Sad face.

Fast forward to mid-season, and we were back on the program (we stopped during the beginning of the season). We were increasing our strength and endurance leading up to conference playoffs, and we did a ton of conditioning, which was absolutely brutal. But you know what? It paid off! We won our conference for the first time in the school’s history, so yay!

Before the NEC Championship Game
After winning the NEC title

Okay, Lex. This all sounds cool, but… can you get to the point? 

My new workout journal

I tell this story to say that I’ve decided to get back on the Body for Life program for weight lifting. (I even bought a cheap little notebook to keep track of my workouts!) I’ve been doing it for a few weeks now, and though I haven’t gone to the gym and lifted as much I probably could have, it is keeping me going to the gym and lifting more than I was before, which is really the purpose of it all. I’ve noticed that I’m getting stronger, and I’m definitely getting more toned in my arms, shoulders, and back. I haven’t focused much on the lower body workouts just yet, since I haven’t yet factored this into my schedule (it’s hard to go for a long run or play beach volleyball just a day after legs day), but I’ll get there! For now, I’m happy to be lifting and getting stronger once again. Hopefully it will pay off when I go through some of the obstacle courses at the FoamFest 5K in two weeks!

For those of you who are interested, here is my current upper body routine:

Note: For the second workout in each group (e.g. dumbbell flyes), you want to max out. Sometimes I can get all 12 reps in on an exercise at the weight I’m using, and sometimes I can’t. Aim for 12, but do the most you can. If you don’t get 12 reps this time around, you’ll eventually get it!

Another note: I’m not a certified trainer or doctor or elbow thrower. Exercise at your own risk!

Have you ever had a workout program with which you’ve fallen in love? What was it about that program that you loved?

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