My Journey with Strong Lifts

For the past 10 weeks I’ve been following a weight lifting program called Strong Lifts.  Now, when you first land on their website you’ll see phrases about getting ripped and gaining all sorts of muscle.  That’s all good stuff (and true) but it’s not why I decided to give it a go.


For the last year or so I’ve been hammering away at CrossFit 5 days per week with a recovery style workout on Saturday with my Exodus brothers.  In other words, I was usually exercising 6 days per week.

Now, the nature of CrossFit is to keep things “constantly varied” which is why I was able to attend my local CrossFit box Monday through Friday.  The programming was excellent and very rarely was I totally “destroyed” by the end of the week.  One day we’d lift… the next we’d do a short 8 minute metcon… the next we’d do some awful 20 minute aerobic based workout. But, again, I was able to hang with the younger guys week in and week out.

But, eventually, my 45-year-old body started to show signs of overtraining.  I was getting sick more than I had in years… mostly annoying colds, nasal congestion, and coughing that would linger for weeks.  I was also beginning to get the “workout blues” from time to time and just wasn’t feeling great from an emotional perspective.

Now, to be sure, I am not knocking CrossFit or the box I was going to.  I still believe functional style workouts are incredibly valuable…. but, at least for me, I was overdoing it and needed a change.

Enter Strong Lifts

I had heard about the Strong Lifts program from my buddy Taylor Marshall and decided to give it a go for at least 12 weeks.

There’s a free app available that does all the programming for you and allows you to log your results.  It’s also a “smart” app in that it will adjust according to your results.

I had done all of the lifts before and knew what my 1 rep maxes were.  As such I was able to enter this info into the app which is how the app figured out where I should start.

Two Workouts Three Times per Week

There are two different workouts in the program.  One workout has you back squatting, benching, and doing barbell rows.  The second workout has you back squatting again, then doing overhead strict presses, followed by deadlifts.  They have videos to help you learn correct form along with TONS of written content.

They suggest you do these workouts 3 times per week.  But, even still, this means you will back squat 3 times per week and do one of these workouts twice.  I decided to do these workouts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Introducing 5×5

As far as the rep schemes go every movement, except the deadlift, is to be done in a 5×5 manner.  In other words, you do 5 sets of 5 reps.  And, to make things interesting, assuming you were successful with all your sets and reps for that movement in the previous workout, you will add 5 pounds to the bar every workout.  Put another way your back squat weight will increase by 15 pounds every week!

A Little Boring to Start

Now, I will say… I struggled a little the first few weeks since the app had me start with very light weight.  It was easy, easy, easy and, quite frankly, a little boring.  But I took that opportunity to really focus on good form and technique.  I video taped myself and even asked folks like Mike and Taylor to comment on my form.

It Ain’t Boring Anymore

Fast forward to this morning.  I am up to the most weight I have ever back squatted for reps in my life.  After each set I am literally out of breath and have to rest for around 3 minutes before the next set.

I’ve also set personal records for overhead strict presses and while I still have room to go on the other lifts everything’s getting heavy!

Slipping in a Metcon Here and There

Now, I do need to confess that I have slipped in a medium intensity CrossFit style metcon in here and there.  I usually jump on my new Rogue Echo bike and sling a Kettlebell around when I do these workouts.  But I am not going crazy with these other workouts since, like I said, the Strong Lifts workouts have gotten real the last few weeks!

Oh, I also added strict pull-ups (5 sets of 6) to one of the workouts to make sure I didn’t lose them!

What You Need to Do Strong Lifts

I am doing the Strong Lifts program at home since I have this rack, a 45# barbell, and several hundred pounds of bumper plates like this.  Also, since I usually lift alone I bought these spotter arms that I can adjust accordingly when I bench and squat.  Benching, in particular, without a spotter can be deadly… so don’t do it!

Now, if you don’t have a home gym you can definitely do Strong Lifts at your local globo gym.  I would just look for a gym with a squat rack or, even better, a power rack.  I recently traveled to Canada and found a globo gym close to my hotel and was able to get all my lifting in.  You will get strange looks from the folks doing their curls for the girls and leg extensions… but, hey, it’s all good!

Feeling Strong & Refreshed

And while I have definitely gotten stronger the last few months… I also feel great physically and mentally.

Lifting heavy 3 times a week has given my body, and central nervous system, a chance to catch up.  And while I haven’t done any blood work I’m quite certain my cortisol levels and inflammation have decreased which aren’t a bad thing when it comes to topics such as naturally increasing testosterone!

Another massive bonus to working out at home is that my kids often come out to the barn and work out with me.  I absolutely love this since they’re learning to care for their bodies far earlier than I did!

My Plan After Strong Lifts

I haven’t quite decided what I will do once I finish this initial 12 weeks of Strong Lifts.  I may keep going.  As the weight gets heavier, and reps are missed, the app apparently adjusts to different rep schemes like 5 sets of 3.  And, eventually, the weight only increases once per week… not every workout.  The app will also de-load the weight accordingly when you hit a plateau.

But I’m pretty confident I’ll also begin to work in more metcons… but, one thing is for sure, I’m not going to go hard for 5 days in a row like I had been.  I may experiment with 2 or 3 days on, 1 day off with Sunday’s always being off no matter what.  I will keep y’all updated.

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

p.s. As you have likely noticed… Mike and I aren’t blogging as frequently due to time constraints and raising awesomely huge Catholic families!  Soooo…. if you feel called to help us out guest posts are ALWAYS welcome!  Just contact us!

What’s at the Root of Your Sin?

Have you ever watched the TV show Fixer Upper? If not, no worries. It’s a home improvement show featuring a husband and wife team. It’s also really well done and my entire family could easily binge watch multiple episodes on a lazy afternoon. But, with this said, the show is also quite predictable.

Once the renovations begin Chip, the husband, usually discovers some “hidden” issue like a rotting floor, mold in the bathroom, or some dangerous electrical wiring. A call goes out to the homeowners letting them know. Chip goes on to fix these “hidden” issues and the show continues.

Meanwhile, Joanna is busy figuring out how to design what the eye will see which always includes decorating the house with amazing little trinkets she discovers at some local antique shop.

Twenty five minutes later the big reveal occurs. The homeowners get to see their amazing house. Lots of before and after shots are shown and the owners, and viewers of the show, are blown away.

But, guess what gets all of the attention? No, let me ask it this way. Guess what DOESN’T get any attention during the big reveal? I’ll tell you. The new subfloor Chip installed and the moldy drywall he ripped out of the shower. It’s never talked about.

Instead, the shots all focus on the new layout, the amazing furniture, and that cute little vignette Joanna designed for the end table. In other words, the focus is always on the things we can see. You might say all of the attention is on the FRUIT while none of the attention focuses on the ROOT.

Our physical and spiritual lives are quite similar. We desperately want the fruit but we normally fail to address the root.

Interestingly enough my Exodus brothers and I have been exploring this very topic the last few weeks after listening to another amazing Fr. Mike Schmitz homily. Specifically, we’ve explored what spiritual writers refer to as the 3 root sins – pride, vanity, and sensuality. The basic premise is pretty much all sin finds its root in one of these 3 root sins.


Pride is the inordinate attachment to our own excellence. Think perfectionism. The need to win. The need to control. The prideful person often believes “everyone else is an idiot” which can lead to anger and lots of criticism.

Some potential countermeasures to pride are gratitude and humility. We should be grateful to God for all that we have and realize all of our success and any blessing ultimately comes from God. And, it goes without saying that those struggling with pride need to practice humility.


Vanity is the inordinate attachment to the approval of others. Yes, the vain person places too much emphasis on their physical appearance… but vanity is so much more! In fact, shyness can be the result of vanity since we’re so concerned about what others think of us that we do our best to avoid people. And, believe it or not, purity issues often stem from the root sin of vanity since the vain desperately want others to see them as attractive.

A powerful countermeasure to vanity is hidden acts of charity. In other words, the vain person may very well volunteer at the local soup kitchen only to turn around and brag about their “good works” to their 3,910 Facebook friends! So, yes, go to that soup kitchen… just leave the Facebook bragging part out.  In other words… do HIDDEN acts of charity.

And, as with any sin, bringing vanity issues to confession and our Lord in prayer is always wise. We should ask God to help us know the only opinion of us that truly matters is His.


Sensuality is the inordinate attachment to comfort, ease, or pleasure. So for those that like beer… more beer is better. For those of us who like to sleep in… more sleep is better. And for those who like to waste the day away binging on TV or social media… more TV and social media is better.

The two primary countermeasures to the root sin of sensuality are temperance and fortitude.

Temperance can be understood as using good things in the right way at the right time. So, yes, enjoy that glass of wine with your dinner. Just don’t kill a bottle by yourself 7 nights a week.  And, no, you don’t need an 18 pack of beer to cut the grass.  A 12 pack is more than sufficient.  I kid!  I kid!

And fortitude can be understood as having courage and strength. Of course, it’s easy to have fortitude when things are going well and when you’re hanging out with your faith filled friends. But what happens the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with the temptation to sin? This is when fortitude is hard. But, of course, this is also when fortitude is most needed.

What about you?

Now, we all likely struggle with all of these root sins from time to time. But, one of these 3 root causes is likely your biggest issue. Perhaps it’s pride. Perhaps it’s vanity. Perhaps it’s sensuality. Whatever it is I’d encourage you to reflect on it before bringing it to confession (even if it’s not lead to mortal sin). You can then begin to formulate a plan for how to remove this “rot” from your soul. If needed, seeking out spiritual guidance may also add incredible value.

More help identifying your Root Sin

Finally, I’ve spent some time researching these 3 root sins. During this research I discovered this excellent list from Fr. John Bartunek. Give it a read to see if it helps you identify your primary root sin.


  • too high an opinion of myself
  • annoyance with those who contradict me, brooking no contradictions
  • anger if I don’t get my way or am not taken into account
  • easily judgmental, putting others down, gossiping about them
  • slow to recognize my own mistakes, or to see when I hurt others, and inability to seek and give forgiveness
  • rage when others don’t thank me for favors
  • unwillingness to serve, rebellion against what I don’t like
  • impatience, distance, brusqueness in my daily contact with others
  • thinking I am the only one who knows how to do things right, unwillingness to let others help
  • inflated idea of my own intelligence and understanding, dismissing what I do not understand or what others see differently
  • not feeling a need for God, even though I do say prayers
  • nursing grudges, even in small matters
  • never taking orders
  • inflexible in preferences
  • always putting myself and my things first, indifference towards others and their needs,
  • never putting myself out for them
  • centering everything (conversation, choices..) on myself and my likes
  • calculating in my relations with God and with others


  • always seeking admiration and praise, worrying about not getting it
  • excessive concern about physical appearance
  • being guided by the opinions of others rather than principle (this is sometimes called “human respect”)
  • some types of shyness
  • sacrificing principles in order to fit in
  • placing too much a premium on popularity and acceptance
  • easily discouraged at my failures
  • taking pleasure in listening to gossip and hearing about others’ failures
  • always wanting to be the center of attention, at times stretching the truth, or lying
  • outright, or being uncharitable in my words in order to achieve this


  • laziness
  • always the most comfortable, what requires least effort
  • not going the extra mile for others
  • procrastination, last-minute in everything
  • shoddiness, complaining, excessively affected by minor discomforts
  • inability to sacrifice
  • not doing my part at home
  • expecting everyone else to serve me always
  • behavior and decisions ruled by my feelings and moods instead of my principles
  • daydreaming a lot with self at center
  • unable to control my thoughts when they attract me, even if they are not good
  • doing only what I enjoy (choice of food, work, etc)
  • uncontrolled and overpowering curiosity, wanting to see and experience everything and every pleasure
  • my senses and impulses overrule what I know is right and wrong
  • acting out my feelings (frustrations, desires…) with no regard for my conscience, God or others
  • only working with those I like, being easily hurt
  • fickleness and inconstancy
  • can never finish what I start

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

Staying Awake Revisited

I’ve been thinking a lot about the our Lord’s Agony in the Garden.  Specifically, I’ve been thinking about “staying awake” for our Lord.

In fact, my plan for this article was to write about how we need to “stay awake” and not be so critical of the disciples who fell asleep since, you know, we’re far from perfect ourselves!

As I prepared to formulate my first sentence (the hardest sentence by the way) I stopped and asked myself, “Wait, have I already written about this?”  I honestly couldn’t remember so I decided to do a search at the top of our site.

Bam.  There it was. Stay Awake!  I wrote this article 2 years ago during Lent.  It was pretty cool to read it and realize that while I’d like to think I’ve grown spiritually since then I am still, very much, a work in process.  And I still contemplate the same thoughts.

So, if you haven’t read this Stay Awake article feel free to check it out.

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

WOD 030218

15 Minute EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute)

  • 8 KB Swings (post weight used in comments)
  • 5 burpees (be sure chest touches ground, both feet leave ground during jump, and hands clap above head after jump).  God is watching so no cheating reps!  🙂


3 Must Listen Catholic Podcasts

The past few months I’ve discovered a few different types of Catholic media I’d really encourage folks check out.  In particular, there are some really good podcasts out there.

The first one I want to point out is from Fr. Mike Schmitz.  This isn’t really a traditional podcast… instead he shares his most recent homily.  And, let me just say, Fr. Mike can preach!  He preaches to students on a college campus but his messages resonate with me and I’m 44-years-old!   He’s currently working through an awesome Lenten series called “The Root.”

If you’re an iPhone user you can also subscribe to these homilies in the Podcast app… just search for “UMD Catholic Campus” and you’ll find it.  I haven’t check the Android friendly, Stitcher app, but you may be able to find them there as well.

Next up is Mike’s personal favorite… Fr. John Riccardo.  These are also homilies which are fantastic.  You can also find these podcasts in the iPhone app… just search for “Fr. John Riccardo’s Podcasts.”  Again, I haven’t check the Android friendly, Stitcher app, but you may be able to find them there as well.

And last, but certainly not least, I’d like to point you to Fr. Larry Richards.  But, let me just say… if you’re feeling a little sensitive and need a hug… you might want to pass on Fr. Larry until you’re ready to man up.  Why?  Easy.  Fr. Larry doesn’t mess around.  He tells it like it is and sometimes, men, the truth punches us square in the face.

So if want to fill your ears with some Catholic awesomeness… give these three a spin!

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

WOD 022818

Sorry yesterday’s WOD was posted late.  If you worked out yesterday please use today as active recovery.  If you didn’t work out yesterday here is the WOD we posted late.

Tabata the following:

  • HR Push-ups
  • Butterfly Sit-ups
  • Russian Twists (R+L = 1)