Progressive Discovery

strong lifts
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I’ve been thinking. In between exercises days, I think about exercise days. Even though this is my weekend of rest, I’m planning for next week.

In planning on how to improve my performance doing the 5×5 routine, I revisited, which is a website owned by Mehdi and represents his a career born out of a hobby.

I was thinking of the original adaptations I made to the 5×5 plan as I discovered it at That plan said not to change anything (I did anyway) but Mehdi said why:

The exercise order isn’t random. It’s set this way because that’s how it works best. Here’s why:

  • Squat first. Because it’s the most important exercise to get stronger. If you do them at the end of your workout, when tired or hurried, it’s easy to skip them. Do them first, when fresh, and you’ll Squat consistently. If the Power Rack is taken, wait or ask if you can train in between.
  • Bench/Overhead Press second. So your legs and lower back get a break. You need these muscles again on heavy Deadlifts and Barbell Rows. Pressing first gives your body time to recover.
  • Row/Deadlift third. Because you need your legs and lower back again. But since you pressed first, they had time to recover from the heavy Squats at the start of your workout.

Reversing Squat and Deadlift, by doing Deadlift first, is not a good idea. Most guys find Deadlifts easier if they Squat first. But they don’t find Squat easy if they Deadlift first. So stick to the exercise order. And don’t hesitate asking to train in between if the Power Rack – you might find a training partner.

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It seems obvious from this explanation that a person doing a 5×5 program should switch back and forth between exercises that emphasize legs and lower back to those that give them a break. Hence doing squats first, some sort of press second, and then going back to rows/deadlifts for the last exercise of the day (in his routine).

In the program I took from, if I applied the ordering suggested by Mehdi, It would look like this:

Workout Plan A

  • Barbell Hack Squat
  • Barbell Bench Press
  • Barbell Bent Over Rows
  • Overhead Cable Triceps Ext w/Rope
  • Pull Ups

For this plan, hack squats would be first, then bench presses to give legs and back a rest, then bent over rows which use the back and some legs, then triceps extensions, and finally pull ups which hit the back again.

Workout Plan B

  • Barbell Hack Squat
  • Close Grip Bench Press
  • Barbell Bent Leg Deadlift
  • Barbell Overhead Press
  • Straight Bar Curl

Again, hack squats for first, then a press, then deadlifts, then overhead press, and finally curls.

The first three exercises switch back and forth as described above, and the last two target upper body, specifically the arms, exclusively.

deadlift rebel
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This means that I’ll start both days with the barbell on the floor, have to move it to the bench rack, and then return it to the floor, but that is only a minor inconvenience (though I created my original order to avoid this). However, by not doing two exercises in a row that work (more or less) the same muscles, I may avoid some fatigue, further injuries, and hopefully I will enhance my performance.

The site also has extensive tutorials on the proper methods to use for each exercise including deadlifts so I’m going to revisit my form using these guidelines to see if I can figure out where my pesky back injury might have come from and see how to avoid more injuries in the future.

Lots of work to do before my next weight training session at the gym.

Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

Will Durant


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