Practice Day Two and Resetting the 5/3/1 Program

squatIn considering my first practice day after my first training day, I realized that I couldn’t simply move from week 1 to week 2 of my new 5/3/1 Powerlifting Program because, in all likelihood, I had performed my main lifts of back squats and bench presses wrong last Monday.

So today, I decided to take the weights I’d used last week and attempt to re-apply them to a repeat of Day One of Week One of the 5/3/1, while being prepared to make adjustments downward if need be, based on how much I could actually lift using proper form and maintaining a neutral spine (to the best of my ability, of course).

I decided to rest on an average of 2 minutes between sets, depending on how quickly I could recover. I started out very light, usually just with the barbell, performed a series of warm ups, and then determined what I could accomplish on my working sets of my main lifts. Here’s what happened.

5x5x5 / 90% of 65/75/85

Main Lifts

Barbell Back Squat in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 95lbs/43.0913kg (warm up)
5x 110lbs/49.8952kg (warm up)
5x 120lbs/54.4311kg
5x 140lbs/63.5029kg
5x 160lbs/72.5748kg (5+)
3x 165lbs/74.8427kg (joker)
3x 165lbs/74.8427kg (joker)

woman bench pressBarbell Bench Press (bar to chest)

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
8x 65lbs/29.4835kg (warm up)
5x 95lbs/43.0913kg (warm up)
5x 115lbs/52.1631kg
5x 120lbs/54.4311kg
5x 125lbs/56.699kg
5x 130lbs/58.967kg (joker)
3x 135lbs/61.235kg (joker)

Assistance Lifts

Barbell Bent Over Rows

8x 115lbs//52.1631kg
6x 125lbs/56.699kg
5x 135lbs/61.235kg
5x 135lbs/61.235kg
6x 135lbs/61.235kg
5x 145lbs/65.7709kg
5x 145lbs/65.7709kg

Dumbbell Bench Press (5×10)

10x 30lbs/13.6078kg
10x 35lbs/15.8757kg
10x 40lbs/18.1437kg
10x 45lbs/20.4117kg
10x 45lbs/20.4117kg

Cardio

24 min Elliptical lvl 10 (20 minutes cardio, 4 minutes cooldown).

The weights for the back squat seemed comparable to what I did a week ago, only now, after my training session last Thursday, I was doing them correctly with my rear shoved way back, my knees (hopefully) not traveling too far forward, taking a much wider stance with my feet, and pushing my knees far left and right.

I could tell in most reps I was getting (finally) to parallel (I decided not to take the time to find the box I used when Chase trained me), and the proof was the sudden working of the muscles at the outside of my left and right thighs. They obviously haven’t been significantly worked before because when I get to parallel, I had a momentary feeling of panic as if my legs wouldn’t hold me or push me back up.

But then, looking up like Chase taught me, I shoved down through the middle of my feet (most times) and stood back up, finishing the rep.

bench press
Photo credit: returnofkings.com

At 160 pounds, although the program allows for more than 5 reps on the final working set, I decided against it. Instead, I thought I’d up the weight just slightly to 165 pounds and try for a joker. Getting down that far into the squat limited me to 3 reps, but I did a second, identical joker just because I wanted to.

The bench press was another story. Again, I started with just the bar and slowly worked my way up. I made sure to let the bar descend down to my chest, and I knew that it would become more difficult to push back up as the weight increased.

My final working set for the bench press last week was 150 pounds, and I never made it that far today. In fact, on my current final working set, the weight was only 125 pounds, not even two big wheels on either side, and I left the collars off the bar in case I had to dump the weight (yeah, I know…pathetic).

Even at this modest poundage, I could barely get the bar down to my chest and then press up again for 5 reps. I knew going too much heavier was out of the question. I could also see, after I completed my reps, that the plates on the side of the bar lifted by my right arm were starting to slide down a bit, proof that I was letting my left arm do more of the work.

I figured I still had something in me and moved the weight up to 130 pounds for my first joker. Successfully completing 5 hard reps, I decided to go for a 45 pound plate on each side of the bar to try again at 135. I only got 3 good reps out of it while making sure the bar came very close to, if not actually touching, my chest, and that was the sign I was done here.

I thought that a good assistance lift was the standing barbell row, since it complements the bench press. I played it a bit more conservatively than last week, making sure to try to use good form to get the barbell off the floor and then stay bent over with a neutral spine as I used my arms to pull the bar to my gut.

This resulted again in me not pulling quite as much weight as I did last week, but I think the trade off was engaging more of my biceps and lats.

dumbbell bench pressI remember how, after humiliatingly light weights in my bench press for my training session, I was wiped out by dumbbell bench presses. I thought I’d see if I could conquer that today.

Figuring on a “Boring but Big” 5×10 routine, I started with 30 pound dumbbells and completed the 10 reps easily. Increased the weight rep over rep until finding that 45 pounds was just about right.

For comparison, I’ve posted my figures for last Monday’s lifts below. Although the numbers look more impressive in most cases, the fact is, doing those lifts incorrectly means I wasn’t getting the most out of my effort. Better to go lighter and learn to lift correctly than to go heavier and repeatedly injure myself, which is what has happened before.

Reps for original week one: 5/5/5+, 90% of 65/75/85

Back Squat in Squat Rack

5x 120lbs/54.4311kg
5x 140lbs/63.5029kg
5x 160lbs/72.5748kg (5+)

Back Squat Assistance Lifts 5×10

10x 95lbs/43.0913kg
10x 95lbs/43.0913kg
10x 95lbs/43.0913kg
10x 95lbs/43.0913kg
10x 95lbs/43.0913kg

Barbell Bench Press

5x 115lbs/52.1631kg
5x 130lbs/58.967kg
5x 150lbs/68.0389kg (5+)

Bench Press Assistance Lifts 5×10

10x 85lbs/38.5554kg
10x 85lbs/38.5554kg
10x 85lbs/38.5554kg
10x 85lbs/38.5554kg
10x 85lbs/38.5554kg

barbell rows for batwings
Photo credit: t-nation.com

Barbell Bent Over Row

10x 115lbs/52.1631kg
10x 125lbs/56.699kg
8x 135lbs/61.235kg
8x 145lbs/65.7709kg
6x 150lbs/68.0389kg

I consider the numbers at the top to be more reasonable, given the revelations garnered from training and then practice sessions after training. I’ll do my deadlifts and the overhead press for my main lifts tomorrow, and then return to the squat and bench press on Tuesday. I’ll “rest” by doing cardio and abs Wednesday, and then see what’s in store for me on Thursday for my second training session with Chase. After that, I can do a second session of deadlifts and overhead presses on Friday to round out the week.

I know that’s a lot of lifting, but I’ve heard that doing all of your main lifts twice a week yields more benefits. I’m willing to give it a shot, even though I know that I probably won’t be resting sufficiently. If I experience adverse effect, I can always back off.

I know my numbers from today are hardly impressive or even noteworthy, but I’d rather lift lighter while learning to lift correctly, then keep blundering forward in ignorance and either fail to get the most out of these strength training programs, or hurt myself severely and take myself completely out of the game.

Oh, and the aftermath of today’s workout? I feel it mainly in my glutes and quads, especially the outer quads, where I normally don’t feel soreness or tiredness. My lower lumbar area is a tad sore but not of the “tweaked” variety. Also, pecs, biceps, and triceps are tired. Yeah, I got a pretty good workout in. Didn’t sweat as much as I do when I lift heavier, but I made up for that in my short cardio session (I could have gone longer, but the missus was finished with her workout and wanted to get on with her day).

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

Victor Frankl

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