The 5/3/1 Reboot and Returning to My Early Morning Schedule


This morning was hard. First work day of the new year. After being off for two weeks, I was terrified of forgetting my key card at home and not being able to get into the building. I was also frantically searching my memory for the password to get me into my work computer.

But before all that, I had to get up by 4 a.m. so I could be at the gym when it opened at 5. Fortunately (if you want to call it that), both my wife and I were restless around 3 to 3:30 a.m. so I more or less felt I should get up anyway. I wasn’t going to sneak in another 10 minutes under the spell of Morpheus (hint: not a “Matrix” reference).

I dragged my tired butt out of bed, stumbled to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, and slowly let my brain and body wake up. I choked down a banana for the carbs and managed to get into my gym clothes by half past the hour.

Both my wife and daughter had to be at work early this morning, so our home resembled “Zombie Land” as we all slowly got past vacation and sleeping in and back into the groove.

Don’t get me wrong. I was looking forward to another lifting session at the gym. But the earliness, the cold, and the dark were certainly unappealing. Nevertheless, I was at the gym just a couple of minutes before it opened. On this occasion because of the low temps, I left my engine running and the heater on to keep warm. Then I saw one of the training regulars approach the front doors of the gym and figured I should “cowboy up” and join him.

The lights popped on just as I was approaching the door, which was unlocked, so I walked right in and got to work. I did see that the usual weekday regulars were all there as well, huddling in their own vehicles. In a few minutes, they’d be inside.

Day two of week one, cycle one of my 5/3/1 routine. I’ve been lax as far as counting the number of minutes of rest time between sets, but I think my body is trained to recover in about 90 to 120 seconds.


Main Lifts

overhead press
Image credit:

Overhead Press in Squat Rack

8x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 45lbs/20.4117kg
5x 50lbs/22.6796kg
8x 55lbs/24.9476kg (5+)
3x 60lbs/27.2155kg (joker)
5x 65lbs/29.4835kg (joker)
1x 70lbs/31.7515kg (joker)

Bent Leg Deadlifts

5x 100lbs/45.3592kg
5x 115lbs/52.1631kg
6x 130lbs/58.967kg (5+)
5x 140lbs/63.5029kg (joker)
5x 155lbs/70.3068kg (joker)
5x 175lbs/79.3787kg (joker)
4x 185lbs/83.9146kg (joker)

Assistance Lifts

Rack Pull in Squat Rack

10x 125lbs/56.699kg
10x 125lbs/56.699kg
10x 125lbs/56.699kg
10x 125lbs/56.699kg
10x 135lbs/61.235kg

dumbbell shoulder press

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

10x 25lbs/11.3398kg
10x 22.5lbs/10.20583kg
10x 20lbs/9.07185kg
10x 20lbs/9.07185kg
10x 20lbs/9.07185kg

I was hoping to beat the 1 rep at 70 pounds joker for overhead presses. I thought that doing 5 reps at 65 meant something. I guess I was wrong because I actually stalled halfway up when I tried pushing the 70 pound barbell over my head. I lowered it slightly and then pushed up again and barely made the full range of motion. OK, I’ll have to work on this one.

I was a little hesitant about my deadlifts post-personal training. I’m flying solo and don’t have Chase to examine and correct my form. I just have to keep it all in my head and make my body do what it should be doing to keep my lower back protected.

I actually forgot to do a warm up set, but with a starting working weight of 100 pounds, I doubt I had much to worry about. In fact, my 3 working sets are all pretty light. I had to rest the barbell on several 45 pound plates, 2 on each side of the bar, just to make sure it was high enough off the floor. Once I got past 135 pounds, that wasn’t a problem, but the question then became, just how far to take it.

In the interim, a bunch of guys and one gal came into the weight room. I recognized all of the regulars, plus a few faces I hadn’t seen in a long time, younger guys with bigger muscles than I’ve got (a sign of New Year’s resolutions attempted?).

arnold deadlift

While I was doing deadlifts, so was the guy to my left. He’s been around for a long time but I think he staggers his workout times because he’s not as regular as some of the others.

His deadlifts capped at 225 pounds for several sets of 5 reps per. I knew I wasn’t ready to go that heavy (again) yet, but just how much weight could I safely handle?

Actually, as I kept increasing the weight on my jokers, it didn’t feel all that difficult. Yeah, I could tell the barbell was getting heavier, but not so heavy I couldn’t move it and keep good spinal mechanics.

That is until 185 pounds. On the fourth rep, I could see myself slouch in the mirror, the sign that I was starting out OK but then rounding my back as I started the lift rather than just standing straight up.

No pain, but I figured that was a warning to stop while I was ahead.

The squat rack was free so I grabbed it for rack pulls before someone else decided to use it. The last time I performed rack pulls as an assistance lift, I did 115 pounds until the last set, then increased the weight to 125. This time I started at 125. It felt fine or at least “doable,” but after each set, I was sweating a lot and huffing and puffing. All that said, for the final set, I increased the weight to 135 and pumped out the last 10 reps.

You’d think my dumbbell shoulder press would have been a breeze after all that but the opposite was true. Last time, I did this assistance lift using a pair of 25 pounders for 3 of the 5 sets. Mentally, I’d planned to start out with 22.5 pound dumbbells but I saw the starting weight I’d written in my workout log was 25 pounds.

First set at 25 pounds accomplished, but I knew it was too heavy for all 5 sets. I lowered the weight for the second set to 22.5 but that still felt heavy, so I did the final 3 sets at 20 pounds, and I was well-worn out by the end. Maybe this is an effect of lifting so early in the morning.

rack pullJust about a full hour had passed and, since I don’t commute with my son anymore, I knew I could stay and do some ab work or stretches. But my body was telling me to just go home and that’s exactly what I did.

I’d accomplished what I intended to and set a new PR for my post-training deadlifts. I’m a little intimidated about approaching and surpassing the 200 pound mark for both my squats and deadlifts, probably because it was at those weights (or more) where I managed to hurt myself.

So I’ll take things slow and see what develops. I had a satisfying workout this morning. Nothing to write home about, but enough to write a blog post.

Never fear quarrels, but seek hazardous adventures.

Alexandre Dumas


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