Day Three of Deload Week and Getting Better with Lighter Weights

squatDay Three of Deload Week. I went to bed later than I wanted last night, mainly because we had our grandson over yesterday evening and after taking him back home, the missus and I needed to wind down (helping a six-year old with his homework when he’s really fidgety can be challenging).

So I woke up this morning just a little before 4 and groaned when I saw the time. On the other hand, it was another lift day, so I was also looking forward to pushing a few limits.

Pushing limits on deload week? You’ll see what I mean. Remember, I’ve got to try to get myself to be able to do proper squats and bench presses at my working weights for the upcoming second 5/3/1 cycle, which means I need the practice. Deload week seems to be a good time to do that.

I got to the gym just a few minutes before it opened and when the doors were unlocked and I could get in, I hit the weight room and the squat rack. I was alone for the first little bit. Here’s how I started Wednesday morning.



Main Lifts

Back Squats in Squat Rack (down to the bench)

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 95lbs/43.0913kg
5x 115lbs/52.1631kg
5x 135lbs/61.235kg
5x 140lbs/63.5029kg
4x 145lbs/65.7709kg

Barbell Bench Press (down to the chest)

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 95lbs/43.0913kg
5x 105lbs/47.6272kg
5x 125lbs/56.699kg
5x 130lbs/58.967kg
5x 135lbs/61.235kg

Assistance Lifts

Dumbbell Bent Over Rows (5×10) 45lbs

10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg

dumbbell bench press

Dumbbell Bench Press (5×10) 45lbs

10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg

Core Work

Superset Start
Roman Chair Back Ext (bodyweight)
x20, x15,x10
Captain’s Chair Leg Lifts (bodyweight)
x15, x12, x10
Superset End


Quad Stretch
30 seconds per leg
Ham Stretch
60 seconds
Butterfly Stretch
60 seconds

The goal for my back squats for today was to get my butt down onto the bench for each and every rep no matter what. If anything, my warm up set was easier than I anticipated and it didn’t get at all challenging until I put the weight on the barbell up to 135 pounds. Even then, it was pretty doable.

But instead of keeping the weight the same for several sets as I did last Sunday, I did some very minor increases. I put the safety bars in place just in case and today, I was glad I did.

At 140 pounds, I was still able to do 5 reps getting my rear down to the bench each time. 145 pounds was another story. Oh, I got down OK and got back up the first 3 times. Then I squatted down into the hole for the fourth time, anticipating a good 5 reps for this set as well.

But when I tried to stand up, I stalled and actually sat back down on the bench hard enough to “clank” the barbell against the safety bars. For a fraction of a second, I thought I was going to have to crawl out from under the barbell, but I got mad at the thought (no “Hulk out,” though) and pushed up hard.

hulk out
Bill Bixby as David Banner “Hulking out”

It was lousy. I felt off-balance and momentarily struggled to re-rack the bar on its pins.

No fifth rep in this set. Still, this was the heaviest I’ve ever squatted getting all the way down to the bench and rising again, and for 4 reps. Either I’m getting more determined, stronger, or a little of both.

I had the same plan for the bench press and it worked more or less the same. Last time, I kept the weight at 125 pounds and kept knocking out sets, but this time, I increased the weight to 130 and then 135. At 135 pounds, I really took some effort to get the barbell down to my chest and then all the way back up for a full 5 reps. I was hoping to do the same for 140, but that wasn’t going to happen today.

However, when I checked back in my log, I found that previously I was only able to bench 135 pounds using a full range of motion for 3 reps. Today, it was for 5, so another victory of sorts.

After that, it was just assistance lifts. I’d planned on keeping the dumbbell weight at 45 pounds, just like last Sunday, but on a whim, I started my bent over rows with a 50 pound dumbbell. I figured I could go down to a 45 as I fatigued.

I fatigued, but not enough to have to lighten the weight.

Same deal for the dumbbell bench press. I already had one 50 pound dumbbell on hand, so I went and got the other, and although the last 2 sets were hard, especially for the weaker triceps head on my left arm, I still pumped out all 50 reps over 5 sets.

I had about 10 minutes left, so I did supersets of back extensions and leg lifts, not necessarily limiting myself to 10 reps per set, and polished off my workout with some easy stretching.

Returning to my back squats for a moment, it really startled me when I “collapsed” in the hole. It wasn’t that I completely lost control exactly, but when I tried to push back up, gravity pulled me down, if only for a moment. That’s never happened before, but then again, I’ve never risked going down low beyond 130-135 pounds before.

Glad I took the risk and I’m really glad I had those safety bars in place. If they weren’t there and I got struck, I have no idea how I would have gotten out of that situation.

As I was working out, people started to trickle into the weight room including shaved head guy and his daughter as well as a semi-regular, bent over guy. Bent over guy is disabled, I think. He always walks a bit stooped over like he can’t stand completely upright, but his deadlifts are to die for.

Right after I finished my dumbbell bench press and was ready to leave the weight room, I noticed he had a 275 pound barbell at his feet and was getting ready to deadlift. He’s the only guy I’ve seen in the gym who uses wrist straps to enhance his grip on the bar.

wide stance deadlift
Photo credit:

I pretended to be looking at my workout log waiting for him to start his set. He got down low, really low, and then stood up. He pulled 275 pounds up for 5 reps. I wasn’t sure he’d make the fifth one since at the end of the fourth, he paused for several seconds before trying again.

But he made it. If we’d have made eye contact, I think I would have congratulated him, but like most people in the free weight room (including me), he was in his own private “bubble”.

After I finished stretching, I was perfectly happy to leave the gym having made some progress (although minor by the standards of most strength trainers). I’d worked up a good sweat, and even doing my assistance lifts, I was out of breath and resting somewhere between 90 and 120 seconds between sets.

Now, when I stand up from a seated position, it’s enough to make my thighs beg for mercy…well, for a split second or two. I’m still experiencing DOMS pretty much from every muscle I have. Deload week is supposed to be about rest and recovery, but I still feel like I’ve worked out well.

Tomorrow’s the fourth and final day of deload week. So far it’s pretty successful, but we’ll see how or if it has any positive impact on my performance when I begin my second cycle of 5/3/1.

We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made of us.

Jean-Paul Sartre


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