Cycle Two, Week One, Day One of 5/3/1 Strength Training

icy fog
Icy fog in Boise, Idaho

So this was it. The beginning of the second round of my 5/3/1 strength training after deload week. A chance to see if any of this was working and if I was actually getting stronger.

Icy fog greeted me when I woke up this morning. I’d spent some part of yesterday (when it was sunny and 40 degrees F) out in the yard cleaning up debris and didn’t realize the impact all that bending over would have on my lower back when I first got out of bed today.

Ouch.

I had slept restlessly, with a lot of confusing dreams, some of it about being at a bodybuilding contest put on by Lou Ferrigno, and all I wanted to do was find someplace where I could squat, deadlift, and bench press.

Anyway, I finally crawled out of bed at a quarter to seven. On Sunday’s, the gym opens at eight.

Had a cup of coffee and a banana, even though I didn’t feel hungry, and managed to hustle the missus out to the car in time for us to make it to the gym a minute before eight.

I saw Bryce’s car in the parking lot and figured he was already inside getting ready to open up. Even though the lights weren’t on yet, my wife tried the door and it was unlocked. We scurried inside and I set up a bench in the squat rack in the dark.

Just as I was ready to do my warm up lifts, the music and the lights came on. It was time to see what I was made of.

5/5/5+

Main Lifts

Back Squat in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 95lbs/43.0913kg (warm up)
5x 115lbs/52.1631kg
5x 125lbs/56.699kg
6x 135lbs/61.235kg (5+)
5x 140lbs/63.5029kg (joker)
5x 145lbs/65.7709kg (joker)
4x 150lbs/68.0389kg (joker)
3x 155lbs/70.3068kg (joker)

woman bench pressBarbell Bench Press

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 95lbs/43.0913kg
5x 115lbs/52.1631kg
6x 125lbs/56.699kg (5+)
4x 135lbs/61.235kg (joker)
3x 140lbs//63.5029kg (joker)
2x 147.5lbs/66.904875kg (joker)

Assistance Lifts

Barbell Bent Over Row (5×10) 115lbs/52.1631kg

10x 120lbs/54.4311kg
10x 120lbs/54.4311kg
10x 120lbs/54.4311kg
10x 120lbs/54.4311kg
10x 120lbs/54.4311kg

Dumbbell Bench Press (5×10) 55lbs/24.9476kg

10x 55lbs/24.9476kg
10x 55lbs/24.9476kg
10x 55lbs/24.9476kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg

Bodyweight Lunges
x20, x20, x20, x12, x12

Core Work

Superset
Roman Chair Back Ext
x10, x10, x10
Captain’s Chair Leg Lifts
x10, x10, x10
End Superset

Stretching

roman chair to work hams
Photo: anthonydexmier.com

Roman Chair Ham and Calf Stretch
x60 seconds

Quad Stretch
L x30 sec, x30 sec
R x30 sec, x30 sec

Butterfly Stretch
x60 seconds

Remember, my goals for both the Back Squat and Barbell Bench Press are less about weight and more about full range of motion (ROM). For squats, that means pulling a bench in the squat rack with me, and every time I squat down into the hole, my butt has to touch the bench before I come back up.

For the bench press, the bar has to come down and touch my chest for each and every rep before I push the barbell back up.

The results were humbling but encouraging.

Last week, the absolute maximum weight I did for squats and touched my buns all the way down to the bench was 4 reps at 145 pounds and, as you may recall, I had trouble getting out of the hole for the fourth rep. I started pushing up and popped right back down, actually banging the barbell against the safety bars. Fortunately, I made another attempt and was (barely) successful.

Today was different. Even just using the empty barbell, the two outer areas of my thighs burned and complained as I pushed up out of the hole for each and every rep. I thought this was a bad omen but kept going, adding weight a little at a time. I did 2 warm ups and then set about my planned lifts.

For my 5+ set, I did 6 instead of 5 reps and probably could have done more. The pain was lessening up a little, so I felt I could keep increasing the weight as long as I didn’t push myself too hard by attempting too many reps.

I did 5 reps with a 140 pound barbell and amazingly (for me) another 5 with a 145 pound bar. As far as doing a very proper squat with full range of motion, I’d never worked as heavy before. All of my much heavier lifts were still partial squats, even if I got my rear down to about an inch above the bench.

By now, a couple of other guys were in the free weight room including Don. One of them, a fellow I’d never seen before, was at one of the bench press stations. There’s only 2, so if I wanted the other one, I’d better hurry.

squat to seat
Photo: Bodybuilding.com

But I still felt I could handle more weight in my squats so I tried 150 pounds. I stopped after 4 reps because even at just 5 pounds heavier, it made a difference. I still didn’t want to quit and tried one more joker at 155 pounds. I was glad I had the safety bars in place because I didn’t know what to expect. I was determined to sit on the bench for each rep no matter what. And yet, I still managed a full 3 reps at that weight.

That was it. No pushing beyond that point. I’ll do squats again on Wednesday and we’ll see what we can see then, but for today, I handled the heaviest weight I’ve ever done in a full range of motion for squats, exceeding last week’s limit.

The second bench press station was still free when I finished my squats and I put my sweat rag, notebook, and water bottle on it to “claim” it while I put the other bench back where I found it and unloaded the barbell in the squat rack.

The guy next to me was already benching a 225 pound bar for 10 reps and getting the barbell down to his chest on every rep.

All this while I was doing warm ups with just the bar.

I checked my log and saw that the last week before deload week, I was able to get a 145 pound barbell down to my chest for 2 sets at 1 rep per set.

I was hoping to exceed that to an even 150 but that didn’t quite work out.

For my final working set before jokers, I benched 125 pounds for 6 reps and was doing well. I set the barbell’s weight to 135 but could only manage 4 reps. That didn’t bode well for the next 2 jokers. I managed 3 reps with a 140 pound barbell and then increased the weight to what I thought was 145.

I could just manage 2 reps and called it good. It was only when I was unloading the bar that I discovered one side had a 45 plate and a 5 pound plate, but the other had a 45, a 5, and a 2.5 pound plate. I’d miscounted or just wasn’t paying attention and accidentally set the barbell to 147.5 pounds. I didn’t notice the imbalance because the difference in weight for each side of the bar was so slight.

bench press
Proto credit: bizzfortune.com

OK, so for getting the barbell all the way down to my chest in my bench press, I did set a new PR, if only just.

When starting assistance lifts, I returned to barbell bent over rows rather than using dumbbells. I increased the weight only slightly to 120 pounds, even though I’d planned for 115. I’ve tried 125 pounds in the past but I can’t manage it for all 5 sets. I thought 120 pounds might be a better option and it worked.

Not so for dumbbell bench presses however.

I thought I could manage a pair of 55 pound dumbbells, but only got through the first 3 sets before I knew I’d have to go lighter. Fortunately, the guy who had been using the 50s had just finished, so I swapped my dumbbells out and got into the fourth set.

I was worried I’d have to go down to the 45 pounders for the fifth set, but managed to push myself to use the 50s for all 10 reps of the last set. I was only successful because I rested over 2 minutes between the fourth and fifth set, recovering enough strength to finish up clean.

There was a young guy, maybe mid to late 20s, working out in the weight room along with one or two other guys who I didn’t recognize. He was built like Captain America and he could perform.

He was doing single arm bench presses using a 60 pound dumbbell. Everything on this guy was big and pumped up. In a way, I was glad to be done, just so I could maintain my mental “bubble” and focus on my goals and performance rather than someone else’s.

I decided to treat lunges just like any other assistance lift and did 5 set. I did 20 (10 for each leg) reps for the first 3 sets, but I was fatigued and stumbling a lot, losing my balance, so I reduced the reps for the last 2 sets.

Supersetted my core work and by the time I got to stretching my quads, the missus was done and ready to go. A few minutes later, so was I.

Comparing today’s performance with what I did at the start of day one, week one of last cycle, my squats, at least on paper, suck.

But what you don’t see unless you read the narrative from that blog post, is that I couldn’t get my butt down to the bench past 115 pounds. Starting at 125 pounds, I only managed to get within an inch or so of the surface, thus using a somewhat limited rather than full range of motion.

Sure, the maximum weight I handled was 180 pounds for 3 reps, but again, not with full range of motion. Today, I did 3 reps at full range of motion using a 155 pound bar. That’s 40 more pounds than I managed for full ROM than I did at the start of the last cycle 4 weeks ago.

I think something’s working.

The same comparison holds for the bench press. When I was using a 125 pound barbell at the start of last cycle, I couldn’t actually get the bar to touch my chest, and my max weight for even partials was 140 pounds for 2 reps. Today, with full ROM, the max weight was 147.5 for 2 reps.

Mark Rippetoe
Mark Rippetoe

Assistance lifts aren’t supposed to be as big a deal, although especially with dumbbell bench presses, I’ve greatly improved from four weeks ago (although Mark Rippetoe doesn’t believe assistance lifts are necessary for everyone). I’m also able to manage more reps of bodyweight lunges than before, but with my balance problems, I’m a little hesitant to try weighted lunges.

I wasn’t particularly looking forward to visiting Kasey the chiropractor this afternoon. Frankly, I was tired and sore and just wanted to rest up a bit, and while I know that strength training and chiropractic work go together like peanut butter and jelly, it’s still really uncomfortable, and I don’t feel like I have any control of what happens when I’m being adjusted.

I know people who swear by chiropractic adjustments and I’m willing to listen to the research I’ve discovered and have a little faith that this is for the best, but I’ll know better after some time has passed.

As we approached Kasey’s place further out of town, snow was added to the freezing fog, which I really didn’t expect. As my wife and I entered Kasey’s backyard through the side fence and started walking to his little mother-in-law house in back where he does his work, Kasey’s dog went nuts, though not in a bad way. Kasey opened the sliding glass door and by both manhandling the dog and issuing commands, got him to stay.

He didn’t like it and kept whining.

My wife always goes first and Kasey seems to learn something new about her with each adjustment. Something must have happened to her left shoulder years ago, maybe even a break, though the missus wasn’t aware of it. I’m rather impressed with Kasey’s range of knowledge, which goes far beyond the chiropractic arts.

Then it was my turn. Kasey correctly identified the area of my spine where I have a bone spur and arthritis and he said he has to use different techniques on me because my “tight spots” which have probably been tight for decades, do not want to move at all. He hit me on the back of the neck with something that reminded me of a carpenter hammering nails into wood. Whatever it was, I felt it all the way down my arms and felt electrical tingles in my fingertips, which Kasey said was good.

chiropractic spine
Credit: easewell.net

I didn’t come away with a headache this week, but my neck feels sore and slightly (very slightly) more mobile. The part of my back that has arthritis is affecting my neck mobility, according to Kasey. I guess I’m a chiropractic mess.

When our appointment was done, the missus and I braved the snow which vanished as we got closer to town, and made it home. Right now, I could use a nap.

My goal in life is to die young at a ripe old age.

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