Ending Round Two, Week One of 5/3/1 Training

overhead press
Photo credit: t-nation.com

For some strange reason, I slept until the alarm woke me up at 4 this morning. I didn’t feel wiped out though, and got right out of bed. Unfortunately, the alarm also roused my wife, who doesn’t have to go to work today (though she’s got a ton of other errands to run) and didn’t particularly want to wake up right then.

I grabbed my usual cup of coffee, glass of water, and banana (for carbs), proceeded through my morning routine, and got to the gym at about 3 before 5. A couple of regulars were already at the door and it was a “balmy” 36 degrees F outside. Receptionist gal (seems there’s a different one for every day of the week) opened the doors and turned the lights on promptly at 5 and in we went.

One of the regulars is known to use the squat rack, and since I really needed to dominate it this morning, I ditched my hoodie fast and headed into the weight room.

I was feeling a little “puny” as I stood at the rack. Nothing serious, but just not quite up to par. Maybe the end of the week blues or something. I was wondering if I could hit any new PRs today.

Here’s how I ended my first week of round 2 in my 5/3/1 program:


Main Lifts

Overhead Press in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 55lbs/24.9476kg
5x 60lbs/27.2155kg
7x 65lbs/29.4835kg (5+)
3x 70lbs/31.7515kg (joker)
2x 75lbs/34.0194kg (joker)
1x 85lbs/38.5554kg (joker)
1x 90lbs/40.8233kg (joker) PR

rack pulls
Photo: nailsworthstrengthandfitness.co.uk

Rack Pulls in Squat Rack

5x 145lbs/65.7709kg (warm up)
5x 160lbs/72.5748kg
5x 185lbs/83.9146kg
6x 215lbs/97.5224kg (5+)
3x 235lbs/106.594kg (joker)
3x 255lbs/115.666kg (joker)
1x 275lbs/124.738kg (joker) PR

Assistance Lifts

Bent Leg Deadlifts (5×10)

10x 145lbs/65.7709kg
10x 145lbs/65.7709kg
10x 145lbs/65.7709kg
10x 145lbs/65.7709kg
10x 145lbs/65.7709kg

Core Work

Roman Chair Back Ext (bodyweight)
x12, x10, x10

Captain’s Chair Leg Lifts (bodyweight)
x12, x10, x10

Just the barbell felt really heavy when I did my warm up set for the overhead press, and I was tempted not to do a full 10 reps. I did my first 2 working sets fighting with the barbell for every rep. I managed 7 reps for the 5+ set, and looking back in my log, I only did 6 reps on Sunday, so a slight improvement.

I really wanted that PR, so after the first two jokers, I incremented the weight up 10 pounds instead of 5, did a single at 85 pounds, and then tried for 90. I struggled, but I managed a single at 90 pounds, which is not just a post-personal training PR but an all-time PR. 2 weeks ago, I could only manage a single at 85 pounds.

Admittedly, the barbell came back down a tad faster than I wanted, but at least I did it. Getting stronger in my overhead press has always been a mother bear, and it seems like I’ve been stuck at that 80 to 85 pound plateau forever.

Glad to see it can be broken. Now to improve upon it.

Next were rack pulls. I noticed that formerly broken foot guy had come into the weight room, but he was doing mainly chest work. The other regular, bearded guy (I should ask what their names are one of these days), was working with dumbbells, so it didn’t seem like anyone was truly anxious to get to the squat rack (and I was right…no one used the squat rack after I vacated it for the entire time I was in the weight room).

rack pull
Photo: practicalstrengthfortrainers.com

2 weeks ago, my PR for rack pulls was a single at 265 pounds. I’d love to raise that to 300, but all in good time.

Surprisingly, the barbell started to feel really heavy at 185 pounds. That’s only the second of my 3 working sets, so I got a little worried that my performance wasn’t going to be adequate to meet, let alone surpass my previous PR.

But I kept increasing the weight. 2 weeks ago, my 1+ set was 3 reps with a 205 pound barbell. Today, the 5+ set was 6 reps at 215. I decided for the jokers just to increment the weight 20 pounds after each set and see how far I could go. I did 3 reps each at 235 and then 255 pounds.

Then I tried for 275, 10 pounds heavier than my prior PR. I figured I could squeeze a single out of it and I was right. I thought about trying another rep, but time was running down and I didn’t want to be an idiot and foolishly take myself too far.

I remember from 2 weeks ago, that after pulling up a 265 pound barbell in my rack pull, wanted to quit. I felt terrifically wiped out and had to force myself to do my assistance lifts. Today, I was certainly tired, sweating, and out of breath, but I knew I had more in me.

The clock told me that I probably wasn’t going to get both deadlifts and dumbbell shoulder presses in, so I chose deadlifts.

I didn’t increase the weight from last time and kept it at 145 pounds for all 5 sets, doing 10 reps per “boring but big” set.

I was huffing and puffing and had to wait a full 2 minutes between sets just to get some “juice” back. 145 pounds doesn’t seem like much, but the volume makes all the difference, plus the fact that I was already tired from my main lifts.

The weight room was really getting crowded and I found myself wishing the place was bigger. I was using the barbell from the single incline bench station because it’s not used often and I was hoping I was out of everyone’s way.

I finished off my assistance lifts and, with less than 10 minutes left until 6, considered calling it a day.

I did some quad stretches and talked with Ken, one of the older regulars, while I thought of what I could do. Settled for some back extensions and leg lifts to work the core, finished up at the top of the hour and headed home.

One of the things I noticed is that my overhead press felt so difficult because my forearms were sore. Most of what I do really works my grip and maybe, this being the last lift day of the week, I’m overworking certain muscle groups.

Photo credit: menshealth.com

My biceps are also really sore, and my elbows and wrists are achy as well. Actually, most of my body is a raging set of DOMS. Glad tomorrow is a complete rest day.

I’m concerned though that I’m habitually under utilizing cardio. Even on a perfect week, I only have 2 days of cardio programmed in. I could do 3 if I hit the gym on Saturdays, but that means being working out 7 days a week, and strength training is all about recovery to build strength, not constantly wearing yourself down.

I saw a sign on the gym’s door this morning. Next Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, they’re closing early to do some remodeling.

In my fantasies, I hope they knock out the wall that separates the main gym area from the empty suite next door, and make a new, expanded free weight room. It’s on the opposite wall from where the weight room is now, which means all of that heavy equipment would somehow have to be moved a fair distance.

Of course, that’s my fantasy. I have no idea what they’re really going to do. Maybe I’ll ask Bryce on Sunday, assuming he knows. I would love it if my fantasy came true. It would be terrific if we could have more than 1 squat rack and 2 bench press stations. It would be fantastic (and probably totally unrealistic for a gym like this) to have dedicated deadlift platforms.

And chalk would be a big plus, too.

Have a good Friday. I’ll be back in a few days with the start of round 2, week 2 of my 5/3/1 program.

The world is a great gymnasium where we come to make ourselves strong.

Swami Vivekananda


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