Starting Cycle Three of 5/3/1 Strength Training — Where’s My Strength?

light squat
Photo credit:

I was very comfortable in bed this morning. That’s not a good sign really that I’m ready to lift and lift hard at the start of my day. I kept looking at the clock, rolling over, and dozing off again. My wife had long since gotten up, but she had a really lousy night trying to sleep. She also had something else to do this morning, which meant I’d be going to the gym alone.

Don’t worry though, she did her gym session last night. She’s no slacker.

The morning was bright and I needed my sunglasses to be able to drive east toward the gym. Made it there in plenty of time, and as it turned out, the owner opened up since Bryce couldn’t find his door key. Don, medical profession gal, and a few people I didn’t know went into the gym with me.

Lights were on and music was pounding as I pulled a bench into the squat rack with me and prepared to start day one of week one of my third 5/3/1 strength training circuit.

Here’s how Sunday morning began.


Main Lifts

Back Squat in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 95lbs/43.0913kg (warm up)
5x 115lbs/52.1631kg
5x 130lbs/58.967kg
5x 140lbs/63.5029 (5+)
3x 150lbs/68.0389kg (joker)
3x 150lbs/68.0389kg (joker)
3x 150lbs/68.0389kg (joker)

Barbell Bench Press

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
8x 95lbs/43.0913kg (warm up)
5x 100lbs/45.3592kg
5x 120lbs/54.4311kg
5x 130lbs/58.967kg (5+)
3x 140lbs/63.5029kg (joker)
2x 140lbs/63.5029kg (joker)
3x 140lbs/63.5029kg (joker)

Assistance Lifts

cable triceps pushdown

Cable Triceps Pushdown w/Rope (5×10)

10x 85lbs/38.5554kg
10x 100lbs/45.3592kg
10x 110lbs/49.8952kg
10x 115lbs/52.1631kg
10x 120lbs/54.4311kg

Barbell Bent Over Row (5×10) 125lbs/56.699kg

10x 125lbs/56.699kg
10x 125lbs/56.699kg
10x 125lbs/56.699kg
10x 125lbs/56.699kg
10x 125lbs/56.699kg

Box Squats in Squat Rack (5×5)

5x 45lbs/20.4117kg
5x 50lbs/22.6796kg
5x 55lbs/24.9476kg
5x 60lbs/27.2155kg
5x 65lbs/29.4835kg

Core Work

Leg Back Raises
Lx15, Rx15

Leg Side Raises
Lx15, Rx15

Alternating Arm/Leg Raises (Bird Dog)
15x each side

Standing on One Foot
30 seconds each side

As you can see, there were no new PRs nor did I even try for any. I just didn’t have it in me, especially doing 5 reps for all of my working sets. For some reason, that felt quite heavy enough. In fact, for the 5+ sets, I didn’t even attempt to go over 5 reps.

I checked back in my exercise log for day one of week one of the previous cycle, and discovered that my performance back then was better, if only slightly, from today. For back squats 3 weeks ago, I even exceeded the number of reps, so it’s not like I was exchanging intensity for volume.

The weights for my working sets have increased, but only by 5 pounds. Am I getting stronger or not?

reverse grip row

I changed things around for my assistance lifts. Assuming that my triceps are the limiting factor in several of my main lifts, I decided to do some work targeting them. I returned to the traditional cable triceps push down. It took me some trial-and-error to get the weight right, but I still got a workout.

One bench press station was still free so I did bent over rows, but at 5 pounds heavier than the last cycle. At least that seems to be getting better.

A couple of women had been using the squat rack (a total of 3 different women used it while I was at the gym this morning, which is unheard of and very encouraging), but they were out by the time I finished with my rows. So I got my 12 inch tall box and tried some box squats.

I started with just the bar, and I only did 5 reps per set, but I just slightly increased the weight set by set. I’m hoping this assistance lift will help me up my game with my squats. I don’t really seem to be starting this cycle with a lot of aggressive power.

In addition to the women I mentioned above, there was a young guy, early 20s at the oldest, who used the squat rack. He used an extremely light weight, but he definitely got “ass to grass,” as the saying goes, putting his butt way down in the hole, with thighs below parallel.

Same with his bench press and barbell bent over rows. Very light weight, but very good form.

After box squats were done, I was considering some cardio, but I didn’t bring a protein shake with me, and if I go too long between the end of lifting and sucking down some protein, I miss my window of opportunity for protein absorption and thus building stronger muscles.

I settled for my Kasey the Chiropractor exercises and then returned home.

I was tired and sore, so I figured the workout wasn’t a complete waste.

The missus got home in time for us to head out to Kasey’s. When we got there, my wife wanted to change into shorts for her adjustment, so I went first.

I was a little concerned that two weeks between adjustments would make me really stiff and hard for Kasey to move stuff around, but he got some good mobility out of my neck, along with some loud snap, crackle, and pops.

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He also told me that I needed to be doing about 4 sets of each of his exercises at between 10 to 20 reps. I guess I messed that one up.

Kasey said that the real work in balancing on one foot for 30 seconds won’t happen until I can do it with my eyes shut. He used a word to describe what’s supposed to happen, but I’ve forgotten it.

I’ve got the place to myself for the time being but all I can think of is taking a nap. I thought all this exercise stuff was supposed to make me both stronger and more energetic. Seems like today is evidence of anything but.

It isn’t your position that makes you happy or unhappy, it’s your disposition.

O.S. Marden


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