Starting Cycle Six, Week One of 5/3/1 Training

After my recent performance lifting, I was dubious about approaching week one of my sixth cycle of Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 strength training program. A cranky hamstring on my left leg has been a limiting factor in my back squat, and my lagging triceps have been inhibiting my bench press, and, to some degree, my overhead press as well.

But yesterday, I took a look at the weights for 5/5/5+ week in cycle five and decided just to slightly increase the weights for my working sets by 5 pounds or so for this week.

I also have to say that I was concerned about how I’d perform deadlifts this morning. In spite of the fact that last week was deload week, I went off program Friday, mainly because I felt like it, and did Rack Pulls before tackling a light cardio workout.

I probably should have gone lighter, but as I increased the weight on the bar, I felt pretty good, so decided to keep going. I stopped short of my previous PR, but only by 5 pounds. I knew I’d gone too far already and in a little more than 48 hours, I’d have to be ready to do deadlifts.

Besides, Chase’s little class was buzzing around me doing lunges with kettlebells, working out on the hack squat machine, and generally being distracting.

Here’s what I did Friday morning.

Rack Pulls in Squat Rack

10x 135lbs/61.235kg (warm up)
10x 155lbs/70.3068kg (warm up)
10x 205lbs/92.9864kg (warm up)
5x 225lbs/102.058kg
5x 260lbs/117.934kg
3x 275lbs/124.738kg
2x 285lbs/129.274kg (joker)
1x 295lbs/133.81kg (joker)

Although, I don’t have a formal program for rack pulls anymore, I still organized my lifts into warm ups, working sets, and jokers, not that it really mattered. For a minute, I was tempted to try one more joker at 305 pounds for a new PR, but then the spirit of deload week took over and I stopped myself.

rack pull
Photo: practicalstrengthfortrainers.com

Something to look forward to, maybe this coming Friday.

I’ve been helping my son David get his house ready for sale. That means I’ve been doing more physical labor after work, and I’ve even taken a few vacation days to help out. That adds up to more exercise, more calories burned, and fewer opportunities to snack.

My weight’s been going steadily back up past 200 pounds and that has to stop. For the past several days, the increase has ceased and I’m actually losing a little bit.

My son has been doing something called “intermittent fasting”. In his case, he leaves himself only an 8 hour window to eat between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. He says it’s helping him lose weight. Right now, he’s still about 10 pounds heavier than I am, but I suspect not for long.

I’m considering this strategy as well, but it’ll take some adjustment since I typically have my first meal around 6 a.m. after working out (at least on weekdays), and have my last meal (usually) around 5 p.m.

This morning, I finally got my wife out the door and into the car at about 6 minutes to 8, and we actually didn’t beat Bryce to the gym this morning for once, being late by about a minute.

That said, we were still the first people in the gym, and Bryce hadn’t even turned on the lights yet.

I had just reached my favorite bench press station when the lights came on, and it was in pristine shape, which is something of a rarity. Nothing stopping me from immediately beginning my lifts.

This is how I began Sunday morning:

Cycle Six, Week One, 5/5/5+

Main Lifts

bench press
Photo credit: bodyworks24.com

Barbell Bench Press

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 100lbs/45.3592kg
5x 115lbs/52.1631kg
6x 130lbs/58.967kg
3x 140lbs/63.5029kg (joker)
1x 150lbs/68.0389kg (joker)
3x 135lbs/61.235kg (joker)
3x 135lbs/61.235kg (joker)

Barbell Bent Over Deadlifts

10x 145lbs/65.7709kg (warm up)
5x 175lbs/79.3787kg
5x 215lbs/97.5224kg
6x 225lbs/102.058kg
3x 255lbs/115.666kg (joker)
2x 275lbs/124.738kg (joker)
1x 285lbs/129.274lg (joker) PR

Assistance Lifts

Bodyweight Bench Dips (knees bent)

x10
x10
x10
x10
x10

Lightweight Box Squats in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg
10x 55lbs/24.9476kg
10x 65lbs/29.4835kg
10x 70lbs/31.7515kg
10x 80lbs/36.2874kg

Core and Mobility Work

Hamstring stretch #1 30 seconds x2
Hamstring stretch #2 30 seconds x2

Kasey the Chiropractor Core Work

Quad stretch 30 seconds x2

Long story short, bench press still sucks, and I made a new PR in deadlifts.

bench press
Photo credit: goldsgymsaipan.blogspot.com

I really, really wanted deload week to improve my bench press. I felt pretty good through my working sets. Thought I might be able to at least match my current PR of 160 pounds for a single rep.

I was happy to do 3 reps at 140 pounds for my first joker. I decided to try for at least 2 reps at 150. Did rep 1 OK, but when I tried for a second, I absolutely stalled part of the way up. I barely managed to rack the barbell in the lowest set of pins, just above my chest.

I crawled out under the bar and then lifted it up to the top pins, deloaded it to 135 pounds, and did 2 more jokers.

Liz had been in and out of the weight room as usual, but another person came in. I’ve seen him around a few times. Totally white hair, which means he’s probably 10 to 15 years older than I am. Wears a white muscle shirt but he doesn’t look like anything special.

He was doing bench presses on the other bench press station, but I didn’t see him lift anything heavier than 95 pounds. Of course, I only got a glance at him, being busy with my own business, so he could have gone heavier. I was getting ready to be embarrassed by his “old man’s strength,” while I’m becoming weaker in my bench press week over week.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen, and when he was finished with bench presses, he did a little dumbbell work, and then stuck to the machines for the rest of his time at the gym. When I looked later on, both he and Liz had finished and left.

My bench press may suck, but my deadlifts are to die for (well, I think so anyway).

After my warm up set, the working sets felt unusually heavy, and I thought it was a bad omen, but I pushed through the working sets and into the jokers.

Pulling 255 pounds off the floor for a triple felt heavy, at least for the first rep. I increased the weight to 275 pounds, only 5 pounds less than my PR. Then I waited nearly 3 minutes. I’d been increasing my rest period between sets for deadlifts, hoping for additional recovery and thus a better performance.

deadlift
Photo credit: Rebootedbody.com

Finally addressed the barbell, took my stance, tightened everything up, and after several deep breaths, pulled. The weight came up as expected; heavy but doable. In fact, I did well enough that I decided to do something I’ve never done before at that weight: try for a second rep…

…and I did it.

If I could do 2 reps at 275 pounds, what could I do at 285? If this worked, I’d have a new deadlift PR.

I increased the weight on the barbell to 285 pounds and waited. At this point, I was completely alone in the free weight room. That was good and bad. It was good because if I failed the rep, there’d be no witnesses. It was bad because if I succeeded, there’d be no witnesses.

I felt a little nervous as I walked up to the barbell. Did what I usually do to prepare for the lift. Tried to get my rear as low as I could, flatted out my back, tightened everything up, took a deep breath, and pulled.

There’s always three points in a heavy deadlift where I could fail, the initially pulling the thing off the floor, the shifting of load between my legs and my back, and the lockout at the top.

I had severe doubts at all three points.

I struggled as the weight slowly came off the floor and kept pulling. I struggled again at the midpoint, worried that I’d fail and have to abort the lift. Amazingly, I kept going. But for the first time ever, I got stuck before the lockout at the top. Also, and this has never happened before, my grip on my left hand started to weaken.

I gave it one last effort, pouring everything I had left, and barely made the lockout.

I don’t know how long I held the weight, but it probably was only a second or two. The thing felt that damn heavy.

I started to reverse the rep and go down, but said “to heck with it,” and dropped the barbell, making a loud crashing sound.

bench dips
Photo: acefitness.org

Yeah! I did it! New PR for deadlifts.

No way I’d have done a second rep, though. The weight was punishing.

I felt tired but not completely exhausted, and “rested” while pulling plates off, reducing the weight on the bar to 135 pounds. It felt light when I yanked it off the floor to re-rack it. Then I finished the deload and called it good.

I’m still hacked off about my lousy, weak triceps. My son has been trying to get me to do dips, but every time I try, they feel exceptionally difficult and awkward.

He demonstrated some partial dips on my coffee table at home, and said they’re easier if I don’t extend my legs all the way out.

The weight room was still empty, so I chose a bench, took the position, and keeping my legs bent at the knee, did some “boring but big” assistance lifts.

For the first time, these dips didn’t seem that awkward, and in fact, they were doable. The last two sets were difficult, but I managed. Noticed the missus at one point coming into the weight room to do some dumbbell work, and then ab crunches.

I still had time on the clock and was feeling pretty good, so I added some lightweight box squats into the mix. It’s amazing how going that low, and doing 10 reps per set can be so tiring, even with a really light barbell.

box squat
Photo: bonvecstrength.com

Of course, I was already pretty wiped out from my previous lifts, and especially the deadlifts.

While all this was going on, some guy kept making eye contact with me. With me performing light box squats, maybe he was doing the “man judge” thing, figuring I was some sort of wimp or something.

Of course, that’s my projection, and I have no idea what he was really thinking…maybe nothing to do with me.

After I was done with box squats, I saw that my wife was still working out, so I had time for my stretches and the Kasey the Chiropractor core work. I added some quad stretches in just for giggles.

At the end of all of that, the missus was ready to leave and so was I. We’d spent 80 minutes working out, and that felt just about right.

I was looking forward to having Kasey work me over, but we found out via text that he’s in Seattle until Tuesday. Too bad. I really wanted him to do something with that hamstring on my left leg. Even those light box squats gave it a hard time.

I slugged down a protein shake when I got home from the gym, and am trying to hold off eating anything else until around lunch. My stomach is arguing with me, but this tummy has got to go. My son, who served in the Marine Corps, has the attitude to prove it, and he’s pretty relentless in his macho mode teasing.

He’s like 30 years younger than I am, and just doing bodyweight resistance training, is way stronger.

I envy his testosterone. He says I can build more back and lose more weight by taking cold showers.

I’d heard about that before when I read and reviewed Bill Gifford’s book Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever (or Die Trying).

Gifford spent a long time following up on every method people use to stay younger longer and to increase their life span. In my review, I recorded what he said seemed to work (most methods didn’t).

Things he said might work were Resveratrol, Curcumin, Red Wine, Coffee, Vitamin D, Metformin, even Aspirin and Ibuprofen. Jumping into the freezing cold Pacific Ocean and taking cold showers didn’t make the list.

I took a nice warm shower this morning. Ha!

barbell
Photo: menshealth.com

Thinking about making rack pulls a formal part of my routine again, doing them on Fridays and still leaving enough time to do a cardio session. I’ve already written about how a combination of diet, aerobic work, and lifting heavier weights for fewer reps and using compound lifts, all contribute to losing weight. So adding rack pulls while not skimping on cardio seems like it could be an improvement, and I don’t think I’d be sacrificing too much recovery time.

Once you can squat with 180 kilograms, your arms and shoulders will come along much more receptively…If you want big arms and shoulders, your first priority is to be sure that your leg/hip/back structure is growing and becoming powerful

Stuart McRobert

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