3/3/3+ Week of Cycle Seven and The Back Squats Continue

squatI woke up this morning and looked at the clock. It said 3:50 a.m., meaning I had to drag my butt out of bed. Wasn’t sure if I wanted to lift today or save that for tomorrow and just do another cardio session. Figured I’d let my first cup of coffee make the decision.

I was a little hesitant to squat because two days ago, after my cardio and gut work, the weight room was completely empty and the squat rack was calling my name. I decided to do something I haven’t done in a long time…squat without a bench or box.

For the past five or six months, I’ve been using a “target” for my butt. The bench I normally use for main lift squats puts my thighs at nearly (but not quite) parallel to the floor, and the box gets me to parallel or below, though I only do box squats with much lighter weights.

I decided to try some lightweight squats on Monday with just me and the barbell. Never went heavier than 85 pounds, but I did 5 sets at 10 reps per set. I might try slowly increasing the weight for my “raw” squats as assistance lifts so that eventually, I get rid of the bench for my main lifts.

Wasn’t sure what shape my legs would be in this morning, but the temptation to lift won, so I walked into the gym right at 5 a.m. and headed straight for the squat rack. I beat strong, bent over guy there by 5 minutes.

Here’s how Wednesday went.

Cycle Seven, Week Two, Day Two 3/3/3+

Main Lifts

Back Squat in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
10x 95lbs/43.0913kg (warm up)
3x 135lbs/61.235kg
3x 150lbs/68.0389kg
4x 160lbs/72.5748kg
3x 175lbs/79.3787kg (joker)
2x 190lbs/86.1826kg (joker)
1x 205lbs/92.9864kg (joker) PR

overhead press rippetoe
Photo: pjmedia.com

Overhead Press in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
3x 70lbs/31.7515kg
3x 80lbs/36.2874kg
5x 85lbs/38.5554kg
2x 95lbs/43.0913kg (joker)
1x 100lbs/45.3592kg (joker)
0x 105lbs/47.6272kg (joker) -failed rep-

Assistance Lift

Lightweight Bench Press

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg
10x 55lbs/24.9476kg
10x 65lbs/29.4835kg
10x 75lbs/34.0194kg
10x 85lbs/38.5554kg
10x 95lbs/43.0913kg
8x 105lbs/47.6272kg
5x 115lbs/52.1631kg

Yeah, I dragged the bench in with me since I wanted to try for a PR. Warm ups went fine. No problem with those formerly tight hams. The first working set went OK, but I started feeling the weight during the second set. Still managed 4 reps for the 3+ set which made me happy.

Long story short, I got that PR. Yes, I know. a single rep at 205 pounds qualifies me for wimp of the year, but it’s the best I’ve done…ever, at least for a full squat. My goal is to do 225 for 1 rep. That’s probably still a long way off, but at least I’m getting a little closer.

Oh, trivia note. On 3/3/3+ week for the previous cycle, I set a new PR at 200 pounds. I’m inching ahead just a tiny bit. That 205 pound squat was pretty difficult (for me). My face got all red as I was pushing up out of the hole.

So, a new PR for the back squat. Could I do the same for my overhead press?

While I was doing presses, strong, bent over guy pulled a bench into the Smith machine and started doing back squats…except his were a lot heavier. He did 2 or 3 reps at 315 pounds but that wasn’t his heaviest. That would be 6 or 7 reps at 345 pounds. He paused between sets and his face was proverbially beet red. Guy’s tremendously strong, I’ll give him that. I feel like Tweety Bird next to his Incredible Hulk.

Felt pretty good for the first 2 working sets. For the 3+ set, the fourth rep almost stalled and I really had to push to make the fifth rep. I was hoping that meant I was strong enough to go all the way to a new PR. I remember when I could barely do a single rep at 85 pounds.

Hulk and Bixby
Image: followingthenerd.com

Managed 2 reps at 95 and a single at 100. I went for broke, but I’m still not strong enough to push a 105 pound barbell over my head. Typical scenario. I pushed, got halfway up and stalled. Lowered the weight and tried again. Same result.

Guess I’ll have to wait a little longer for that one.

Most of the benches were being used so I skipped bench dips and did a bunch of lightweight bench presses instead. I just kept increasing the weight until I couldn’t do 10 reps anymore. Pushed myself anyway for the final 2 sets just because I could.

By this time, it was almost the top of the hour. No time for mobility work. I’ll do that tomorrow. Maybe I’ll even get back to rack pulls on Friday.

Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.

Vern Law


3 thoughts on “3/3/3+ Week of Cycle Seven and The Back Squats Continue

  1. Hey James, 50 y/o lifter here. Couple of things Ive found is the body will smack you hard if you don’t take care of fequency, volume and intensity.

    Been lifting 28 years and I now avoid certain movements that wipe me out. I dont do Back Squats BLDL’s, chins or dips anymore – now its front squats, RDL’s , lots of light dumbell rows and EZ bar Pullovers.

    Programming wise I run 531 and have been doing so for a couple of years, the programming works for my choice of lifts, Dont be hesitant to try out different lifts than the traditional ones, it’s all good when you can progress and stay injury free. I train when I want, and go by how I feel – that could be twice a week or four times a week…..it all gets there in the end.


    1. Hi Pat,

      Whenever I see the grip required for a front squat, it looks kind of “iffy,” probably because I’ve never done it. The barbell feels more stable when I’m doing back squats. I don’t think the little suburban gym I go to even has an EZ bar.

      I know there’ll be an upper limit when I have to back off what I’m doing now. I just hope I haven’t reached it yet.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.



  2. Hello James, I am also a 61 y/o lifter and agree with Pat. I have pretty much abandoned back squats and stick to front squats. I think they are easier on the hip joints. I also squat every day, spend close to 20 minutes just warming up and cycle between light and heavy sets. If you can do a 205 back squat then I’m quite sure you are capable of a 100 lb front squat. If you don’t feel comfortable with your elbows out, try the old bodybuilders grip, cross armed; put your thumbs in that intersection between anterior dwelt and collar bone. This provides a petty good cradle for the bar. Plus front squats force you to keep your back straight, improves your posture.

    If you would like to get a flare for how I keep myself in shape, I also have a blog; http://loosefatassweight.blogspot.com/


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