Cycle Nine, Day One, 5/3/1+ Week


I’m beat. After I came home from the gym this morning, I did a few small tasks and then spent three hours out front pulling weeds and trimming plants with my son Michael. I don’t know if I’m sore from my workout, the yard work, or both. Probably both.

The missus wasn’t a slacker. She washed every window in the house, inside and out. Looks like she also did some laundry and a bunch of other stuff, too.

It was nearly 90 degrees F out when we finally called it. Lunch and the shower really hit the spot and I’ve been spending the last ninety minutes or so relaxing.

This is the start of 5/3/1+ week in my ninth cycle of strength training. I was excited to see if I could push my limits over last week and make even greater strength gains.

I pulled into the gym parking lot at about 5 to the hour. As usual, Bryce was a minute late. The only two people besides me to enter the gym don’t squat, so I was feeling pretty good.

Here’s how I started my week.

5/3/1+ Main Lifts

Back Squat in Squat Rack (raw)

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
10x 65lbs/29.4835kg (warm up)
5x 120lbs/54.4311kg
3x 135lbs/61.235kg
3x 150lbs/68.0389kg
3x 165lbs/74.8427kg (joker)
3x 175lbs/79.3787kg (joker)
2x 185lbs/83.9146kg (joker)
1x 195lbs/88.4505kg (joker)

back squat position
Mark Rippetoe, Credit:

Overhead Press in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 70lbs/31.7515kg
3x 80lbs/36.2874kg
3x 85lbs/40.8233kg
3x 90lbs/40.8233kg (joker)
1x 95lbs/43.0913kg (joker)

I was feeling pretty strong on my back squats and getting my rear down so my legs were parallel to the floor on the vast majority of reps. As I finished my 1+ set and worked my way into the jokers, the barbell was feeling pretty heavy on my back, but I could still squat okay.

Last week, my last joker was a single at 180 pounds and this morning, my third joker was a double at 185. I figured I could go heavier and increased the weight to 195.

I did the liftout and walkback. Yeah, it felt heavy, but it’s the heaviest squat attempted since coming back to the gym after getting sick and having surgery.

I got down into the hole and descended almost but not quite to the point where my thighs were parallel to the floor. I think it was a reflex because I wasn’t thinking about it. I just stopped lowering myself and started to push up again. It wasn’t a horrible difference…maybe an inch at most, but I wanted a perfect rep if I was only going to do one.

I’ll have to work on it, although I did go heavier this week than last, and my PR from before my illness (when I was squatting to a bench) was 210 pounds, so I’m not that far away from getting back there. Just 15 pounds.

overhead press

A few of the regulars moved in and out of the weight room while I was squatting, but no one unusual or who looked like they wanted to squat.

I switched to my overhead press routine, though I have to admit, I was feeling pretty tired after squats.

My presses went okay until my 1+ set. Pushing up 85 pounds felt pretty heavy, especially the first rep. For a second, I was wondering if I could do more than one. I managed 3, although last week, I did 4 reps with a 85 pound barbell.

I did a triple at 90, which I also did last week, but only a single at 95. I was surprised when I almost stalled halfway up the lift. I wanted to do 100 again and maybe 105, which is my PR, but my body was telling me not to go for it.

I decided to listen to the voice of reason for once. I could tell my form was lousy and the last thing I need is to injure myself.

There’s always next week.

Actually, my previous calculations said I should have done the 1+ set at 90 pounds, so I’m glad I had the sense to reduce it to 85. I haven’t recovered that much yet.

After I unloaded the barbell and straightened up the weight plates on the squat rack, I got a mat and did 5 sets of leg lifts for a total of 65 reps. After that, I just did my usual stretches, realized I’d been at the gym an hour, and headed for home.

My abs are getting stronger but my nasty, flabby gut remains the same. My weakness is food. I get more hungry sitting in front of a computer all day five days a week at work. I haven’t eaten all that much today, probably because I spent my morning at the gym and then outside.

I only had a sandwich for lunch but I’m not feeling too hungry, which is a good thing. My brain says I should snack on something fun, but my gut’s not feeling it. Time again to listen to the pesky voice of reason.

robot writing
Image: Shutterstock

Off topic. I maintain a few other blogspots where I discuss other interests (yes, I have other interests besides lifting). One of my other blogs is called Powered by Robots where I practice fiction writing, mostly science fiction and fantasy, as well as do book, TV show, and film reviews, post updates on the status of my first novel (still writing the first draft), and provide social commentaries on technology, science, and other future-looking topics.

I just found out that a piece of flash fiction (in this case, 1,000 words or less) I submitted to an online magazine was accepted for publication. Naturally, I want to brag. Find out more by reading the announcement.

Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.

Farrah Gray


2 thoughts on “Cycle Nine, Day One, 5/3/1+ Week

  1. Oh boy! I am really impressed. I am a 57 years old female and I am starting to do squats with the Smith rack (I hardly did any exercice for the last 20-25 years) and my sets with 30 pounds are challenging…


    1. We all have to start somewhere. The most important thing isn’t the numbers such as weight or reps. What’s most important is that you are challenging yourself and improving your physical and mental condition. Almost 18 months ago, I wrote a blog post about why exercise might be better than seeing a shrink, so you’re not just doing your body a favor, but your emotional state as well.

      I’m impressed that you’re squatting and using the Smith machine. I wish more women realized that it’s perfectly appropriate for them to do the same exercises that men traditionally do. One of my personal heroes is Morghan King. She’s an Olympic lifter, weighs 109 pounds soaking wet and can lift twice her bodyweight over her head. Another inspiration is Virginia (Gus) Rizen, who at 91 years of age, went into a gym and for the first time in her life started lifting. Granted, it’s just the bar which is 45 pounds, but she dramatically improved her health in just seven or eight months.

      Always start humble and then aim for the sky. If you stay disciplined and lift regularly, along with cardio and a sensible diet (that last part is hard for me, I like food), there’s no telling how you will change in six months to a year. I’m proud of you. Keep up the good work, Pascale.


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