Starting Cycle Ten of 5/3/1 Strength Training for the Old Guy

eagle fitness
Eagle Fitness

Yesterday was the last day of the week we had the grandkids, so I didn’t get to the gym until late, like nearly 9 a.m. The gym had been open for almost an hour and anything could have been happening in there, including somebody squatting in the squat rack.

Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. In fact, there was no one in the weight room at all. Everyone present in the gym was doing cardio. Lucky me.

Last week, the most I could squat was 195 pounds for a single rep, and even then I felt too timid to get my thighs completely parallel to the floor. For my overhead press, surprisingly, I could only do a single rep at 95 pounds when previously post-recovery, I could do an even 100.

Time to challenge myself again.

I set up the rack so it had all the necessary weight plates organized in the correct manner, and then got to work. Here’s how I began my tenth cycle in my 5/3/1 training program.

5/5/5+ Week Main Lifts

Photo credit:

Back Squat in Squat Rack (raw)

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
10x 65lbs/29.4835kg (warm up)
5x 110lbs/49.8952kg
5x 125lbs/56.699kg
6x 145lbs/65.7709kg
3x 160lbs/72.5748kg (joker)
3x 175lbs/79.3787kg (joker)
2x 190lbs/86.1826kg (joker)
1x 195lbs/88.4505kg (joker)

Overhead Press in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 65lbs/29.4835kg
5x 75lbs/34.0194kg
6x 80lbs/36.2874kg
3x 85lbs/38.5554kg (joker)
1x 95lbs/43.0913kg (joker)
1x 100lbs/45.3592kg (joker)

The squats went reasonably well. In my second joker, for the second rep, I went way down into the hole, probably below parallel, and for a second, I didn’t think I’d make it back up. Fortunately, I pushed through and then concentrated on “just” going parallel.

back squat
Photo credit: Tribe Sports

I managed 2 reps with a 190 pound barbell but it felt really heavy. I was hoping to surpass the single at 195 that I did last week but no such luck. After that third joker, I wanted to try a fourth, but I didn’t feel I had the moxie to squat a 200 pound barbell. I set the weight at 195 and got the same result I did the previous week. I got really close to parallel, but not quite.

I think I found the weight too intimidating or something. Anyway, I’m going to stick to a max of 195 pounds when squatting until I can do a single, clean rep. No cheating.

Things went a tad better for my overhead press. I kept the weight for the 5+ set at 80 pounds, the same as last 5/5/5+ week, because in the last cycle I could barely lift that weight for 5 reps. Yesterday, I did 6 so success!

For my second joker, I could still do only a single rep at 95 pounds, but I thought I’d try my last joker at 100 anyway. You never know.

I pushed up 100 pounds but almost dumped the rep about three-quarters of the way up. In the mirror, I could see a look of panic on my face momentarily, but pushed up harder and finally completed the rep.

The barbell came back down kind of fast, but at least I made that last joker.

overhead press
Photo credit:

Since I’d been working pretty hard (for me), I felt tuckered out after finishing my main lifts and decided against any assistance lifts. Besides, the missus was home alone with the grandkids, so I figured I should be getting back.

Finished up with my usual mobility work and left the gym an hour after I had arrived.

Reality check.

Checking back in my exercise log, I see that on 5/5/5+ week for the previous cycle, for squats, my 5+ set was with a 135 pound barbell and I managed 6 reps. Yesterday, it was the same number of reps and the barbell was 10 pounds heavier. Last cycle’s final joker was a double at 165 and yesterday’s final joker was a single at 195, but needing better form.

Like I said before, in the previous cycle for the overhead press, I could only lift 80 pounds for the 5+ set 5 reps. Yesterday at the same weight, I did 6.

The final joker last cycle, I did a single with a 95 pound barbell and failed a second rep. Yesterday, I managed a single at 100 pounds, but still could only lift 95 pounds 1 rep.

All this tells me the same thing I’ve been saying since going into recovery mode. I think I’m getting some of my strength back, but it’s returning at a glacial pace.

I do have goals, not so much in time but in weight.

My first goal is to get back to my PRs in all my lifts, which are:

  • Barbell Bench Press, single rep, 165 pounds
  • Bent Leg Deadlift, single rep, 295 pounds
  • Back Squat, single rep, 210 pounds
  • Overhead Press, single rep, 105 pounds
dark weight room

I should say that the PR for back squats was when I was pulling a bench into the squat rack with me and squatting to the bench. I’ve switched to squatting raw, so hitting 210 might be more of a challenge this time around.

Of course, just hitting any of my former PRs will be challenging. I’m pretty close with my overhead press, but I’ve got a long way to go for the rest of my main lifts.

Now for my “ultimate” goals. These are the “pie in the sky” goals, the ones I may or may not be able to make. I’m sure there’s a limit to just how strong I can make this 62-year-old body get and I don’t know where those barriers are, not yet anyway.

But until I reach them, here’s what I’d really like to be capable of:

  • Barbell Bench Press, single rep, 185 pounds
  • Bent Leg Deadlift, single rep, 300 pounds
  • Back Squat, single rep, 225 pounds
  • Overhead Press, single rep, 115 pounds

I don’t think they’re insanely unreasonable, but they are heavier than anything I’ve ever lifted before.

Only time and effort will tell.

The majority of the human race is composed of lazy slobs that are prodded through their miserable existences by the media, preconceived notions and prejudices, rumor/hearsay/innuendo, bad advice from fools, and the hope for an easy way to do everything.

Mark Rippetoe


2 thoughts on “Starting Cycle Ten of 5/3/1 Strength Training for the Old Guy

  1. Hi James,

    Thanks so much for this blog! I’ll be 56 in less than a month and have been hitting the gym for 4 yrs solid now. But, I know I have to get smarter about my workouts. I’ve followed quite a few programs from like the Lee Labrada 12 week program, the Transformed 12 week, etc. But as I write this, I’m icing my shoulder after a gym injury on a Hammer Strength incline press.

    I’ve been reading all your posts and am slowly catching up to where you are now.

    Thanks again and keep posting!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Greetings, Chris.

      Thanks for all the praise. When I started this blogspot, I didn’t realize how many people would stop by and read my stuff. Not many comment, but I’m really impressed by how many “hits” certain blog posts get, especially the ones about building muscle and strength if you’re over 60.

      I’ve been in the gym off and on over the past three decades (more off than on) and this time around it’s been about three or four years (though I tend to lose count). When I was going with one of my sons, he had us on some programs from They’re a pretty good resource and they’re local to me here in Boise, Idaho.

      For most of the time, I didn’t really know what I was doing but I was doing something. I finally settled on strength training when I started doing mainly barbell work, and then settled on Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program because it’s pretty simple and accessible for we older lifters. At this stage in my life, I’m more interested in building strength than trying to look like Lou Ferrigno (not that there’s anything wrong with bodybuilding and I’m a great admirer of Lou’s).

      Most of the weightlifting programs you’ll find online or in books are designed for young guys and aren’t always practical for older people. I’ve spent a lot of time looking around for programs and supplements that have been tested on older athletes and I think I’ve come up with a routine that fits my requirements.

      Sorry about the shoulder. In the past when I would get injuries, it was usually because of poor form or a body part that wasn’t strong enough for the load I was putting on it. In fact, I was chronically injuring my lumbar area because of poor form in the back squat and bent leg deadlift.

      My wife finally convinced me to hire a trainer and it was the best thing I ever did. In six one-hour sessions, he not only showed me how to correct my form but how to use weight training to strengthen and heal that weak back.

      I’m slowly recovering my strength and stamina after a four-week absence from the gym due to illness and surgery. It’s slow going but I’m improving bit by bit. Hope to get back to where I was in another four to eight weeks.

      Glad you like the blog. There’s lots of different ways to get and stay fit in the gym or out of it. I’m just one example of what older people can do to hang on to what we’ve got and to get some of what we’ve lost back.

      My complements on your dedication to getting and staying strong. Keep up the good work, but don’t be shy about backing off of the weight a bit so you avoid injury. It takes longer to heal as you get older.




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