Starting Cycle Eleven, 5/5/5+ Week With Mixed Results

incline bench press

My triceps are shot. I did that on purpose, but I didn’t realize how big a toll assistance lifts would take on them until I got into them after my overhead presses.

But first things first.

I slept reasonably well last night but was concerned that yesterday’s marathon yard work session would do bad things to my back during squats. Turns out that wasn’t the case. I had a cup of coffee, some water, and an egg prior to lifting.

Got to the gym a few minutes early and predictably Bryce pulled into the parking lot right at eight o’clock. There were several people waiting in their cars but I was the only one to greet him at the door.

I got to the squat rack before Bryce turned on the lights, but it looked in pretty good shape, except it took me a long time to find two 2.5 pound plates.

Liz came in right behind me, but she doesn’t squat so no worries there. There was an older fellow I see sometimes, maybe in his 50s, but he just did some cable work and the rest of the time, he used the weight machines.

The squat rack was mine. Here’s what the start of cycle eleven looks like:

5/5/5+ Main Lifts

Back Squat in Squat Rack (raw)

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
10x 65lbs/29.4835kg (warm up)
5x 115lbs/52.1631kg
5x 135lbs/61.235kg
6x 150lbs/68.0389kg
3x 165lbs/74.8427kg (joker)
3x 185lbs/83.9146kg (joker)
2x 200lbs/90.7185kg (joker)

overhead press

Overhead Press in Squat Rack

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 70lbs/31.7515kg
5x 80lbs/36.2874kg
6x 85lbs/38.5554kg
0x 90lbs/40.8233kg (joker) -failed rep-
4x 85lbs/38.5554kg (joker)
3x 85lbs/38.5554kg (joker)
3x 90lbs/40.8233kg (joker)
1x 95lbs/43.0913kg (joker)

Assistance Lifts

Barbell Incline Bench Press (5×10)

10x 45lbs/20.4117kg
10x 65lbs/29.4835kg
10x 65lbs/29.4835kg
10x 65lbs/29.4835kg
10x 45lbs/20.4117kg

I’m pretty impressed with how my back squats are coming along. I’m consistently getting my thighs down to parallel to the floor at the bottom of the hole or if I miss, it’s so close that it probably doesn’t matter. I still try for a perfect rep every time as a matter of pride.

150 pounds for 6 reps felt heavy, but once past my 5+ set, I could go heavier and do less reps so as not to completely exhaust myself. By the time I got to my last joker, I was able to squat down with a 200 pound barbell on my back, but getting back up out of the hole was nearly hell. After I completed the first rep, I figured there’d be nothing to stop me from doing a second and so I did.

With that accomplished, next week I’ll try that last joker at 205.

overhead press
Image credit:

The overhead press is a mixture of good and bad. The working sets in and of themselves are heavy and I was kind of amazed that I got 85 pounds over my head for 6 reps. I was worried I might not make 5.

But then I failed the rep on the first joker with 90 pounds. What the heck happened?

I knocked the weight down to 85 again and did 4 reps (failed the 5th rep actually). Next joker, same weight, 3 reps. Screw it. I put the weight back up to 90 and surprisingly did 3 reps.

Final joker. 95 pounds. I managed a single and called it good.

I had been pondering doing an assistance lift, thinking maybe dumbbell bench presses. But there was the incline bench just sitting there. Hardly anyone uses it, at least when I’m in the weight room. I figured what the heck.

I planned to make my first set at 45 pounds a warm up set but that didn’t work out so well.

Here’s where having fried triceps comes in. Even if you don’t count my warm up set for my overhead press, I did a total of 27 reps. That’s a lot, at least for me, and especially in a strength training routine.

The incline barbell bench press works the triceps a lot too, plus functionally, it’s similar to overhead presses, and oh man did I feel it.

I put the weight up on the bar to 65 pounds and those last few reps of each set were murder. Finally, after three sets at that weight, I decided to count my warm up as a regular set, so my final set, I knocked back down to 45 and polished off the assistance lift.

Oh my arms.

Jimmie Espinoza age 70
Photo credit:

My son David sometimes criticizes me that I don’t do enough upper body work, but that’s not true today. Good thing I’m not planning to lift again until Wednesday or Thursday.

I’m still frustrated with my overhead press. Last week, I managed a single rep at 100 pounds and 2 reps at 95. Granted, 100 pounds felt really heavy and I blew re-racking the weight because the barbell came down too fast.

I thought maybe my problem was that 5/5/5+ week requires more reps and I was wearing myself down, but on 5/5/5+ week in the previous cycle, I lifted 95 pounds for a single and 100 pounds for one rep in the final joker.

Of course, the working weights were all 5 pounds lighter last cycle compared to this, so who knows? Technically, I’m getting stronger based on the working weights, but I continue to struggle in the jokers.

It’s a work in progress, but lifting or any other athletic activity where you are attempting to continually improve always is.

I went back in my workout log to cycle nine and for 5/5/5+ week, and my heaviest joker for the back squat was 2 reps at 165, so I’m definitely getting better there.

For the overhead press, I did a double with 90 pounds and a single at 95, so I don’t know how much better I am now than then.

On the other hand, in cycle nine, for the 5+ set at 80 pounds, I could only do 5 reps, the minimum allowed. Now in cycle eleven, for the 5+ set at 85 pounds, I did 6 reps, so something must be happening there.

Guess I’ll keep plugging away at it.

After my assistance lifts, I noticed a guy and his wife or girlfriend came into the weight room and headed for the squat rack. I’d seen them doing cardio earlier. I decided to keep an eye on them when I did my mobility work, just to see what they’d do.

Sure enough, the woman was in the squat rack. The fellow was using the weight plate loaded leg press and I couldn’t see him clearly from my vantage point, but the woman was squatting with good form and getting way down into the hole. Of course, she was squatting 55 pounds, but she was doing well.

barbell back squat

I’m always glad to see women in the squat rack and it’s even better when they can handle some respectable weight. Older people and women don’t have to be limited by the myths that we’re supposed to be weak. Don’t be afraid of the barbell. You can get stronger. Tell anyone who says otherwise to go pound sand.

Oh by the way, I disagree with the quote at the bottom of the page. I’ve been pulling quotes lately from a page at This is the last one on the list. I don’t think older people should train like madmen (or madwomen). Too many things can go wrong.

On the other hand, as long as we are medically fit, we should push ourselves beyond our current limits, at least a little. We can get stronger, too…but not like madmen.

The most important drug is to train like a MADMAN – really like a madman.

Alexander Karelin


4 thoughts on “Starting Cycle Eleven, 5/5/5+ Week With Mixed Results

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