No Jokers!

Ouch. Ouchie ouch ouch.

300 pound deadlift
Yeah, that’s me doing a 300 pound single rep deadlift. Hah!

I started something different for this 5/3/1 training cycle (entering my fourth after bailing from the gym for the better part of a year). Yesterday, for the three working sets, I did what I always do. After that, I usually push myself into increasingly heavy joker sets until I can’t lift anything more. That worked pretty well for me in the past and almost fourteen months ago, I pulled a 305 pound single rep deadlift (that’s me on the right doing a 300 pound DL).

However, in the latter part of cycle three, not only wasn’t I able to lift heavier, I was actually going a bit backwards, not lifting as heavy in the joker sets as I did the previous one to two weeks.

Now time for something completely different (to quote from Monty Python).

I’ve looked at Boring But Big (hereafter known as “BBB”) before and realized I’ve never incorporated it into any of my cycles. Basically, after your three working sets, you lighten the barbell down to around between 30% to 60% of your max and then do five sets of the exact same exercise at ten reps per set.

It has to be heavy enough to challenge you but light enough to where you’ll always be able to do the ten reps in any given set. I’ve read of variations saying if you can’t make the ten in a set, add sets until your reps finally add up to fifty.

I guess that’s a magic number of something.

There’s also an option (or a commandment depending on how you read the information) to do five sets of lat work afterward, though I don’t know why. In my case, I’m always tempted to do triceps work just because they are one of my weakest areas.

So I thought this cycle, I’d go for it. On Sundays (yesterday morning) I do back squats and overhead presses. Doing a warm up set, three working sets, and five BBB sets is a lot and since I use the squat rack for both my Sunday lifts, I figured I’d be in there for a while. As it turns out, I dominated the rack for nearly an hour and was in the weight room for about ninety minutes total. Good thing I’m the first guy in the gym on Sundays.

Sunday was Cycle Four, Day One of 5/5/5+ week. Here are my (pathetic) numbers:

Main Lifts

Barbell Back Squat in Squat Rack (raw)
10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 135lbs/61.235kg
5x 155lbs/70.3068kg
6x 175lbs/79.3787kg
Boring But Big
10x 125lbs/56.699kg
10x 125lbs/56.699kg
10x 125lbs/56.699kg
10x 125lbs/56.699kg
10x 125lbs/56.699kg

squat rack
Photo credit:

Barbell Overhead Press in Squat Rack
10x 45lbs/ (warm up)
5x 70lbs/31.7515kg
5x 75lbs/34.0194kg
5x 80lbs/36.2874kg
Boring But Big
10x 55lbs/24.9476kg
10x 50lbs/22.6796kg
10x 45lbs/20.4117kg
10x 40lbs/18.1437kg
10x 40lbs/18.1437kg

Assistance Lifts

Cable Low Row
10x 85lbs/38.5554kg
10x 95lbs/43.0913kg
10x 105lbs/47.6272kg
10x 110lbs/49.8952kg
10x 100lbs/45.3592kg

Flat Bench Dumbbell Flies
10x 25lbs/11.3398kg
10x 30lbs/13.6078kg
10x 30lbs/13.6078kg
10x 30lbs/13.6078kg
10x 25lbs/11.3398kg

The main lifts were pretty much on track except that last week I was able to do six reps of the overhead press at 80 pounds and yesterday I failed the sixth rep.

However, that was only the beginning.

I guessed the weight just about right for back squat BBBs but I almost didn’t make it past three sets because it hurt a lot and I was out of breath after each set. I pushed on and made it through all five, but my legs were totally trashed afterward. Oh, I could still walk, but my pins were tired and sore.

With overhead press BBBs, I had hoped I could do a wimpy 55 pounds for all five sets but my arms had other ideas. As you can see after the third set, I had to leave the squat rack since I was too tired to push even a regulation bar with no weight plates. I changed to lighter fixed weight barbells to finish off the other two sets.

But I did finish.

Lat work? I haven’t done low rows in a long, long time but I figured what the heck. They seemed to work out fairly well. However, I wanted to do more chest work and chose dumbbell flies, which I’ve done several Sundays in a row now.

I was exhausted going into them and the dumbbells felt a whole lot heavier than they have in the past.

After that I was well done. I didn’t have anything left, not even for leg lifts or back extensions. I didn’t have to wait for delayed onset muscle soreness, my muscles got sore right away and stayed sore.

overhead press
Photo credit:

This morning, I didn’t even consider hitting the gym for cardio because of my legs. I just hope they ease up by Thursday so I can do deadlifts effectively.

I figured the jokers were beating up my nervous system and the decision to switch to BBB for this cycle was designed to change that. Not sure it’s a good idea now, but I’ll persevere for the entire cycle just to see what happens.

Who knows. I might even get “big.”

Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.

Martin Luther King Jr.


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