T Nation

Always the beginner


Take Two? Three?

Been away for a year and a half (There are a few logs sitting in the nether regions of this category and they can stay there). I think I took another attempt in that time and hurt my lower back (once again) doing Stronglifts 5x5. Obviously my approach has been wrong all this time. Time to build the base the rest of my life will be based on.

Iron is in the blood and no matter what state I get in, I’m always thinking of and longing for getting under the bar. The plan this time around is to pay closer attention to how I feel and be proactive about not getting hurt. Also to just do more work and stop focusing on maxing out all the time, which is what Stronglifts and 5/3/1 do to my pudgy arse. I’m on the fence about getting a trainer but I imagine it’s an eventual given. For the time being it will be about getting a feel for where I’m at and increment the weight slowly.

A bit of rollin’ the foam
Mobility/stretching for the mob

Squats Barx10x2, 95x10x1, Barx10x3
OHP: Barx10x5

RIght now I’ll start with an A/B split of Squat/OHP and Deads/Bench with no emphasis on sets or reps. Just going to have a bit of fun. Eventual goal is competing in powerlifting and one day strongman. Stats right now are sad, sad, sad. Got to 326lbs @ 6’3, 39 y.o going on what feels like 68 right now. Body fat must be at least 35%.

Until then - have a great one.


Hey, it’s the Edmond crew, or what is left anyway. I’m there with you on the bodyfat.


Early 40s here, and spent quite a bit of time spinning my tires, getting nowhere. It’s finally starting to come together over the last few months. Perhaps I can a list of things that has worked for me (note: all of these have worked in combination with one another…individually, I’m not sure it is enough):

  • Begin each workout with a structure mobility drill, like Joe Defranco’s Agile 8 (I do this, and it is fantastic). For shoulder mobility, I add 10 reps each of band face pulls, band pull aparts, and band shoulder dislocates. Overall, it takes about 10 minutes, but it is worth it. I find there is a bit of a cardio component to the drill (esp. mountain climbers), as well as a CNS activation component (esp. frog jumps). So it kills three birds with one stone.
  • Regarding exercise selection for your program, pick a few lifts that are balanced. If you only want to do four lifts, then do a squat variation, a deadlift variation, a horizontal press variation, and a horizontal push variation. If you want to do 6 lifts, then you can add a vertical pull and press.
  • Pick the right variations for each lift. Two key things to look out for are: low back rounding and shoulder issues. So, for the squat, I do Zerchers (I use a harness, which was the best investment I ever made; towels or other implements can be used to make it easier on the arms). These allow to go much deeper without rounding the back. Front squats also work great with a harness. For deadlifts, I do them sumo style, which still works the spinal erectors and hamstrings, but is much easier on the low back. For horizontal presses, I do weighted ring push-ups. Why? Because top bench pressers often have shoulder blow outs simply because they are pressing on a bench…benches prevent you from retracting and protracting your scapula, which is the normal movement you make when you do a push-up. I’ve had absolutely no problems since I’ve pressed with full scapular mobility. For horizontal pulls, there are lots of options, but minimizing spinal erector involvement is key (so no standing bent-over rows or t-bar rows…try dumbbell rows with one knee on a bench). Vertical pulls: for me, chin-ups are easier on the shoulders than pull-ups. Vertical press: I always had problems pressing upwards (shoulder press), but dips never bothered me, so I do them on rings now. Why rings? Because they allow your grip to adjust (and thus, save your shoulders).
  • Know your limits regarding range of motion. If your butt starts to tuck under, this is where you stop your squat. For most people, this is at parallel. Some lucky few can keep going. For horizontal presses, going down until your arms are at a 90 degree angle is a good guideline. Even powerlifters do NOT go lower (when you consider that they arch their backs like hell). Look at a video of Eric Spoto benching: his arms stop at 90 degrees…the bar touches his chest simply because his back is arched.
  • Micro-load your lifts. Most programs call for huge jumps in weight. Even 5 lbs per week is too much. It is simply not possible to gain that much strength week to week. So, each workout, I add 2 lbs to lower body lifts, and 1 lb to upper body lifts. No need to de-load, or to add ridiculous amounts of weights to progress. You are always fresh, and you always challenge your muscles a little bit more than last week (which is what you should be doing).
  • Don’t be afraid to reduce the frequency of the program to fit your age. Remember that most people who are doing this program are half you age and probably taking vitamin S. The 5/3/1 program could be appropriate if you drop from 4 days per week to 3 (you can easily drop press day…you should be doing far more back work anyways).
  • Correct your lifting pace. I follow a strict pace of 2-1-X-0 (2 seconds down, 1 second paused at the bottom, explode up, then spend no time in the upmost position). For deadlifts and chin-ups, I start at the bottom, so it is 1-X-0-2 (rest for 1 second at the bottom, explode up, spend no time at the top, then go down for 2 seconds). Real strength is built by pausing at the bottom, and not letting gravity do the work for you on the way down.
  • Make sure your set on each exercise is AMRAP. This is critical. If you do 3X5, make sure the last set is 5+. Why? Because there are times when you can lift more, and therefore should (to reap the benefits). Also, if you are doing 3X5, make sure the weight increases with each set. It makes no sense to keep the weight constant because you have to lower the weight to ensure you can do it for three sets. With a constant rep ramp-up, you ensure that you have never maxed out (until the end).
  • Regarding AMRAP, do not go to failure, or even technical failure. Stop one rep short of technical failure.
  • Stretch, but not right after your workout. There is too much blood in your muscles at that point to benefit from it. Wait at least 3 hours to stretch. I got this from Joe Defranco in a roundtable on stretching, right here on T-Nation.
  • Nutrition: eat before a workout, not after. Post-workout nutrition won’t hurt your workout, but it is not necessary (based on actual research, not myths created by supplement companies). Eating beforehand will actually help your workout. The only food I have right after a workout is unpasteurized honey, because it helps replenish glycogen stores. Otherwise, I eat my next meal at a usual time. Your waistline will thank you.
  • Stop taking all supplements. Just like vitamins and minerals, they seem to work at first, but eventually, they create imbalances in your body. All nutrients require other nutrients t be properly absorbed. When you don’t take your supplements with the right co-factors, your body takes them from your stores (and hence the imbalances). I was taking creatine for the longest time because my strength shot up immediately upon taking it. When I finally stopped, guess what? It had zero impact on strength. Basically, at some point, it had stopped working. It was probably a gradual decline in effectiveness, which is likely why I didn’t realize it. Eat whole foods instead, because they are designed in the right way (i.e. the right mix of nutrients and other co-factors).