T Nation

Back to the Bar

Hi there,

I’ve been around since 2008 but I haven’t posted in an age so it’s good to be back. I toyed with posting this in the Over 35 forum but it feels a bit more like a beginner topic.

For a little background, I started lifting seriously in 2008 and I’ve just returned to Australia after living in the UK since 2011. When I moved there, I had to leave most of my home gym behind - I have a power rack with lat attachment, Oly bar, plenty of plates, four adjustable dumbbells (with enough plates to load each one up to 52kg), a decent collection of kettlebells up to 40kg, dip belt, and loads of assorted accessories.

I brought the kettlebells and dumbbells to the UK and I’ve been training consistently with them ever since, going as heavy as I could and achieving a semi-decent level of muscularity. Of course, my strength and muscularity is nothing like it would be had I had my rack and barbell (or the money for a gym membership - I’m a starving classical musician).

Now that I’m back in Australia, I’m having my original home gym delivered to my new house from the shed it lived it and I want to get right back into heavy training.

Goal wise, I need to get my form right on the big lifts. I haven’t back squatted or deadlifted a barbell since about 2010, and I’ve probably benched a bar in gyms about 3 or 4 times since then. I want to focus on strength with size coming a close second.

I have two small children who don’t sleep through the night so my sleep is a challenge most of the time. I’d average maybe 4-7 hours/night in two or three patches. I have three or four windows to train each week, slightly dependent on the needs of the children.

My current stats (haven’t tested 1RMs):

Age 36

Bodyweight ~82kg @18-20%bf

Height 181cm/5’11.5

1-arm dumbbell row - 52kg 3 sets of 10

DB bench press - 32kg 4 sets of 8 (getting into position as a solo trainee has killed my progress on this, hence the crap numbers)

Pistol squat holding 16kg kettlebell - 5x5

Parallel dips BWx24, BW+24kg kettlebell - 4x9

Chin ups BWx15, BW+16kg bell 4x5

Double kettlebell clean and press - 32kg 6x6

So you can see it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

Given my goals and the fact I’ve been away from barbell training for so long, I wondered whether SL or SS would be a good place to start again, even though I’m not technically new to weight training? Or is there something else I may have missed? I feel a full body programme is probably best for me in terms of maximising frequency without running myself into the ground.

Thanks in advance for any ideas!


I think those programs would be fine, and I think you’d also be fine doing a ‘regular’, non-beginner program. Since it’s been so long since you’ve lifted barbells, your progress will come fast no matter what you choose.

To me, the biggest component of a good beginner program is learning technique, and performing the ‘big 3’ lifts as frequently as possible, for relatively high reps. Ingraining proper technique early is essential. Once you get past that point, I think any program can work.

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The big lifts definitely help. Like @flipcollar said, doing the “Big 3” works, and I’d add in some overhead pressing, some various rowing movements (barbell, dumbbell, BW), and some BW staples like pushups, dips, and chinups/pullups.

Olympic lifts are not necessary, but fun to learn and certainly won’t hurt (if done properly).

KB work like swings could be done as some form of conditioning, or maybe as some active recovery on off days.

If you have a GHD or something similar, do back extensions and GHR’s on it. Great for your posterior chain. Situps can be done on it as well.

Do some moblilty work and go for a walk as often as you can. Daily is great but just what you can fit it.

If you really want a “program” I’d take a look at a 5/3/1 version. That’ll certainly help with strength, and certain templates will help with size. There’s a lot of flexibility in there too.

Read anything by Jim Wendler, and Dan John as well.

Thanks Flip, I think I’ll get my numbers and technique back up on the big lifts via SL with some assistance exercises thrown in.

I’ll tell you what, coming back to barbell training after such a long time with dumbbells and kettlebells alone feels like coming home. Squats are so much more rewarding with a bar on the traps!

Thanks jshaving, good tips there! I think because I’ve been doing all of that MINUS the barbell training, I really want to focus on a programme which hones the big lifts. I’m enjoying the break from dumbbells and kettlebells!