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Barbell, Rings, and Bodyweight: Minimalist Training

This is my first training log. Wanted to try it for the new year, and really to do a better overall job of tracking progress.

5’9", 175 lbs this morning and 45 years old.
This is the most I’ve weighed in 10+ years, but only by a few pounds. I’ve been pretty dialed in at 170+/- two pounds for several years.
Current maxes:
BP: 275 lbs
Squat: 315 lbs
DL: 385 lbs
OHP: 160 lbs

Be as strong and healthy as possible at ~170 lbs bodyweight. Maintain/improve mobility and athleticism. Eat to fuel my workouts and overall wellbeing (no calorie counting/food journals).

What I’ll be doing:
Minimalist workouts that combine big compound barbell lifts and bodyweight training with rings. My very best in the best results utilized rings, hill sprints, and heavy barbell pulling.


Routine: Zercher squats, bench press, and bodyweight assistance. 4x per week. Following CT’s Minimalist Program, which lasts 4 weeks.

Warm up:
25 KB swings, 8 goblet squats.
Barbell complex (65 lbs) with 5 reps of: SG High pulls, whip snatches, back squats, good mornings, BN push jerks, rows. (learned this from Dan John’s book).
Band pull aparts, easy calisthenics.

Main lifts (all weights in lbs):
Zercher squat (work up in 3’s to 3 RM): 85, 155, 185, 205, 225, 245.
Bench (work up in 3’s to 3 RM): 115, 155, 185, 205, 225, 255.

Assistance: (following 531-style where you pick a rep range for a move):

  1. 5 rounds of
    ring push ups (rings are ~3" from floor) 15 reps each round.
    close grip pull ups: 10 reps each round
  2. 3 rounds of
    Neck harness with 25 lbs: 33 reps each round
    Inverted BW shrugs on rings: 20 reps each round.

Notes: I felt good today. I just started doing Zercher squats, so they feel a bit odd still. I can do more weight with them than front squats, but don’t really feel it in the legs as much as back squats.

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Ran at an easy pace this morning. Just getting the miles in.

6.12 miles in 52:05.

Felt great to just get out there on the trail and run. Lots of beer and food lately, so this run felt needed. In fact, I plan on drinking beer and watching football the rest of the day (which is starting to sound too familiar). But, hey, I’m on vacation for another week.

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In for your log man. I like your approach. I’ve been very lazy the past few months, and am figuring out my gameplan for 2019. Looking to use a combination of barbell and bodyweight movements, so I’ll be watching what you do and how it works for you.

Good luck!

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Zercher squats: 4x6 with 4010 TEMPO. Used 175 lbs.
Bench Press: 4x6 with 4010 TEMPO. Used 185 lbs.

5x10 inverted ring rows.
5x10 SLDL @SW. Shrug at top.

2x10 ab roll outs. (Was pretty tired by this point, so didn’t do as many as I planned).


Zercher squats are pretty tough. I wear elbow sleeves but might need to invest in heavier duty ones. The weights felt like the right amount, and all 6 reps were strong and clean.

This morning I weighed 178.5. This is most I have weighed in over 12 years. I ate and drank and was merry over the Holidays, and didn’t try to show as much restraint as usual. Oh well.

Today’s workout was “pause” lifts, Day 3 of CT’s “2 Exercise Plan”.

After a warm up, did the following:

Zercher squats with 3 second pause during the eccentric. 4x6 @ 175 lbs.
Bench press with 3 second pause during eccentric: 4x6 @ 175 lbs.

Circuit of:
75 ring dips
60 pull ups
50 roll outs

Notes: Those pauses are tough! Also, the problem I have with doing this program is that it’s hard for me to count to three on the pause, and then kept track of my rep count. Seems so simple, but when pushing a lift it’s hard to kept track of two different countings.

Did the bodyweight circuit in the PM, because I was short for time this morning. Didn’t feel like it, but got it in before dinner. I’m trying to get used to not cracking afternoon beers and following dinner with cookies, as I’ve been doing most days the last few weeks.

Music. Is it weird to listen to jazz when you lift? John Coltrane sounded pretty good today.

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Today: Repetition at 75% of my 3 RM. Goal was to hit 20 reps.

Zercher squat: after warm ups, did a 20 rep set at 165 lbs.
Bench: after warm ups, did a 20 rep set at 175 lbs.

I also used the “over warm up” method I’d read about, where I worked up to 205 lbs on each lift during my warm ups, and so the AMRAP set felt lighter.

Finished with face pulls (3x20) and ab wheel roll outs (3x10). Might do yoga tonight depending on how I’m feeling and what else comes up.

Notes: Hit my goal reps! The zercher squats at 20 reps was really tough, but felt good. Bench was a breeze after the squats. Will be back at it tomorrow to set a 2 RM, so didn’t want to go too crazy on assistance work. Also, still sore from ring dips I did two days ago.

Music: Still on the jazz. I listened to Sons of Kemet, which came up on Spotify earlier this week so I checked out their album “Your Queen is a Reptile”.

Nope. I’ve done jazz while lifting. Also, audio books. Classical music. But angry death metal too. Hip-hop pairs well with hypertrophy workouts for me.

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Today was finding my 2RM on Zercher squat and bench.

Main lifts:(in lbs)
Zercher: 65x10, 115x5, 155x5, 175x2, 205x2, 225x2, 255x2
BP: 115x10, 155x5, 205x3, 225x2, 265x2

Notes: I didn’t have a spotter, so didn’t want to push the bench too hard. The 265x2 felt really strong, but next week I work up to 1RM’s so I’ll save really pushing it until then. The Zercher squat is getting easier and more natural feeling as I gain practice.

Some assistance:
Pull ups: BWx10; BW+25lbs x 5; BW+45lbs x 10 (last set was AMRAP)
Shoulder complex: 3 rounds of 10 reps each of: OHP, lat raises, rear lat raises, pull aparts.

Some conditioning:
Airdyne bike for 15 minutes. During this, did 3 really hard 8 sec. sprints, 3 kinda hard 10 sec “sprints”, and 3 “faster running” 20 sec bouts.

Notes/musings: I read about “sprint” workouts that involve things like 30 sec. sprinting/30 sec. off. Well, I can tell you others must have a different definition of sprinting than I do. A sprint to me is running, for example, 40 yards as fast as you possibly can. . Even relatively slow athletes can do that in 5 seconds or so. Running a 100 yard sprint won’t take too much longer than 12 seconds or so, and that will gas you. My training protocols have been to sprint (for 5-10 seconds, depending on distance) and rest at least 60 sec. before doing that again.

So how can anyone “sprint for 30 seconds”? That’s at least equivalent to a 200 yard sprint, and then rest 30 seconds and do that again? I’ve seen programs that call for sprinting 30 seconds on/30 seconds recovery for 10 minutes or more. I always thought they should just say “go faster for 30 seconds, then slow down the next 30 seconds”.

I like your training style.
I played around with zercher squats a couple of times. I might switch them into my program instead of front squats but as you said hard on the arms.

What do you think your zercher squat max is compared to either front of back squat as a percentage? I am just curious as to what to shoot for.

I was curious of this, too. I can actually do a more on Zercher than I can on front squats. I feel like the position of the bar on the Zercher is more conducive to really pushing the lift, while I’ve never loved the rack position of the front squat. In fact, I have a hard time going heavy on front squats.

My back squat is approximately 50 lbs heavier than my Zercher, give or take. One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that I don’t feel Zerher’s in the lower body the way I do with back squats. If I’m doing 3-4 sets of 10 on back squat, my lower body is sore for days and days. With the Zercher, it seems like the work is spread out more across the whole body, and I don’t feel soreness in any specific muscle group as much. Don’t know if this is normal, or just me.

Really, if you wear elbow sleeves, Zerchers don’t really hurt. It takes just a few workouts to adapt to the feeling of heavy weight held there, and they already feel better than front squats.

You said you are at your heaviest at 175lbs and plan to float around 170lbs.

What is your current body comp like and why 170 lbs?

My weight, over the last ~13/14 years, has fluctuated from the low 160’s to what it is now. I have found that I feel, look, and perform best at around 170. You can see a pic in the T-ransformation challenge thread of what I currently look like at 178 lbs. I’ll update a pic on this training log thread about once a month.

Why 170? I am looking for the right combination of strength, size, health, and appearance for me. I don’t mean to appear to overly set on 170 (and often goes months without weighing myself), but at my height and age (45) I think this will be at or very near the sweet spot.

Thanks for the detailed reply. I stopped doing back squats a while ago, just didn’t feel right after hammering away for years.

I do front squats with crossed arms hold and I am thinking zercher squats might be another good option.

Looking good in your starting transformation photo. Certainly better than 99% of the men at our age and that’s what we have to remember!

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Right on. I’m the same height and weight as you with similar(lower) numbers and the same goals. Heaviest I’ve been is 190 and I feel best around 175lbs. I just want to get a little leaner and feel good.

I’ll be following.

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Ran 4.25 miles today at ~8:30 pace. Will do some mobility work as I watch the playoffs. Go Eagles!

Notes: I really like doing one outdoor run a week. I don’t push myself, and I run with a friend. I think there is something to be said for just getting in some miles for overall health and performance. That said, I don’t like running more than once a week for the most part (unless I’m training for something). It’s like yoga for me: once a week is the sweet spot.

More notes: I used to live on a street with a hill, and would do hill sprints 2-3 times a week. I don’t now, so I use the Airdyne for sprints. I think the Airdyne is the best stationary equipment there is, because you control the resistance at a split second. Want to go harder? Just do it. There’s no lag and no electricity and buttons needed to set the speed; you do it on the fly. The harder you push, the harder the resistance becomes instantaneously.

More, more notes: I live in Silicon Valley, and I feel sorry for all the Alabama/Clemson fans everywhere. They come to NorCal for a sunny escape from their weather, and they get the rainiest, windiest weekend I remember in some time. Cool to see all the fans around, and the ESPN studio set up is not far from where I live. I have no alliance with either team, so I’ll just route for a good game and for whatever team is losing in the 4th quarter.

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Back at the University gym today, as classes started again. Too many students everywhere, and I had to modify slightly. I walk over to the gym right after teaching my morning class, and get there around 10:30 am.

My other option is to get my workout in at home before work, but that would mean about a 6:30 am start time. I actually love mornings, because I enjoy coffee, getting some emails done, and prepping for the day. All that, and I really hate early morning workouts.

Main lifts. Done with a 6010 TEMPO.
Zercher squat: 4x6 @ 175 using slow eccentric.
Incline Bench: 4x6 @175 using slow eccentric.

Notes: had to swap the bench for the incline bench due to availability. I dropped the weight by 10 lbs compared to the flat bench. But the weights were very doable and I’m considering upping the load just a bit next week. I got to get some box jumps in prior to lifting, which was nice since I don’t have those at home.

Assistance circuit:
5 rounds of: 20 face pulls, 20 push ups, 10 pull ups.

Then back to work. Despite my complaints about students taking up the squat rack/BP, it’s a great perk to be able to lift at work. I have my locker and shower, so it’s easy to get right back to the office after and it breaks up the day.

Music: for some reason, they were playing 80’s music today. Usually it’s current pop music, but today I heard: Madonna, Huey Lewis and the News, Michael Jackson, the Bangles, and some others from that era. Really, I’m not a big 80’s music fan, but I’ll take it over Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez.



Main lifts:
Zercher squats: 175 lbs with a 15 second pause at halfway point on eccentric portion. Then 4x6 reps at 185 lbs.

BP: 185 lbs with a 15 second pause at halfway point on eccentric portion. Then 4x6 reps at 205 lbs.

Assistance: Max rep inverted ring rows (20). Max reps ring dips (20).

Noon: Soccer for one hour


Max reps on BP at 75% or so of my 2 RM.

Main work:
Bench press: after warm ups and one “over warm up” set, did: 20 reps with 185 lbs
Zercher: didn’t do it today because I had a soccer game. Will do max reps tomorrow at 175 lbs.

Pull ups: BWx10: BW+20lbsx5; BW+40lbs x 10 (max reps on last set)
OHP: 65x10; 95x5; 125 x 6 (max reps on last set. Was wiped after the bench though and didn’t hit the 10 rep goal).
DB curls: 25’s x 10’ 35’s x5; 45’s x 10 (last set near max reps)

This scheme was introduced to me by Dan John’s writings. You do 10 reps at ~50% of your 10 RM, than 5 reps at ~75% of your 10 RM, then to “as many” at around your 10 RM. I shoot for getting 10 reps on that last set, but don’t over push it and prefer to leave 1-2 in the tank.

Outdoor soccer game for 60 minutes.

Notes: This week was crazy. I forced myself to take the day off yesterday because of work-related stress and time constraints. I used to force workouts but as I am older (and hopefully wiser) I am learning to back off when needed.

Music: Any Gov’t Mule fans? Nothing beats Warren Haynes on guitar/vocals.

I don’t know if you figured out a method to deal with this, but this a trick I learnt from music that does well for tempos. Say we wanted a 3s pause:

  • 1 (rep) 2-3-4 (pause)
  • 2 (rep) 2-3-4 (pause)
  • 3 (rep) 2-3-4 (pause)

So on so forth. It might help you out. Also, very cool log and training

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