T Nation

Beginner to Beast! (or Stryder's Epically Long Road to Greatness)


Avast! Unimpressive numbers lie ahead me hearties!

Since I'm still near a raw beginner level, I'm currently on a full-body split. It's a fairly standard 3-day per week routine.

Squats 3x10
Bench 3x10
Rows 3x10

Deadlifts 3x5-8
Pull-ups (As many as possible in 10 minutes)
OHP 3x10
Bis 2x12
Tris 2x12

Today was the "A" workout. Today's numbers:

Squats - 175 3x10
Bench - 200 3x10 (I will explain how that number is higher than my squat below)
Bent-over rows - 115 3x10

The squats were a real grinder. On the last set, I was pausing at the top to catch a couple of big breaths for each additional rep after about the 6th rep. Since today's squat session was so damn hard, I might stick with 175 again next time and see if it's nearly as difficult as today.

You're probably looking at my bench like "WTF? How is his bench so much higher than his squat?" I use a Powertec Multi-System for my benching so it's really like a machine bench press. My true bench is probably much, much lower, but I don't have a setup for traditional bench pressing so I will stick with what I have. Anyway, 3x10 at 200 wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be. I struggled with the last two reps of the third set, but that was about it.

Rows were rows. I've been jumping up 5lbs per session on rows and haven't missed any reps or stalled out on it thus far. I'm pleased with that.

By the way, I'll post a photo of the gym I have in my shed later so you can all see what I'm working with. There is an actual gym about about 10 minutes from my house...but it doesn't even have a power rack. And it has to be less than 2000 sq ft. So...yeah. The only gym worth becoming a member of is about 35 minutes away and that's just too far for convenience. I believe my setup is nice so I'm eager to hear what you guys think of it.


You can see my Powertec Multi-system in this pic, along with my deadlift platform, my ghetto squat rack, and a few bars (EZ curl, trap, and straight). Not pictured is my pull-up bar.

Don’t fret over the ghetto squat rack. It’s solid. It’s made with hardwood 2x4s and is joined to the shed’s 2x6s with carriage bolts and lots of wood screws. Regardless, I’ll be looking to either make a rack or buy one on the cheap once my squat exceeds 250 or so.

Oh, and also not pictured are the sawhorses I use to spot myself during squats. My shame was too great to include them.



Keep pushing hard man, I’ll be following.


@littlesleeper: I appreciate it, man! I know what you mean about addicting. I’ve already been considering either building or buying a power rack…but I’m going to hold off for a while at least.

Today was the “B” workout. Back was feeling a little tight this morning due to a good bit of outdoor work yesterday so I replaced traditional deadlifts with hex-bar deads.

Hex-bar Deadlift - 220 3x5
Pull-ups - 32 in ten minutes
OHP - 90 2x10, 1x9 (barely missed last rep)
Bicep curl with EZ bar - 55 2x12
Skull crushers with EZ bar - 55 1x12, 1x10

All in all, I felt good today. However, I am beginning to realize that I simply do not like hex-bar deads. I bought the hex-bar specifically for an occasional substitute for standard deadlifts for both a change of pace and days when my lower back is feeling tight. Hex-bar deads just don’t feel stable. The standard deadlift has “checks” that let me know my form is good. Bar against shins, push from the heels, bar up legs, over knees, hips forward as bar rolls up thighs. I don’t have those cues with the hex-bar. It does succeed in taking pressure off of my lower back though.

It’s more accurate to say a mixture of pull-ups and chin-ups. My pull-ups are really weak. My elbows tend to want to pull forward, ahead of my body, to let the biceps take up the slack. Lots of room for improvement with pull-ups.

I’m satisfied with my OHP numbers. Last session with the same weight I managed 1x10, 1x8, 1x6. Today was an improvement over that, which is all I want from session to session even if it is one extra measly rep.

I weighed 180 on the nose this morning. From about June (possibly May…can’t really recall when I started actively trying to gain) up until now, I’ve gained 25 pounds. My lifts have improved all around too. As far as my weight goes, a lot of it is fat to be sure, but in my opinion (and the wife’s) I’m looking much better. She wants me to go bear-mode, but I’m not sure about all that. Ha. I’m hoping that by February 2016 I will have hit 200 or a bit more. After that I’m going to get my BF% back down to something reasonable and go from there.


Looks like a good start, to me. Where did you get that Powertec multi-system from, though? Honestly, that looks like a lot of really expensive equipment for not very much functionality overall… I bet you could sell it for enough to pick up a decent squat rack and bench on Craigslist. Or, you could just find a cheap flat bench and build a rack into the wall like you did with your squat rack.


Ah, the Sabbath! A day of rest for some, but a day of pain for me. Today was another squat day and much like last time it was a real grinder.

Squats - 185 3x10
Powertec Bench - 205 2x10, 1x9
Bent rows - 120 3x10

So, how good an idea is it to continue with these “breathing squats” (aka: stopping at the top to rest before continuing with the next rep)? Is it better to progress with the same weight until you can complete the sets without having to pause at the top to catch your breath and recover a bit? To be honest, I love grinding reps out. I feel like grinding time is growing time. My quads and glutes felt like they were going to explode after the last set. Sexy!

Speaking of squats, and I’m being fo’ real here, I am making all kinds of ass gains. Srs. There are two issues at play here. First, I am actually making gains from squats. Second, I have lumbar hyperlordosis which makes my butt appear bigger anyway. Put the two together and, well, you can figure it out. The hyperlordosis is a separate issue all on its own, but I’m definitely not digging the ghetto booty.

Bench felt difficult today. I’ll be sticking with the same weight next workout. The same goes for bent rows. I got my desired reps in all three sets, but I felt like I might have been doing a bit of swaying on the last set, cheating a bit. I want my form to be strict so I’ll repeat that weight until I can get all my reps with good form.

I won’t be able to hit the weights again until Thursday because I have to work away from home for three days and a couple of nights. I hate these types of jobs because there is no way I can stick to my meal plan and I am basically guaranteed to lose a couple of pounds.

Anyway, stay on the grind, guys.


[quote]OTHSteve wrote:
Looks like a good start, to me. Where did you get that Powertec multi-system from, though? Honestly, that looks like a lot of really expensive equipment for not very much functionality overall… I bet you could sell it for enough to pick up a decent squat rack and bench on Craigslist. Or, you could just find a cheap flat bench and build a rack into the wall like you did with your squat rack. [/quote]
Thanks, Steve! I picked it up on Craigslist actually. At $400, I thought it was too good to pass up. I have considered selling it, but it does have some functions I really like. The squat stand is kind of like a modified hack squat and it does a great job of really letting you focus on the quads. Lat pulldowns are nice, and I can do incline, decline, and flat presses on the bench, as well as shoulder presses. It’s actually a pretty cool rig with quite a few exercises I didn’t mention (leg extensions, triceps pulldowns, preacher curl, etc.), but I definitely wouldn’t pay the price for a new one.


Good news! I got home late last night so I was able to work out today. Bad news! I fell trees and chopped them up for two solid days so my lower back is trashed and I’m fairly sore.

Deadlifts - 135 1x8, 185 1x5, 205 1x5 1x3
Pull-ups - 35 in ten minutes
OHP - 95 3x8
Bicep curls with EZ bar - 55 2x12, 1x9
Skull crushers with EZ bar - 55 2x12, 1x10

Not bad for being thrashed after the previous two days! After I finished my 1x5 set of DLs at 205, I decided to narrow my stance a bit and see how that felt. I pulled 3 additional reps very easily. To be honest, I was surprised. I narrowed my stance until my heels were about two inches apart. Is there some biomechanical advantage to a stance this narrow? Maybe I’ll post about it in the beginner forum.

I was happy with my other numbers. All in all, a good day. I went in with low expectations because I was still kind of tired and sore this morning, but I’m pleased that my lifts were solid in spite of that.


Not so good day today.

Squats - 195 3x8
Bench - 205 1x10, 2x8 165 1x17
Bent rows - 120 3x10

As is the norm, squats were tough but I managed to eek out the reps I wanted. I will stick with 195 next squat session and shoot for something like 3x9 and then 3x10 before increasing weight again.

Bench was a fail today. I didn’t even hit the same reps as last time. In the rear corner of my shed is a chicken coop, which is connected to the outside. On the first or second rep of the second set, one of the damn chickens came inside the coop and started squawking and going batshit crazy as they sometimes decide to do. I lost my concentration and focus immediately. I shooed the offending hen outside and shut the door to the coop, but the psychological damage was already done as I failed to get my desired ten reps on the third set as well. Pissed off, I dropped the weight to 165 and repped to failure. Better luck next time. And now I also know to lock the damn chickens out before hitting the weights.

Rows were fine. Last session I felt like I was cheating the weight up on the last set, but I kept my form tight this time.


The weather and temperature is perfect today. That means the shed is good and cool. A fine day for deadlifts.

Deadlifts - 135 10x, 185 8x, 220 5x
Pull-ups - 37 in ten mintues
OHP - 95 2x9, 1x10
Bicep curls with EZ bar - 65 1x12, 1x9
Skull crushers with EZ bar - 65 1x12, 1x11

Man, I felt damn fine this morning. I had a large breakfast (6 scrambled eggs, two pieces of toast, 2 tbsp of natural PB, 1 tbsp of strawberry preserves, 16 oz. 1% milk) and a cup of coffee, which I let settle for about 2 hours before taking my pre-workout and beginning my warm-up. 220 DLs felt really easy. I’ve figured my foot position out now, and it seems to have made all the difference. My stance is very narrow, but it definitely works for me. OHPs went up easily - even hit ten reps on the last set just because I had at least three left in me. Next session I might go ahead and move up to 100 or else stick with 95 for 3x10. It all depends on how I feel next time. I let my energy and general feeling of the day dictate what exactly I do. I follow my program, but if I’m feeling really good I might add 10 or 15 lbs as opposed to 5 lbs or whatever.

I was a little overzealous with the weight on biceps and triceps, but I’ll stick with both until I can get 2x12 on each without cheating.

I weighed 178.4 this morning which I’m good with. I weighed 180 a week or so ago, and I thought that was a little much so it must have been water weight or something.


Had to go out of town yesterday, but I was able to work out early in the morning before leaving.

Squats - 195 3x9
Powertec Bench - 205 3x10 (extended rest before 3rd set)
Bent rows - 125 3x10

I worked out on an empty stomach for the sake of time. I didn’t have time to eat and let it settle so I took my pre-workout on an empty stomach and started warming up. I don’t mind working out on an empty stomach, but I have more energy if I’m able to eat and then let it digest a bit. Sometimes I just don’t have the time for that though. The session itself was fine. Barely got my reps on the second set of bench presses so I called my wife who just happened to be at home yesterday to come out and help me do forced reps on the third set. By the time she finally walked out there about 5 or 6 minutes had passed. I guess that was more than enough recovery time and I got the third set without her help. Oops.

Wanted to do farmer’s walks for the hell of it, but I didn’t have time to do it. I will try to hit those on my next squat day.