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Building a Better, Bigger, Stronger AF787

Introduction:

I’ve always been fairly active, but it wasn’t until about four years ago that I decided to take my overall health and fitness level more seriously. I started hitting the weights, tracking nutrition, managing stress, and worked toward developing better sleep habits. Between 2017 and 2020, I went from the physique on the left to the physique on the right. I’m 5’ 10" and weighed 175 lbs in both.

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Below, is my current state as of October 2021, weighing 185 lbs.

Oct 2021 Physique

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In terms of my long-term physique goals, I’d like to add 10 lbs of muscle, and drop body fat to the 8-10% range. Of course at the end of the day, it’s more about the look than numbers, but picked these targets so I have some objective measures to track progress.

I’d say my strengths are chest and legs (especially calves, which I’d mainly attribute to genetics), while I need the most work on my shoulders, back, and arms. I’m still debating on exact timing, but want to do a physique competition in 2022 or 2023, using it as motivation to push myself to be my best, than going after a particular placement.

Current Best Lifts (One-Rep Maxes in lbs):

Bench: 230, Squat: 340, Deadlift: 405

During 2021, I worked through some recurring lower back issues. I was a bit impatient and tried pushing too hard, too soon, otherwise these could have probably been resolved much sooner. Now, that I’m healthy again, the objective is to regain these numbers by the end of 2021, if not exceed them by 20 lbs each. Onto the training log!

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Week 3, Day 3:

Safety Bar Squat (200 x 8 x 1), RPE 7.5
Safety Bar Squat (185 x 8 x 2), 90% of Set 1
Larsen Press (185 x 3 x 1), RPE 7
Larsen Press (175 x 3 x 3), 95% of Set 1
Cable Rope Hammer Curls (45 x 15 x 3), RPE 8/9
Single Arm Tricep Pushdowns (25 x 15 x 3, each side), RPE 8/9
Machine Rear Delt Flys (100 x 15 x 3), RPE 8/9

  • Safety bar squats were solid overall in terms of depth. One thing I noticed is that the descent on my first rep can be a bit slower than the remaining reps. It’s like I need that first rep to work out the kinks and then my body knows what to do.

  • For the Larsen press, I’m getting better about maintaining control / not rushing the first rep.

  • Good focus and intensity on the accessory moves. Sometimes on the last set or two my mind can start to wander, so I’m happy I was able to maintain focus today.

2 Likes

Active Rest Day + Core Work

  • 1 hour of walking, step count of 8,000

Lower Back Rehab (More preventative in nature at this point)

  • Bird Dogs (4 x 10 per side with 3 second static hold)
  • Dead Bugs (4 x 10 per side)

Core / Abs

  • Cable crunch (4 x 10 x 50)
  • Hanging Leg Raises (4 x 12, 2 count hold at top)
  • Side Planks (4 x 30 second hold per side)
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I like that idea! I’d pick on and go ahead and pay and sign up then the heat is really on!!

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Thanks! I was targeting July of 2022, but with the injury recovery being slower than anticipated, I left the door open to possibly postponing things if I couldn’t train properly. However, with the way the past two months have been going, I’m feeling more confident about sticking to the original plan. :smiley:

Also, thanks for stopping by my log! I’m slowly making my way through yours from the beginning. Keep up the good work on your end as well!

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Hell yea dude! I’ll definitely be following along

Oh man, don’t bore yourself with my log :joy: it’s wild.
There’s also another log of mine out there :joy:

Week 3, Day 4

Barbell Bench (215 x 1 x 1), RPE 8-9
Barbell Bench (195 x 4 x 4), 92% of Set 1
JM Press (75 x 10 x 4), RPE 8
Cable Straight Arm Pullovers (37.5 x 15 x 3), RPE 8
DB Curls (35 x 10 x 3), RPE 8
Cable Upright Rows (62.5 x 15 x 3), RPE 8

Barbell Bench

  • With last week being programmed as a double at RPE 8, where I hit 200 x 2, I wasn’t expecting to hit 215 for a single. However, with warmup feeling as solid as it did, I went for it and felt like I had room to spare. I subsequently went for 225, but ended up stalling about 75% of the way up. I noticed that on the push off my chest (even at 215) that the bar is drifting forward a bit. Therefore, I believe the failure was more a technique issue than a strength one. I’ll need to clean this up, but in any case feeling really pumped because I’m so close to hitting my old PR!

  • Mentally, I’m feeling way more confident lifting at the heavier weights now. My coach and I have been working on my mental game, and also giving me more practice, and it’s starting to really pay off.

JM Presses

  • I always feel bad when people are waiting for a bench and start to rush these a little. Since I’m not going super heavy, I’ll go to a bench that’s not in a rack next time to do these.

The remaining accessories are feeling good, and I’m feeling good about my intensity and focus here.

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Week 3, Day 5

Pause DL (335 x 2 x 1), RPE 7-7.5
Pause DL (345 x 2 x 1), RPE 8-8.5
Conventional DL (310 x 4 x 2), at 90% of Set 2
Pause Squat (315 x 3 x 1), RPE 7
Pause Squat (335 x 2 x 1), RPE 7
Pause Squat (345 x 1 x 2), RPE 7
Underhand grip EZ bar rows (90 x 15 x 3), RPE 8-9
Walking DB Lunges (55 x 8 x 2), RPE 8-9
Leg Curl (95 x 15 x 3), RPE 8-9

DLs

  • I’ve always struggled somewhat with pulling the slack out of the bar, and I think I finally know why. I never feel like I can get a good grip around the bar from the starting position that feels the most optimal for me- i.e. where I feel the strongest off the floor, I’m too high off the floor to get a good grip on the bar, and where I’m low enough to get a good grip on the bar, I feel like I’m not as strong off the floor.

  • Considering the way last week felt, these all felt heavier than expected even factoring I that it was a 10 lb increase, since last week was at RPE 6.5 and 7 respectively

Squats

  • 345 is a PR and I’m now about 35 lbs short of being able to squat 2x my body weight which is super exciting!

  • Mentally I still need to work on being more aggressive. I can still be bad about slllllooooowwwwing down into the hole.

  • Getting better about keeping my elbows in close to my body and not gripping the bar overly tightly.

Walking Lunges

  • Go for that last bit of depth on every rep.

Off until Saturday, when my max-out/peak week begins for this phase!

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I had this problem with conventional deadlifts, sumo is a lot more comfortable for me.

For pulling the slack out, I like to imagine that when I start the pull, the weight is just hovering. Meaning if scales were under the weights, they would be close to 0 when I start moving the pull. I think it helped a lot, but it is exhausting during rep work.

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Thanks for the tips @mnben87!

Active Rest Day + Core Work

  • 1 hour of walking, step count of 8,000

Lower Back Rehab (More preventative in nature at this point)

  • Bird Dogs (4 x 10 per side with 3 second static hold)
  • Dead Bugs (4 x 10 per side)

Core / Abs

  • Cable crunch (4 x 10 x 50)
  • Hanging Leg Raises (4 x 12, 2 count hold at top)
  • Side Planks (4 x 30 second hold per side)
2 Likes

Week 4, Day 1 (Max/Peak Week)

Squat (335 x 1 x 1), RPE 8
Squat (305 x 2 x 5), 92% of Set 1
Bench (205 x 4 x 1), RPE 8
Bench (185 x 8 x 3), 84% of Set 1
Leg Press, 3 second eccentric, (500 x 15 x 3), RPE 9
Incline DB Press (75 x 8 x 3), RPE 9

Squats

  • I’ve gained a lot more body awareness during the lift and can actually start to notice the flaws that I have in the lift. In particular, I can now tell that I’m slowing down into the hole and gripping the bar too tight without needing to wait for video proof. What’s nice is I can now make corrections on the fly and during a set.

  • I think the above comment shows how much I’ve grown mentally as I think I previously just had so much anxiety about making a lift, I couldn’t pick up on anything that was going on during the squat.

  • I still need to work on keeping my elbows in close. Today was interesting in that my descents were cleaner, but then they would totally flare out on the way up.

Bench

  • The 205 x 4 was a PR. I probably could have gotten 5, but didn’t want to risk it without a spotter.

  • I’m also still working on fixing my bar path. I need to figure out what’s going on at the bottom that is preventing me from getting a good push-off straight up and back. Once I get rid of that forward motion, the bigger numbers will come.

  • Mentally, I need to cue leg drive from the moment I unrack so it’s locked in and automatic. Then, I can just focus on what my upper body needs to do after that, and hopefully my brain won’t get so overloaded. I don’t quite have the body awareness here that I have on squat just yet.

Incline DB Press

  • Happy to push the 75s at the end of a workout. I probably have a little more weight/reps in me.

So there you have it, things to improve, but making good progress.

2 Likes

Week 4, Day 2 (Max/Peak Week)

Stiff Leg DL, 3 second eccentric (265 x 6 x 1), RPE 8-9
Stiff Leg DL, 3 second eccentric (240 x 6 x 2), 90% of Set 1
Weighted Chin-ups (BW + 30 x 8 x 4, RPE 9
Seated Cable Row (125 x 15 x 4), RPE 8-9
Lateral Raises, 1 second hold at top (22.5 x 15 x 3), RPE 9
Incline DB Curls (25 x 14 x 3), RPE 9

SDLs

  • Felt a little more of a struggle off the floor today, which was surprising given where I felt after last week.

  • Grip is becoming a little bit of an issue. I need to remember to bring my chalk next time and that should help. I was good about being patient and resetting each rep, rather than just trying to rush through.

Weighted Chin-Ups

  • Added 5 lbs over last week

  • I need to watch my range of motion a little more at the end of a set. It’s nothing terrible, but maybe an inch or two less than about 75% of the set

  • I gave myself an extra 30 seconds - minute between sets and will continue to do so. It was well worth the extra endurance I seemed to have

Cable Row

  • My coach wanted me to lean forward a bit more, rather than stopping when my torso was vertical and I can feel a big difference in my back with that extra range of motion

Lateral Raises

  • Mostly good here especially with focus and intensity

  • For some reason that last set was unusually tiring. I stopped at 12 reps, gave myself a 15 second pause and finished the set.

Incline DB Curls

  • Really good with patience and intensity here today

  • Decided to up reps rather than adding weight since I thought I would be able to maintain better quality through a high rep range.

2 Likes

Week 4, Day 3 (Max/Peak Week)

Safety Bar Squat (210 x 7 x 1), RPE 8
Safety Bar Squat (195 x 7 x 2), 90% of Set 1
Larsen Press (195 x 3 x 1), RPE 8
Larsen Press (185 x 3 x 3), 95% of Set 1
Cable Rope Hammer Curls (47.5 x 15 x 3), RPE 8/9
Single Arm Tricep Pushdowns (27.5 x 15 x 3, each side), RPE 8/9
Machine Rear Delt Flys (105 x 15 x 3), RPE 8/9

Safety Bar Squats

  • Interesting observation that I’m getting much better depth than how things feel (hips are below horizontal while it feels like I’m struggling to hit parallel), while on my back squats things feel deeper at the bottom, than what I’m actually doing (at or slightly below parallel when it feels like I’m going lower)!

Larsen Press

  • I think I’m starting to find a starting position that works better for me, with my chin directly under the bar.

  • Control getting better and better on that first rep

  • Bar path off my chest is much better than on my regular bench day so some good things to apply for my bench session on Wednesday

Accessories

  • Just really trying to emphasize form and quality here.
1 Like

Active Rest Day + Core Work

  • 1 hour of walking, step count of 8,000

Lower Back Rehab (More preventative in nature at this point)

  • Bird Dogs (4 x 10 per side with 3 second static hold)
  • Dead Bugs (4 x 10 per side)

Core / Abs

  • Cable crunch (4 x 10 x 50)
  • Hanging Leg Raises (4 x 12, 2 count hold at top)
  • Side Planks (4 x 30 second hold per side)
1 Like

Week 4, Day 4 (Max/Peak Week)

Barbell Bench (225 x 1 x 1), RPE 9
Barbell Bench (205 x 4 x 4), 92% of Set 1
JM Press (80 x 10 x 4), RPE 9
Cable Straight Arm Pullovers (42.5 x 15 x 3), RPE 9
DB Curls (35 x 12 x 3), RPE 9
Cable Upright Rows (67.5 x 15 x 3), RPE 9

Barbell Bench

  • So pumped to be back at two big plates again, and just 5 off my all-time PR!

  • I adjusted my grip to be just a little bit wider and that seems to have helped with my bar path being cleaner off my chest

  • I went to a different gym so I could have a friend I trust spot me even though it’s a location I don’t like as much, and I think I’ll continue to do that with when I’m pushing my limits because it made such a difference mentally.

Cable Pull-overs

  • These are such a lat-killer and I feel like I’m going to bust through my shirt when I’m done!

DB Curls

  • I should get a video of these just to make sure I’m not overly swinging my body. I don’t think I am, but video does not lie.
2 Likes

Week 4, Day 5 (Max / Peak Week)

Pause DL (345 x 2 x 1), RPE 8-9
Pause DL (355 x 2 x 1), RPE 8-9
Conventional DL (325 x 4 x 2), at 90% of Set 2
Pause Squat (325 x 3 x 1), RPE 8-9
Pause Squat (345 x 2 x 1), RPE 8-9
Pause Squat (350 x 1 x 2), RPE 8-9
Underhand grip EZ bar rows (100 x 15 x 3), RPE 9
Walking DB Lunges (60 x 8 x 2), RPE 9
Leg Curl (100 x 15 x 3), RPE 9

DLs

  • I decided to experiment with a wider stance, and also think about driving through my feet and outward in the direction of my toes. Interestingly enough the very first part of the pull felt tougher, but then everything was much easier than I expected.
  • For some reason my back is always slightly rounded on the first rep, and then it snaps into pancake flat after that, so something to clean up there.

Squats

  • 350 is a PR, but depth could have been better
  • Still struggling to descent faster

Walking Lunges

  • Go for that last bit of depth on every rep.

In other news, my lower back is feeling a bit irritated after today’s session. Luckily, I have an active rest day tomorrow, and then a deload week before starting a new training block so hopefully that is enough time for me to fully recover.

I’m trying to not let myself get down by this latest setback. In more positive news perhaps being forced to work at lower weights on squat will help me figure out why I’m having such trouble at the higher weights. Also, so much to be grateful in life even with this injury.

2 Likes

Week 5, Day 1 (Deload Week)

Squat (225 x 1 x 1), Supposed to be 90% of Week 4
Squat (185 x 1 x 5), Supposed to be 90% of Week 4
Bench (185 x 3 x 1), 90% of Week 4
Bench (170 x 7 x 3),90% of Week 4

Bench

  • I actually reversed the order of the lifts since I wanted to get something in first, and knew that squats would likely be more problematic than bench.

  • Really happy with hitting the weights that I did on a deload week, given that these would have previously been one rep maxes. Everything felt easy and like I had way more left in the tank to give. Also, the deload was a good chance to really focus on the technical details.

Squat

  • Initially these felt way better than I had anticipated. However, either me going a little too hard, or just having an awkward rep, I left the session feeling worse than I did this morning.

  • I should have taken things even easier than I did, but with the way warm-up felt, I thought the weights I used were safe ones.

  • I don’t think I set myself back too far in terms of recovery, but lesson learned for the rest of the week. I will definitely be much more conservative on deadlifts (e.g. just starting with the bar), if I even attempt them.

Other

  • I scrapped my accessory moves after squat to be on the safe side and spent extra time on rehab exercises which have left things feeling a little more open in my back. The worst things right now are standing up and bending over, so putting on pants, socks, and shoes really sucks!

  • The amount of progress in terms of recovery between Thursday and Saturday was really good so I know to just be even more patient. At this point, there’s really no need to push things and sideline myself even longer. Again, just being mentally grateful if what I can do is helping a ton in terms of me staying positive.

3 Likes

Week 5, Day 2 (Deload Week)

Stiff Leg DL, 3 second eccentric (Bar only x 4 x 1), Scheduled at 90% of Week 4
Stiff Leg DL, 3 second eccentric (Bar only x 4 x 2), Scheduled at 90% of Week 4
Weighted Chin-ups (BW + 25 x 8 x 3), 90% of Week 4
Seated Cable Row (115 x 10 x 3), 90% of Week 4
Lateral Raises, 1 second hold at top (20 x 10x 3), 90% of Week 4
Incline DB Curls (20 x 14 x 3), 90% of Week 4

  • Despite yesterday’s little squat run-in, my back isn’t feeling significantly different so I’m pleased about that!

SDLs

  • Rather than simply abandon the move, I decided to test the movement pattern and see what I could do. I started just doing them with no bar, then used light DBs, and finally worked up to an empty barbell. I decided to stop there to be safe, especially since it’s a deload and I could still get a crazy hamstring burn with just a bar.

Weighed Chin-ups

  • Pumped that I can do these just fine without any strain on my back!

Accessories

  • No issues to report, just really focusing on quality here.
2 Likes

Week 5, Day 3 (Deload Week)

Safety Bar Squat (140 x 6 x 1), Should be 90% of Week 4, but just doing what I can
Safety Bar Squat (140 x 6 x 2), Should be 90% of Week 4, but just doing what I can
Larsen Press (180 x 2 x 1), 90% of Week 4
Larsen Press (170 x 2 x 3), 90% of Week 4
Cable Rope Hammer Curls (42.5 x 10
x 2), 90% of Week 4
Single Arm Tricep Pushdowns (25 x 10x 2, each side), 90% of Week 4
Machine Rear Delt Flys (90 x 12 x 2), 90% of Week 4

Safety Bar Squats

  • When comparing equivalent weight to back squats, these actually feel way better on my back. This might be the play for the next couple of weeks.
  • I could have probably gone heavier, but given that it’s still a relatively new movement for me, and the Saturday squat issues I decided to play things more conservative.

Larsen Presses

  • Really pumped about the weights I’m still managing to hit here on the deload.

  • Continue to work on upper body tightness and control.

Accessories

  • No issues, but just want to get form checks with my coach to make sure I’m not leaving anything on the table.
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Week 5, Day 4 (Deload Week)

Barbell Bench (205 x 1 x 1), 90% of Week 4
Barbell Bench (185 x 3 x 4), 90% of Week 4
JM Press (75 x 10 x 2), 90% of Week 4
Cable Straight Arm Pullovers (37.5 x 10 x 2), 90% of Week 4
DB Curls (30 x 10 x 2), 90% of Week 4
Cable Upright Rows (62.5 x 10 x 2), 90% of Week 4

Barbell Bench

  • Pumped to still be at 205 on a deload week!
  • I was at a different gym from my usual one today and it took forever to get my setup down today. It felt like the bar was just coming down into a place where I couldn’t push up and back, but rather just straight up. I’m happy I didn’t let it become too frustrating mentally, but I could have been more patient in my warm-up sets about finding the right setting.

Accessories / Other

  • Everything is feeling and moving well.

  • My back keeps getting better, but I don’t think I’ll be at 100% by the time my next training cycle is supposed to start on Saturday. Not a huge deal, as I’ll just go light where I need to, and then tack on an extra week at the back end before deloading again. It’s more important for me to finish recovering and stay healthy then to just push through and force things.

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