T Nation

Building the Foundation

I will describe my training, nutrition, goals, progress, thoughts and other things related to building strenght and physique.

I am 22 years old, 6 feet tall and weigh ca. 200 pounds and lift for one year.

I am focusing on good technique and performance on the basic lifts. I have goals for my performance and I am chasing some numbers:

Lift/ Current Performance/Goal Performance

Back squat Olympic style/100kgx10rep; 135kgx1rep/140kgx10rep; 180x1rep

Front squat Olympic style/100kgx5rep; 125x1rep/140kgx5rep; 160kgx1rep

Conventional deadlift/150kgx4rep/180kgx1rep

Bench Press/80kgx3rep; 85kgx1rep/80kgx10rep; 100x1rep

Overhead Press/60kgx3rep/80kgx1rep

Snatch grip behind neck push press/75kgx1rep/100kgx1rep



I train every day, I don’t follow any routine, I go by my instinct and goals, I have some guidelines I try to keep.

My training is mainly full body or upper/lower split.
I eat pretty clean and I always feel that I am full and nourished.

I will describe my training in the last days:

Saturday: Overhead pressing, dips
did a nice set: military 60kg x 3 reps, thats good for me now. Snatch grip behind neck push press: 70kgx3rep. 80kg seems to be a tough challenge. I do large leg drive but the bar goes only a couple inches up. It’s a great exercise. Finished with dips. My shoulder were pretty hammered so i did 5 sets of 5. then a single with 10kg and 3 sets of 3reps ultra wide focusing on pecs.

Sunday: Front squats, curls
The theme was doing triples. Warm up, ramp: 60/70/80/90/100/110kg triples. then I failed at 120kg. my knees were like no way we will squat. then i deloaded to 100kg and did 3 sets of 5 reps and this was like rock n roll for me. i was very satisfied with the last 3 sets. I ended with hammer db curls using the 20kg. high five good job, go home.

Monday: Speed Pulls, bench.
I am pulling from blocks under my knees, because from the floor my lower back is rounded. I was doing heavy triples and 5reppers couple days before so i decided to do snatch grip high pulls. Worked to a 75kg lift. I use straps to focus on exploding from the leg and hip than raise with calves, shrug and drive the bar as close to my body. I work on a explosive pop from the hip when the bar hits the upper thigh and goes up.
Then i did bench press. I was really amped up and did a 80kgx3rep with good technique which is good for me. Then i did 2 singles with 85kg and did a couple of sets for 6-10 reps in the 70kg range.

Tuesday: Upper back
I knew i have to do lats. I felt my grip was very weak. I started with chins which are a staple for my back but the first rep felt like shit so I decided to do high reps on wide grip pulldowns, db rows, cable rows, close grip pulldowns. It was very discomfortable and awkward to do this because it was mainly pumping iron, repping and I am more of a performance type of guy. Almost felt like wasting time and energy.

Wednesday: Back squats, bench, good mornings, calfs
Today i wanted to squat 3 plates for a single and a PR. I felt great soreness in my lats which I rarely feel.
The bar felt very good on my traps. Solid and tight. I felt that my lower back is kind of asleep. From the first rep with the empty bar i felt that my knees are sore and rusty, but i was determined to squat. I did only singles from 60kg to 140kg. The 120 and 130 felt very awkward to me. They weren’t heavy but the motion was poor. I thought that i do the 140 even in a poor manner, the 140kg was light on the upper body but i didn’t feel the tightness in the lower back. I tried to squat and the knees said no again so i did 3 kind a 1/3 squats. I went to the bench. I felt unstable lying on my sore lats but did quite well for my stats. I did lots of volume, nothing special. Then i decided it is time to give squating and pulling a short break till my knees will feel good and decided to learn the good morning. I did seated, standing from pins and free standing. I did 40kg for reps but the movement is quite new to me. This will be my substitute for sq and dl for the next week or two. I will add natural ghr’s. I finished with calf work which i never do but decided i have to because they are a very week part.

Today: Overhead pressing, shoulders isolation + biceps
I know i did bench the day before but i was inspired by the Indigo team one pressing hard so I did first military press. I learn to drive the bar through sticking points and i gain strength and confidence in repping out. I workerd to a 55kgx6rep and 60kgx2rep. I tried to push press the 60kg for more reps but the knees didn’t allow me to do this. So i ditched the push presses in snatch grip behind neck witch i really like to do and did standing db presses. worked to 22.5kg for 6 rep. Not bad but not good. Then i did bb upright row. It was the first time i did them for more than 1 set. I do them almost to my mouth, worked to 40-45kg for 4-8 rep. I will do them for a couple weeks till I u-row 60kg and will see if they develope my shoulders. I don’t now yet if they are worth doing. I ended with curls. My favourite are alternate standning db curls. I did the 20kg but were heavy. Was still sore from back work. I did the 15kg. Than i saw a 28kg ez bar on the preacher. i tried, did 3 sets of 3 reps. very heavy, slow reps, grinders. i will keep the weight and work them till thy will be easy to do.

I will learn the good morning, do natural ghr’s, pull throughs/standin ab work supersets and calfs/triceps supersets. calfs: high rep pumping triceps: dips+ some isolation stuff, will see.

I feel no soreness or any effect from the upright rows. My hamstring and calfes are still hammered but I have to make them work and grow so no excuses for them. I do some squat and pull vacation till the knee will feel really good. Untill I foucus on posterior chain and abs work and will pop some omega3 capsules. Maybe will help. My grip has to recover to knock chins again, so the pull deload will do some good.

The squatting poundages aren’t big but i try to squat both with my knees and hips. I learned to squat doing box squats. But i prefer close stance free squats. I wear a belt and reach pretty good depth.

I will update with some pictures of me.

Congratulations on starting the log :slight_smile:

Can you write a bit about your training history too?

Tip for the upper back - try doing what CT suggests with keeping the weight low but focusing on squeezing the hell out of the muscle for 2 seconds. I did that today and it made a huge difference in how it felt. I think it’s also a good idea from the performance standpoint (keeping back straight during deads, tightness during bench, etc). In fact, after just 4 sets of wide cable rows and 4 sets of even lighter face pulls I was walking with my back much more straight than usual for the rest of the day!

Btw, I will be in Poland in late September / early October, but I’m not sure if I’ll be spending much time in Warsaw. If not, I’ll be there quite a bit longer in December/January. We should catch a workout together then.

You mentioned RKS Okęcie before. Is that where you train?


RKS is one of two gyms where I train. My training history: one year ago i discovered tnation, read the articles, tried to figure out what is training about and the searching and experimenting goes on.

I agree with you on the squeezing, light weight but for me it is first things first and first for back are chins and pulls and they are rather brutal work than feeling the lats.

Today i crippled on my sore calfes, knees and hamstrings to train and I did the following:

I started with chins. did one solid set for me and the other sets were weak. my grip and back got fatigued very quick so I have to wait for good chinning performance. Also did I noticed that my abs gave up fast and i had to raise my knees to chin. So chins were a good idea but turned out bad performance

Next were dips. i do them very deep range of motion, slowly down, pause at bottom and up as fast as i can. in this fashion i did bw sets of 6-5-5-4 reps. them did the ultra wide for 3-4-5 reps. these were grinding though. i have to learn to lean forward to engage more pecs.

Then I wanted to do some posterior chain. I did stiff leg deads. I haven’t done them for a year so i will stick to them for some time to build some numbers. I did some 5rep sets, singles up to 110kg. My goal is to a 140kg single and 100kg for 10reps. I do them with a very deep stretch, pause at the bottom, explode up. i alternated it with some triceps isolation: rope overhead extensions. I went heavy but didn’t feel the triceps although i did them as strict as i could. I don’t know if they are usefull in the beginning stage. I think it is better to do more dips or presses or benches. I tried to do pull throughs but think that stiff leg deads bring more bang for a buck.

I finished with calf work. I did high reps, cotracting at top hard, almost non rest, changed the angles of toe presses etc but it is kind of necessary evil and it makes me criple.

Tomorrow i will definitely drag my ass to the gym and do something even ligth that turns out to be some hard work. Will see.

Today the main focus was on barbell rows. Really focused on the back pulling than the weight being lifted. Did 12 sets of 8-10 reps with one plate wearing straps. I keep my torso perpendicular to the floor so my form is from the oldschool. I tried to row with more weight but this made me only jerk the bar to pull it up. Form is the key but form doesn’t make it easier. I tried to do some triceps extensions with dumbbells but i still have too focus on big bang movements. I did lying extensions with 20kg db but they are really hard for the elbows. Better save the body for bench press than some isolation stuff.
Then I wanted to experiment with chest supported db rows. They are ok. I finished back with one arm lateral raises 10kg db from dead stop. Kind of cardio. If you have spare time, ok.
I did some preacher curls with the ez bar. I did 3 sets of 5 reps with 28kg the same weight i did for 3 reps. After the last set i finished with alternated db preacher curls, they are very ok.

I will stick to the bb row an exercise tested by bodybuilders for decades, focusing mainly on: better form than more reps than more weight.

Tommorow I will focus on natural ghr’s, my upper body has to rest, monday is Global Bench Press Day. Yeah

Speed pulling day:
I pull from blocks, the bar is below my knees, with straps.

First: snatch grip high pull. Did many singles, triples with 60-70kg.

Ques: arms straigh, chest up, hit the upper thighs with the bar.

Second: speed pulls. worked from 70kg to 130kg for a single. The 130kg is easy to pull but my form isn’t textbook perfect. Definitely something to work on.

Third: snatch grip high pull. I decided to work on these because the more I do them the better the motion becomes. Did 80kg for many singles. I feel i lean to much forward, I am not bruising the upper tigh as I should. Lot of room for improvement.

Last: natural glute-ham raises. They are hard. A must do for me

Tomorrow: benching. some pressing assistance, rows.

Bench press monday:
Flat:warmed up, 60kgx5rep, 70kgx8rep, 80kgx5rep, 80kgx4rep. 80kgx1rep for 10 singles.
Incline: 60, 65, 70kg, didn’t count sets or reps. Shooted for reps over 6.
Dips: bwx6reps.

I felt sluggish on the bench but i had to push myself to improve. I really want to hit 100kg in the end of the year. Incline: this is good for high reps. Dips: I did one set that felt hard, at that time i didn’t have much drive to train. Next benching: friday.

Tomorrow: front sqats, stiff leg pulls, nghrs, calfes.

Tuesday, 2nd august:

Front squats: warm up, sets: 60kgx3 60kgx3 70kgx3 80kgx3 90kgx3 100kgx3 110kgx3 120kgx0
The bar didn’t feel heavy but had some blockade. So if I couldn’t ramp up the weight I decided to rep out the 100kg. did 100kgx7 100kgx6 100kgx5. The first set is a rep PR, on the second set I dumped the bar while doing the raising up on the 7th rep, the third set was ok. My short term goal is to do a 110kg for 5 reps.

Stiff leg pulls: Toes elevated, no belt, in straps. Worked to 110kg for reps for two sets. This time they blasted my upper back and lower back. The pull wasn’t as deep as i could so i remained a very good arch in back. I stripped the bar to 80kg and did two sets for long time under tension. I feel my lower back is pretty hammered.

To hit the hams and glutes i did natural ghrs. See some improvement in the motion and strength.

Just another day in the gym.

Today: overhead pressing, shoulders.
Started with standing barbell press.
I tried to avoid the weak position which is starting to press from a dead stop from the clavicles.
Every rep started from neck level to full lockout. This allowed me to do 50kgx10reps and 60kgx5reps in a strict fashion. Continued with 5 sets of 5 reps with a 60kg pushpress. The leg drive was very small. Sets were finished with a couple of quarter reps at the top to increase time under tension.
Second were standing db presses. Did 4 sets with the 20kg db. On these i focus on the greatest possible range of motion and repping out.
Last: bb upright rows. The 40kg felt heavier then last time. I varied my grips from a snatch grip, clean grip to a close grip to make sets different.

I aim for a strict 60kgx10reps ohp and 80kg pushpress till the end of august.

I was thinking about how to improve training and came up with some ideas:

Chins: begin every session with chins from dead hang to activate the lats, abs, warm up upper body, build volume and frequency, improve performance.
Bodyweight squats: improve and activate the movement, warm up lower body

Active rest:
for upper body training: jumping alternating lunges, bw speed squats, jump squats, broad jumps.
for lower body training: pushups, curls.

Tomorrow: squats, back raises, natural nghr’s implementing the two ideas mentioned above.
I thought about back squats from the bottom position.

Some thoughts:

July training summary:
I’ve been training very focused the last 4 weeks, putting strong emphasize on nutrition and recovery.
In these 4 weeks I pushed my squat to a new level. Front squat single (from 105kg to 125kg) improved the most and back squat for reps too (from 100kg 3reps to 100kg 10reps). I’ve noticed a minor pulling improvement.
My upper body is the slowest to grow in strength and size therefore I must be smart in dosing frequency and intensity. Sticking to a couple big bang exercises for a longer time is obligatory.

Keeping pain free is allowing recovery to be faster and training squats more frequently; sore and fatigued lats and upper back decrease squatting, pressing performance. Therefore dedicated high volume upper back sessions will be limited to minimum, upper back work will be: high frequency chins every warmup, rowing at upper body days.

August preview:
It will be a upper/lower body split with a active rest and chins bw squats warm up.
I feel I am on the right way to improve, if I will train smart and hard take care of good nutrition and sleep. Goals are: front squat 1rep PR (130kg and above) 5rep PR (110kg and above), 90kg bench press 1rep 80kgx10rep; pain and injury free, keeping training thrilling and exciting, adding mass to upper body: shoulders, back, chest, arms.

Lets roll.

Thursday training:
-bodywegeight squats for warm up
-setting the rack for squats from bottom.
-squats from bottom warmup
-chins 3sets of 3 reps. this is my weak side. a must train.
-squats from bottom: 60kgx5repsx2sets, 80kgx3reps, 100kgx3reps, 120kgx3repsx2sets, 100kgx8-10repsx3sets.

This form of squatting is very technical: you have to really fire your muscles to squat up, no stretch reflex, no momentum. the 120kg was very heavy on the quad and abs.
A good tool for learning technique in the bottom, arching lower back and recruiting maximum force.

I thought my depth and arch in the back squat are decent but every time i want to go for max squat depth
I loose arch in lower back. Frequent mobility work and box squats will help. The goal is to do a very controlled lowering with a great arch in lower back and increasing the depth. Box squats will be an additional tool. Front squats still remain number one.

Finished with a couple of chins.

worked to a 85kgx2reps on the flat witch is a PR and finished the set with 2-3 upper half to 1/3 reps to increase the intensity. stayed with the 80kg for another two sets of full and upper half reps. continued with incline bench in the 60-70kg zone. Did a 70kgx4rep (1rep better than previous). Finished with something new to me: bench press - fastest possible lowering, keeping it 1cm above chest, wait fo 2-3 seconds and explode up. For one rep. It’s different from what i ussualy do: slow descent, touch and go style. Went 2 singles of: 60/65/70/75.

Upper back work: i decided to do rowing and pulling stuff focusing solely on the muscle contracting so i did ez bar yates rows, 1arm bb row (Meadows style), rope rows, lat pulldowns, kayak rows, straight arm pulldowns, facu pulls. short to none rest, double, triple contraction. It is completely different from heavy bb rows or chins. Is it better? Don’t know. It is good for the mind muscle connection but i don’t feel the physical stress, excitement like in squats, pulls, presses. It’s like cardio. I will do both to be sure i don’t miss anything.

Friday part II: unexpectedly i squeezed a second session today, did arms:
-close grip bench press alternated with standing db curls
-swiss bar bench press alternated with preacher db curls
-standing extensions with v-bar alternated with rope hammer curls

rope curls are great for active rest training squats for instance
note to myself: have to do more direct arm work.

Saturday lower body:

-front squats 60/70/80/90/100kgx5reps/110kgx3reps (fail to stand up from the bottom at the 4th rep). Although didn’t hit the 110x4or5, squatting was very explosive and good.
-back box squats 60/60/80/100/100kg for 6-10reps focusing on the arching lower back while reaching depth. finished with two sets of 60kg for 1/4 squats in the bottom. beltless
-stiff leg pulls 60/80/100/110/110/100/100 for about 4-6 reps. toes elevated. beltless with straps.
can’t wait to squat again.

active rest and finisher: rope curls standing, sitting on the floor.
tomorrow: overhead pressing, triceps, shoulders.

Sunday was off.

bb ohp: ramp to a 60kgx5 2assisted reps. thats a pr.
push press: 60kgx5 70kgx3 75kgx1 75kgx1 70kgx3 70kgx3
bb ohp: 50kgx6-8repsx3sets

swiss bar floor press from box: 55kgx3-5repsx5sets. pure triceps pressing.

lats: rope rows, cable pulldowns. all done in a strict fashion feeling the lats contracting, squeezing. high reps, short rest, mechanical drops, super sets etc. even closed eyes to feel the muscle more. mind-muscle connetction improves.

Sunday was off.

ohp: 60kgx5reps. PR
push press: 60kgx5, 70kgx3, 75kgx1, 75kgx1, 70kgx3, 70kgx3
ohp: 50kgx6-8repsx3sets

swiss bar floor press: 55kgx3-5repx5sets

lats: rows, pulls from different angles, ropes, bars, handles. high rep, short rest, super sets, mechanical drops, mind-muscle connection improves, feel the lat contracting, squeezing. light weight doesn’t mean easy reps. even closed eyes to get a better feel.


OHP training will look something like this:
bb military
bb pushpress
bb snatch grip behind neck press

these are the most important. upright rows, db presses, raises, cleans will have their time and place.