Despade: Journey to Strong(ish?)

I have started posting here recently, following other folks’ training logs and just generally enjoying the community feeling of everyone’s quest to get stronger. I am in a small town with relatively few folks to bounce ideas off of concerning training and programs and am mostly looking for that community feeling I’ve observed here.

Have done what I thought was training for 6 years on my own (outside of HS and College ball) until I began reading in earnest what some real training logs looked like (i.e. Alpha, Bulldog, Sleepr and many others) and digging into articles on T-Nation, I realized that I had simply been working out. I’ve decided to ditch my “self-programmed” ways and allow myself to make actual progress by following a real program. I’m putting myself in the more than capable hands of Wendler and his 5/3/1 for Hardgainers, for the past years I have stuck to high volume bro-splits and am struggling to bring that volume down so I chose this program for the Widowmaker sets and high rep assistance work. Life tends to throw me rest days and I have a low stress job conducive to my goals. Diet is about 85/15 “clean/dirty” with oatmeal, tuna, chicken, beef, rice, whole wheat and veggies being staples within that diet, I don’t have too much of a sweet tooth, avoiding unnecessary sugar isn’t an issue, peanut butter, on the other hand, may be the death of me. Am content with where I am BF% wise at the moment (abs blurry but there) and may emphasize diet later, but as of now am simply planning on logging weights. Hope you follow along and critique when needed and advise often. Appreciate it!

Updated for goals, focused on the long game:

Deadlift - 550
Squat - 405
Bench - 325
OHP - 225

Side quests:

-Complete Spartan Race (Running the Vegas Sprint in March)
-Increase Front Squat (Current 205x3)
-Increase Hang Clean (see also: Grotesque reverse curl into 3/4 power catch) (Current 195x3)
-Farmer’s Carry 2x Bodyweight

5’ 10" 212 lbs +/- 3lbs around 15% BF (rough guess) 27 years old

Squat - 315lbs x 3 approximately 340lbs - Training Max - 280

Deadlift - 455lbs x 2 approximately 480lbs - Training Max - 410

Bench - 255lbs x 3 approximately 275lbs - Training Max - 235

Strict OHP - 155 x 3 approximately 170lbs - Training Max - 145

Sample Day for Food: Eating approximately every 2-4 hours

  • 4-6 eggs w/ 2 slices of whole wheat toast
  • 1 cup of oatmeal, scoop of protein, tablespoon of powdered PB
  • 1 Can of Tuna, hefty handful of mixed veggies
  • 1 Can of Chicken/Tuna, hefty handful of veggies
  • 4-6 eggs w/ 2 slices of whole wheat toast
  • Half Scoop of Plazma Pre-workout/Half Scoop of Plazma Intra
  • meats are interchanged (tuna/chicken/beef) lots of eggs in my diet (could eat over-easy eggs and toast damn near every meal)

This is a rough day, with things being swapped around at times, or some relatively equal substitutions, focusing on eating protein with every meal and “good” carbs, have had good results with this approach, easy for me to follow, diggin’ it.

Day 1

  • Warm-Up - Play with the dogs, couple of arm swings, slap thighs
  • 65% (185 x 5)
  • 75% (195 x 5)
  • 85% (235 x 5+) 10 reps
  • 65% (185 x 20)
    -Dips 5 x 10
    -Pull Ups 6 x 8
    -Romanian Deadlift w/ Shrug 75lbs x 5 x 10

Day 2
-Warm Up - Chase the puppy around, try to catch the big dog after slipping out of collar, arm swings, pound chest

  • 65% (150 x 5)
  • 75% (175 x 5)
  • 85% (200 x 5 x 5)
  • Incline DB 60 x 5 x 10
  • Wide Grip Pull-Ups 5 x 5
  • Face-Pulls 4 x 20 Superset with Dips 5 x 10

You might want to drop your bench and press TMs a bit just to avoid needing a reset. You might be fine as is, but I know I wouldn’t want my TM so close to my max. I’ve found bench is one of those lifts where when you do reps towards the higher end of your range, you can go from easy to stapled in the space of a rep. A lower TM would mitigate this considerably.

Good to see you logging here, dude. We are really quite similar - about the same build, about the same strength, played college football (where did you play? what position?) and spent a few years post-football just messing around with different fitness modalities before settling back on “You know what, I think I just want to be really strong.”

Looks like you have a very solid plan in place. I’ll follow along.


Oh the thin line we toe with bench haha I appreciate the feedback and did go fairly conservative on my bench numbers as is due to the fact that I rarely work out with a partner so I typically do DBs, I worked up to a moderately hard triple at 255, left maybe one and a grinder in the tank and called it a day for that one. Hopefully it allows me to bring it up, it has always been my weakest lift and I have found myself unpleasantly pinned to the bench my fair share of times due to ego haha

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Much appreciated! I played at a small NAIA school in Montana as an OLB (turned out I was not nearly big enough, nor mean enough for that position) Appreciate the follow.

Day 3
5 a.m.

-Warm Up - Take the puppy out to pee, chase him around the yard, drink Plazma, rub the sleep from my eyes
-65% (265x5)
-75% (310x5)
-85% (350x5+) 10 reps (left a few in the tank as I am trying to avoid simply doing AMRAP, felt surprisingly good, moved very smoothly)
-65% (5x5@265)

-Hammer Strength Neutrel Grip Rows 5x10 (Supersetted with last 5 sets of Deadlift)

  • 5 x 5 alternating between Wide Grip and Neutrel Grip Pull-Ups

Very short on time this morning, but had one of the best upper back pumps I’ve had in a long time, am enjoying the “less is more” approach as it leaves me feeling more fresh (fresher?) at the end of the work out and looking forward to tomorrow’s lift.

As always, critique as needed and advise often. Thanks all!

Nice! I played NCAA Division III ball; lined up at offensive tackle around 5’11" and 245ish, scrapped my way to a couple of all-conference nods mostly on guts, smarts, and good technique (I was our smallest OL by a couple inches and a few stones, lol). I spent the next five years running long distance races to slim down (lowest I got to was 185ish) before deciding that I missed lifting weights and getting back into a strength-focused mindset.

Yeah, it’s amazing the difference between even HS and low level (NAIA, DIII) college ball in size and athleticism, took me by surprise for sure. And it’s a bit of a pendulum, I got very out of shape after quitting (playing weight 190, ballooned up to about 240 within a year) got a good, active job, started playing rugby and came back down and started focusing on strength and general awesomeness, but I still have buddies that I played with that refuse to do any strength training based solely on the fact they were forced to do it for football for 4-5 years (last I checked those ones still don’t miss it.)

Day 4



-Warm Up - Band Pull Aparts 2 x 20, Stare at myself in the mirror, arm circles
-65% (95x5)
-75% (110x5)
-85% (125x5)
-10x5 @ 65% (95)

Main work was doable, but felt heavier than I expected, especially the 125 as @MarkKO suggested, may be on the fast track to re-evaluating that Training Max, ha. Am gonna try it for this cycle and see how it feels moving foward. The 10x5 felt great, although I lost track on multiple sets and would catch myself around 8 reps.


  • Snatch Grip High Pulls 4x15 @ 115
  • Pull-Ups 10,10,8,8,8,6 (Felt pretty good, started kipping on #9 of the third set, went to 8 strict and tacked on a set of 6 at the end to make it an even 50)

-Ab-Wheel 5x10
-Push-Ups 5x12

This superset worked well for shoulders for me as the Ab-Wheel not only works my abs/low back, but my shoulders and lats as well, the push ups weren’t hard, but definitely kept the blood flowing moving straight into them from the abs. All in all, good workout.

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Day 6

Sunday 2/19

Active Recovery/Cardio

Organize the garage.

Pull the grill out of storage.

Took the big dog on a light 2 mile run in a loop that ended with a long gradual hill, used that as my “conditioning” ran the hill hard.


Warm-Up - Run my mouth talking to too many people, wander around “warming my legs up” (actually avoiding the workout)

70% (195x5) Felt Heavy
80% (225x5) Felt Heavier
90% PR Set (250x10) Felt even more heavier…
70% (195x20) Cried a little on the inside

Squats felt heavy, mostly mental though, definitely the most weight I’ve done for 10, had good bar speed throughout the workout, everything just felt heavy.


  • Lily Shrug (Brandon Lily’s RDL into Shrug) 5x10@70lb Dumbbells
  • Single Arm DB Snatch - 5x10@50lbs (feeling this one out at the moment)
  • Standing Calf Raises 3 x 15 (2-1-2 Tempo)

10 Minutes on the stair master at a moderate pace (level 8-10)

Solid day of moving weight, mentally struggled to stay in it, but got a good PR set, and the Widowmaker set moved well. Was happy with bar speed throughout the session, need to be more in it mentally.

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Bench Press
Warm-Up - Band Complex (up and over head with tension, pull aparts, push ups: 2 rounds of 10 each)
Sip Plazma

70% 165 x 5
80% 190 x 5
90% 5 x 5 @ 210

All bench sets felt surprisingly good, TM seems to be on point at this time as all the sets felt good and had good speed off my chest. Was worried about this week and next week as far as the 5x5 portion, but it seems to be on track.


  • Face Pulls 5x20 @ 90lbs
  • Single Arm Incline DB Bench 5x10 @ 65lbs

Super Set:

  • GHR 4x15
  • Chin-Ups 5x5

Another solid day, once again, percentages seem to be on track, assistance work seems productive (judged by pump given, muscles felt working, weak points focused on). Keeping workouts short (approximately 45 minutes) by manipulating rest periods. Recovery has been great so far. Much more mentally “in it” today and I felt it throughout the workout.

Critiques and advice welcome as always.




Warm Up- Band complex, light Lilly Shrugs, Walk on the treadmill

70% 290 x 5
80% 330 x 5
90% 370 x 5+ (Hit my goal of 10 for the PR set, started getting a little wonky on the last couple, was able to reset my form and finish strong)
70% 5 x 5 @ 290

-Chest Supported Rows 4 x 15 w/ 45lb KBs


  • Lat Pulldown 5x10x135
  • Dips 5x10

-Prowler Work - 120lb on sled 6 x 50 yards (give or take) gave myself 30 seconds of rest or less, averaged 15-20 seconds on the first 4 runs, 30 on the last 2.

All work felt great today, used straps for my PR set, grip is a weak point for sure, did all other working sets without straps. Assistance work gave a great pump without gassing myself out. Going to try and work on conditioning more, have a lot more conditioning tools at my disposal at the second gym I go to (farmer’s handles, weight vests, tires, sleds, prowler, 20 foot rope climb, ninja wall) and am going to try and get in there twice a week moving forward, with the goal of doing 10 prowler pushes for the 50 yard length with no more than 30 seconds of rest between pushes, once I hit that I will add 50 lbs and start at 4-5 pushes and work my way back up. The 6 pushes today jumped the heart rate, but I feel the volume was perfect as I feel great moving forward in the day and not stove up or dog tired.

Happy lifting.

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Shoulder Press

Warm Up- Band Complex, Skip Rope, Run my mouth with other members

70% 100 x 5
80% 115 x 5
90% 130 x 5
70% 10 x 5 @ 100

Shoulder Press felt way better this time, everything moved well and was noticably easier than last press day I had. Hopefully signs of good things to come (fingers crossed.)


Superset 1
-Snatch Grip High Pull 5 x 12 @ 135lbs
-Standing Calves (2-1-2 Tempo) 5 x 10 @ 90lbs

Giant Set
-Face Pulls 5 x 20 @ 90lbs
-Tricep Extensions (Rope) 5 x 10 @ 90lbs
-Ab Wheel 5 x 10

All in all a very good shoulder workout, have had a lingering “zing” in my shoulder over the last several months every shoulder day, but it appears to be gone with the removal of my dozen or so extra pressing exercises I had been doing previously (seems obvious now.) Shoulders feel big and healthy, really hammering rear delts for posture and increased stabilization of heavy weights. Went a little hog wild on assistance it felt like, but everything feels pumped up and great, just short of fatigue, leaving just enough in the tank to want another set or two. Was going to have today be an off day, but due to stress felt that a good endorphin rush and sense of accomplishment would do me good and I was not disappointed as the weight moved easily and smoothly.

Actual snapshot of me doing shoulders today, ha.

Edit: With the cutting of volume and increased recovery I feel much fuller muscular wise, have had a few comments on it even (that or my extra schmedium shirts are finally paying off!) Just had to edit for the feels…

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Felt good, struggled to take a day off (pretty normal for me) I feel like I’m not “hardcore” enough or something (damn you, Social Media!) but I’m going to be really trying to get 2 rest days in a week (which is pretty big for me) especially right before squats and deads as those are my two main areas I’m focused on.

Mostly just lazed around doing household stuff and watching Shameless and playing with the dogs.

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Warm Up- Lilly Shrugs for my hamstrings, some deep bodyweight squats and holds, light jogging, and then 4-5 warm up sets of 5 reps.

75% 210 x 5 these felt heavy, was immediately worried about doing the Widowmaker set with this weight.
85% 235 x 5 these felt better, but was still overly focused on the 20 reps coming at the end, took me a minute to get my head right for the PR set.
95% 265 x 10 These actually moved the best for the squat session today, wasn’t sure what I was going to get, was shooting for 8 with a cap at 10 and hit 10 relatively easily… left one or two in the tank, but it was a solid PR set for me.
75% 210 x 20 (Widowmaking Fun)


  • Lilly Shrugs (RDL into shrug) 5 x 10 w/ 75lb DBs


  • Weighted Dips 10 x 5 +45lb plate
  • Wide Grip Pull-Ups 10 x 5


  • Face Pulls 5 x 20 @ 90lbs (found that gripping the ends of the rope attachment like a baseball works great for me)
  • Standing Calf Raises (2-1-2 Tempo) 5 x 15 @ 70lbs


  • 15 Minutes on the Stairmill at Moderate Intensity (level 8-10)

All in all a solid day, wasn’t sure how squats would go after the first set, need to work on getting more focused starting on my first working set, and not my heaviest set, something I will be more conscious of moving foward. Assistance work felt good today, one of those days where I wanted to do everything and go way overboard, working on discipline as well as strength progression, apparently.

Thanks for following along and Happy Lifting.

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Bench Press

Warm-Up - Band complex, BS with buddy in the gym, couple push ups, slap chest

75% 175 x 5
85% 200 x 5
95% 5 x 5 @ 225

Bench sets went smooth, minimal to report, bench days take the least out of me from a physical and mental standpoint.


  • Single Arm DB Bench Press 5 x 12 @ 65lbs
  • Chin Ups 10, 10, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6 - Kipped a bit on the last 1 or 2 with the second set of 10, didn’t expect myself to have to back off so quickly to the sets of 6.

-Ab Roll Out 5 x 10
-Deadstop skull crushers 2x12 (Did not do all 5 sets as my elbow began bugging me)

  • Straight Bar Curls 3 x 10 @ Light Weight (had a buddy there, had to do a BIT of arm work)

A decent day, not a great day, maybe not even a good day… Bench Press sets went as expected, struggled to keep my head in it, got to the heavy set of 5 x 5 and was really focused on the first 4 sets and then started doing the 5th and realized my feet were up on the bench and I just wasn’t as mentally there as I should have been. Bench seems the least fatiguing for me all around. The assistance work was absolute garbage today, just punchin’ the clock is what the assistance work felt like, didn’t put enough effort into planning it and I felt it, but it’ll all come out in the wash.

Lift hard, lift often.



TGFDD - Thank God For Deadlift Day

Warm-Up - Band Complex, push ups, light RDL

75% 310 x 5
85% 350 x 5
95% 390 x 12 (PR Set)
75% 310 x 5

Nice and smooth, all deadlifts are done with a double overhand grip (no hook as of yet) and my goal is to do all sets except the PR Set strapless.


  • Hammer Strength Neutrel Grip Rows 4 x 15 @ 90lbs /each
  • Hammer Strength Pull Down 4 x 15 @ 90lbs/each

-Incline DB Bench 5 x 12 @ 60lbs
-Single Arm KB Curls 5 x 10 @ 25lbs

Deadlifts seem to be the great equalizer for me, no matter how crappy my previous day was or how poor my training week has been, all shall be redeemed through deadlifts, ha! Everything moved smoothly, really focusing on gripping the bar as hard as I can on all sets outside of the PR Set, grip is still craptastic and wants to give out, can do a few sets touch and go and then have to come to a dead stop as I get into later sets. The PR Set was fantastic, felt like a machine, did 8 with my eyes on 10, hit 10 and said, “F*&$ it! I want 12.” No hitching or grinding to get to that 12, definitely felt tired (hell, it was basically cardio, right…right?). Did 8-9 touch and go, then dead stop for the last 3-4, didn’t matter what I did, felt great. Assistance work was more on point today as I had access to the Hammer Strength machines, nothing too taxing, high rep “pump” work for the assistance stuff, focused on the MMC and feeling everything pull, it was a nice contrast from my working sets of deads. I saw the KB curls in a tip here on T-Nation and wanted to give it a shot, not sure what I expected there, but it wasn’t earth shattering.

As always, critique when necessary, advise often. Happy Lifting.



OH Press

75% 110 x 5
85% 125 x 5
95% 135 x 5
10 x 5 @ 110 (75%)


  • Snatch Grip High Pull 5 x 10 @ 155lbs
  • Wide Grip Pull Ups 10,10,10, 8, 8, 8
  • GHR 4 x 15 @ BW

10 Minutes Low Intensity Bike

Wasn’t going to work out today, but the significant other wanted me to go, so we went, wasn’t expecting much out of today, almost just did the Press sets and called it a day. All the weight moved surprisingly easy, no shoulder pain, no grinding, from unrack to lock out felt smooth and strong so I decided I’d make it a “real” day of lifting and finish off with some good assistance work. The SNG High Pulls felt great on my upper back, even after a heavy deadlift session from the day before. Pull ups were about par for course with getting 3 sets of 10 before having to back off to maintain form. Need to start adding weight to my GHR, but am getting good work with the higher reps as of now. The bike was just to kill time, the thing was damn near free wheeling as it is a broken piece of equipment, but the only one that was there. It did something…I guess?

Happy Lifting.

Edit: Have noticed that my weight is sticking right at 215 the last couple of days, I am eating for size as I’ve upped my whole food intake by a chunk, nothing outrageous, but a little extra of everything to help aid in recovery and actually gain some size and strength, I believe it’s in the first chunk of the Hardgainers article, “…don’t be afraid to eat, don’t get scared if your shirts fit a little tighter.” or something to that effect, I struggle with “being afraid to eat” because I ballooned up so badly years ago, but I’m pretty sure that the little extra kick of everything is definitely what’s allowing me to recover as well as I am while still hitting all the numbers in such a compressed time frame (this cycle is almost over and it’s been like…16(?) days).

Over and out.

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Went to one of the gyms I have access to that has a prowler but has limited space. Did a bunch of 10 yard (approximately) pushes working up to having 360 on the sled, probably around 10-12 of the short pushes down and back, nothing too wild, most of the work came from breaking it loose initially. Got access to the basketball court, pushed endline to endline with 180 lbs on the sled, and good lord was that surface much different than the nice smooth concrete that was in the weight room. That flat out gassed me, did 2 and called it. “Condition like a king not a queen.”