Fabadab: Your Guess is as Good as Mine

I’ve tried starting a log here a couple of times for the t-transformation challenges but never stuck to it, but there are so many others that I lurk in and admire what they’re achieving that I felt it would be good to keep one myself for compatibility/accountability.

Current goal is to get to the standard 1/2/3/4 big lifts, but for multiple reps rather than 1RM. My thinking is this should be well within my capabilities if I just follow a structured program consistently, and by using something like 5/3/1 I can just aim for my TM to reach those numbers (thereby getting 3-5 reps of each which would suit fine).

I’ll come back an edit this post with stats/updates later on as needed.

Starting Stats (Aug '21)
Age - 30
Height - 6 foot
Weight - 182.4lbs (13st 0.4lbs/82.7kgs)

Previous best lifts are as follows
Deadlift - 140 x 1, 130 x 5 (this was actually over 130 but I forget the exact weight, maybe 132.5?, so I’m just recording it as 130 to save overstating)
Squat - 110 x 2, 100 x 5
Bench - 80 x 5
OHP - 50 x 5

The 5’s above were all done some years back when I was following GSLP, and I remember being heavier, but sure exactly how much without digging out my old logbook. Think it was somewhere in the 13.5 - 14st range.

I think the 110 x 2 squat was a couple of years back now. The 140 deadlift I’ve hit a few times (3 or 4 times?), the last one being middle of 2020 at some point, but I hurt my low-back when dropping weight in January 2021 so I haven’t revisited anything that heavy in a while now. Things are improving now though so I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I get back to it.

Current lifts (1RM) are probably somewhere in the range of 120-130 deadlift, 95-100 squat, 70-75 bench and 45-50 OHP. I rarely try for 1RMs though, so this are pretty loose estimates

T-Ransformation Challenge Entries
2019 - Start and End
2020 - Start and End
2021 - Start and End

Previous logs (started but not kept up with for very long)
Nov '18 - Jan '19
Jan - Apr '20

Updated stats (May '22)
Age - 31
Height - 6 foot
Weight - 195.8lbs (13st 13.8lbs/88.8kgs)

New PRs are as follows
Deadlift - 155
Squat - 131.25
Bench - 90
OHP - 60

Achieved the above following Brian Alsruhe’s conjugate program (which you can find on Youtube). Logged below Starting here and Ending here


how tall are you? how much do you weigh?


OHP - ramped up to 5 @ 40
Chinups - 5 x 3

Giant set:
Deadlifts - ramped to 1 @ 115
Dips - 7 x 5
Ring rows - 7 x 5

Starting off with a testing week, just working up to weights that I’m pretty sure I can hit to set initial TMs. OHP felt about right - could maybe go a but heavier, but I feel with 5/3/1 it’s keeping to the spirit offnthe program to start lighter.

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Tabata jumping jacks (about 24 each round)
2 mins rest
Tabata down-ups (hit 10 on first set, then 8s for most of the rest, and 7/6 on last few)

Giant set
Bench press - ramped to 5 @ 60
Pullups - 5 x 3 (pronated grip on first 3 sets, then neutral grip for last 2 as shoulders were a but cranky)
Kneeling prone Y raises - 5 x 10

Giant set
Squats - ramped up to 5 @ 80
Dips - 5 x 5
DB rows - 5 x 8 @ 18s

I’ve definitely not done enough conditioning recently, so doing something at the start of my workouts should stop me slipping it! I’m not particularly imaginative though with the movements, and space limited in the garage

I realised today I made a mistake on the squats as I’d only planned to hit a single at 80, and then go for 5 on a couple of sessions later…I guess this just shows that the weight is appropriate though

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Wore weighted vest (4.5kgs loaded) while walking dog. Not very long/far, but I figure if I do this regularly it just gets in a bit more work

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Thanks for stopping by. I’m 6 foot and just ticked up to 182lbs at the weekend

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Just updated the first post with current stats and links to the past t-ransformation challenges, and looking back through those pictures it’s clear that I’ve largely spun my wheels for the past few years and am in need of some muscle… This year was by far my best showing in the challenge though which was nice, and it doesn’t even reflect the full transformation as I had actually started dieting down from the end of October, but for some reason it didn’t occur to me to take pictures at that point for comparison.

I’m back up 8lbs since the challenge ended in May and although I don’t consider myself fat by general standards, I’m long-limbed and the fat just sits around my waist/low back which spoils what ‘physique’ I do have, so I find myself in that awkward spot of whether to tighten the belt a bit or just push on (given the above re needing to put on muscle).

Having just typed that out though I realise that, whilst my physique is important to me, the whole point of setting these goals is to actually achieve something respectable, and ultimately if I stay small and weak it doesn’t matter how lean I am!

I think that settles that argument (with myself), but I just need to make sure I’m not being stupid with my food choices and eating everything in sight because, you know, ‘bulking’.



Weighted vest dog walk - 4.4kgs, maybe 30mins, probably a little under 1 mile

Afternoon workout:
Conditioning - 5 rounds each of 20s on/10s rest (10m total)
Seal jacks (12 each round)
Down-ups (8 each round)
Mountain climbers (started around 19/20, then dropped off to 17 I think by the end)
Plank (20s holds)

Deadlifts - ramped up 5 @ 115
Chinups - 6 x 3

Did some scap pullups and kneeling prone Y raises between first few warmup deadlift sets before moving on to chinups. Also did some reverse finger spread thingies (no idea what these would actually be called) to try and keep elbows happy

Giant set
OHP - ramped up to 1 @ 45
Ring rows - 7 x 5
Ab wheel (kneeling) - 7 x 5

Deadlift was OK, but harder/slower than expected which was a shame. There are a few possible reasons for this, but they ultimately boil down to not being strong enough and/or not being conditioned enough.

Hit 45 on the OHP just for the fun of it (had only planned to go to 40) - moved fine and I think 50 would be doable, but as this was supposed to be a deload movement for the day I didn’t want to push it.

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I’ve gone back and forth in my head about the deadlift because I did manage the 115 OK (wasn’t an absolute grinder or anything), and rather than keep going backwards I’m thinking it might be better to just ‘man up’ and push a little on it.

As I type that though I realise that I’m thinking more about the long-term progression/strength gains here, and 5/3/1 is pretty clear about starting light.

On that basis I think I’ll be conservative and use 110 as the starting TM instead because 1) it’s more in keeping with the spirit of the program, 2) in the long run it really won’t make a difference, and 3) with 5kg jumps each cycle I’ll be back here after 4 weeks anyway so it really doesn’t make a difference!

(Look Mum - personal growth! Can I count this as a mental PR?)


Weighted vest dog walk in the morning. Maybe 30mins tops, and checking a route planner we covered 0.8 miles.

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Woke up with a cold this morning, and got my second covid jab at lunchtime, but wasn’t feeling any particular issues from either through the afternoon so went ahead with the workout

1 mile run - 7:07

Squats - ramped up to 1 @ 85
NG pullups - 7 x 3

Giant set
Bench - ramped to 1 @ 65
DB rows - 5 x 8, 1 x 12 @ 18 (each side)
Plank - 5 x 30s, 1 x 1m

Did the run without any warm-up besides a bit of mobility work which may not have been the best idea - form was a bit sketchy on the second half and my left hip wasn’t particularly happy at the end of it. The time was a good 30-40s faster than last time doing it a few months back, but that was at the end of the workout instead so probably not really comparable…

Had already tested bench and (accidentally) squat at the start of the week so only intended to hit the same weights again for a single, but decided to push a tad higher just to keep things interesting. Pushed the last set of rows and plank for the same reason.

Eaten a fair few snacks today because I gotta feed my body to fight the viruses, right? We had a pizza hut leaflet/vouchers through the post yesterday, so had that for dinner as well! Makes me think of the ‘superliminal’ Navy recruitment from the Simpsons

I don’t know how to embed videos…

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So the plan is to run the Full Body Boring But Big (FBBBB) template from 5/3/1 Forever, but I’ll be tweaking it (because who actually runs these exactly as written?) to use BBS for the squat and deadlift supplemental, and then sticking with BBB for the press and bench.

I’ll also be using the 3 day variant (I.e. 4 week cycles) as I find 3 days just suits my recovery/lifestyle/priorities best, and pairing OHP and deadlift, and bench and squat.

Starting TMs based on this test week will be:
OHP - 40
Deadlift - 110
Bench - 60
Squat - 80

I’ll keep doing about 10mins conditions at the start of each workout, but the run yesterday showed I need to be a tad smarter about what exercises I choose to do so I’m not adversely affecting the lifting, and also that I need to make sure I am building it up appropriately, given I’ve done so little conditioning recently.

My assistance was going to be super simple: chinups/pullups superset between all the main lifts, and then dips and rows superset between the squat and dead supplemental, and rows and ab work between sets of OHP and bench supplemental.

The test week has made me think I should introduce a little more variety into this to keep my elbows happy, so I’ll probably do pushups instead dips on one day, and then maybe alternate the chinups/pullups with something else? I could do the ring rows here instead and change those to something else? Not sure what a good option for that would be though…

Whatever I decide the idea here is to keep the assistance simple (whereas previously I’ve tried to fit in everything I possibly could,) and just gradually build the volume over time. Pulling exercises will get more volume as I’ve spent too much time in the past weighting things towards pushing, plus I feel the supplemental work hits the pushing and core categories more anyway. I’ll probably allow one extra/vanity movement at the very end (e.g. curls) for when I have the inclination and energy. I’ll just play that by ear though.

I’ve got a week off that falls nicely after one full cycle so that’ll be my deload and then I’ll go straight from the second cycle into an anchor template without another break. I’ll decide nearer the time what the anchor will be, but I’m thinking 3/5/1, PR sets (only pushing 3 and 1 weeks), and then either SST or 5x5 FSL for the supplemental work.

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Morning weighted vest dog walk - 4.4 kgs, 30 mins?, 1 mile tops

Weighed in at 13st 5lbs (187lbs) - a whopping 4.5lbs higher than last week, so I’m willing (hoping) to call that a blip and put it down to the junk I ate over Friday/Saturday

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Okay, that made me laugh, because guilty as charged! I love 5/3/1 as a program, and it works great for me, but it’s not the program that’s magic, it’s being consistent week in and week out.

It looks like you’re starting with your training maxxes at a good place, it’s always better to start low and build from there. Do more reps if you need to, or maybe some jokers occasionally, but don’t fall for the trap of raising your training max too quickly.

Also, I didn’t see anything on your goals except the 1/2/3/4 plates thing. do you want to do it while maintaining your current weight? do you want to gain size? Lose fat?

This is something that’s taken me way to long to work out - I’ve found over the past year or so that I can actually make progress, in spite still doing a bit of program-hopping, simply by consistently going to the gym and working hard while I’m in there. Diet is definitely where I fall down.

This is something else that I’ve struggled with in previous iterations of running 5/3/1 - because it’s laid out so simply, and planning it all out suits my nature, I’m then faced with the issue of actually getting on and doing the damn thing which obviously takes a lot longer to realise.

On top of that, because it basically promises to work if you just follow it, I think I quite often didn’t put enough effort in to drive the improvement (just going through the motions and expecting the reps themselves to magically turn into gains).

I was listening to a few of Wendler’s talks on youtube over the weekend and how the kids he trains actually execute the movements (and clearly work hard), which I plan to emulate this time around.

Aesthetics are important to me, so broadly speaking I want to get bigger/more muscular without just getting fat. In the past though I’ve just yo-yoed between programs/diets because I’ve been afraid of getting a bit fluffy and/or I’ve eaten like a child under the premise that I’m ‘bulking’, so right now I’m trying to focus on longer-term strength/performance, and just trying to eat to support that without just using it as an excuse to eat like crap. (it’s not going great so far, but to be fair I haven’t actually started the program yet - loophole!)

Essentially I plan to keep running leader/anchor cycles and re-evaluate my short-term priorities whenever I come to plan the sequence based on how things have been going over the recent cycles (i.e. do I need more size/volume, more practice on the main lifts, more conditioning, drop some fat etc.).

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Yeah, doing ‘if it fits your macros’ dieting will let you get bigger and stronger, but 1) it doesn’t help you at all in the aesthetics department and 2) You can end up feeling like crap a lot of the time.

Yeah, effort makes a lot of difference, but also don’t short-sell the long-term benefits of ‘just getting the work in’ on days or weeks where you’re heart’s not in it. There’s a reason Jim has the ‘Jack Shit’ protocol for when you’re not feeling it.

This is way more planning and thought than I put into it, but different things work for different people, which is part of why there are so many variations. I just do old-school original 5/3/1 with sorta-AMRAP sets on the last sets, whole body with a squat/bench day and a deadlift/press day. I also do Jokers instead of max rep sets on the 3’s week, at least early in the program when my true max is way higher than my training max (This is my ‘cheat’ way of getting some heavy sets in, and keep myself from getting impatient and increase my training max too soon). I’ll be able to go 10+ cycles without a reset that way if I set my starting training max low enough. Of course, my only priority is to get stronger right now.

Yeah my plan is to try as much as possible to keep the main lifts and supplemental work on point, and then vary my assistance work as needed if I’m feeling run down. I’m starting with relatively low volume on the assistance anyways, to gauge how I feel on BBB/BBS, and hope to gradually increase it over time.

I’ve never used jokers before and don’t think I’d trust myself to do them justice lol. I am thinking that later on down line, in quite a few cycles time when my TM is close to my previous bests, that I might throw them in to give me a shot at setting new PR’s. Probably only for a single, so long as the main sets go OK first, and for one or two of the lifts rather than trying to hit new maxes on all of them in one week (which is definitely the approach I would’ve used in the past).


Weighted vest dog walk @ 5.5kgs, probably only 15-20 mins, about about 0.5 miles

Afternoon workout:
Tabata jumping jacks/seal jacks (alt each round) - hit 22-24 each round
2 min rest
Tabata burpees - 5 each round

OHP - 5 @ 26.25, 30, 33.75
Ring rows - 5 x 6

Giant set
Deadlifts - 10 x 5 @ 71.25
Dips - 10 x 5
Banded Y raises/face pulls - 10 x 5/5 @ yellow band

DB poundstone curls - 75 @ 3s

Still feeling a bit rough in the morning from the cold, but it seemed to have cleared up by the evening. Worked out a tad later than normal (around 7PM), but didn’t seem to have much impact.

I know there are some monsters on here that do thousands of burpees in one set, but I’ve always sucked at them and have actively avoided doing them for some time, so adding them in here was a pretty big step. Didn’t light up the place with the numbers, but got in some consistent work.

OHP felt fine and moved well, nothing more to say there.

Pretty sure I did actually do 10 sets of deadlifts et al, but I lost count a bit - happens often with high reps/sets, so I should probably just keep a tally as I go. I initially rested for a minute between the first and second sets but that seemed too long so I just played it by ear after that (probably 30-40s each time instead). Deadlifts moved well, but it’s good I’m working more on my conditioning because I felt like I was working hard throughout the giant sets.

The Y raise/facepull combo was good (did 5 reps of Y raises, straight into 5 reps of face pulls), and lit up my mid-traps in a way I’ve never felt before.

Saw some other people on here talking about poundstone curls so thought I give them a go - using a barbell would be too tough (I’d get maybe 20 reps max) so I went with dumbbells and thought I could just build the weight up over time. Even so it was much harder than I expected! I think if I hadn’t stopped I could have gone all the way to 100, but I decided to take a break at around 63 and that just ruined it for me. Only managed a few more before trying to break again, and eventually called it.

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2 x weighted vest dog walks @ 5.5kgs, one in the morning and another in the evening. Both pretty short as before

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10m EMOM - 5 bumper plate zercher pick-ups (?) @ 25kgs + 20 jumping jacks

Bench - 5 @ 38.75, 45, 41.25
Chinups/Pullups - 6 x 3 (alt grips each set)

Giant set
Squat - 10 x 5 @ 52.5
Pushups - 10 x 8
DB rows - 10 x 8 @ 18 (each arm)

Banded triceps pushdowns - 20/20/20? @ red/black/green band (no rest between bands)

Anyone following along can probably tell my imagination for conditioning doesn’t extend very far past ‘jumping jacks’. Was actually planning on doing DB clean and press, but I only have plate loaded dumbbells, plus a low ceiling in the garage, so the whole thing seemed awkward when I was trying it out. Could have pushed the sets harder but I had no idea how much the plate pick-ups would take out of me. In the end they were fine (took 35-40s per set), although my wrists got achey from the funny position I was using to hold/scoop up the plate.

Bench was absolutely fine. Chinups/pullups were OK.

Squats were fine from a strength point of view, but it’s clear my conditioning sucks because the start of these 10 sets was tough. I thought about toning down the pushups and rows, but decided to push on, and the second half actually felt much better. Knees were sounding extra creaky but maybe the music just wasn’t turned up as high?

I was going to skip the extra work but decided to just do a quick bunch of triceps pushdowns - should have 2 days off now before the next workout, so I figured recovery wouldn’t be a problem.