Lots of follow up questions from different members! Let me try to respond to them all in one reply.
Am I getting the results I want? I say tentatively, yes. But, I’m only about 2-3 months in, and I adjusted the program in the beginning. Overall, using squat as a gauge, I think I feel my strength increase. I complete the sets more easily than when I started.
This article Progressive Overload Works, Unless You Do This | T NATION and its point about “double progression model” is very much the idea I had in mind for progression. Although I specifically was thinking I would try progressing from 6 reps up to 10, and when I could finish 3x10 with good form, feeling strong, add more weight, and start again from 6 reps up to 10, then add weight, and so on. Basically, train on the current weight until it’s “easy”, and only then progress weight by a small increment that makes it “hard” again. I had thought to add 5 lbs for weights of 100 or less, and add 10 for those over 100. But the article says for any weight up to 450 lbs, only increase by 5 lbs. So I will do that.
FWIW, I practice piano and I am already fully aware that when training anything you train on your weakness. It’s the same concept with weight lifting. You must reset something - weight, reps/sets, rest time - to make things hard again, or you won’t progress. Only effort thoughtfully applied to a weakness will result in improvement.
There were questions about my program. Based on the advice here I have already change my sets/reps from 5x10 to 3x10, for 3 times per week. Full body each day. Also, I was very concerned to get a good balance of weight proportional for each exercise. Using numbers from strengthlevel.com, I came up with these rough proportions between main barbell lifts:
Back squat 100%
Romanian/straight leg deadlift 100%
Bench press 75%
Bent over row 66%
Overhead press 50%
Pull/chin ups with body weight
Those are the proportions, the actual pounds would be set from 75% of 1RM for a 3x10 program.
So, the final program is:
Three days per week, 2 min rest between sets lower body, 1 min upper body
Squat 3x10, 120 lbs
Straight leg deadlift 3x10, 120lbs
Overhead press 3x10, 60 lbs
Pull/chin ups 3x10, body weight (I use three grip variations)
Bench press 3x10, 90 lbs
Bent over row 3x10, 80 lbs.
5 days, M-F, I also do:
Various stretches with emphasis on hamstring and hip flexibility
Situps M W F / leg lifts T Th, 5x25, super set with…
One leg calf raises, 5x12, each leg plus 100 toe raises
6 different neck movements, body weight/hand resistance, 2x20
I don’t think this is a vaguely defined plan. It seem like a classic plan I find from many sources. It’s all classic barbell lifts, 2 exercises each for push, pull, legs. Compound and functional movements.
A particular observation at two months in is I am weaker on squat and pull ups compared to the rest. So an immediate goal is to bring those two exercises up to the same “ease” level as the rest and then progress weights up proportionally for all.
The article about “double progression” says to not set arbitrary increase points every few weeks. Only increase when the “ease” of reps with good form “earns” an increase. I’m completely on board with that. However, I did think that I could expect to make an increase every 6 to 8 weeks, if I keep up with the program, no skipped day, good diet, good recovery. 5 pounds each 8 weeks would be about 6 progression over a whole year, 5x6=30, so in the long term I could expect to add 50 pounds to my squat and go from 120 to 170 for 3x10.
I imagine that many on this forum warm up with 170 lbs! So I call this a modest goal. But, personally, if I achieve this, I will be amazed. Regardless of how impressive it may or may not be, I don’t think it vaguely or timidly defined. I set my starting level based on 1RM and progression will follow the “double progression” principle. You “earn” your progression only with hard work, not an arbitrary year end goal. “Hard work” then is the key, and that is what brings things full circle back to my original question: how to gauge how hard I am working. I think @FlatsFarmer helped set me on the right track in that regard. My volume was too high.
Bodybuilding is not my goal. “Athletic physique” seems to be what people call the appearance I want. But I already have that. According to the US Navy Method my body fat is about 10%. My physique is like a slightly thicker Jared Leto. I welcome and expect muscle gain, but I think of it more as a side effect that will come with the strength gains. If I use a tape measure or scale, it’s just to track changes. I don’t have goals like “add two inches to my biceps.” In terms of body transformation, the stories of actors getting ripped for action roles, like Robert Downey Jr., Hugh Jackman, etc., are a source of inspiration.
So, the main goal is dedication and earning the strength progressions, muscle gain is a side benefit, long term goal is a life style to stay strong while aging.
I hope I covered all the questions that came up from everyone. I really appreciate the interest and advice. Let me know if I should add extra details.