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Intermediate Lifter Needs Advice with Programming

Hello everyone, I’m currently working on setting up my own program, or at least tweaking what I have been doing for a while.

I am 6’0, 216lbs (in the morning) and around 13% BF. Lifetime natty.

I started off 2019 recovering from a lower back tweak suffered from a mix of loose form on a rep during deadlifts and sitting too much.

During the first 10 weeks of 2019, I ran TB: Operator. My cluster was Trap Bar Deadlift (HH), Weighted Chin Ups and Press.

The lifts progressed as follows
TB DL: 5x405 ­to 4x450
Chin Ups: 5xBW+70 (@207lbs) to 3xBW+90 (@212lbs)
Press: 5x155 to 4x170

Overall, very happy with that progress.

For weeks 11-21 (that leads to the end of May), I’ve made my own program and I’m liking it so far. It’s probably not perfect, but I’ll stick to it until the end.

I’m running 3 days of full body: Bench/Squat/Chin Ups, Press/Squat/Chins/Deadlift, Bench/Squat/Chin Ups.

The progression is as follows (I’m currently on week 5):
Week 1: 3x5 @ 70% (Deadlifts 5x1)
Week 2: 4x4 @ 80% (Deadlifts 4x1)
Week 3: 5x2 @ 90% (Deadlifts 3x1)
Week 4: 3x5 @ 72.5% (Deadlifts 5x1)
Week 5: 4x4 @ 82.5% (Deadlifts 4x1)
Week 6: 5x2 @ 92.5% (Deadlifts 3x1)
Week 7: 3x5 @ 75% (Deadlifts 5x1)
Week 8: 4x4 @ 85% (Deadlifts 4x1)
Week 9: 5x2 @ 95% (Deadlifts 3x1)

My current PRs for my 5 main lifts are as follow (all done with good form/no grinder):
Squat 357
Bench 255
Press 193
Chin Ups BW(213lbs)+120
Deadlift 423

So sorry for the long post so far, but this was a background of where I am and what I’m doing now. I would like to know (and I like to plan ahead of time) what a logical next step would be.

Here is what I came up with. I would really like more advanced lifters to critique it and perhaps let me know what I should fix. One of my main concern is regarding assistance/volume and knowing where it would fit. I’m much stronger on certain lifts than others (ie: chins vs bench) and I would like to even it out as much as possible by focusing on the weaker lifts assistance wise. I’m very open to all suggestions. Thanks in advance.

Day 1 Bench/Squat/Chin Ups
Day 2 Press/Deadlift/Chin Ups
Day 3 Bench/Squat/Chin Ups

Week 1 3x5@70% (Bench, Squat, Press, Chin Ups) 3x3@70% (Deadlift)
Week 2 4x3@80% (Bench, Squat, Press, Chin Ups) 4x2@80% (Deadlift)
Week 3 5x2@90% (Bench, Squat, Press, Chin Ups) 5x1@90% (Deadlift)

Week 4 3x5@72.5% (Bench, Squat, Press, Chin Ups) 3x3@72.5% (Deadlift)
Week 5 4x3@82.5% (Bench, Squat, Press, Chin Ups) 4x2@82.5% (Deadlift)
Week 6 5x2@92.5% (Bench, Squat, Press, Chin Ups) 5x1@92.5% (Deadlift)

Week 7 3x5@75% (Bench, Squat, Press, Chin Ups) 3x3@75% (Deadlift)
Week 8 4x3@85% (Bench, Squat, Press, Chin Ups) 4x2@85% (Deadlift)
Week 9 5x2@95% (Bench, Squat, Press, Chin Ups) 5x1@95% (Deadlift)

Week 10 3x5@77.5% (Bench, Squat, Press, Chin Ups) 3x3@77.5% (Deadlift)
Week 11 4x3@87.5% (Bench, Squat, Press, Chin Ups) 4x2@87.5% (Deadlift)
Week 12 5x2@97.5% (Bench, Squat, Press, Chin Ups) 5x1@97.5% (Deadlift)

Week 13 3x5@80% (Bench, Squat, Press, Chin Ups) 3x3@80% (Deadlift)
Week 14 4x3@90% (Bench, Squat, Press, Chin Ups) 4x2@90% (Deadlift)
Week 15 5x2@100% (Bench, Squat, Press, Chin Ups) 5x1@100% (Deadlift)

Week 16 - PR

I like the slow and steady progression that you’ve laid out. I do think though that you are going to start seeing some major imbalances if you are running this as I’m reading it in terms of doing twice as much benching and squatting compared to deadlifting and pressing. Was I reading that right or is there a reason for that? Secondly, I’m personally a big fan of using antagonistic muscle groups and that being said I think a rowing movement would be better substituted for chin-ups on the benching days. The last suggestion I have is more of a personal one and that’s I have found the best success with a 4 day split, something like day 1 is squat, day 2 bench, day 3 deadlift, and day 4 press. Personally for me a full body like your doing makes every part of your body sore making going in and hitting everything again that much harder.

On a side note, since you seem very strength and progression oriented, have you tried 5/3/1 or any sort of conjugate program yet?

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That’ll probably work fine. It actually looks very good. A couple if thoughts though, it seems very time consuming to hit 3-4 big lifts like that. You might like spending a bunch of time in the gym. I do not. Have you considered alternating squat/bench and deadlift/press days? That would give you more time and energy for weak point work like abs, tris or whatever. Im not sure what your goals are if they’re just general strength or increasing the big 3. So just out of curiosity why do you treat your chins as a main lift? I used to do something similar when I wrestled but now that my focus us powerlifting all my pulling movements are sets of 6-20.

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I’m not sure how to quote, if anyone can point that out to me, I’d appreciate it.

Thanks for your post. For the imbalance regarding 2x Squat/Bench vs 1x DL/Press, the logic (which answers your last point) is that 3 days/week is ideal for me. I’ve tried 4 days/week splits and I always fell behind at some point. Also, I can’t handle as much volume on DL as I can on squats. As for the Press vs Bench, I would like to prioritize my bench for the next few months, 315 is a long term goal of mine.

Lastly, I’ve never been a huge fan of rows, but perhaps I should find a way to incorporate it. I don’t see their place as a main lift with linear progression, as I find it too hard to be consistant with form, but as assistance, that could be an option. What do you think about Inverted Rows and DB Rows for 6-12 reps? In your opinion, what kind of volume would be ideal? And also, with 3x Chin Ups per week, would going too hard on the pulling assistance be too much?

I have tried 5/3/1, but I found it really mentally taxing to set PRs every workout, and if I was short a rep I felt like I was regressing or spinning my wheels. Every workout felt a bit like a do or die.

I’m not very familiar with conjugate. From my understanding, it where you constantly switch lifts around to avoid stalling? Like Decline Bench, Incline Bench, Paused Bench, etc.? I’d love to hear more or see what a conjugate routine looks like.

Hey man thanks a lot for the reply.

As for my goals, strength wise, it’s to get stronger on my 5 main lifts: Bench, Squat, Deadlifts, Chin Ups and Press. (other goals would be cardio and mobility, but that’s for another post).

I’m not only interested in SBD numbers, I find most of these programs only treat pulling as assistance/volume, I like setting PRs on the chin ups, specially since most people can’t crank 10 reps with good form, BW only, yet there’s plenty of 315 benchers. Also, most of my lifts are mediocre/below average, yet my chin up is pretty solid, so it’s a nice source of motivation.

Like you have mentionned, I have thought about alternating the workouts, doing like day A Squat/Bench/Chins and day B Deadlift/Press/Chins, while still running a 3days/week routine. The only asterisk to that is that my lower back is fully healed now, and I would like to take it easy with the deadlifting volume, while focusing on assistance instead (GHRs, Back Ext, RDLs, etc.)

What was your routine when wrestling?

I used to do a basic 3x3 full body workout.
A push a pull and leg exercise each one supersetted with something explosive. So for example

  1. Squat 3×3 ss with box jumps
    Weighted chins 3×5 ss with med ball slams
    Bench 3x3 with plyo pushups
  2. Deadlift 3×3 with broad jumps
    One arm rows 3×5 with high resistance band pulls (to mimic yanking someones head down)
    OHP 3x5 with plyo pushups

Not something I would recommend but it helped in season at the time and I was 16. And id read about GSP doing something similar so I was all about it lol. And it left plenty of time for conditioning.

I remember seeing the video of GSP doing DB presses with like 90lbs, supersetted med ball pushes. Then weighted chin ups with 90lbs supersetted with med ball slams. I used to think it was so cool :slight_smile:

But the routine you posted is not bad., I love very simplistic routines like that. Anytime I see routines with like 8 different leg exercises and tempos, etc. I just move on.