T Nation

Pathetically Weak 5/3/1er


Gonna take another shot at a log here. Just writing down the numbers in a notebook has lost all zest for me.

A little background:

Been lifting for a little over 3 years, much of that time has been spent, while doing the main important lifts, jumping from program to program, being inconsistent at times, but generally always training hard. I'm 26 now, when I graduated high school I weighed all of 170 lbs at 5'11, after three years, I'm now at a lean enough 210, I'd like to get my lifts up to respectability, and possibly gain another 15-20 pounds. In the beginning, I just wanted to look like I lift weights to normal people, I've done that much, even though normal people seem to think I'm huge, when in reality I'm one of the smallest lifters in my LA Fitness gym.

Been running 5/3/1 for about a year, started ridiculously low, but I suppose that's the point of the program, and am just now starting to set some PRs.

Just started a cycle where my training maxes are:
Squat 220
Bench 220
Sumo Deadlift (I use a trap bar when I can lift at home, which is all non-winter months) 285
Overhead Press 160

I just want to continue increasing these lifts as steadily as I can, personal long term goals are Squat 405 for reps, Bench 315 for reps (I always use a close grip, my index fingers are about an inch away from where the smooth part meets the knurling, so the bench would hopefully be stronger if I benched like normal people), Deadlift in the 500s, and one of the things I really want to be able to do is Overhead Press my own bodyweight. I don't know of many people these days that can say they are able to do that. Currently my best Press is 150 for 4, so it's increasing a little at a time.

I usually run 5/3/1 with bodybuilding assistance work. I just try to keep getting stronger in the main lifts while getting a lot of volume in on the assistance work. I'll usually do the main lift, then a heavy assistance lift for 4-6 reps, and then 4 sets of 10-12 on the little stuff.


Bench 220
5/145, 5/165, 185 for 7
Incline BB Bench worked up to 155 for 4 (this is my first time incline pressing in two years)
DB Flyes 4/12 with 20s
EZ Bar Curls 4/12 worked up to 70
DB Preacher Curls 4/12 with 20s

The bench actually felt really good, and I had at least another two reps in the tank, but decided to end it early. Inclines went alright, I guess I'll get used to the movement, but I'm really weak on it so far as you can see.

The Flyes after Benching and Incline Benching were...painful. I know people probably write this a lot, but I believe I have pretty good chest genetics. It's naturally wide as fuck, and I've never really done anything for it, so I'm trying to see what will happen if I throw in some chest work here and there. If anyone is reading this, if you can tell me a good exercise to throw in for the chest, would be greatly appreciated.

Curls were painful, but it went okay. I planned to work up to maybe 30s on the Preacher Curls, but my arms weren't having any of that after the EZ Bar. Have never been a fan of working arms, but I know Curls are a good exercise for overall growth, and my arms are the size of a prepubescent girl so it works out.


Sumo Deadlift 285
5/185, 5/215, 245 x 7
Chins 3/5/BW
Rows 4/10/95
Shrugs worked up to 225 for 10

The deadlifts felt incredibly easy, but didn't want to push it too hard, plus I rarely go over 7-8 reps on these. I need to stop slacking on the Chins, the more often I do them, the better, so I may have to start doing them in between pressing exercises again. Kind of sucks that I used to be able to pump out sets of 15-20 like they were nothing when I was 170, now I'm five and done.

I changed the way Im doing BB Rows, which is why I dropped the weight to embarrassingly low levels. I actually watched a girl row on one of those plate loaded row machines 145 for sets of 10, and this upset me. Anyway, I'm trying to get away from the usual gym way of having six inches of range of motion on the rows for heavy weights. My upper body was parallel with the floor for these, and they felt good. Gonna start going a little heavier next time out.

The Shrugs sucked, and I've done much heavier, but after deadlifts, chins, and rows, my grip is beyond fried so it's hard to hold onto even 225.

I want to write in each log entry something hilarious that I saw at the gym, since there's always plenty of entertainment for in between sets.

Today's eventful day included a man who had decent sized arms asking for a spot on Curls, lots of bros half squatting 115 in a smith machine weighing all of maybe 150 pounds, and some guy doing behind the neck presses with the fixed EZ Curl bars, why he couldn't have gone over to the squat racks (which are suprisingly always open) and done these with a regular barbell, I have no clue. Maybe this is some new bodybuilding angle technique that I've yet to pick up on.

Off from the gym until Monday, and ready to gorge myself with pasta, chicken, and a bean dip with about ten million calories.


Press 160
5/105, 5/120, 135 x 8
Seated DB Press worked up to 55s for 6
CG Bench Press worked up to 125 for 12
Tricep Pushdowns 4/12

These presses felt strong, had a good amount of layback on the final couple of reps, but no pain. Was a little hard to get 55s into position sitting down, but once they were in position, I probably could've gone up to 60s.

I ditched the tricep extensions in favor of the CG Bench, I figure I can use more weight, and it won't be destroying my elbows.

I'm happy that the Press keeps improving, I remember in the summer time where I hit 135 for a hard 5 on the last week of 5/3/1 and this was a PR, this time around I'll be shooting for 150 for 6.

I didn't see much stupid shit in the gym today, aside from the regular half squats and half benches.

Trying to eat more food, I'm always in a rush in the mornings, so I'm trying to think of something with big calories to take in that can be quick. I used to make these big protein shakes with natural peanut butter, milk, whey protein, creatine, and oats. I may start that up again soon.

I always seem to gain weight in spurts with slow progression. I'll stagnate at a weight for a long time, then I'll gain five pounds, then I'll be stuck at that weight for a while, then put on five pounds. I was thinking to myself last night that before I just tried to eat whatever I could to gain, that I never thought I'd even get up to 200 pounds. Kinda silly looking back at it.


Thursday's Training

Squat 220
3/155, 3/175, 200 x 8

I cut it short after that, because I needed to go into work early. I know this isn't very strong, but they felt good, clean, and deep, and I never seem to have very good energy lifting in the morning, so this was a good day for me.


Bench 220
3/155, 3/175, 200 x 4
DB Incline Press worked up to 65s for 5
DB Flyes 4/12/25s
EZ Bar Curls 50 x 12, 60 x 12, 70 x 12, 80 x 10
DB Preacher Curls 3/10/30s

I had at least another 2 reps left in the tank on the bench, but I didn't feel like pushing it today, I'll push these on the 5/3/1 day next time around. Played around with DB Incline Presses, these felt easy, but it's a lot tougher to get these into position than it is to actually do the exercise.

I don't really know what I'm doing with the Flyes, and I hate to measure progress like this, but my chest is always sore the day after doing these, so I guess I'm doing something right.

I'm not a big fan of training arms. I'll do it on a regular basis, because my arms are tiny from years skipping arm workouts, but I won't be very happy. I think I"m getting more used to the volume though.

The end of this cycle should be interesting. I've never tried squatting or benching 210, and I'll be trying max reps on both. Don't laugh.


Sumo Deadlift 285
3/200, 3/230, 255 x 7
Rack Pulls from below the knee 225 x 5, 275 x 5, 315 x 5, 365 x 5

I ended it after this, I felt pretty spent. I haven't done Rack Pulls in a long time, and I was happy with my grip on these. After 315 for 5, which felt easy, I felt like I might be able to get 365 for 5. The last rep didn't look so hot, but this was pretty close to a max, so what can you do. Is there any better feeling than going into a set not really knowing if you're going to be able to do it, and then you end up smoking it?

I tried to do some db rows after these, but my hands were on fire by this point. That's a lot of deadlifting for me.

I've started to go heavy on one assistance exercise per session, trying it out to see if it impacts my main lifts. I usually just work up to a heavy set of 5 on these. They are:

Squat - Leg Press
Bench - Incline DB Press
Deadlift - Rack Pull
Press - Seated DB Press

Is this a good idea? Or will this surely burn me out? Whatever, it's worth a shot. Worst comes to worst, I'll move them back to 4/12.


Press 160
3/110, 3/130, 145 x 6
JM Presses worked up to 175 x 5
Rear Delt Raises 5/10
Pushdowns 4/12

I also did five sets of five of Chins in between the Presses.

Pretty productive day, felt great. 145 x 6 is a one rep PR. I'm just learning the JM Presses, but I like that I can handle a good amount of weight on them. It just shows you that my bench is all triceps when my JM Presses are at 175 for 5, and my bench for five reps is probably around 200.

Trying out Rear Delt raises to see if they can help out my press a little bit.

Saw someone actually squatting deep today, doing 205 for 3. It's nice to actually see people working hard in there, everyone else just seems content to load up more than they can handle for half and quarter reps. Though it does make me feel good when I'm pressing more than most guys are benching there.


Squats 220
5/165, 3/185, 210 x 6
Leg Presses 5/15
Hanging Leg Raises 3/10

As bad as it sounds, this is an all time PR for me on Squats, I once did a sloppy 205 for 5, I had a couple more reps left in the tank and if pressed, could have probably gotten 8 with 210. A good step in the right direction.

Leg Raises are coming a lot easier, my abs must be getting stronger from all the squats and deads, because I've been neglecting my ab work, and my abs seem stronger.


Good work in here man, a good shake I like to use, it's very fast to make if you're short on time, is a cup of milk a cup of cottage cheese 4-6tbsp peanut butter, whey, and for good measure a big handful of spinach or some frozen berries. Keep pushing hard brother.


Sounds awesome, I'll definitely have to try that out. I need to get more consistent with taking in enough calories, especially in the morning.


Hey man, awesome overhead press in relation to your other lifts. Any particular reason you go sumo instead of conventional?


Thanks brother, it's not even really a true sumo deadlift, I don't really sit back like a squat, my legs are just out wide with my hands right inside my thighs. Everytime I did conventional deadlifts for a long period of time, it never felt right. Whether it be a lower back weakness or ab weakness, I would always find myself in large amounts of pain. For some reason the wide stance really feels a lot more naturally for me.

On a sidenote, I've always had hip issues, and ever since I switched over to the wide stance sumo deadlifts, my hips have been feeling tremendous. I'm not sure if this is a direct correlation, but it doesn't hurt.


Bench 220
5/165, 3/185, 210 x 2
DB Bench worked up to 75s for 5

Had a shitty day in the gym, I felt pretty good going in, I got in a decent amount of calories before heading there today, but this just didn't end up working out too well. Out of all my lifts, the bench seems to be the one that's not moving up too quickly. Maybe I should widen my grip a little bit, or maybe it's just time for a reset.

Perhaps I just need to realize that the bench is going to progress a lot slower than all my other lifts, and I need to take any kind of progress that I can.


Deadlift 285
5/215, 3/245, 270 x 6
Chins 15 reps

So I ripped my pants deadlifting. I was coming from work and forgot pants to lift in, so I figured I'd just train in my cargo pants, wouldn't have been a bad idea if I wasn't doing Sumo Deadlifts. I felt them rip during the first rep on the heaviest set, but I just kept it going. Isn't there some kind of badge of honor for ripping your pants while lifting?

The deadlifts felt strong, but I wasn't feeling great today. I'm in the middle of working 13 days a row, and retail management is not exactly the most stress free job in the world, but I thought things went well at the gym.


A couple of days to update about

Press 160
5/120, 3/135, 150 X 5
Press 5/10/65

This was a one rep PR for me, it was outside in the driveway for the first time this year, but I felt my legs try to come into play for the third rep. I focused on pressing the last two reps with absolutely no momentum from the legs.

Hang Cleans 135
5/90, 5/100, 5/115
Squat 230
5/150, 5/175, 195 X 5
Leg Press 5/10
I've started doing Hang Cleans. I'm getting rid of Shrugs, so I want to see if these will help trap development, and I've always felt better and stronger when doing Cleans on a regular basis. Still debating whether or not to throw Snatches on my deadlift day.

The Squats didn't feel all that great, probably because I haven't squatted in two weeks, with a trip to New Jersey and lots of stress at work, I only could get to the gym twice last week, and found myself taking a week off from the gym just by the way my schedule worked out, so I'll call that my deload.

Hips felt really tight, and on one of the last reps of the last Squat set, one side came up a lot faster than the other, which resulted in my lower back killing like it hasn't in a long time, so I ended the set after only five reps. Disappointing, but I still got the reps in.


Bench 200
5/130, 5/150, 170 x 12
DB Bench worked up to 80s for 5
BB Rows 4/10

I brought my grip out a little bit, and these felt really crisp and smooth. I had been using my grip about an inch wider than where the smooth part of the bar is, but brought it out to where my pinky fingers are on the ring of the bar, these felt a bit more natural.

DB Benches felt good, and probably could have handled 85s, finished up with Rows and was tired so I took off. I also did sets of 4 on Chins in between all my pressing sets, probably ended up somwhere around 25-30 reps.



Deadlift 5/195, 5/225, 250 X 5

Was pretty tired so I just ended it right here, couple of pretty stressful days at work, this felt easy, could've had more but I ended it.


Press 165
5/105, 5/125, 140 X 8
Press 5/10/70
Rear Delts 5/10

These were done with absolutely no bounce from my legs at all, I have been noticing that lately I was using the tiniest bit of momentum. I had a couple more left in me, but decided to end the top set at 8. Those BBB Sets are incredibly painful on the press, but man my shoulders are feeling like a million bucks lately.



Bench 200
3/140, 3/160, 180 x 10
DB Bench 4/12
BB Curls 4/12

Deadlift 295
3/205, 3/235, 265 x 6
Rows 4/12

The bench felt really good and smooth. Not sure I've ever done 180 for 10 before. Been focusing lately on really trying to stress the muscle on the assistance work, and not worrying so much about the weights used.

I felt stressed out and tired during the deadlift session, so I decided to cut it short without doing Shrugs. Even though I was a bit tired the Deadlifts felt pretty easy and could've done 8 or 9 with that weight.

Just found out my blood pressure is pretty high, so I cut out all fast food, and have added a couple days a week of cardio, and I'm feeling pretty good so far on the first week.


Squat 230
5/175, 3/195, 220 X 6
Prowler Pushes - 10 trips

This was done in my driveway on an unseasonably warm day. They were deep and felt great, probably had another couple reps in me. I wish I could say the same for the Prowler Pushes. These were done without any weight, since I'm in awful shape, probably about 20 yards a trip. They weren't hard or anything, but my hips took a real beating in the next couple of days.

Bench 200
5/150, 3/170, 190 x 10
DB Bench 3/12
BB Curls 4/12
DB Preachers 4/12
I also sprinkled in 20 reps of various grip chins.

The bench felt good, but the last couple of reps weren't very pretty, shouldn't have pushed it as much as I did. I need to be more consistent with arm work, I always get bored after a couple of sessions.

On a side note, whoever has mentioned how much environment plays into your success as a lifter, they were 100% right. The difference between lifting at home and lifting at the gym are like night and day. It's not so much that I look around and try to take down everyone around me, but I just want to see someone there, anyone who is actually taking it seriously and not there to just fuck around and bullshit. Just to see someone who isn't taking shortcuts would be great.