T Nation

Program Help, Limited Equipment


Hey guys, I have been reading T Nation for several months but this is my first post. I have lifted in the past but have never ben consistent with a program for an extended period of time. I have always mostly done body building type splits I would see in magazines and have done the DeFranco Washed up Meathead routine. In the last 2 years I have been very inconsistent as I have gone through my fiances pregnancy and the birth and first 9 months of our baby girls life. At this point I have gotten some equipment for our garage and have lifted lightly for the last 2 months or so.

At this point I am ready to get strong and also fairly lean. I am not interested in competing or anything like that but would like to look strong and powerful and not carry a ton of extra weight around. I would also like to train to feel better and improve athletecism as I do play several sports recreationally. All that said I want to get some advice from you guys about programs as well as additional equipment.

At this point I have 240 pounds of weight, an olympic bar, adjustable bench (Incline and Flat), curl bar, 25 pound dumbells, pull up bar, and a medium resistence band. I also have a stationary bike for cardio if needed.

I know that I will need more weight very soon for the barbell but am wondering what other equipment if any you guys would recommend at a bare minimum to make gains in strength and athleticism.

I finally came to a point today where I am ready to get going and get back in shape. I did a workout this afternoon to kind of get a base line of where I am on some lifts. Below are my stats and numbers on the lifts I did today.


I wont do total body workouts all the time but today I felt like seeing where I stand and really just wanted to feel better period. Below is what I did.

Bench: 45x20, 135X10, 185x5, 205x5, 225x2
Overhead Press: 45X12, 95X5, 115x5, 135x1
Squat: 135X10, 185x10, 205x5, 225X5, 240x3
B/O Row: 95X10, 115X5, 135x5, 145x5
Pull Ups: BW X5 X4

I did not work up to a heavy weight on deadlifts. I was pretty spent, but did do 3 sets of ten with 135 RDL's.

I am looking for suggestions on a program as well as what additional equipment I need. I am also thinking I will post progress on here. I think it will help me stay accountable. I do enjoy lifting and have always strived to stay in shape but with the pregnancy and the baby it has definitely been tough so hopefully posting here and seeing encouragement from others will help me stay motivated.

If there is any additional information you guys need, please let me know. Looking forward to your responses.



Do you want to look strong/powerful or be strong/powerful? Or is it strength and athleticism?

I'm having trouble figuring out what exactly your current goal is?

For athleticism I like:
Olympic lifts
Plyometrics - Lot of jumping variations
Strongman training (Tires/sleds/sledge hammer/etc...)

Check out CTs sub forum

For strength :
5/3/1 - simple & effective way to increase numbers in the big 3.

For the power/strong look :

-Built like a badass
-West Side for Skinny Bastards
Body Building Split: See numerous articles & read through BB forum

You can also look at the BSL threads where folks are getting bigger or leaning out for examples.


I would get a power rack. Check craigslist for a good deal. It doesn't have to be a fancy one. Mine's a POS and it suits me just fine.


This is an under-rated program. Definitely worth a re-visit. You could use the overhead press as the base of one upper day if you don't want to go heavy benching yet.

Also, like usmc mentioned, 5/3/1 is another a good call. Wendler has a ton of stuff rooted in the basics.

If you have a barbell, you have the bare minimum. Like Steel said, regularly check Craigslist (any place within driving distance) for a rack, cage, or squat stands. That'll open up a ton of more options.

There have been quite a few threads over the years about setting up a home gym. Here's one from last month or use the Site Search:

Your squat and bench are really pretty close, which is usually a sign of imbalance (muscular or strength-wise). Were you holding back on one or the other, or is that just where your strength really is for now? Not a callout or judgement, just wondering.


Valid question! When I read back through my post I realized I did not lay out my own goal very well. I would like to be Stong and Powerful and I think in turn that will make me look that way as well. I also want to lose the belly which should change with nutrition. The more I look at different programs I think the easiest for me to follow with my current equipment will be 5/3/1. I have laid out a plan today with my 1st month calculations.

The first month maxes (90%) do seem low to me as I know in the past I have increased strength very quickly when getting back into lifting. I am still working on accessory lifts. I am going to try not to go crazy on accessory work but I am used to more volume so that could be tough.

I plan to change my nutrition drastically but do not plan to track everything at this point. I am hoping that dropping sugary snacks and drinks and adding 2 to 3 protein shakes per day will help me lose the extra weight I have aquired over the past 2 years. I will be lifting 4 days per week and will do cardio/sport on 2 to 3 days as well.


I guess I didnt mention, I do have an adjustable stand so I am good there. I did hold back on squats, I felt like I could have done 3 to 5 more really. I would still say that there are imbalances both muscular and strength. I have had back trouble since I was 16 and have shyed away from squats and deadlifts for the most part. Over the last couple months I have added light squats and deads as the more I read, the more I realize that they could help my mobility if done properly.

I have been told many things over the years about my back but it has all come back to me being told I have fibromyalgia. Im at the point now where I am done worrying about it and will see if heavy squats and deads will help me or not.


Should only take 5 minutes of your time to see if this helps or not, but I was surprised at how well this increased mobility in my hips and low back. The exercise, the thoracic bridge, is demonstrated in the first video.


For a very simple test, bend to touch your toes... then do that thoracic bridge for a few seconds, a couple sets on each side... then bend to touch your toes again.


Thanks LoRez! I have incorporated the above over the past several months and it does help in addition to foam rolling and using a lacrosse ball on my glutes, back and hip fexors. I have been lifting although I do still have quite a way to go to be able to squat and dead lift properly. Life has been hectic for a while but I think I am at the point where I will be able to lift more consistently now.

One question I do have...

I am much further a long strength wise in my upper body but am thinking of using a beginner type workout for squats and dead lifts. Starting strength or strong lifts type of programming in order to work my way up while concentrating on form. Is it ok to utilize this type of programming for my lower body while using something like 5/3/1 for my upper body or should I go with a beginner program across the board? I have not done a 1RM on anything in a long time but I did do 225x5 on the bench recently to give you an idea of where I am upper body wise.

Also, for someone with long term back trouble, should I utilize front squats rather than back squats to take some of the load off of the spine and engage the core more?

Thanks in advance for any feedback. I am planning to start a log as I think it will help me stay consistent and I need some interaction with other males as I spend all of my time at home with 4 females :).


That would leave me no energy for training, but I would have amazing glutes and abs for sure.


Two of them are step daughters and my daughter so not exactly what you were thinking lol.




This is a heck of a bump, but I really do dig seeing guys come back after not posting for so long.

Are you still 190ish?

You're not that far along, considering where you were a year ago. Since you don't have a ton of consistent lifting experience, I'd start with one basic plan instead of frankensteining something on your own.

With legit back problems, you probably wouldn't thrive on frequent the squatting Starting Strength (even with front squats). 5/3/1 should be fine, or some other program from the Archive that's appropriate for your goals.

Depends a little on the actual injury/cause of pain, but goblet squats, front squats, single-leg variations (lunges, step-ups, Bulgarian split squats, etc.), and neutral-grip deads/squats (with dumbbells or a trap bar if you can get one) would be the back-friendly options.


I wish so bad someone somewhere could help me pinpoint the the cause of the pain and treatment options but in 17 years, it hasn't happened yet... I have experimented with goblet squats and my form does seem to be much better when doing those than if I even just try to body weight squat. Only problem there is the limited weight I have to use with my dumbells. I will try front squats and see if thye work better for me.

Thanks for the feedback Chris!


If things are still crazy, consider this 5/3/1 template for training 2-3 days a week:

Any steps you can take to clean up your nutrition, even if it's relying on quality shakes more than food for a short while, should help.

Maybe it's all in your head? :wink: Kidding. That's got to suck though. I'm no good with injury stuff, but you could try starting a thread in the Injuries/Rehab forum, describing as much what/when/how as you can, and maybe someone will have some input. 17 years in, I can't imagine there's much left you haven't tried, but could be worth a shot.

You can always do one and a half-reps, doing a full rep and adding and extra half-rep (partial ROM) at either the top or bottom, to increase muscular tension. Won't be great for improving strength, but could help with leg size. Just an alternative. Front squats are definitely a good call.

These might give you some more ideas:


Little input on the back pain with squats and deadlifts issue.

If a solution for your back isn't forthcoming I suggest you try a different tack:

Work out what leg exercises you can do safely without causing pain, and then train them as hard and heavy you can.
This is going to include things like body weight squats, calf raises, stiffies, lunges etc.
Have a go at light paused front squats, especially once you've pre-fatigued your legs through other exercises.

Then hard conditioning like exercise bike sprints, hill sprints or similar might help build some leg mass, and may even help with your weight.

At the end of the day it's better to be pain free than go through the boom-bust cycle of chronic pain.