T Nation

Spider Monkey Lifts Weights

I am starting this training log for the hell of it. And it might be more organised than my notebooks. My goal is to get to maximum strength before age forces me to get weaker. I have been a professional tree climber for 18 years doing urban large tree trimming and removal. It is a physically demanding job and I have been learning how to balance it with lifting for the past few years. I typically push real hard, get burned out or injured after a few months, than I am out of the gym for 6 months. This time I am educating myself as to how to lift smart (and hard) and I am hoping I have learned not to over do it.
40 y/o
175 lbs
Body fat 8-15% ( I don’t really know)
Calculated 1rm’s
Squat 320
Deadlift 385
Bench 225
Overhead press 145
Achy knees.
“Bad” right shoulder (really only limits me on forward presses or raises.
Currently eating 3500 calories a day and maintaining weight.

Here is my plan, I start tomorrow.


  1. Back squat, ramp to 3 rm
  2. Weighted pullup, ramp to 5 rm
    3a. Front squat, 1-2 warm up (wp)sets,
    1 modified mTor * set 4-6 reps
    3b. Straight arm lat pull down, 1-2 wp, 1 rest
    pause 6-8 initial reps
    4a. Cable lateral raise, 1-2 wp, 1 rp 6-8 initial reps
    4b. Hip thrust, 1-2 wp, 1 mod mTor 6-8 reps
  3. Power clean and push press, by feel

1a. Bench press, ramp to 3rm
1b. Pendley row, max with bench weight
(Bench and row done as super set with
same weight)
2a. Bb shrug, 3x6-8, hold at top, slow ecc
2b. Cable hammer curl w/rope, 1-2 wp, 1 mod
mTor 6-8 reps
3a. Db fly, 1-2 wp, 1 mod mTor 6-8 rep
3b. Cable diagonal front raise, 1-2 wp, 1 rp 6-8
4. Snatch, by feel

Monday off


  1. Deadlift, ramp to 3rm + cluster w/ 3rm weight
  2. Overhead press, ramp to 3rm
  3. Behind the neck ohp, 1-2 wp, 1 mod mTor 6-8
    4a. Bent over lat raise, 1-2 wp, 1 rp 6-8 initial
    4b. Cable hamstring curl 1-2 wp, 1 rp 6-8 initial


  1. Olympic lifts
  2. Db row, 2-3 wp, 1 rp 6-8 initial
  3. Bb curl, 2-3 wp, 1 rp 6-8 initial


  1. Squat from safety bars, ramp to 3 rm + cluster
  2. Zercher squat, ramp to 5rm x2
  3. Body weight pullups, 2 wp, 1 max reps
  4. Dips (weighted), ramp to 5 rm
  5. Db fly, 1-2 wp, 1 mod mTor 6-8 reps

Friday off

I plan to run this for 4 weeks and adjust from there. I designed it so that if I miss a day due to a hard or long work day, I will never go more than 1 week without hitting the major lifts. If deadlift day gets screwed up by work, it gets bumped to wednesday, any other day gets skipped if need be. I don’t work weekends, so those days are extra hard to take advantage of the time and recovery ability. I might move the olympic lifts to first instead of last if fatigue at the end of the workout causes a problem.

  • modified mTor set, 4-5 second for first 3/4 of eccentric, then accelerate last 1/4 for a stretch reflex and explosive concentric, iso hold on final ecc for as long as possible at full stretch.

If thats you in your profile pic you look to be in great shape already. Way better shape then the vast majority are ever able to get into.

But you can always be better.

I definitely think training smart and avoiding injury is the a wise approach.

I don’t know if you have access to one but I usually would spend 30 minutes to 45 minutes in a dry sauna before even lifting. Then do a brisk 10-15 minute warm up on a treadmill. Usually aiming for 0.5-1.0 miles then lift or do a dynamic stretching routine then lift.

I never got injured on that routine. Always felt great. I also knew when to back off but I was able to go pretty hard.

I strongly suspect the suana played a huge role in that. There is a wealth of literature touting its benefits. I always aimed for a total of 1hour in it a day. But thats a huge time commitment.

Anyways best of luck!

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Yeah that’s a recent picture. Best shape I have been muscularity wise. I have a membership at LA Fitness where they have a dry sauna, but I have been working out at home since covid hit. They are back open now, but I’ve been in a good home grove and I’m sticking with it as long as weather is good ( my home gym is in the backyard). I could never do more than 15 minutes in the sauna. You have some serious heat resistance if you can do 30-45 minutes!

Saturday 6/27/2020
Back squat: ramp to 3rm
135lbsx8, 185x5, 235x3, 260x3, 285x3, 300x1
(Goal was 300x3, tried for 2nd rep and failed)
Pullup: ramp to 5 rm
Body x 5, +20lbs x 5, +25 x 5, +30 x 5, +35 x 3.5
Front squat: Mod mtor
135x 6, 155x6, 155 MmTor x 6
Straight arm pulldown: rest pause
50x6, 60x8, 70x 9+4 20 sec rest
Cable lat raise: rest pause
15x8, 15x8+4 20 sec rest
Hip thrust: MmTor
155x6, 185x8, 185x8 MmTor

Goal for next week:
Add squat reps @300lbs.Maybe ramp faster to help this goal.
Add reps at pullups +35
Add weight to hip thrust

EDIT: later in day…
Power clean and push press:
Couple light warm up sets,
145 lbs 3x3 (from floor)
My form sucks. I’ve been teaching myself at home for a couple months. 145 seems to be a good practice weight right now. Need work on the catch (I am catching with full grip in a press position, not a proper rack) and I have almost no squat, partially because at this weight I don’t need one. Also, I can’t push press much more weight than that. I was only able to obtain 4 25lb bumper plates, but I am getting better at doing a controlled lowering, so I should be able to add a iron plates without risking bar damage.
Goal for next time: improve form.

This looks really familiar! Oh, and you have plenty of time to get stronger, I didn’t start lifting seriously until after I turned 40, and I’ve lifted my heaviest weights since turning 50. In for kindred spirits!

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Nice! I hope I get 10 years of gains out of this body. Glad to have you here!

Sunday 6/28/2020

1a. Bench press: ramp to 3rm
135x5, 165x5, 185x3, 195x3, 200x3
(Form broke down on 3rd rep at 200)
1b. Pendley row: max reps with bench weight
135x5, 165x6, 185x5, 195x4, 200x4
2a. Bb shrug: slow reps ramp to 5rm x2
185x 5, 235x5, 265x5, 265x5
2b. Cable hammer curl: MmTor
25x10, 50x7, 60x5 MmTor
3a. Db fly: MmTor
30x8, 35x7 MmTor
3b. Cable diagonal raise: rp
25x8, 30x6+3

I might snatch later. Slept like shit last night. Sleeping good rarely happens, but last night worse than usual. Going to try melatonin sup tonight. My strength was slightly better 4 weeks ago. I upped my calories from 3000 a day to 3500 a day about that time, but the scale hasn’t moved. Been busier at work, but thats a lot to burn off and only a small work increase. I think I will up to 3750 and see how that goes. Currently shooting for 25% protein, 35% fat, 40% carb.
I have been on the fence between working towards lean bulk and just bulk(and cut latter). I might be too impatient for lean bulk. I need to see something move faster. Reps, weight, body weight… This is where I normally increase volume to try to spur growth and get past a platue, but get burned out or hurt instead. This time I will increase calories and stick to my plan for now.

Mtor front squats… I like you, you crazy bastard.

You should be more conservative. No way you cannot complete at least a second rep while ramping up to a 3RM.

If you burn out/get injured, it’s probably that you are very competitive and go too hard/too heavy. But for strength purposes, it shouldn’t be the case. You shouldn’t fail like that.

Also, I think that if you want to snatch, you should do it first in the session, especially if it’s going to bench and rows etc

Well, Pendlay rows are way harder, unless you use some crazy hip momentum like a deadlift turning rows, similar to what Brian Shaw does. Or you indeed have a terrible shoulder. Because I find really ahrd to grasp that you can be using the same weight on both exercises

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Thanks for the input!
On the back squats, 285 felt alright and I really wanted 300x3. Probably should have went to 290 and called it. My plan is one heavy squat day and one day working on the weak point (bottom) hence the squats from the safeties. So I think I can push it on heavy day and recover decently, but accualy failure is probably too much?
On the pendley row, I think my form is pretty strict. I’ll post a video and see what others think. I have always been much stronger on pulls.
My bench press has always sucked, but gotten worse since my shoulder got bad. I believe the ligament that holds the long head biceps tendon in its grove is shot, but my insurance so far has not been willing to get me an mri to confirm.

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Well we can’t deny this is a show of mental fortitude to willingly squat to failure ahah
I would just advice to take your time. 3RMs don’t have to be PRs.

I mean probably. But there is not that much volume so you have to try and see.

Well it’s probably your shoulder ahah. Anyway, never a bad thing to have a strong back!

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Or I’m just a dumb ass.

I really don’t know how to fit the olympics in. They are just for fun anyway. I am thinking of putting them in on my off days instead since I won’t be doing them heavy or high volume.

Thoughts on training:

What is my goal? Why do I even train? How will I achieve my goal? Is my goal counterproductive to my occupation?

What is my goal? Currently, I would like to achieve 1.5x body weight bench, 2x body weight squat, and 2.5x body weight deadlift. A 1x body weight overhead press would be good too, and should’t be too hard to achieve. It would be nice to look decent too, but that is a secondary goal. Once I have achieved primary goal, adding reps to those weights sounds like a good next goal.

Why do I train? I like training. So there, thats it. But I am not motivated by “like” alone. Nothing I have ever had keep my interest could be just because I like it, there always has to be more. Will being stronger and looking better help me in life somehow? Looking better makes me feel good to an extent. Being stronger can theoretically help me with my work as a tree cutter, but because my primary job is as a climber, agility and endurance is actually more important. More on that later. Long term health is a factor to consider. At 40 years old, I am semi late in years for a top level climber and I believe staying strong/ becoming stronger could extend my ability to work at a high level. So, that will have to be good enough for now.

How will I achieve my goal? I must remain mostly uninjured. In the past I have pushed to hard and paid the price. Injuries take me out of the gym, I loose gains quickly, and it takes a long time to get back. Especially because getting back to work is of primary importance and I will work before I am fully healed. Sure, I could hire another climber, but they are hard to find and one on my level is exceedingly rare. Not pushing too hard is very hard for me. I love beating the shit out of myself. It is not a satisfying workout if there is much or anything left on the table, but I have to learn to do it. Hopefully staying healthy and making steady gains that don’t get sabotaged will be just as satisfying as going all out, all the time. So, stay consistent on the big lifts, be conservative on volume and intensity (but not too conservative) and don’t get hurt.

Will training actually be counterproductive to my career? That depends. Keeping to a moderate body weight is helpful when climbing a lot and muscular endurance is just as if not more important than all out strength. I think I can find a nice balance and improve strength without getting too big (I don’t put much weight on anyway) while not killing my endurance, but we will just have to see, and adapt as needed. Oh, and don’t get hurt. Getting hurt will definitly hurt my ability to climb. My jacked up shoulder and the various knee issues I have had can attest to that.

That is all for now. This has been a reminder to myself. Maybe someday I will come back to this and see how my goals and ideas have changed, ect.

Monday 06/29/2020

Climb trees, cut trees, carry logs, throw logs into truck. No way to quantify this in terms of exercise. Temperature in the mid 80’s f°, sunny. I am tired.

Raising calories from 3500 to 3800 as I have not gained a pound at 3500. Current weight about 173.

Tuesday, 06/30/2020

  1. Deadlift: ramp to 3rm, 1 P cluster with 3rm
    185x3, 235x3, 285x3, 335x3, 350x3 +4 cluster reps. Number 4 was solid, but very high effort. 5 would have been very iffy.
  2. Overhead press: ramp to 3rm, 1 P cluster with 3rm,
    93x3, 120x3, 135x3 + 4 cluster reps, same as above regarding the desired 5th rep.
    3a. Behind the head press: Mmtor 6-8 reps
    85x6 wp, 95x7 MmTor
    3b. Cable ham curl: rest pause 6-8 initial reps
    25x8 wp, 35x9+4 (sloppy towards end)
  3. Bent over lat raise: rest pause
    25x4 wp, 25x8+4 (a little cheaty)

Teaching yourself that it’s okay to train submaximally is key to keeping yourself healthy as you get older, in my experience. There’s a time to push yourself and try for 3rm’s or 1rm’s, but it shouldn’t be every training day. You’ve got your program and it looks like it’s well put together, but you’re doing lots of 3rm’s in there, and staying that close to your limit every session will eventually bite you.

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I have basicly decided never to exceed 95% perceived effort, 95% of the time. Take today’s workout for example. In both deadlift and ohp I had planned a 5 rep cluster with the 3rm weight, but stopped short and did only 4 cluster reps. I am almost certain I would have gotten number 5 in the dl had I tried for it, not so sure on the ohp, but that is a much lower risk exercise for me. See, no failure! This is me holding back, lol. The next two days should be “stimulation” setions for the main lifts, heavy, but maybe 85% rpe. Thats my thoughts anyway.
As I get more comfortable with reaching a good 3rm, I am thinking about switching to a progressive overload plan with set increments, maybe in the 531 style, maybe just a set percentage per week, or in the style of Best Damn Strength Plan. I have no intention of going for 3 rm’s on multiply lifts every week for the long term.

5/3/1 is my base program of choice, it’s all about doing submaximal weights, and always leaving a rep or 2 in the tank. It’s worked very well for me, I’m 55 and in the last 3 years I’ve hit 3 of your stated goals (squat, deadlift and press, I’ll never get 1.5x bodyweight bench on account of tearing my left pec off my shoulder 8 years ago being stupid in the gym), even with taking several multiple month breaks because of injury or laziness. I highly recommend it.

I hear you. I am strongly considering using the 531 loading and progretion scheme after my 4 week trial of my 3rm program is done. Maybe even sooner. One of the reasons I set my program up the way I did was something I read from Thib about the 1b nerotype, which according to his test is what I am. He said when programming for 1b’s, they need to be able to challenge themselves and loading schemes based on set progression and not optimal because the 1b will be less motivated by that. Now, I don’t think I am a pure 1b, nor at the top of the talent pool, but the discription fits me very well in general. So I wanted to give some of his recommendations a try. So far, some of them I like. I certainly love challenging myself, but as I said before, I know I need to temper my efforts to account for age and work load.