T Nation

Starting Out Slow

I’m a complete novice to weight training, and my rotator cuffs have some issues.


After several warm-up sets, these were the work sets:

Squat: 85x3x5
Overhead press: 40x3x5
Deadlift: 115x3x5

I didn’t get injured, so I will be back in a day or two.

Hey nd, I’m a complete novice too (started lifting in Jan 2015). Like your thread title, starting out slow is the way to go when you’re over 35 and you’ve never done this before. I rushed a bit when I started out doing SL5x5 and tweaked my left shoulder which meant I couldn’t do certain lifts for a week or two. Good work so far, keep at it.

Thank you, Norn Iron.

This was Saturday: After several warm-up sets,

Squat 90x3x5
Bench press 65x3x5
Deadlift 125x1x5

Still no injuries, so I guess I will try again in a couple days.

I’ll add this here: Sunday I jogged for 30 minutes, probably a bit over three miles.

Thursday workout:

Back squat 110x3x5
Bench press 90x3x5
Deadlift 160x1x5
Assisted chin-ups 8x3 (with 40 lbs assistance)

Happily no injuries and I felt OK.

This happened on Monday:
Back squat 115x3x5
Overhead press 70x3x5
Deadlift 170x1x5

Keep doing what you’re doing. It seems to be working very well.

Thanks, Carl.
This was today:
Back squat 120x3x5
Bench press 95x3x5
Ring rows, four sets, as many as possible (which was about 16, 12, 8, 6)

My lower back felt strange and sore, and then all the available deadlifting stations were in use. I tried to do some warmup sets with some fixed-weight barbells, but I think I was doing it all wrong, with terrible, possibly dangerous form. I decided not to deadlift today.

How’s your squat form? Could be what’s bothering you back. Fixed weight BBs will have you starting lower than normal in the DL. Do you plan on doing all 3 of the powerlifts the same day in the future? Keep it up. improvement comes quick.

Thanks for asking, hel320. I think the problem was the deadlift. I feel slightly more confident about my form on the squat. I bet the problem was my warm-up technique for the deadlift: before I get up to 135#, the radius of the plates is too small for me to set the bar on the floor. Deadlifting an empty bar from the floor requires a low squat, so I’ve been picking up the bar to my hips, lowering it to my shins, and then lifting it. This is extra work, and it distracts me from getting my shoulders back and keeping my lower back flat. I’m going to try setting the bar on a stack of plates tomorrow at the right height; maybe that will help.

It’s always great fun to see someone start lifting in their 40’s.

You seem to be very focused on the big lifts, BB training. Goals?

Thank you. I’m just trying to follow the “Starting Strength” program as safely as possible, well aware that I am not one of the teenagers it seems to have been intended for originally. I like its simplicity and the fact that it is easy to measure progress, but it’s hard to believe this small set of exercises is enough.

My goals are simple: Get strong enough to bench my weight, squat 1.5x my weight, and deadlift 2x my weight. If I gained any muscle mass at all, that would be wonderful. I am trying to eat a surplus of about 500 calories a week in the hope this might happen.

This was today:
Back squat 125x3x5
Overhead press 70x3x5
Deadlift 175x1x5
Chin-ups 4x8 (with 40 lbs of assistance)

With all the warm up sets, that took about an hour.

This was Sunday:

Back squat 130x3x5
Bench press 100x3x5
Deadlift 180x1x5
Chin-ups (with 40 lbs assistance) 4x8

The deadlift felt wrong again, and the small of my back is a bit sorer than my hamstrings or butt are, which doesn’t seem like how it’s supposed to be. I think I’m going to wait a bit before I increase the weight again.

Hey man, you’re doing well. Things look like they’re still progressing nicely.

I had the same issue when my deadlift reached 80-90kg. I did exactly what you’re thinking and left the weight there for a while to get used to it. It was then I also figured out I was raising my shoulders and hinging at the hip too early (trying to lift it all with my back). I’m not an experienced lifter and I probably won’t explain this well, but try to focus on doing the initial pull to your knees with your legs and straighten up/push your hips through as the bar comes up your thighs. Some of the experienced guys will hopefully come along soon and offer advice, but that’s what worked for me at that stage.

Keep up the good work.

Thanks for the good advice, Norn Iron. I think that’s what I am trying to do, although I might describe it as focusing on pushing against the floor with my feet while straightening my legs, instead of lifting with my back.

This was Saturday:

Back squat 120x3x5
Overhead press 60x3x5
Deadlift 160x1x5?

Because of travel, I hadn’t been able to lift weights for a couple of weeks, so I decided to retrace my steps a bit. And I’m not even 100% sure of the weight I deadlifted, since these were unfamiliar plates and one of the bumper plates I thought was a 45 wasn’t actually marked. When I racked them, it felt significantly lighter than the other 45. This would explain why the lift seemed so awkward. I’ll be more careful in the future. Still no injuries yet; fingers crossed.

[quote]northerndriver wrote:
This was Sunday:

Back squat 130x3x5
Bench press 100x3x5
Deadlift 180x1x5
Chin-ups (with 40 lbs assistance) 4x8

The deadlift felt wrong again, and the small of my back is a bit sorer than my hamstrings or butt are, which doesn’t seem like how it’s supposed to be. I think I’m going to wait a bit before I increase the weight again.[/quote]

I highly recommend you post a video of your deadlift before you keep going so that we can comment. The deadlift is a very technical lift, and I can think of several ways it can be done incorrectly. Aside from aggravating an injury, you could be teaching yourself bad habits. It would be best to record it with your working weight. Maybe even have someone at the gym record it for you?

Thanks for the suggestion, MarcF. I’m going to get someone to record a video of me deadlifting next week.

This was last Thursday:

Back squat 130x3x5
Bench press 100x3x5
Deadlift 170x3x5
Inverted rows 4 sets of 6 reps

By the way, I’m just listing my “work sets.” I go through a series of warmup sets, too. I figure those out using an app called “Starting Strength Warmup” by Steven Pugh.

One thing that I’ve noticed that makes me cautiously happy: Since I’ve started lifting in a consistent way, my fragile left shoulder hurts less than it did. It’s still weak, and it’s clear that my progress on the strict overhead press is going to lag. I anticipated that it would hurt a lot or that I would injure it again, but so far this hasn’t happened. In fact, things that used to make it ache a bit, like driving long distances, actually don’t seem to bother it as much.

Even more than technique, my main obstacle right now is figuring out how to feed myself consistently, especially at work. There is a cafeteria at my workplace, but that gets expensive. The alternative is to bring a large duffel bag with two or three meals in it. (Some days I am at work for about ten hours.) Can anyone recommend recipes that make large batches that keep well and can just go into a container for lunch later? “Salads” with grains, beans, vegetables, and animal protein are ideal, since they don’t even need to be put in the microwave.

I lifted again on Tuesday. These were the work sets:

Back squat 135x3x5
Overhead press 65x3x5
Deadlift 175x1x5

I also tried inverted rows, keeping the number of reps lower and consistent, just pulling my body off the floor, four sets of six reps.

This was Saturday (August 29):

Back squat 140x3x5
Bench press 105x3x5
Deadlift 170x1x5
Inverted rows, four sets of eight

I haven’t lifted in sum years, and just getting back into it I have the same feelings you do, slow and steady. I feel like I’m relearning how to lift, figuring out what pain means what, and really conscious of my always-on-my-mind back and knee injuries while still trying to squat/deadlift/move heavy weights.

Stay with it.

Great blog. Slow and steady is the way to go. Good luck with your training!