Strong Lifts 5x5

Started April 28 on Stronglifts 5x5. Old school strength training that gets results.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Some great web sites that cut through the Bullshit

One of the great things about this last year's quest to getting fit has been the knowledge I have picked up by doing some research. It can be an almost herculean task to sift through all the BS in today's multi billion dollar fitness and diet industries. During this time I have found a couple very very good blogs and sites that I enjoy reading and following.

What I love about these sites is they are a middle ground, sane no Bullshit approach to fitness and nutrition. Which frankly are few and far between on the internet. Discussing nutrition is worse than even politics and religion it seems. Every new plan or fad or whatever seems to attract almost cult like followers that firmly believe what they do is the ONLY way to loss fat or whatever. It is just a crazy crazy thing. There are people out there injecting HCG derived from the urine of pregnant women thinking it helps them lose weight.. Yes that is not a typo. People do batshit CRAZY things to try and lose weight. We live in a now now now society and nothing reflects this more than the diet industry.

So, I wanted to share some websites I have come across that promote sanity in diet and weight loss. No quick fixes. Just proven methods that work given commitment and a reasonable time frame to shed fat and get fit.

For a sane approach to tailoring a diet plan that will work for YOU.

Building a workout routine for YOUR goals. Be it fat lost or gaining muscle or a bit of both

One of my favorite all around fitness and health blogs.

A no bullshit approach to looking good naked.

Strength Training Basics

Strength Training for the more advanced lifter

Have a look at those sites and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Week 9 WO 2

Second workout of week 9. Squats, Overhead Press and Deadlifts.

Squats at 240lbs. Really working now to complete the reps and sets. Still haven't missed yet on squats. I would love to get to 300lbs without having to deload. It's hard to judge for me what my old PR was as I always did squats on the Smith machine prior to starting Stronglifts and never went to parallel. I'd guess somewhere around 160lbs.

Overhead press at 100lbs. Missed reps on the last two sets. Got 5x5x5x4x3. OHP continues to be my hardest lift to consistently make gains on.

Deadlifts 255lbs. Warmups 135,185,205. Breaking the 250lbs mark! Did my warmups with overhand again then switched to mixed grip for the work set. I was nervous getting over the bar a bit as 245lbs was an effort last time but got all 5 in.

Little bummed that my upper body strength is lagging so far behind my lower. OHP and Bench seem so far behind what they should be. Oh well, just have to keep working at it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Start of Week 9

Started off Week 9 with Squats,Bench,Rows day.

I had company all weekend, the weather was fantastic and I admittedly did not get the recovery I should have over the 2 non lifting days. My nutrition was off (way off), drank a bit to much wine and didn't get nearly enough sleep.

So, anyways got back onto routine yesterday and hit the gym even though I was feeling a bit wrung out from the weekend.

Squats 235. Got all my reps and sets, but had to work for the last reps for sure.

Bench Press was disappointing. 160lbs sets of 4x3x4x4x4. No where even close and had to really push to get the 4th rep in each set. Not sure what the problem was as last week I got 155lbs and it felt like 160lb shouldn't have been a problem. I thought maybe I might come up a rep short in the last set, not miss in every set.

Rows, great. Form felt solid and the lift felt better having a 45lb plate a side instead of having to stack weights to make up the height.

Skipped the post lifting cardio. I was blasted after the workout. Weather is nice again today so I'll take the pooch out for an extra long walk tonight. I am kinda missing my runs I used to do on non lifting day before Sl5x5 but my legs just can't recover for 3x squats a week if I do them anymore.

Right Elbow has been bothering me for the last week. Hopefully it will pass with some rest today.

Friday, June 24, 2011

End of Week 8

Worked out early this morning as I have company coming for the weekend. Last workout of Week 8. Lets just say shit's getting serious now. 230lb squats, 245lb Deadlifts. 95lb Overhead press.

Squats went very well but really starting to have to work hard late in the sets. Reps #4 & 5 of the last two sets required some good effort and I had a good sweat going after the first set. Don't think I am at the point where i am going to miss reps yet though.

Overhead press remains my hardest lift. The improvement in my form has helped alot and I got all my sets and reps in, but it still requires the most effort. Shoulders were really feeling it after the first couple sets. The odd thing though is set#5 felt easier than sets 3 or 4. In both 3 and 4 I struggled to get the 5th rep and felt my form was not as good as it could be, had a bit of back arch. Set 5, i don't know if it was mental or what but didn't struggle nearly as much to complete the set and my form felt much better.

Deadlifts are getting heavy. 10lbs a session is starting to push the envelope a bit. Warm up sets were 135, 185, 205 again with 1x5 at 245lb for the work set. Found out through some reading I should have been using overhand grip not mixed to help improve my grip strength so I did that for my warmups but had to switch to mixed grip for my work set. At 205 I could feel my grip starting to breakdown on the 4th and 5th rep and even with alternating I could feel it in the last rep. Grips is probably going to be my limiting factor on the lift. Definitely going to have to do extra work to improve my grip strength if I want to get to 300lbs and beyond on DL.

All in all a great week of workouts. Double dead lift weeks are killers but so easy to find the motivation to hit the gym when every time I go I set new PRs. My nutrition was better this week. Stayed out of the sweets and got lots of clean food and protein.

Sleep seems to be a problem though. I go to bed early, around 10-10:30pm but can't seem to sleep much past 5am. This morning it was 4:30am and I was wide awake. With the work I am putting my body through I would like to get 8hrs min.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

When to offer advice?

For the most part this last year I have not paid much attention to what goes on around me at the gym. I have the ipod blaring and focused on what I was doing. Since I broke 200lbs on squat, I have had to move my rest time between sets to 2mins. This has given me some time to kinda observe the goings on in my gym.

Needless to say some hilarity has ensued. I'm left just shaking my head at times at what I see. In particular there is this one guy. I'm sure every gym has him. There is no question the guy is strong and maybe he knows something I don't but for the life of me I can't figure out what he is doing. To give an example. He slaps 3 plates a side on bench press, then does 2-3 reps with MAYBE 1 inch of total movement.

Again, I couldn't even move 3 plates a side on bench or get it out of the rack, but everything I have seen and read tells me he would get more out of it by cutting back the weight and doing a full and proper rep. Now to each his own, but what I see is the young guys in the gym following his lead. Way to much weight with horrible form doing 1/2 or less of the full movement they should be for the lift.

The next thing I have noticed is the horrible personal trainers. Now, I work out at the local YMCA. So the staff are not what I would consider "experts". But still, they give one an one training as part of the programs available. I was doing my after lifting cardio and watching this one guy "train" an obvious total new gym member. Guy in his early 40's, very out of shape. He had this guy standing on one of those half ball things hooked up to those rope things they hang from the roof that seem to be the lastest workout craze doing all sorts of funky things.

I'm watching this and thinking to myself, way to complicate shit. Take that guy over to the free weights and teach him basic exercises. Now, I hardly expect him to show the guy squats and deadlifts, because well, they are not "sexy" enough. But hell, at least show him a basic split on the machines or something. The first thing I thought of when I saw this training session is that picture on the 5x5 report of a trainer with some poor schmuck doing squats perched on a swiss ball.

Now, I am not one to ever offer advice in the gym. It's rarely appreciated unless someone actually asks for it. It is hard though to watch the young guy doing bicep curls with 40lb dumb bells who is swaying like a tree in a hurricane to move the weight. I so want to go over to him and explain how he would get so much more from the exercise at say 25lbs with proper form than what he is doing, or hell ditch the curls and come do squats with me.

On a good note, and what kinda prompted this rant. After I finished up my squats yesterday I had a young guy, maybe 20-21 approach me. He commented on how deep I was squatting with the 225lbs and asked didn't it hurt to handle that much weight with no sissy pad. So, I got the opportunity to explain and show him the low bar squats and how to place the bar so you didn't need a pad. Then gave him the web address to Stronglifts and outlined the program. So hopefully a new convert to old school lifting.

225lb Squat Benchmark

Well, got my 225lb Squat yesterday, first try at that weight. Big rush getting under the bar with 2 45lb plates a side. It was hard but not overly so. Never felt like I wasn't going to get the reps in or struggled to get out of the hole. It actually seemed to get easier as my sets progressed.

Also pounded out 155lbs on the bench after missing the last rep last time. Again hard but much better than last time. Didn't struggle to get the 4th &5th reps in the last two sets like my last attempt at this weight. Very long way to go on bench to get where I want to be.

Rows were good at 130lbs. Have a ways to go on that exercise before I stall. Between those and dead lifts my back is putting on some noticeable width. My wife actually mentioned it when I got out of the shower last night how much wider my back is getting. Part of that I'm sure is I've lost much of my gut and love handles over the last year, so I'm getting a more tapered V shape.

For myself, I'm just happy I am finally developing visable traps. All year I did shrugs after shrugs with nothing, then 8 weeks of overhead press, deadlifts and proper rows and they start showing.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nailed it!

orkout #1 of week 8 and last chance to get 90lbs in over head press or time to deload. Happy to say I nailed it. It's amazing to me the difference a couple days makes in how a body can gain strength and how important technique is.

Last week in try#1 at 90lb I starting struggling near the end of the 3rd set and really had to push to get the 5th rep. Then in sets #4 & 5 i couldn't push out that 5th rep and struggled in both sets with the 3rd and 4th.

Try #2 Better but still had to really push late in set#4 and couldn't get out the 5th rep in set#5. Form was better than last time late.

Try#3 Pushed out the 5x5 at 90lbs, not easily but not a struggle either. As I pushed out rep#5 of the 5th set I felt I could have probably gotten out 1 or 2 more reps. My shoulders were feeling it for sure but not at the failure level of the previous attempts at this weight.

Form was much better again and that may have something to do with it. I think previously I was brute forcing the bar up instead of using technique. After missing last attempt I did some review on proper Overhead press form.

Here's the link to proper form on the OHP

and a video

Some key points I wasn't doing properly:

  • Shift Torso Forward. Once the bar reaches forehead level, shift your torso forward. Continue pressing the weight overhead.
  • Head Forward. Your chin should almost touch your chest when the weight is overhead. Look forward, not down.
I wasn't shifting my torso forward at the midpoint of the lift. I was tilting my head back so the bar could clear then back to a neutral position, but I wasn't getting my entire torso forward under the bar. It felt like I was pushing more from my pecs than my shoulders.

My finishing position wasn't right because my midpoint position wasn't.

Those two fixes to technique, world of difference in the feel of the lift. We will see how it goes moving forward, but I think fixing the technique will prevent stalls for another 10-15lbs I hope.

Liked the change in the Dead Lifts to progressively loading my warmup sets. After the last warmup set of 205 felt better prepared for the 235lb work weight set.

All in all it was a great work out yesterday. One of the best of the last couple weeks.

Monday, June 20, 2011

End of week 7

Wrapped up week 7 on Friday. Ended on a bit of a disappointing note. Didn't quite manage to get my 155lb bench press. Ended up 1/2 a rep short on set 5. Just couldn't push it up the last couple inches. Not worried, I'm sure I will get it on Wednesday.

Pretty much my own stupid fault. Got busy at work and didn't get a pre-workout meal in. Hadn't eaten for almost 3.5 hrs by gym time. So after 5 PR sets on squats at 215lbs I was pretty gassed for bench. Felt great through the first 4 sets but just lost it in the 5th.

Struggling a bit with the nutrition. For some reason having a problem kicking the sugar again. Always a struggle for me, my sweet tooth.

Week 8 starts today with Squats (of course) Overhead press and Deadlifts. Little nervous about the OVP. If I miss 90lbs today means time to deload. I was hoping to get at least 100-110lbs on OHP before worrying about that. 220lbs on squats, on Wednesday I will be shooting for 225lbs or 2 plates a side. Not sure why but every time I get to put on a full 45lb plate it is always a rush. It's like reaching the next level or benchmark.

Deadlifts are starting to get very challenging now. Up to 200lbs I was doing 3 warmup sets then 3 work weight set. Since 200 I have been doing 3 warmups at 135 then 2 at work weight. Now at 235 I think I will change it up to 3 warms ups and 1 work weight (as suggested in Mehdi's book) but progressively load my warmups. 135/185/205 them 235.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Week 6 Stonglifts 5x5

Into the 7th week of my Stronglifts 5x5 routine. It has been going so great. I have reached new personal bests in every catagory. So much fun hitting the gym knowing that each workout I am setting new personal bests.

Yesterday was 2nd workout of week 7 and here are the numbers:

Squat 215lbs
Bench Press 155lbs
Deadlifts 225lbs
Overhead Press 90lbs**
Barbell Rows 125lbs

Overhead press is definitely a struggle for me. I've been at 90lbs for 2 workouts now. First I managed sets of 5,5,5,4,4. and it was a supreme effort in sets 3,4 and 5. Yesterday was better 5,5,5,5,4 and didn't really hit the wall until 4 reps into set 4. I also found it easier to get the bar going off the rack. Last week at 90lbs I had to cheat and push press a bit to get the bar moving off the rack. using my legs and hips a bit. Yesterday my form was much cleaner.

I knew out the gate this lift was going to be the hardest for me and the one I would hit the wall on first. After the problems I had last year with shoulder impingment, that muscle group was the very under trained compared to the rest of my body. During my BFL challenge and the months after, I couldn't do any over head lifts without extreme discomfort. My shoulder only really started to feel back to normal in February where I could do over head lifts again. But, they are getting stronger,just going to take some time.

Nutrition hasn't been the best the last 3 weeks. My beloved Canucks went on a long playoff run right to game 7 of the Stanley Cup. Which, sadly they lost last night. This resulted in lots of pub nights with the boys watching the game. To much beer and hot wings etc. I don't regret a minute of it. It had been 17years since they were last in the Cup Final and if that taught me one thing it is enjoy the run, who knows when or if I will get to experience it again. I didn't miss any workouts and made sure I got my protien each day. Only put on a couple lbs. Given my goal right now is to put on some muscle and gain strength not overly concerned with it.

Now that hockey is done, time to get back on the wagon and back to eating properly.Time to cut out the junk again and start up my food log. I'm setting my nutrition goals at 2500 Kcals per day with a minimum 200g of protein.

Training wise I am sticking to the Stronglifts 5x5. I've cut out almost all my cardio. Training 3 days a week with the 5x5 routine with 15-20mins of elliptical afterwards. No training at all on off days. Just taking the dogs for a walk. Doing heavy squats 3x a week, my legs especially need the recovery time. I tried going for runs on off days, but quickly stopped. The 5x5 rountine is proving to be great at getting my heartrate up and a good sweat going. Especially now that I am over 200lbs in the squats and deadlifts. By the 3rd set of squats I am sweating like I have been running for 15mins.

All in all it has been a great 6 weeks. I've never felt stronger. Other than the OH press none of the lifts feel like I am close to hitting a wall yet. I was very happy on Monday getting under the bar for a 150lb bench press and pounding out the sets of good clean presses. While the last couple reps of sets 4 and 5 required an effort, it wasn't close to feeling like I couldn't get them out. Definitely a pump hitting a personal best and knowing there is much more in the tank still.

Looking forward to the next 6 weeks. Getting my nutrition back on track is going to be of the utmost importance if I want to keep making gains. Can't grow stronger without stoking the machine with proper fuel.