Sunday lifting thread.

I read an article this week on Rippetoe’s site that contrasted the Starting Strength program with the Stronglifts 5×5.

There is a popular program out there on the Internet that has novices (that’s you) train by doing five sets of five (5×5) on squats, three times a week. Starting Strength proposes that you do three sets of five (3×5) on squats, three times a week. Which is better?

I have been following the 5×5 program for about two years and I have seen the best gains of my life. But in the last few months I have been really struggling with the recovery from doing 5 sets. Squats in particular are just brutal.

In short, 5×5 three times a week is too much. There’s too much stimulus, not enough recovery, and lifters stall or regress. They go from stage 1 to stage 3, instead of stage 2. We see it all the time: lifters doing 5×5 three times a week stall early at a light weight. Putting them on a 3×5 program generally gets them unstuck. In fact, this is exactly the strategy that the Other Program proposes when you get stuck. You might as well just do three sets of five at the beginning and not get stuck.

After reading this I decided to swap to 3×5. Yesterday was my first workout on the new program. I started off with squats with the weight at 85kg. I have been struggling to get past this weight for a few weeks now. My workout on Thursday on the squat looked like this:

5, 4, 4, 4, 3.

Training is mostly mental. You have to grind it out. Most times when I reckon that I can’t do another rep I probably have at least 2 more in me. I hit the first set and busted out 5 without any real issues. On the second set I was already to concede at the 4th rep but the knowledge that I would only have to do one more set prompted me to keep going.

5, 5.

With one more set to go I realised that if I hit 5 on this one then I would have conquered the weight. Sure enough I forced my way to the full 5 reps. It was hard, really hard, but I got there. If I had had to do another 2 full sets I know that I wouldn’t have been able to overcome that mental barrier.

The press went fairly well and then I came to deadlifts. Once again I had been struggling to break past the 127.5kg barrier. This time I got there. The last rep was particularly challenging but I put my success down to the fact that I was so much fresher. Those two sets each in squats and presses that I hadn’t had to do made a huge difference.

Weights are now like this for next week:

Squat 87.5kg.

Press 50kg.

Deadlift 130kg.

Bench press 70kg.

Bent over upright row 82.5kg.

Age 46, body weight 70kg.

I know that the upright row is not part of the starting strength program but I’m going to stick with it for now.

Hope you’ve all had some solid gains this week.

 

11 thoughts on “Sunday lifting thread.

  1. didact117

    Age 33, Height 1.77m, Weight 87Kg (or thereabouts)
    Squat: 155Kg
    Bench: 102Kg
    Deadlift: 200Kg
    OHP: 61Kg

    These numbers are not particularly impressive, by the way. I’m just reasonably strong for my age and size, but there are far better lifters out there who are both smaller and older than me.

    Like you, I started out with Stronglifts 5×5, and I heartily endorse it as the best starting strength training program out there. Any man who wants to get really strong, really fast, needs a clear program laying out exactly how to do it. Mehdi’s program is perfect for this.

    And like you, I found the 3x/week squats to be next to impossible to keep up long-term, especially because I also train in martial arts – I would do heavy squats on a Friday night and then go train in martial arts on Saturday morning, and I really struggled with basic warm-ups and kicking exercises even as a white belt.

    Over the last 3 years or so, I have switched to a different training style that works, more or less, for me.

    I do volume squats one day a week, starting at 5 reps of 225lbs and adding 10lbs to the bar every set to max out at 5 reps of 275lbs. Then I do a “pyramid” – 1×3 at 285, 1×2 at 295, 1×1 at 305, 1×1 at 315 followed by a 30-second static hold. I then do deadlifts – 5 at 225, 5 at 275, 5 at 315, 3 at 365, 1 at 405.

    I do bench, and only bench, one day a week – that is what I call “light” lifting day.

    And then one day a week I just try to lift as heavy as I can for one-rep maxes on squats, and ramp up to one-rep maxes on deadlifts and bench.

    This isn’t an easy training program. Nor will it work for everyone else. But it does keep me strong and stable – even with all of my injuries, ALL of which come from martial arts, not lifting. I do not recommend this sort of program for everyone – especially for guys who do not have the time to spend 2hrs in the gym on a Sunday.

    But someday one has to move beyond standard 5×5 or 3×5 lifting programs and figure out something that works for him individually.

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  2. earl

    Good to know…I’ve been doing the 5X5 thing for years now with squat but I always seem to struggle with it around the 260 mark and usually go 5, 5, 5, 4, 3 or 4 . Might bring it down to 3 x 5

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  3. earl

    Also I’ve been working in the hip thrust and good morning exercises more…excellent ones to use to help with hip/low back muscles. I’ve come to find those are pretty important muscle groups when it comes to squat.

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  4. Viktor

    It’s amazing through how much bullshit my subconscious will go just to make me stop lifting, from “I can’t do any more reps” even though it’s only the second or third set to desperately trying to bring up a funny memory because if I as much as smile while lifting I tend to lose all my strength and at that point I have to stop because otherwise I risk dropping the weights. Eventually I had to punish myself out of these bad habits, if for whatever reason I stop a set then I have to restart it from the first rep and add another set as punishment.

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