Several weeks ago I passed doing body weight for a bent-legged deadlift. For me, body weight varies between 206-210 pounds and the weight I lifted for 3 reps was 225. That was really a max for me and I thought for sure it would stand for a bit of time.
Today, the week C cycle was up for my deadlift in the 5-3-1 workout routine. The final work set weight was 205 pounds and the rep range was 3+. I didn’t just push past the 3 reps, I doubled up to 6. If I could have kept my back a bit more straight, I feel I could have squeaked out a few more. I am nearly religious with correct form, so I stopped with a little more in the tank, but pumped none-the-less. I cannot wait for the max rep cycle next week.
Over the last few months, I’ve been rotating between 5×5 and 5-3-1. I use the former until my knees need more than two days to recover and my weights start to go backward. The latter I usually do for 2 complete cycles and need to change to add muscle confusion. Normally when I switch back to 5×5, I make good progress for a time.
Hitting the body weight amounts has been a limiting factor for months. A year ago, my sticking point was getting to 130 pounds on squats for 10 reps. Now I can push through 3 sets using at least 150 and 160 on a good day. Getting those 20-30 pounds has been a big fight with my 46 year old knees and I have learned much about how my body reacts. A few weeks ago, I was very emotional when I hit 195 pounds on squats for 1 rep. I cannot image how I will be when I hit body weight. The attempt is coming soon.
As much as I like Steve Holman and his 4X/TORQ ideas, it wasn’t until I switched to more strength oriented workouts that I saw results. Perhaps it is due to my lack of strength and his workouts being more modeled on endurance. Perhaps the ideas of Mark Rippetoe are more what I need for now. Perhaps this is why I accidentally let my subscription to Iron Man Magazine to expire. Yes, I will be correcting that soon. I do wonder if I should write to Steve and let him know of my predicament. This would require me to open to the Universe in search of a solution. Ok.
Dear Steve Holman, I’ve been an avid reader of your columns for more than two years. I even bought your program Old School/New Body. You are responsible for me getting back into lifting and into the gym. I cut some body fat and gained some muscle, though I topped out at 27% body fat and 217 pounds before switching to a more strength oriented workout. The biggest complaint I had was the amount of time the workouts in you Train Eat Grow column. Is this due to my lack of strength first? I am confused. How may you help me?
There you are Universe. I am reaching out to Steve for help. I will seek a way to pass it on to him more directly, though I do want him to find my blog and read about my path to fitness. Here he will know more about me, my path and journey, and better understand how he can guide me to a better outcome. I fully anticipate solutions I require and humbly await their arrival. I will show all Graciousness for the offerings.
Ski season is very quickly approaching and I’ve been hitting strength training for months now. It started with doing 5×5 until my knees needed more time to recover than just a day or two. I tried lowering to 3×5, but that too showed a top out too soon. I then came across 5-3-1 on the MultiYear App on my iPhone. This offered some more variety and gave my joints time to recover.
Alternating 3 to 4 weeks of 5-3-1 with 2 weeks of 5×5 has been working well. I am finally nearing Lightly Trained, though I seem to have plateaued a bit over the last few weeks. My deadlift is now over body weight on the heavy work set. My squat is getting very close to 200 pounds and I look forward to the attempt. My bench press is approaching 150 pounds. As my left shoulder is in need of some rehabilitation, I’ve added strengthening exercises for the shoulders.
The 5-3-1 workout by itself is quite short and has very few exercises. I’ve been adding a few for targeting muscles a bit more, add some more fat burning potential, or to strengthen supporting muscles. The workouts are 20-30 minutes which helps me get back to my life. As much as I like being in the gym, I really have other things to do. Ok, at least a few.
Late last week, a fellow gym goer was complaining about his current leg workout. He has a desire to improve it. He hasn’t been doing full squats long and seems to have hit a bit of a wall. Last October I blogged about Roger Lockridge’s grueling leg workout that was given in the May issue of Iron Man Magazine. I mentioned it to him and he seemed interested.
Since I use the app on my iPhone to also track my rest time, I flipped over to Safari and found the post. While I was doing my next set, I let him read the article, in particular the workout. He had one simple reaction, “Holy cow!”
I’ve been wanting to add more endurance to my training. I’ve tried a little cardio here and there, using an interval style. While it works, it is too boring. Skiing requires a mix of strength and endurance, and this workout gives both due to the volume and low rest periods.
One starts by using the leg extension and leg curl machines to warm up and stretch. No pre-exhaust here. That’s good ’cause my knees no longer care for the high weights for the leg extensions before squats. Next comes a strength via pyramiding the weight and reducing the reps through 10, 5, 3, 1. This pattern is done twice and rest between sets is 90 seconds. This is strength oriented.
The next three sections of the workout are more geared toward endurance. A superset on leg presses with two different foot positions gives a new meaning to “feeling the burn”. There is no rest between the sets in each super, though there is 1 minute of rest between supers. One does three supersets, with the reps for each set inside them being 15, 12, 10. That is, 15 reps with the feet high and then 15 with the feet low. Yeah, endurance.
The finishing sets of leg extensions, curls and then calf raises to really give the legs a push through. I look forward to having a partner for this workout. As we will most likely do different weights for these, I’m doubtful we will be watching the clock for rest. As soon as one finishes, it will be time to change the weights and let the other get the reps in. It will be brutal. I can’t wait.
Growing up, I was usually quite active. Not having a television for most of my childhood, mom pushed us outdoors when the weather was nice. No matter where we lived, it was quite the norm to be out all day and maybe get back in time for supper. This held while living in Seymour, Tennessee, and Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and Fort Ritchie, Maryland, and Patch Barracks, Vaihingen, Germany (nicht Vaihingen an der Enz).
I also played many different sports: Little League Baseball in Seymour, basketball and soccer at Fort Belvoir, just basketball in Maryland, and just soccer in Germany. During my junior year of high school, I took up running on my own, eventually running 3 miles a day in under 18 minutes. I used my Multiplan skills I developed while working in the Comptrollers Office to record my times and calculate my time per mile.
My freshman year of college was at Johnson Bible College (now Johnson University). I went out and made the soccer team, this too had me running and staying in shape. As my father retired from the Army during this time and the family moved to Johnson, I stayed on campus when I went to the University of Tennessee. For a few years on, I continued to stay in shape by running.
In the summer of 1990 when I was 22, I changed my philosophy and goals. Being 6’5″ with a 31″ waist, I was quite skinny. Now I wanted to build some muscle. The Eubank’s Activity Center had a weight room and a few machines. I started to lift weights, eat more, and dug into magazines like Muscle and Fitness. By the time I married in July 1992, I was put to nearly 190 pounds from my start of 160 and had some strength. Shortly after getting married though, I stopped training.
After a couple of years of near inactivity and starting to have lower back issues, my wife and I joined Court South on Alcoa Highway. It was not only close to our house, it was on the way to my job at the University of Tennessee, Hodges Library, Systems Department. As I worked noon to 9 pm, I soon was taking my clothes with me, working out and showering, then heading to work. I would shave before I left home. I made a few gains in strength and size, but not much. For the most part, I kept my legs strong for ski season. Back then, my skis were 203 centimeters long and I was on Ski Patrol at Ober Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This took some leg strength to patrol for hours on those sticks.
During the year of 1997, we moved to Marion, Ohio when I took a job with Macola Software. When I first moved up, I played on a recreational league soccer team. Here my nearly 30 year old body could not quite keep up with the teenagers who also played, but it was good fun. I played the next year too and in the meantime worked out at the YMCA. Here I was doing arm curls with 50 pound dumbbells and I first started reading Ironman Magazine. Now my routines were taking a serious note, but I also did stupid things and eventually hurt my knees. A few job changes later and a move to Cincinnati, and I rarely worked out anymore.
I was on ski patrol at Ober Gatlinburg for 5 seasons. In the summer of 2000, I took the Outdoor Emergency Care class again to get on patrol at Perfect North Slopes. Though I did not have to take the class again, it being 10 years since the class the first time, I thought it was a good idea. Over the next few years, I did occasionally worked out and joined the Y on Poole Road for a time. I believed I was in good shape. After all, I did ski every winter and was on patrol.
Then something unexpected happened and I knew I had to change.
I was about 42 years old when one year during the beginning of the ski season I was riding in the sled during training. We came down to the bottom and I went to get up and I couldn’t. I tried several times to basically do a crunch to get to a sitting position. I couldn’t. I couldn’t do a bloody crunch, no matter how much I used my feet to get leverage. Eventually, I rolled out of the sled onto all fours and stood up. That was it, something had to change.
We had a stationary bike in the basement and I started riding it again. Eventually an interesting routine developed: 10 minutes of riding, 5 minutes of arm curls and crunches. Rinse and repeat 4 times. I also started reading Ironman Magazine again and doing some of the routines in it. Set by set, the dumbbells that had been buried in the garage came back out and into use.
After nearly two years, I started to realize I was out growing what I could do in the house. Not have a bench or a rack, it became difficult to do more serious work. I looked at getting the Marcy utility bench (yes, the one with the gorgeous model on the box), but realized I didn’t have the space to put it. There are three gyms near me, so I went by them all. The closest was quite and small and the biggest one (Planet Fitness) was too against serious workouts, so I wasn’t going to join there. I decided to wait.
A bit over a year ago, I looked again. This time I decided to join Stay Fit 24, though it was small. After all, I’m in my forties and my joints don’t need weights too heavy. I got a small booklet to record my weights and I took routines straight out of Steve Holman’s articles from Ironman Magazine.
I made good progress and my body adjusted to workouts again. I had a simple goal then: strength my right knee and get better flexibility. I had the manager Adam help me remember how to do squats and deadlifts again. I started pushing 300 plus pounds on the inclined leg press. I switched routines around when the page filled with recordings. The ski season of 2013-2014 saw me with more leg strength than I had in years and the turns were some much easier. I also skied faster through the crud than I had before. My months of work in the gym paid off.
My diet changed over the months, adding proper carbohydrates and more protein. I dropped simple sugars as much as possible. Breads and pastas were also removed. Gluten became a bad word. My body slimmed and my strength increased. The results were visible when I had my yearly exam for medical insurance as my waist was one inch smaller.
My abs, however, lagging during all this, despite all the crunches. I took the November planking challenge on Facebook. After two weeks of that, my abs woke up and I’ve been planking ever since. Awesome.
I have two current goals: squat and bench my body weight, something I never reached even when I was younger and workout all the time. To achieve the former will require more core strength. To build that, I now do wheel roller ab work and deadlifts. Using the Multi-Year iPhone app, I recently switched to a strength regime by lowering the reps per set. About every two weeks I hit a new personal record on work sets. The most recent record is 145 pounds for 8 reps and 2 sets on deadlifts. A new record on squats is getting close. I’m nearly halfway to my goal on both bench press and squats, and I’m determined to get there.
Why do I keep pushing? Why do I research new supplements and what foods to eat? Why do I choose to not eat certain things or eat at particular times? It is quite simple. Any time I feel like having that second doughnut or napping instead of going to the gym or skipping too many days, I remember that time when I couldn’t get out of the sled. I remember how it felt to not be able to get off the ground. I remember how weak and helpless I felt. I remember and push forward.
The chest workout log has become filled with seven weeks worth of exercising. Starting weights for the flat bench press rose to 25 pounds a side, but staid there since August 23rd. Declined flyes went down in weight, but the angle of the bench was increased, making the reps harder. Pec deck too saw a decline as the emphasis was set to the reps of 30, 20 and 15 for 3 seconds per rep. Only the machine seated press saw significant increases over the seven weeks. It was time for a change.
Finding a new chest workout is quite easy. A simple search in Google will bring back scores of hits, so it was time to read. As the goals of the previous regime were focused on declines with some flat bench finishing, the idea of flipping around is quite central. Bodybuilding.com had several great workouts. Scanned through the beginner ones and moved to more advanced. Ah, blending several into one focused workout.
The result is a workout with one goal: get the chest to respond and grow. On to the layout.
Warmup – 10 minutes. Arms, shoulders, chest. They all need to be warm and stretched.
Incline Bench Press – 3×8
Smith Machine Barbell Neck Press – 2×15, 1×25
Incline Dumbbell Flye – 3×8, 1×25
Seated Machine Chest Press – 3×30,20,15
No sets are pyramid style. Rest between sets is 45 seconds, except the neck press which is 2 minutes, including after the 1×25 set. The rep speed should be 1 on positive side and 1.5 on negative. The finishing sets on the machine press are 3 seconds on the negative. For added burn, press 6 second negatives after the last set of 15. Go until fail.
It has been 2.5 months since June’s “Time To Move To Heavy” and the updated chest workout. The moving to heavier weights and 45 second rests lead to good gains in size and strength. Eight weeks is long enough for the same workout and it is time to confuse the body with an update.
This time around, it is time to raise the intensity and simplify the routine. This new routine will be a combination of TORQ and 4x, keeping in mind the principles of doing Mid-Range, Stretch and Contraction in a routine. The chest workout, therefore, become three sets of three exercises. No super-sets and no negative only.
Flat bench press
Start with a mid-range movement and do sets in a pyramiding 3×8 still. The first set should be a weight that can be done for twelve reps. The rep cadence is 1 second positive and 2 seconds on the negative. Stop at 8, rest for 40 seconds and add 5 pounds to each side before doing next set.
Next is stretch movement is next. Bring the dumbbells up and keep to the 1 second positive/2 seconds negative pass. As the weights finish straight above the chest in a nearly press position, there is very little contraction here. The set is 3×10 with the same weight each time. Finish all three sets? Add weight at the next training session.
The last exercise brings TORQ into the picture. The 1 second/2 second cadence is still used, but the number of reps increases to 30 for the first set, 20 on the second and 15 on the final. As with the second set, if the number of reps is reached, add weight at the next workout. Be sure to compress at the top of the move and pause for nearly a second there. Getting over 100 seconds in the set time for the first set should easily be reached.
Push this routine for at least 4 weeks and look to change after 6. Here’s a recap:
The last few months have seen me using the exercises in Iron Man Magazine nearly exclusively. In particular, those found within the Training & Research Center’s articles, using the ideals of HIT and 4x. Steve Holman’s articles have lead to very good results and since the body needs to be confused from time to time, it is now that there will be some change.
For June and July, I am going to go with heavier workouts, though the reps will not be forced to drop much. Research is starting to show that decline chest exercises are more effective and stimulating the pectoral muscles. All the standing cable flyes will be replaced, as with the flat press. I’ve also knocked out some of the supersets and lowered the overall number of exercises. I want more bang for my time. The resulting chest, back and ab workout will now look like this:
Declined flyes 3×10
Declined dumbbell bench press 3×10
Flat flyes 3×10
Wide-grip bench dips 3×10
Smith machine flat bench (negative) 1×9
Undergrip pulldowns 3×10
Upright barbell rows 3×12
Dumbbell shrugs 3×12
Knee Ups 4×12
The idea is to do this workout at least through June and then perhaps tweak it a bit for July. This is done once a week, usually on Monday, with a followup workout on Fridays that is more TORQ oriented. The latter workout will remain from the Iron Man articles and will be adjusted once the July issue of the magazine has arrived.
Changes for the leg work are still being finalized and will be posted as soon as they are ready.