Thursday, March 24, 2011

Workout Session #5 In The Books

Last night was workout #5 in my Strong Lifts 5x5 program. 65 lb squats, 55 lb bench presses, and 75 lbs barbell rows.

Since the weights are a bit heavier (relatively speaking), I started implementing warm-up sets.

For instance, for my squats I did 2x5s with the bare bar. Then I did 1x5 of 55 lbs. Then went into my 5x5s of 65lb. I will keep those warm-up weights for the next couple of weeks.

A concern has started to creep in. As I was doing the 65 lb squats, I started to wonder if I will be ready for heavier weights (100+ lb) when I get to that point. The 65 lb squats, while not extremely difficult, were more laborious than the previous weights. Maybe I am doubting the system, which is to gradually build strength, but we will see.

Today I am not really sore or tight. I think I am past the worst of that. I have a little bit of hip soreness, but I think that is from upping the reps with the warm-ups, not so much the weight. I think as I get used to the warm-up reps then I will be fine.

On the nutrition front I punched what I ate yesterday into 3300 calories! 180 grams of protein! Let's see if I can keep that up. To build muscle you need fuel. It was hard eating that much, admittedly, but with brown rice it is easy to pack in the calories.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Start Of Week 2

So I started week 2. Day #4. 5x5 of 60 lb squats and 50 lb. overhead presses, and 1x5 of 100 lb deadlifts.

The squats are getting more difficult, but I am over the soreness and tightness now. I am starting to see good definition in my thighs. Calves seem a little more defined. I messed up and didn't take starting measurements so I will have to continue to do a visual, subjective assessment.

Overhead presses were no problem. As were the 1 set of 5 100lb deadlifts. I feel a little soreness in my chest today, but I am loving the early results (again subjective). While the mass isn't what I want yet (obviously), I am really pleased with the definition that is already showing. I admit to being a bit skeptical at achieving any results with such low reps and low number of workouts.

I did the free assessment that came with my gym membership. I have a printout out of results. While I did average on some of the assessments, overall I did poorly. I will have it done again in a few months after doing SL 5x5 and see if the numbers improve.

I can't wait until Wednesday's workout!

Friday, March 18, 2011

I Am So Excited

And I just can't hide it. I'm about to lose control and I think I like it!

Years ago I used to go to the gym. I'd run 2 miles, then I would do workouts on various machines. I hated it. I would dread going. Everything about it was boredom and drudgery. I'd spend 1 1/2-2 hours and never felt like I was getting any bigger or stronger.

I let that membership lapse and never really regretted it.

Then I stumbled across Mehdi's site and the clouds parted. The sun started shining, and a rainbow formed. Okay, I exaggerate, but I could tell from the get-go that this was finally a weight training program I could do.

So I am into workout number 3. 55 lb squats. 50 lb bench presses. 70 lb barbell rows. I cannot wait. Never have I looked so forward to working out before. I can't wait to get to the gym. The only reason I looked forward to it years ago was because there was a Hawaiian Tropic model that would walk the track as I ran it. (Hey, I was single back then!)

I will report over the weekend on my progress. Today I have little to no soreness nor tightness. I thank Mehdi again for the great advice. On Wednesday, due to my thighs being so sore, I considered skipping. Then I found this post by Mehdi: Soreness: Train Through It or Take a Day Off? I was back on track, and Mehdi was right. Training through it helped in recovery!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Form. Form. Did I Mention Form?

So after two workouts, as I mentioned in the last post, I am worried about my form. Prior to Strong Lifts I had never done squats or dead lifts. In fact, I had rarely ever worked out with barbell free weights. (I had always bought into the line that free weights were dangerous, could cause muscle strains, etc.)

So the more I think about the program (and I do look so forward to my next iteration!) I get concerned about my form. If anyone else is considering the program, and you've never done some or all of these exercises in the program, go to / and check out the Must-Read Guides on left side of the screen.

When I watch these videos I try to take note of the feet position, shape of the back, hands on the bar (placement, grip), things like that. In the gym I try to conjure up those images and see if they match what I am doing. Mehdi over at writes quite extensively on the importance of good form.

Luckily the gym I joined includes one session with a personal trainer. I have already discussed that I want that session to be about form on these 5 exercises. Until then I will continue to study Mehdi's guides and work on my form while the weights are low.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Workout Session 2

So on to the 2nd workout session. 5 sets of 5 with 50 lbs on squats, 45 lbs on overhead presses, and 90 lbs. on dead lifts.

My legs were still very tight and sore from Monday's workout. I force myself to squat the 50 lbs, and the first squat I don't make it quite as low as I should. I try to correct it on the other 4 squats of the first set. I rest about a minute between sets. \

Finished with squats I walk around a bit to try to keep my thighs loose. I then set-up for my overhead presses. Since I am pressing the bare bar (45 lb) I lay my dead lift plates out on the ground to prop the bar up. The overhead presses go fine, though I think I need to work on my form a bit.

I then move on to the dead lifts. Those are just one set of 5. I complete them then head home to drink my protein after workout drink.

Legs and thighs are still tight and sore. I am hoping it starts easing up. Also, the diet is going great.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

First Workout Using Strong Lifts 5x5

Before I get into the workout, let me let you know where I was at prior to starting the program.

A few months ago, after watching my weight balloon up to about 20 lbs higher than where I like it to be, I started dieting. Whenever I diet I always like the way my clothes fit me, but hate the way I look.

I am skinny guy. I embraced the fact that I was skinny as a child. My wrists and ankles are razor thin. I have narrow shoulders. I just don't have a big skeletal structure with which to work. However, I have a great metabolism and even when I think I am heavy most people look at me like I am nuts when I say I need to lose weight.

So I dieted down to my playing weight, roughly 165 lbs. But once again hated how I thin I was. I have also been a weakling. Barely able to lift my body weight. Let me rephrase that. My upper body strength has always been average. But my lower body strength has always been below average. In fact, in the early 90s I worked out with a female coworker for a little while. As is the case with women she couldn't compete when it came to arm, shoulder, and chest exercises. But my weakness really showed itself when we went to the leg press. She buried me. It was embarrassing.

So I started to incorporate weight exercises into my routine, as well as trying to fit in as much cardio as my schedule will allow. Schedule is always an issue. With a young family, full time career, and a household to maintain, more than a few minutes a week is a strain. Cardio just requires too much time (on top of other exercising), is boring, and you see little visual results from it.

I am 6'1" (actually about 1/4" over that), and weigh 167 lbs as I start my trek through the Strong Lifts 5x5 program.

If you don't know what the Strong Lifts 5x5 program is, click here:

So week 1, day 1. I enter Powerhouse Gym and it is slightly before the after work rush. I go to the squat rack where a huge man is squatting 135lbs. Turns out that is his warm-up. After he does a set I remove the weights and do my first set of 5 with the just the bar. I then help him load the bar back up to 165 lbs, and watch him do another set.

It goes back and forth like this until I am finished with my 5 sets of 5 squats. I move on to bench press. All 3 benches are in use. Gym is really filling up now. I can feel the burn in my thighs. (I told you have I very weak legs.)

Finally a bench press comes free and I snag it. Using the 45 lb. Olympic bar I do all 5 of my 5 press sets, resting about a minute between each one. I then go over to an unused bar and load two 10 lbs weights on it for my barbell rows. I repeat the 5 sets of 5 to finish.

Afterward my body was a buzz. Never have I worked the entire body so thoroughly. My legs are beginning to stiffen, but not overly so. Not like when I used to do leg presses. I drive the 5 minutes home and consume a protein powder, quick oats, and skim milk (meant to use whole milk! DOH) drink. I then do some light snacking on hummus, and wait for dinner.

Today (the next day) I have some thigh stiffness. Very little upper body soreness. I feel good and feel I could workout again today. Tomorrow will be day two, with squats, overhead presses, and deadlifts. CAN'T WAIT!

Dinner is a high protein venison (thank goodness for hunting!) casserole, with a pea, carrot, green bean, and corn medley.

A word on diet: after reading Mehdi's report I realized that I was dieting too much in the past to build muscle. From now on I am going to space feedings out every 3 hours, and incorporate at least one high protein source in with each meal. High calorie, complex carbs, and highly nutritious foods are the order of the day. I will blog here about what I do on a typical day moving forward.

I began to ready myself for this workout by starting the new, higher calorie diet, about a week before. It isn't how much you eat, it is what you eat that is important. If you don't hunt, I feel for you. Venison is high in protein. Try to makes friends with a hunter. Buy him a tag for next season and see if he will fill it for you if you also pick up the processing cost.

Also went pheasant hunting over the weekend so I have plenty of high protein meat there.

Deer > Cow
Pheasant > Chicken

What is Strong Lifts 5x5?

First, a huge thank you to Mehdi for all of his work on Strong Lifts 5x5.

In short, Strong Lifts 5x5 is a workout program. You can find out more information here:

I was looking for a workout program that fit my strength level and my schedule. No easy task. I had always done workouts with dumbbells at home, or on machines at the gym. I would incorporate lots of cardio work, as well as natural exercises (IE. crunches, pushups, pullups, etc).

Coupled with a case of severely bad genetics, the results were that while I did get more defined, I always lacked bulk. I just couldn't build muscle. I tried amino acid supplements with my workouts. I tried protein powder supplements. But the problem was I was being counterproductive.

A) I always started out with too much weight.
B) Cardio was counterproductive to the goal of gaining strength and size.
C) My diet was too low on calories, even with the supplements.

So when I decided to start looking for a new way I stumbled across Mehdi site. After reading the preliminaries on his program I signed up for his newsletter and got the free SL5x5 report book. WHAT AN EYE OPENER!

First, it just made sense, everything he said. The reasoning for starting light. The reasoning for concentrating on the 5 exercises in his program. The reasoning for working out every other day at most, and with only the bar at first.

I was sold. I began to look for a gym with three things:

  • Olympic weights
  • Squat rack
  • Affordable fees

I was able to find that in the local Powerhouse Gym near me. Granted there are some monsters in there, and they eye an 167 lb. weakling pretty amusingly. But that won't deter me.

Mehdi sent an email asking if I was going to try. He then sent me a spreadsheet to track my progress through the program. Please see the next blog entry for my first workout results.