goals checkin

Despite a rough finish to cycle 5, I wanted to check in on my goals. The 3×3 week of this cycle was really good, despite the issues at the end. Here’s how much progress I’ve had so far:

Lift Cycle 1 Cycle 5 Difference
Back Squat 283.61 302.11 18.50
Bench Press 179.97 208.96 28.99
Deadlift 326.77 370.41 43.64
Military Press 145.81 163.31 17.50

The squat is moving slowly but surely, as is the military press. The bench and the deadlift are really moving nicely. In my head, I have a 4 plate deadlift and a 2 plate bench press as milestones that I’d like to reach by the end of the year so I am glad that I am mostly on target there.

I have also been tracking how I compare to various milestones in terms of strength standards, that you can read about here. The milestones I am referring to are (in pounds):

Milestone Squat Bench Deadlift Press
Novice 301.908 202.769 323.328 128.758
Needs-some-work 362.289 243.323 387.994 154.510
Not-to-Shabby 422.671 283.876 452.660 180.262
Solid 483.052 324.430 517.325 206.013
Formidable 543.434 364.984 581.989 231.765
Outstanding 603.815 405.538 646.657 257.516
Ridiculous 664.197 446.092 711.322 283.268

Now, these are my lifts at my maximum muscular potential, which I am not really close to just yet. My current lifts are categorized as follows:

  • Squat. Needs some work. 60.17 pounds from next milestone
  • Bench Press. Needs some work. 34.36 pounds from next milestone
  • Deadlift. Needs some work. 17.54 pounds from next milestone
  • Military Press. Not-too-shabby. 16.95 pounds from next milestone

Lean Body Mass

Given the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ll wait to check in on this until the end of the next cycle since I fell off the wagon pretty hard ūüôā

Upcoming Work

This week, I am going through a deload/reload week. At the end of cycle 5, I started experiencing a lot of pain and discomfort in pretty much all my joints, so I needed to back off a bit. I think volume was just too high. To adjust for this, I am going to reduce my number of workouts to 4.

I am also going to focus on hypertrophy for a few phases. Basically, I am going to use the hypertrophy blocks from the Juggernaut Method before jumping back in to 5/3/1. Two months of hypertrophy work will hopefully set me up for bigger lifts when I jump back into strength work.

The first cycle will be a 10 rep wave. The second will be an 8 rep wave. To get an idea of loading, here’s how my squat will look:





You may have noticed that I didn’t log my deadlift workout as planned yesterday. Well, the neck/shoulder pain I noted in my last bench workout felt much worse yesterday. Given that, I thought it better to rest it and do some shoulder mobility and recovery work in lieu of a workout.

This has made me think on how my workout schedule is structured. While I think the close grip bench press is really helping my pressing, I think the extra day is hard to keep up with in terms of my schedule (making it to the gym 5 days per week) and, more importantly, is starting to hurt my joints.

While I am a huge fan of training frequency, its just not practical at this time. When my wife and I buy a house and I can invest in a home gym, I’ll definitely switch to a high frequency program, but for now I am going to back off to 4 days per week. Because I feel like the close grip bench is working so well, I am going to include it on one of my pressing days.

I also feel like I need to balance my pressing and pulling a little better, so I am going to try to include pulling movements on each of my upper body days.

I’m going to adjust to the following schedule:

  • Monday. Bench
  • Tuesday. Deadlift
  • Thursday. Military Press
  • Saturday. Squat

This gives me a little more flexibility, so if something comes up, it doesn’t fuck up a week’s worth of training.

goals checkin 11042016

Even though I have a close grip bench session planned for tonight, I have completed my “big lift” sessions for my fourth cycle of 5/3/1. Here’s how I compare to my starting weights:

Lift Start of First Cycle (pounds) End of 4th Cycle Difference
Squat 272.280 297.458 25.178
Bench 170.960 202.624 31.664
Deadlift 308.28 363.7645 55.485
Press 139.98 159.4855 19.506

Somewhat slow progress on the press and the squat. The press makes sense, since it moves more slowly than any other lift. The squat seems odd, so I might take a look into what’s going on there. The deadlift has made the best jump of all, which is good to see.

I have also been tracking how I compare to various milestones in terms of strength standards, that you can read about here. The milestones I am referring to are (in pounds):

Milestone Squat Bench Deadlift Press
Novice 301.908 202.769 323.328 128.758
Needs-some-work 362.289 243.323 387.994 154.510
Not-to-Shabby 422.671 283.876 452.660 180.262
Solid 483.052 324.430 517.325 206.013
Formidable 543.434 364.984 581.989 231.765
Outstanding 603.815 405.538 646.657 257.516
Ridiculous 664.197 446.092 711.322 283.268

Now, these are my lifts at my maximum muscular potential, which I am not really close to just yet. My current lifts are categorized as follows:

  • Squat. Novice. 4.5 pounds from next milestone.
  • Bench Press. Novice. .145 pounds from next milestone
  • Deadlift. Needs some work. 24.29 pounds from next milestone
  • Military Press. Not too shabby. 20.776 pounds from next milestone


My goal is to reach 176.41 pounds of lean body mass. In July, I was at 125.13. I am now at about 146.239 pounds of lean body mass; a change of 21.1 pounds!

Over the past two weeks, I have actually raised my calories a bit to about 2200 calories and have been a little more lenient on cheating. This is helping me recover and is adding the weight on. I have gained a little fat, but I have been getting good results so far. I think I am realizing that I can just suck up being a little fatter than I would like to be for now and that adding lean mass will make it easier for me to diet down later on.

Regardless, I am 30.17 pounds away from my goal LBM. This is an improvement of about 6 pounds since my last goals check in.

Upcoming Work

I am going to forgo a deload next week and begin cycle 5. I do need to make a few adjustments based on how this current cycle has gone, where I am in my training, etc:

  • I have been doing some assistance movements consistently for about 4 months now and I am feeling a stall coming up soon. I will swap these movements out
  • Jerks, like the high pulls, are rough on my joints. I am going to cut them out. Using explosive lifts burned me in my youth, so there’s no reason to leave them in now
  • Three compound movements per workout is starting to burn me out a bit, so I am going to shift some things around and adjust
  • I want to include more work on the big lifts themselves. That means joker sets and more first last work
    • For the joker sets, I plan on doing two singles at 5% and 10% higher than my final working set for the day
    • For the last first sets, instead of going for a single rep set, I am going to do 3 sets of 5 reps

Here’s an overview of the plan:


  • 5/3/1 Bench Press
    • 2 Joker sets
    • 3 first last sets
  • DB Press, 4 sets
  • DB Flyes, 4 sets
  • Triceps Pushdowns, 3 sets
  • Hammer Curls, 3 sets

Notes: I am going to move the incline work to later in the week, so I can do some bench work on my military day to spread volume out a bit.


  • 5/3/1 Deadlift
    • 2 joker sets
    • 3 first last sets
  • Rack Pull, strength scheme
  • Lat Pulldown, 4 sets
  • DB Row, 3 sets
  • Barbell Shrug, 3 sets

Notes: I feel a stall coming soon on the cable rows, so I will do some dumbbell work instead. I plan on doing these as Kroc rows. That means high reps and heavy as possible. Once I get to 20 reps at a given weight with each arm, I’ll increase the weight.¬†


  • 5/3/1 Military Press
    • 2 joker sets
    • 3 first last sets
  • Incline Bench, strength scheme
  • Machine Lateral Raise, 4 sets
  • Rear Delt Flyes, 4 sets
  • Preacher Curls, 4 sets

Notes: swapping out the BTN presses for the incline bench, so I can spread the volume across the week.¬†Otherwise, bumping the volume on the rear delt flyes by 1 set and we’re good to go.


  • 5/3/1 High Bar Squat
    • 2 joker sets
    • 3 first last sets
  • Front Squats, strength scheme
  • Leg curl, 4 sets
  • Leg extension, 4 sets
  • Calf Raise, 3 sets
  • Hanging Leg Raises, 3 sets

Notes: dropping the leg press for a cycle and seeing if that helps my squat at all. I almost wonder if the leg press is working against my ability to recover and isn’t transferring to my squat. I will add some ab work in to balance out the lower back work I am getting as well.¬†


  • 5/3/1 Close Grip Bench Press
    • 2 joker sets
    • 3 first last sets
  • Seated Press, Strength Scheme
  • Pec Deck Flye, 4 sets
  • Tricep Extension,¬†3 sets
  • Barbell Curl, 3 sets

Notes: I am doing seated press here so I can up the overhead frequency. I dropped the dips as well. I think I was just doing too much pressing and it is starting to pull my shoulders forward. Otherwise, everything is the same here.


I am going to add an ab workout at home on Saturdays. I will do things like planks, twists, side bends, etc. This is to balance out the fact that I am doing a ton of lower back work, so I think this might benefit my back squat a lot.

goals check in 10082016

After completing my final working session for this cycle of 5/3/1, I wanted to check in on my goals and reflect on the progress made since my first 5/3/1 session.


Lift Start of First Cycle (pounds) End of Third Cycle (pounds) Difference
Squat 272.28 283.30 11.02
Bench 170.96 197.97 27.01
Deadlift 308.28 338.29 30.01
Press 139.98 153.99 14.01

Slow, but steady progress for roughly 2 months of training. I have generally always sucked at benching, so I’m surprised that my bench has been doing relatively well.

I have also written about my short term goal of getting to the data driven strength standards for my maximum muscle potential, that you can find here. My short term goal is to get to the “needs some work” category. Here’s where I am at:

Lift Distance from Milestone (pounds)
Squat 79.0
Bench 45.4
Deadlift 49.7
Press 0.5

I’m getting there. I think at the end of my next cycle, I might retest my lifts to see if I can make a larger jump.

Lean Body Mass

Although I have been sick this week, I have still done a very solid job in terms of putting muscle mass on since starting 5/3/1.

Taking an average of my last two LBM measurements, I have put on about 15.15 pounds of lean body mass. Not bad for two months of work! Thank God for muscle memory.

I am currently at 140.28 pounds of LBM or 36.13 pounds remaining from the goal of 176.41 pounds.

Upcoming Deload

My plan for this deload is to do a complete deload. My planned lifts are:


  • 5×115#
  • 5×145#
  • 5×170#


  • 5×140#
  • 5×170#
  • 5×205#

Military Press

  • 5×65#
  • 5×80#
  • 5×95#

Bench Press

  • 5×80#
  • 5×100#
  • 5×120#

I will drop my assistance lifts down to about 80% but keep the reps/sets the same.

Upcoming Cycle

In the upcoming cycle, I want to keep my lifts the same and keep progressing on them. I am going to make a few, minor adjustments:

  • I am going to add a “first last set” to each 5/3/1 lift. Basically, that means hitting the AMRAP set, then dropping down to the first work set’s weight and doing a second AMRAP set. This will give me more work on the big lifts without
  • Front squats and incline benches are going to move to a 5×5 approach with Wendler’s strength phase loading scheme, but I am adding two additional sets at the max weight
  • The high pull is doing something bad to my shoulders, so I am going to remove that lift. I¬†am going to replace the movement with rack pulls, which will follow a 5×5 approach as the incline bench and front squat will
  • I am going to replace skull crushers with tricep extensions on a machine. The skull crushers are bothering my elbows, so I want to be proactive and cut them out. I might have to play around until I find a movement that feels good, so we’ll see how that goes
  • For my assistance work, I have been focusing on mastering a given weight before moving up. In the past, if I got 10 reps but had to cheat on the last two or simply struggle through them. Right now, I’m keeping the loading and workload the same until I feel like I have dominated that weight, then adding reps or weight. So far, its feeling better because I am not approaching failure as often.

I am also going to make a bigger adjustment; I’m going to add a 5th workout to the week to get more volume into my upper body, so I am going to train Monday through Friday and I am going to add a close grip bench press day on Friday. To make this fit:

  • Schedule goes to:
    • Monday: Military Press
    • Tuesday: Deadlift
    • Wednesday: Bench Press
    • Thursday: Squat
    • Friday: Close Grip Bench Press
    • Saturday and Sunday: Off
  • Some of the assistance work is going to move from my Military Press and Bench Press days, so those workouts will be a little less volume, but this means more volume to the week overall
  • I am going to add additional reps to the jerk. Depending on feel, I will go as low as 4 singles or as high as 8 singles. This will get me more out of this lift
  • On my first day back after the deload, I am going to go for a max single at an RPE of 9 to create a loading lift for Friday’s workout. I’ll take 90% of whatever I get on this lift. This will replace the jerks for that press workout, but I will resume jerking the following week


goals check in 09262016

It’s time to check back in on my goals, make some adjustments, add some new ones, etc.


Greg Nuckols, who runs the amazing site Strength Theory, has two articles on maximum muscular potential. You can find part one here and part two here. They are an excellent read. Most importantly, they are backed up by research.

While I have always been opposed to setting limits on myself in terms of physical performance, the values these calculators set for me are really ambitious.

Additionally, the articles are helpful for the drug free athlete. Nothing against folks who use steroids, but as a natural lifter, it can be hard to know what is possible when you can’t necessarily tell who is using an who isn’t.

I ran my measurements through the calculators. My “max muscle” according to this is 176.41# of lean body mass, which puts me at 200.47# walking around at 12% body fat.

It also gives me some goals in terms of lifts, using objective standards (or as objective as possible). Using my max muscle calculation to determine my own goals for strength, these are:

strength standards.jpg

Because Nuckols is calculcating his standards from powerlifting results, the Overhead Press is missing. As such, I used the calculation from Rippetoe’s Practical Programming for Strength Training to derive an expectation from Nuckols’ bench press standards.

New Goals

Because I like objective, scientifically based things, I am going to use the above as targets to work towards. Rather than calculating my strength as how it stacks up against my current muscular development, I am going to calculate it based off an idea of what my potential is. That way, the path forward is pretty clear cut; gain muscle mass to improve my strength.

Thus, here are some goals for me to work on.

  • Hit the “needs some work”¬†lift for each of the big four:
    • 362 squat
    • 243 bench
    • 388 deadlift
    • 155 press
  • The long term goal is 200 pounds at 12% bodyfat. In the short term:
    • Continue gaining LBM while losing fat as my “newbie gains” continue
    • Assess when that stops working, but in all likelihood, I will need to cut
    • At this point, I’m just over 200 pounds but at ~33% body fat, so the fat will need to come off
  • I would also like to compete as something fun to do. Once I hit the “needs some work” lifts, I’ll look at competing in a powerlifting meet and a novice strongman meet competition

Moving forward, the metrics I will report in my goals check in posts are:

  • Distance from the “needs some work” lift for each of the big four until I hit each target
  • Distance from the LBM target of 176.41#. When I start focusing on bodyfat, I’ll worry about distance from my target bodyfat percentage


upcoming assistance work

Since I am returning to the gym, I have been thinking a bit about how I am structuring my assistance work. I think I was overreaching on my assistance work and it was slowing down my main lifts.

Overall, my goal will be to moderate my assistance work in terms of intensity (i.e. percentage of my max used) while increasing volume a bit. I want to focus on doing the movements and not getting greedy on weights and I don’t want to push to failure.

This week, I had a lot of fun doing some new lifts and I wanted to incorporate those into training. I will structure each workout as:

  • 5/3/1 loaded big lift
  • 1 compound movement focusing on explosiveness or working the main lift in a different ROM
  • 1 compound movement focusing on higher reps
  • 3-4 movements to focus on assisting the big lift

Here’s the general plan:

Military Press Day:

  • Military Press, 5/3/1 loading
  • Jerk or Push Press, 3 sets (singles, doubles or triples)
  • Press Variation (BTN press, barbell press, seated press, DB press), 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
  • Medial delt (upright row, lateral raise, etc), 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
  • Rear delt (rear delt flye, face pulls, etc), 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
  • 1 Preacher Curl variation, 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
  • 1 free Curl variation, 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps

Deadlift Day:

  • Deadlift, 5/3/1 loading
  • Olympic Pull variation (high pull, cleans, etc), 3 sets (singles, doubles or triples)
  • Deadlift variation (snatch grip deadlifts, rack pulls, deficits, etc), 3 sets (singles, doubles or triples)
  • Vertical Pull, 4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Horizontal Pull, 4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Shrugs, 4 sets of 8-12 reps

Bench Press Day:

  • Bench Press, 5/3/1 loading
  • Incline Bench Press variation, 5×5
  • Bench Press variation, 4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 2 Direct chest movements, 4 sets of 8-12 reps on each
  • 2 Direct triceps movements, 4 sets of 8-12 reps on each

Back Squat Day:

  • Back Squat, 5/3/1 loading
  • Squat variation (pause squats, front squats, zerchers), 3 sets (singles, doubles or triples)
  • Leg Press, 4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Leg Curl, 4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Leg Extensions, 4 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Calf Raises, 4 sets of 8-12 reps


goals check in 08242016


Since my original, June 24th weigh in, I am:

  • I have gained 3¬†pounds
  • I have lost 7.8¬†pounds of bodyfat
  • I have gained 10.8¬†pounds of lean body mass

I am still gaining lean body mass pretty regularly without really forcing any food down. I am still trying to avoid dieting down for now and focus on my strength gains for another 531 cycle. After that, I will diet down to get a bit leaner. Right now, I am eating about 2,200 calories with the occasional cheat meal (like out to dinner, at the ballpark, etc), so there’s room to add activity or reduce calories.


My lifts are currently here:

Lift Current Lift Goal Pounds Remaining
Back Squat 284.16 300 15.84
Deadlift 326.15 400 73.85
Bench Press 180.83 225 44.17
Military Press 155.00 185 30.01

After a dip at the start of the 531 cycle, my lifts have all rebounded to where they were. More weight will go on the bar for the next cycle.