military press wod 11092016

Military Press (5/3/1)

  • 5×45#
  • 5×65#
  • 5×75#
  • 3×90#
  • 5×105#
  • 5×125#
  • 6×135#
  • 5×105#x3

Incline Bench

  • 5×45#
  • 5×65#
  • 5×85#
  • 5×95#
  • 5×110#x3

Machine Lateral Raises

  • 8×35#
  • 12×65#x4

Machine Rear Delt Flyes

  • 8×40#
  • 8×85#x4

Machine Preacher Curls

  • 8×50#
  • 8×80#x4


I PR’d the Military Press, but the last rep was such a grinder that I didn’t want to go for any joker sets. I felt fairly tired throughout the entire workout; with the election, I stayed up until 3am, so I think that contributed to the weak press. I also think doing overhead work on Monday wasn’t smart, so after this week, I will do this on Close Grip day. For the assistance work, I felt pretty decent. The last few reps of the last set of the lateral raises were tough, but otherwise it was good. I bumped the weight up a lot on the rear delt flyes and they felt pretty good. I will try to add reps next week. I added weight to the preachers and they felt good too, so adding reps there as well.


a collection of mobility links

If you are like me, mobility is a tough thing. So, again, if you’re like me, you spend some time looking online at resources on mobility. You type “yoga for powerlifters” or some such nonsense only to find things like this:


Which, quite frankly, you can’t do. If you could do this, you probably wouldn’t have mobility issues to begin with.

You also find lots of movements that require you to hook a band up to a squat rack or getting into crazy positions on a foam roller. If you don’t have either of those things, this is annoying. I would much rather do things with just my bodyweight, start out easy, and progress to move difficult movements.

After spending some time finding things that are easy for me to do and are really helping, I thought I would put them all here so I can refer back to them (or so you can make use of them).

Yoga for Big Bastards. Link.

This is a helpful T-Nation article that has some yoga stretches that have been helping my lower back and my squat mobility.

Mobility for the Big Three. Link.

From Juggernaut Training Systems, this has some simple movements to help improve mobility on the big three. The squat movements are especially helpful.

Yoga for Powerlifting. Link.

This website hasn’t been updated in 3 years or so, so I assume it has gone defunct. In case the article goes missing, the yoga poses it recommends are:

  • Lizard
  • Pigeon
  • Cat
  • Cow
  • Cobra
  • Upward facing dog/Downward facing dog
  • Garland
  • Warrior I, II, and III
  • Half Moon

Mobility 101 from All Things Gym. Link

There are a lot of articles here, though many fall into the “you need to have bands, lacrosse balls, and foam rollers” trap.

How to Squat with TERRIBLE mobility. 

Alan Thrall’s videos are all really good:

As I find new resources that are helpful, I’ll update this post. If you have any suggestions, please comment below.

An Old Man Looks at 19

I mentioned in a recent post that I have managed to gain about 15 pounds of lean body mass since I started lifting in July. This is a pretty big jump, and while this has a lot to do with the combination of newbie gains and the fact that re-building muscle is easier than building it in the first place, I would like to think that my approach is wildly different from what it was back then.

A bit of background:

  • When I was 24, I had been lifting since I was 20 years old. In that time, I went from being 112 pounds to 210 pounds. I was about 12-14% bodyfat at the end (visible, but not defined abs). Compared to what I am now, I was pretty big and strong (I had a 500 pound deadlift, 450 squat, close to a 300 bench, 200 pound overhead press, and I think I pulled 650 on a trap bar deadlift). Some nagging injuries, feeling burnt out, and some major life changes really resulted in me stepping away from lifting (something I really regret)
  • In my first year, I had no idea what I was doing. I did a ton of lifting but it had no rhyme or reason to it and I was severely overtrained. I went from 112 pounds to 119 pounds, though
  • In my second year, I picked up Starting Strength, drank a gallon of milk a day, and got under the bar. I went from 119 to 135. Still a small dude, but I was off in the right direction
  • At 29, being unhappy with my appearance, I decided to get back into the gym, determined not to suck so much

The point of this is that in 3 months as a 29 year old, I put on as much muscle mass as I did in 1 year as a 21-22 year old.

The point of this post is to reflect on what I am doing now versus what I was doing then in order to reflect on what’s working.

Following the 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 rule is that 20% of the work is responsible for 80% of the results. In lifting, the three things that matter are lifting progressively heavier weights, eating well, and getting enough sleep.

There isn’t a whole lot of difference between the results from minutiae. As a younger lifter, I cared a lot about things like dumbbell rows versus barbell rows, or what supplements I was taking and the difference between creatine monohydrate and creatine ethyl ester. I cared a lot about 5 reps versus 8 reps, how much time I rested between sets, and the tempo I was lifting at.

Honestly, none of that stuff matters. Maybe it does, but not enough to spend a lot of time worrying about it.

Right now, I am spending more energy on trying to get enough sleep than I am about worrying about getting a contrast shower in. I am making sure that my diet is nailed down and that I am putting the most effort into my training sessions.

Getting My Diet Right

In 2009, I struggled to add weight. To gain any weight, I was eating upwards of 3,000 calories per day. At my most, I was eating 4,500 calories to maintain.

I got a lot right back then. I ate a lot of meat, eggs, and milk. But on Saturdays, when I would do 3 hours of strongman events, I would eat a loaded pizza and drink some beers with it when I was done.

Outside getting a pre-workout meal and a post-workout meal, I had no sense of nutrient timing, so I might eat a 1,000-calorie meal and then not eat for 5 or 6 hours and I might go to bed hungry and then not eat for an hour after I woke up. I didn’t eat vegetables because they took up stomach space but didn’t add calories.

I also didn’t keep track of what I was eating and when. As such, when I was trying to adjust, I was going off feel and I had no data to support what I was doing.

Fast forward to today. I picked up the Renaissance Diet, which essentially is a classic bodybuilding diet. I dialed in my macronutrients because I have been tracking everything very closely:

  • I started at 2,100 calories per day with 200g protein, 100g carbs, and the rest as fats regardless of training day or not
  • From there, I dropped the carbs on non-training days almost completely out and increased carbs on training days slightly
  • The result is my weight is going the way that I want it to go, I’m adding strength, and I have good energy

I am also focused on eating good foods. That means I am not counting on supplements to give me any nutrition that I am lacking elsewhere (more on that later). I am essentially following a paleo approach that mixes in some dairy and grains (again, more on that in a later blog). While I’m not worried about the occasional cheating, I am not making it a regular habit to eat a post-workout pizza.

I’ve also been sure to eat vegetables on the regular. I didn’t know that cruciferous vegetables limit estrogen when I was younger, for example, or that fiber supports good gut health. Speaking of gut health, I have also been eating fermented foods to support my gut health and ensure I am absorbing all the protein I’m putting into my body and I feel like it is helping.

So far, so good.

Supplements are Supplementary

This is a big one. I wish I could go back in time and get my money back for all of the Biotest Anaconda I took back then.

As a youngster, I felt I needed to take supplements to maximize my performance. I used to take:

  • Various “natural” (read: bogus) testosterone boosting supplements like tribulus
  • Creatine
  • Mass gainers (i.e. protein powder with dextrose powder)
  • ZMA
  • Fish Oil
  • Beta alanine
  • Pre- and intra- workout supplements
  • An ECA stack (even when bulking… to keep the bulk lean!)
  • Cissus and glucosamine
  • Glutamine and other BCAAs

Right now, I take:

  • Creatine
  • Fish oil
  • Vitamin D
  • Probiotics

During workouts, I drink Gatorade. The supplements I take now have more to do with overall health than performance. For joints, I just do some mobility work and pre-hab work, smart exercise selection and listening to my body.

Aside from the dollars wasted on supplements, if I had spent less time staying up until 2AM researching supplements and more time sleeping (see the 80/20 rule from above), I would have been better off.

Building, Not Testing

A normal workout back then might consist of:

  • Maxing out of a bench press for a single, double or triple
  • A few super maximal lifts, i.e. bench press lockouts of a weight much higher than my 1RM
  • Doing few sets of high rep bench press, to failure
  • Doing some assistance exercises, up to a top set to failure

By always testing, after a certain point, I wasn’t building. I missed the concept that getting more time under the bar is very important. By this, I mean:

  • Lifter A works up to a 405-pound single
  • Lifter B works up to 3 triples at 385 pounds
  • Lifter B is working with a submaximal weight, but because they are lifting 385 pounds 9 times, moving a total of 3465 pounds, versus lifter A, who moved 405 pounds. Lifter B is going to progress more

I am trying to harp on this principle more and more in my training. In my upcoming cycle, I am adding more volume to my big lifts and my compound assistance movements.

Likewise, with my assistance work, I used to go to failure. Let’s say I was doing curls for 8 reps. Reps 1-5 would be strict and 6-8 were usually cheated. Right now, I’m focused on mastering a given weight. By mastering it, I mean executing the lift so that reps 1-8 are all good. And, using the principle above, doing it for 3-4 sets instead of just one top set at a heavier weight.

Rep Ranges

As a younger lifter, I felt that rep ranges were very important. My big lift for the day would never be more than 5 reps unless it was a hypertrophy day. My assistance lifts were always between 8 and 12 reps. The only thing I ever did for more than 12 reps were high rep squats, ala 20 rep squat style.

As this really good article from Greg Nuckols points out, hypertrophy and strength gains happen on a spectrum that looks like this:


As such, in my current rep ranges I am doing a lot of different rep ranges. While it might not be apparent through my day to day training:

  • I follow the 5/3/1 lift, which is ending up between 3 and 8 reps for the most part
  • My assistance lifts are starting at 8 reps, then I progress up to 12 or 15 reps (depending on the lift) before adding weight and resetting down to a lower rep range
  • I am doing singles and triples for lifts like the jerk and the snatch grip deadlift
  • I am doing 5 reps for movements like the incline bench, rack pull and front squat

Compound Movements and Isolation Movements

When I first started seriously lifting, I was basically a diehard compound movement guy. I stuck to the big compound movements and didn’t do much isolation. That was until my elbows started bothering me and I realized my triceps were getting strong but my biceps weren’t, so I started adding isolation in to address these issues.

After switching from a 5×5 type program to a West Side style program, I almost went in the opposite direction. After I maxed on my big lift, I might do something like a row or chin up as a second compound movement, but then I would do isolation work almost exclusively.

Well, now I think I’ve found the happy mix. Right now, I am doing a 5/3/1 loaded big, compound lift. Then I follow that with some strength work on a compound lift. I do a third compound movement for higher reps, then I do 3-4 isolation movements to bring up the areas I worked in my big lift. For example, on bench press day, I do a flat bench press with a 5/3/1 loading. I move onto the incline bench and do 5×5 for some strength work and then I do 4 sets of dumbbell bench presses, before doing two movements for my chest and two movements for my triceps.

Worrying About Myself and Only Myself

As a younger lifter, I spent way too much mental effort on what others were doing and comparing myself to others.

This is a double edged sword. If you are competing against someone who deadlifts 500 pounds, it might push you harder to catch up to them. At the same time, it can get you to do the wrong things to get there, whether it is cheating on lifts to move more weight or trying to force the gains to come faster than they want to.

For example, a big part of why I “tested, not built” was impatience. I wanted to out-deadlift everybody I knew. Once I did that, I wanted to out-deadlift everyone on the message board I posted on. Because of that, I was working up to a max single on every deadlift day to try to set a new PR to beat more people.

Now, as I am older, I am more patient. Largely, I don’t have huge ambitions in strength sports anymore, so there’s no end game. But also, I have my goals and I am going to chip away as best as I can and get there as soon as my body lets me. I don’t really need to out bench the YOLO Bros at the gym to feel satisfied.

Thanks for reading!

wod 09032016

Military Press (5/3/1)

  • 8×45#
  • 5×55#
  • 5×70#
  • 3×85#
  • 5×100#
  • 3×115#
  • 4×130#

Seated Military Press

  • 8×45#
  • 6×65#
  • 8×85#x4

Machine Lateral Raise

  • 10×50#
  • 8×70#x4

Hammer Curl

  • 8×25#
  • 10×40#x4

Straight Barbell Preacher Curl

  • 10×25#
  • 8×45#
  • 6×65#


Not great but tolerable. On the Military, I accidentally did 5 reps on the first working set instead of 3. I hit 4 reps on the AMRAP set, but maybe I could have gotten another one if I went for it. As it was, rep 4 was a grind. Seated Military moved nicely. Lateral Raises did too. Hammer curls felt rough on my forearms moreso than my biceps. The straight preacher curls are a new movement (I’ve been using an EZ Curl bar). I am thinking of getting rid of one of the bicep movements and adding more shoulder work.

a note on programming

I mentioned in a recent training log entry that I picked up Beyond 5 3 1. I loved running 5/3/1 before taking an extended break from lifting and had read 531 for Powerlifting and 531 for Football. 5 3 1 is a simple way to periodize your training and is flexible enough to give you a chance to do all the things you love to do and set your training up how you want to.

Beyond 5 3 1 reads like a man who is tired of answering common sense questions by email all the time. If you haven’t read it, I would do so. You can find it on Amazon, here.

I am not going to review the program or even review the book. This post is merely to document some things that I am planning on incorporating into my training from this book.

Here goes.

Joker Sets

First, the book covers something Wendler calls “Joker Sets.” The concept is simple; there are days when you just feel like a monster and you can smash your weights. The idea goes that once you’ve set a PR for your 531 lift, you can add some heavy sets afterwards until you think you’ve done all you can do.

Part of the appeal of this is my love of singles. My favorite part of Chaos and Pain is that you do a ridiculous amount of singles every day you lift. I see the concept as a way to include some extra movements in my workout without going crazy. Here’s some ideas for how I will use Joker sets if I want to:

  • Military Press. Military Press, Push Press, Jerk, BTN Push Press, and BTN Jerk.
  • Deadlift. Deadlift, Rack Pulls, Low Pull, High Pull, Power Clean, Muscle Snatch, and Hang Snatch.
  • Bench Press. Bench Press and Board Press
  • Squat. Back squat, front squat, walkouts/lockouts, and zercher squats

Particularly, I want to do this on Military Press days and Deadlift days if I am feeling good. I am thinking that this is a good way to overload my overhead work with jerk like movements and to help build a little explosiveness while doing some snatch drills.

Deload Options

One of the major improvements to the 531 program from Beyond 531 is a new take on deloading. While I like the concept of deloading, I don’t think it needs to be done as often as some programs build it in, especially when you are a novice lifter.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of a deload, it is essentially that you build fatigue and stress cumulatively through several weeks of hard work, then you take an easy week to recover, and then drop back into training.

The first piece I will be taking from 531 is the 6 week cycle for my upcoming training cycle. That means:

  • Week 1. 3×5
  • Week 2. 3×3
  • Week 3. 5x3x1
  • Week 4. 3×5
  • Week 5. 3×3
  • Week 6. 5x3x1
  • Week 7. Deload

Additionally, the book gives several options for loading during your deload weeks. The traditional approach is three sets of 5 reps at 40%, 50% and 60% of your training max. Beyond 531 gives you 5 options:

  • The traditional approach listed above for when you really need a deload
  • A slightly heavier version of the above for when you need a deload, but aren’t THAT in need of one
  • A heavier version using 3 triples for when you think you can and need to keep slightly heavier weights on the bar to hold onto your gains
  • Two lighter but higher rep versions to incorporate more volume into your training to help you recover

You’ll notice I am doing the 3×3 option for deloading right now and its feeling good.


Mobility training is downright confusing to me, so I appreciate that Wendler covers it in his book. Even though he says:

If I had to give myself an honest rating on where I fall on the “Are you a mobility expert?” scale, I would say I fall somewhere between Shitty and Awful.

That said, he at least puts out a few mobility workouts in straightforward language. I plan on using some of this moving forward. I think incorporating this kind of work will help me further on down the line.

531 Excel Log

If you’re reading this blog, then you know that I have been going through my first cycle of 531. While there are already some spreadsheets out there for this, I wanted to make my own. My spreadsheet has a few things that work better for me:

  • In the interest of progressing as fast as I can (I am still in the beginner stages of my lifting career), I wanted to use the Juggernaut method for bumping weight up. As such, the spreadsheet will take an average of how much I beat my target in a cycle and I can move up as I can. e.g. If on the deadlift, my goals are 200, 210, and 220 but I hit 215, 225, and 235, I beat my goal by an average of 15 pounds and so I can move up 15 pounds on my next cycle
  • The spreadsheets out there only calculate your current cycle. I want to include features to include a log, so I can see how I am doing cumulatively

You can find this spreadsheet here.

Now, you can’t use this spreadsheet to substitute for the actual program. I would read the book so you know what Wendler’s deal is. You can find his books here.

Here’s a quick walkthrough of the spreadsheet.

Cycle 1 Tab

This tab calculates loading for each of the Big 4 during the cycle. To start, enter your lifts in the table at the top:

531 spreadsheet 1

“Starting Lift” is where you should put your actual lift. The “Training Lift” will calculate based on that by taking 90% of it. The “# to Increase for Next Cycle” fills in when you complete the 5/3/1 week.

This will calculate out your loadings for the entire cycle and these fill in the tables below. For example:

531 spreadsheet 2.png

You’ll notice two sections to each table. “Planned” is the lifts as calculated by the spreadsheet. “Actual” is what you have actually accomplished. The “Planned 1RM” calculates the 1RM planned for the workout and the “Actual 1RM” takes the estimated 1RM from your actual lift. For example, here, 5 reps at 214 pounds is an estimated 249.86#. Because I actually lifted 215 pounds for 8 reps, my estimated 1RM from what I did is 272.28, which is a difference of 22.41 pounds.

Log Tab

If you’d like to keep a running log of your lifts, you can do so in this tab. This will feed into Pivot tables in the next tab. Enter a new row for each lift you perform, like so:

531 spreadsheet 3

This will calculate your estimated 1RM for each lift you perform as well as how much volume you did. This is helpful to stay on top of progression for your assistance lifts.

Data Validation Tab

This tab simply stores your list of lifts that feed into the Log table.If you want to add a lift, just add it here by inserting it into the spreadsheet.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment and I’m happy to help. Happy lifting.

programming update 08102016

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I have been following Chaos and Pain’s approach to training, which is heavy lifts (several sets of singles, doubles, and triples beyond 85% of your 1RM) 3 times a week. Generally, this has been working well because I’m adding weight to the bar each day. However, I’m starting to run into problems:

  • My workouts are starting to take a lot longer now that I am moving more weight. Between time loading bars, more warm up sets, needing a little more rest between sets so I can execute the lift, etc, my workouts are starting to take a long time
  • I am feeling some imbalances show up already. I am feeling my shoulders starting to roll forward. One of the problems with 1 squat, 1 press, 1 pull is that you have to pick between a thickness (dead and variations), vertical (lat PD and pullups) and a row, so given that I am a beginner I don’t think this is addressing my back well
  • Even though I am grinding each big lift to where I can’t lift much more, I feel like I have room in the tank for assistance work
  • I want to start working in a bit of hypertrophy work and work in higher rep ranges

So, I am going to run 5/3/1, which has worked well for me in the past. Since I am still a beginner, I will be a bit more aggressive with how frequently I train and how much I jump between cycles. The plan for now is:

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5
Press, 5/3/1 Deadlift, 5/3/1 Bench Press, 5/3/1 Back Squat, 5/3/1 Off
Press Variation, 5×10 Vertical Pull, 5×10 Incline Press Variation, 5×10 Front Squat, 5×10 Off
Shoulder Pull Variation, 3×12 Horizontal Pull, 5×10 Curls, 3×12 Leg Press, 5×10 Off
Tricep Isolation, 3×12 Straight Leg work, 3×8 Grip Abs Off

This will start today with my press workout.