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Asparagus Strength Journey

Posted: Mon Jun 06, 2011 7:32 pm
by asparagus
I've been keeping a pretty meticulous log for myself, but I figure it might be useful to post it here and maybe get some feedback on some of my issues.

I started on the Stronglifts strength program back in February, and save for a few weeks I took off due to injury have stuck to it since then. The injury wasn't training related, but lifting with it made it worse so I took the time off.

Rolling the clock back to the end of January, 2011 - I finally signed up to use the gym at the University I work at and started doing random lifts (using the machines and dumbells) and 30 minutes of cardio 3 times a week. At various times during my life I've gone through bouts of lifting and exercise, and have always been someone athletic and in decent shape, so the basic muscle strength started coming back. I felt that I wanted to focus on strength training and did some research on different programs before deciding to try Stronglifts 5x5. I felt as though I didn't need to start off with the empty bar as was recommended, since I had been lifting for a solid month already at that point and had plenty of prior lifting experience.

My Motivation:
I've always been fascinated with human strength, and pursued strength training a bit in my youth. I like the feeling of being able to nonchalantly pick up heavy things and move them myself. My wife and I are expecting our first child near the end of June 2011, and I want to be strong for my family.

First week of lifting 2/21-2/25/2011
Weight ~178 lbs (scale I was using wasn't very accurate, consistently had me about 5 lbs heavy)
Starting lifts
Squat: 95lbs 5x5
Bench: 95lbs 5x5
Row: 95lbs 5x5
Overhead Press: 60lbs 5x5
Deadlift: 95lbs 1x5

Week 8 4/11-4/15/2011
Weight 184 lbs (at week 5 I started using a biometric scale at home a friend got for me and tracking fat and muscle %)
Ending lifts
Squat: 205 5x5
Bench: 150 5x5
Row: 150 5,5,4,3,3
Overhead Press: 105 5x5 (extremely hard to finish these)
Deadlift: 195 1x5 (the deadlift was hard to do properly at lighter weights and also felt way too easy, so a couple of times I doubled the weight increase)
** During week 8, I realized that I had screwed up the training schedule and was doing bench/rows twice as often as press/deadlifts! :oops: This was probably why I stalled on the rows, as I was progressing to fast and not giving myself enough recovery time. I decided to deload on both bench and rows by 20 lbs.

The weekend following week 8 I injured my left elbow while helping a friend move. I thought it might have just been sore or a little overextended so I continued to lift for the next two weeks with a bit of elbow pain. I had trouble hitting some of my lifts, OHP in particular, so progress slowed a bit.

The weekend after training week 10, I injured the same elbow even worse and decided to take the next week completely off from lifting, hopefully giving myself time to heal

Week 12 5/9-5/13/2011
At the end of the previous week is when I went vegan! :D (I was vegetarian for the previous 5 years)
Weight: 186.6 lbs
Ending lifts
Squat: 240 lbs 5,5,5,5,4
Bench: 140 lbs 5x5
Row: 140 lbs 5x5 (a bit difficult, but completed)
OHP: 120 2x5 (elbow pain caused me to stop the workout after 2nd set)
Deadlift: 245 lbs 1x5
** Major elbow pain - tried wearing an elbow brace, but it didn't seem to help much. After Friday's lifting fail due to the elbow pain I decided I needed to take more time off (2 weeks this time) to heal up. I told myself that if the elbow was still bothering me when I went back I'd get it looked at.

Week 15 5/30-6/3/2011
Weight: 187.4 lbs
Ending lifts
Squat: 235 lbs 5x5 (lowered squat by 15 lbs because I was feeling a little weak after the 2 week break)
Bench: 150 lbs 5x5 (really hard to finish)
Row: 140 lbs 5x5 (also lowered row by 10 lbs because I was feeling weak and didn't want to fail the lift)
OHP: 120 lbs 5,5,4,3,1 (I get the feeling a deload is in my very near future on this lift)
Deadlift: 255 lbs 1x5 (felt a bit tough but got through it)
**Figured out the source of my major elbow pain - my bar position on squats! In trying to find a comfortable resting place for the bar while doing low-bar squats I was putting the bar too low. :? I had been looking over technique videos during my 2 week break and trying to find something I was doing wrong and I found it. While the weights were lighter it wasn't bothering me, but once I had the initial injury, the extra strain on my elbow was too much. I switched to a slightly higher position with the bar resting at the top of my shoulders at the level where my trapezius meets my deltoid. This is much easier on my elbows, but is much harder on the muscles it's sitting on!
Any advice here would be great!

I'll add a nutrition post to this tomorrow (probably), and start tracking the rest of my workouts here as well.

Re: Asparagus Strength Journey

Posted: Wed Jun 08, 2011 8:44 pm
by asparagus

I'm not picky at all about food. This makes setting up a diet for myself pretty easy, as I can eat the same thing every day, and tend to do so once I've got a good balance sorted out.

Height: 6'
Weight: 188.6 lbs (as of this morning)

Here's what a normal workout day (M-W-F) looks like:
Breakfast, ~06:00
Whole grain Muesli w/ soy milk
Cals: 570; Protein: 21 g
Snack, ~08:30
One or two pieces of fruit, couple handfuls raw mixed nuts, unsalted
Cals: 400-500, Protein: 10 g
Lunch 1, ~11:00
Quinoa, mixed beans, corn, carrots, broccoli
Cals: 600, Protein: 30 g
Post-workout shake, ~14:00
Lifetime Life's Basics Plant Protein Powder ("Greens") w/ soymilk
Cals: 330, Protein: 33 g
Snack, ~15:00
One or two pieces of fruit, couple handfuls raw mixed nuts, unsalted
Cals: 400-500, Protein: 10 g
Lunch 2, ~16:45
Quinoa, mixed beans, corn, carrots, broccoli (same as lunch 1, I split what I cook into 2 portions)
Cals: 600, Protein: 30 g
Dinner, ~20:00
1 Potato and a quarter block of high-protein tofu
Cals: 240, Protein: 20 g

Totals = Cals: between 3200 and 3500, Protein: 153 g
% of totals from Fat: 25%, Carbs: 56%, Protein 19%.
I'd really like to cut down on the fat a little and maintain the protein, but not sure how to do it other than cutting out some of the nuts and replacing with more beans or tempeh. My dinners are the only real variable in my day-to-day, as I might have some avocado, tempeh, or random weekend leftovers.

On the non workout days, I usually don't have the shake unless something happens and my meals go to crap, so I get a bit less protein, but still at least around 120 g.

I've been monitoring my weight and body composition over the past couple months using a household biometric scale (not sure how accurate it is).

During the time that I injured myself, I didn't eat dinner or have any protein shakes, which cut down on my calories and protein a bit. This lead to some minor weight loss, most of which seemed to be fat weight. Now that I'm back in the gym and eating, the weight is coming back on. I'd really prefer not to gain any more weight, but everything I've read says I won't make any decent strength gains without it. I suppose I'll keep going for now, but if I get close to 200 lbs, I'll stop the strength training and switch to crossfit or something else.

Re: Asparagus Strength Journey

Posted: Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:31 pm
by asparagus
5x5 Week 16

Monday, 06/06/11
Body: 188.6 lbs

Squat 5x5 @ 240 lbs
OHP 5,5,5,3,3 @ 120 lbs
Deadlift 1x5 @ 265 lbs
Body Weight Pullups 3,2,1

Squats at this point are war - I have to growl my way through them to finish the sets and really force my knees out. I also find myself doing somewhat of a "good morning" lift to finish out the later reps in the sets - My hips end up rising faster than my shoulders. OHP failed for the second time @ 120 lbs. Deadlift is finally getting tough. I've had no trouble on the deadlift up to this point, but now I finally feel the strain to get the weight up for 5 reps. Elbows are a little sore after working out, but no pain! Started adding pullups to the mix after my cooldown and before my spinal decompression hangs.

Re: Asparagus Strength Journey

Posted: Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:36 pm
by asparagus
5x5 Week 16

Wednesday 06/08/11
Body: 188.6 lbs

Squat 5x5 @ 245 lbs
Bench 5x5 @ 155 lbs
Row 5x5@ 145 lbs
BW Pullups 3,2,1

Squats are war!
Shoulders feel bruised from bar on the squats. Checked in the mirror late on Wednesday night and sure enough I have bruises on both sides near the shoulders where I've been resting the bar. I'm going to have to try a little lower position so the bar sits over more muscle, but I'm concerned about my elbow hurting again. I'll have to check on Friday whether I am relaxing my back muscles once the bar is on them, that would probably explain the bruising. Bench and rows were fine.

Re: Asparagus Strength Journey

Posted: Fri Jun 10, 2011 6:44 pm
by asparagus
5x5 Week 16

Friday 06/10/11
Body: 187 lbs
Dropped a little weight according to the scale. I ate a bit less on Thursday than normal, but didn't think there was that much difference to make me lose 1.6 lbs in 2 days!

Squat 5x5 @ 250 lbs
OHP 5,5,4,2,2 @ 120 lbs - Third time failing at 120 lbs. Push-pressed the bar to finish the sets of 5; the rep numbers given indicate the completed natural presses. Next OHP day gets a deload down to 105 lbs. :(
Deadlift 1x5 @ 275 lbs - 1.5xBW!!!
Body Weight Pullups 4,2,1

Didn't get a lot of sleep last night (~5 hours) so was uncertain about how I would perform today. I struggled through the squats, not for lack of energy but for the heavy weight. Legs didn't feel good at the start of the squats (sore). Bar position didn't seem to be a problem today - no pain. Concentrated on squeezing my shoulders back more, probably gave the bar more muscle to sit on so worked out better. Was doubting myself on the OHP but went for it and decided to push-press to finish the failed sets. Felt a little strain/soreness in my lower back after deadlifts, but now (1.5 hours later) my back feels fine.

I think I'm going to have to start foam rolling. My legs especially are super sore pretty much every day now, mostly in my hips and upper thighs. For a while I was doing static stretches pre- and post- workout, but then switched to dynamic mobility stretches pre-workout and static post-. I'm doing shoulder dislocations and squat-to-stands as part of my warmup.

Re: Asparagus Strength Journey

Posted: Sat Jun 11, 2011 9:09 am
by growinglarger
Wow this is a VERY COOL journal

And hitting more than 100lbs for your OH presses is just insane over a 16 week period. That is PROGRESS!!
I swear as soon as I am more certain that my "not so great" lower back is strong enough, I would love to hit the 5X5 program for 16 weeks to see how I do. (And to throw a variation at my muscles)

I'm one of those people that has my 4x5 cards and writes down weight/reps in the gym. No way I could track those things in my head. Good journals I feel are a big key to success to gaining the body you want. Looking forward to more posts!!

Re: Asparagus Strength Journey

Posted: Mon Jun 13, 2011 6:37 pm
by asparagus
Thanks, growinglarger!

The Stronglifts program is pretty simple in only doing 3 exercises per workout, 1 of which is always squats, and so is pretty easy to keep track of. I workout on my "extended" lunch break at work (I take about 1.5 hours for the workout, including stretches and warmup sets) and as soon as I get back to the office I record my reps and session notes into my spreadsheet. Then at some point a little later I put them up here. :) One thing about the journal I feel really helps are the little side notes on the workout, as they give a bit of context to the numbers and then I can go back and read through my lifting history and learn from it. I also think I've made pretty good progress, but I did a lot of lifting when I was younger so I think my body already had the framework needed.

5x5 Week 17

Monday 06/13/11
Body: 187.4 lbs

Squat 5,4,2,3,3 @ 255 lbs
Bench 5x5 @ 160 lbs
Row 5x5@ 150 lbs
BW Pullups 5,3,2

On the first rep of the first set of squats I knew I wouldn't get 5x5 today. Bad sleep quality and quantity, low energy, back's a bit sore from bad sleep. My legs and glutes felt OK until I got down in the hole, then all of a sudden I felt how sore each muscle was. Powered through the 1st set, but then the energy just dropped away. Bench was extremely hard, but made it through. Had to cheat on the last rep of set 5 on bench, got the bar up to the first pegs, then a short rest, then pushed the rest of the way up. Didn't make solid chest contact on last rep of set 5 of rows. Still going to advance the weights for next bench/row workout anyway. I think it was just due to low energy today and bad mindset after failing the squats.

I noticed last Friday that my gym has a couple foam rollers lying around that no one seems to use (at least when I'm there) so today I started foam rolling. I know that it's highly recommended, especially by some of the more serious lifters on this board. With how sore my upper legs and glutes are all the time at this point, I hope it helps.

Re: Asparagus Strength Journey

Posted: Wed Jun 15, 2011 6:29 pm
by asparagus
5x5 Week 17

Wednesday 06/15/11
Body: 188.8 lbs

Squat 4,4,4,3,3 @ 255 lbs
OHP 5x5 @ 105 lbs
Deadlift 1x5 @ 285 lbs, 1 @ 305 lbs, 1 @ 315 lbs PR!
1xPlank @ 41 seconds (just to mix it up a bit, wanted to see how it feels)

Felt OK going into the squats, but had to drop the bar on the 5th rep of the 1st set. Had no strength to get it back up out of the hole. After that it was a struggle to get each rep on each set. OHP was fine, although I was not feeling as strong with the lift as I thought I would. Deadlift was a struggle - growled my way through it. To make myself feel better after failing squats I decided to try for a PR on the Deadlift - I achieved it. My previous PR was 300 lbs 7 weeks ago, although I may have been able to go a bit higher at that time. Still bummed about the squats though. So far this week I've been having pretty low energy levels, probably due to stress and poor sleep (which is also probably due to stress). I think I'm going to try increasing my protein intake a bit, which will most likely mean more tofu/tempeh (soy) in my diet. At least it will be the organic stuff...

Re: Asparagus Strength Journey

Posted: Fri Jun 17, 2011 7:25 pm
by asparagus
5x5 Week 17

Friday 06/17/2011
Body: 190.0 lbs

Squat 5x5 @ 255 lbs
Bench 5x5 @ 165 lbs
Row 5x5@ 155 lbs
Planks @ 45 secs, 45 secs rest, 30 secs, 45 secs rest, 30 secs Work that core!
Hanging spinal decompression 35 breaths, 25 breaths, 20 breaths

Finally made the damn squats, took me all week! All the lifts went well today. I wasn't sure what to expect after this horrid week of squats, but managed to push them all out. The workout was a bit late in the day, about 2.5 hours later than usual. I figured I should include the spinal decompression, since I do it at the end of every workout. I just hang by my hands from the pullup bar on the squat rack until failure, relaxing my back muscles. It's easier to count full deep breaths than it is to accurately count seconds without a clock to count with. Each one of my breaths is somewhere between 1.5 and 2 seconds on this I think, but not sure.

Re: Asparagus Strength Journey

Posted: Fri Jun 17, 2011 8:59 pm
by robert
Wow, your journal is super detailed!

Awesome stuff!!!!!!

All the best and have an outstanding weekend!

Re: Asparagus Strength Journey

Posted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 8:50 pm
by asparagus
Thanks for the praise, Robert!

I'm a scientist, so keeping detailed journals and reports is second nature to me. I love charts!

5x5 Week 18

Monday 06/20/2011
Body: 187.8 lbs

I was wondering how I'd do on my workout today, as I had some abdominal pains over the weekend. I thought it might be kidney stones again, but I didn't pass any rocks or have dark colored (bloody) urine, so I'm not sure what it was. I was still feeling a little off last night, but ended up sleeping really well. For the first time last night I had a blended fruit and veggie drink (unfiltered apple juice, cantaloupe, honeydew, broccoli, zucchini, carrots - all organic except the melons) as my late night meal (~1 hour before bed). Usually I eat a small meal such as a veggie burger on bread or a potato or tofu. I'm not sure if the drink had anything to do with my sleeping so well, but it was easily the best night's sleep I've had in weeks.

I'm going to start listing my warmup weights as well, following the form of some of the other journals here...

1x10 @ empty bar (45 lbs)
1x5 @ 85 lbs
1x5 @ 135
1x5 @ 175
1x3 @ 205
1x2 @ 235
5,5,4,5,5 @ 260

1x10 @ 45 lbs
1x3 @ 85
5x5 @ 110

1x5 @ 135 lbs
1x5 @ 175
1x5 @ 205
1x3 @ 235
1x2 @ 265
1x5 @ 295

3x30 seconds

BW Pullups
Followed by hanging spinal decompression (which doubles as grip training!)

Squats - not sure if it is cheating, but I paused a second before the last rep on sets 4 & 5. This gave me the energy I needed to complete the set. I could have completed the 3rd set as well if I tried it that way, so I'm not counting it as a fail and I'm going to increase the weights next time. I am concerned that I am not getting down to parallel on the later reps in my sets, however. I'll have to take a video on my next workout. OHP went fine, although I wish it felt easier considering the recent deload. Rocked the deadlift, although my grip is starting to loosen up on the last couple reps. I may have to switch to the over-under grip soon. Did 3 @ 30 secs planks before I remembered today was a pullup day, so I did them too.

Over the weekend I read through the Thrive Diet book, and figured I'd try the before/after workout fuel idea. I didn't make any of the Thrive shakes, but instead had an apple and an orange before the workout and again after instead of having a protein shake right after which has been my norm up to now. I had the shake about 45 minutes later. I'll try this for the rest of the week to see what effect it has on my workouts and recovery. The sugar in my system from the fruit might have helped with my energy during the workout.

All-in-all, a good workout!

Re: Asparagus Strength Journey

Posted: Wed Jun 22, 2011 3:47 pm
by Rob PMFF
Very nice! This program seems to be working well for you. You've made a serious jump in the weights you are moving. Or maybe you were already that strong to begin with. Either way, you don't seem like a beginner. :D Good luck to you, especially if you ever decide to try Crossfit. I thought I saw you mention that somewhere in here.

Re: Asparagus Strength Journey

Posted: Wed Jun 22, 2011 7:43 pm
by asparagus
Thanks Rob!

I used to be what I considered strong years ago, but at some point last year I realized just how much strength I've lost over the years of not training. :( However, I never tried squatting or deadlifting before, so I guess I wasn't 'truly' strong. :? I did throw in a thought about crossfit at the end of my nutrition post, addressing a concern of not getting too heavy (I don't really want to break 200 lbs.).

5x5 Week 18

Wednesday 06/22/2011
Body: 187.8

1x10 @ 45 lbs.
1x5 @ 85
1x5 @ 125
1x5 @ 165
1x3 @ 205
1x2 @ 235
4,4,4,4,4 @ 265

1x10 @ 45 lbs.
1x5 @ 85
1x3 @ 115
1x2 @ 145
5,5,5,4,3 @ 170

1x10 @ 45 lbs.
1x5 @ 85
1x3 @ 125
4,4,4,4,4 @ 160

What a FAIL day - rotten workout today. Went in feeling good but hit the wall on the first set of squats - had to dump the bar. After the first set I was wiped out and had poor energy for the rest of the lifts. On the 4th bench set, rep 4 was a huge struggle, but I thought if I held the bar at the top for a few seconds I'd have enough energy left to finish. Wrong! Had to dump the bar to the side and worm my way out of it. Embarrassing! Rows were a wash. Skipped planks altogether. Legs are totally sore now, even after foam rolling and I'm just drained. Lower back feels a little off too - probably from dumping the bar on the first set of squats. Going to try to get to sleep early tonight and recover. Had a banana and a peach before the workout, didn't seem to matter. I did notice I was very hungry post workout, so I probably waited too long after my first lunch meal to hit the gym, didn't have enough gas in the tank...

I took a couple videos today with my phone, one of my last squat warmup, another of my first squat FAIL-set. I'm posting the warmup one. I see right off that I'm not getting quite parallel. I also had some trouble finding the sweet spot for the bar on my back, this got worse as the sets progressed. My knees also get out in front of my toes a bit, but I'm not sure if there is anything I can do about it.

If any of you serious squatters have any insight or tips on this, please have at! Thanks!

Re: Asparagus Strength Journey

Posted: Fri Jun 24, 2011 9:18 am
by Rob PMFF
asparagus wrote: My knees also get out in front of my toes a bit, but I'm not sure if there is anything I can do about it.

Try spreading your knees farther apart as you squat down.

Re: Asparagus Strength Journey

Posted: Fri Jun 24, 2011 8:18 pm
by asparagus
Rob PMFF wrote:Try spreading your knees farther apart as you squat down.

I gave it a try today at a lower than scheduled weight. I set my stance a bit wider and concentrated on keeping my knees out. They still squeezed past my toes a bit, but not as much as on Wednesday. I'm sure my form just went completely to crap on Wednesday, as I usually get parallel or slightly past and don't notice my knees sticking out forward as much.

5x5 Week 18

Friday 06/24/2011
Body: 188.8 lbs.

1x10 @ 45 lbs.
1x5 @ 85
1x5 @ 125
1x3 @ 165
1x2 @ 195
5x5 @ 225 Technically not a failed set as I lifted lower weight on purpose for today.

1x10 @ 40 lbs.
1x5 @ 80
3x5 @ 110
2x5 @ 115
Again, not a technically a failed set as I did lower weight on purpose.

1x5 @ 135 lbs.
1x5 @ 175
1x5 @ 215
1x3 @ 245
1x2 @ 275
1x5 @ 305

Was feeling a little off since Wednesday with kidney stones and energy so wanted to take it light today. Paid attention to my form on squats - tried to get a more solid bar position and tried a wider stance pushing out my knees. Knees still came out in front of my toes. Will have to keep trying to adjust my form and checking with video. OHP was fine at 110 and my back/abdominals were feeling fine so I stepped it up to 115 for the last 2 sets, without problem. Since I was feeling good I went for my regular deadlift - it went fine, had to readjust my grip on last two reps, almost lost grip on the last one. Still with overhand grip though, not bad, I guess. I took a video of my deadlift for the first time. I noticed that in the video it looks as if I'm slightly rounding my lower back (although it could be the angle/quality of video/etc.), and I'm not completing the movement in one good smooth motion on every rep. I shouldn't have waited this long to take videos, as apparently my form is lacking on squats and deadlifts... :oops: :(