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BigRed goes 5x5


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Stronglifts Workout #1

 

So after couple months of steady dumbbell work out at home and maxing out my weights, I decided to take the plunge and join a gym (had been worried about cost) so I can attack the barbells and gain some strength. Fortunately I was able to find a gym very close by that is a lot cheaper than I anticipated.

 

I started StrongLifts 5x5 today. I did Madcow for a couple months when I was in University and had gym access maybe about 7 years ago and enjoyed the routine so I have experience with the concepts and movements.

 

I decided to go ahead and start off with just the empty barbell as the program advises. As expected, the first workout was a breeze:

 

Squat - 45 lbs 5/5/5/5/5

Bench - 45 lbs 5/5/5/5/5

Row - 65 lbs 5/5/5/5/5

 

This is less than half the weight I've been using lately at home with dumbbells so of course the effort was minimal. Because it was so light I didn't have the patience to wait more than 10-20 seconds between sets - of course I know that will change when it gets more demanding over the next two months. I thought that I would feel self-conscious pushing around an empty bar in front of all the massive grunting meatheads around me, but as my other hobby is barefoot running I guess I've really become used to not worrying about other people judging what I'm doing. Since I had so much energy leftover after this 10-15 minute workout I attacked the dip station.

 

Dips - 13/7/5

 

Couple questions for anyone that might be reading this:

 

 

Rows

With the barbell rows I was bent over quit a bit but not to the point where the barbell went all the to the floor. Is this okay for now? I imagine with 45 lb plates it's another story, but with the little 10 lb plates, it seemed excessive to try to get it all the way down to the floor.

 

Dips

There was a mirror in front of the station and I noticed that I go down to the maximum depth possible with these. Is that okay, or is it better to just go to parallel? the angle of my elbows was definitely more like 45 degrees than 90. And for the guys who are familiar with stronglifts - do you recommend keeping stuff like pullups and dips in the workouts or is it better to only do the basic 3 exercises each time? At least for now I'm going to need to do the dips and pullups just to feel like I'm getting a workout.

 

Even though I went super-light I did feel my muscles engaging in a different way than they do with my dumbbells. Squats for instance I felt in the outside of my thighs more than I usually do. So looking forward to progressing with this system. I love being able to push a bar around. So much more satisfying than dumbbells for some reason.

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Nice, you jumped in full force. That's awesome, try to use your peers, friends, and all of us forum members to keep you motivated. Not making it to the gym is an easy excuse that many of us make to let ourselves off the hook of sticking to our fitness goals. I went through it transitioning from working out at home to hitting the gym hard at first and then losing motivation, not getting out to the gym and then of course not even working out at home. You sound super motivated though that's awesome. What specifically motivates you?

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StrongLifts Workout #2

 

Squats - 50 lbs - 5/5/5/5/5

Overhead Press - 45 lbs - 5/5/5/5/5

Deadlifts - 95 lbs - 5/5/5/5/5

Chinups - 10/4/5

 

The only thing more emasculating than working out with an empty bar is putting dainty little 2.5 lb plates on that empty bar LOL!

 

Still could not find patience to wait more than 10 seconds between sets on the Squats, 15 seconds on the OHP and 20 seconds on the Deadlifts.

 

As I write this I realize now that the program only calls for 1 set of DL's whereas I performed 5. Oops. It's light, so for now I'm sure it's fine.

 

After the second set of chins I realized I gave up too easily without enough struggle, so I was able to squeeze out more on the third set.

 

Quick workout. The 5 deadlift sets did produce a little bit of sweat on my body though No A/C in the gym, which I actually like. There are enough fans around that it's okay, but I'd rather be a little too warm than too cold. I wonder what it's like there in the winter.

 

So much fun. I've missed barbell workouts all these years that I've been without them. So glad to be doing this!

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Nice, you jumped in full force. That's awesome, try to use your peers, friends, and all of us forum members to keep you motivated. Not making it to the gym is an easy excuse that many of us make to let ourselves off the hook of sticking to our fitness goals. I went through it transitioning from working out at home to hitting the gym hard at first and then losing motivation, not getting out to the gym and then of course not even working out at home. You sound super motivated though that's awesome. What specifically motivates you?

 

C.O. - The forum has already motivated me immensely - reading threads from members like sosso, chewy, veggiesquatch, forklift, and many many more (sorry for all the tons of people I left out!) has been such a motivating force in pursuing strength!

 

What motivates me? Well, I want to see what a guy like me whose been skinny all his life can achieve in strength if I really commit to exploring my potential. I also remember that the times I did lift weights in uni I genuinely enjoyed just the act of lifting weights - I don't know why, it's just very satisfying - maybe a more intense release of pent-up energy than I get when I'm running - running is more like meditation for me. The other issue is that I perform on the stage and looking more filled out and strong on stage will certainly be a competitive advantage for me when going out for more "heroic" parts. The other thing, is that like some other people here, I came to vegetarianism and eventually to veganism from a moral philosophical stance, and I want to be an example that one can be healthy, active, fit, athletic, and even very strong without animal consumption. I held back from vegan for a long time, even though I respected veganism intellectually because I was afraid that giving up dairy/eggs would be a hindrance to my health and athleticism, but reading about vegan athletes in such a wide variety of sports has helped give me the courage to follow my ethical beliefs more completely.

 

Thanks for the reply!

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Nice to see someone actually doing a proper program!

 

Will be following this from now on...

 

Thanks veggie - I love following your posts! Will look forward to getting feedback from you as I travel this journey!

 

I love this workout plan. Years ago I found the MadCow routine on bodybuilding forums and followed that for a while and enjoyed it immensely. I like stronglifts right now because of the simplicity of it - when i've run my course with it way down the line I will look into other possibilities (I see 5/3/1 is becoming popular around here). I feel much more stimulated by strength-type routines than bodybuilding-style routines.

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StrongLifts workout #3

 

Squats - 55 lb - 5/5/5/5/5

Bench - 50 lb - 5/5/5/5/5 (may have lost track and done a 6th...not sure)

Rows - 70 lb - 5/5/5/5/5

 

Generally 5-10 seconds between sets

 

Dips - 15/10/8

 

Whole workout took me less than 20 minutes.

 

Considering adding weight for dips soon. I guess I just hold a dumbbell between my knees?

 

Took a look around the gym today and noticed that I am the skinniest guy in the weight room by *far* (6'0" 168 lbs) - no worries, I'm sure in a year's time I'll be catching up to some of 'em.

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C.O. - sure, I don't see why not.

 

Veggie - Bar dips. I'll ask the front desk if they have a belt then next time...

 

I know over a minute is standard, but the program at this point is so doggone light I feel silly waiting when I've barely put forth any effort!

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StrongLifts Workout #4

 

Squats - 60 lb - 5/5/5/5/5

OHP - 50 lb - 5/5/5/5/5

Deadlift - 115 lb - 5/5 - 105 lb 5/5/5

Chinups - 10/8/5

 

Okay, so on Deadlifts I was planning on staying 5x5 rather than 1x5 as the program dictates until the weight gets challenging. I absentmindedly loaded on a 25 and a 10 on each side, rather than the 25 and a 5 that I meant to do to stick with the program. I didn't realize it until after my second set, then I changed it back to the intended weight for the remaining 3 sets.

 

Is it normal to feel deadlifts in the hamstrings? I know it's primarily a lower back exercise...perhaps when I get to using 45 lbs there will be a little bit less stretch to move the weight up and down than there is now when the biggest plate is a 25.

 

I think when I get my last set of Chins to 8 I may add weight to those...

 

Workout was quick - though per Veggie's advice I really tried to make myself weight longer between sets, but I still had the impulse to keep moving on to the next set after 20-30 seconds rest. Again, I imagine the need to wait longer between sets will emerge organically when the weight becomes challenging...

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StrongLifts Workout #5

 

Squats - 65 lb - 5/5/5/5/5

Bench Press - 65 lb - 5/5/5/5/5

Barbell Row - 75 lb - 5/5/5/5/5

Weighted Dips - +10 lb - 12/10/5

 

I went ahead and skipped over 55lb and 60lb and went straight to 65lb on Bench Press. These workouts have been so light and easy that I felt maybe I was being too dogmatic about sticking to the program so purely. I don't mind staying light on squats for now because of the sheer volume of doing the exercise 3 days a week. Legs and Back get hit plenty, but chest not as much, so I thought certainly I could afford to move up a little faster on Bench Press. 65 lb is still ridiculously light, but at least it's moving ahead more quickly.

 

First time ever doing weighted dips. Enjoyed that very much!

 

Tried to keep rest between sets no quicker than at least 20-30 seconds...

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StrongLift workout #6

 

Squats - 70 lb - 5/5/5/5/5

OHP - 55 lb - 5/5/5/5/5

Deadlift - 115 lb - 5/5/5/5/5

Chinups - 10/5/4

Bicep Curls - 40 lb - 8 - 50 lb - 8/8

 

Was disappointed that I didn't make as many reps on chinups as last time. Each set I definitely gave up early and after finishing the last set I felt regret that I didn't struggle harder for more reps. Next time.

 

Felt like doing Bicep curls. I dunno why.

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StrongLifts Workout #7

 

Squats - 45 lb (5) - 65 lb (5) - 75 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

Bench - 45 lb (10) - 65 lb (5) - 75 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

Rows - 80 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

Dips - Bodyweight (15/10/9)

 

Thought I'd start getting in the habit of incorporating warmup sets, even though the weights are still light...

 

Bench moving right ahead adding another 10 lb from the last workout rather than the prescribed 5. I'll keep doing this the next few workouts to keep things moving.

 

I'm out of town this week and the gym I'm using doesn't have belts for weighted dips, so I just stayed with bodyweight for now.

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StrongLifts workout #8

 

Squats - 45 lb (10) - 65 lb (5) - 80 lb - (5/5/5/5/5)

OHP - 45 lb (5) - 55 lb (5) - 65 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

DL - 115 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

Chinups - 8/6/7

 

I need to be more careful checking my program. I got the amounts wrong twice I see. OHP I did 65 when I should've done 60, and DL I did 115 when I should have done 125. Oops.

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StrongLifts Workout #9

 

Squats - 45 lb (10) - 65 lb (5) - 85 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

Bench - 85 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

Row - 85 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

Dips - +20 lb (10/6/5)

 

Main lifts still relatively easy. Added more weight for dips. Feels good. Will try +25 lb next time.

 

I worked in alternating sets for a while with a cute Russian girl. Something very attractive about watching a young lady doing heavy bench presses and deadlifts. While there is intense societal pressure for women to be fit and slender, powerlifting seems to go stridently against much of what society expects of women, and to see a young woman aggressively pursuing physical strength and power in a room dominated by meat-head alpha males is just awesome!

 

In other news, been steadily gaining weight, and not too surprisingly some chub on the waistline. Gained three pounds in the past one week alone. Maybe I have been overshooting my eating, but I wanted to err on the side of excess because of my extensive running schedule (ran 11 miles Saturday)...I'll keep a closer eye on things to make sure bodyfat doesn't get too out of control too quickly...

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StrongLifts Workout #10

 

Squats - 45 lb (10) - 90 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

OHP - 45 lb (10) - 70 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

Deadlift - 135 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

Chinups - 10/6/6

 

Second rep on the first working set of Squats almost started to get off balance a little bit. Was thinking about keeping the curve in the lower back and started to fall backwards a little bit at the bottom of the squat. Glad I decided to start this program at the lightest possible weights and increase so gradually to get little form issues like that sorted out early on. On both OHP and Deadlifts at one point I wasn't sure whether I had done 3 or 4 sets so I assumed the lower count each time, which means its possible I did 6 sets on OHP and/or Deadlifts. Need to bring a pencil and paper to tick off sets as I do them so I don't lose count like that in the future. Fun workout and I'm starting to sweat a little more.

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StrongLifts Workout #11

 

Squats - 45 lb (10) - 95 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

Bench - 95 lb (10/10/5)

Rows - 90 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

 

Ugh. Anxiety ridden session. I went the same time I always do but it was completely packed. First the squat rack was being used by a huge dude for bicep curls. I approached him thinking he was finishing up and he told me he hadn't even started yet and would need 10 minutes. I felt very intimated because of course the gym is filled with tough guy native brooklyn neighborhood folk who talk like characters in mafia movies and who all have arms that are bigger than my thighs. I waited.

 

After squats I looked at the benches and of course they are all three being used and each dude is benching 215 and over. I walked up to each to ask how many sets they had left. One of them said he was just starting but I could work in. I thanked him. I did feel a little sheepish when he finished his set and I said "just a 25" and he took off one of the 45 plates and replaced it with a 25, and I had to clarify "no, just the 25" and he looked surprised and took off the other 45 plate. sigh. Now so far these 5x5 sets have been really light easy and quick for me. And I felt embarrassed that everyone around me is really exerting themselves and I'm about to fly through 5 reps of really light weight. My pride made me wonder whether I should just treat this as my warmup set and keep increasing weight, but I managed to stay firm and stick to the weight I had planned for the day. But I didn't stick to my reps. I panicked and did 10 reps for the first 2 sets. Then I saw a bench open up and I moved there to be alone. Deciding I would just stick to the prescribed volume I just did one set of five reps and moved on (10+10+5=5x5).

 

Next would be rows, but of course all the barbells were taken and I felt too anxious to bug more big intimidating people and wait for them. So I grabbed a cambered bar, and knocked out my 5 sets as quick as I could. Unfortunately the cambered bar kind of hurt my wrists.

 

I always end my Workout A with dips, but the dip station and the belt were being used by the same guy that I waited on for the squat rack, so I just left without doing the dips. I wish I hadn't felt so much anxiety but I guess my insecurity about being the skinny in the gym just was too much for me today.

 

One of the toughest things about doing this program has been how light and easy the weights have been so far, but I'm trying to keep thinking long term and know that eventually it will get challenging.

 

Next Friday I'll try go earlier and see if it's any less crowded.

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Good luck on reaching your goals. Stronglifts 5x5 is a great program to start your strength development with. That's how I started and I made great gains to begin with. I did the same thing you are, adding a little more weight on some workouts because it was super light. In retrospect I shouldn't have, since the gains come pretty quick over time regardless. I think the assistance work is OK, until the bar starts to get a little heavy and you find yourself really pushing on the final work sets. At that point I would drop them altogether until you've been pushing the bar for 6 months or so. You really don't want to overwork yourself and find your main lifts suffering for it. The same goes for the 5x5 deadlifting. Once you start to feel like you are exerting energy on your squats you should cut the deadlift to 1x5.

 

Another tip, on the rows, you don't need to let the plates hit the floor until you have 45lb/20kg plates on each side. Either let your arms hang straight down with your back locked in position at the bottom of the pull or put plates on the floor underneath the plates on the bar. Put enough plates under the bar so that it sits as high as it would when you have the 45/20's on there.

 

Stick to the planned weight progression! It can be intimidating to see guys in the gym lifting way more than you, but you have to realize that at some point in their lifting life they were just as small/weak as you. Stick with the smaller increments and get the practice on the lifts. At this point in your progression, the practice on form is much more important than increases in weight. If you get to lifting heavy with bad form you are just asking for a whole world of hurt.

 

Stick with it, and in 2 more months you won't be intimidated anymore.

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StrongLifts Workout #12

 

Squats - 45 lb (5) - 100 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

OHP - 75 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

Deadlift - 135 lb (5) - 145 lb (5/5/5/5)

Chinups - 10/7/3

 

Thought I'd start weening off 5x5 for Deadlifts towards 1x5. So now that I'm using 45 lb plates I'll start with a warmup set with just the 45 lb plates and build up to the working set. So Friday will be 135 (5) 145 (5) 155 (5/5/5); next Wednesday will be 135 (5) 145 (5) 155( 5) 165 (5/5) and then the Monday after next will be 135 (5) 145 (5) 155 (5) 165 (5) 175 (5) and from there on out the working weight will only be 1x5.

 

Chinups I managed to squeeze out more on my second set than usual, but the consequence was that my third set sucked.

 

This marks the end of my 4th week of StrongLifts. I'm enjoying it. Overall the weights on the main lifts are still relatively easy, especially Bench Press. The only one that is starting to require some effort is OHP not surprisingly. Still able to make the reps without a problem, but I'm definitely starting to work a little. The biggest change in my appearance I notice so far is my belly. Ugh.

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Good plan on dropping the multiple deadlift sets. Trust me, by the end of the 3 months you'll be happy you did, given the 5x5 squats every workout.

 

To answer a couple other questions from earlier in your log -

 

Where you feel the strain from deadlifts the most will probably depend on the condition of your different muscle groups and your form. Deadlift is a posterior chain movement, so it hit the hammies, glutes, and back pretty hard. If you're lacking in the hamstring department you might feel a bit worked as they struggle to keep up with the rest of the chain. Depending on how you set up to make the pull, you use more or less of different muscles. I'd recommend watching some youtube videos (search for Rippetoe Deadlift for good informational videos) and practicing with a broomstick or whatever you have at home.

 

On the rest between sets issue - Veggie's got it right, but I think to begin with short breaks are OK. Only take as much rest as you need to do the next set with proper form. That's not my idea - I'm sure I've read that in Wendler's book, and Medhi (Stronglifts) has probably said the same at some point too.

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StrongLifts Workout #13

 

Squats - 105 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

Bench - 105 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

Rows - 95 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

Dips - +25 lb (8/6/4)

 

This is the last time I'm going to increase bench by 10 lb rather than the prescribed 5 lb...still not challenging yet, but I don't want to get out of control with my eagerness.

 

Rows still experimenting with how wide to grip the bar...haven't found a width that I feel totally satisfied with yet...will research to see what recommendations are...open to suggestions.

 

Think I'll stick to this weight for dips for a while and try to build up higher reps.

 

So, since May when I decided to go vegan and start exercising regularly I've been taking my stats once a month. I measured up today and here are the results so far (weight is in lbs, measurements are inches):

 

------------ 5/6/12 -- 6/12/12 - 7/1/12 - 8/8/12

weight ------ 174 ----- 167 ----- 169 ---- 173

chest ------- 40 ------ 41 ------ 41 ----- 41.5

arm -------- 12.5 ---- 12.5 ----- 13 ----- 13

thigh ------- 20 ------ 20.5 ---- 20.75 --- 22.5

waist ------- 34 ------ 32.75 --- 33.5 ---- 34

BF% -------------------------- ~13 ---- ~13

 

(*edited to add seems the formatting fucked up my little table here...don't know how to fix that)

 

(*edited again to add seem to have fixed with dashes but it took a long time to get it just right, ugh)

 

May to June I went vegan and started doing bodyweight exercises regularly, lost 7 lbs, gained an inch on my chest, 1/2 inch on my thigh and lost over an inch around my waist.

 

June to July significantly increased calories, started lifting dumbbells, gained 2 lbs, 1/2 on my arm, 1/4 inch on my thigh and gained 3/4 inch around my waist. Concerned about my waist growing I decide to use calipers to estimate bodyfat. Measure shoulderblade, back of arm, front of arm, and waist and use durnen/womersly to calculate. According to the chart I am 9% BF. However, the chart says this based on the fact that I'm under 30, but I'm 29. If I were 1 year older the chart says I would be 13% BF. So I'm sticking to the higher number, because I'm not rippling with abs or anything.

 

July to August, still eating big, now have joined gym and been using StrongLifts 5x5 program for 4 weeks. Gained 4 lbs, 1/2 inch on chest, 1 3/4 inches on thigh, and 3/4 inch around waist. Caliper measurement on shoulderblade increased slightly, and caliper measurement on waist increased significantly. However, caliper measurement on front of arm and back of arm decreased. Gaining fat on my waist and losing fat on my arms - interesting.

 

Generally I still look very skinny, but with some chub around my waist. Looking forward to gaining strength and muscle in the future, but not thrilled with the idea of my waist continuing to get chubbier. Maybe I overdid the food this month having gained 4 lbs, but as I'm in marathon training now I thought it would be better to err on the side of excess...guess I went too far.

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StrongLifts Workout #14

 

Squats - 45 lb (10) - 110 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

OHP - 80 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

Deadlift - 135 lb (5) - 145 lb (5) - 155 lb (5/5/5)

Chinups - 10/7/6

 

I can already tell the next time I do OHP it will start to be tough. Looking forward to it.

 

Started talking with a big muscular guy who was doing crazy bodyweight exercises and he showed me how to do human flagpole and muscleups. Tried the muscleup - huge fail. Maybe worth working toward? Will try human flagpole next time...

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StrongLifts Workout #15

 

Squat - 115 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

Bench - 110 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

Row - 105 lb (5/5/5/5/5)

Dip - +25 lb (9/6/5)

 

Barbells were being used by others when I was going to do Rows, so rather than just wait I tried something else. There's a rack full of short bars with small plates permanently stuck to them of various weights, but they are in 10lb increments so instead the prescribed 100lb for today I used the 105 lb bar.

 

Dips got a couple more reps than last time. Cool.

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