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Thread: Benzodiazepines and Gains

  1. #1
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    Default Benzodiazepines and Gains

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    I have a friend and I'll give numbers.

    He started an NLP at 5'6" and 140lbs

    Starting weights:

    Squat: 135 lbs 3x5
    Bench: 95 lbs 3x5
    Press: 65 lbs 3x5
    Deadlift: 135 1x5

    1 month of NLP and eating ~4000 cal per day and missing 0 training days, and getting 7.5-8.5hrs of sleep every night, and resting 6-8 minutes between sets.

    Body weight: 154 lbs

    Squat: 185 lbs 3x5 (stalled at 185 twice)
    Bench: 125 lbs 3x5
    Press: 97.5 lbs 3x5
    Deadlift: 225 lbs 1x5

    This gentleman was stalling at squats at 185 every time he got to that weight, on the 4th or 5th rep.

    Is it normal to stall this early on the squat at that low of weight given these numbers, and given that he was eating 4000 cals, 200g protein, sleeping 8 hours per night, and resting 6-8 minutes between sets?

    This gentleman was also on benzodiazepines every day. Have any of you had experience with lifters taking benzodiazepines, and if so, are they responsible for potentially killing gains on the squat?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    Valium every day??? Why?

  3. #3
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    He was told by a 'Board Certified Doctor' that he needed to take it due to 'Anxiety' at age 19.

    He is in the process of tapering off of it, but I am just curious if you guys have any experience with any lifters taking benzodiazepines. They are pharmacologically similar to alcohol and I have listened to your episode on alcohol.

  4. #4
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    Benzos dull your senses, kill your motivation, make you tired, groggy and 'limp'. Being tired, unmotivated and loose under a heavy barbell is not the right combination for progress. If he is addicted and can't live without benzos, have him train early in the morning and take his dose after he's done training. He just might find that he doesn't need the full dose after a heavy training session and will likely help speed up his taper.

  5. #5
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    Tony, are you coaching him? If so, what did the 185 reps look like when he “stalled?”

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by tonybanters View Post
    He was told by a 'Board Certified Doctor' that he needed to take it due to 'Anxiety' at age 19.

    He is in the process of tapering off of it, but I am just curious if you guys have any experience with any lifters taking benzodiazepines. They are pharmacologically similar to alcohol and I have listened to your episode on alcohol.
    They are not really pharmacologically similar. Ethanol and Diazepam just have some overlap in their effect on the GABA-system.

    My question would be what the daily dosage was, schedule, and the duration of the medication. Prescribing benzos for anxiety is not a good idea, though it can be argued that for a short time intervention in a critical situation it is okay. I never prescribe benzos in an outpatient setting, and certainly not for anxiety, which is better treated with behavioral therapy (learning to deal with it).

    Higher doses of benzodiazepines can certainly affect your strength gains, mainly via affecting your ability to train hard. Drug effects include reduced drive (not just hip drive, though I'd bet the willingness to get out of the hole is affected, too), drowsiness, reduced alterness, increased frequency/probability of muscle cramps, sleeping disorders (yes) and reduced coordination. With long term medication it gets worse and includes a host of psychiatric symptoms.

    On the other hand, if he just took a couple of mg/day for a couple of weeks, his issues are more likely to be related to his primary diagnosis (or other).

  7. #7
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    Jul 2016
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    Beyond the fact that daily benzodiazepine usage is insane for many reasons, I think this gentleman's training log and history of anxiety show the problem is fear of "heavy" weights.

    Note the abnormal abundance of round numbers in plate math in his training log: squats and deadlifts start at 135, squats stall at 185 and deadlifts stall at 225. If he were following the method correctly, his deadlifts would have started ahead of his squats and pulled FAR ahead with two stalls on his squats. I think this gentleman is holding himself back at numbers that seem "heavy" and good-relative-to-other-people-at-Planet-Fitness.

    He needs to get over this fear. And without pharmaceuticals.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by tonybanters View Post
    I have a friend and I'll give numbers.

    He started an NLP at 5'6" and 140lbs

    Starting weights:

    Squat: 135 lbs 3x5
    Bench: 95 lbs 3x5
    Press: 65 lbs 3x5
    Deadlift: 135 1x5

    1 month of NLP and eating ~4000 cal per day and missing 0 training days, and getting 7.5-8.5hrs of sleep every night, and resting 6-8 minutes between sets.

    Body weight: 154 lbs

    Squat: 185 lbs 3x5 (stalled at 185 twice)
    Bench: 125 lbs 3x5
    Press: 97.5 lbs 3x5
    Deadlift: 225 lbs 1x5

    This gentleman was stalling at squats at 185 every time he got to that weight, on the 4th or 5th rep.

    Is it normal to stall this early on the squat at that low of weight given these numbers, and given that he was eating 4000 cals, 200g protein, sleeping 8 hours per night, and resting 6-8 minutes between sets?

    This gentleman was also on benzodiazepines every day. Have any of you had experience with lifters taking benzodiazepines, and if so, are they responsible for potentially killing gains on the squat?

    Thanks in advance.
    How old is this gentleman? Great for him wanting to get stronger and using SS to do so. I would sit down and talk to him about his stalls, is he anxious about the weights getting heavier? This gentleman is trying to improve his life. Is he getting therapy to get "tools" to deal with his anxiety? Anxious people can be a challenge to work with, but helping them rise above their anxiety and realize that it is all in their head can be extremely liberating and life changing. Helping him focus on his form, maintaining that form and not focusing on the weight may help him.

  9. #9
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    The guy needs TRT, not valium.

  10. #10
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    Jan 2024
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    starting strength coach development program
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe View Post
    The guy needs TRT, not valium.
    He should still be able to progress even if he’s low on testosterone but following the first 3 questions right? I just made a post about that the other day and you said anyone will gain significant strength if they follow the protocol, so I’m just double checking

    Do you think his problem is mental? Or if someone is low on testosterone they won’t gain considerable strength even while following everything correctly?

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