An Engineer’s Novice Linear Progression

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  1. #1
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    Default An Engineer’s Novice Linear Progression

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    Male, Age 32, 5’11”, 200lbs

    As a mechanical engineer, I sit behind a computer most of the day and have a pretty sedentary lifestyle. I had an active childhood all the way through college (soccer, tennis, baseball, ran a few half marathons, etc.) but activity slows down as you become an adult, get married, start your career, and raise a family.

    I have no formal weight training or barbell experience. About 5 years ago, I decided to pick up some dumbbells, install a pull-up bar and began P90X. This was fun for a while, I learned how to do chins, etc. but eventually lost interest because there was no detailed prescription of when to add weight, how much to add, and it was mostly bodyweight-type exercises which subjectively increased strength. No one really cares how many push-ups you can do but squatting 315 for reps seems to mean something.

    Anyways, I want to get definitively strong. I picked up SS:BBT3 late last year and fell in love with the simple, no-BS approach to lifting along with the detailed explanations of body mechanics and the “why” behind everything. I also bought a half-rack w/spotter arms, power bar, plates, belt, and shoes so I can work out at home. I have 3 young kids (oldest in kindergarten) and must work out at home early before they wake up or it just won’t happen.

    I’m beginning my linear progression tomorrow (Wednesday, 1/30/19) and am starting with “just the bar” for the squat, press, and bench and 135 for deadlift. I’m taking the approach described in the SS programming section: “Don’t be in a big hurry to find your sticking point earlier in your training progression. It is always preferable to take smaller jumps and sustain the progress than to take bigger jumps and get stuck early.”

    As I’m new to barbell training, I’ll upload videos in the technique section so I can get input on my form. I don’t intend on lifting competitively or anything like that in the future; I’m doing this for strength and long-term health. I plan to do a little incline walking on the treadmill and maybe some core work during the “off days” to help keep my body fat in check. I’m 200lbs currently (was 180lbs in college) and while I’m open to the idea of “it takes mass to move mass”, my wife would prefer I not look like a complete fat-ass. Ha.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by coliver14 View Post
    Male, Age 32, 5’11”, 200lbs

    As a mechanical engineer, I sit behind a computer most of the day and have a pretty sedentary lifestyle. I had an active childhood all the way through college (soccer, tennis, baseball, ran a few half marathons, etc.) but activity slows down as you become an adult, get married, start your career, and raise a family.

    I have no formal weight training or barbell experience. About 5 years ago, I decided to pick up some dumbbells, install a pull-up bar and began P90X. This was fun for a while, I learned how to do chins, etc. but eventually lost interest because there was no detailed prescription of when to add weight, how much to add, and it was mostly bodyweight-type exercises which subjectively increased strength. No one really cares how many push-ups you can do but squatting 315 for reps seems to mean something.

    Anyways, I want to get definitively strong. I picked up SS:BBT3 late last year and fell in love with the simple, no-BS approach to lifting along with the detailed explanations of body mechanics and the “why” behind everything. I also bought a half-rack w/spotter arms, power bar, plates, belt, and shoes so I can work out at home. I have 3 young kids (oldest in kindergarten) and must work out at home early before they wake up or it just won’t happen.

    I’m beginning my linear progression tomorrow (Wednesday, 1/30/19) and am starting with “just the bar” for the squat, press, and bench and 135 for deadlift. I’m taking the approach described in the SS programming section: “Don’t be in a big hurry to find your sticking point earlier in your training progression. It is always preferable to take smaller jumps and sustain the progress than to take bigger jumps and get stuck early.”

    As I’m new to barbell training, I’ll upload videos in the technique section so I can get input on my form. I don’t intend on lifting competitively or anything like that in the future; I’m doing this for strength and long-term health. I plan to do a little incline walking on the treadmill and maybe some core work during the “off days” to help keep my body fat in check. I’m 200lbs currently (was 180lbs in college) and while I’m open to the idea of “it takes mass to move mass”, my wife would prefer I not look like a complete fat-ass. Ha.
    We are twins, buddy! Check out my log.

    Looking forward to your progress!

    I would advise starting with the bar, but add weight each set your first day until you start to struggle with it (stops being easy - technique falters a bit, or the speed slows down). That means it's a stimulating weight for you (to drive the strength adaptation); and as it's not objectively heavy, you will recover by the next session. Technique practice is part of what the warm-up sets are for; I'd hate for you to waste time taking a week or two to get up to actual stimulating weight.

    What is your waist circumference? Any idea how much you are eating? The advice around here is 1.0g/lb bodyweight in protein, match that (or more) in carbs, keep fat low (below 100g). If gaining weight and fat (waist circumference), dial back the fat in 10g increments. If weight stays the same (with no increase to waist circumference), add more carbs if your lifts are struggling. Don't worry about a weight increase, especially if your lifts are going up, as long as your waist circumference isn't growing out of control (in which case drop fat 10g but add 10g protein or 20g carbs).

    Is incline walking on a treadmill something you do now, and wouldn't actually consider exercise? Reason I ask - you don't need extra stimulus right now; but if it's very low-level (like, doesn't break a sweat, barely elevated pulse, no shortness of breath) and you find it restorative, sure. As for abs: the squat, press, and deadlift provide plenty of stimulus, trust us.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sean McAnally View Post
    We are twins, buddy! Check out my log.

    Looking forward to your progress!

    I would advise starting with the bar, but add weight each set your first day until you start to struggle with it (stops being easy - technique falters a bit, or the speed slows down). That means it's a stimulating weight for you (to drive the strength adaptation); and as it's not objectively heavy, you will recover by the next session. Technique practice is part of what the warm-up sets are for; I'd hate for you to waste time taking a week or two to get up to actual stimulating weight.

    What is your waist circumference? Any idea how much you are eating? The advice around here is 1.0g/lb bodyweight in protein, match that (or more) in carbs, keep fat low (below 100g). If gaining weight and fat (waist circumference), dial back the fat in 10g increments. If weight stays the same (with no increase to waist circumference), add more carbs if your lifts are struggling. Don't worry about a weight increase, especially if your lifts are going up, as long as your waist circumference isn't growing out of control (in which case drop fat 10g but add 10g protein or 20g carbs).

    Is incline walking on a treadmill something you do now, and wouldn't actually consider exercise? Reason I ask - you don't need extra stimulus right now; but if it's very low-level (like, doesn't break a sweat, barely elevated pulse, no shortness of breath) and you find it restorative, sure. As for abs: the squat, press, and deadlift provide plenty of stimulus, trust us.
    Thanks. Yea we have a similar situation it looks like. I'm really in no hurry, besides 60lbs/month still seems fast anyways (I plan on using 5lb increments per workout on all exercises).

    I'm currently at 36" waist pants size. Eating is no problem for me - I've stocked up on protein powder and I love milk, eggs, red meat and greek yogurt so ~200g protein/day shouldn't be an issue. The incline walking is a decent calorie burner - around 600 calories for 2 miles at 15% incline. I like it because its lower impact on my knees than running and provides a good calf workout. I may taper this off if I'm struggling with recovery, we'll see what happens. I started doing hanging leg raises and ab wheel rollouts a few months back and like them. If I feel this starts interfering with the main lifts, I'll taper it off as well.

  4. #4
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    1/30/19 Week 1
    So I would choose the coldest day to begin my NLP... It was 34F outside when I woke up this morning and 52F in the workout room. For reference, it snows where I live about once every 5 years. Anyways, I saw it as a test and I passed!

    Squat: 45x5x3 YouTube
    Press: 45x5x3 YouTube
    Deadlift: 135x5 YouTube

    Squat - I stretched my shoulders for about 10 minutes before approaching the bar. They are pretty stiff and my posture isn't the best. I initially tried thumbs under the bar but flexibility would not allow, so I'll be using thumb-less squat grip moving forward. Grip width was about 32" (edge of thumbs at the bench mark) and as narrow as I could get. I'm hoping the stiffness goes away with time because it was almost painful this morning. Thankfully, I'm able to use peripheral vision to see the ends of the knurl to help center the bar with my torso - balance felt good overall. At the bottom position I feel like my back is too horizontal. I tried to keep the mental picture of a bent-over back as I squat but I may be overshooting it. I've marked the plywood with a 4" grid to help develop muscle memory of my stance and to see what feels natural in the movements. I'm at about 16" between the heels and 32" between the outside of my toes - this feels comfortable and easy to go below parallel. Lastly, I feel like the bar height in the rack may be a little too high - when I go to re-rack the bar, it just touches the top of the J-cups and I feel like I'm having to slouch down a lot to get under the bar to un-rack in the first place. Take a look at the video and let me know what you think.

    Press - Pressing the bar felt like a good stretch after squatting. I mainly focused on staring at the wall, keeping my legs straight, and my elbows directly beneath the bar. I'm using a grip that produces a vertical forearm at the bottom position as the book instructs (~20" between hands). This movement felt natural to me as I've done similar exercises with dumbbells before for tennis conditioning. I didn't find the "hip rock" movement very helpful in creating a bar bounce. My forearms are too long to allow the bar to rest of my anterior delts anyway so it just felt better to go from a dead stop at the bottom to the top.

    Deadlift - It felt good to finally deadlift with a barbell! I used dumbbells for pulls for a while and it's a nice change having the weight ~8" off the floor instead of 3". I have a pretty rounded upper spine due to years of bad posture/computer time. It doesn't feel sore when I pull though so hopefully it's not a big deal. I'm trying to figure out if my hips are too high when I begin the lift. Let me know what you think.
    Last edited by Chris Oliver; 02-13-2019 at 07:49 PM.

  5. #5
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    2/1/19

    Squat: 50x5x3 YouTube
    Bench: 45x5x3 YouTube
    Deadlift: 140x5 YouTube

    Squat - I tried to narrow my grip slightly but my elbows weren't going to have it. Also, the inside of my knees were really sore yesterday so I'm trying a slightly more forward-toes stance (around 24" between front of the feet) to see what that does. I think this will also help me track my knees in line with my feet. I raised the J-cups up a notch to reduce slouching when I un-rack the bar. Also raised the spotter arms up 1" since I'm still able to hit parallel.

    Bench - Watching the video I feel like I'm starting too far back (even though it feels like my arms are vertical) and coming too far forward. Also looks like my forearms are not quite vertical.

    Deadlift - Only change I focused on was dragging the bar up my legs and maintaining contact the whole way.

  6. #6
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    Welcome! You've picked a great journey to start; if you stick with it I expect you'll find it life-affirming. Our three youngsters are 7, 4, and 2; it's a fun time of life right now, but recovery can be tough depending on how the nights go.

    Quote Originally Posted by coliver14 View Post
    2/1/19Squat - Also raised the spotter arms up 1" since I'm still able to hit parallel.
    Couple problems with this. First, you need to get below parallel, not parallel. Your 45lb squats were correct depth without going too far; your 50lb squats were slightly high. Second: Your bar is kissing the arms when you squat already. When the weight gets heavier, you will compress more. I failed a squat at 408 two weeks ago because the barbell compressed me an extra half inch and I hit the safety arm, and the whole rep wrecked spectacularly. Better to get this dialed in early than late!

    Quote Originally Posted by coliver14 View Post
    2/1/19Bench - Watching the video I feel like I'm starting too far back (even though it feels like my arms are vertical) and coming too far forward.
    Yes; your bar path at lockout is a bit superior to the glenohumeral joint, and therefore creating a slight moment arm. At 45lbs you can control it. At 245, you won't be able to. Also, your touch point on chest is slightly inferior of the desired contact point. This may be a grip width issue, but it would take a top-down view to spot for certain.

    Quote Originally Posted by coliver14 View Post
    2/1/19Deadlift - Only change I focused on was dragging the bar up my legs and maintaining contact the whole way.
    Looking pretty good actually. Only thing I'd say is: You don't have to put it down as slow as you pick it up. Make sure your knees are clear of the bar and lower it at ballistic speed, while controlling it with your hands. Um ... unless you're doing that because you're worried about waking the kids? Again, at 140 you can do the slow lower; at 340 you will not be able to do so. Better to dial in early than late.

    Again, welcome to the forums and the community.

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    I plan to do a little incline walking on the treadmill and maybe some core work during the “off days” to help keep my body fat in check.
    How does that work?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff Bischoff View Post

    Couple problems with this. First, you need to get below parallel, not parallel. Your 45lb squats were correct depth without going too far; your 50lb squats were slightly high. Second: Your bar is kissing the arms when you squat already. When the weight gets heavier, you will compress more. I failed a squat at 408 two weeks ago because the barbell compressed me an extra half inch and I hit the safety arm, and the whole rep wrecked spectacularly. Better to get this dialed in early than late!
    Good points, I was just touching the arms at bottom and with heavier weight the bar will deflect some and hit it sooner (before I break parallel). I'll lower it back down a notch.

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff Bischoff View Post
    Yes; your bar path at lockout is a bit superior to the glenohumeral joint, and therefore creating a slight moment arm. At 45lbs you can control it. At 245, you won't be able to. Also, your touch point on chest is slightly inferior of the desired contact point. This may be a grip width issue, but it would take a top-down view to spot for certain.
    I agree. I'll take a different angle video next time to show grip width.

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff Bischoff View Post
    Looking pretty good actually. Only thing I'd say is: You don't have to put it down as slow as you pick it up. Make sure your knees are clear of the bar and lower it at ballistic speed, while controlling it with your hands. Um ... unless you're doing that because you're worried about waking the kids? Again, at 140 you can do the slow lower; at 340 you will not be able to do so. Better to dial in early than late.

    Again, welcome to the forums and the community.
    Thanks! Yea my workout room is upstairs so I'm trying to minimize noise. Luckily deadlifts are last so even if they do wake the wife or kids it won't be too much before their alarm clock.

    Quote Originally Posted by wiigelec View Post
    How does that work?
    Energy balance.

  9. #9
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    Also on the bench, your elbows are back too far at the bottom. You want them to be in front of the bar - not a ton, but some. This will help some with positioning at the bottom Geoff talked about, though I suspect you may need to bring it up just a bit. When the bar gets heavy, your arms will be inclined to push up in the direction they are facing, which in these would be either straight up or slightly forward. Also, I heard you hit the arms on the last rep (that or there's some other noise around). Holes don't seem close enough to lower it and keep you safe, so you may need to focus on keeping your chest up just a bit higher or making sure the bar stays off the arms, assuming it was just a lateral shift that caused it, but normally you are good.

    I'd also recommend losing the collars on the bench. The arms should give you a safe way out of a sticky situation, but it's nice to know you can shift the bar and drop plates to the floor one side at a time if needed (very noisily, I might add).

    Keep it up and keep the weight going on!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by abg View Post
    Also on the bench, your elbows are back too far at the bottom. You want them to be in front of the bar - not a ton, but some. This will help some with positioning at the bottom Geoff talked about, though I suspect you may need to bring it up just a bit. When the bar gets heavy, your arms will be inclined to push up in the direction they are facing, which in these would be either straight up or slightly forward. Also, I heard you hit the arms on the last rep (that or there's some other noise around). Holes don't seem close enough to lower it and keep you safe, so you may need to focus on keeping your chest up just a bit higher or making sure the bar stays off the arms, assuming it was just a lateral shift that caused it, but normally you are good.

    I'd also recommend losing the collars on the bench. The arms should give you a safe way out of a sticky situation, but it's nice to know you can shift the bar and drop plates to the floor one side at a time if needed (very noisily, I might add).

    Keep it up and keep the weight going on!
    Thanks! I ended up lowering the spotter arms an inch for the squat and bench press. This gives enough room to avoid hitting them during normal ROM but just high enough to allow me to squirm under the bar for a failed bench if needed.

    2/3/19

    Squat: 55x5x3 YouTube
    Press: 50x5x3 YouTube
    Deadlift: 145x5 YouTube

    Squat felt good. I think I'm starting to hone in my stance (16" between heels and about 24" between front-center of feet) as my knees weren't sore yesterday or this morning.
    My focus on the press is keeping my elbows below (or slightly in front of the bar). I have a strong tendency to keep my elbows back behind the bar (same with bench) but hopefully I can overcome this habit.
    Deadlift - I tried keeping my legs straight on the descent until the bar passes my knees but it just doesn't feel right. For now it looks like I'm going to keep unlocking my hips and knees about the same time.

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