35, and getting Stronger (almost) Every Day 35, and getting Stronger (almost) Every Day

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Thread: 35, and getting Stronger (almost) Every Day

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2019

    Default 35, and getting Stronger (almost) Every Day

    • texas starting strength seminar september 2020
    • wichita falls texas december seminar 2020
    Name: Andrew Chambers
    Age: 35
    Height: 5' 7"
    Weight: 185 lbs at start of barbell training. 189 lbs at Week 4.

    I've decided to start a log here to have add some incentive and accountability to weekly workouts. I would describe my programming as "mostly novice". I'm not obsessing about adding weight every workout. Two main reasons for this: 1) I'm only willing to gain a moderate amount of weight to gain strength. My target is to increase from 185 to 200 lbs over perhaps 3 months, and then re-evaluate. If gaining strength remains a priority at that point, I might opt to green-light additional weight. 2) I've been relatively inactive for long enough to feel an increased potential for injury. The upshot is that - while embracing my Novice status and being eager to steadily increase the weight on the bar - I'm in no rush to exhaust increases and am willing to be patient.

    This first post will be a long one, covering approx. 6 months of relevant 'backstory.' Then I'll switch to short posts that back-log approx. 4 weeks of training to bring things up to date.

    January-April. I decide that fat, weak and sore all of the time is so c.2012-2018 and it's time for a change. I get control of what I'm eating. Over 4 months I drop weight at a steady rate, from 220 to 190 lbs. During this time my activity is increased - mostly walking, stretching, some jogging and some flirting with HIIT.

    May-July. I increase calories to maintenance levels, increase protein intake, and start full body resistance training with dumbbells. It feels great - but I'm not exactly adding much muscle or strength. At a certain point, I finally realize that goblet squats and DB RDLs are not going to be sufficient to add muscle to my frame. Research convinces me that what I need is a barbell, and so I decide on purchasing a decent power rack + barbell set for my basement. Everything up to now has only been prologue.

    August. The first 3 weeks of barbell training aren't SSLP. During this time I was actually using Barbell Medicine's 'beginner prescription', which jumps around to different rep-ranges using RPE. Pros: It gave me lots of sets/reps to practice form on the lifts, and helped me gauge a suitable starting point for the eventual SSLP. Cons: The volume was too much for me to recover from and consistently improve. On top of that, improvements were difficult to track with so many varying metrics. Around the end of August, I read the Blue Book and decided to commit to the measurable simplicity of 3x5s.

    Sept-Oct. This is where the individual weekly back-logged posts will pick up below. For simplicity's sake, I'll end up labelling my first 3x5 workout as "Week One", with everything that has come before this point only setting the stage.

    Diet. By the time August rolled around I had reached 185 lbs and was maintaining that weight at ~2100 calories. With barbell training, I increased my calories to 2500 in the first week ... 2800 in the second ... 3000 in the third ... and now I'm up to 3500 calories/day, aiming for about 200g Protein. My weight didn't appreciably go up until I got over 3000 calories, which surprised me based on the initial break-even point of just over 2000.

    Workout Schedule. At the time of posting (that would = Week 4 below) my weekly programming looks like this:

    Saturday: Squat / Bench / Deadlift / Pullups
    Monday: Squat / Press / Rows / Face-pulls
    Wednesday: Squat / Bench / Deadlift / Chin-ups
    Thursday: Press / pull-up negatives
    Last edited by Andrew Chambers; 10-09-2019 at 06:39 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2019

    Default Week One

    Squat: 3x5 @ 170 lbs
    Bench: 3x5 @ 140 lbs
    Deadlift: 1x5 @ 230 lbs
    Pull-ups: 8@6, 8@6, 8@6* *[A note on Pulls/chins: For the time being I'm using resistance bands to offer assistance while shooting for sets of up to 8 reps. I have a really skinny one, the next one, and the next one after that. For the purposes of recording these, I'm assigning the thickest one a relative rating of "5" - medium a rating of "3" - and the smallest a rating of "1" in terms of how much assistance is provided. So - my thickest one (actually a 110-120lbs band, used only under my bent knee so as to minimize resistance at the bottom of the pull) plus my thinnest one gives a score of 5+1 = 6, which is what I used today. Essentially: the "@" rating is how much/how little help I was receiving on the set. When the number gets smaller, I'm getting stronger.]

    Squat: 3x5 @ 180 lbs
    Press: 3x5 @ 95 lbs.
    DB Rows: I don't always do these and won't bother recording the details. I consider my pulls/chins the 'growth' stat and do DB rows in a quasi-AMRAP fashion on Mondays to facilitate.
    Pushups: I did one max set of pushups today, for 34. History may one day require this information, and so I am duty-bound to record it. Dear readers of the future: carry on.

    Deadlift: 1x5 @235 lbs.
    Bench: 3x5 @ 145 lbs.
    Squat: 3x5 @ 185 lbs.
    Chins: 7@3, 8@4, 7@4

    Press: 5x95lbs + 5x95lbs + 6x95lbs.

    At 3 weeks into my Low-bar Squatting career, form leaves much to be desired. Lots of tendonitis from getting used to the grip at this point.
    I will eventually switch out the deadlift from first lift to final lift on Wednesdays, as it creates too much fatigue for the other lifts that follow it.
    I really, really need to fashion a micro-loading solution for the presses. Since my plate-set only has 2 each of 5lb and 10lb weights, there is a jump from 80-95 lbs which my press had to take immediately before this week's numbers. Form is stretched to the breaking point to get those reps up, and the only available increase is a 5 lb jump.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2019

    Default Week Two

    Squat: 3x5 @ 190 lbs
    Bench: 5@150 / 4@150 / 5@150. [Failed in second set. Likely due to form.]
    Deadlift: 5x235 lbs [No increase due to needed practice implementing Form Check advices. Plus, the 235 last week was heavy for me.]
    Pullups: 8@5, 6@5, 7@6

    Squat: 3x5 @ 195 lbs.
    Press: 7@85 + 7@85 + 9@85 [not feeling that jump to 100 lbs yet, so upping volume for now. I visited gym, and took advantage of not having the 80lb -95lb gap for once!]
    Rows: [Took advantage of gym equipment to do Lat pull-downs and seated cable rows today.]

    Squat: 3x5 @ 200 lbs.
    Bench: 3x5 @ 150 lbs. [Yessss. Felt good after the missed attempt on Saturday!]
    Deadlift: 1x5 @ 240 lbs.
    Chins: 8@3, 8@3, 7@4

    Press: 5@95 + 6@95 + 7@95
    Pull-up negative & partial reps [no assistance]

    It was fun to actually be in a gym instead of my basement on Monday and warmup+use the squat rack like I knew what I was doing.
    Squat increases feel sustainable at this point - tendonitis starting to ease off with mobility work and just getting used to it.
    Need to get DL increases up to stay ahead of Squat progress.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2019

    Default Week Three

    Squat: 3x5 @ 205 lbs
    Bench: 4@155 / 8@135 / 10@135 [Failed fifth rep at 155]
    Deadlift: 3x255 w/belt + 5x240 w/belt
    Pullups: 7@5, 8@6, 7@6

    Squat: 5@205, 5@205, 4@205. [Still tired from last time, tried to repeat 205 and failed final rep.]
    Press: 3x5 @ 100lbs [Heyyyy, this felt really good after the Squat set-back. Form was rough, but the reps went up!]
    DB Rows, assorted

    Squat: 5@205, 5@205, 6@205
    Bench: 5@155, 5@155, 10@135 [Second set of 155 was @max]
    Deadlift: 5x255 (no belt)
    Chins: 7@1, 8@3, 6@3

    Press: 2x5 @ 100lbs + 4x5@ 100lbs [shoulders very sore today... couldn't quite repeat Monday's sets]

    A re-read of the Blue Book helped with Squat form this week. It also helped me to realize that my heavy warmup sets have been a little too tiring - adjusted.
    Overall, I'm getting pretty tired and worn down during this week.
    Presses are receiving extra volume days to prep for 3x5 progression days.
    Deadlifts: I liked test-running a new high-weight w/belt on Saturday (at sub-max reps) and then PR-ing that weight for 5 reps w/o the belt on Wednesday. Might try that again next week.
    Bench press needs work on bar-path.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2019

    Default Week Four

    Squat: 3x5 @ 210 lbs.
    Bench: 5@155, 4@155, 10@135 [Form error cost me the second set. Need bar-path practice]
    Deadlift: 4x265 (w/belt) + 5x255 (no belt)
    Pullups: 8@5, 8@5, 6@5

    Squat: 6@205, 5@205, 5@205 [Noticed in video today that I tend to raise my head at the sticking point. Something to work on.]
    Press: 3x5 @ 98 lbs [Finally fashioned those home-made micro-plates!]
    Bench: 5@135, 2 @ 155, 8@ 135 [Added an extra Bench day to work on form this week.]

    Squat: 3x5 @ 215 [This felt great. Managed to keep my head down through the sticking point and was actually surprised these all went up. Good day.]
    Bench: 3x5 @ 153 [Micro-plates are so paying off already! New PR.]
    Deadlift: 1x5 @ 265 (no belt) [The deadlift strategy of testing a weight on Sat. and getting my 5 reps on Wed. is working so far.]
    Chins: 7@1, 8@3, 7@3 [Technically, this was a Quad-PR day. No wonder this is the day I'm starting this thread...]

    ...is currently in the future, and so I will come back and edit with results later in the week.
    [EDIT: Pressed 6x95, 7x95, 8x95 for a tonnage PR which was actually quite encouraging for this tough lift. Scheduled to give 103 a chance on Monday and see what happens. Also today: I was getting ready to put in a few sets of Pull-up Negatives and decided to give an unassisted, dead-hang pull-up a shot - and I got it! I've been working toward my first unassisted pull-up for over 10 weeks now - and there it was, in all of its slow, grinding glory.]

    re: Squat: The article "Analyzing the Squat" has been an absolute "aha!" moment for me. It took so much of the information in the articles and the Blue Book and solidified it in a way that I can actually apply and feel while squatting. Up until now, I've mostly been attempting to do what I think will look like the pictures that I've been told are correct. But now, I'm actually focusing on the WHY of back-angle and hip drive. Difficult to explain exactly how the light went on for me - but I finally 'felt' the difference. On the way down, I'm moving my hips/back/knees in such a way as to intentionally feel tension building up in my hamstrings, just above my knee. That tension translates to force produced out of the hole. I started going too deep. Then adjusted my depth, but without the built up tension to get any hip drive. And now - finally - proper depth makes sense...because the back angle makes sense. The cue I gave myself (not used in the linked article, but inspired by it) is "long levers." I'm thinking about the angles of my back+femur for the purposes of creating tension and producing force at the bottom of the squat. I'm guessing all of this sounds like inane rambling (and I'm certain my squat form work still has a long way to go) - but for the first time I'm starting to 'get' what the purpose of this technique really is.

    re: bench: Bar-path work really helped (I was pushing too straight up off the chest - changed that to getting the bar 'up' toward my neck sooner in the rep.) Also: I'm learning to stop pushing off the rack higher than necessary, which was messing with my arch at the start of the set. What also helped: a little extra psych-up before the set, with some harder gripping of the bar.

    re: Deadlift: I'm not sure when/if I should switch to just using the belt all of the time, or just Saturdays for now...

    re: programming thoughts going forward:
    Saturday: PR attempt on Squats / PR attempt on Bench / Heavy belted set on DL, then back off to 1x5 @ lighter weight. / Pull-ups
    Monday: Lighter volume for squats / PR attempt on Press / "light day" on Bench / introduce RDLS
    Wednesday: PR attempt on Squats / Prep-volume day on Bench / PR attempt on DL / Chin-ups
    Thursday: prep-volume day on Press.
    Last edited by Andrew Chambers; 10-11-2019 at 07:06 PM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2019

    Default Week Five

    Prev. week avg. weight = 190.0lbs

    NOTE: This was a deeply discouraging week. Some form checks posted on the forum here helped me realize that Squats and Deads need some serious form correction, and so progress has gone backwards on those lifts. I'd rather do it right and get stronger in the right spots, though. So no missed workouts despite morale hitting some serious low points.

    Squat: 165x5 / 185x5 / 185x5 [Large volume of warmup sets today, trying to fix the problem of my (very) high elbows. Every set was miserable.]
    Bench: 155x5x3 [Hit this PR today after missing it last week.]
    Deadlift: 5x225 / 5x240 [Working to correct my hips dropping at the start of the pull. I'm short with legs:torso ratio relatively high, so it feels very natural to do this. I wasn't 'squatting' the deadlift off the floor - or even close - but I WAS lowering my hips to generate power instead of setting my lower back quite tight. These sets were *almost* as discouraging as today's Squats.]
    Pull-ups: 6@3, 8@4, 6@4.

    Monday: [Felt so discouraged + physically beaten down (sleep has suffered lately) that I almost didn't workout today. Eventually fit it in at night.]

    Squat: 185x5x3 [Continuing to correct elbows. Not much better than Saturday - which means, miserable.]
    Press: 102x5x3 [This was a clean PR. It's great how the presses are coming through to provide a silver lining this week.]
    Bench: 10x135 / 10x135 / 11x135 ["light day". I'm trying out Bench 3x/week for a while.]

    Squat: 195x5x3 [Slight glimmer of progress and hope compared to Sat/Mon, but still a long way to go with these elbows...]
    Bench: 165x2 / 140x10 / 145x9 [This is my "prep day" for next Saturday's planned PR attempt at 158. I think there is some psychological value in putting up 165 and knowing that my attempt of 158 sets-across will not be the highest weight I've ever felt go up on the bar.]
    Deadlift: Was a mess of attempting to correct my form while being interrupted by my 7-year old son. I decided to let being a dad win and put down the bar for now. The reason I started getting in shape was to be there in better ways for my family.
    Chins: 5@1, 8@3, 7@3

    Press: 6x98 / 7x98 / 6x98 [Nice tonnage PR as prep for next Monday]
    Pullups: Performed 4 sets of 1 rep unassisted + slow, controlled negative reps.

    NOTES: Tough week with some encouraging progress on the presses. Lots of work on my elbows/grip in the squat. Interestingly, as I've been getting them down I've noticed that I don't need to worry as much about back angle (it seems to be sorting itself out). Also: Fixing my grip has made it possible for me to focus more on actively tightening my lower back before each rep. Previously, my (very) high elbows had created a general tight-mess feeling in my back which convinced me that everything was tight enough. Now that this is being corrected, I'm needing to work on what kind of tightness is actually needed. As always, re-reading the relevant chapters in Starting Strength yields additional insight at the very point on which I'm currently stuck. I think the Deadlift chapter has convinced me to keep fighting for the higher hips in that lift as well.
    - Eating 3500 calories of mostlyreal, solid food is harder than I would have ever guessed. But when I fall much below that, all weight gain freezes. It literally takes more dedication to keep eating than it does to get under the bar and correct my squat form!
    Last edited by Andrew Chambers; 10-19-2019 at 01:32 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2019

    Default Week Six

    Prev. week avg. weight = 190.3 lbs

    Squat: 200x5x3 [still plagued by my usual problems - depth too low, elbows wayyy too high]
    Bench: 158x5x3 [PR!]
    Deadlift: 6x240 [form improving, still needs work]
    Pullups: 7@3 / 6@3 / 7@4

    Squat: 5x185 / 5x200 / 10x135 high bar [did one set of High Bar, just to ENJOY squatting for once. Low-Bar form woes continue.]
    Press: 103x5x3 [PR - only one pound up, but on the press - I'll always take it!]
    Bench: 140x8x 3 sets

    Squat: 205x5 / 205x5 / 195x5 [If you guessed form was breaking down - you've been paying attention so far.]
    Bench: 170x1 / 140x8 / 140x10
    Deadlift: 5x240 [Completely satisfied with the form this time around. Time to starting increasing again]

    (I missed my extra Thursday Press session this week)

    NOTES Another tough week for squats. Deadlift form improved. Presses improved. And even though they weren't pretty - I'm still getting under the bar and squatting. Even with the slow progress in weight, it's been evident for weeks now that the muscles in my legs are getting stronger in ways they never really have before. Despite the discouraging times, I wouldn't trade by barbell-shaped midlife crisis for anything.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2019

    Default Week Seven

    Prev. week avg. weight = 191.3 lbs (been awhile since I've entered data here, so today I'm entering Week Six + Week Seven)

    Squat: 205x5x3 [elbows still a mess. Tried more "chest up" cue at unracking - this seemed to help. Until I saw the video.]
    Bench: 160x4 / 160x5 / 160x5 [Not sure what happened with that first set, but glad I kept at it for the rest.]
    Deadlift: 5x240
    Pullups: 7@3 / 6@3 / 5@3

    Squat: 210x5x3 [Form breaking down @ end]
    Press: 105x5 / 105x4 / 95x7

    Squat: 210x5x3 [Form = normal mess]
    Bench: 170x2 / 145x7 / 140x10 / 160x5
    Deadlift: 5x255 (w/belt) [Will try 255 beltless next time]
    Chins: 7@1 / 8@3 / 5@3

    Press: 105x5x3 [PR]

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2019

    Default Week Eight. 2019.11.02--2019.11.07

    Prev. week avg weight = 191.3 lbs

    Squat: 185x8 / 185x5 / 185x7 [The goal today was simply to put in volume with adjustments to elbow position]
    Bench: 160x5x3 [PR. In fact, I actually squeezed out a 6th rep on the last set.]
    Deadlift: 5x255 [Finally back to increasing the weight while holding onto the improved form.]
    Pullups: 4@3 / 5@3 [Was just exhausted by this point today - Pullups suffered a little bit.]

    Squat: 195x5x3 [Experiment of the week: allowing a wider grip to see if it lets me pull my elbows down. Moderate success so far.]
    Press: 107x5 / 107x5 / 107x4 [Close to a new PR number. Here's the thing: if I had attempted this at 105 today, I might've got the same rep results (or - at best - just repeated 105x5x3). Instead, attempting the next weight gave an encouraging look at where my limit has progressed to.]
    Bench: 170x3 / 155x6 / 155x7

    Squat: 185x6 / 185x8 / 185x7 [Looking for working volume to practice the wide grip / elbows down. It's not perfect, but it might be good enough to hop back on the LP]
    Bench: 163x5x3 [PR. Even though I'm usually going with more intermediate PR / volume / prep days each week for Bench Press, this week just felt good enough to tackle 2 5x3 increases.]
    Deadlift: 260x4 [Apparently, counting to 5 can be hard sometimes. I video'd this set and had a hunch there weren't 5. Definitely could've got there. Will move on to 265 next time.]
    Chins: 8@1 / 7@1 / 7@1

    Press: 107x5x3 [PR]

    Next week I'll travel for a few days. This will involve rearranging my workouts to have 2 barbell sessions + one lighter DB session in a hotel 'fitness centre'. This will be the closest I've come to taking any time off/missed workouts since August.
    Looking back, progress looks like this:
    Deadlift: 185lbs --> 260lbs (with a long stretch of fixing form)
    Squat: 160lbs --> 215lbs (with half of the time spent resetting and working hard on form)
    Bench: 140lbs --> 163lbs (hard-fought all the way. I've previously witnessed almost no growth in bench.)
    Press: 95lbs --> 107lbs (95 was a high forced starting point. Progress has been slow but steady after early stall.)
    Pullups: From sets of 8 with "level 6" assistance to sets of 8 with "level 4"assistance.
    Weight: 185lbs --> 192lbs

    After this upcoming modified week, I'll be diving back into weight increases on DL and Squat - but I'm not sure how far I should take Squats in their present state. Just hoping that continued practice helps to iron out some of the issues. Might just get desperate enough to post some more form checks...

    One of those elusive landmarks which I've never accomplished is to bench my own bodyweight. Might've came within 10 lbs in high school - but never progressed in those days. I was always confused as to why my random workouts never seemed to increase my strength output. At this rate, I'll be making my first attempt at benching my weight sometime before 2020 at 35 years young.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2012


    starting strength coach development program
    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Chambers View Post
    I was always confused as to why my random workouts never seemed to increase my strength output.
    Looks like nothing’s changed.

    Consistency is the key here. Do your fives.

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