Setting up for 5/3/1

Have you gotten your recommended dosage of sexism lately?

I have.

I bought an ebook containing a very smart, simple, sensible weightlifting program, and in the process of reading it and surrounding articles, pushed my sexism meter about as high as it would go without me punching someone in the face.

Even if punching Jim Wendler would likely get me snapped in half. Look, the dude can bench press over 400 lb.

(Although I suppose that being able to bench 400 lb isn’t a true indicator of his infraspinatus strength, so he might not be able to just rip me in half…)

If you haven’t gotten your daily dosage of sexism, let me give you a hint as to the kind of advice you can expect from 5/3/1: The Simplest and Most Effective Training System to Increase Raw Strength:

  • Avoid “pussification”
  • Move “north of vag”/move “somewhat north of being an utter vag”
  • “Stop all the things that make you a pussy”
  • Move out of “the Land of the Vag”

Having one of the aforementioned and much-maligned pieces of equipment, I’m not so sure why everyone’s so keen to run away from it. It’s quite nice, really, guys.

Male-centric and misogynistic language aside (if I may), the book’s a very good read. Very focused, technical, and relatively unpretentious. No supplements, no eating a cow every day. No routines of 10+ exercises per day. In fact, it’s so focused that none of that above language is even in the nitty gritty of the book at all–it’s in the FAQs and the hype-building sections. Stuff to read for tips, motivation, and ideas, but not what’s serious.

(To be fair, some of the articles surrounding the book were far more misogyny-laden than the book itself.)

The core principles of the program are ones I agree with whole-heartedly:

  • Emphasize big, multi-joint movements
  • Start too light
  • Progress slowly
  • Break personal records (PRs)

The program centers around four core lifts–bench press, squats, deadlift, and military press–with a few assistance exercises for balance and symmetry. (The “5/3/1” part of the title ties into the number of reps for these core lifts.) His stance on all the fiddly bits that weightlifters often worry about?

“It doesn’t matter.”

In fact, I counted nine easy instances of some variation on “It doesn’t matter” in this 100 page book. It doesn’t matter when you do conditioning, just do it. It doesn’t matter which hand you supinate on a deadlift; just pick one, or switch off. Chin-ups vs. pull-ups? Doesn’t matter. Pick one, pick both, switch off, whatever.

I appreciate the flexibility–and recommended flexibility–of Wendler’s approach. Don’t nag yourself to death over the width of your grip on a chin-up. Keep switching it up, because they offer variability and change the focus. Not everything needs to be optimized to death.

I was perfectly willing to modify the workouts to use the (free!) lifting machine at my apartment complex, but went down and experimented only to find that there’s no military press or deadlift equivalent, and nothing I could even reasonably or safely jury rig. And no way my dumbbells were going to get me there.

Well, hell.

I did get some preliminary max numbers on the machine’s bench press and leg press, though. The dude already in the workout room probably thought I was crazy, just doing a couple of reps, scribbling and calculating on paper, then moving to the next exercise.

After some deliberation and research, I opted to begin my own little home gym. I already have about 40 lb of weight lifting equipment in the form of dumbbell handles and 2.5 and 5 lb weights. I ordered a set of bar + 150 lb of weights. 150 lb on a leg press machine is pretty much nothing, but doing squats without a cage, I’ll have to be a lot more cautious.

I do feel very bad for the UPS person who delivers it to my third-floor apartment. Hopefully they won’t just take it to the apartment complex office, or I’ll be the one very sorry.

I’ve got a nice container to tuck everything away in, and the bar can stand up in a corner.

Greg’s already been recruited as my spotter. He doesn’t know it yet, but I may get him to pick up and put down things a few times himself. He gets muscle definition and strength if he even thinks about doing a few pushups or sit-ups per week, so I’m looking forward to this.

I have no idea what doing a military press is going to be like for my shoulder (the aftermath of maxing out on the bench press wasn’t as bad as it could have been), so I may need to initially modify the lift or keep with front raises (both work the anterior deltoids) but push up the weight.

And I’ll need to figure out how to get the weights up to shoulder height without doing this dangerous-looking mess.