On Life and Love

Months of 5’s, 3’s, and 1’s

I’ve been lifting via the 5/3/1 program since December 2011. In the last year, I’ve completed 8 months of lifting.

Consistent, not so much, but I was stalling enough in the last couple of months that I decided to recalculate my maxes last week.

When I started last December, I was still doing shoulder rehab (at home) thrice weekly. My shoulder hurt every day. Even trying to do an assisted pull-up would cause days’ worth of escalation of shoulder pain.

It’s hard to make a true assessment of my upper-body strength at the time, because so much is driven by the ability to strongly and painlessly rotate ones shoulders: pushups, pull-ups, rows, lifting objects higher than the waist, and raising anything overhead. Even crunches were painful–the curling motion is the exact opposite of the good posture I have to maintain to prevent the bone spur from grinding various things in my shoulder.

My lower body strength was unremarkable, either way. I could run, I could climb the flights of stairs to my apartments, etc. with no leg strength-related issues. Daily life, ho-hum.

I knew I could be stronger, though. My father was a weightlifter during my childhood, and while I’m not going to get as strong as him, our musculature is rather similar, and I know I can do better.

So here was my 1 rep max (1RM) progress in each of the four 5/3/1 lifts in 2012:

  • Military Press: +30 lb
  • Deadlift: +70 lb
  • Bench Press: +30 lb
  • Squats: +75 lb

Given that it was my first year of anything resembling real training, those increases represent massive increases percentage-wise, close to doubling in most cases.

I expect next year to have smaller percentage increases, but this time I’m setting some specific goals and changes based on what I like and where I’m seeking to get stronger.

For one, I’m going back to a floor press. Full-range bench presses are still utter hell on my shoulder, and it’s just not worth it. (Chest dips are out for the same reason.) I can still get some strength gains with floor presses, even if my weight numbers will feel inflated until I get accustomed to them. My goal is to get to a 1RM of 0.8x bodyweight.

Also, I still can’t do a pull-up/chin-up. This year, I shall do 5 of them, courtesy of some sort of progression guide.

Well, not just 5, not over the next 365 days. I mean 5 in a set. In some session this year.

Last but not least, 1x bodyweight on the deadlift.

Here we go, 2013.