Just checking in here to talk about what’s working for me currently.


  • walking between workout days
  • tracking accessory work in notebook
  • incorporating the incline bench
  • upper-body 5/3/1 goals are about maintenance
  • lower-body 5/3/1 goals are about getting back to my modest peaks
  • still doing 5/3/1 so beginning of workouts look like power-lifting
  • upper-body finishing work looks like bodybuilding
  • lower-body finishing work looks like conditioning

Stepping Back

Earlier in 2016 I felt a tweak in my back when doing the dead. It wasn’t much but I immediately took a week off and dropped my weights. I also stopped using a belt. I don’t compete, I don’t have huge goals I just want to stay strong. I’d rather deadlift 225 at 70 than get impressive numbers in my 40s.

What I do Now

Still doing 5/3/1 with some modifications of course. I entirely threw out the deload week of 5/3/1, the rest of the work outs are spread across the month. This gives me good recovery time, probably an important thing as I get older.

Better Training Notes

I figure out how I want to progess over the year for the main lifts for 5/3/1. I have it in a single page spreadsheet for the whole year. Each workout checks this off. But I wasn’t tracking any of the rest of my accessory lifts. I ended up in a situation where I added way too much weight for a tricep pull-over. I was able to do the lift but my connective tissue wasn’t ready. This didn’t manifest as some lack of mobility but I was aware of it and I knew I messed up.

Since then I started tracking everything I do each workout so that I can make sure that accessory lifts advance in a sensible way. I think this has been important especially because I’m frankly holding back on my 5/3/1 lifts, playing the long game.


On days that I don’t lift I go for a half-hour walk. It’s been good to keep the routine going, good time to zone out before the work day and listen to a podcast. If it’s the weekend and we have other plans I bail on this without hesitation.

It goes something like this:

  • Sun:
  • Mon: press
  • Tue: walk
  • Wed: dead
  • Thu: walk
  • Fri: bench
  • Sat:
  • Sun: squat
  • Mon: walk

Upper-body Days

Being 5/3/1, the first sets are about the 5/3/1 sets. It’s power-lifting focused, it’s programmed and it’s what I need to hit for the day. Everything else is up for grabs.

I think of the upper-body days as alternating between the vertical plane for the press and the horizontal plane for the bench. So I make sure that I am doing compound pull movements that complement the push movements.

The rest of upper-body days I train like a bodybuilder. It’s about vanity and trying to look good in a t-shirt.


I did get my press up to 205. I can do it but it’s scary putting that much up. It feels like I’m pushing my luck or risking an injury. For this year I have my maxes for press down to 185.

After 5/3/1 press sets I do an incline thin-grip bench. Being incline it involves the delts more than a bench would and it’s a good compound movement to get the triceps going.

For press days I obviously hit the delts hard. I think the best thing I do for delts is light dumbell work. I do sets of 10, 8 and 6 reps with 21 pounds, then another set of 10, 8 and 6 for 19 pounds then another for 17 pounds. Note that for the front-raise I do 10 reps in total, not 10 reps each shoulder. The front delts get plenty of work already from doing compound movements like the overhead press, benching and so on.

To go on a tangent here, barbell work is optimal for growing a solid base, it’s your meat and potatoes. I think it’s difficult to really get your shoulders to pop with just the barbell. Since I started more serious dumbell work on the shoulders I have noticed that my shoulders and delts have responded well.

Press day is also tricep day. I do a tricep pull-over that I consider to be a pull movement as well. Yep a tricep movement that I consider a pull, nuts huh? It hits the lats as well as the triceps. I do it almost like Mark Rippetoe explains but I go farther back, the plates touch the floor at the bottom of the motion. It’s a good stretch.

Recently I have also added single-joint dumbell work to finish off the triceps at the end of the workout. The single-joint, bodybuilding stuff goes at the end and is very optional.


My bench is particularly low, I have it at 275 right now and my goal for the end of the year is to be at 275. I just don’t care to improve on it. It seems like pushing the bench is a great opportunity for injury. I know it’s a common theme but I’d rather bench 225 at 70 than push 315 at 46.

I have however gotten more serious about upping the weights for dumbell press and incline dumbell press. These feel good, the range of motion and flexibility in position makes me think I’m less likely to injure myself using those lifts.

The incline bench is new. Since I haven’t done an incline dumbell press in years I started really low and I’m going to ramp up very gradually.

On bench day I do biceps as well. This is the bro-lifting day. I was doing curl-bar curls and I felt funkiness at the insertion point at the bottom of my bicep. Now I do dumbell curls and it feels a lot better. I might do regular dumbell curls and/ or hammer curls.

Leg Days

On lower-body days I alternate my 5/3/1 sets with some form of sit-up. I’ll either do leg raises on a bench or sit-ups on the abmat. The world will never see my abs but I think sit-ups help keep the core together for squats.

After the 5/3/1 sets I might do 1 additional assistance exercise to help out with strength or hypertrophy.

Whereas the tail end of my upper-body days I work out like a bodybuilder, to finish my lower-body days I work out like a cross-fitter. Albeit a remedial, out of shape cross-fitter. This conditioning work uses kettlebells, jump rope and the medicine ball come into play.

I’ll do 3 rounds of something like this going every minute on the minute:

exercise      | reps
KB swing #70  | 20
KB snatch #35 | 20
jump rope     | 20

Or maybe something like this but I take a 10 breath rest between exercises.

exercise        | reps
KB snatch #53   | 10
KB swing #70    | 10
KB goblet squat | 5


For the assistance exercise I usually do either a barbell hip-thrust or the sumo deadlift. For the sumo deadlift I kind of do like a romanian deadlift, feeling the stretch at the bottom, touch and go.


I’d really like to get my squat back up to 315 this year. Accessory has been more squats, doing a light load (currently ~155) for 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 reps with 10 breath pause in between sets.