Back on Strong Lifts 5x5 - my program mini journal

(DougH) #1

No questions here. I am going to keep this as a little mini log, I hope that isn’t outside the forum rules.

I have been very successful with this program in the past, and I am getting back on the horse.

The two days after my first workout on the program always results in crazy muscle soreness in my quads and glutes. The mental image here is my 35 year self walking around like a geriatric.

I stopped last May because I was too busy with work and getting my house ready to sell. At that time I was about 2.5 months into the program and I was putting up the following lifts for 5x5, squat 235 lbs, bench 195 lbs, OH Press 110 lbs, barbell row 155 lbs, dead lifts 275 lbs, and extra lifts outside the program were dips 3x5 BW + 50 lbs, 3x5 chin ups BW + 20lbs, and pull ups 3x5 BW +20lbs.

I had bulked up to about 175lbs by the time I stopped, I am 5’6. This was pre keto for me, but I was doing intermittent fasting.

I have been doing Keto since October 2018, and continued intermittent fasting, when I started Keto I was about 180, and was going out way to many times each week to eat. In the two months I came across Jason Fung’s YouTube Fasting videos rabbit hole, and have been doing some occasional extended fasts. After my last 42 hour fast I registered in at 158, but there must have been a good deal of water weight loss included in that, because after a feast day yesterday that was about 3,000 calories I jumped back up to 163.

Here is day 1 back on strong lifts, this is the A exercise. This was all 24 hours fasted, and I didn’t break the fast for another 18 hours (evening workout, fast continued into lunch the next day)

Monday 2/4/19

  • Squat: 5x5 135lb. The app wanted me to de-load all the way to bar weight. These are low bar squats. I do my best on form but need to work on my hip hinge, I also have limited ankle flexion due to a past injury from a majorly broken ankle with internal fixation.
  • Bench: 5x5 95lb. This again was more than the app wanted me to start at. But I found it easy and ended up doing very slow reps to get more out of the lift.
  • Barbell Rows:5x5 75lb
  • Dips: Body weight, 10/9/6 . I was aiming for 10/10/10 but I had nothing left in the tank and experienced muscle failure.

All in all I was really happy with the workout. I may keep the squats the same for weight for the next workout to focus on form and to give my body a chance to catch up to lifting again.

(DougH) #2

Thursday 2/8/19, Workout B

I had originally planned on lifting again Wednesday but I was still way too sore in my quads and thighs from my initial day back. I was about 20hrs fasted for this workout with only water, salt, and black coffee.

  • Squat: 5x5 140lb. Continuing to try to focus on form. I may setup a gopro mount or something to get video of my squats so I can correct mistakes. At this point in the game my limitation is months of not lifting heavy, but when I get over two plates on each side my limitation seems to be form.
  • Overhead Press: 5x5 65lb. These are a humbling exercise, and one of the toughest in the 5x5 program.
  • Deadlifts: 1x5 135lb. The program tries to limit volume by having you do only one set of deadlifts. I may add in more for additional volume but carefully watch for over training.
  • Chin-ups: BW 6/6/3

I followed the workout with a good sized dinner instead of remaining fasted until today’s lunch. Two scoops of isopure whey, followed with a big pile of bacon and 5 scrambled eggs. I was surprised that I was down in weight this morning but I know you can’t weigh from day to day.

(DougH) #3

Saturday 2/9/19, Workout A

Soreness was mostly gone today which is great. I am been trying to get up from my desk ever 30 minutes to walk around, do some air squats, and climb the stairs near my work space for a few rounds. I think that has really helped keep me loose while I adapt to lifting again.

I added one new exercise to the workout that I plan on carrying forward, cable machine face pulls. I think the 5x5 program can use some additional back work. Face pulls are great for rear delts, and are good for keeping your shoulder balanced and avoid internal shoulder rotation from the program being heavy on the push side of things. I worked the face pulls in as a superset with by bench press and barbell rows.

  • Squat: 5x5 145lb.
  • Bench Press: 5x5 100lb. Can’t wait to get back up in weight on these, I could add good deal more but I want to be committed to the slow gradual approach.
  • Barbell Row: 5x5 80lb. I have been doing these off a rack so the start is slightly elevated. This was a recommmendation of a video from AthleanX about Pendlay rows. This approach seems to still hit all the desired areas, but is kinder on the lower back.
  • Dips: 10/7/6 @ body weight. It takes me a few workouts for my dips to hit a good groove and then my reps and added weight will skyrocket. I expect to be back up to 3x10 with a 45lb in 6 weeks or so.
  • Face pulls: 4x10 17.5lbs. These feel great, I am really focusing on slowed controlled pulls with a contraction of the back at the end of the pull.
  • Pull Ups: 6/5/3 @ body weight. Can’t wait for this exercise to bounce back also.

(Dan) #4

Hey man, great stuff. do you have a program you are following or do you just choose each day what exercises you are going to do?

(DougH) #5

Thanks Dan.

My workouts are based on the Strong Lifts 5x5 which was developed by a guy named Mehdi, and has an accompanying smart phone app. The app tracks the workouts, gives you warm up weights, and times your rests between sets.

The base workout is based on simple complex lifts that are the foundation of power lifting. Squat, every workout, and then every other workout Bench press or Standing Press, and Pendlay Rows or Dead-Lifts. Exercise A versus Exercise B is what determines whether it is a bench day or a shoulder press day.

I add accessory exercises that I have always included in my workouts, mainly Dips and Pull-ups.

The overall program is heavily based on progressive overload, it adds 5lbs to each lift each workout. So squats go up 15lbs a week. You could use fractional plates to raise the weight 2.5lbs a lift to stretch out your progress before you plateau.

There is a good deal of writing about the program on

(Dan) #6

thanks man. I will check this out.

(DougH) #7

No problem. Are you new to lifting? My main recommendation if you are a new lifter is to get a coach for a few sessions to make sure you have the proper form.

Compound lifts like squat, dead-lift, standing press and bench press are great exercises for your strength and ultimately your joints health and resilience. That being said they also have a potential for injury, be it shoulders, or lower back if you aren’t doing them correctly.

The strong lifts website has a write-up on each exercise, as well as videos, but there is no substitute for a good strength coach.

(DougH) #8

Tuesday 2/12/19 5pm, Workout B

This workout was fasted (water/salt only) since Sunday at 7pm.

  • Squat: 5x5 150lb. Form is improving. The lifts were strong but I had a little bit of pain in my left hip, hoping it isn’t hip impingement, I am going to work on some stretches just in case that focus on hip joint flexibility to head it off.
  • Overhead Press: 5x5 70lb.
  • Deadlifts: 2x10 140lb. Added some additional volume here.
  • Chin-ups: BW 5/6/4 UGH
  • Face-pulls: 4X10 17.5lbs

I got home and destroyed some food. 50 grams of protein worth of isopure zerocarb (two scoops), a 1/2 lb grass fed sheet pan burger with cheddar onions and jalapenos, a serving of my pulled achiotte spiced pork shoulder, and a big hunk of nutriketo keto fudge.

(Dan) #9

Oh no, not new to lifting at all. Actually have a CPT certificate from ACE fitness. I am just new to keto. In the past, nutrition and supplements were a huge part of my lifting regimen, and I was more asking because I am wondering how keto is going to impact my lifting without so much supplementation and protein. I took a month off of lifting while my body adjusted to keto and just got back into it Monday and was happy to see that while I was a little rusty from taking a week off, I felt good all the way through.

I looked into the 5x5 stuff after your replied to me but I have a few strong fundamental disagreements with some of the concepts behind it, so I am going to continue doing the program I drew up. Just don’t like how minimalist it is, but im not insulting it if it works for others and I do like that you add stuff to it. I do think the rest 5x5 recommends is ridiculous for an experienced lifter; many studies have proven that muscles don’t need days to recover.

But overall, thanks for your reply and keep up the great work.

(DougH) #10

That is great. I may have to bounce program ideas off of you later on.

For now the programs greatest asset for me is its simplicity, which is needed given my other life time requirements.

You are right I could add more volume, workdays, and exercises; but I have gotten great linear progress on this program without all of that. No insult taken, I know myself the limitations of the program, especially from a hypertrophy standpoint.

Regarding protein, I am in the camp that excess protein with minimal carbs doesn’t seem to have a large impact on my ketosis levels. I try to have a bolas of at least 50 grams of protein every meal, and even on days where I end up logging 200 grams of protein I still seem to be in ketosis.

The carnivore diets folks manage to stay in ketosis, I think that is proof of concept that for some their body uses gluconeogenisis sparingly.

(Edited for a wishful thinking typo, 200 grams of carbs, ahahaha yeah right)

(DougH) #11

Thursday 2/14/19, Workout A

  • Squat: 5x5 155lb.
  • Bench Press: 5x10 105lb. This wasn’t the volume called for but this was boring me to death.
  • Barbell Row: 5x5 85lb. Done as rack pulls. Definitely a great variation on this. I am focusing on flexing by triceps before starting each rep and trying to break the bar to deactivate the biceps.
  • Dips: 10/10/6 @ body weight. Progress.
  • Face pulls: 4x10 22.5lbs.
  • Pull Ups: 5/6/5 @ ugly.

(DougH) #12

Saturday 2/18/19, Workout B

  • Squat: 5x5 160lb.
  • Overhead Press: 5x5 75lb.
  • Deadlifts: 3x10 155lb. Added some additional volume here.
  • Chin-ups: BW 6/6/5
  • Face-pulls: 4X10 22.5lbs

(DougH) #13

Tuesday 2/19/19, 6PM; Workout A, fasted since 8PM Sunday 2/17.

  • Squat: 5x5 165lb. My form has been feeling great on these, really trying to focus on driving the weight up from my hips.
  • Bench Press: 5x5 135lb. I bumped the weight up 30lbs. I was tired of the low starting weight and it still is relatively easy and will give me plenty of runway.
  • Barbell Row: 5x5 95lb. Another larger than prescribed weight increase. I didn’t want to play around with 2 1/2 lb plates. :rofl:
  • Dips: 3x5 @ body weight +10lb. My dips are starting to take off.
  • Pull Ups: 7/6/6, improving.
  • Face pulls: 4x10 27.5lbs.

All in all a great workout.

(DougH) #14

Thursday 2/21/19, Workout B. Fasted for about 22 hours. The day before the fast was a total feast. It was keto but I ate about 3400 calories of steak, cage free eggs, bacon, forested pork, two packs of wild planet sardines, and on and on.

  • Squat: 5x5 170lb.
  • Overhead Press: 5x5 80lb.
  • Deadlifts: 4x5 185lb. Added some additional weight and volume here.
  • Chin-ups: BW 8/7/6
  • Face-pulls: 4X10 27.5lbs

I haven’t really fluctuated in weight, and I should note that I am near my ideal weight but I am trying to do a lean bulk and effectively cut some additional body fat % while adding lean mass. I think I am starting to see some additional definition and muscle volume, but still very early in the process. If I hit a plateau on my lifts for more than a week or two I will stop the weekly fasting and do a few weeks of pure excess calories to bulk.

I am honestly way less concerned about bulking now that I learned to fast. I know that down the road I can cut any excess body fat from bulking pretty effectively with fasting while at the same time sparing lean mass.

It used to be a see-saw, I would bulk (not super cleanly when I was pre-keto and younger). I would put on muscle but also a lot of body fat. I felt bigger, but doughier. I would “cut” with calorie restriction and I would lose fat and muscle. It felt like the net gains were really small compared to my goals and the effort.

(DougH) #15

Saturday 2/23/19, Workout A

  • Squat: 5x5 175b.
  • Bench Press: 5x5 145lb.
  • Barbell Row: 5x5 100lb.
  • Dips: 3x5 @ body weight +15lb.
  • Pull Ups: 7/7/5
  • Face pulls: 4x10 27.5lbs.

(DougH) #16

Monday 2/21/19, Workout B. Fasted since Sunday evening. This is a day earlier because I wasn’t going to be able to lift in the evening on Tuesday.

  • Squat: 5x5 185lb. I jumped again in weight. I wanted to get closer to two big plates on either side.
  • Overhead Press: 5x5 85lb.
  • Deadlifts: 3x5 205lb. Added some additional weight and volume here. I will probably stay at this weight for a few deadlift session and add volume so I can keep the form clean and build grip strength.
  • Chin-ups: BW 8/7/7
  • Face-pulls: 4X10 32.5lbs

(DougH) #17

Wednesday 2/27/19, Workout A. Fasted since Tuesday evening. This workout ended up split into two sessions. I ran downstairs and did squats and bench at lunch, then wrapped it up after work. There is only one squat rack and there has been someone else that has started doing 5x5 that has been camping out in the squat rack the last few times I headed down there.

  • Squat: 5x5 190b.
  • Bench Press: 5x5 155lb.
  • Barbell Row: 5x5 105lb.
  • Dips: 3x5 @ body weight +20lb.
  • Pull Ups: 9/7/6
  • Face pulls: 4x10 32.5lbs.

(DougH) #18

Saturday 3/2/19, Workout B.

  • Squat: 5x5 195lb.
  • Overhead Press: 5x5 95lb.
  • Deadlifts: 3x5 225lb. These are feeling great.
  • Chin-ups: BW 10/7/8. Now that I have 25 reps in I am going to alternate between unweighted for attempted reps of ten, and weighted pull-ups in the 5 rep range.
  • Face-pulls: 1X10 37.5lbs 3x10 32.5lbs. After the first rep I felt that the 37.5 was an over-reach so I brought the weight down one selection.
  • Bulgarian Split Squats: BW 3x8. These are going to be added in to my workout, and I am going to start adding weights with dumbbells once they feel more balanced and natural.

One month in an I am pretty happy with the progress. I started light because I hadn’t been lifting since last May but I have been adding weight every workout and this is feeling good.

(DougH) #19

Tuesday 3/2/19, Workout A. Fasted since Sunday evening.

  • Squat: 5x5 200lb.
  • Bench Press: 5x5 160lb.
  • Barbell Row: 5x5 110lb.
  • Dips: 3x5 @ body weight +25lb.
  • Pull Ups: 10/7/7
  • Face pulls: 4x10 32.5lbs.

(DougH) #20

Thursday 3/7/19, Workout B.

  • Squat: 5x5 202.5 lb. I got a set of fractional plates so I can continue to progressively overloaded but won’t need to add 5 lbs to my squat every workout. With squatting 3 times a week it isn’t going to be sustainable, that is 15 lbs a week.
  • Overhead Press: 5x5 100lb.
  • Deadlifts: 4x5 235lb. These are feeling great.
  • Chin-ups: BW +5lbs 3x5
  • Face-pulls: 4X10 37.5lbs
  • Bulgarian Split Squats: BW 3x8 with 5lb dumbbells. Still focusing on form.

One month in an I am pretty happy with the progress. I started light because I hadn’t been lifting since last May but I have been adding weight every workout and this is feeling good.