I will resume my beginners lifting series on Wednesday, but I thought I would give you guys a break from that to update you on my training. Last week, I finished my third cycle of 5/3/1. I’m in love. It hasn’t been a smooth ride, but I’m pleased to announce that last week I hit PRs in every single workout I completed. Today I’m going to talk about my journey and the progress I’ve seen following this program.
When I first started the program (please read this post for a detailed explanation of 5/3/1 training), I enjoyed the fresh approach to my training. I had never done such short workouts before and I had never consistently followed a low rep range.
I loved that the program focused only on the major lifts. I hadn’t been able to increase my weights in a while, and I had a feeling that 5/3/1 would be the shake up I needed.
Cycle Two (full summary here)
Towards the end of the second program, I started to get bored. I hadn’t hit any PRs (because the weights are all based on 90 per cent of your 1RM, I’d already hit those weights before).
This is hard to explain, but the program made me feel lazier overall. I was waking up at 7am, but not getting to the gym until 10 as I don’t have to be at work until after 11am. In the past, I ate breakfast and worked until I had to leave. However, since beginning 5/3/1 I feel so unmotivated to do any work in the morning! I was wasting a lot of time and procrastinating about going to the gym.
I was so used to training Monday to Friday, so the new mid-week rest day threw me off. It was the first time in my life I’ve had to motivate myself to go to the gym. During my actual workouts, I even had to motivate myself to do accessory exercises. Because there is so much focus on the main lifts, everything else seems like a waste of time.
To be honest, I wasn’t going to do a third cycle. I finished up the second round and was ready to try something different. However, just for fun, I calculated what my final week weights were going to be – and I noticed I would be hitting PRs.
That was too much to resist, so I signed myself up for one more round. The first week was still relatively easy, but the second week kicked my butt. I knew I was in for a treat in the third week.
I’m glad I held out. Below is the progress in numbers I made from the beginning of the program 12 weeks ago until now. These are the weights I used during the max testing week, where you lift 95 per cent of your 1RM for as many reps as possible.
Bench press: 40kg (88lbs) x 4 > 45kg (100lbs) x 3 (I’ve lifted 50kg with a spotter before, but I’ve always been too scared to go that heavy on my own!)
Squat: 60kg (132lbs) x 4 > 70kg (155lbs) x 3 (again, I’ve lifted 80kg with a spotter before but my form sucked and I definitely was not getting below parallel as I am now)
Deadlift: 65kg (143lbs) x 10 > 75kg (166lbs) x 5 (comments below!)
Overhead press: 25kg (55lbs) x 6 > 30kg (66lbs) x 4 (comments below!)
- I feel much more confident about lifting heavy without a spotter. I had always been scared to squat or bench press a weight which I couldn’t do at least six reps with; I had visions of trapping myself under the bar or falling on my butt. Neither of those things happened, and I feel much better about pushing myself – gradually and carefully – on my own.
- 5/3/1 was the single best thing I’ve ever done for my deadlifts. Prior to starting this program, I attempted my 1RM almost every single week – but I was stuck at 74kg for one rep. I had so much energy going into last week’s deadlift workout and I knew I was going to beat my previous record. To not only beat my previous 1RM, but to also do it for five reps (I could have done even more if I hadn’t been grinning like a fool) is a huge testament to this program. I can’t wait to try 80kg in a few weeks.
- Max lifting is my shoulders’ kryptonite. I had always stuck to moderate to high rep training for my shoulders, thinking that I needed to build their strength in the same way I built strength in my weak chest. Even though I had started to see progress again physically, I hadn’t been able to increase my shoulder press in about six months (!). My shoulders have gained so much strength since starting 5/3/1. I know it’s not a perfect indicator, but I have also felt DOMS in my shoulders for the first time in over a year.
- This program teaches you to be patient and pace yourself. It is good for people who feel like they always have to train at a high intensity. Two weeks of the program are moderately intense and, because of that, you are raring to go by the third week.
- Taking a deload week every four weeks was difficult for me to adjust to at first, but it made me push myself even harder during my intense workouts – knowing that it would be a month before I got the opportunity again.
I’m taking a deload this week, and I haven’t decided what program to do next. 5/3/1 can technically be continued indefinitely, but I do feel like mixing it up. Perhaps I will keep training my main lifts in the same way but mix up my accessory lifts.
I know a few of you have tried 5/3/1 because of my posts – what do you think? Has anyone else made any PRs lately?