#fitness – looking back, looking ahead

This is going to be all about my fitness, lifting, and fat-gain/loss… reader beware. 🙂

I’m not really a “yearly-basis” person, I don’t do “New Years Resolutions”. I’m more that if I need to resolve to improve something, start at the appropriate time (often “now”). But it just so happens that it works out to look at things based upon the changing of the calendar, so here we are.

Looking back on 2016

December 2015 and I ended The Defattening Project (phase 1) – dropping 66 lb. down to 199 lb. It was a good thing.

After that, I wanted to start rebuilding, but it was too much for my body to handle at the time. I got around March, realized I was getting a little too big, and tried doing another cut cycle. The reality? After almost 2 years of cutting, my body, mind, and soul had enough. I was tired of not making gains, of being hungry, of being weak, of all that. So around June I switched back to a known: Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program.

I wanted to get my strength back. I lost a lot of strength during the intense cutting. I lost a lot of things in general. I was unhappy. I wanted things back. So I opted to go on 5/3/1, put in the work, and just focus on the work. 5/3/1 works, if you do the work. Yeah it’s not perfect, but the results are undeniable. My intent was to do the work, follow templates, work to get stronger. No testing, despite my endless curiosity if I was getting my strength back or not. Told myself that at the end of the year I could test (and not before). Not so much because it was the end of the year, but that’d be “enough cycles” (if you do the 5/3/1 math) to perhaps have gotten things back.

The goal?

My current “big goal” is “3/4/5”. That is, to bench press “3”, squat “4”, and deadlift “5”. What “3” means is really 3 wheels: 3, 45# plates for 315#. But it could also be simply 300# — but it’s fine because you have to hit 300 to get to 315. And “4” is 405 (4 45# plates), and “5” is 495 (5 45# plates).

Have I hit that goal? Nope, but I’ve made great progress.

Again, I was not going to test until the end of the year, but when I got here I sure did.

My results:

  • Squat: 345 lb
  • Bench: 275 lb
  • Deadlift: 460 lb
  • Press: 185 lb

Every single one is a (gym) PR, and a lifetime best. My previous bests were generally well below those points, and set quite some time ago. So I didn’t just rebuild my strength, I took it to new levels.  What’s also cool is that I know some of my past PR setting may have been questionable (was the squat truly to depth? was my butt stapled to the bench?) But all of these were solid. In fact, I loved my Press PR because I just kept the bar overhead for a good 5 seconds or so and savored the moment. 🙂

Plus, I PR’d in ALL 4 lifts. Awesome.

Sure, in the grand scheme of strength sports, I’m still a wuss. But for me? It’s the strongest I’ve ever been in my life, and the best I’ve ever done. I’m fucking stoked. 🙂

As I look back, I think the Press PR was the coolest to me. Press has been the hardest lift for me to get working, in terms of technique, but also general progress. So to slam that “1.5 plates” overhead and hold it and savor the moment? It was great.

And I’m still not going to say I love squatting, but damn if life doesn’t feel right if I don’t squat.

Weirdly? Bench Press — the perennial bro favorite? I think it’s becoming my least favorite lift. Not because I don’t like it but my love of other lifts has grown.

What has this also taught me? Sub-maximal work works. For example, during my normal work cycles, the most I had deadlifted was 360×8 about a month ago. Then I PR 100# more than it. Yeah, submax. Solid.  It also harkens greatly to Paul Carter’s notion of Basebuilding.

That said, as awesome as things seem, there was one place I was not happy.

My weight.

I had dropped to 199 a year ago.

Today? I’m 240.

I’m not happy.

Looking Ahead to 2017

I expected some gain — including fat gain — as I progressed.

But somehow in the past few months I screwed myself.

If it was solid mass gains that’d be one thing, but it’s most evident that this is not.

Now to be fair, the last week or so I let myself go because I wanted to ensure I had all the stuff behind me to smash through PRs. But overall, I gained more than I should. have.

Really, it’s the holidays. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. It’s so easy to eat, and I just let myself go. Same old shit. Stress in life, and food is a comfort. I allowed myself to dance in the 230’s, but the past PR week and hitting 240? I’m upset with myself.

But whatever.

My plan now?


I’m going to pony up for some Renaissance Periodization cut templates and spend the next 3-months-ishs to cut. This has been my plan for some time now; not like it came on here at the end. I’ve known for some time I’ve been getting too fluffy, and I’ve been working to keep it under control. I just didn’t want to derail the progress towards my goals.

My intent is to spend around 12-ish weeks cutting. I know from past experience that that’s about the extent of what I can deal with.

The bigger plan? This is something I’m curious about.

5/3/1 can generally run about 5-8 cycles before needing a reset. When you reset, of course things are light(er). So my wonder? Spend about 4 cycles (or if you do the 6-week cycles, 2 6-week cycles for 14 total weeks) on a cut. This would be with a full reset, so all weights across the board are light. Cut as much as possible. Then about the time the cut comes to a close, I expect weights should also start to feel not so sexy. Then I can start a mid/light-massing diet, and that boost of carbs and such should be able to help keep progressing in the gym. And then, eventually another reset.

If all goes well, it’s my hope that the gym work and the kitchen work can ebb and flow together. That I can keep progressing on both. Probably not a very long term, but at least through 2017 so I can keep my weight in check, yet keep progressing towards my 3/4/5 goal.

But there has to be some modification of course.

The gym work is going to generally follow the “5/3/1 for Powerlifting – Offseason for Mass” template. Best thing when cutting is to lift with a hypertrophy focus, so one can minimize the muscle loss. This template is obviously geared towards that, but keeps a strength element in there. Looking at how the numbers will go, it should keep me on a good track.

I will be making some minor changes, like I don’t have access to a glute-ham-raise so I have to do hyperextensions instead. I’m going to do lunges instead of leg presses because I hate them and unilateral work is good for my knees. Just minor changes to suit my needs.

I also expect as I go along to increase the work towards hypertrophy. For example, I’m thinking in the 2nd 6-week cycle to add some Beyond 5/3/1 work like pyramids to get a little more volume, a little more strength work as I gear back up towards that end. I’ll also probably add in drop sets, rest-pause, and other things to again help with the hypertrophy focus. Basically instead of chasing weights I need to chase the pump.

That should take up the first part of 2017.

After that, the main goal is to continue progressing towards the 3/4/5 goal. I expect I’ll just continue working with 5/3/1, adjusting it as I need to to help me get there.

I’ve also started thinking about what to do after I hit that goal. But I’ll keep that to myself for now.

I’m  happy with how I’ve improved, but I also see how I have a lot of work to go – especially in terms of dietary discipline. I first heard it from Paul Howe: “Selection is a never-ending process.”