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When to switch from beginner to "moderate" or "advanced"?


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Hi all,

So Ive been doing SL 5x5 since last February, and I really like the program....Ive definitely gotten stronger and I actually look forward to going to the gym. My question is actually two or threefold. I know SL 5x5 is designed as a "beginner's" program, and that eventually you have to graduate on to a more advanced lifting program, but when do you know to do that? Secondly, in that year I had two major breaks: one was from mid june until sometime in August when I was having a lot of back/hip/ankle pain that kept me out of the gym, and then the same thing happened again from just after thanksgiving till around christmas. Even so, my lower body lifts (DL and Squats specifically) still seem pretty solid (205 and 210 respectively), but my upper body really seems to be lagging (only 90lbs on the OHP and 130lbs on the bench). Should I focus more on the upper body and stand pat with the lower body stuff? Should I throw in some accessory items (curls, rows, flys, etc)? Lastly, everyone and their cousin tells you if you want to lose fat, you have to do cardio. Like a shit ton of it. And I HATE cardio......plus, Ive heard (dont know if its true) that doing cardio after lifting weights basically burns up all the energy for muscle growth, thus leaving you weaker (or at least no stronger than before.) Thoughts? Ideas? Aspersions on my character? Thanks in advance guys (and gals) ^>^

"The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you're a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds. "-Henry Rollins

 

"A man chooses, a slave obeys."-Andrew Ryan

 

"Crawling is acceptable. Falling is acceptable. Puking is acceptable. Tears are acceptable. Pain is acceptable. Injury is acceptable. Quitting is unacceptable"

 

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I'm also reaching the end of my beginner program (SS for me) too. The idea is that you move to an intermediate program when you are unable to recover in one day any more. From what I've read, a lot of people find that happening around a 300lb squat, but that's kind of an arbitrary number. The SS forum has a nice article

 

As to the cardio thing... You need to eat less than you spend to lose fat, that's all that really boils down to.

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Hey fortheplaid,

a quick back-of-the-napkin calculation show that you should have had about (52*3 - 4*4*3=) 124 workouts since you started. Reasonably we assume that breaks will lead to deloads, so let's round that down to 100 or so. A 100 workouts of which 50 include OHP, with increasing weights each time (minimum increase is 2.5 or so?) would lead to a current weight of something around (50*2.5+20 (or so)=) 145 lbs. That you're still at 90, shows that there must have been stalls along the way. If those stalls were as described in the program (3 times stuck at the same point, deload, still stuck) then you have passed the beginning stage and should have a look at the intermediate programs. (Similarly for the SQ you should be somewhere around 200-250, which you seem to be...but you could be as high as 300 with a few bigger increments than 2.5.)

 

There is however ofc the possibility that your deloads after the breaks were more severe or that you just stalled often, but never for long, which would lead me to reccomend continueing with your current program.

 

As I said this is only a quick calc that should show where you "could" be at. (I myself would be behind on such a calculation because of illness and such, so similar stuff could apply to you). So it kinda depends on your progression up to this point.

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I'm also reaching the end of my beginner program (SS for me) too. The idea is that you move to an intermediate program when you are unable to recover in one day any more. From what I've read, a lot of people find that happening around a 300lb squat, but that's kind of an arbitrary number. The SS forum has a nice article

 

As to the cardio thing... You need to eat less than you spend to lose fat, that's all that really boils down to.

 

I'm not sure but would that 300lb squat figure be affected by whether you are cutting while doing it? From what i've read on the SL website they recommend you eat enough and concentrate on strength gains. Certainly for me, while cutting longish term, i didn't get anywhere near 300lb squat before i could no longer recover in 2 days.

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Hey fortheplaid,

a quick back-of-the-napkin calculation show that you should have had about (52*3 - 4*4*3=) 124 workouts since you started. Reasonably we assume that breaks will lead to deloads, so let's round that down to 100 or so. A 100 workouts of which 50 include OHP, with increasing weights each time (minimum increase is 2.5 or so?) would lead to a current weight of something around (50*2.5+20 (or so)=) 145 lbs. That you're still at 90, shows that there must have been stalls along the way. If those stalls were as described in the program (3 times stuck at the same point, deload, still stuck) then you have passed the beginning stage and should have a look at the intermediate programs. (Similarly for the SQ you should be somewhere around 200-250, which you seem to be...but you could be as high as 300 with a few bigger increments than 2.5.)

 

There is however ofc the possibility that your deloads after the breaks were more severe or that you just stalled often, but never for long, which would lead me to reccomend continueing with your current program.

 

As I said this is only a quick calc that should show where you "could" be at. (I myself would be behind on such a calculation because of illness and such, so similar stuff could apply to you). So it kinda depends on your progression up to this point.

After my first big break I had actually picked up Starting Strength, and realized that the form I was using before was wrong for my Squats. Hence I decided to start over at just the bar and work my way back up (figuring form is better than having a high weight). I was right at 165ish when my second break occured, but decided to come back at 155 for my second go round (which let me tell you, I was sore as hell after the first few workouts back-no so much anymore). As for the "stalls", I got up to 115 on the OHP before the second break, then stalled this second time round leading to a deload (so I guess you could say my "best" OHP is 115). 

 

 

But taking that all into consideration, if I do advance to an intermediate program, which one do I use (Im unfamiliar with the vast, vast majority of workouts besides Stronglifts, Starting Strength and Madcow, which Im not sure IM ready for.)

"The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you're a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds. "-Henry Rollins

 

"A man chooses, a slave obeys."-Andrew Ryan

 

"Crawling is acceptable. Falling is acceptable. Puking is acceptable. Tears are acceptable. Pain is acceptable. Injury is acceptable. Quitting is unacceptable"

 

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Hi all,

So Ive been doing SL 5x5 since last February, and I really like the program....Ive definitely gotten stronger and I actually look forward to going to the gym. My question is actually two or threefold. I know SL 5x5 is designed as a "beginner's" program, and that eventually you have to graduate on to a more advanced lifting program, but when do you know to do that? Secondly, in that year I had two major breaks: one was from mid june until sometime in August when I was having a lot of back/hip/ankle pain that kept me out of the gym, and then the same thing happened again from just after thanksgiving till around christmas. Even so, my lower body lifts (DL and Squats specifically) still seem pretty solid (205 and 210 respectively), but my upper body really seems to be lagging (only 90lbs on the OHP and 130lbs on the bench). Should I focus more on the upper body and stand pat with the lower body stuff? Should I throw in some accessory items (curls, rows, flys, etc)? Lastly, everyone and their cousin tells you if you want to lose fat, you have to do cardio. Like a shit ton of it. And I HATE cardio......plus, Ive heard (dont know if its true) that doing cardio after lifting weights basically burns up all the energy for muscle growth, thus leaving you weaker (or at least no stronger than before.) Thoughts? Ideas? Aspersions on my character? Thanks in advance guys (and gals) ^>^

1.  When to move on: 

     a.  You've deloaded twice, dropped to 3x5 (and maybe even 3x3) and still aren't making any more progress.

     b.  You are mentally burned out on it.

     c.  You aren't recovering in the two days you have between workouts.

2.  Ratios and standards:

     You don't say what your bodyweight is right now, but you look like a pretty big dude in your picture.  You should be aiming for about 2xBodyweight in deadlift, 1.5xBW in squat, 1xBW in bench press, and somewhere around >.7xBW for press.  That's from this page (ish): http://www.exrx.net/Testing/WeightLifting/StrengthStandards.html which has tables for men and women of all sizes.  Shoot for at least the intermediate standards in a 1RM.

     You have no reason to stand pat in any of your lifts.  In relation to the above standards, your lifts are fairly balanced.

3.  Improving presses:

     Presses seem to respond pretty well to higher volume, though there is a huge technique factor involved.  Most people quickly realize that squats and deadlifts require your whole body to be tense, but will often flop down on the bench and wave their arms around.  For both bench and OHP, you need to have your entire body tight.  Squeeze your glutes, tense your legs, brace your core, squeeze your lats, and then press.

4.  Cardio:

     Without starting any fights here, I'll say that cardio is entirely unnecessary, but potentially useful.  However, you can't outrun your fork.  If you really want to do cardio, then walk.  Just walk.  Outside, preferably.  Walk with the dog, or the girl, or the binoculars so you can see the pretty birds better.  It gives you fresh air and sunshine (assuming you aren't in Norway or Alaska), trains a useful (and highly underrated) skill, and is great for active recovery.  Also, it doesn't add any additional recovery time or needs to your lifting.  There are a bunch of T-nation articles about walking that I'm too lazy to search for right now.

 

With a little more info on your current stats (height, weight, bodyfat%, etc), I'd be able to make a better recommendation, but I probably wouldn't recommend an intermediate program just yet.

Searching the world for a cure for my wanderlust.

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or the binoculars so you can see the pretty birds better.

 

Hahahaha.......I don't like cardio either, in fact I think I might be allergic to it. It makes me all red faced and sweaty.  

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"I've torn a hamstring tendon and re-injured my knee, lower back, and upper back while doing yoga. Don't get me started on shin splints. You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't, so might as well be strong." - Some guy on the SS forums.

"Heavy is dangerous, but light is no fun." - Mark Rippetoe

"Squats are a good assistance to bring up your curl, as a bonus you can do your squats while your are still in the curl rack." - SJB

 

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1.  When to move on: 

     a.  You've deloaded twice, dropped to 3x5 (and maybe even 3x3) and still aren't making any more progress.

     b.  You are mentally burned out on it.

     c.  You aren't recovering in the two days you have between workouts.

2.  Ratios and standards:

     You don't say what your bodyweight is right now, but you look like a pretty big dude in your picture.  You should be aiming for about 2xBodyweight in deadlift, 1.5xBW in squat, 1xBW in bench press, and somewhere around >.7xBW for press.  That's from this page (ish): http://www.exrx.net/Testing/WeightLifting/StrengthStandards.html which has tables for men and women of all sizes.  Shoot for at least the intermediate standards in a 1RM.

     You have no reason to stand pat in any of your lifts.  In relation to the above standards, your lifts are fairly balanced.

3.  Improving presses:

     Presses seem to respond pretty well to higher volume, though there is a huge technique factor involved.  Most people quickly realize that squats and deadlifts require your whole body to be tense, but will often flop down on the bench and wave their arms around.  For both bench and OHP, you need to have your entire body tight.  Squeeze your glutes, tense your legs, brace your core, squeeze your lats, and then press.

4.  Cardio:

     Without starting any fights here, I'll say that cardio is entirely unnecessary, but potentially useful.  However, you can't outrun your fork.  If you really want to do cardio, then walk.  Just walk.  Outside, preferably.  Walk with the dog, or the girl, or the binoculars so you can see the pretty birds better.  It gives you fresh air and sunshine (assuming you aren't in Norway or Alaska), trains a useful (and highly underrated) skill, and is great for active recovery.  Also, it doesn't add any additional recovery time or needs to your lifting.  There are a bunch of T-nation articles about walking that I'm too lazy to search for right now.

 

With a little more info on your current stats (height, weight, bodyfat%, etc), I'd be able to make a better recommendation, but I probably wouldn't recommend an intermediate program just yet.

Im 5'7'', 335lbs (as of 1/30/2015), and the last time I measured my BF% it was right around 38%.

"The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you're a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds. "-Henry Rollins

 

"A man chooses, a slave obeys."-Andrew Ryan

 

"Crawling is acceptable. Falling is acceptable. Puking is acceptable. Tears are acceptable. Pain is acceptable. Injury is acceptable. Quitting is unacceptable"

 

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I hate to be the one to bring up the elephant in the room, but if haven't hit a two plate squat for reps over the course of a year then something very, very bad happened. This doesn't sound like an issue of recovery or programming but one of honesty with yourself.

 

I don't know what you weighed in at before you started but unless you started at 500+ then you should be putting 4 plates on your back by now and still not be out of newbie territory with squat/bodyweight ratio.

 

My suggestion is to stop taking "breaks" and start pouring your soul out on the platform. Put a pair of nickels on the bar every time and move the weight. Commit to this shit and the gainz will come. Switching programs will just be another way to mask a lack of progress and an easy way to fall down a rabbit hole when you aren't strong enough to need variety.

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My training log

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2016

Hudson Valley Strongman presents Lift for Autism (USS), April 16th Contest report

2015

Hudson Valley Strongman presents Lift for Autism (NAS), April 18th Contest report

Eighth Annual Vis Vires Outdoor Strongman Competition (Unsanctioned), August 1st Contest report

 

"What's the difference between an injury that you train around and an injury that you train through?"

"A trip to the hospital"

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I think your press at 115 would be pretty good relative to other numbers. I cant figure out how to copy and paste the link on this phone, but exrx and others have strength standards that gives you a pretty good idea where you should be hitting for intermediate. Like others have said it is more linked to your progress and ability to recover. I am workimg from hitting Novice numbers to hitting theintermediate numbers. Not as a measure of when to switch but it gives me some perspective how I am progressing and where I am lagging.

And PS, I have been runnng SL since Septemberish, Since October I think with a barbell and I havent hit a two plate squat either.

 

"For us, there is no spring. Just the wind that smells fresh before the storm."

Just remember that Scooty Puff jr sucks!

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I hate to be the one to bring up the elephant in the room, but if haven't hit a two plate squat for reps over the course of a year then something very, very bad happened. This doesn't sound like an issue of recovery or programming but one of honesty with yourself.

 

I don't know what you weighed in at before you started but unless you started at 500+ then you should be putting 4 plates on your back by now and still not be out of newbie territory with squat/bodyweight ratio.

 

My suggestion is to stop taking "breaks" and start pouring your soul out on the platform. Put a pair of nickels on the bar every time and move the weight. Commit to this shit and the gainz will come. Switching programs will just be another way to mask a lack of progress and an easy way to fall down a rabbit hole when you aren't strong enough to need variety.

Not to be overly snippy, but this wasnt me deciding "oh, I dont want to work out anymore." It was "holy crap Im in so much pain I cant even move, let alone think about working out." Seriously, it got so bad I couldnt even lie down to sleep. Excuses? Maybe. But truth.

 

Also, I squatted 225 today (2/12/13/2015). 

"The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you're a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds. "-Henry Rollins

 

"A man chooses, a slave obeys."-Andrew Ryan

 

"Crawling is acceptable. Falling is acceptable. Puking is acceptable. Tears are acceptable. Pain is acceptable. Injury is acceptable. Quitting is unacceptable"

 

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Lastly, everyone and their cousin tells you if you want to lose fat, you have to do cardio. Like a shit ton of it.

 

Who the fuck told you that? Hopefully no one at these forums.

 

And yeah, long duration low intensity cardio at the end of a lifting session will kill your muscle growth. If you need to burn more energy, try a handful of 10-20 second balls-out sprints. Sprints are a great anaerobic exercise that gives benefits similar to power lifting. You would have to fix your ankle and hip problems before you try though. A half hour on the elliptical is probably more damaging.

 

Since I know you lost 45lbs in a year, I know you must be running at a decent calorie deficit. That deficit will hinder your strength gains. You can trick it a little bit by shifting calories to your postworkout window. You can get a little more muscle growth by being in a momentary slight surplus while not changing your overall deficit. Be careful not to add calories, just shift the timing. It will require careful logging over a long period of time to get it right.

 

The biggest thing I learned in the last year is that if there is joint pain, I need to study form better, because I am doing something wrong. Also, eat gelatin. At one point half a decade ago, I thought my knees, back, and right shoulder were fucked to all hell. Now, no problem.

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Not to be overly snippy, but this wasnt me deciding "oh, I dont want to work out anymore." It was "holy crap Im in so much pain I cant even move, let alone think about working out." Seriously, it got so bad I couldnt even lie down to sleep. Excuses? Maybe. But truth.

 

Also, I squatted 225 today (2/12/13/2015). 

 

Was it pain due to injury or soreness due to training hard? If you got hurt then the fix is to address what you did wrong. If it was due to soreness then it's just part of the game that we all need to suffer through. Post up some video in the form check forum if you haven't already.

My training log

Spoiler

 

2016

Hudson Valley Strongman presents Lift for Autism (USS), April 16th Contest report

2015

Hudson Valley Strongman presents Lift for Autism (NAS), April 18th Contest report

Eighth Annual Vis Vires Outdoor Strongman Competition (Unsanctioned), August 1st Contest report

 

"What's the difference between an injury that you train around and an injury that you train through?"

"A trip to the hospital"

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In addition, if you were that sore from working out, you're either not working out often enough (2 times a week minimum, 3 times preferred) to make the DOMs stop haappening, or there's something up with your recovery, be it not enough sleep, not eough calories, or not enough protein.

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"No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. " ~ Socrates
"Friends don't let friends squat high." ~ Chad Wesley Smith
"It's a dangerous business, Brodo, squatting to the floor. You step into the rack, and if you don't keep your form, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." ~ Gainsdalf

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