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Progressive weight lifting program to increase strength

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Old 01-26-2014, 09:11 PM   #1
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Default Progressive weight lifting program to increase strength

I started doing the Stronglifts program 5 weeks ago. The program has you lifting 3x/week. My problem is with one of the main principles of the program- that of increasing weight on all lifts (there are 5 different ones) by 5 pounds each time you do it, for 12 weeks. I don't think I can do this, or even remotely close, and would like to know how much is because I'm female (the program is written for men), and how much is other stuff, that I could do something about.

When I started, I could back squat 135 for 5 reps (just barely). After weeks of squatting lower weight than that (the program has you start with weight that is ~60% of your 5 rep max.), I'm finally up to 135, and it's all I can do to squat the weight for 5x5, with sub-par form. Same story with my other lifts- I am back to my initial 5RM but definitely pushing the envelope with 5x5 reps. There is NO WAY I can keep increasing the load by 5 pounds each training day for the next 7 weeks. So, what do you all recommend for getting stronger? Do I try increasing the weight less often? If so, how often? I could buy 1.25 lb plates and try to go up by 2.5 each time instead of 5? What is a realistic goal in terms of increasing the weight?

FYI:
1. I am not a newbie to lifting (18 months already), but decided to "get serious" about increasing strength instead of being satisfied with lifting the same weight month after month. So I definitely won't be getting any "newbie gains."
2. I am eating a few hundred calories under my supposed TDEE (which is ~1900-2300/day) so eating between 1600-1800 with min. 100 gm protein/day. But, I definitely haven't lost any weight, and don't think I've succeeded in any recomp because none of my measurements are any smaller - 5'2", 131ish, about 22% BF. Not sure how much this affects strength gains (I know it affects hypertrophy, but that's not my goal).
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Old 01-26-2014, 09:19 PM   #2
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Wow, that does sound unrealistic.

I am probably 10 months into weight lifting. I am probably lifting around twice the weight I started with now. But it did take time. I just kept lifting the same weight time and time again until it got easier and I could add five pounds. Typically I do 3 sets of 10 reps on each exercise. On the last set I sometimes add 5 pounds and see how many reps I can do. If I make it to 10, that becomes my new weight for that exercise.

What I will say was that building strength and muscle was very difficult when I was seriously limiting my calorie intake earlier on in my weight loss. I eat more now, but still maintain a small deficit, and have noticed much more rapid gains in how much I can lift.

Real bodybuilders eat a lot of calories and add fat as well as muscle to gain strength fast. They then go on a "cut" diet to get rid of the fat while trying to preserve muscle. My diet now is more of a "cut" type diet so my progress, while OK, is still slow compared to the guys that can bulk.

I am eating about the same calories as you by the way (with more protein as I am heavier) so your diet looks good for weight training. But, like me, you are probably edging on the cut side, not the bulk so gains will be slower. But the fat will be kept away.
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Old 01-26-2014, 10:01 PM   #3
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I started weight lifting 26 years ago when I was 19. Even with my metabolism and energy back then, I couldn't increase weights 5lbs each training session. Did I get that right, they want you to say start with a 5lb dumbbell on day 1, then 10lb on day 2 etc...? I stopped exercising for 10+ years, but for the last 3 years, I've been pretty regularly training, and I've only been able to more than double my weight, but that's not on all body parts. I started with 5lb for biceps for example, then 8lbs, now I can do 10lbs...but it's easy now, 3 sets of 12 reps, so I will have to increase to 12lbs.

My legs are much stronger, so I increase those weights much more.

For my shoulders, which are much weaker due to old injuries, I can only now do 5lb shoulder flyes, 3 years later!! I started with 2lb weights.

That program does sound like it's built for men who are in awesome shape with already strong muscles. I keep thinking of Sylvester Stallone in Rocky...drinking down those dozen raw eggs in his blender, I think that program was meant for guys like him But that's just my opinion!

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Old 01-27-2014, 12:31 AM   #4
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Aw man, so many fun topics this week!

I actually just read an article on progressive overloading two days ago, so I'll just direct you to it: http://bretcontreras.com/progressive-overload/

This is a decent intro/explanation on the subject, but I can give you the cliff-notes:

A) FORM FIRST! Never sacrifice safe movement for the sake of lifting more; you will eventually end up injuring yourself.

B) There are several different ways to create overload, apart from increasing the weight (eg. 1 extra rep each time, change rep tempo, resting for less time between sets, etc.).

I will also add that you should definitely schedule a deload week every 4-6 weeks when working with this kind of program - your body needs the break to repair itself properly.

And 5lb gains every lifting session isn't just unrealistic, it's downright dangerous. For men or women. Trained or new lifters (you're right, trained lifters progress even slower). The only exception to this would be on the 'big' lifts when you're first starting lifting (eg. squat, deadlift, overhead or bench press, etc.) - but even then, that level of constant increase has it's limits!

If I were you, I'd just ignore that number all together. I remember reading somewhere that you should never increase the weight you're lifting more than 5% a session (and to repeat yourself for at least 3 sessions before adding more)....I'll try and find the article and pass it on, if I spot it.

Instead, find a way to push a little harder every session, without causing damage to yourself. I can absolutely respect your wanting to follow this program, but I will strongly urge you to do so safely.

Way to go on your progress thus far (can I say, wow!). I'd love to hear how things work out for you when you finish - if you enjoyed it, if it helped you get to your goals, etc. Best of luck, and have fun!

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Old 01-27-2014, 08:09 AM   #5
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I think with a lot of new lifters, especially women, they are timid with weights and do less than they can just because that is where they think they are at. I'm not sure if that is the reason Stronglifts recommends increasing 5 lbs each time or not. In your upper body, especially shoulders, this is quite difficult.

And the right answer is do what feels right, back off if you feel any pain and do keep pushing.
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Old 01-27-2014, 10:46 PM   #6
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Thank you. Especially for that link, Defining. That was really helpful. Made me realize I have been making some gains even though I didn't increase my max weight (because now I can lift those weights for 25 reps instead of just 5). I think I'll throw out the 5-pounds-per-session increases and aim for once a week, and then only when I can do the weight for all the reps with the same form as the prior one.
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Old 01-27-2014, 11:16 PM   #7
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Great article Defining! Also, thanks for the question Neurodoc. I always wish there was more serious discussion on here amongst those of us doing strength training.
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Old 01-28-2014, 01:13 AM   #8
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Glad you guys enjoyed it - Bret Contreras is also a leading expert on glute development; he's the guy to reference if you want to develop a shapely backside.

I think the whole strength training and muscle science side of things is fascinating. And there are clearly a few of us around who are interested in it. Maybe we should start more threads about it?!

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Old 01-28-2014, 01:40 AM   #9
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Yes Defining!
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Old 01-29-2014, 01:11 AM   #10
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when i'm doing weights, I aim to do 3 sets of 10 reps each and I should be feeling it at the end of each set...when I can do those sets without really pushing it, I increase to 12 reps each and when that becomes easier, I increase the weights....I've found that I can increase weights on my arms very gradually, like 2.5 pounds at a time....I can increase weights on my abs, inner thighs and outer thighs about 5 pounds at a time, on my back by about 7.5 pounds at a time and on my legs, with the leg press, about 20 pounds at a time

for example on the leg press, I would do 1 set of 12 at 310, 330 and 350 each and then do 1 rep at 370....the next day, repeat and do 2 reps at 370...the next day do 3 reps at 370 and I did that and repeated some rep days until I could do 10 reps at 370 and that became the normal routine...and it's REALLY pushing it to do 10 reps at 370 and now i'm adding 3 reps at 390
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Old 01-30-2014, 10:23 AM   #11
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SL5x5 is meant for beginners or those getting back in. I do know some intermediate lifters who use the template for one specific lift, but you might be better off with 531 or another periodization. 531 is basically a hybrid of periodization and linear. i have found it to be a good program, but it requires some patience.
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Old 01-30-2014, 09:44 PM   #12
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Ok Katerina, I'll bite: what the heck is periodization, and what's linear? I know virtually nothing about the theories behind strength training, only what I read in the New Rules of Weight Lifting for Women, which I finished about a year ago.
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Old 01-31-2014, 10:24 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neurodoc View Post
Ok Katerina, I'll bite: what the heck is periodization, and what's linear? I know virtually nothing about the theories behind strength training, only what I read in the New Rules of Weight Lifting for Women, which I finished about a year ago.
I am so sorry I didn't explain.

Linear progression is adding weight every session or every week, like SL5x5 and Starting Strength programs. They are intended for beginners who can recover and progress quickly.

Periodization is a type of programming where, over a period of weeks (usually a few months) you progress, but you do so by having a heavy day, a light day, a volume day, a speed day etc. Rather than working on just adding weights, you work strength in different ways in order to progress. For intermediate and advanced lifters this works best. There are different programs that utilize different ways of progressing, but they all have light days and heavy days and eventually you add weight, after a full cycle is complete in the program.

The 531 program by Jim Wendler is linear periodization, essentially. It has a monthly cycle, so the cycle is very short. It is 3 weeks of lifting at various percentages of your max followed by one deload week and then you progress to the next weights. 5 lb or 10 lb progression, usually.

Here is an article about 531
http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_..._pure_strength

and here is a great calculation page where you can pick which 531 template you want to follow. I recommend 531 for beginners. This way you can squat and bench twice a week. The accessory exercises are up to you, as by now you know your own weaknesses.
http://blackironbeast.com/5/3/1/calculator

If you want, I can input the calculations for you, and provide you with the first cycle here, as I know it can be confusing if you are looking at this for the first time. Just PM me your max lifts for OHP, bench, squat and deadlift, or put them here if you like.
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Old 01-31-2014, 10:38 PM   #14
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Gosh katerina, thank you. That's a lot of writing in answer to my question. Yes, I think I would do better with a non-directly linear system; it seems much more logical to me than the simplistic add-5-pounds-each-session system in SL.

I went to the Blackironbeast calculator, put in some guesses for my 1 RM and it gave me a 5 week program. Only problem is, none of the accessory exercises have weight listed, just # of reps. And, oh yes, there is no way I can do 10 completely unassisted pullups/chinups (I can do about 4). So do I just do as many as I can per set, or use an assist weight that gets me 10 reps (about 20 pounds)? There's also a zillion different options for the assistance template, none of which I understand. I guess this means I should probably buy the 5/3/1 book, but I don't think I have the time to read a long thing right now.

FWIW, I managed to increase the weight on my squat by 5 pounds today, but at the cost of straining my R gluteus medius (at least, I think that's what hurts). Pretty sure it's because I start pushing with the R leg before the left when I get tired. So, I think it's time for a deload :>(
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Old 02-01-2014, 11:03 AM   #15
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i have strength discrepancies and almost always utilize my left leg out of the hole more than the right. i just started barbell lunges to correct that issue. i can't believe how weak i was/am when it comes to lunges! when i lunge with right leg, i can hardly do 65#.

i chose no assistance exercise template because i do my own and know what i need. i also don't like being completely locked down and prefer to go in to the gym with my basic lifts planned but assistance is how i feel that day.

if you want the assistance mapped out, you can go for "Boring But Big" or BBB. i utilized that last summer and it certainly packs a wallop. it is the main lift, but done at 50-60% of 1rm for 10x5 with a short break between sets. good for conditioning. not so good, if you are running a steep deficit! man, i have almost passed out before trying to do it while running a deficit. saw stars.

and i can not do a single pull up. oh the lols to be had when i try and even do a dead hang. my *** is too big for that currently.
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