Getting Strong(er)

May 11, 2011 — 1 Comment

"Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general."

-Mark Rippetoe

So I've finally decided to document my workouts online.

A Brief History

I did the typical bodybuilding workout in high school. Never kept a training log, so I don't remember exactly what I did. I do recall it was relatively aimless (compared with what I'm doing now), and the exercises were focused around dumbbell bench press, standing dumbbell overhead press, some form of rowing on the machine, and "Yates" barbell rows. I probably did leg presses for my legs, but I don't think I did them often, because my legs were "big enough" in my mind from jumping around every now and then. University was more of the same, however weight training become inconsistent.

Fast forward to 2010: Joined a commercial gym inside a mall located 5 minutes from my condo. It's very typical of a commercial gym: a lot of cardio machines, selectorized weight machines, abductor/adductor machines (aka "yes/no" machines) and an adequate assortment of free weights. Most importantly, there is 1 squat rack that is rarely used (I've only seen it used as a display for barbells).

At first I lifted weights aimlessly again for a few months, until I discovered Mark Rippetoe and Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training around November 2010 while searching online for instructions on "how to squat".

Starting with Starting Strength

Starting Strength

I really wished I stumbled upon Starting Strength earlier.

It would haves saved me hours of time wasted on a poorly designed training program ("instinctive training" aka go to the gym and do what you feel like).

I have read countless books, articles, watched dozens of videos on the subject of weight training, but nothing I have encountered explained "how to get stronger" with clarity more than this book.

Basically it's a strength training program designed for novices (99% of people in the weight room are probably novices) where the goal is to get stronger through compound barbell exercises such as the squat, deadlift, (standing overhead) press, bench press and power cleans. Progression is made by adding weight to each exercise for every workout.

"If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it."

It also emphasize keeping a training log.

As Lord Kelvin says:

"If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it."

So I started the program on November 29, 2010.

Initial workouts were:

  • Body weight: ~83 kg (182.6 lbs)
  • Deadlift: 142.5 kg (313.5 lbs) (1 set x 5 reps)
  • Squat: 102.5 kg (225.5 lbs) (3 sets x 5 reps)
  • Bench: 97.5 kg (214.5 lbs) (3 sets x 5 reps)
  • Press: 55 kg (121 lbs) (3 sets x 5 reps)

Starting Strength: Results After 3 Months

Here's where I ended up on March 4, 2011:

  • Body weight: ~87 kg (191.4 lbs)
  • Deadlift: 185 kg (407 lbs) (1 set x 5 reps)
  • Squat: 152.5 kg (335.5 lbs) (3 sets x 5 reps)
  • Bench: 117.5 kg (258.5 lbs) (3 sets x 5 reps)
  • Press: 75 kg (165 lbs) (3 sets x 5 reps)

Somewhere during this time period I started doing power cleans, and got it up to a measly 72.5 kg for 5 sets of 3 reps.

So in 3 months (95 days):

  • I put on 4 kg (8.8 lbs) in body weight
  • Increased Deadlift by 40 kg (93.5 lbs)
  • Increased Squat by 50 kg (110 lbs)
  • Increased Bench 20 kg (44 lbs)
  • Increased Press 20 kg (44 lbs)

Not too shabby for a novice strength training program on a guy who has spent a few years in the weight room already.

Enter The Texas Method

All good things must come to an end, and it did with Starting Strength. It was getting harder to continually add weight to every workout, and I found myself unable to recover from one workout to the next. At this point It was time to move on...

The Texas Method is an intermediate program consisting of high volume, medium intensity sessions (Mondays), low volume/intensity (Wednesday), and high intensity, low volume ( Fridays).

So my workout now is:

Update: Everything below is a bit outdated.

Monday (volume)

  • Power Cleans (5 sets, 3 reps)
  • Squat (5 sets, 5 reps)
  • Bench Press/Press (5 sets, 5 reps) * alternating every other week

Wednesday (recovery)

  • Power Cleans (5 sets, 3 reps)
  • Squat (2 sets, 5 reps)
  • Press/Bench Press (3 sets, 5 reps) * alternating every other week
  • Pull ups/Chin ups (3 sets to failure) * alternating every other week
  • 45 degree hyperextension
  • Weighted decline sit ups

Friday (intensity)

  • Power Cleans (5 sets, 3 reps)
  • Squat (3 x 2, 2 x3 or 1 x 5)
  • Bench Press/Press (3 x1, 2 x 2 or 3 x 1) * alternating every other week
  • Deadlift (2 sets, 3 reps)
  • Weighted dips/1 arm dumbbell rows * alternating every other week

I start with power cleans for 2 reasons:

  1. I feel as though my technique isn't perfect, so practicing the movement with a light weight while I'm fresh will develop the skill.
  2. Light power cleans serve as a warm up

Short Term Goals:

I mentally wrote down these goals in my mind a few weeks ago.  I have since already hit 2 of my goals.

Deadline: July 3, 2011 *DONE!

1 rep max goals:

  • Deadlift: 227.5 kg (500.5 lbs) *Completed Friday, June 24, 2011
  • Squat: 182.5 kg (401.5 lbs) * Completed Friday, May 20, 2011
  • Bench: 137.5 kg (302.5 lbs) * Completed Friday, April 29, 2011
  • Press: 92.5 kg (203.5 lbs) * Completed Friday, May 6, 2011
  • Power Clean: 87.5 kg (192.5 lbs) *Completed Friday, June 24, 2011

Pondering with the idea of competitive power lifting once I return to Canada. I would have to lose weight though.

Anyways, I'll probably end up posting some videos & progress pictures so stay tuned.

John Phung

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Ever since I started taking strength training seriously, I was bitten by the Iron Bug. Then it burrowed under my skin and laid eggs in my heart. Now those eggs are hatching and I... the feeling is indescribable.

Quick Stats
Height: 5'4" on non-squat days
Weight: 200 lb 210 lb ~220 lb (FOREVER BULK BRAH)


  • Texas Method: March 4, 2011 - April 28, 2013
  • Smolov Jr for Bench Press: June 4 - 22, 2012
  • Starting Strength: Nov 29, 2010 - March 4, 2011