I’m often asked what I’m doing in the gym and what my latest one-rep maxes on my lifts are, so I wanted to give a little training update in this podcast.
I’ve been following the program in Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger for over 2 years now, and I just wrapped up one of my most productive macrocycles yet.
How much strength did I gain on my lifts? What caused this sudden flourish of progress?
I’ll give all the details in this podcast!
Lastly, if you want to support the show, please drop a quick review of it over on iTunes. It really helps!
10:44 – Strength standards for women
11:57 – What explains my sudden burst of progress?
Mentioned on the Show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Hello, and welcome to another episode of Muscle For Life. I’m your host, Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today to hear a training update. Let’s talk about how my training has been going and how that can help you make your training go better. So I’ve been following my Beyond Bigger, leaner, Stronger 2.0 program for.
Over two years now. I was tinkering with the programming for about a year before I released the second edition of the book Beyond Bigger, Leaner, Stronger. And of course, the book has all of the information about what I am doing exactly in the gym if you wanna check it out. And I just finished another macro cycle of Beyond Bigger leans, stronger.
That’s four months and I. With a flourish at the end of this macro cycle. So at the end of four months of training, the program calls for rep max testing on several primary exercises, several of the big compound exercises. You load them with a lot of weight. Of course there is a systematic. Way of loading the bar.
It’s not just put a lot of weight on it. You’re putting 95% of one rep max calculated at the beginning of the macro cycle. So what was 95% of your one rep Max? Four months ago hopefully is not anymore. Hopefully you have gotten a bit stronger, but it’s still pretty heavy. And you put 95% of one rep max at the beginning calculate at the beginning of the macro cycle on the bar, on the big compound exercises, and you see how many reps you can get that is a rep max test, and you don’t push to.
Muscular failure because that would be unnecessarily dangerous, especially on something like a deadlift or a squat maybe less so on the bench press if you have a squatter. And on the over a squatter, if you have a squatter, . And less so on the overhead press if you have a squatter or if you have bars in place.
And so what I recommend is that you end those rep max tests with one good rep left. So that means you’re in, you’re getting into the set, it’s getting hard, and you’re asking yourself, How many more could I do if I really had to? You go until you feel like you could only get one more. Rep, That’s pretty hard, right?
That means the rep that you just completed was a bit of a grinder and the next one is gonna be a big grinder, and then you probably can’t get another right. So it’s pretty hard. And so I did that on my flat bench, my deadlift, my seated military press, which is the overhead press variation that I’ve been doing for four months now.
I’m gonna be going back to now a standing press. I like to alternate between a standing and a seated press every four months, and I did it on the safety bar squat, so that was my squat variation. And in case you’ve never safety bar squatted before, you can search online to see what a safety bar looks like, and it performs like a front squat, basically.
It is easier on your back than the back squat. And it is harder to lift a lot of weight than the back squad. And so anyway, I did my rep max test on the safety bar and on the incline bench press, and here’s how it went. I got 2 65 for three on the flat bench, so that. Gives me an estimated one rep max of 280 pounds, and that’s not bad.
That’s up 10 pounds in this macro cycle. I started the macro cycle with an estimated one rep max of 270 pounds, and so I’m up 10 pounds in four months. Pretty good. Deadlift. I got four 20 for five for an estimated one rep max of 470 pounds, and I started. The macro cycle at an estimated one rep max of 450 pounds.
Pretty good progress there. Seated military press 1 65 for five. That’s what I got for an estimated one rep max of 180 pounds. And I started the macro cycle at an estimated one rep max of 175 pounds. A little bit of progress. Very hard exercise to progress on for what it’s worth. Safety bar squat. I got two 60 for eight, which I was very happy with.
I was thinking maybe I would get five. So that gives me an estimated one rep max of 320 pounds on the safety bar squat. Which again, if you are scoffing at that mike, you have chicken legs. Remember, that’s essentially a front squat. That’s a pretty strong front squat. And I started the macro cycle at an estimated winter at max of 280 pounds on the safety bar squat, and one of the reasons why I made such good progress, Is that is actually the first time I have safety bar squatted.
I’ve never worked out in a gym in the past that had a safety bar, so you’d expect me to be a bit weaker than I should have been to start out with, because the technique is a little bit different. It does feel a little bit awkward if you’re used to just back squatting in front squatting, so I had to get used to it and that definitely.
Quickly gained strength on it because I was getting better at the exercise, but still a 40 pound jump in four months. As an advanced weightlifter who has a pretty strong lower body, given my body weight, I only weigh 193 to 195 pounds, and my body is not made to be very strong. It’s just not like I’m made to be an endurance guy.
So anyways, I was happy with that on the incline bench press two 30 for three for an estimated one rep max of 240 pounds, and I started the macro cycle at. That at an estimated one rep max of 240 pounds. Obviously a little bit disappointing there, but that was Friday, so that was the fifth and final workout for the week.
Obviously I already had accumulated a bit of fatigue from the. Earlier workouts, the heavy squats, the heavy deadlifts, and that’s not all you do in those workouts. Of course, you’re doing some heavy squats heavy deadlifts, and then some heavy ish squats and deadlifts to follow it up, and then you move on to your other exercises.
So they’re pretty hard workouts. That’s a difficult week of training. And so the fifth and final workout, I’m not surprised. I just didn’t feel all that strong when I was getting on the incline bench and I hadn’t slept well the night before. It wasn’t terrible, but I’m guessing I got maybe six and a half hours of sleep, even though I was in bed as long as I should have been.
I just woke up a couple of times. One time my arm, I was laying. Weirdly, and it was completely dead, so I had to bring it back to life and then go back to sleep, and it was just one of those obnoxious nights. And so that also doesn’t have to affect performance. Research shows that you can sleep pretty poorly for one night and still perform well in your workout.
So long as you’re willing to push yourself. You may feel that the workout it’s requir. Effort, but the performance is there. However, there is individual variation. Some people, and I’m unfortunately one of these people, if you don’t sleep well, it, there’s a good chance it’s going to hurt your performance at least a little bit, especially when you’re going for a rep max test.
You’re putting heavy weight on the bar, you’re really trying to concentrate us to this one set, and you’re giving it everything you’ve. So that’s how it went. And surprisingly, after a couple of years now of BBLs 2.0, this was actually one of my most productive macro cycles yet it yielded an absolute PR in terms of pure poundage on the deadlift.
That estimated one rep max of four 70 on the deadlift, that’s the strongest I’ve. Ben on the deadlift. The second strongest I’ve ever been was I remember putting four 20 on the bar and getting three or four years ago, probably close to 10 years ago now, and I hurt my SI joint. It was just an unlucky accident at the top of the third or fourth rep.
I just let too much tension out in my core, don’t make that mistake, and I felt. Kind of shift and knew that something was wrong. Fortunately, it wasn’t a major injury, it just hurt for a couple of weeks and went away. But from there I started cutting because I had been lean bulking for four, five or six months at that point, and I was already up to 2 0 5 ish.
And I just had enough. I had, I’d had enough eating 4,000 calories of food every day and. Being fat, at least by my standards. And so I was like, whatever I hurt my SI joint, it’s gonna take a bit to work back. I’ll just start cutting. And and since then, I, I’ve I’ve never gotten back to that low force.
For 3, 4, 5 reps. I’ve gotten close in the past, but that, so that to me was, that was pretty, pretty cool. Again, considering I’m 10 years older now, I’m 37 now, and I’m about 10 to 12 pounds lighter. I’m 1 93 to 1 95, so that’s pretty cool. And then on the safety bar squat, that’s also an absolute pr but again, I just started safety bar squatting, so of course it.
That said, it’s a respectable number, which is pretty cool. And on the flat bench press, I’m getting closer to a relative pr. So relative to my body weight, my strength is close to where it was at its best, which was 2 95 for five for a one rep max of low 300 s. But I weighed 10 to 12 pounds more at that time.
That was 10 years ago. And. I’m now within striking distance of that 3, 4, 5 kind of gold strength standard for natural weightlifters. Three plates on the bench, four on the squat, five on the deadlift, one rep maxes. Obviously that’s a good milestone for guys to work. Toward who are natural and most natural weightlifters are not going to be able to get much stronger than that.
Similar to how most natural weightlifters men are not going to be able to gain more than 40 to 45 pounds of muscle period in the entirety of their. Fitness journey. And in women it’s about half of that. And as far as strength standards for women it’s not as clean and simple as 3, 4, 5, but most women can get to benching, probably one rep max in the range of.
One 50 to 1 75. Most women can get their squat one rep max in the range of mid two hundreds or so, and most women can get their deadlift one rep max up into the high 200 s. Some women can get stronger than that and some men can get stronger than the 3, 4, 5 as well. But if you are an average man or woman in terms of your genetic potential for muscle and strength, and most people are by definition, Average in that regard.
I’m slightly above average maybe, but I’m in the, still in the middle of the bell curve. Maybe I’m skewed a little bit to the right, but I’m not an outlier as far as my ability to get big and strong goes. So if you are with me somewhere there in the middle of the bell curve, then those are reasonable goals for you to strive.
For if you want to get as jacked as possible or as fit as possible, as strong as possible. So what explains this burst of progress though in this macro cycle? Again, I’ve been following BLS 2.0 for. A couple of years now, and I’ve been grinding away, making progress, but this was really a breakthrough macro cycle.
Why? Of course it’s my supplements. It’s legion’s supplements, so please go to legion athletics.com right now and give us all of your money and all of the money you can borrow. So I can honor. And manifest my core gift of internet profiteering before eventually fleeing the country to lean into aligning my passions and balancing my energetics.
Moving on the prime factors that made this macro cycle so productive are just consistency. Patience. I know. I’m sorry. I don’t make the rules. I don’t enforce reality. Thems just the breaks. The reason I did so well is I only missed a couple of workouts in the entire macro cycle. So that’s four months and they were on a deload week.
So it’s not a big deal. You can just take those weeks off. I do prefer a deload. I find that I come back with better performance than if I just take the week off. But some people find no difference whatsoever and they. The extra rest that comes with a week off. But anyway, so I missed a couple of deload workouts because by the way, I got ronette again.
I got the dangerous delta variant. Oh my God. It was mild congestion for a couple of days, even milder than the first time because I actually only noticed it at night. So when I. Ronna, it was probably the alpha variant. I was mildly congested throughout the day for three or four days or something like that.
And then the Delta variant, I was mildly congested at night for a couple of nights, and I stayed out of the gym. Of course, I waited for my symptoms to go away. I waited, I don’t know, 7, 8, 9 days after that first symptom appeared. And that was the end of that. But it did coincide with my deload week, so I was happy about that at least.
Thanks universe. Anyway, so I didn’t miss any other workouts. I ate 2,800 to 3000 calories and 180 to 200 grams of protein every single day as. Oodles of nutritious carbs and fats like fruits and vegetables and whole grains and nuts and the like. And I did that five to six days per week. On the weekends, usually one day I’ll have a salad for lunch, like my normal salad, but I won’t eat as many vegetables at dinner because I’m making some pasta for my kids, which actually is made from scratch.
So ironically, Some nutritional value to that. It is onions and garlic. It’s bo eggs is what I’m making these days. So I should post it to Instagram. Actually, I’m gonna post it this week to Instagram. I’m gonna try to remember, I’ve tried to remember this in the past and I for some reason can’t remember to, but I’m gonna make a firm commitment to try to remember to post the recipe.
Follow me at most for life fitness on Instagram, Sunday or Saturday. Watch my stories. There’s onion and garlic and celery and carrots. And let’s see, Panchetta goes in there. That’s not a vegetable, obviously. But tomatoes I go with canned tomatoes. They’re not fresh. But they are.
Certainly more nutritious than Ragu pasta sauce. And anyway so I don’t eat as many vegetables on that day, and I usually will have a pint of ice cream also, either like on a Friday night or maybe a Sunday night, and that, that may mean fewer vegetables at dinner because I’m just eating some protein and keeping it simple and eating the ice cream.
But sometimes I also just have the vegetables. So my point is my micronutrients were. Very consistent. I was eating a lot of nutritious foods consistently, and my sleep hygiene was good. I got seven and a half to eight hours of sleep, probably at least 80% of the last 120 something nights. So an apt analogy for all this is baking.
So what happens? If you’re baking and you forget the venner, what happens if you use too much sugar or maybe you don’t use enough fat? You’re in a bad way because you need all of the right components in the right quantities to create the righteous batch of confections. Likewise, the recipe for gaining muscle and strength becomes more exacting as you approach your genetic limits.
It goes from mom’s banana bread to rainbow baked Alaska, and if you fail to account for the humidity or the age of your baking soda, you get a slushy puddle of half rotten tree sap. You have to be meticulous. To make the grade. So remember, the passport to gains is always found in refining the fundamentals not faring around the fringes.
Energy macronutrient and micronutrient balance. Not intermittent fasting, keto, or supplements. Volume. Intensity, progressive overload. Reverse pyramid sets, super sets or super slow sets. Sleep hygiene, rest days, deal loads, not stimulants, piss and vinegar, and mul englishness. I hope you liked this episode.
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And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you. Ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share. Shoot me an email, mike muscle for life.com, muscle f o r life.com and let me know what I could do better or just what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future.
I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you.