How did I start, and why do I train?
This question is quite individual as my answer will differ from the next guy, but I feel it is necessary to address as it will explain my reasoning behind a lot of the choices I make about how I structure each individual training session, my weekly cycles and the overall big picture including my goals for the future. I will preface by saying that I do not in any way think I am perfect with my training, diet, and other lifestyle choices, however I have close to 4 years of experience and I believe I have come a long way in terms of my discipline and overall knowledge of weight training.
To begin, my name is Jacob and I am 19 years of age. I am an Australian uni student, currently living in Melbourne and studying a Bachelor of Health Science, majoring in Exercise Science, as well as a co-major in Clinical and Biomedical Technologies. I chose this course because I am passionate about fitness, and have a dream of working in the Health and Fitness industry.
I began training back in high school because – like many other guys my age – I wanted to get big, get abs, and all the other usual things that could be achieved by lifting weights. The first ever gym I trained in was at my school, and it was a tiny 5m squared room that had only one bench, one cable machine, no squat rack, no deadlift platform, and dumbbells up to 22.5 kg. I gives me a lot of nostalgia to think about all the times I tried – and failed – to curl those 22s. It was shortly after this that I began to see a trainer at a commercial gym nearby who taught me how to deadlift, how to squat, and really gave me a good foundation that I have been building off ever since. My first couple of years of training I wanted to do bodybuilding, so I split my days into a classic ‘bro-split’, like chest, back, legs, shoulders, arms, repeat. I blew up pretty quickly with the infamous ‘noob gains’.
This period of time was great for me because I was learning very quickly, getting stronger by the day, and getting big, fast. I believe anyone who can follow a basic split will see incredible results just after the first couple of months. After the quick and easy results started wearing off, I realised it was time to start switching up the way I do things to break through the plateaus that I was experiencing, and that is how I learned about powerlifting programs. I had heard of linear periodisation before, as it was one of the most basic principles of strength training, however I had no idea how to create a program that would effectively help me reach my strength goals. I had an idea of what my 1RM (one rep max) for each main lift was, however I had never consistently planned what rep range I would do, and what weight I would be working with. I had always just lifted as much as I could each session without realising the potential for over-training. This actually resulted in a couple of bouts of tendonitis in my triceps from going too heavy too often on bench press, and some lower back issues which meant I had to take a few months off deadlifting. The one thing I took away from this is that nothing hinders progress more than injury, and to steer clear of it no matter what.
How did I begin powerlifting?
I decided to begin with the very popular 5/3/1 program for the 4 main lifts which progressed by increasing the weight, and lowering the reps week by week, and made very good strength gains in my first cycle. I would structure my sessions by starting with the main lift, doing my sets – which ended with an AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) set of the prescribed weight – then doing any assistance work I thought necessary. I would recommend this program to any novice that wants to get a gauge of their own strength level, as it will prepare you to get a true 1RM by the end of the cycle.
I saw considerable strength gains when I started focusing on powerlifting instead of bodybuilding, partly because I started eating more, and putting more emphasis on recovery and warm ups, areas which I had unfortunately neglected early in my lifting career, which as mentioned before probably contributed to my injuries. I got addicted to the progress I was seeing – weights that had felt impossible just months before began to move before me, all my goals felt within reach. My previous 1RM of 100 kg on bench became a weight I now could rep out. It felt good to get strong and I got a sense of satisfaction seeing the numbers go up. As well as this, I started noticing great size gains as a side effect. I came to the conclusion that as a natural lifter, it is a waste of time to do bodybuilding programs which were designed for enhanced lifters to achieve hypertrophic gains when they wouldn’t work have the same result for me. In my mind, to get big you have to get strong, and to get strong you have to lift a lot of heavy shit. Plus it’s more fun!
What are my goals?
I believe everybody who wants to get the most out of their training and feel pride and satisfaction in themselves has to have goals so that they give themselves a reason to be working hard in the gym on a Saturday night instead of out getting smashed at a club. It would be easy to say that my goals are to achieve a 130 kg Bench press, 100 kg Overhead press, 160 kg squat, and 200 kg deadlift, because these are my current strength goals. But really there is a lot more to it, because training is a lifestyle and there is still so much more for me to achieve in terms of learning, discipline, and overall mental resilience. I don’t think I am in any way close to being an advanced, let alone an elite lifter, but if I can pass on to you – the reader – my experiences and knowledge that I have acquired and continue to acquire every day, then that is mentally fulfilling for me and one of the most satisfying things I can achieve in this domain of my life.
So thanks for reading and get after it!