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Beginner Struggles

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  • Beginner Struggles

    I'm starting this log in hopes of motivating me to persist through a sudden and significant decline in strength. One month ago I hit 180lb back squat for 4 reps @ RPE 10. It has been declining ever since. Yesterday I failed on 145lb back squat and was saved by the safety bars. I'm hoping that is the low point and I can begin building back up. . .

    Stats -
    32 y/o
    170lbs (up from 160 four months ago).
    13" arms cold flexed, 33" waist

    Started lifting about four months ago. Initially a starting strength variation. After two months I got my deadlift up to around 225x5 and squat to 165x5. I then switched to the barbell medicine beginner template, but since i'd been lifting for two months I started on phase 2. I really enjoyed the exercise variety and around the end of the first month was feeling good. I then sort of hit a two week period where my deadlift seemed to stick around 250lb and my back squat around 175. I pushed to get 180 (mistake), and it left me so burnt-out feeling that I figured that I should just restart the beginner program form the beginning (phase 1).

    Week 1 my back squat was around 160x4 @ 9. Week 2 it was 145x4 @ 8.I was just starting my third week of phase one, when I failed my second RPE 8 set of back squats on the second rep at just 145lbs. . . I started to ascend out of the hole, got loose/buckled, and collapsed down and back.


    My bench and deadlift have seen more of a stall/slight decline in strength but nothing so drastic as with the back squat.
    Deadlift is down to around 225x4 @ 8
    Bench is steady about 130x8 @8

    I'm going to redo things tomorrow morning and see how they go. I will set up a youtube so I can post form video.

    I cannot place why the drop in strength, except maybe tweaking something when I did the 180lbs. I do seem to have some nagging back pain that started up around that time. My sleep has been poor, but much, much better than the first three months I was lifting.

    Will keep on keeping on.
    Last edited by 86kg; 08-01-2021, 12:14 AM.

  • #2
    Good and bad.

    Squatting just the bar really felt heavy in my quads. I started ramping up doing 75lbs, then 105lbs (which felt really heavy), then 115. I wanted to call 125x4 RPE 8, but when i did a second set it felt much lighter. So then I proceeded in 5lb increments, each time thinking "this is it, this is RPE 9/10". At 135 I caught myself rocking forward. At 150 my hips started to rise before my chest (which felt strong, but I think is wrong). I hit 155lbsx4 and called it, as something just isn't 100% with my low back and the area where the tops of my glutes connect. I've been carrying around a baby a lot, perhaps it is doing some strange things?

    Anyway, there is clearly a psychological component, and probably also a pain component, and I'm sure there is a technique component as well...

    Started into bench press - did so, so, but after the first RPE 8 set just felt exhausted and did not finish the workout.

    Something is just off kilter with my work capacity and mental state. Will keep working at it. Lingering pain/irritation in the low back/top of glutes, nothing to write home about, doesn't make me consciously guard it, but it is there.


    • #3
      More good and bad.

      Went in to finish out the deadlift portion of yesterday's workout. Felt good. Topped out at 185x8 @ 8. Grip started to give. Grip is one of my biggest challenges with deadlifts over 235lbs. I don't believe there is that much carry-over between crush and holding strength, but I have started to train with the captains of crush, and recently stepped up to the trainer from the sport. I can close the trainer x3 weak hand.

      No weird back pains, though I got sloppy on the second set of 175x8 @ 7.

      The bad:

      Showered off, and while toweling dry, sudden acute pain/ache left lower abdomen - about quarter sized, not tender to touch, no palpable bulge or anything. Right along the ridge created by the abdominals of the adonis belt. I'm always worried about hernias, so tend to get psyched out about that area.
      I've felt this same discomfort before, but I don't remember when, or what exercise was involved. Oh well.

      Also, reviewed my memory of my squats from yesterday, and am pretty sure I started to good-morning them around 150lbs. So I am just going to have to keep figuring out squats. Something i've been doing poorly for almost a decade now, since my heaviest squat was like 205 back in my twenties.

      Not sure if I'm going to rest tomorrow or do the next workout. Will see how sleep goes. I tend to follow a Sunday, Wednesday, Friday 3x per week plan, but felt like I had better results doing every other day.
      Last edited by 86kg; 08-03-2021, 01:48 AM.


      • #4
        Lifted yesterday. More good and bad...

        I'm dealing with symptoms of depression outside of the gym, lack of motivation, lethargy, etc. It continues to translate to wussing out on my workouts. I'm now on month two of an SSRI, but question if it is actually a negative.

        My RPE 8's for yesterday were
        OHP 85lbs x 4
        Barbell Row 95lbs x 10

        My back squat was feeling strong, and on video looked good to me with no good mornings, good depth, but I gave up after 130lbs x 7 @ 7RPE. I just felt like a cord was pulled. I came back later that evening to finish the workout by completing the barbell rows.

        Squat shoes arrived today, and I lift tomorrow, so that will be one less excuse. I'm still dealing with all sorts of niggling pains in my groin, low back, and obliques, but nothing that feels serious.
        Main issue is mental, causing me to give up on my workouts early.


        • #5

          For the first time in at least a month, I felt mentally present, and finished a workout in one sitting with a good feeling. The strength wasn't really there, but man, it felt GOOD.

          Deadlift x4 RPE 8s were 230lbs, I experienced some kind of back pain radiating down my right glute and thigh starting with the warmup and persisting through the working sets, maybe getting a little more intense. I decided to keep lifting anyway, and it feels ok today. I really thinking lifting the baby is straining things in weird ways, I don't think the deadlifts were the cause.

          Bend press x8 RPE 8s were 125lbs

          Squat x10 RPE 8s were 115lbs - a matter of work capacity, but this time it felt like my quads and conditioning were the limiting factor, not my mental state.

          I have no idea why the change - I was very intentional about hydration for the past three days, and I did let the garage cool to 86, but no other big changes that I can think of.

          Enjoyed that one.


          • #6
            Good and bad.

            Mental state seems to still be good.

            Squat x4 RPE 8s were 160lbs. First RPE 8 set was pretty good, second set I good morning'd the last two reps. My hips also got wonky with lateral movement coming out of the bottom.
            Bench x10 RPE 8 was 115, then did not finish with 7 reps next set (?).
            Went to deadlift warmups with 135, and while the weight felt really light, I had very bad area pain across my lower right back and upper right gluten and maybe radiating down into thigh a bit. Basically a much worse version of what I experienced on heavy deadlift day last workout. This time, it really hurt though, so I stopped. I'll test it again tonight. If still hurts, I'll try barbell rows or something.


            • #7
              Attempted the deadlift again tonight, just 135. Same sharp pain, only more localized to the glute/piriformis(?) area.
              No pain until 3/4s up the lift, right where I usually give my glutes a good clench and the hips move forward. Weight felt super light, but that pain was sharp, so I stopped at one rep.
              Experienced the same pain during the eccentric (I wasn't dropping the weight) at the same point.

              Not sure how or what aggravated it. But I want to blames squats, since historically I tweak something doing them evertime I start to try to get back to barbells (and as has been true again with this attempt).

              Auto-correct keeps changing glutes to gluten...


              • #8
                Feeling pretty discourage. Went in last Wednesday, started on my OHP, and on the first rep of the first set of my RPE 8s tweaked something back in my upper right trap/neck/shoulder area. It seized up pretty quickly and only just started to get full range of motion back to turning my head, but still pain looking far left, right, up, and down. It was just 85lbs, and last week I'd done 85x4 for two sets twice, and actually pushed 90lbs for 3 reps. Of note, I'd experienced a similar pain/strain a couple months back, but much more minor - probably around the same weight.

                My lower back is also achy, probably from carrying the baby.

                Basically I'm just frustrated by nagging pains and frequency of injury.

                Trying to get motivation to go at least do some dumbbell work, goblet squats and the like, and not fall into depression.

                It just feels like every time I hit a certain (light!) weight my body breaks on me. It is very frustrating.
                Last edited by 86kg; 08-14-2021, 11:55 PM.


                • #9
                  I'm not a coach or even an advanced lifter, but here are my thoughts..

                  If you are doing conventional stance deadlifts, then I recommend you give sumo a try. Should slightly reduce the amount of stress delivered to the lower back muscles for the same weight.

                  As for the OHP issue, I'm not sure what could be improved without seeing. If you are feeling wobbly during the movement, then I'd suggest lowering the weight and focus on staying REALLY TIGHT (huge breath, strong brace and tensed muscles from the toes to the face) and get an awareness of the bar path. You will initiate the movement by pushing up and slightly forward until the head is cleared, then move under the bar (rather than only trying to push it back into place) and sync the trap and shoulder flexion during lockout. I would hold the weight up for a couple of seconds until the weight is stable. Start with the empty bar, do 4-5 or even more sets and hone this in. Then add 10 lb for subsequent sets, always focusing on the movement of the bar, until you get to a set @RPE 9.

                  You'll most likely have to reduce some load off the bar and it won't be a nice feeling, but I want you to have a productive workout that would pave your way to long-term gains without setbacks.

                  And like the saying here goes: It's always better to undershoot RPE slightly than to overshoot it.

                  All the best


                  • #10
                    I'll echo Average Lifter's caveats: I'm not a coach! But Austin Baraki is, and he has a very helpful youtube video about pain management:
                    In short, he talks about a few strategies to try:
                    1. Reduce the load.
                    2. If the pain persists, try reducing the range of motion
                    3. If reducing the range of motion doesn't help, try a different but related exercise--maybe sumo instead of conventional, as Average L suggested, or leg extensions and leg curls instead of squats, or leg press or belt squat if you have access to that equipment.

                    Good luck with your training.


                    • #11
                      What Codger said...


                      • #12
                        I really appreciate the suggestions, I will definitely give serious thought to them!

                        I have not stopped lifting, though I have not been following the program the last several weeks, just trying to get in a few sets of dumbbell work, or front squats here and there.

                        I will certainly consider the Sumo variant of the DL - though I've never had issues with the DL before, and I do like the conventional pull. But will definitely consider it if I encounter the same pain.
                        For the OHP, next time I lift I will focus on Average Lifter's advice, will deload and emphasize on technique, and mix in some light dumbbells (I have never had issues with DBs) for volume while working on the barbell OHP form.

                        Today was a good day - I think I'm on an upswing and physically and mentally may be ready to start back on the beginner template in another week or so. Just trying to build up lifting capacity with some higher rep stuff.

                        Deadlift sets of 8, 135lbs, 165lbs, 175lbs, 185lbs (RPE 7). No pain or issues, felt good.
                        DB OHP 15lb DBs x 10, 25lb DBs x10, 25lb DBs x 10, 25lb DBs x10 (RPE 7).
                        Front squats sets of 8, 45lbs, 65lbs, 75lbs, 85lbs (RPE 8). No pain or issues, felt good.
                        DB Bench Press 30lb DBs x 10, 40lb DBs x 10 (RPE 7).
                        DB Bent Over Rows, 30lb DBs x 10, 30lb DBs x10 (RPE 6)
                        Curls and Triceps extensions.

                        Much later in the day though, after carrying baby, I developed some slight back pain low left.

                        But none of the previous pains, I had experienced.
                        Last edited by 86kg; 09-04-2021, 12:20 AM.


                        • #13
                          That's great to hear. Looking forward to your progress



                          • #14
                            Started back on beginner template yesterday, subbing front squats for back squats. Felt good mentally, though physical capacity was severely strained and could not get in all the deadlift sets. Post workout I laid around feeling nauseas for about a half hour. So I certainly pushed myself. I know the caveats about being sore not equaling progress, but will note I am sore all over today. Here are the top working sets.

                            FS 95lbs x 4 @ 8.5
                            Bench 105lbs x 10 @ 9
                            Deadlift 155lbs x 8 @ 8


                            • #15
                              Workout #2 of Beginner Template - top sets as follows:
                              OHP 63lbs x 4 @ 8
                              Front Squat 75lb x 7 @ 8
                              Barbell Row 85lbs x 10 @ 8

                              Felt pretty good. Session RPE 7. Just going to take things easy this first week and work on accepting my strength imitations.