Last year, I set some weightlifting goals for myself for four compound exercises: bench press, overhead press, deadlift, and squat. These days, I’m hovering right around the goal weights that I set. I thought it would be fun to break down how things are going for each lift, starting with the overhead press. This also gives me a dumb excuse to play with R more.
First, some quick background. I started casually training summer of 2013. I was weak. Between then and the end of the year, I slowly got my lifts up, but I still had a long way to go before I would even be comfortable with telling anyone my numbers.
The period between 2014 and 2016 could best be described as me having “F***arounditis”. I continued to go to the gym in the mornings but would very regularly skip days due to not waking up early enough. If I did make it, I only gave myself 20-30 minutes to get any work in. I’d have spurts of motivation from reading things on /r/fitness or /r/gainit, but never any real consistency. I did make improvements, but it was messy.
At the start of 2016, I signed up for a new gym after a move. This was the start of more consistent training and was the period where I’ve made the most progress. My consistency wasn’t perfect, but it was the best year so far. It was then that I set some strength goals, something I really should have done on my very first day. The goals motivated my consistency and it was the consistency that brought progress.
For goals, I settled on the intermediate column in this website’s list of strength standards. For example as a 150 lbs male, a one rep max of 122 lbs for overhead press would put me into the intermediate column, which is defined as being above the median strength for lifters of my same weight. Not awful and no longer “below average” so that’s good enough for me.
It took me much longer than it should have, but I hit this today (105 lbs × 7 reps at sub 150 lbs body-weight).
Here’s how my progress looked for this lift (from the last couple of years of data). Note that I use an estimated 1 rep max (using Lander’s formula) which uses a weight × reps × some coefficient formula to estimate a 1 rep max.
Some thoughts/observations from this:
- I’m definitely embarrassed about the lack of consistency before 2016.
- The increases in the start of 2016 are largely thanks to me half-following a 5×5 lifting program. I say half-following because I was not increasing the weight as regularly as I really should have. For this, I partly blame the gym for not having 2.5 lbs weights for increases (smallest plate they had were 5 lbs plates and full 10 lbs jumps are hard).
- I started following the Greyskull LP program in the summer of 2017 and I HIGHLY recommend it. One problem with other programs is how discouraging it is to fail a set. Failure means that you must drop the weight and it’ll be weeks until you work back up and get a chance to set a new personal record. Greyskull fixes this by having the final set be an AMRAP (as many reps as possible) set. To illustrate, if I fail a lift at 150, I must drop the weight to 135. However, if the last time I was at 135, the best I could do was 5 reps on the last set, I can now strive for 6+ reps to beat my old record. This is a GREAT design addition.
- Top three tips I wish I could have told myself when I started
- Consistency above everything else. Don’t skip sessions and give yourself plenty of time to finish everything.
- Pick the right program and follow it as best as you can. Greyskull > 5×5.
- (Related to #2) If the program says to increase the weight, do it. I had many sessions where I sat at the same weight for several sessions in a row. This was a mistake because failure is part of the design of each program and the overloading is necessary.
In future posts, I’ll share the graphs of my other three lifts.