I have been lifting weights for several years now, with various levels of equipment, dedication and success.Because I didn’t always have ideal equipment, I couldn’t always follow the routines I read as they were written, so for a long time I improvised based off what I had. I tried many routines that increased my strength, but none of them “clicked” as a strength training routine to me. Not one of them I felt drawn to return to.
Things changed when I realized my college allowed students free access to their gym. I could take my strength training to the next level. I spent semester after semester exercising both at the college (with all the free weights) and in my backyard (with a more limited selection).
I read many books, experimented with many exercises, modified many routines, and eventually I hit one of my favorite routines of all time. My very first “serious” strength routine.
Ready for it? Here it is:
- Front Squat 3×5 (3 sets of 5 reps)
- Deadlift 3×5
- Weighted Pullups 3×5
- Weighted Dips 3×5
And that’s it!
I followed this routine from October 30th to December 6th of 2012.
My first entry looked like this:
- Front Squat 145lb 3×5
- Deadlift 175lb 3×5
- Pullups 20lb 3×5 (that means bodyweight plus 20lbs)
- Dips 45lb 3×5 (bodyweight plus 45lbs)
I started at weights I knew I could lift fairly easily, to build momentum with my gains. Initially I could jump up weight quick, but after a couple weeks it was really only dips and deadlifts that were progressing quickly. But even those hit the point where each workout was a battle.
At the end of the semester, my final entry looked like this:
- Front Squat 190lb 6×1
- Deadlift 230lb 3×4
- Pullups 35lb 5/5/3
- Dips 70lb 3×5
Once I had hit the 180lb area on Front Squats, I moved to doing triples and then singles, as I couldn’t finish the lifts safely with higher reps.
Later that week I decided to test my maxes, and discovered I could max out on 215lb for front squat, 275lb for deadlift, and 200lb for bench.
Here are a few interesting notes about my maxes after this routine. The semester before, I had thrown my back out deadlifting 195lb for reps improperly, and a couple months before that nearly threw my back out attempting 235lb, but when I lifted 275lb I felt no pain or discomfort.
Also, the entire semester I was on this routine I hadn’t actually done a bench at all. Before that semester I could only max out at 180lb, but just by focusing on the weighted dips, I increased my bench by 20lbs.
If I were to change this routine, all I would do is add overhead press (also for 3×5). It is a very simple routine that increased my strength a lot.
It’s not very pretty, but it works. And the numbers I lifted my not have been very big in comparison to the ego-centric numbers posted around the web, but they are honest (see above picture). And probably better than 90% of gym goers anyway, especially at a bodyweight of 165lb.
So there you have it, my first strength routine. It’s incredibly simple, but it works. You can start it right now with just a barbell, squat rack and couple hundred pounds of weights, which most gyms have (even many of the pathetic ones).