Day 18 – The End of the Road

Posted: April 2, 2011 in Bill Starr 5x5 Intermediate Programme

It has been a hard six weeks.

When we began this programme, we knew there would be hardship, failures and dips in the road – no plan survives contact with the enemy (often being yourself). However, we also knew there would be progress.

The progress is evident in the numbers. The blog and the numbers/performance details we’ve logged have given us clear evidence that lifting heavy things and lifting heavier things over time makes you better at…lifting heavy things!


I’ll discuss the data in a bit – first, the last day of our Bill Starr 5×5 Intermediate Programme experiment:

All exercises were intended to be 5×4, 3×1, 8×1.

Today was shaping up to be terrible. Irritations from all facets of life, work that needed to be done and we hadn’t found time to eat much at all during the day. I also felt sufficiently dehydrated, enough cause me bother, so I’d been trying to “catch up” and felt just shy of bloated again. We had both slept little through the week and last night had been no different…so we turned up to the gym underfed, tired and a little nauseous.

We entered the gym a little later than usual and so wanted to make sure we got the really challenging work out of the way first, that being the squat. Warm-up was simple – the usual walk to the gym, some goblet/cook squats, some squats with the barbell alone and some plyometrics.

The 5 rep sets were technically on point for both of us…there was definitely something in the air. We’d been psyching each other up for an hour or two beforehand…we went on with the work on the basis that we hadn’t come all this way to fail on the last day and we owed it to ourselves. I find it helpful to remind myself that in any given situation, if someone’s life was in danger (be that my own, a friend, family member or even stranger), the adrenaline kick-start would be enough to fight a roided up polar bear/Deadlift a clown car – so squatting the weight on my back IS possible…my body CAN do it, the only thing holding me back is my mind telling me it’s too hard. Thus, not wanting to see myself as a coward, I feel obliged to give it a maximum effort regardless of how weak/ill I feel. To make extraordinary gains, you need to make extraordinary effort. A bit of my own philosophy on life here, but if you take away the idea of an omnipotent God, heaven or divinity, all that there is in life, in its entirety, is your story. When I die, whatever happens next, no one knows – but they will know that in my time here, I gave 100% of my effort when it counted and I never gave in. The search for progress (in any area of life) is one of relentless perseverance, 100% effort and intelligent approach. I may offend at times, I may falter and I may fall, but part of my story is that if I’m at Point A and aiming for Point B, anything in my path will be met with absolute dedication, unrelenting tenacity and an attitude that condones bleeding from your eyeballs. Some people are born with this kind of state of mind – I was one of the lucky ones who learned it.

With all of that said above, we knew that the 3-rep set was going to happen and with solid form. The gym was empty. I stormed back and forth for a few moments and allowed heavy metal to seep from my iPod to my legs. I felt confident – the weight sat there just begging me to move it. I focused all of my energy for a moment and stood under the bar, took it upon my shoulders and stepped back…one deep breath, a balanced descent and then, inches below parallel, I fired both of my legs up. 1 rep down. Breathe out, big breath in, down, depth and BOOM, drive and there we go – 2 reps complete. Now, the last rep – failure did not even creep into my head. Breathe out, big breath in, down, deep as possible and then full throttle towards the ceiling…I was firing on both of my legs as hard as possible whilst keeping my back strong and steady, yet the bar moved oh so slowly…that is the sticking point. This is the spot where mental anguish forces you to either drop the weight and admit defeat or you overcome yourself and power through where your mind simply says “impossible”. I chose to give my mind the middle finger and finish my final 3-rep squat set of the 5×5 programme. My left leg buckled somewhat when I was attempting to re-rack the weight, but thankfully this isn’t part of the exercise.

No challenge is worth doing if the grand finale doesn’t scare you.

Ross followed the same path. Unrelenting effort, hammering out three fully formed reps with an audible battle with the final rep…the following 8 rep set was a doddle, but still painful…again, something we’re just used to doing.

15 minutes to complete the bench press and bent-over rows.

1st, Bench. We decided to cut out the 8 rep set and the 2nd of the 5rep sets to save time – the important point was that the 3-rep set was complete and we were safely warmed-up. As expected, well-formed reps with weights that surpassed anything we’d previously lifted.

For points sake, we both shifted 2.5kgs less than our 1RM for the 3-rep set and both of us felt prepared for more.

2nd, Bent-over row. We opted for the same set/rep changes. I maintained a full grip. Ross actually by mistake ended up lifting 5 Kgs heavier than he had planned to and didn’t compromise form. Progress!


Next up, we’re taking a full week off, then having a week of extremely light work with some recovery based plyometric work…or “Neural Charge” as Chris T calls it. The week following, we’re testing our 1RMs again.


I’m running out of time and will discuss the numbers in a post in the coming few hours (or week), but the important point from today is the following:

– Your life story is all you’ve got. What do you want to be remembered as?

That is all.


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