The "next" phase - 5x5

The last post I made was in Nov '15 just after my last meet, and I detailed what my next steps would be after that meet. During my prep for it I was discovering quite a lot of imbalances and weaknesses that I really needed to address, so that was step one; figure out exactly what needed ironing out and then work on it. Part of that first step was to take a break from the platform, and that phase lasted ~2 weeks. From there I started up on a new strength-based program (5/3/1) and continued my corrective exercises. This was step 2; keep working on the issues, but continue to build strength.

Unfortunately, though, I didn't much like 5/3/1. In fact. I hated it. It felt like it was eating away at my progress, and it was entirely too easy for me; not enough volume, too much resting, too low an intensity, etc. So I switched to a modified 5x5 program, and I couldn't be happier with my decision. 

I've continued working on the imbalances and weaknesses I have on top of the 5x5, and I'm now on week 6. My lifts have progressed rather linearly:
SQUAT: #185 -> #190 -> #195 -> #200 (2 sets belted) -> #200 -> #205 (2 sets belted)
BENCH: #135 -> #140 -> #145 -> #150 -> #155 -> #160
OHP (3s x 5r): n/a -> #70 -> #75 -> #80 (5 sets) -> #85
DEADLIFT (3s x 5r): #225 -> #235 -> #240 (5 sets) -> #245 (5 sets) -> #250

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On my 5x5 days, I'm faced with decently high volume (25 heavy reps), and it's building up an endurance that I previously did not have. It's teaching me to grind through the last reps when I probably would have stopped before using this program. Pretty consistently the first three reps of every set feel smooth and easy, and then the 4th and the 5th feel like they might not even happen. Continuing through to complete those 4th and 5th reps is absolutely invaluable to, not only my mentality, but my strength as well. 

My muscles and my movement patterns had previously learned to stop at a certain level of intensity. Now though? I'm adapting them to push past that point and into a higher level. This is absolutely going to make me a stronger competitive powerlifter since the intensity levels on the platform are some of the highest I'll experience. Learning to grind -- safely and appropriately -- through a lift is extremely specific and functional to my sport, and I've enjoyed it quite a lot. 

On my non-5x5 days I work in different rep ranges and with a variety of barbell assistance exercises (paused, chains, bands, dumbbells, etc.). Occasionally I take these days into the 1-3 rep range just to make sure that I don't lose the skill for a 1 rep max since my sport is based on it. But I try not to lift in such low rep ranges too often on top of the 5x5, because one body can only take so much. In other words, if it FEELS like a good day to go heavy (1-3 reps), then I'll do it. Otherwise, I'll stick to the assistance drills.

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I'll be needing a deload week soon. The intensity level is on a steady rise for each lift, and it's feeling like a deload could do me good. And that's what so much of this program has been based on; how I'm feeling. My accessories, and even some aspects of the 5x5 (belted or unbelted? 3 sets or 5 sets for the flexible lifts?, etc.) rely on how I feel that day. This is something else new that I'm learning. Previously I would do whatever was written down on the paper, and then how I felt was based on my performance that day, not the other way around. Currently, using my feeling to dictate my performance is COMPLETELY different, and it's really kind of uncomfortable for me. I'm so used to just doing exactly what is written down and some days it's really hard to take it down a notch when that's what feels right. But I think this is a very valuable way to train, and it's something I wish I had learned much sooner. 

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If anyone is curious about the details of the program, I'd be happy to share. I'm certainly no pro when it comes to writing powerlifting programs, but I've really nailed it with this most recent one; for myself at least.