As a dedicated self-proclaimed ?gym-bro,? I started making legitimate gains when I began working out to a program last summer (2015). As I look to the future and where I want to be next year, in terms of my strength and body, I want to take a moment to reflect upon the workout programs I?ve completed so far.
This post will review two similar workouts ? ?Stronglifts 5×5? and ?Ice Cream Fitness.? I undertook the former for about a week at the beginning of summer 2015, and then switched to the latter for the rest of the summer.
Although I had been going to the gym since my junior year of high school, this would be my first time working out according to a developed program. Furthermore, this would also be the first time I attempted compound lifts (exercises that involve a great number of muscle groups) of any kind, as I generally stuck to cardio, exercise machines, and dumbbells. It was an exciting moment for me, but I wanted to make sure I knew what I would be getting into.
Stronglifts is a simple full-body workout program mainly for beginners. The committment is three days per week, consistent with what I had been doing. It involves just three compound lifts per day, each of which is done for ?S? number of sets for ?R? number of reps. Weight is added when ?SxR? is achieved for a lift.
The program is structured as such, with workouts A and B conducted on alternating non-consecutive days:
Squats (5×5)Bench Press (5×5)Barbell Row (5×5)
Squats (5×5)Overhead Press (5×5)Deadlift (1×5)
I attempted this program for just a week before I felt bored ? there wasn?t enough action. I would be done with my workout in less than 40 minutes, and I didn?t feel as though I was exercising hard enough to promote muscle growth. Thus, I switched to Ice Cream Fitness.
Ice Cream Fitness
Now this was a program I could enjoy. Ice Cream Fitness (ICF) builds on where Stronglifts left off. After the three compound lifts per workout, ICF adds several accessory exercises ? including barbell shrugs and curls, tricep extensions, and cable crunches ? to train smaller muscle groups. This program continues the same 3-day structure set by Stronglifts, and gave me an additional half an hour in the gym.
This was the program structure:
Squats (5×5)Bench Press (5c5)Barbell Row (55)Barbell Shrugs (3×8)Tricep Extensions (3×8)Barbell Curls (3×8)Hyperextensions (2×10)Cable Crunches (3×10)
Squats (5×5)Deadlift (1×5)Overhead Press (5×5)Barbell Row (5×5: 10% lighter than Workout A)Close Grip Bench Press (3×8)Barbell Curls (3×8)Cable Crunches (3×10)
This program was not tough to follow. I only had to work out three days per week ? I chose Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings ? and then I was free! The program structure was a bit odd in that I had to squat every workout, but I enjoyed it. I rarely feel soreness after working out, and so I was generally in a great condition to squat heavy every other day. I started out light on my compound lifts, allowing me to develop better form and timing. This ended up paying off as I quickly improved on all my lifts throughout the two months I followed this program.
I made great ?beginner gains? from this workout, losing over 8 pounds of fat and gaining 4 pounds of muscle. I lost weight in my face and midsection, and felt I was the healthiest I had ever been. Although it was advised against, I consistently ate at a daily caloric deficit. I?m sure this played a large role in weight loss, but it also probably kept me from making even better muscle gain and lifting heavier every day. Furthermore I feel as though I burned out in the last few weeks of the program, when I was not making improvements on my lifts.
I made a great deal of progress on this program. I started mid-June 2015 and finished mid-August 2015, giving me more or less 8 weeks on the program. Here are my beginning and ending numbers for the compound exercises.
Squat: 85 lbs (5×5)? 150 lbs (5×5)Bench Press: 95 lbs (5×5) ? 115 lbs (5×5)Deadlift: 120 lbs (2×5) ? 175 lbs (2×6)Overhead Press: 45 lbs (5×5) ? 75 lbs (2×5)Barbell Row: 70 lbs (5×5) ? 95 lbs (3×8)
In the great scheme of things, I consider my improvements to be very impressive, but the ending numbers to be unsatisfactory (especially considering where my lifts now, and where I hope them to be in the future). The squat improvement strikes me as the most notable, however my form was not very good when I was lifting 150 lbs. This led to a long period of around 8 months from October 2015 to May 2016 where I was unable to squat due to a severe groin strain. I will cover how I came across this injury and worked around it in my next article.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Ice Cream Fitness program and would definitely recommend it to weightlifting beginners, especially late teens. I seriously recommend starting with Stronglifts 5×5 to perfect the form for the compound lifts, and then switching to ICF.
Within ICF, I have no qualms with three compound lifts every other day, including squatting every workout. However, this could cause lower-body muscle soreness, in which case I suggest light cardio (I prefer the stationary bike) to warm up before and cool down after every workout. I also suggest eating at a slight caloric deficit (around 100?200 calories below your total daily energy expenditure) or simply maintaining (eating at your TDEE).
This workout (and summer) was very valuable. Not only did I learn the basic compound lifts which became the foundation I will build upon in the future, but I also learned more about the mental toughness required of me when working out. First and foremost, I learned not to compare myself to others, especially those similar in body stature and race. I often pushed myself harder and harder when I saw people like me lifting heavier than me. This led me to being able to complete my lifts at the expense of my form, which degraded until I suffered injury. This led me to learn to appreciate and respect my body, because my physical and mental health are the keys to my future happiness and success.
Summer 2015 also solidified my love for weightlifting. There is just something raw and powerful about being able to lift heavy. It has been one of the best decisions of my life.