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One other thought, if you're open to giving PTTP more of a chance. How about rotating exercises? You could switch to floor presses, and either sumo or snatch grip deadlifts, for example.

Sorry I missed this reply. I'm going with the "Operator" template by Tactical Barbell for a 6 week cycle and then I'll reevaluate. PTTP may be in my future again, and I think that I might do sumo next time. I've been hesitant to train sumo with any consistency because I'm considerably weaker at it, but as a dude with strangely high hips (and thus really long legs and a very short torso), sumo allows me to keep a much more upright back angle and drive more with my legs, thus fatiguing my lower back less, which really ended up being the limiting factor in training PTTP any longer at present. I also stumbled across PTTP 2.0 from the SFL (also here), which seems like it might be the way for me to craft a deadlift-centric program going forward. It's possible that against my own wishes my body has reached the point where I can only deadlift 2, maybe 3x/wk instead of 5.
Tactical Barbell: "Operator" template, "SWAT" cluster

After doing a lot of research and considering many options (Starting Strength, StrongLifts 5x5, Wendler 5/3/1, or a self-made program from Pavel's 3-to-5 from Beyond Bodybuilding to name a few), I decided to go with the "Operator" template put forth in Tactical Barbell.

The primary reasons I selected this option were:

(1) I like that Tactical Barbell is in keeping with StrongFirst principles; and

(2) the recommended "cluster" (selection of exercises) is back squat, bench press, and weighted pullups. Since I had been training deadlifts and presses for my first 6 months since getting back into lifting, it made sense to me to bring my squat and bench press up to snuff.

Some secondary reasons include:

(a) wanting to see how training the squat effects my deadlift (keep, gain, or lose strength on it); and

(b) loving the inclusion of pullups (they keep my shoulders healthy and will help preserve some grip and back strength from not deadlifting at present).

Thursday, September 5 - 5RM testing

Back Squat - 45x5, 65x5, 95x5, 115x5, 135x5, 155x5, 185x5, 205x5 = 231 calculated 1RM

Bench Press - 45x5, 65x5, 95x5, 115x5, 135x5, 155x5, 165x5, 175x5 = 197 calculated 1RM

Weighted Pullup (body weight = 206.6): BWx5, BW+10x5, BW+20x5 = 255 calculated 1RM

Keep in mind, I have not practice squats or bench press since high school, and when it comes to squats, I honestly skipped leg day 9 times out of 10. The last time I fiddled with a squat on a rest day back in May, 95lbs felt heavy. No joke. It was embarrassing. The fact that I worked up to 205x5 blew my mind, and honestly made me want to keep dong PTTP because training deadlifts had worked so well at developing my general strength that was carrying over to other exercises. The same is true of my bench press. I couldn't believe I hit 175x5. The last time I fiddled with a bench press for fun back in May, 115lbs was heavy, and the last time I tried to actually train the bench back in '10-'11, I had to give up in short order because it hurt my right shoulder so bad. The fact that I was so much stronger on the bench and and developed such a stable, healthy shoulder from doing presses made me want to keep on doing them. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" The only trouble is that PTTP seems to be "broke" for me at present. One or both things are true - after 6 straight months of it, it's not currently producing adaption in my body, or my strength level has gotten to the point where I can't train the deadlift as frequently anymore. All signs point to it being time for a change, a fact that I've had to keep reminding myself of this week as I constantly second-guess this decision.

Monday, September 9 - Operator Week 1, Day 1 - 3-5x5 @ 70% 1RM

My last PTTP session was on Friday, August 30. So, after a week of deciding what to do, then testing, then resting, I was excited to get back to actually training today. Since it was my first time training squat and bench, I decided to stick to the minimum 3 sets of each movement.

Squat - 160x3x5 (rest - 5 min)

Bench Press - 140x3x5 (rest - 3 min)

Pull-up - BWx3x5 (BW @ 206.6) - (rest 3 min)

I felt shaky after the workout. I imagine it was a lot of muscle fibers being trained that hadn't been. I watched my squat videos back and was amazed at the depth I was able to get with a flat back and little to no "butt wink." My mobility never used to be this good. I credited that to PTTP strengthening up my posterior chain, thus allowing me to maintain a neutral spine under stretch and load. That made me want to go back to deadlifting again. My logic? If deadlifting gave me this ability, then if I'm not deadlifting I'm slowly going to lose this ability again. "Run the horse that brung ya," after all, right? I just had to keep reminding myself that deadlifting was only leading to burnout for the past 1.5 months, and who knows - maybe strengthening my squat will actually up my deadlift? A guy can hope, right?

Wednesday, September 11 - Operator Week 1, Day 2 - 3-5x5 @70% 1RM

Squats had produced soreness in my hamstrings, which boggled my mind as I squatted high bar with a lot of ankle flexion and very little hip hinge. Little to no soreness in my quads at all. Still don't know what to make of that. I decided to go with the minimum 3 sets again today. The idea of the "minimum effective dose" was in my mind, perhaps from reading Even Easier Strength or from somewhere else on the forum. Who knows. I came to regret this decision, as I felt fresh just a few hours after training and about lost my mind on Thursday waiting for Friday to come so I could lift again.

Squat - 160x3x5 (rest - 5 min)

Bench Press - 140x3x5 (rest - 3 min)

Pull-up - BWx3x5 (BW @ 207) (rest - 3 min)

One thing I forgot to note about Monday, which was also true this day, is that my pull-ups were exploding to the bar like perhaps never before in my life. I didn't know whether to take that as an encouragement or a discouragement. When I was doing the Fighter Pullup Program or doing sets of 5-3-2 along with PTTP, they often felt heavy and grindy because I was carrying over fatigue from the previous day, which just built up over the course of a week. So, should I take it as a good thing that I'm not training Tactical Barbell style and I'm just exploding up to the bar? Surely this bodes well, right? I was tempted to feel like I had earned that strength doing the Fighter Pullup Program progressions 5-6 days/wk or 5-3-2 weighted pullups along with PTTP and was only now reaping the benefits with a little extra rest. Again I worried that by getting away from what I had been doing I might only be losing strength. I guess only time will tell.

Friday, September 13 - Operator Week 1, Day 3 - 3-5x5 @70% 1RM

Given how antsy I was all day Thursday waiting in between training days, and that I have the whole weekend to recover, I decided to go for the full 5 sets on everything today.

Squat - 160x5x5 (rest - 5 min)

Bench Press - 140x5x5 (rest - 3 min)

Pull-up - BWx5x5 (BW @ 205) (rest - 3 min)

Interestingly, my 5th set of squats felt the best out of all of them. My 4th and 5th reps on my 5th set of bench finally started to slow down, and I actually noticed that I carried a bit of a bicep and forearm pump into pullups from benching. Interesting. My first 3 sets of pullups went great, but then the problem was the pump in my forearms and biceps, which I tried to alleviate like an armwrestler - elevating my arm and shaking it out - to little avail.

I'm curious to see how upping the weights to 80% goes next week. The 70% weights felt like I could do them for 10 reps, or for 10 sets of 5, but at the same time I was imagining how the 80% weights would feel and I feel like 3x5 is going to be tough with them next week. I guess we'll see.

Sample videos. Daniel Tiger is on in the background because the kids are around. Such is life. When I watch these, I'm struck by how fast the bar speed is. To me, the weights feel heavy / grindy, but obviously I'm nowhere near grinding. I think I had just gotten really used to maximizing tension and knowing how to grind my deadlifts and presses, and now with these unfamiliar movements I'm not as good at the groove and there's a lot of inefficiencies. We'll see how it progresses.



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Hey @freeflowme , just a few comments:
  • I got into PTTP when I first was getting back into the barbell, and like you (and I think many people) killed myself on it. I think it's a great program, but you have to stay far away from your limits - nobody can deadlift at that volume at 80%+ of their max week after week
  • I pattern my training after Tactical Barbell too. I think it's great - but I think the key point is that training should be in the background - you should always feel ready to work if called upon. That, to me, means you shouldn't feel compelled to chase more sets. Let the light weeks be light, get after it on the 90% weeks. I like to attack conditioning on the light weeks.
  • Yes, squats will attack your hamstrings, even if you are a regular dead lifter. Squats have much lower recovery cost, in my experience - a strong squat is a good investment, in my opinion.
Keep getting after it, sir. Good work.
Operator, Week 2 (3-5x5 @ 80% 1RM)

Monday, September 16

Squat: 65x5, 115x3, 155x2, 185x4x5 (rest: 5 min)

Bench: 45x5, 95x3, 135x2, 160x4x5 (rest: 3 min)

Pullups: BW(205.6)x4x5 (rest: 3 min)

Last week, I started off conservative with 3x5s on everything on Monday and Wednesday. I ended up feeling like I was doing way too little and just itching to do something on off days. Since 5x5 felt good on Friday, I decided to split the difference and go with 4x5s to start of this week at 80%. 185 felt heavy on my back for squats, but then moved better than I expected. 160 felt heavy on bench, but then felt like I could drive it well. Bodyweight felt heavier on pullups than I recalled it feeling last week. Can't help but wonder if pullups didn't benefit from the nearly-daily training of FPP and are suffering a bit on only 3x/wk training on Operator.

Tuesday, September 17

TGUs: 3x1 @ 24kg (1r/1l = 1)
Swings: 3x10 @ 24kg

As mentioned above, I felt "too" fresh and antsy on rest days last week, and I figured that since Operator is designed with the idea of doing conditioning on off days I might be able to plug S&S in there. My plan was to treat it completely as practice, keep the sets super low and light, and stay far, far away from fatigue. Honestly, this might not have been a bad idea, but given how Wednesday went, I've been wishing I had done absolutely nothing but rest this day.

Wednesday, September 18

Squat: 65x5, 115x3, 155x2, 185x4x5 (rest: 5 min)

Bench: 45x5, 95x3, 135x2, 160x4x5 (rest: 3 min)

Pullups: BW(206)x4x5 (rest: 3 min)

Squats felt a bit heavier today than on Monday. I don't think doing 3 sets of light swings on Tuesday did that, but can't say for sure. What I do know is that after a few hours had gone by after finishing my workout, my right shoulder started to tighten up and by the evening it was starting to hurt.

Thursday, September 19

I woke up to super limited range of motion in my right shoulder, and quite a lot of pain. I tried to run mobility drills as often as I could throughout the day, but given how painful it was and how limited my range of motion was, I wasn't sure benching again on Friday was going to be a good idea.

Friday, September 20

Squat: 65x5, 115x3, 155x2, 185x5x5 (rest: 5 min)

Bench: 45x5, 95x3, 135x2, 160x3x5 (rest: 3 min)

Pullups: BW(207.8)x3x5 (rest: 3 min)

My shoulder felt marginally better, though not great today. I honestly contemplated doing nothing, but ended up slowly getting up the motivation to go ahead and do my scheduled training. I planned to keep bench and pullups to the minimum 3 sets, in order to put as little volume through my shoulder as possible, so I went for the full 5 sets on squats to get the work in there. Squats felt good. I honestly can't believe that I can go as hard as I've been going on squats and feel little to no soreness or fatigue in my quads, hamstrings, glutes, or lower back. Most people do seem to say that they can squat at much higher intensity and frequency than they can deadlift. Maybe this is what they mean.

Saturday, September 21

My shoulder doesn't feel as bad today, after Friday's workout, as it felt on Thursday, after Wednesdays workout. I guess I'll take the positives where I can get them. It does still feel super weak, though. For example, I can't really reach up into a cabinet and take a can down without a sharp twinge of pain. Or pour milk.

Honestly, I don't know if I'm going to be able to go through the full 6 week cycle of benching. Next week, the reps go down but the intensity goes up to 90%. I can't imagine that's going to be good for my shoulder. I tried my darnedest to keep my shoulder blades pinched together and drawn down throughout my sets of bench on Friday, and I think that helped. I'm not sure even the best technique I can muster will be enough, though.

I did have issues with overhead presses for awhile, too, and slowly improved my technique to the point that strength was my limiting factor, not shoulder stability. Maybe I can do the same with bench. Or maybe I'll just have to learn to stay in the 70% intensity range and do what I can there. We'll see how it all pans out.

That's a frustrating situation. Are you clear on what's aggravating your shoulder? I've been dealing with a touchy shoulder for a while, and figuring out which movements I can get away with and which I can't has been a process.
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