2018-04-24 training log

Today was great!

Going into today I was a little nervous. There’s the arm pain – which is diminishing, but still present. It’s heaviest weight I’ve benched in a long time, and the crazy thing is that any time I’ve been working with this weight, there’s always been arm pain present and it’s always gotten in the way. So I really wasn’t sure how things would go. In fact, I was so unsure how this would go that I asked for a spot for all 5 of my working sets; normally I go without a spotter, but I just wasn’t sure how today would go and didn’t want to kill myself.

And I didn’t kill myself; in fact, I exceeded my expectations!

I told myself that if things got so bad that all I could do was a single, then so be it. I wanted to do well, but I am not out to kill myself or make things worse. I was just going to get under the bar and take each rep as it came. I added a single at 225 as a warm-up so it wasn’t as huge a jump from 185 to 240.

But then I started on my work sets, and the reps just kept coming.

I think part of it is setup. I focused more on setup on these sets than I probably ever have. To get really tight, really place myself. To “slide” the bar out of the hooks to minimize disturbance to the shoulders. Take a moment to reset the shoulders, and even take another deep breath. Everything I could think of to really ensure I was tight tight tight. I also did my new thing of pinkies on the rings (instead of ring finger). I shouldn’t be surprised, but it did influence my bar path — my body wanted the bar to touch higher, but that slight adjustment made things want to touch a bit lower. It was an interesting “fight” but I just went with it as best I could.

I will say, the first rep descent on each work set was the most worrisome as that’s where I felt more instability; but once that hit, every subsequent rep was great. I want to work more on my descent, having that tight “controlled drop”, like I’ve been doing with squat. And I’m going to need to find that new groove and bar path with the new hand position. But all in all, not a bad deal. That will come.

I only stopped at 7 on the first set because I was playing it conservative! Even on the later sets, my spotter was like “you had more in you”, and I did but again I was trying to play it conservative. So I’m really really happy with how things went.

And the arm pain was present, but not bad. Very manageable.

Oh, I should note that I do have my elbow sleeves and also added wrist wraps on the work sets. Is that helping? Probably. If that’s what I need, then so be it.

Anyways, very very happy with how things went.

Then on inclines, I was to do straight sets with 85’s, but I opted to drop down to not beat myself up too much. It gave me an idea tho. For next cycle I was contemplating dropping DB pressing but I think I’ll keep it — just change it. I’ll keep the DB’s at 45º to my body, then lower the weights and go paused on every rep. Sink the weight deep, get the stretch, pause, and only allow pec/delt contraction to move out of the hole. I think that will be good for me in a number of ways. The pausing (just like why pause squats are good), and it should be a little more friendly and productive for my shoulders.

Everything else was support work. While I do want to do this RP template one more time, I am looking forward to my own programming again because I want to address more of the things I need vs. what a template tells me. I want a little more pulling work, a little more shoulder and upper back work. Things to help me long-term manage and stay healthy.

But I’m happy for today. Very happy.

RP Powerlifting, Strength Cycle, week 4

  • Competition Grip Bench (with pause)
    • bar x 10
    • 135 x 5
    • 185 x 5
    • 225 x 1
    • 240 x 7
    • 240 x 5
    • 240 x 5
    • 240 x 4
    • 240 x 3
  • Incline DB Press
    • 60e x 10
    • 70e x 10
    • 80e x 8
    • 80e x 8
  • Barbell Bent Rows
    • bar x 10
    • 135 x 5
    • 195 x 8
    • 195 x 7
    • 195 x 7
  • Barbell Upright Row
    • bar x 10
    • 115 x 8
    • 115 x 8
    • 115 x 7
  • Reverse Curls
    • 20 x 10
    • 65 x 9
    • 65 x 9
    • 65 x 8

2018-04-23 training log

Week 4 – the big week. And it went well.

I had a wee bit of trepidation going into this morning. I knew I could hit the weights, but it was hitting the weights with things like my knee and my arms, and all those little nagging things. It’s really weird tho, that my knees feel so much better WHEN I’m lifting, because I’m lifting. So I just wasn’t sure how it would all go.

And it went well.

I was telling myself I wanted to hit 5 — if I could hit that, even tho it’s a 1/fail week — then I could stop. On that first set @ 295 I know I could have done at least 1 more (and still left one in the tank), and maybe even 2 because things were feeling good. But I opted against it for a couple reasons.

First, I wanted to play it conservative as I’d rather hit all 5 sets and reasonable reps, than go all out on the first set and have nothing for the later sets. Plus knee, etc.

Second, I know you shouldn’t change technique at a time like this, but it happened. First, per last week I went with the eagle claw grip, but I hate that grip because I just can’t actually grip/squeeze the bar. I started using it, but immediately stopped and instead just took my thumb off from around the bar — basically suicide grip. That works, still allows me to generally clench/squeeze the bar, but if my hands need to angle a bit then they can. That carried me through today. Also, I am really emphasizing being tight, especially on that descent. Upper back, upper body, gotta be tight. If I do that right, my neck then is neutral and so my eyes look downward — it’s all a neutral directon, but just due to angles its how it goes. This is all good of course, but well… the squat racks at the gym are in front of a mirrored wall, so I often watch myself to check technique, depth, etc.. This is OK, but I’ve noticed that lately my eyes want to keep watching (especially depth). So today? there was a fight between head position and eyes watching, and it was bad enough that on the second rep at 295 I started to lose my balance and actually had to take a step to avoid falling over. Not good, not good.

What it tells me is I do need to stop with the mirror — it’s good now and again, but it’s somehow gravitated to paying too much attention do it. What I may start doing, at least at first, is with lighter weights just closing my eyes and doing everything by feel. yes, that’s how things should normally be, but take it a step further and totally cut out visual feedback. We’ll see.

Anyways – the squats generally went well. I’m happy, and I’m going to use 295 as my starting point for the next cycle.

Everything else was what it was. Overall volume up, strength up, and feeling good. Again, I don’t know for sure if I’m actually any stronger or just more in the groove given how light things started out coming into this cycle. I’m planning on doing this same template for another cycle, changing just a few things — like I’ll probably dump 45º extensions for good mornings, because something told me today that as much as I hate good mornings, they are also something that will benefit me well (just like more front squats).

So there we go.

RP Powerlifting, Strength Cycle, week 4

  • Squat (low bar)
    • bar x 5
    • 135 x 5
    • 225 x 5
    • 265 x 3
    • 295 x 5
    • 295 x 5
    • 295 x 5
    • 295 x 4
    • 295 x 3
  • Front Squat
    • 175 x 8
    • 175 x 8
    • 175 x 8
    • 175 x 6
  • Competition Deadlift
    • 135 x 3
    • 225 x 3
    • 280 x 3
    • 280 x 3
    • 280 x 3
    • 280 x 3
  • Stair Calves
    • 65 x 12
    • 65 x 12
    • 65 x 10
  • Reaching Situps
    • 20 x 12
    • 20 x 12
    • 20 x 12

Sunday Metal – Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath, on Don Kershner Rock Concerts, from 1975

A short, but cool set.

 

2018-04-20

Week 3 ends with a very light and minimal day. Very light triples on the larger movements, and just a single set on the assistance work. Almost felt pointless to go in today as I spent more time driving to the gym than actually in the gym. But it’s all part of the program so I do it.

I did try out the closer grip on the benching: putting my pinkies on the rings. It’s hard to say for sure because the weight was light and inclines are a different angle and engagement of the arms and shoulders. But it did feel somewhat good and seemed to have promise. I also did the DB benching with my hands at an angle (think the DB grips were like 45º to the body). All good.

So, nothing much for today, but really looking forward to next week. 🙂

That said, I did go ahead and rate today 1’s, which did up my benching sets for next week. I figure it’s good for me to shoot for that, but I am totally fine with cutting it back if pain prevents me. I might even just do singles if that’s all my body permits me to do.

That said, I’ve started talking with someone at the gym towards investigating my issue. We’ll see where it goes.

RP Powerlifting, Strength Cycle, week 3

  • Incline Bench Press
    • bar x 10
    • 95 x 5
    • 135 x 3
    • 135 x 3
    • 135 x 3
  • DB Bench Press
    • 65e x 3
    • 65e x 3
    • 65e x 3
  • Neutral-grip Pulldowns
    • 100 x 10
    • 160 x 11
  • DB Lateral Raises
    • 30e x 12
  • DB Hammer Curls
    • 25e x 10
    • 45e x 10

2018-04-19 training log

So this is an interesting day.

The templates have it that the last 2 days of week 3 are very light days. Light weights, very low intensity, and just triples across the board (tho assistance can get a little bit of normal work). It’s a mild deload ahead of next week’s hardest week of the cycle. We’ll see how it pans out.

So to that, nothing really to report. Just went in, did the work, got out. Took me maybe 40 minutes including my warmup.

That said, 2 things did come out of it.

First, as I mentioned on Tuesday, I want to play with my grip width during benching. Tons of veteran advice that a narrower grip is easier on the shoulders and will enable longevity benching, tho maybe not the highest numbers. That’s ok, as I’ll never set a world record, but should still be able to (someday) achieve my personal goals — and that someday can only happen if I can keep healthy shoulders and all this weird pain stuff under control. But what would be right? As it is now, my normal-width grip is ring-fingers on the rings, so I thought to try an increment and put my pinkies on the rings. I found some stuff out there giving some more measured guidelines: measuring distance between the outer-edges of my acromion process, mulitply by 1.5, and viola that’s the width then between the inside edges of the index fingers. I checked it out this morning and guess what? It basically puts my pinkies on the rings. So I’m going to try that tomorrow; it’s another very light triples day but still I can feel the mechanics. I intend to do it next week as well, just going forward. I’m sure there’ll be some effect on things given I’ve been working up so far with a different technique, but that’s ok — I want to see how it goes and what data I can collect.

Second, I do need to get back to working on flexibility so when squatting I can do so with straight wrists. The bent wrists is back to putting pressure on wrists, elbows, everything, at least until I’m warmed up. Today I did the simple “eagle claw” grip thing and put my pinkies under the bar and it felt much better. So while I don’t like the eagle claw grip, I may have to go with it for now as a management trade-off.

Anyways, good things can still come from light days.

RP Powerlifting, Strength Cycle, week 3

  • Competition Deadlift
    • 135 x 3
    • 185 x 3
    • 225 x 3
    • 240 x 3
    • 240 x 3
    • 240 x 3
  • 45º Back Raise
    • BW x 3
    • BW x 3
    • BW x 3
  • Pause Squat
    • bar x 5
    • 135 x 3
    • 150 x 3
    • 150 x 3
    • 150 x 3
  • Stair Calves
    • 65 x 10
    • 65 x 10
    • 65 x 10
  • Slant Board Situps
    • BW x 10
    • BW x 10
    • BW x 10

2018-04-17 training log

All things considered, a reasonable day.

I’ve been working on rehab things for the arm pain. There is improvement – slow, but improvement. I did have some pain today, but it wasn’t as bad as it has been, so that’s a good sign. It still got in the way a little bit, but all in all workable.

I opted to wear wrist wraps while benching, just to add some stability and give me a tactile cue to crush-grip the bar — that helps in a lot of ways. It’s possible it contributed to things moving well, don’t know for sure. But getting 6 at 235 with this week being 2/fail (and the arm pain), I can take that!

Here’s the interesting thing. As I benched, it felt like things were coming from the shoulder. That as my arms would flare as I approached lockout, I’d feel stuff. So when I did my DB incline work, I kept my elbows tucked, and despite the increased range of motion, less pain. Interesting.

This is why I know it frustrates people when they see me spending weeks in pain that I could probably alleviate. It’s not that I want to be in pain, but I want to understand the pain. I want to really figure out where and why it’s coming from, so I can work to ensure to not do that thing that brings it around. I think that some contributing factors are things like sitting at a desk all day, that winds up in poor posture, slouching, shoulders rolled forward, etc.. In some regard, it’s why I want to get back to my own programming, because I need to do things to serve my specific needs — like one-leg work, like shoulder stability work.

And I’m starting to think, I may want to bring my bench grip in. I mean, overhead pressing doesn’t bother me. If I remember correctly, close-grip bench doesn’t either — both have narrow grips. I currently flat-bench with my ring fingers on the bar rings. I might try going to pinky on the rings. I also just found this article, and I think it’s worth a quick measurement to see how that fares for me.

Anyways, all in all things went as groovy as I could expect.

What’s interesting about the next 2 sessions? They’re very light, almost a deload. Very light weights, just a few sets, and pretty much all triples. We’ll see how this works into things.

RP Powerlifting, Strength Cycle, week 3

  • Competition Grip Bench (with pause)
    • bar x 10
    • 135 x 5
    • 185 x 3
    • 235 x 6
    • 235 x 6
    • 235 x 4
    • 235 x 4
  • Incline DB Press
    • 80e x 10
    • 80e x 10
    • 80e x 9
  • Barbell Bent Rows
    • bar x 10
    • 135 x 5
    • 190 x 7
    • 190 x 7
    • 190 x 7
  • Barbell Upright Row
    • bar x 10
    • 115 x 8
    • 115 x 8
    • 115 x 8
  • Reverse Curls
    • 20 x 10
    • 65 x 8
    • 65 x 8
    • 65 x 7

2018-04-16 training log

Week 3, and it’s rolling pretty well.

I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning (melatonin, perhaps) but off I went. Brain didn’t wanna, but body felt really good.

Again, I’m trying to keep my volume conservative — that I only rate a 1 if things were off the charts good; but if it felt “as expected”, leave it be. Today did feel really awesome, but I still rated it a 1 because again, I am striving to see if I can do more with less.

The squat warm-ups were hard, even 135. But when I hit 290, things rolled quite well. I felt good. I noticed I wasn’t as tight as I could be, in my upper body. But I think it’s because I’m taking a different approach to the descent. It really solidified a few weeks ago watching Kevin Oak squat 832 @ 242 for a new ATWR. If you watch it, his descent is just like… I’m going down. He’s tight, then it’s like a controlled drop of the bar, not like a squat descent. It’s hard to describe, but just watch how that descent looks different from a lot of other squat descents. I’ve found myself taking this mental approach to the descent, and it’s been good. The bar path feels better, the body feels better. There’s really not a lot of movement, nor even extraneous muscle tension — just “control drop” the bar and manage that, then hit depth and come out. Again, hard to describe, but it is different and feels good.

But it’s still difficult for me to judge where I am. I mean, when starting this cycle I was to program it with 285 as a 5RM. But today here I am hitting 290 for 5 with at least a couple left in the tank. I would thimk that, if 285 was the 5RM that last week (when I did 285) I should have gotten 3-4 (if I stop 2/fail) but I got 5. Then today, 290 and hitting 5 for more sets and still some in the tank. Am I stronger? Did I start too light? Is my body just remembering how to squat and it’s neural adaptations? I really don’t know. But there’s never harm in starting light. I look forward to how the next cycle will be set and how it will go as I think that will be more indicative.

Fronts went well. Same weight and sets, but an additional rep per set, which is great especially after the main work went up too. And here I find that the same approach of “controlled drop” really helps at keeping the torso upright.

Triples on the deadlift. While all the squat work got 3 minutes between sets, the deadlifts and everything else got 1-2 minutes of rest. Just boom boom boom, no big deal.

Feeling good.

RP Powerlifting, Strength Cycle, week 3

  • Squat (low bar)
    • bar x 10
    • 135 x 5
    • 225 x 5
    • 265 x 3
    • 290 x 5
    • 290 x 5
    • 290 x 5
    • 290 x 4
  • Front Squat
    • 170 x 8
    • 170 x 8
    • 170 x 8
  • Competition Deadlift
    • 135 x 3
    • 225 x 3
    • 275 x 3
    • 275 x 3
    • 275 x 3
  • Stair Calves
    • 65 x 10
    • 65 x 10
    • 65 x 10
  • Reaching Situps
    • 20 x 12
    • 20 x 12
    • 20 x 12

Sunday Metal – Metallica

Metallica, from 1983’s Kill ’em All tour:

on “Waiting for José”, and Harel Shapira

In “Bowling Alone”, [Robert] Putnam’s diagnosis of America’s decline is rooted in the loss of civic engagement and the decline in associated life. What America has lost, Putnam argues, are institutions – ranging from churches to book clubs – in which people can come together and do things as a part of a collective, as members of a shared community; what America has lost are Americans who seek institutions; what America has lost is the spirit that is at the heart of our democracy. It is the spirit that Alexis de Tocqueville noticed in the eighteenth century and claimed as the source of America’s strength. The Minutemen agree. And the Minutemen have that spirit. What they lack is not a democratic ethos. They are what people like Putnam and de Tocqueville and our whole liberal democratic political tradition want out of citizens; engaged, active, concerned.

From “Waiting for José” by Harel Shapira.

I met Harel about a year ago. He was a student in a class I was teaching at KR Training. As far as I knew, he was just another student. Turns out that’s not quite the case. 🙂 He’s also an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Texas, Austin.

Harel’s sociological interest is in guns, gun culture, firearms education, the culture of armed citizens, and the people within. He wants to understand why people join social movements, and a large part of that is the “doing” of those movements – and so, he seeks to immerse himself in the movements and “doing” them as well. He’s still an observer and tries to remain as such, but yet he must also participate. It’s quite interesting.

Harel wanted to speak with me (beyond class) on some topics. In part because of my role as Assistant Lead Instructor at KR Training, and also in part because of the incident I was involved in on January 5, 2015. More recently, we’ve started talking again regarding phase 2 of his research (which I don’t believe I can disclose at this time, but it’s a logical progression of his research). I have maintained I will always speak about that incident, because in doing so others can learn and perhaps the world can become a little wiser, a little better. We’ve had a few long lunches, talking at great length about all manner of things (and I truly enjoy our talks). But that’s not why I write today.

Harel’s PhD dissertation became a book: “Waiting for José – the Minuteman’s Pursuit of America“. Harel gave me a copy. On a long flight to Seattle I was finally able to read it – and I’m so glad I did.

The book is thought-provoking. It caused me to reflect. It made me think deeper, not so much about The Minuteman movement or guns and gun culture – but about modern society, and our humanness. For this alone, I think this book well worth reading by anyone, and hopefully they too can step back from the specific subject matter and consider the grander implications of modern society in the USA as well as that strange thing we call “human nature”.

The Minutemen

Briefly, the book chronicles a lengthy period of time Harel spent with the Minutemen. These are people who volunteer to sit at the US-Mexico border, watching for “José” to cross illegally, and work to assist the Border Patrol in their capture.

In the pages of everything from local to international newspapers were photographs of camouflaged men prowling the desert, seemingly a moment away from committing violence. You have probably read these articles and seen these images. The liberal media describes the Minutemen as “sorry-ass gun freaks and sociopaths,” while the conservative media characterizes them as “extraordinary men and women… heroes”. In some accounts these people are patriots; in others, they are lunatics.

One thing is certain, these men and women, whatever their given labels suggest, have come to play an enormous role in our country’s debates about immigration. The problem is that our standard judgements, whether damning them or praising them, sidestep the complex dynamics of who these people are and what they do on the border.

Liberal media accounts suggest that when it comes to immigration, what the Minutemen and their supporters lack is sympathy. If only they understood the plight of the people coming across the border, they would change their minds. But if we are to understand the Minutemen, we need to understand how anger and sympathy can coexist.

Harel writes direct from his experience – he’s the one telling the story. He tells of his experiences: his first arrival, his getting thrown out, his return and initial gaining of trust, the times going out on patrol, sitting in the comms room, and other stories of his experiences with these men and women. He works to analyze and understand why these people do what they do, and become the people they become as a part of this movement.

For example, he tells the tale of Gordon. Gordon was a man without the same background as so many other Minutemen – no military, no law enforcement. Just someone who felt a pull to the movement, had no idea how to participate, but had a burning desire to do so. Then how seeing Gordon over the course of two years, how Gordon grew, how he changed, and how being a Minuteman defined his life and gave him solid purpose.

It becomes very easy to dismiss these people because they are different from you. It’s not a movement you’d join, and it seems a little weird, right? So that must mean these people are weird too. And so, they are dismissed as weirdos and written off.

But what Harel works to do? To find and show their humanness.

Because they are human, just like you.

They want to belong. They want to feel worthwhile. They want to contribute. They want to make a difference. They want to be meaningful.

Just like you.

Sure, the specifics will vary – and they even vary within this grouping. But what I found compelling about Harel’s research – and remember, that Harel is very much an outsider in almost every way – is his desire to understand. Sure, he can’t totally remove his own bias, his own filters, but it’s that very lens that makes the book the worthwhile read. Harel is naive, green, ignorant of this world, with his own preconceived notions. Sure it’s interesting to read the picture painted about The Minutemen, but it’s also worthwhile to watch Harel’s own evolution through this experience.

For me, it was especially interesting to watch because the Harel I met and know is not the same Harel as in the book. So for me, it was neat to see that further backstory to enable me to better understand where Harel is coming from, and where he’s trying to go to with his continued research.

It all boils down to a simple thing: to understanding. Why people are as they are. What makes us human. And you will find that they may not be like you, yet you are more like them than you could ever imagine.

Beyond José

To that, Harel’s latest research (as of this writing) has been published in the March 2018 issue of Qualitative Sociology, entitled “Learning to Need a Gun”. I was a participant in the research, I’ve read his paper, and while sometimes it was a hard read, I felt it was an accurate picture. Hard read? Because there are aspects of modern gun culture that are hard to accept, but to me that just means there’s work ahead towards improving how things are.

If you want to go forward with Harel, I suggest you go backwards a bit. Here’s an interview he did with the UT Sociology department back in 2013 that explains a lot about where he’s coming from.

And for the record, there’s a number of things Harel and I do not agree on. But I’ve found him to be fair and honest, and earnest in his research. I’ve also found that I really enjoy our lunches together. He’s engaging, thought-provoking, and open. I greatly enjoy talking with him, even if we may not agree (what a concept these days, eh?).

I know a lot of people are into the work of David Yamane and his “Gun Culture 2.0” research. Harel and David know each other, and Harel presented at Wake Forest back in 2016. If you dig what David is doing, you should also be following what Harel is doing.

And a great place to start? Reading Harel’s book, “Waiting for José“.

2018-04-13 training log

Not bad.

All in all, things proceeded about at the level I expected for this second week. On the templates, the second week creates a larger jump in intensities. I still am to go 2/fail. I also rated things so there’d be 1 more set per relevant exercise than last week’s session. And so, everything landed about where I would expect it to. Of course slight drop in reps, but relative to last week’s weight, at a level I’d expect (or just above). So all good there. Plus, with the added set it’s more volume than last week. All good.

That said, the biceps pain was there a bit. It didn’t affect the pressing that much, but more the ability to get things in position. For example, getting the DB’s in place for pressing was a little difficult because it needs the biceps for direct involvement to get them in place, then stability to keep them there. That wasn’t too happy, but things did go OK.

I’ve been spending a great deal of time working on things: tennis balls to muscle groups, foam roller, stretching, spending a lot of time to work the arms, delts, upper back. It just takes time. I also have realized my posture has gone into the can again, which I do believe contributes to this problem — the hunch, the rounded forward shoulders, etc.. I may be scheduling some time with a few gym folks to look into things a bit more. My goal isn’t to just manage the pain, but truly figure out where it’s coming from and why, so I can make the appropriate changes to avoid it. I’ve got a lot of data from before-times, and am collecting more now.

All in all tho, today rolled as well as I could expect. I won’t be rating things too high so I can keep volume about the same next week. What’s interesting about next week is the first 2 days go up, but the second two (deadlift day, bench day #2) actually go down — very light weights, and just triples. A small deload.

RP Powerlifting, Strength Cycle, week 2

  • Incline Bench Press
    • bar x 10
    • 135 x 5
    • 175 x 3
    • 205 x 8
    • 205 x 7
    • 205 x 6
  • DB Bench Press
    • 60e x 10
    • 95e x 8
    • 95e x 6
    • 95e x 6
  • Neutral-grip Pulldowns
    • 100 x 10
    • 160 x 10
    • 160 x 9
  • DB Lateral Raises
    • 30e x 10
    • 30e x 10
  • DB Hammer Curls
    • 25e x 10
    • 45e x 8
    • 45e x 8