After 2 microcycles…

If you enjoy reading about my lifting weights, read on.

I’ve completed 2 microcycles (3 micros in a meso-block) of my “move away from 5/3/1”. I wanted to capture my current state of things.

Summing up the microcycle

  • 3 days a week, 4 sessions per micro (micro thus is 9-10 days long; gym 3x/week is a good balance between stimulus and recovery for me).
  • Fundamentally upper/lower A/B split
    • Squat (lower A)
    • Bench (upper A)
    • Deadlift (lower B)
    • Press (upper B)
  • Each session starts with a main lift: squat, bench press, deadlift, press.
    • This will be worked for strength. Work up to a crisp single.
    • Might do 1 backoff set for AMRAP; maybe.
  • Shifting supplemental and accessory work to more bodybuilding style, with increasing intensity per micro, and changing up every meso-block.
  • Some accessory upper worked on lower day: accumulate volume over the micro (vs. within the session); helps manage time-in-gym-vs-i-gotta-get-to-work-but-want-to-ensure-I-give-some-bodyparts-the-attention-they-need-over-the-micro. 🙂
  • I adopted a few conventions
    • Be conservative. I have goals, and I can’t meet them if I’m injured. Slow progress is still progress.
    • For a lot of accessory (and some supplemental) work, do 3 sets driving each set to failure. Over the “3 weeks” (3 micros of the meso), it’ll be like this (do you even conjugate, bro?):
      • Week 1: start dialing in weight and reps, each set to failure. Won’t be a killer 3 sets but it’ll be novel stimulus.
      • Week 2: weight and reps should be fairly dialed in, so just hit it again the same as week 1, just kinda “straight set pushing it” aiming to get a few more reps/work than week 1, still to failure.
      • Week 3: weight and reps are dialed in. Hit it hard for 3 sets all to failure, then finish with some sort of intensity technique: drop sets, iso-holds, rest-pause, partials, etc. Whatever is appropriate for the movement, e.g. selectorized machines easily support drop sets, John Meadows loved iso-holds and partials at the end of lying leg curls).
    • If I work a body part additionally on “a different day”, try to find some alternative approach. For example, if on same day you went heavy weight low reps, different day might be medium-weight moderate reps or light weight higher reps. A little variety just for interest.

So it has looked something like this:

  • Lower A
    • Squat. 5-4-3-2-1 rep workup to a crisp single. Backoff: 1×60%
    • Leg press. 1 warm-up, then 3×20. On 3rd micro, finish with -30% drop set
    • (I’d add Leg extensions if I needed it, but so far this has been a lot of quad stimulus).
    • Calves on (selectorized) leg press. 3×8-12, pyramiding up. 3rd mirco, finish with drop set.
    • Rope-handle cable hammer curls. 350 Method. 3rd micro finish with drop set.
    • Benched barbell wrist extensions. 3×20
    • Treadmill
  • Upper A
    • Bench press. I started this “move away” on 5/3/1 3s week so: micro 1, 3s week; micro 2, 1s week + 1 Joker rep; micro 3, 54321 workup plus a Joker single.
    • Incline DB flies. Slight incline a la John Meadows. 3×15, 3rd micro finish with 2 rest-pause sets. Get that stretch.
    • Seated DB Press. 4×6-10. 3rd micro finish with drop set
    • Incline DB Y raise. 3×10-15, 3rd micro finish with partial swings
    • PJR Pullovers. 3×12-15, 3rd micro finish with 2 rest-pause sets
    • Cable Row. 4×8-15, pyramiding up in weight. 3rd micro finish with 2 drop sets
    • Treadmill
  • Lower B
    • Deadlift. 54321 workup.
    • SLDL. 3×6-10.
    • Seated leg curl. 4×8-10. 3rd micro finish with drop set
    • Seated calf raises. 350 method. 3rd micro finish with partials/bounce
    • EZ-Bar pushdowns. 3×8-15. 3rd micro finish with drop set.
    • Benched barbell wrist extensions. 3×20
    • Treadmill
  • Upper B
    • Press. Executed same as bench.
    • Dips. 3×5+. Easing my shoulder/body back into these, so start with 3×5 and 1+ each week.
    • Barbell row. 4×5-8, pyramid up in weight. 3rd micro finish with 135xAMRAP
    • Dante row. 3×8-15 pyramid up in weight. 3rd micro finish with drop set.
    • Face pulls. 3×12-15. 3rd micro finish with drop set
    • Wide grip EZ bar curls. 4×6-8, 3rd micro finish with partials
    • Spider curls. 3×12-25 – just rep the fuck out. 3rd micro finish with iso-hold
    • Treadmill

Results so far

Again, I just finished micro 2.

Gut response: I like it. I’m getting strength work in, and the hypertrophy work is really cranking the shit out of my muscles – I am SORE! I am glad to see hypertrophy happening, because I’m aiming to use this programming to support my cut.

Another big thing for me here is the meso supplemental/accessory progression and rotation. Where week over week it ups the intensity, then next meso you switch to a similar movement. Oh the DOMS! Good pumps have been had too. I think this approach will support where I want to go. We shall see.

Where I want to go

I need to focus on dropping my body fat once and for all. I reckon I could drop 40# of flab and be happy. I really love strength training, and I need to find a way to keep that around during the cut, minimizing (or at least tracking) its state and progress or loss. I need to retain as much muscle as possible, and the best way to do that is to work to build muscle. I need to have a gym program that will support this dietary and lifestyle shift I need to undertake.

I will move the strength work to being a more “54321 workup” sort of thing, maybe with 1 backoff for some reps. I want the 1 to be crisp (I love Paul Carter for that term; it’s razor accurate). If it’s not crisp, I stay there micro over micro until it is. Which direction things move (even if it takes a few weeks) will be informative. I would adore progression, even if slow. So I will attempt a fairly slow progression. Like week over week just increase by maybe 5#. Then step back and do it again. To illustrate, let’s take squat:

  • Week/micro 1: squat 325
  • Week 2: squat 330
  • Week 3: 335
  • Week 4/meso 2: 330 (hopefully crisper than week 2)
  • Week 5: 335 (hopefully crisper than week 3)
  • Week 6: 340 (cool)
  • Week 7/meso 3: 335, etc.

Again, illustration. Subsequent weeks depend how preceding weeks go. But generally some sort of periodized undulation.

Point tho is strength work is just kinda this sort of thing. As well, I have thought about adopting an RPE-based and/or kinda sorta that Simmons/Tate “max effort” shit; that sort of approach got me to my strongest ever. 🤔 And there’s a part of me that wants to squat 405 again…

Accessory work is hypertrophy oriented. I’m working to ensure stimulus is constantly novel. Can you get it done in 3 sets? You betcha, if you push that shit hard. First week you basically know what you can do, so crank that. Because of novelty, it’ll be good stimulus. Week 2, you have the weight and reps more dialed in, so simply due to that you’ll be able to push a little harder with an appropriate weight. That will be sufficient stimulus. But if you keep just “doing straight sets”, you adapt. So to prevent that, week 3 you again can push a little harder, and then we finish with some sort of intensity technique. Week 1 is novel, week 2 is adapting, week 3 pushes beyond. Always pushing towards failure, increasing intensity each micro. THEN, in the next micro you switch to a new movement and start over again. So maybe you did barbell curls, now you do ez-bar curls; wide then narrow, narrow then wide, cable curls, whatever… just pick a variation (conjugate bro). Lather, rinse, repeat over the mesos.

Plus, the fact I change up every 3 weeks means I never really know how much strength I’m losing. LOL. Yes, I’ll probably stop doing SBDP eventually and replace with similar movements (e.g. return to front squat). But, if my strength stalls, that tells me something regarding my diet/loss progress too. So, it’s all good, telling, diagnostic. I may be able to do things like when I see the stall, have diet go maintenance, achieve new set point (perhaps strength increases slightly like my reps start to go back up 1 per micro), then start a new cut. It may be cycles like this… 🤔

I have seen some decent musculature appearing in just 2 weeks – it’s not huge, but there’s a difference. This bodes well for supporting weight/fat loss.

And that’s… what is next.

18 of 100 Days

It’s day 18 of my 100 Day Challenge.

I’ve skipped the gym this week. I’ve used the time to get caught up on lots of little things. That feels good. When you have a lot of shit on your plate, especially shit that’s been there for a while? It’s harder to clear off. I’m working on clearing that shit.

I’m still shitty about my posture, especially when sitting, but I’m being more aware of it. I think I need to do some computer/desk adjustment (e.g. more external monitors on adjustable swing-arms). I am still trying to be good about “doing my yoga” every day – some days it’s a “worth doing poorly” sort of thing, but at least I did something. For sure, my body is feeling better.

I did some things I didn’t expect. My day job instituted an unlimited PTO policy; I’m taking proper advantage of it. I took last Friday off, went to the A-Zone Range. I just wanted to do some shooting – but I wound up starting a YouTube channel. It was not necessarily planned, but it was a logical next step and I just rolled with the momentum. I have no idea what I’ll do with this, but I’ll walk the road a bit.

I’m getting shit done. I still have a lot of shit ahead of me, but I’m making headway. That feels fucking good.

I remember reading something. My memory says it’s from Steven Spielberg. Something like: if it’s important, do it first. That may seem self-evident, but upon deeper reflection it’s not; and it’s something we can always improve at. Consider how much in our lives we consider important but we put it off until later: calling your mom and dad; telling people how much you love and appreciate them; all those things you lament not doing with someone after you learn they passed away. When I wake up, I don’t rush to work – “work/day job” isn’t the first major portion of my day. I wake up, I go to the gym or I spend time in my office working on my things (e.g. Daub, Hsoi, KRT). What is important? Me. My family. I have to take care of me, and the better me is cared for, the better me can care for others. So, me is important, I do me first. Gym, dad/husband/household things, second-life stuff… I try to do “before work”.

So if I have to sacrifice a little gym time to clearing my queue? Worth it.

On the gym, I do think my body isn’t looking forward the heavy 5s as I’ve noticed the days I’m cool with skipping are squat days. I don’t hate squats as much any more – and I would love to squat 4 plates again. But as much as I love 5/3/1, eventually it beats me up. I’ve got a few things that I have to work around (pec, hamstring), so being “strict to 5/3/1” really isn’t in the cards any more (it was good while it lasted). I can remain principled to it but take a different approach. I may do something like the Paul Carter 54321-50% thing, then onto more bodybuilding-style stuff.

I’ve noticed an improvement in dot acquisition and body index. Playing around with grip pressure vs. trigger finger.

The video/YouTube was a diversion, but it happened so I needed to just get it done. Part of the challenge is finding the right timebox for doing videos, including the production work (if I can get it done over a weekend, great). I need to get back to and finish writing/editing the “Minimum Competency” update – including the Minimum Competency Assessment (v3) that I mentioned in the red dot video.

After that, I can do my income taxes. Yes, filed an extension. This is the next big thing for me.

Diet. Mrs. Hsoi has been wonderful in her support, helping with meal prep. It’s helping. Still, I think I’m going through an extinction burst here. Makes sense – it’s about time for the body to complain a bit. I still struggle here. I like getting big, but I hate getting fat.

I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet with small updates in my 4 challenge areas. It’s been an interesting exercise to write/record my progress.

It’s enlightening to see what’s changing in and around me. Not sure what to make of anything yet, but I’m enjoying the ride.

100 Day Challenge

In about 100 days, I will turn 50 years old.

I remember being a teenager and thinking “shit… 30? That’s fucking OLD.” And I couldn’t fathom what it meant to be “thirtysomething“. And here I am, about to turn 50.

About a year ago I thought to myself how it’d be cool to diet down, get lean, and post a thirst trap for my 50th birthday.

That won’t be happening.

I continue to fail at diet. But I continue to work at it. A few months ago I came to realize part of my problem is I’ve been very outcome-focused with my diet work – I should be process-focused. I am and can be process-focused in many other areas of my life, but diet for whatever reason escaped me. I’ve been focusing on process in my diet and while it’s not making a difference in my scale weight, it’s building habit – the habit that I will need when I start taking specific steps to drop weight (e.g. reduce caloric intake). So, it remains a struggle, but I struggle on.

The discomfort of the past few months is behind me. I’m settling into my new position at the primary job. And ahead I have no hard things to prepare for, like in 2019 when I had to stash off the Sig P365 adventure because I had to prep for Gabe White and Rangemaster Master Instructor. I mean, I shot my franken-P365 at the TacCon22 match – no qualms about sucking in public (much anymore). Seems now’s the time to make the switch to the red dot. I’ll suck for a while, and that’s fine.

There’s some other things about myself that I want to unfuck.

But that’s often the thing. People see all these things, big things, many things, monumental things. They dive headlong in with only so much plan and direction, or even manageability – and it often leads to failure. In software development we don’t implement a HUGE new feature (a “13 point story”) in one fell shot. No, we analyze the big and work to break it down into smaller, more workable, more consumable chunks (break it into 13 1-point stories). It’s also easier to pivot mid-way, if necessary.

I have big places I want to be with and for myself – but I need to start small. As I’ve been saying lately (inspired by Jim Wendler):

Slow progress is still progress.

That whole “journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” thing. A lot of baby steps consistently over time add up into some big changes. It’s easier to take baby steps every day.

“It’s always been one of my goals to standing press 300 pounds. In the summer of 2008, I did just that. When someone asked me what my next goal was, my response was simple: “305 pounds.” If you bench press 225 pounds and want to get 275, you have to bench 230 first.”

Jim Wendler

So here’s what I’m planning to do:

Read every day

I must read something every day. It doesn’t matter what, just so long as it’s meaningful, useful, growth-oriented. It doesn’t matter how much, tho keep it reasonable (I’d rather read 2 pages than fail to read 20… that whole “if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly” thing). It can be a blog post (e.g. anything by Claude Werner), it can be a chapter or passage of a book. It can even be a YouTube video if it’s educational (e.g. I watched a Scott Jedlinski instructional video while on the treadmill earlier this week).

I want to ensure I consume something meaningful and growth-oriented every day. Not just the scroll of the feed and what the algorithms put in front of me. I want to build my tolerance for “sitting and staring at dead trees” and just be reading more.

“Yoga” every day

It’s not really yoga. Rather, it’s me making sure I move and use my body fully every day. I sit (curl into a ball) in front of a computer every day. I need to stand, I need to stretch, I need to squat and bend and twist and extend and flex and all those things. I want to ensure that every day I USE my body and all its muscles, joints, and parts.

I know what my body needs (e.g. right now it’s a lot of door stretches to open up my pec minor). So I am devising my own routine. I might even make 2, like a quick in-between-meeting thing or a longer session thing… a morning, an evening… I dunno, and I’ll see how it evolves.

I want to move my body every day. I would love to increase my mobility/flexibility. I don’t have to be a gymnast, but I know some improvement would help with some body alignments, issues, etc.

Workout every day

Basically this is that I go to the gym. If it’s a no-gym day, then I must dry fire.

While it’s not hard to motivate me to get to the gym, somedays I don’t want to go and must do it because discipline. This is pretty core to my habits and behavior and “who I am”. So while I don’t expect problems here, I also must use this as a tempering – I cannot afford to get injured, so I must curb my enthusiasm and play the long game.

I need to dry fire more, especially if I want to move to the red dot. I want to carry/shoot the P365XL (with Wilson Combat grip module, curved trigger, Holosun 507K-X2 2 MOA Dot or 32 MOA Circle Miniature Red Dot Sight – Red). Givens is coming in June and that’ll be a nice checkpoint. So… I better put in the dry and live work.

I want to grow stronger in these two disciplines.

Eating – and being less fat

I’m tired of being fat. I’m tired of carrying this around. I’ve been tired for a long time, but it’s been a struggle. As I wrote above, I’ve adopted a more process-focused mindset and approach. I think it’s helping, but it’s going to take time. As someone said, it took you years to get fat; don’t think you’ll become lean overnight. It’s about getting the habits in place, really. I’ve been evolving habit for a long time, and it’s good, just slow. But again, slow progress is still progress.

One huge change? Mrs. Hsoi is helping. I love her cooking. I think that’s been the missing ingredient. I can make macro-correct food, but there’s no love. She’s been doing this for a few weeks now and it’s making a HUGE difference. Sure the food repeats every day, but it’s still something SHE made – and it’s just wonderful. For someone who has emotion and eating tied together, Mrs. Hsoi’s cooking hits the spot. I’m still focusing on just building habit right now (there’s more to it than this), but so far so good.

Ultimately I do want to be lean. I look at Vincent Dizenzo and his 11 years of progress. Process. That will give me progress. It’s also been wonderfully freeing to not stress so hard about the “scale weight” (and how I look naked); truly go through the process and don’t sweat it – it will come.

Here I go…

So there we are. Four things. I have a few other things, but those are private. To me, the “ask/demand/expectation” within each day is reasonable and small. But even if I only read 1 page a day, when I turn 50 I’ll have read 100 pages.

That’s pretty cool.

I’m keeping a spreadsheet. Provides a bit of a diary, but also some accountability.

Let’s see what happens.