2017-05-26 training log

Today was quite awesome.

I actually hadn’t thought about what it would take to make a PR. I mean, I did last night before bed, but totally forgot about it until AFTER my top set today. And today’s top-set was a GREAT PR.

Rep 4 almost didn’t happen as I got out of rhythm on my breathing, but I got it and kept going. Rep 5 was easy. I thought 7 was possible but on 6 I peeded out. So it was what it was. What was great tho was despite the weirdness, it was both a weight and rep PR, and a good one over what I had previously done at that weight and rep. As well, calculated theoretical 1RM is now over 200#, which is pretty cool. Of course it doesn’t mean I could hit a 200# press, but to see this degree of progress is welcome.

I’m quite happy with today.

Next week is the 1+ week, and it freaks me out a little bit because my top sets flirt with all-time maxes. For example, my squat 1RM best is 345 set back in December. Next week I’m to squat 340, and I want at least 2 but am going to aim for 3 reps — which, even with 2, exceeds my best. Pressing will be at 180, and my prior 1RM best is 185. So I’m a little nervous going into next week, but I’m also really excited about it because it’s awesome to venture into totally new territory.

  • Press
    • bar x whatever
    • 75 x 5
    • 95 x 5
    • 115 x 3
    • 135 x 3
    • 150 x 3
    • 170 x 6 (6 rep PR)
    • 150 x 7
    • 135 x 9
  • Lat Pulldowns (pronated grip, to chest)
    • 110 x 12
    • 120 x 12
    • 130 x 12
    • 130 x 10
    • 130 x 8
  • Front Plate Raises (all the way above head)
    • 25 x 22
    • 25 x 17
    • 25 x 13
  • Skullcrushers
    • 80 x 12
    • 80 x 10
    • 80 x 9
    • 80 x 8
  • Hammer Curl
    • 45e x 10
    • 45e x 10
    • 45e x 10
    • 45e x 6

2017-05-25 training log

Continuing to work on technique.

So I went back to setting up with the bar over the 3rd eyelet of my shoes (from 2nd). That was better. I tried 4th, but the bar just rolled away from me.

Well…

I woke up too early this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. So I watched some YouTube videos. I haven’t watched any of Alan Thrall’s videos in a long time, but I always liked them – Alan knows how to convey information, teach, and produce effective videos. As I was flipping through the ones I hadn’t seen, I came across this one about “How to Deadlift: Starting Strength 5 Step Deadlift”

It’s all about the setup, according to Starting Strength (which I have a soft spot for).

Since I have been adjusting my setup, I thought to try this today — what would be the harm.

My setup? Not over the 3rd eyelet, nor the 4th – but the 5th! Man, that feels so close, too close! But I used the cues from the video – especially step 4 (squeezing the chest out) – and lifting.

It was… strange. Actually, it felt good, it felt “right”. But as well, every rep felt totally strange because it’s a different setup. Because of the length of my limbs, torso, legs, it FEELS like I have barely any bend in my knees and my back is parallel to the ground. That’s not the case, but it sure feels that way. When I lift, I don’t feel like there’s much knee extension at all – like barely any “push” with the legs. That it’s mostly hip hinging. BUT that was interesting. On the last set I found myself working to reset better between each rep, and when I did step 4 and really worked to get the bar loaded, I also really felt it loading up on my hamstrings. Boy! They got quite taught, and I reckon I was feeling it on the last set (and not sooner) since they were getting exhausted.

I don’t do touch-and-go with deadlifts, but I’m going to need a little more pause-and-reset between each rep, at least until I get this technique down. Because one key part is the descent and ensuring the bar winds up in the right place to pull again, and pull again “properly”.

So I feel good enough about the technique that will keep going with it. It feels strange, but that’s purely a n00b issue. It does feel like a better pull.

That said, top set intended to do 6 (last night’s goal) but I stopped at 5 because of this new technique. I could have gone forward, but I was flip-flopping between lifting, rhythm, the new technique, etc. and things were just going to shit so it was best to stop. But this is part of why I am feeling the technique is good (for me), because I know how prior technique would have had me feeling vs. how I was feeling (even tho I was way sloppy); and this was feeling better, this was not feeling as worn out.

So, I’ll take today. Not a paper-PR, but a good learning point. I’m going to continue to work on this new technique.

  • Deadlift
    • 175 x 5
    • 220 x 5
    • 265 x 3
    • 310 x 3
    • 350 x 3
    • 395 x 5
    • 350 x 6
    • 310 x 8
  • Hyperextensions
    • BW x 15
    • BW x 15
    • BW x 15
    • BW x 13
  • Leg Curls
    • 55 x 12
    • 55 x 12
    • 55 x 8
  • Crunches
    • 25 x 12
    • 25 x 12
    • 25 x 8

2017-05-23 training log

So far, inclines are working.

Interesting thing with the arm pain – it’s been consistently lingering for the past few days (I’ll come back to this). So inclines this morning and I wondered if the pain would get worse. Nope. Things stayed the same, as far as I could tell, so that’s good. I’ll just keep working inclines for a while, since it seems to provide me a way to keep pressing without pain. If things are good next week, then next cycle I’m going to try moving the rep scheme back to a normal 5/3/1 progression and see how that goes.

But to that it’s interesting. I’m finding if I spend time with my forearm vertical, eventually the pain comes in. For example, laying on my back in bed, upper arm parallel to the floor, 90º bent elbow, forearm perpendicular to the floor. No real weight, just say my iPhone while I read and do things on it. And eventually, the ache creeps in. Interesting.

As for the rest of the session, things went as I’d expect. All good. Flies still feel painful because stretch, but that’s what I’m wanting, so just progress slowly.

  • Incline Bench Press
    • bar x whatever
    • 80 x 5
    • 100 x 4
    • 120 x 3
    • 140 x 3 (supposed to do 2 but did 3)
    • 160 x 1
    • 180 x 10 (10 rep PR)
    • 160 x 12
    • 140 x 10
  • Flies
    • 20e x 13
    • 20e x 13
    • 20e x 13
  • Cable Rows
    • 110 x 12
    • 120 x 12
    • 130 x 12
    • 130 x 12
    • 130 x 10
  • DB Upright Row
    • 45e x 12
    • 45e x 10
    • 45e x 8
  • Seated French Press
    • 60 x 15
    • 60 x 15
    • 60 x 15
    • 60 x 10
  • Reverse EZ Bar Curl
    • 60 x 15
    • 60 x 12
    • 60 x 10
    • 60 x 8

2017-05-22 training log

Sometimes the failures are better teachers.

Last night I looked and 6 reps @ 325# would have been a clear PR (5 to tie), so 6 was the goal.

I only got 4.

I know what it is.

Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
— Litany Against Fear

It’s not so much fear as doubt, but doubt tends to have seeds in fear. That I’m going to be crushed, that I won’t get back up, that I have to dump the bar (which always sucks), that I’m going to blow out something (my knee), whatever. It’s really stupid, but for whatever reason it’s crept back into my head. I’m flirting with weights I’ve never moved before, and while that’s part if it, now it’s another thing.

Depth.

The past few cycles I felt like I was clipping depth on the heaviest sets. I videoed, and it’s questionable if I’m consistently hitting depth so, that’s good enough to say I’m not. I’ve been working on ensuring depth, but that extra inch lower does greatly affect how much you can move and if you’re going to come out of the hole or not. That’s more the issue than the pure weight at this point. So I’m working to sink down, and it’s messing with my head because when I get into the hole it feels “worse”, because it is worse, it is harder.

And I’m just weak.

Still, getting 4 with better depth was acceptable. My body felt like it could go for 5, but my head did not. So, a little good, a little bad. Things to work on — mostly mental.

And that matters a lot for next week, because that will be @ 340, which is 5# shy of my 1RM best (from end of December). My goal is to sink it for 3.

So working on that, Pause Squats were all about going low and sitting there in the hole for a couple seconds longer than before. Really sink it, really feel it, really work on driving out of the hole explosively.

I opted against split squats in favor of just doing bodyweight squats. I wanted to continue to drive the mechanics in.

So, today was what it was. Not what I wanted, but I got something good out of it.

  • Squats
    • bar x whatever
    • 145 x 5
    • 180 x 5
    • 215 x 3
    • 250 x 3
    • 290 x 3
    • 325 x 4
  • Pause Squat
    • 250 x 4
    • 250 x 4
    • 250 x 4
  • Bodyweight Squat
    • BW x 15
    • BW x 15
    • BW x 15
  • Crunches
    • BW x 20
    • BW x 16
    • BW x 13

Which Wendler books to buy?

Now that Jim Wendler has his new 5/3/1 Forever book out, I see lots of people asking about “which book to buy”. I’ve had some people ask me as well.

Jim’s written a lot of books over time, but here’s what’s currently in print and relevant to our discussion – in order.

5/3/1 2nd edition

(eBook)  (hard copy) – This book provides the basic explanation of what 5/3/1 is about. This book is the one must-have and must-read to understand and know what 5/3/1 is about. Yeah, Jim wrote an article for T-Nation back in 2009 that gives you some basics, but you get a lot more out of the full book. If you can only buy 1 book, this is the one to buy.

And you can stop here if you want. 5/3/1 2nd edition is really the only book you truly NEED. But if you want more…

Beyond 5/3/1

(eBook) (hard copy) – In Beyond, Jim discusses evolution of 5/3/1. Some new things come out here, like Joker Sets and First-Set-Last. If you want to understand and be conversant in “modern 5/3/1”, this book explains what you need to know.

I wouldn’t say this book is critical. If you’ve never tried 5/3/1 before, get the 2nd edition and run “vanilla” 5/3/1 for at least 6-12 months. Gain a little under-the-bar understanding of 5/3/1, then go beyond.

5/3/1 Forever

(hard copy) – The latest book, filled with so many variations it makes your head spin. It contains Jim’s most recent thinking and evolution of 5/3/1. What’s cool is that 5/3/1 may be 10 years old, but the foundational principles still hold and drive the methodology. Jim doesn’t take the time to rehash anything here. You have to be conversant in 5/3/1 to really understand this book. This is especially true because in earlier books he may spell a template totally out for you: just run what he gives. Here, you get an outline, and you have to fill in the blanks.

While I can understand wanting the latest and coolest thing, until you understand 5/3/1, under you’ve gone beyond, there’s no point in forever.

5/3/1 for Powerlifting

(eBook) (hard copy) – For the most part, you don’t need this book. If you’re just someone looking to get strong and sexy, the one key thing (the 3/5/1 variation) is easily gleaned from the other books and even some online searching and reading. There is a lot of good stuff in this book, but I’d say it’s only worth buying if you are powerlifting – be it for competition or just because you like to gym-bro-lift in that manner. Most of the material here is geared specifically towards powerlifting.

Do the work

I have no affiliation or relationship with Jim Wendler, other than being a guy that runs 5/3/1-based programs when he goes to the gym. I like it, and it’s given me good results. I’m just answering questions.

These are just my opinions. If you want to buy all the books, please do as I’m sure Jim will appreciate the money. If you do, you still should read them in the above order (2nd edition, Beyond, Forever) because the latter builds upon understanding the former.

And remember: 5/3/1 isn’t anything really new. The principles are time-tested, proven, and solid. Jim has just packaged it up in a nice, logical method.

If you’ve never tried 5/3/1 before? Just read and do what Jim says – it’s all spelled out in the 2nd edition. Follow “Boring But Big” for 6 months. No questions. Seriously. It’s not that questions are bad and there’s dogma here, it’s just that everything is revealed if you just get under the bar and do the work.

So, do the work.

 

 

2017-05-19 training log

Good day!

Pressing went quite well. Last night I looked at what would make for a good PR, progressing along, and I hit that. Today’s cue? “tight!” Always a good cue.

Pyramid downs work well.

I’m not supersetting in the pulling work because arm issues, but it’s cool because this makes me address it differently. Instead of the usual long breaks between sets, here I take about a minute between sets, which hits things a little different. I’m liking it.

Plate raises. I’ve been feeling on these like I’m not getting a lot of delt work. I realized I’m leaning a little back, or getting a little swing. So on the 2nd and 3rd sets I leaned a little forward and ensured to start the movement from my delts, raising my arms instead of raising the weight (kinda “rotating at the shoulders” — weird semantic difference, but it’s what it is). That helped, as you can see by the drastic reduction in reps. 🙂

Skullcrushers. Because I started doing French Presses on bench day, I opted to try taking these heavier for fewer reps. Gee, I can see why people say this trashes your elbows. Plus I changed how I do them, going to my forehead/hairline instead of behind my head. Let the French Presses be lighter weight and as full a range of motion as possible. Let these be heavier, fewer reps, and a different range of motion. I’ll keep this up for a few more sessions, but it becomes a problem for my elbows I may switch to dumbbells with a neutral hand position as that should be less torque issues and restriction to the elbows.

All in all tho, a good day.

Best part?

Last night before bed it hit me — I haven’t been feeling the arm pain. And today? Nada. This is great news! I’m hopeful. If I have to stick with incline presses on “bench day”, then so be it. Better to incline and have no pain, than flat bench and cause myself problems.

  • Press
    • bar x whatever
    • 75 x 5
    • 95 x 5
    • 115 x 3
    • 125 x 5
    • 140 x 5
    • 160 x 7 (7 rep PR)
    • 140 x 8
    • 125 x 8
  • Lat Pulldowns (pronated grip, to chest)
    • 110 x 12
    • 120 x 12
    • 130 x 12
    • 130 x 12
    • 130 x 11
  • Front Plate Raises (all the way above head)
    • 25 x 35
    • 25 x 15
    • 25 x 12
  • Skullcrushers
    • 80 x 10
    • 80 x 10
    • 80 x 8
    • 80 x 6
  • Hammer Curl
    • 45e x 10
    • 45e x 10
    • 45e x 10
    • 45e x 6

2017-05-18 training log

“It’s a long way to the top, if you wanna rock-n-roll!”. AC/DC is the soundtrack of the day.

Lately I’ve been feeling like my back is rounding too much when I deadlift. As I lift alone, the only way to be sure was video. So I took some videos of my top set and the pyramid-down sets. Back looked good (to my eye). Some rounding at the shoulders, but that’s OK. The lower-half is more my concern and it looked fine. But I did see on the video something I didn’t expect!

When I broke ground, the bar drifted back into me. A while ago I noticed where I was setting the bar down and opted to change my starting position accordingly to see what it would do for me. The bar was positioned just over the 2nd eyelet of my shoes. It felt a little forward at first, but I grew used to it. Even still, there were pulls where it didn’t feel right but I kept going with the experiment. Today shows me that it is NOT an ideal bar path for the pull for me. I played around some. Over the 3rd eyelet looked about as straight a bar path as I can get it (given body physiology, knees, leg lengths, etc.). Over the 4th eyelet and the bar rolled away from me on the setup (ha ha) so that was too far back. I’ll go back to 3rd and see how it goes over the next 2 weeks as the weights get heavier. But it did feel better overall, so there we go. Video.

Hypers were fine. I keep thinking about adding weight, but if I really put effort into making every rep quality, bodyweight is enough to kick my ass (literally).

Leg curls. Flexing my feet is making a positive difference.

And crunches I’m going to start to vary this. One day I’ll just do bodyweight for AMRAP, then another I’ll add weight for lower reps and do a weight progression. Today I tried it, holding a 25# plate at arms length above me while I crunched up. That was different. I’ll keep playing with positioning, weight, etc. to see what I can do here.

Really, the more I work to make every rep a quality rep, instead of just slamming through to make the “count”, what a difference it makes.

All in all, not a bad day. Learned something.

  • Deadlift
    • 175 x 5
    • 220 x 5
    • 265 x 3
    • 285 x 5
    • 330 x 5
    • 375 x 7
    • 330 x 8
    • 285 x 8
  • Hyperextensions
    • BW x 15
    • BW x 15
    • BW x 15
    • BW x 15
  • Leg Curls
    • 50 x 12
    • 50 x 12
    • 50 x 10
  • Crunches
    • BW x 12
    • 25 x 12
    • 25 x 12

2017-05-16 training log

Today is the best I (well, my arms) have felt from a pressing session in a long time.

The goal is to find a way to keep making progress yet deal with my arm pain – healing up, making it go away, etc.. Flat bench? Pain. (overhead) Press? No pain. So, maybe incline pressing might be what I can program. Last week I worked up to a good-enough 1RM and today I started with programming. The programming uses the 5/3/1 progression, but keeping with a Paul Carter-inspired 5/4/3/2/1/1+ rep scheme as a way to reduce some volume as that seems to be one factor in making the pain flare up. I knew I still wanted the top set to be a rep-PR set, but I wasn’t sure what I’d do afterwards; the plan was to call it depending how the arms felt.

The arms felt great!

I felt a hint of irritation, but really no more than I might feel normally in a day. I take this as a good sign. Yes, this is a data point of 1 so I can’t make any strong decisions yet, but that it wasn’t an immediate bust I’m happy about. In fact, ended up being a 12-rep PR in incline press. Because it felt good, I found myself during the work-up wanting to just use 5/3/1 reps but had to tell myself not to: because if you’re starting to feel good, that’s good but you’re still not out of the woods. Modify one thing at a time right now. So that said, I did opt to pyramid down. That worked out well. I’m pleased.

Then flies. Why flies? Yeah, it gives a bit of sternal pectoral work, but it’s more than that. Flat bench DB flies really serve to open up my chest and give a great stretch. I need that sort of thing as part of a rehab-type strategy for dealing with all of this. Will it directly serve my needs? I think in some part yes. The first set sucked pretty bad because the stretch was painful, along with some other expansion of the chest feelings. By the end I felt really good. It’s not about the weight, it’s not about the reps, it’s about getting myself better. I’ll stick with flies for a bit to see how it affects me.

And so, I’m also intentionally not supersetting back work with pressing work (per protocol) because more experimentation to avoid irritating things that could detract from focus on the main movement. But then I can jack up the work a bit, here only taking about 1 minute rest between sets on the rows.

The only other main change? Seated French Press. I haven’t done these in a LONG time, but man it felt really good. I was able to push further than I would in say a skullcrusher. I enjoyed how this went. Need to keep it lighter, higher reps. But worked well.

Oh, and adding in the additional warm-up work (jumping jacks, mountain climbers, jumps). I think my body is enjoying it. I don’t feel as stiff during the day. Things just don’t complain as much.

All in all, I’m pleased with how things went. I have to continue working on my rehab work outside of the gym, but so far, so good. We’ll see what the rest of this cycle brings.

  • Incline Bench Press
    • bar x whatever
    • 80 x 5
    • 100 x 4
    • 120 x 3
    • 130 x 2
    • 150 x 1
    • 170 x 12 (12 rep PR)
    • 150 x 10
    • 135 x 10
  • Flies
    • 20e x 12
    • 20e x 12
    • 20e x 12
  • Cable Rows
    • 105 x 12
    • 115 x 12
    • 125 x 12
    • 125 x 12
    • 125 x 12
  • DB Upright Row
    • 40e x 12
    • 40e x 12
    • 40e x 12
  • Seated French Press
    • 55 x 15
    • 55 x 15
    • 55 x 15
    • 55 x 15
  • Reverse EZ Bar Curl
    • 60 x 15
    • 60 x 15
    • 60 x 11
    • 60 x 9

2017-05-15 training log

This marks the 6th cycle since reset, so it makes sense that things are starting to get heavy and rep PRs aren’t going to come as easy. For sure that didn’t happen today.

Today focused on 2 cues: 1. being tight, especially in my upper back, arms, etc. 2. ensuring I break parallel. The first is pretty easy, just be tight tight tight. I notice that as I go along I start to lose that upper back tightness. Even if I take a moment at the top to breathe and tighten up, do so. It helps.

The other is because it’s getting heavy. A little trepidation, a desire to make reps, and on video I’ve seen myself cut some reps short on the top sets. It’s maybe just an inch short, but it’s still short. So, sink it deep. As a result, I only hit required reps today. I felt like a 6th would have been possible but a grinder, and that’s not what we want. I’d rather have the 5 sinking it than more and not. My prior best with 305 was 6 (set back at the end of March), and while today was less, I’m pretty sure today’s reps were of higher quality. I’ll take it.

Is this time for a reset? Not yet, as it’s just one point. But for sure we’ll see how the rest of this cycle goes and if it’s time it’s time. One thought is if I do reset I may just do the “2-3 steps back” plan, where instead of recalculating max I just drop back a couple cycles and pick up from there. TBD.

Pause squats remain a good thing tho, because I have to get down into the hole, be tight all the way around, and hold it. They are really helping me achieve better reps and being solid out of the hole. I’m very happy to be doing them and want to continue with them for a while as my primary supplemental work.

Oh, backing up. I won’t be keeping official track of it, but I am adding in more to my warm-up. Again, “5/3/1 Forever” type stuff, with some jumping jacks, mountain climbers, and some sort of jump. Today’s jump was to just squat down and explode up to try to touch the ceiling. Nothing major, but enough to get things moving. Over time as my body adjusts to this work, I’ll add either more reps or maybe 1-2 more circuits of this.

  • Squats
    • bar x whatever
    • 145 x 5
    • 180 x 5
    • 215 x 3
    • 235 x 5
    • 270 x 5
    • 305 x 5
  • Pause Squat
    • 235 x 5
    • 235 x 5
    • 235 x 5
  • Split Squats
    • BW x 15
    • BW x 15
    • BW x 15
  • Twisting Crunches
    • BW x 20
    • BW x 15
    • BW x 10

2017-05-12 training log

Ending deload week. So far, so good.

I mean, it’s deload, so there’s nothing really to note. My arm pain still lingers, but I do think the week off was worth it because it does feel better, just not totally gone. It’s just managing it at this point.

I have been thinking about how to make the next (and future) cycles go. It’s a combination of managing the arm pain, influences of the new “5/3/1 Forever” book, and just what’s best and right for me to achieve my goals. I think I’ll be generally staying the course, but I suspect I’ll adjust a few things before Monday.

  • Press
    • bar x whatever
    • 75 x 5
    • 75 x 5
    • 90 x 5
    • 90 x 5
    • 110 x 5
    • 110 x 5
  • Lat Pulldowns (pronated grip, to chest)
    • 115 x 12
    • 125 x 12
    • 135 x 12
  • Front Plate Raises (all the way above head)
    • 25 x 15
    • 25 x 15
  • Skullcrushers
    • 70 x 12
    • 70 x 12
  • Hammer Curl
    • 45e x 10
    • 45e x 10