2018-05-24 training log

Another lifetime PR set: deadlift 465#

While I don’t consider these numbers to be all that great in the grand scheme of things, the reason they matter to me is because it’s been about 1.5 years since I could lift such weight. Last time I set PRs was in December 2016. Since then I dealt with massive weight loss (and then strength loss), then various injury issues, and so on that really kept me back and down. I was hoping that by the end of 2017 I’d be 3/4/5: bench 3 wheels (315#), squat 4 wheels (405#), deadlift 5 wheels (495#), but various things derailed me. But things are getting back on track. I’ve gotten smarter, wiser, understand my body and needs better, I understand more science and art of lifting and progressing.

I don’t regret a bit of the setbacks because I learned so much from them. But they were still setbacks. And I think it’s fair testimony to Renaissance Periodization’s approaches that I’m now where I am (both the good and bad of that).

So I’m just happy right now.

As for today…

Based on lifts to date, I figured 405-415 would be the EDM. So I did a simple warm-up and work-up. Once I hit 365 I thought to just go 405 but then thought against it: too big a jump because if it did wind up being a problem I wouldn’t know really where things should be. So I opted for 20# jumps as a way to get reasonable jumps but also still know where things might actually lie when the lift slowed down.

385, no problem. 405 went up pretty easily too. So what the heck, keep going because once I detect a slow-down in bar speed or some grinding then I know the prior number will be used for my EDM. I thought about making smaller jumps at this point but then thought why? because that’s just second guessing myself, and if the “last set” is a little lighter for an EDM so what? starting too light is fine. 425 started to feel a bit of strain but really still fine. So I said why not and went 445. Here I certainly felt the slow down and knew I was beyond EDM, but it still went up quite well. I knew my prior best was 460, and while I don’t know for sure, I reckon given where I was at the time technique-wise, it probably “legal but ugly”. So I figured to go for it and did 465: just another 20# jump, would be a PR, and what’s the worst? I fail. Meh.

It went up great. Not without a little strain, but I know I could have done more if I wanted to — there was more in the tank. But I figured this was good enough: I’m not out to establish a true 1RM, I’m not out to destroy myself today, just find an EDM — but along the way I was able to do something fun. 🙂

So I’m happy with it all, and have a nice EDM to work from.

Establishing Maxes

  • Deadlift
    • 135 x 5
    • 225 x 5
    • 315 x 3
    • 365 x 1
    • 385 x 1
    • 405 x 1
    • 425 x 1
    • 445 x 1
    • 465 x 1 (PR)
    • 250 x 5
    • 250 x 5
    • 250 x 5
    • 250 x 5
    • 250 x 5
  • Front Plate Raise (all the way above the head)
    • 25 x 20
    • 35 x 12
    • 35 x 10
  • Seated Leg Curl
    • 120 x 10
    • 120 x 10
    • 120 x 6

2018-05-22 training log

Time to figure out an every day max (EDM) for bench press.

Same process: warm up, then work up in singles to a crisp one. I hit 255 nice and crisp and opted to keep going to see because the 255 felt strong. I thought about 275 but reconsidered because I did feel I could do it but it would have been an ego lift — that’s not the point of today. So I did 265, which was smarter; bar speed was slower but still moved well so that confirmed enough that 255 is a good EDM.

Then drop to 60% for 5×5 for a wee bit of work. Kroc Rows — I really don’t like DB rows, but I think this could be good for me, to allow me better focus on my upper back and shoulder issues, as well as crush grip and all those important things towards improving my pain issues.

Speaking of pain, split squats were painful. I opted to use a bit of help, using an arm to brace and assist myself up and down. There was also some substantial lean forward. But I did what I could to still load the leg but keep it at a managable point. With every rep and each set things got better and by the end I was fairly upright and only using my hand for balance. But this is exactly why I want to get back to single-leg work: because it helps me.

Finding Maxes for Next Cycle

  • Bench Press
    • bar x 5
    • 135 x 5
    • 185 x 3
    • 225 x 1
    • 240 x 1
    • 255 x 1
    • 265 x 1
    • 155 x 5
    • 155 x 5
    • 155 x 5
    • 155 x 5
    • 155 x 5
  • Kroc Row
    • 60e x 10
    • 60e x 10
    • 60e x 21
  • Split Squats
    • BW x 10e
    • BW x 10e
    • BW x 10e

2018-05-21 training log

Setting a lifetime PR is a great way to start off the week – especially a squat PR. 355 lb.

This all happened because I decided to change my mind.

Background

The plan was to do another cycle of the Renaissance Periodization Powerlifting strength templates. I really enjoyed the prior cycle, and the RP male physique templates before that. I had good results and learned a lot. I wanted to give the PL Strength templates one more go before returning to my own programming. However, I’ve been having some physical problems as of late. The arm pain issues I think may be under control and finally know how to manage that. What’s been getting me more lately has been knee issues.

My knees have been very stiff. Simple things like getting up and around aren’t without discomfort in my knees, and a little difficulty in getting around. That is NOT good. It’s been this way for some time now, with no signs of getting better (or worse). I am close to going to see someone about it. However… I have wondered if my strict adherence to templatized routines the past 6 months has actually contributed. Not that the work itself created the problem, but rather the work I didn’t do. I’ve come around to a fairly firm belief that single-leg work has been one of the best things for my knees — and that’s been lacking the past some months; it’s the work I hate to do, but I know it’s good for me so I do it. But the templates need you to follow the templates, which is good, but I am thinking hasn’t been ideal for me and my particular needs.

Look at the past few weeks. I finished off, deloaded, took a light week, then last week I was out of town on business and I did no training. All this light and restful stuff should make me feel better – and I do everywhere else but my knees. Hrm.

I’ve been thinking about what my approach would be after doing another RP PL cycle, and I really spent time during my travels finally writing down the approach. I’ll detail it more later, but basically yes I need to get back to having a structure where I can do all the things I need: not just the stuff to get big and strong, but also the stuff to keep me operational and healthy.

So I called it and opted to scrap the RP PL’s for now — I can always come back to them another time. I need to do my own thing.

I needed to establish some maxes, and I took a cue from something I recently read. Basically take the Paul Carter approach of working up to find the every day max (EDM) — warm up, then take singles. That top single should be CRISP, not a grinder. After you find that, then do 5×5 @ 60% of that. Maybe a couple more things, and call it a day.

So that’s what I’m doing this week: going to find my EDMs, then start my own programming next week.

Today

Squats were simple: warm up, then start singles.

Given how the squat RP PL cycle ended, I had a good idea where I’d end up.

The 315 went up alright — as soon as I stood up I knew this was the “crisp” single, and for sure it was in line with how the prior cycle ended. But it was really good and I did wonder if going up a hair might still be crisp. Today is about determining stuff, so might as well determine stuff! If it was, great! If it wasn’t, then I knew. No big, and I’d know for sure.

335 went up well. I could tell it wasn’t the “crisp” single, but it was still good. Here’s the thing.

I felt really good.

I weighed it. I was out of town, didn’t get much sleep, ate decently but not normal, am pretty darn tied and drained. EDM should be something you could hit on a crap day, and this registers as not being optimal. But yet, I felt like there was more.

I decided to keep going. I figured why not. I’m not on a program. I was feeling “lathered up”, so why the hell not. Plus my best ever squat was 345 set some long time ago, and I suspect I cut depth a hair short. But I’ve been working on depth, on better setup and descent, on full-body tightness, on approach to each rep. I felt confident, so why not.

And sure enough: 355 went down and came up. I have no doubts on depth.

Set a lifetime PR. That felt awesome.

I actually felt like I could have done more: I wanted to do 365 because 3.5 wheels, but I knew that was ego calling and I didn’t want to risk a solid gain for an ego desire.

When I did all the math on things, it’s really where everything should be. If I call 355 a true 1RM, then using 315 for the EDM is about right.

So I’m quite happy! A great way to start off this week.

Other notes.

Did some other work too, to start getting in the mode of what’s to come. Going to start every session with some rope jumping. I might also start with some other stuff like box jumps, med ball slams, etc. We’ll see.

Dips were hard. I can do a bunch of benching, then do dips and get a lot more reps. I guess here I’m starting cold and the body didn’t like it — I mean, you don’t go in and do a max lift cold, you warm up to it. Not sure how I’d warm up here. And it may just need to be getting used to this. We’ll see.

Then leg extensions are a bit out of Wendler’s approach but I don’t care — this is looking at things for my knees. Just sitting and extending my legs (knee extension) and then flexing/squeezing at the top helps me feel better. So I’m going to use light weight, slow movement (make it purely about the contraction, no momentum), and ensure a complete extension and flex/squeeze at the top. I expect this should help me a bit.

Finding Maxes for next cycle

  • Jump Rope
    • 100 reps
  • Squat
    • bar x 10
    • 135 x 5
    • 225 x 5
    • 275 x 3
    • 295 x 1
    • 315 x 1
    • 335 x 1
    • 355 x 1 (Lifetime PR)
    • 190 x 5
    • 190 x 5
    • 190 x 5
    • 190 x 5
    • 190 x 5
  • Dips
    • bw x 5
    • bw x 6
    • bw x 6
    • bw x 5
  • Leg Extensions
    • 60 x 10
    • 60 x 10
    • 60 x 10

2018-05-11 training log

This was a very good session.

No arm pain.

The cue I’m using is “CRUSH!”. This reminds me to crush grip the bar. I’m telling it to myself at the top of every rep, and trying to make sure that happens on every exercise that involves hands gripping something (vs. say squats or leg extensions).

That’s giving me a tight grip, then rigid wrists, and it radiates all the way down. The elbows rotate inward, the scapula in and down, the lats engage. Oh yes. This is what’s needed.

Everything is tight, rigid, solid. And yes, NO pain at all today, which is awesome.

I HAVE to constantly remind myself, but so far, so good.

Anyways, this ends week 1 of just a solo run. I’ll be away from the gym next week (the rest will be good), and will start with week 1 again when I return.

2/fail.

RP Powerlifting, Strength Cycle, cycle 2 week 1

  • Incline Bench Press
    • bar x 10
    • 135 x 5
    • 175 x 3
    • 205 x 9
    • 205 x 7
    • 205 x 6
  • DB Bench Press (paused)
    • 50e x 10
    • 75e x 10
    • 75e x 8
    • 75e x 7
  • Neutral-grip Pulldowns
    • 105 x 10
    • 155 x 12
    • 155 x 10
  • DB Lateral Raises
    • 35e x 9
    • 35e x 8
  • DB Hammer Curls
    • 25e x 10
    • 45e x 10
    • 45e x 8

2018-05-10 training log

Today was good.

I realized I should have rated Monday’s squat session so the sets here went up. But the lack of rating this week has been intentional as I’ll be away from the gym next week (the rest will do my body good), so the plan has been to lift per cycle week 1, then when I’m back in the gym to officially start the cycle (again with week 1). No biggie, really.

On deadlifts, I have opted to go mixed grip on all my top sets. I’ll stay with double-over on the workup, but even if I could do the top sets double-over I won’t because I want to get used to mixed again, so that when I NEED it it’s not suddenly something to get used to again. That said, when I do grip I am making sure to crush the bar, not just “latch onto it”.

I’m amazed at how much back raises (with weight) destroy me. 🙂 But also, I don’t really raise the back: it’s more a hip thrust type of thing. That is, I think about not lifting my back but pushing my hips through; it makes for a different movement. And yes, it really kills me.

Pauses I have to say are going to be good for me. With my focus on tight, well, that’s what pauses are about — really staying tight in the hole, especially with my upper body. I added an extra set in the warm-/work-up to help me get a few more reps of that in.

So today felt good. 2/fail.

RP Powerlifting, Strength Cycle, cycle 2 week 1

  • Competition Deadlift
    • 135 x 5
    • 225 x 5
    • 315 x 3
    • 360 x 8
    • 360 x 6
  • 45º Back Raise
    • 25 x 10
    • 25 x 10
  • Pause Squat
    • bar x 5
    • 135 x 5
    • 185 x 3
    • 225 x 6
    • 225 x 6
  • Stair Calves
    • 70 x 10
    • 70 x 12
  • Slant Board Situps
    • 22 x 12
    • 22 x 10

2018-05-08 training log

Today brought an amazing breakthrough — in regards to my arm pain.

I’ve been long suspecting the pain isn’t arms, isn’t elbows, but originates out of my shoulders. I’ve been starting to play with things to contend with that. I brought my hands a little closer when benching, from ring finger on the rings to pinkies on the rings. I’m working to keep my elbows in more than flared — and this really hit today.

So crush-gripping the bar is something I know to do and try to remember, but it doesn’t always happen. I might start crushing it, but then the grip eases back because you must be very active in your grip to do so. I’m making an effort with every rep to remind myself and re-crush if needed (which it usually is). This alone seems to be a big help in managing my pain.

But I combined that with a couple things.

I saw a snippet of a video with Ed Coan who basically said to clench your butt and really arch your back. The butt clench gets everything tight, and the arch then naturally engages the lats. So I tried this. First, I found with the butt clench I had to sweep my feet back some towards my head — that never worked for me, but here oh yes it did; in fact, couldn’t do it any other way. Then with the arch, sure the lats engaged. Furthermore, with the crush grip well — the upshot of all of this was the simple act of doing that really kept my elbows closer to my sides. Try it. Flex your lats and what happens? Your elbow comes in to your body. Keep them flexed and try to move your elbow/upper-arm away from your body — you really can’t.

A session like today should have aggravated my pain.

It didn’t.

That’s huge.

Things were tighter, strong, and pretty much pain free.

This is big for me. I almost want to go back and bench again just so I can keep working on this. 🙂

But yeah, more testimony to technique, and constant tightness. I need so much work here.

As for other things… 

The incline DB’s, the mod here was to pause in the bottom position. Pause and let the weights sink a bit. I found this was great, should help out of the hole, especially with the increased range of motion. I am working to keep the weights somewhat neutral — it’s not a true neutral grip (i.e. bar/grips parallel to body), but maybe like 30-ish degrees? Whatever just feels normal and neutral for my hands. Keeps my elbows in. BUT, one thing I have to be careful is at the top of the movement to NOT press so much through that my shoulder blades come apart — must keep them retracted.

Rows were rows, both bent and upright. And curls actually felt really good today, because no pain!

Granted, my pain isn’t totally gone — it’s going to take a little time. But I suspect with so much less re-aggravation of things, I should be on a better road.

It’s a 2/fail day.

I’m really happy.

RP Powerlifting, Strength Cycle, cycle 2, week 1

  • Competition Grip Bench (with pause)
    • bar x 10
    • 135 x 5
    • 185 x 5
    • 230 x 7
    • 230 x 7
    • 230 x 4
  • Incline DB Press
    • 65e x 10
    • 65e x 10
  • Barbell Bent Rows
    • bar x 10
    • 135 x 5
    • 185 x 10
    • 185 x 8
  • Barbell Upright Row
    • bar x 10
    • 75 x 5
    • 110 x 10
    • 110 x 10
  • Reverse Curls
    • 20 x 10
    • 65 x 10
    • 65 x 10

2018-05-07 training log

Today starts my second run of the Renaissance Periodization Powerlifting Strength template.

When you fill out the template, you put in various 5RM or 8RM values, depending on the movement. It so happened that the week 4 numbers of the prior cycle worked well for this. Granted, I didn’t have true rep-maxes on week 4: it was designed for 1/fail, and some I was able to crank out more than say 5 reps (on a 5RM exercise). But that’s fine. Borrowing from Wendler, it’s never a bad thing to start too light, to be a little more sub-maximal. Granted you can’t go way down, but heck: if I cranked out 6 reps and had one left in the tank, AND it’s still a progression from the prior cycle, I think that’s an alright place to start.

I am not changing much on the layout of the sessions themselves: basically keeping the same movements, tho maybe some slight modifications. For example, I’ll still dumbbell press but I’m using less weight and adding a pause in the bottom position — as a means to work with my present shoudler issues.

Side note: I am more and more convinced my issues are in my shoulders. I’m giving some thought to doing my bench pressing with the swiss/football bar so I can use a neutral grip as that will basically force my elbows more into my body — they really can’t flare out. Not sure, just started to think about the mechanics of that over this past weekend.

But then speaking of issues…

I picked up a new set of knee sleeves. I noticed my elbow sleeves had ripped so I bought replacements (same as before: Mark Bell’s STrong sleeves size XXL), and while I was at it I opted to buy another set of knee sleeves — not that I needed them, but I wanted to try one size smaller to see how it went. So I picked up the STrong knee sleeves size XL (normally I do XXL). For sure, they fit a bit tighter and getting a full knee bend is a little harder. I did notice a hint of pop in the bottom position, but really it’s not much.

What I really noticed tho? The added compression felt good on my knees and kneecap. My left knee has been giving me troubles (and yes I’m on the cusp of getting X-rays on it), but boy if it didn’t feel good all through the session and even now as I write this up.

I’m also really working on “TIGHT” as my main cue. I know to be tight, and I think to be tight, but I know that 1. I could be tighter, 2. I could be more completely tight (e.g. whole body), 3. I need to keep that tightness.

I think part of my arm issues is because lack of tightness — in my grip. I notice if I work to crush-grip the bar AND KEEP THAT then life’s better. It’s really evident doing something as simple as band pull-aparts in my warm-up. If I let my wrists be only somewhat rigid, there’s some tension in my elbows. But if I really squeeze hard and ensure my wrists are solid, no pain.

And also, when tight, everything just works better, is stronger, etc.

So when squatting today, I did my best to make every rep a time to reset. Get tight, go down, come up, take a moment to reset myself and get tight, then do another rep, etc.. I think that made a big difference. I still need a bunch of work, especially at ensuring the upper back remains tight. But I’ll get there.

Anyways, this is a good first day of the new cycle. Light, minimal, just getting into the groove.

2/fail. 3 minutes rest on big movements, 2 or 1.5 on smaller movements.

RP Powerlifting, Strength Cycle 2, week 1

  • Squat (low bar)
    • bar x 10
    • 135 x 5
    • 225 x 5
    • 255 x 3
    • 285 x 6
    • 285 x 6
    • 285 x 5
  • Front Squat
    • 165 x 10
    • 165 x 8
  • Competition Deadlift (triples)
    • 135 x 3
    • 225 x 3
    • 265 x 3
    • 265 x 3
  • Stair Calves
    • 70 x 10
    • 70 x 10
  • Reaching Situps
    • 22 x 12
    • 22 x 12

2018-05-01 trainining log

Deload.

Nothing special to write home about.

I am going to take the rest of the week off.

RP Powerlifting, Strength Cycle, week 5

  • Competition Grip Bench (with pause)
    • bar x 10
    • 135 x 5
    • 155 x 6
    • 155 x 6
  • Incline DB Press
    • 55e x 7
    • 55e x 7
  • Barbell Bent Rows
    • bar x 10
    • 125 x 6
    • 125 x 6
  • Barbell Upright Row
    • bar x 10
    • 75 x 6
    • 75 x 6
  • Reverse Curls
    • 45 x 8
    • 45 x 8

2018-04-27 training log

It’s been a long time since I could say I set a PR. 🙂

It was a rep PR: incline bench, 7 reps at 215#. Nothing huge, but given all things to date, it’s a big deal for me. And it’s an all-time rep PR too, which is cool. I had some more in the tank too, but that’s fine — it’s the heaviest week of the cycle, but we’re still not supposed to go to failure. So I’m very happy about this.

For the record, I did have my elbow sleeves and also wrapped my wrists – not sure if they made any difference. And I continue to work on benching with my pinkies on the rings (slightly narrower than I have been).

Still, all of this did cause enough irritation of things in my arms/shoulders, so I played it conservative. Even more so when it came to the DB benching, because I was scheduled to use the 100’s — which would have been another all-time personal best. Never benched the 100’s, it’s 100, it’s 3-digits, all sorts of things because we like round neat numbers. But I opted against it because I was just too unsure. No reason to make things worse for me. So instead I dropped the weight down and tried doing what I’m planning for next cycle: paused. Keep the DB’s 45º to the body, let the weight sink down as far as I can, pause, really sink into it, then press out really emphasizing it by contraction of the pecs & anterior delts. That worked well. Part of me thinks I should have just gone through with the 100’s, but I can’t let ego talk right now.

Everything else was what it was, no big deal, just assistance work.

Still, I’m very happy with how this past week went. I feel that while I’ve lost some strength in the short term, overall I am stronger — I just have to remember how to be strong. 😉 To get comfortable again under heavier weights, to improve my technique under heavier weights — especially setup. I’m really looking forward to this next cycle.

Next week I’ll take the deload, then into cycle #2, which will will mostly the same structure as this past cycle.

RP Powerlifting, Strength Cycle, week 4

  • Incline Bench Press
    • bar x 10
    • 135 x 5
    • 185 x 3
    • 215 x 7 (rep PR)
    • 215 x 6
    • 215 x 5
  • DB Bench Press (paused, sunk)
    • 70e x 10
    • 80e x 10
    • 80e x 9
    • 80e x 8
  • Neutral-grip Pulldowns
    • 105 x 10
    • 165 x 10
    • 165 x 10
    • 165 x 8
  • DB Lateral Raises
    • 35e x 8
    • 35e x 8
    • 35e x 8
  • DB Hammer Curls
    • 25e x 10
    • 45e x 10
    • 45e x 9
    • 45e x 8

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