You never have a problem – until you do

It’s the mantra of “the gear investor”:

“Works great for me!”

“Used it for years; never had a problem.”

Or whatever justification that their chosen gear is right, good, and infallible. The defense of the product is even stronger when the gear is demonstrably worse and the ego-investment in it even higher. What’s often implied by these statements is a belief that it hasn’t failed – and it won’t.

Here’s the thing.

All gear will fail. It’s not a question of “if” but “when”.

Gear has parts, and parts wear out and break.

Gear is made by humans, and the fallible creatures we are, we will make mistakes in the manufacture and assembly of that gear.

Of course, good, quality gear strives to be reliable and minimize chances of failure, but it still will happen.

Case in point.

This past weekend I reached into my pants pocket to get my keys. Withdrawing the keys felt different and I quickly learned why. My ASP Street Defender (pepper spray) had become detached from my keys. The tail-cap? It somehow managed to  completely unscrew itself while in my pocket. I have no idea how that happened, but it happened.

My gear failed me.

I’ve carried it every day for over a year. It worked great for me. I’ve never had a problem.

Until I did.

To remedy this, I put a drop of blue Loctite on the cap’s threads, which should minimize the chances of it happening again.

But think about it. Honestly assess how “stuff” has failed you. You may not have thought much about it because the failure came at a “safe” time. Maybe you were on the range just plinking and your gun went “click” instead of “bang”. You probably didn’t think much of it, remedied the situation, and moved on. But that was a failure.

Failure can and will happen, even to that precious piece of gear that hasn’t failed you… yet.

Because of course your gear never has a problem… until it does.

2017-04-11 training log

Deload continues.

Today was an interesting experiment.

First, bench technique. I was watching someone’s bench video and they had comments about tightness, including squeezing the glutes. One thing I’ve struggled with is keeping the lower body tight while I bench, and glute squeeze makes a lot of sense both in terms of actually being tight AND helping to encourage overall lower body tightness. So I tried it, but alas, I will need to really modify my technique. Either putting my feet way behind me (closer to my head) or way out away from me (legs almost straight). It’s a matter of longer legs, not quite a competition bench height. Because when I squeeze like that, you can’t help but have the lower half rise up to a certain level, then you need to adust everything else to meet it. I’m very curious and still should play with this some, but for now I’ll just file it away.

I didn’t feel much arm/elbow pain until later — DB benching. It felt like in the bottom position the DBs were close to my body and caused a more acute elbow angle, thus. Kinda interesting observation. I may reduce the DB weights and keep them further away from my body to see what happens. Or I may move away from DB’s for a bit and maybe do inclines. I don’t know. If anything, I expected today might give me some idea of where to go, but it just gave me more questions.

That said, my current feeling is to take a Paul Carter-like approach. Keep the 6 sets working up, but 5/4/3/2/1/1+ rep scheme. The + on the last set is that in general I will not go for 5/3/1 prescribed reps, just focus on the single — and this is every week, regardless of weight. So the progression remains 5/3/1 but the rep scheme is Carter’s. If however I am feeling good, go ahead and go for reps on that last set. Then instead of the pyramid down sets I may not do anything additional, or I may try for a simple first-set-last or something of the like. Something where I get some volume and some work, but again it’s all going to depend on how things feel.

Otherwise, it’s just a deload.

  • Bench Press (superset cable rows)
    • bar x whatever
    • 105 x 5
    • 105 x 5
    • 130 x 5
    • 130 x 5
    • 155 x 5
    • 155 x 5
  • Cable Rows
    • 105 x 12
    • 105 x 12
    • 115 x 12
    • 115 x 12
    • 125 x 12
    • 125 x 12
  • DB Bench Press (superset with Kroc rows)
    • 75e x 10
    • 75e x 10
  • Kroc Row
    • 50 x 10
    • 50 x 10
  • DB Upright Row
    • 25e x 15
    • 25e x 15
  • Overhead Rope Extensions
    • 60 x 15
    • 60 x 10
  • EZ Bar Curl (narrow grip)
    • 55 x 15
    • 55 x 15

2017-04-10 training log

Deload.

I’m taking the week off work, so I opted to take this week as a deload — a full life deload.

I did think about making this a jack-shit deload, but nah…. I think some work will do me better, especially as I work to figure out what to do about bench pressing and my arm pain (again). I’m formulating a plan for that, and we’ll see how things feel during/after tomorrow’s (deload) bench session.

As for today, no big. It’s just deload. Move quickly between sets (1 minute rest, if that), and just get some light work in and get out.

  • Squats
    • bar x whatever
    • 135 x 5
    • 135 x 5
    • 170 x 5
    • 170 x 5
    • 205 x 5
    • 205 x 5
  • Pause Squat
    • 220 x 3
    • 220 x 3
  • Lunges
    • BW x 10e
    • BW x 10e
  • Leg Extensions
    • 50 x 10
    • 50 x 10
  • Twisting Crunches
    • BW x 10
    • BW x 10

Sunday Metal – Marilyn Manson

Another heavy rotation as of late is some Marilyn Manson. I admit, he’s growing on me.

“This is the New Shit”

 

2017-04-08 training log

Pretty solid day. Rep PRs and everything.

Pressing went quite well. Had nothing on my mind other than lifting, and performance is generally better when I can focus. That said tho, the top-set was off. I knew 170 would be no problem, but I get half-way through the first rep and the bar stops moving. WTF? I just kept pressing through it and got the rep but it was rather odd that it took so long. Got 3 more reps without a problem. Looking back my only guess is I started in a bad position. There’s some issues in using this rack at the gym that make it annoying to get into a good start position. I think I rushed it a bit and just started out of groove, bar a little too far from me, so things stalled out. Still, managed to set a rep PR here so I’m OK with it, but I can only dream of how many more reps I could have gotten had I not expended so much on that first rep. Ah well, live and learn.

On the pulldowns, I continue to be happy with the small tweak to the movement, where it’s not just down, but realizing there’s still a bit “back” you can go at the bottom. That little extra makes a big difference.

Dips continue to do better. I’m getting technique better dialed in, so I attribute that to the increase in reps.

Skullcrushers had to change. I normally use the EZ bar but couldn’t get to it (other gym folk). So I just picked up 2 35# dumbbells (was going to do 70 on the bar) and off I went. Should have not used the same weight; should have dropped it down a bit. The movement is a bit different with the DB’s vs. the bar. I kinda liked it, just need to adust some things (e.g. where I lay on the bench so I can get a better range of motion given the DB’s bump the bench).

Anyways, not a bad way to wind up the week. All big movements set rep PRs. Getting stronger is a slow but enjoyable process.

  • Press (superset with pulldowns)
    • bar x whatever
    • 70 x 5
    • 90 x 5
    • 110 x 3
    • 135 x 5
    • 155 x 3
    • 170 x 4 (4 rep PR)
    • 155 x 5
    • 135 x 7
  • Lat Pulldowns (pronated grip, to chest)
    • 110 x 12
    • 120 x 12
    • 130 x 12
    • 140 x 12
    • 140 x 12
    • 140 x 12
    • 140 x 12
    • 140 x 10
  • Dips (superset with shrugs)
    • BW x 10
    • BW x 10
    • BW x 8
  • DB Shrugs
    • 80e x 15
    • 80e x 15
    • 80e x 15
  • Front Plate Raises (all the way above head)
    • 25 x 30
    • 25 x 15
    • 25 x 10
  • Skullcrushers (DB)
    • 35e x 12
    • 35e x 8
    • 35e x 7
  • Hammer Curl
    • 40e x 10
    • 40e x 10
    • 40e x 9

2017-04-06 training log

Today was better. Rep PR.

It’s funny that deadlifts were always a sweet spot for me, but I find I enjoy them less. I still do enjoy them, I guess it’s that their place hasn’t changed but my love for other things (e.g. squatting) has grown. Still, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as walking up to a heavy bar and picking it up off the ground.

I had a nice rep PR of 5 @ 400#. I could have done more, but today was about leaving something in the tank, so I did. While the first down set left just a couple in the tank, the last downset left a bunch in the tank. I double-overhanded it and my grip started to give, so I stopped to switch, and while I was stopped my body said “that’s good” so I just left it. You don’t have to kill yourself to make progress, and I’ve been making progress.

That said, I wasn’t as dead to the world so I did some hyperextensions. I’m trying a different approach with my feet at 45º angles, my upper back rounded over. When I do this, I find the movement is much more glutes and hams than lower back, which is what I’m after. Good deal.

Anyways, I chalk today up as a solid 80% day. Happy with it.

I’m still not 100% sure what to do about this day. It’s one where I had a plan, the plan didn’t pan out, so I’ve been loosely winging it. But I think this is going to be ok to just do what I’m doing here. Because so long as there’s progress, I’m good.

In other news… I should mention that part of my problem today was feeling discomfort in my biceps, especially in the area where they attach to the elbow. Grr. I’m working to un-slack myself about stretching, massage, and other things in that area. Not just on the arms, but also pecs, shoulders, upper back, etc. I don’t neee to go down this road again. Regarding benching, I’ll be taking next week deload (since I’m taking time off work too) and I’ll see how things go. My thinking right now is to either just keep benching (provided the rehab, massage, stretching, etc. works out), or to go with inclines and see how I respond to those.

  • Deadlift
    • 170 x 5
    • 210 x 5
    • 250 x 3
    • 315 x 5
    • 355 x 3
    • 400 x 5 (5 rep PR)
    • 355 x 8
    • 315 x 7
  • Hyperextensions
    • BW x 12
    • BW x 12
    • BW x 12
    • BW x 12
  • Leg Curls
    • 35 x 12
    • 35 x 12
    • 35 x 12
  • Crunches
    • BW x 20
    • BW x 12
    • BW x 10

Why NOT SERPA

Ah, the SERPA holster.

Is there any piece of equipment that rustles more jimmies?

Here’s a fun video, from Craig “Southnarc” Douglas and the late Paul Gomez. (h/t Seth Anderson Bailey)

In case the video disappears, here’s a rundown.

  • Southnarc is running evolutions (I believe ECQC class).
  • They are in Arizona, so lots of dirt, sand.
  • Student is running a SERPA.
  • Student is unable to activate the release mechanism and cannot draw his gun.
  • Paul Gomez is holding onto the SERPA while the student pulls – despite 2 strong men pulling, the gun does not come out of the holster.
  • Paul then tries again, using both hands to try to depress the button and hold the holster, another person comes in to play tug-o-war to try to draw the gun.
  • The result of the tug-o-war is the SERPA breaks off at the belt screws.
  • As the video ends, the gun is still in the holster.

And all this, because a little bit of dirt got into the release mechanism.

Of course, there’s going to be the countless defenders of the SERPA. Just a couple days ago, Active Self Protection posted about (against) the SERPA. And the comments were typical:

“Never had a problem”

“the holster instills good habits from the start”

“videos like this are an example of operator error”

“don’t be stupid”

“it’s not the holster’s fault you can’t control your finger”

and the list goes on.

Here’s the thing.

What Southnarc and Gomez encountered? The only “user error” here is choosing to use the SERPA in the first place. Having the release mechanism totally seize up and become inoperable, the fact the holster can so easily detach from the belt and you completely lose control of your gun – these are design problems.

And there are countless individuals, either well-trained or not, that have experienced undesired discharges through the use of this holster.

Here’s the rub.

There are thousands of holsters on the market. Never have there been so many choices available to you. Yes, there are a wide range from the crappy (e.g. Alien Gear, Uncle Mike’s) to the excellent (e.g. Keepers Concealment, JM Custom Kydex, Raven ConcealmentDale Fricke, PHLSter). And because of that, because there are so many good holsters available and they just do not have the problems SERPA does – why use a SERPA?

Ever buy a shitty product that generally worked OK but when you needed it the most, when you were really counting on it, it failed you? Holsters are life-safety equipment. Don’t bet your life on inferior products, when there are countless better products available to you.

 

2017-04-04 training log

Well, that wasn’t what I wanted.

That biceps/arm pain I was experiencing some time back? It’s returning.

I started to feel it last week while benching. I thought it may have been due to the back work, so I switched grips. I continued with that different grip (neutral) today, but no change. In fact, as soon as things started to feel icky I stopped the back work. No question — it’s benching.

Arms just feel shakey and unstable. And there’s just achy pain. It’s in the biceps and brachialis; in fact, massaging my arms afterwards and the brachialis really felt sore.

Ugh.

Anyways, I worked up to the top set. I did set a rep PR, which was nice. I actually could have done more, but I stopped because of the pain. Just not worth it.

I then packed up and headed home.

Hrm.

I don’t want to stop benching, but no question it’s my worst offender. What I’m thinking is a few things:

  1. I’m betting my posture at work has been degrading. I have to recheck myself. And yes, this means I have not been explicitly paying attention to it, so likely it’s gone to crap.
  2. Going to spend time massaging my arms and shoulders as best I can. I may seek professional assistance again.
  3. I likely am going to have to adjust my bench training — but how?

On this last point I’ve got a few thoughts:

  1. Stop benching. Not at all the option I want, but I have to be real and realize it may have to happen.
  2. Try incline benching, which is a different angle and lighter weights. Same approach tho. This may be the least different option that should still allow me to somewhat progress.
  3. Use DB bench as a primary. Not really desirable as I expect with the instability issues DB’s won’t be an improvement. But in fact, the lighter weights and different motion may work out ok.
  4. Machine bench. There’s a flat bench “machine” at the gym. I’ve never used it, but I might consider it. Was speaking with another guy this morning and he told me he can’t BB bench because it irritates his shoulder, but on that machine he has no problems. So it’s a maybe.
  5. Keep flat benching, but a different approach, e.g. basebuilding.

Off the top of my head, I’m thinking I may do something like incline bench, working up to a top set of a single (5/4/3/2/1), then drop back to an AMRAP and 50% set — yes, Paul Carter protocol. Then follow with flat DB bench.

Don’t know yet.

  • Bench Press (superset cable rows)
    • bar x whatever
    • 105 x 5
    • 130 x 5
    • 155 x 3
    • 195 x 5
    • 220 x 3
    • 245 x 4 (4 rep PR)
  • Cable Rows
    • 105 x 12
    • 115 x 12
    • 125 x 12
    • 135 x 12

2017-04-03 training log

5 rep PR with 325 lb.. Progress is good.

I don’t find myself getting as mentally bothered by “300 pounds” any more. If anything, it actually excites me. It’s cool to no longer flirt with the 300’s but to be working in the 300’s. And then when I have days like today, 400 doesn’t seem too far away.

Last night before I went to sleep I thought about it. I knew 3 reps would be doable, so 4 was my goal. When I came up after the 4th I was 90% sure I could get a 5th rep so I went for it. There was a bit of grind at the sticking point, but not much. 5 reps at 325 is a nice achievement. I feel like a single @ 365 is workable, and maybe even a little more. But this is not the time for 1RM’s — this is just a time to keep working. Steady progress.

Pause squats. Gee if I don’t find myself liking these. Went for only 3 reps today just to keep a pace.

Upping the volume slightly on lunges and extensions. I’ll continue this. My knees are happy for it. I figure with lunges I’ll work up to like 4 sets of 15 reps each leg, then I’ll start adding weight.

Really happy with today. Great way to start the week.

  • Squats
    • bar x whatever
    • 135 x 5
    • 170 x 5
    • 205 x 3
    • 255 x 5
    • 290 x 3
    • 325 x 5 (5 rep PR)
  • Pause Squat
    • 255 x 3
    • 255 x 3
    • 255 x 3
  • Lunges
    • BW x 12e
    • BW x 12e
    • BW x 12e
  • Leg Extensions
    • 50 x 15
    • 50 x 15
    • 50 x 15
  • Twisting Crunches
    • BW x 20
    • BW x 16
    • BW x 10

Sunday Metal – Amon Amarth

Another heavy rotation for me continues to be Amon Amarth’s “Jomsviking”.

I have found that “Vengence is My Name” is a fantastic song for setting heavy lifting PR’s. 🤘