AAR – Gabe White’s Pistol Shooting Solutions, October 19-20, 2019

On October 19 & 20, 2019, I participated in Gabe White’s Pistol Shooting Solutions course hosted at my home range, KR Training.

Who is Gabe White?

Gabe White, talking and teaching

Gabe White

Gabe White is an accomplished shooter. You should check out his resumé so you can understand his skill and where he’s coming from. An aspect worth highlighting is Gabe’s a USPSA Master-class shooter – shooting his normal carry gear, from concealment. So basically, he’s up against other people and a classification system that rewards “gaming”, and he’s handicapping himself by his choice of gear and approach. Yet, he’s still able to play at an extremely high level.

Why would he do this?

Gabe’s interest is more in the “tactical” and self-defense world than gaming, but he finds gaming a reasonable place for one to put skills into practice, especially under pressure. As well, the gaming world is very interested in technical skill. High-levels of skill generally lead to better performance and chances of winning the game – so why shouldn’t there be such similar focus on technical skill in the tactical/self-defense world? Wouldn’t better performance in that area be more important?

Pistol Shooting Solutions is Gabe’s effort “to help established defensive handgun practitioners realize the next steps in their journey toward technical excellence to go along with the mindset, awareness, and tactics that form the foundation of self-defense with a handgun.”

The Class

Background

Gabe’s website provides information about the class and prerequisites. It’s important to note this is NOT a beginner class. For example, “You should be able to hit a 6″x 6″ target on demand at 10 yards”. There’s a lot more that goes into it as well, and I’d argue even a bit beyond what’s printed on the website. Gabe does assume you have not just a fair level of skill, but also knowledge about the problems and realities of defensive pistolcraft. For example, Gabe referred to the concepts of “ability, opportunity, and jeopardy” and “the doctrine of competing harms” – it’s not critical you know these concepts to get something from the class, but it’s evident Gabe (reasonably) assumes a particular level of knowledge in his audience. Making this assumption, requiring this of his students/audience, allows him to speak at a particular level and move the class pace and concepts in the direction they need to go.

Class was held at my home range, KR Training, hosted by Karl Rehn. There were 14 students, all were from the KR Training instructor cadre or KR Training Challenge Coin holders – that means a high level of skill across the entire student body (and no “that guy”). This sort of environment is weird. You’re friends with all these people, so it’s a very supportive environment. It’s also one that leads to being more challenging and  more pressure-filled because you know these people will push you, and you also want to perform at your best in front of them. But it’s also forgiving because these people know you – and they’re like you – because they too have similar successes and failures. When you blow a run, they’re not going to think you suck – they’re going to support you and help you get better. This makes for a great learning environment.

Class was LONG. Each day ran from 8:00 AM to 6:30 PM – yup, two 10+ hour days. There are breaks, but the class is reasonably fast paced and keeps moving. I wouldn’t say it’s a highly physical class, but for sure some level of fitness helps. One interesting note is I didn’t get much sleep Saturday night. I woke up after just a few hours of sleep, I guess because I was somewhat amped from Day 1 and excited about Day 2. What’s more interesting was chatting with a number of my classmates Sunday morning and they too had abnormally less sleep. Take it for what you will.

My equipment was my normal carry gear, plus a few things for the range:

  • S&W M&P9 M2.0 4″ Compact
    • Always starting with a 15-round mag, but then reloads to my old “1.0” 17-round mags.
    • Only mods: Apex Tactical DCAEK (but stock trigger), Dawson Precision sights (serrated black Charger rear 0.125″ notch; red fiber front 0.100″ post).
  • Dark Star Gear Orion, with Dark Wing and clip. Worn AIWB.
  • My old Comp-Tac dual mag pouch (then 2 more mags in my left cargo pant pocket)
  • Federal American Eagle Syntech 9mm 124 grain (shot shy of 1000 rounds).
  • My Lone Star Medics prototype fanny pack IFAK.

No, I did not shoot the Sig P365 (more on that later).

Material

PSS is a highly-focused class. It’s about improvement of technical skill. Gabe structures things quite methodically. Class started in the classroom with Gabe’s safety lecture, and him discussing his background and philosophy. All good things to help establish the class, where he’s coming from, and where he intends to take us. After a couple hours inside, we headed to the range with a warm-up so Gabe could assess the student body, especially for gun handling and safety. Then a series of blocks were run to focus on specific skills.

Then we started to get into the meat of things.

When Gabe’s class is talked about, it’s often discussed in terms of the Technical Skills Tests and the resulting Pin awards. The class is so much more than that, but the tests and chance of earning a pin provide both structure and incentive to the class and students. Each “pin block” went something like:

  • Discussion of concepts, including Gabe demoing.
  • Dry work.
  • Live work, pushing yourself to where you’d like to be.
  • Live work, keeping it in the realm of your current capability (how you would shoot the test).
  • 2 runs of the test for time but not score.
  • 2 runs of the test for time and score.
  • A steel head-to-head shoot-off.

We worked up to 2 tests the first day (Bill Drill, Failure to Stop), with the other two drills (Immediate Incapacitation, Split Bill Drill) the second day.

While the work-up to the test was a large part of things, the head-to-head shootoffs were cool. Gabe would set up a short steel course with person on the left shooting one thing and person on the right shooting another. For example, left had a steel target 10′ away and started from concealment, with right having a steel 20 yards away starting from low ready. The go-signal was left-person starting their draw, and right-person having to react. Two different tasks, but of about similar difficulty. The course of fire was related to the testing block we just completed, and became more challenging as the class progressed.

Day 2 started at 8:00 AM sharp on the range (I deeply appreciate his on-time starts), with a quick warm-up and into material. Material continued with a logical progression, eventually discussing shooting on the move. Gabe took a track that isn’t often seen: moving and shooting at speed. It wasn’t the typical gaming “slow and smooth duck walk”, nor was it necessarily the “move OR shoot” approach. You can get an idea of how this worked by watching Lucky Gunner’s video review of the class (which is also a great overview and review of the class). This eventually progressed to the use of barriers, cover, and concealment, touching on the subject in facets and depth I’ve not experienced before. Gabe’s choice to keep the class fairly narrowly focused allowed him to go into great depth (and I suspect there’s even more going on in Gabe’s mind that just can’t fit into 21 hours of class).

Class wrapped up in a usual way, returning to the classroom for thank yous, certificates, awards, and pictures.

My Assessment of Class

In a word: transformative.

When I first heard about the class and the shooting tests, I took at look at them, appreciating the times and breakdown by shot and pin-level – I like numbers and data. I knew my skills were in the Dark Pin realm, but I also knew I had a key issue: my drawstroke. It’s two parts. First, getting out of the holster is a new issue due to carrying AIWB. It’s establishment of grip, and it’s also just that last bit of hesitation because screwing up (e.g. finger enters the trigger-guard too soon) leads to disaster. So while I can clear the garment and make contact quickly, I’m still finding my best grip and then ensuring it’s secure with no screw-ups. That winds up costing a bit of time. Second, getting the gun out, on target, and being able to accept the sight picture and break the shot – it may not be textbook perfect, but is it good enough for the current context? I still hesitate slightly from wanting “just that extra bit of on-target confirmation”. As a result, my draw-to-first-shot is slower than it could be. When I would push myself, I would wind up being too tense, or would just flub things.

Another issue is… 7 yards. 7 yards is this crazy, magical distance (at least for me). At 3 yards, things are close and sloppy tends to work out. 10 yards is where things start to feel far away. Even 5 yards still feels close and you can often get away with things. But 7… it feels close, but if you shoot it like 3 yards you’ll blow it, and if you shoot it like 10 yards you take too long. It’s far yet close, close yet far. So it’s a great distance to work at, because it messes with my head. Shoot aggressively like at 3, but shoot carefully like at 10, 15, 25.

My biggest issue (or rather, the one this class had the biggest impact upon) is how I’ve long been focused on the outcome. “I need to pass this test”. “Don’t screw this up.” “Did I hit it?” or any manner of focus on the result I need to generate. And what happens? Sometimes I generate it, sometimes I do not. If I’m working well within my capacity, I usually achieve the result. But when I have to push to  or get pushed to the edges, when I have to work under high-pressure, focusing (worrying?) so much about the outcome gets in the way of doing what needs to be done right now – I focus where I need to be, not on what I need to do!

I realized this some time ago and have been working on it, especially in my shooting. Every time I’m here in the now and focused on what I’m doing right now at this moment, things go well. Focus on that draw, eyes glued to the front sight, and just do what needs to be done. Don’t worry about the holes right now while shooting, because they will be there when I’m done; stay focused on the work at hand this moment, trust the process and yourself, and the results will be there. After the gun’s back in the holster and things are safe/clear, THEN I can consider the result. And what’s great is if I shut up and trusted myself to do my part, then the result happens. It’s magical. 😉

There are things Gabe did in class that helped me address all of these things.

The 7 yards is easy: all tests are at 7 yards. How to get better at X? Generally speaking, do (more of) X.

The other issues tho… it’s things Gabe said, and how he did things. He speaks with great confidence, almost to an inspiring level. He spoke of being process focused, and something about his talk, his approach, made something click in my head. Maybe it just drove me harder to focus on the process, I don’t know for sure. But something Gabe said/did clicked and helped me break through.

Furthermore, the structure of the shooting drills helped. Length, detailed explanation of the drill and concepts within it. Demonstration of the drill, including commentary on his own performance. Then we would shoot dry drills, including a few rather unorthodox ones of his own creation, that would isolate a relevant aspect of the skill to be focused on. Next we’d perform live at a level of “what we want to perform like”. This is shooting beyond our bounds, out of reach, a 110% type of thing. This is great because you might find you can actually perform faster than you think, you just needed permission to go faster. Then you dial it back to what you can perform, then you perform. This approach is somewhat novel amongst classes I’ve taken. Typically you get a drill/skill, you shoot it “as is” a few times, then move to the next thing. But here, it’s 1 “thing to shoot” and shot in a manner to help your performance of that thing. It helps you find it, it helps you dial it in under a watchful eye. But note: you yourself need to have some level of self-awareness and ability to self-correct to get the most out of the class (Gabe can’t watch every run you do).

What is the typical response/solution to shooting in a manner that’s a bit beyond your skill? “Slow down”. But that’s not Gabe’s response. Gabe basically wants you to shoot at the same speed, but address whatever is causing your problem. This is not a beginner-level solution to problems, but it sure is a way to be able to do things faster. I’ve heard this before, but again, something about how Gabe presented it. So instead of me backing off when the wheels fell off, I kept the pedal down and worked to address the wheels.

Straight up? Lee Weems’ Deliberate Speed Pistol class contributed here too. I found myself applying Lee’s deliberate techniques, which would help me keep a locked-in focus on the front sight. That kept me “in the moment” and focused on the process. Watching that front sight, being able to call my shots (just about every shot I “pulled” I knew it the moment it happened).

Results

When I put it all together – it’s what enabled me to earn a Light Pin.

A Light Pin is: “An early stage of excellence in core technical skills of drawing and shooting”. I’ve been thinking about how to convey the significance of the pin to those who may not have the frame of reference, and I’m failing to find a way (open to suggestions!). Just know that this is well-respected amongst my peers, and is a big accomplishment.

Actually, there’s a post from Gabe on the Pistol-Training forums where Gabe not only explains the tests, but his philosophy in their design. One particular comment stands out:

One other quick comment – I think standards is the wrong word to describe these. To me, the term ‘standards’ refers to an obligated level of performance, and if you can’t do it all the time, then you are wrong. These are intended to be difficult goals to reach for. I specifically set the Turbo threshold to be difficult enough that almost no one would be able to easily walk through them at 100% without effort. I certainly can’t.

I feel like I broke through a plateau in my shooting skill. I was made aware of my performance, especially where my performance is inefficient, sub-optimal, and needs work. I also was made aware that I’m much better than I give myself credit for.

The last part feels funny for me to say. What it is is trusting myself.

I’m so focused on defensive shooting (vs. gaming). I care immensely about issues like unacceptable hits. As a result, it causes me to slow down, to confirm and confirm again. This is all good and I believe a right mentality to hold. But it also holds me back, and potentially that hold back could be costly. It’s evident I have some degree of unconscious-competence in this area, and I have to allow myself to operate in that way instead of inserting (potentially unnecessary) conscious thought into a time-critical event and risking problems and failure. When I stay “in the moment” focusing on the task at hand, everything about that moment is clearer. And since we know following this process does in fact lead to desired outcome, just… follow the process.

So it’s weird to say “trust myself”, it’s not really the right words. But there were things shown and behaviors reinforced by Gabe’s class that were positive and right.

What’s next?

Taking some time off because my hands need to heal up. But it’s giving me time to reflect, review class notes, and other useful things.

I see where I need to work. I want to solidify Light Pin performance. I have work on my drawstroke and “draw to first shot” to deal with. Continuing to be focused in the now.

Long term, I’m presently a B-class Production shooter in USPSA. A Light Pin can be thought of as a solid A-class performance (based off data from our book Strategies and Standards for Defensive Handgun Training). I’ve been wanting to get to A-class, because I feel that’s a pretty good level for someone that likes to shoot well but isn’t deeply interested in playing the game itself. Having broken that plateau, I feel this may be attainable now.

Remember my Sig P365 fail saga? Early on in evaluating the P365, I did think that if it passed muster and was in fact to be my daily carry, I ought to take Gabe’s class with it. I knew that was kinda crazy to do, but “train like you fight” and all that. Well, after the P365 went to crap, there was no way I was going to bother taking Gabe’s class. The replacement P365 ran 500 rounds with zero hiccups, but it needs needs to prove itself fully. Will I take Gabe’s class with a P365? Not currently in the cards, but I think when I get back to working with the P365 that I will shoot Gabe’s tests and see what I can do. Getting at least a Dark Pin level of performance with the P365 would be a nice start.

Other Stuff

The person-on-person shoot-offs were great. Tons of pressure, immense challenge, lots of shit-talking and fun amongst friends, a bunch of laughter and high-fives. Just great stuff. It provides a different dimension to the class, contributing to the lessons but also providing a change up. What’s great is I believe everyone won some and lost some (and I believe everyone did earn a patch). A great set of classmates to shoot against – we sharpen each other.

One thing I personally liked with the steel shoot-offs was the chance to experiment more. For example, on the running drill there are a number of ways you could approach the problem. The structure of the shoot-offs allowed me to try one approach, then another, go back to the first, try it again, try it one side, try it the other side, as many times as I was able to within the time allotted for the drill. Discussing this with fellow KRT Instructor Ed on the drive home, we agreed that such structure allowing you permission to explore was quite meaningful.

It was great watching Gabe demo. He would demonstrate every skill, and demonstrate it as he wanted us to perform it. In doing so, he “failed” often – his words. Now many of us would look at a Gabe White failure run and esteem to fail so well. 🙂 But Gabe knows his level and he felt this weekend’s shooting wasn’t representative of his best. But this shows a number of important things.

  1. Instructors should not be afraid to demo in front of their students, but only if they can actually do what needs to be demoed in the first place. Failure doesn’t mean you suck – it means you’re human.
  2. Getting up to demo, just like public speaking, takes a lot of guts. It’s pressure, and being able to perform under pressure is important. The more you subject yourself to performing under pressure, the better you will become at it.
  3. Gabe talked about a 25% performance tax. At KR Training we tell our Defensive Pistol Skill 1 students a lesson from Paul Ford that when the flag flies you’ll perform at about 70% of your worst day on the range. Gabe can shoot really well – then under pressure and other environmental factors, he didn’t perform to HIS level, but he still performed at a very high level.
  4. This is why it’s so important to train well above levels of minimum competency, so when the time comes and your skills will degrade, that degraded level is still high enough to get the job done.

Class dynamics were good. Gabe has spent time not only on his curriculum, but also how to run the class. I spoke with him about some classroom management techniques he used, and it’s evident he’s put a lot into managing issues of a traveling trainer (ranges will vary in what they provide), keeping the class smooth, efficient, on time.

I will restate the classes are very long. I do wonder if the classes might be too long. People were pretty spent by early-afternoon on the 2nd day, and once the last test was completed a number of people flat out stopped shooting – myself included. Heck, I barely made it through the fourth test (Split Bill Drill), intentionally dialing it back because my hands just couldn’t take it any more.  My hands were raw, blistered, and got to a point of major tenderness in my right palm (as if bruised). Shooting nearly 1000 rounds with a grippy-gun, a hard-clamp grip, aggressively driving a gun on every string of fire for 2 days – it takes a toll. I didn’t want to stop shooting, but I had to stop early. As well, I – and I know others – were just so spent towards the end of class that it was difficult to focus on his instructional block about cover/concealment and movement tactics. It was extremely informative, but I just had a hard time staying focused on his lecture and I know I didn’t register as much as I would have liked simply due to exhaustion. My feet ached, my hands were beat-up, my brain was drained, it was hot, sweaty, tired – just not a conducive environment to learn in.

Plus, I wanted to go out to dinner with Gabe one evening, but I just couldn’t. Having to wake up at 4 AM, not getting home until maybe 8-8:30 PM (then shower, supper, maybe a smidge of family time), and repeat – there was just no way (especially since I am making fixing my sleep issues a priority, even if I have to miss out on stuff). Granted, we’re not attending class for social hour, but I know I and often other intermediate/advanced students like to go out to supper with a visiting trainer – few were able to go just due to schedule.

I guess it just means I have to take the class again. 🙂 Not just because a Turbo pin would be cool, but there is so much material it would be great to hear it all again.

And yes, you should portion your training budget to train with Gabe. I cannot recommend him enough.

“Be mentally composed and focus on completing the task at hand.” – Gabe White

10 Years

Wow.

I started this blog 10 years ago.

And it’s still more or less kickin’. I know I’ve been VERY short on writing lately. Couple reasons. First, Facebook made it harder to publicize, and that was a primary means of publication. Second, the day job has me on an assignment for almost a year now that’s been unrelenting – I just haven’t had time to write.

This doesn’t mean I won’t write again. I just need time in a day to do so.

Time will come back, eventually.

2018-12-31 training log

Today starts a new training block. It’s a number of things all coming together nicely.

First, I achieved some goals. Second, to achieve those goals took a bit of focus and beating up of my body. Part of that is repetative stress, so getting some different movements for a bit will be good for me. Part of it then is that I ate pretty well to support my efforts, but then also some life matters had me eating more than I should have — I’m still dealing with stress eating.

So, it’s evident in my videos that I’ve been growing a gut, and I’m not happy about it. In fact, I think back to when I dropped 66 lb and am not happy that I’ve almost gained it all back over the past couple years. I expected a little gain, but not this much. Sigh. It’s all my own fault of course. It makes me think towards longer-term goals: that right now I want to still hit a 400# squat – and in doing so, should likely hit other milestones like 225 press (I’m at 210 omw), 315 bench (I’m at 300 now), etc.. But once I hit those goals? I could keep going, but I think it’d be a more interesting challenge to me to try to get ripped. Don’t know yet, thinking about it.

But for now, I’m going to take the next 6-8 weeks or so and have a hypocaloric diet and see about dropping as much flab as I can – hopefully at least 10 lb. It’s a good time to do so as if I stayed on 5/3/1 I’d be resetting anyways. And I might as well use this opportunity to do some different movements to help me touch on some weak points and also just some different movements to give my body a break. Oh, and lighter weights too!

So here we are.

My general approach is influenced by methodologies so far. Keeping some sort of major/strength lift, but a variation: high-bar squats, incline bench press, front squat, barbell row. It’s kinda a push/pull/legs approach, but not pure because I will do a little work on other days. For example, I’m calling today “leg EMPHASIS” since it’s mostly about legs but there’s a little bit of push and pull. This is something from Renaissance Periodization, trying to get my volume over the course of the week vs. just 1 day a week. Each day emphasizes something, but gets a little bit of other things in there too. It seemed to work well for me in the past.

I’m also throwing in hypertrophy methodologies. One big one? Trying to follow a 3-1-1-1 tempo for everything apart from the main movement. I can tell already from today it’s going to make it tough.

Finally, I want some sort of conditioning work. Things like prowler pushes, yoke walks, farmer’s walks, sandbag carries, sled drags, whatever. Something to add some work, because my work capacity sucks – and it should help a bit with the fat burn.

Anyways…

Today was ok. Good start to things. Keeping it “light and easy” since it’s the first week. Simply doing it will be enough for my body right now, then over the coming weeks things will scale up. I will have to adjust weights a little bit, but overall today was dialed in ok.

That 3-1-1-1 tempo really changes things. Gotta drop the weight, but still it burns, it burns!

Oh… the Prowler.

I forgot how evil that thing was. 🙂

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Leg Emphasis 1. High-bar Squats (5,4,3,2,1,AMRAP,50%), leg press (quad emphasis, pyramid up), lying leg curls (350 method), seated DB press, incline DB curl, prowler push. . Starting a new training block. I have let my gut balloon up, and I need to pare it back. Going to spend the next 6-8 weeks working to drop about 10 lb. My lifting changes to a more hypertrophy-oriented style. It also just changes movements, which should help some of the repetitive stress injuries I have. . Using techniques like AMRAP, 50% sets, 350 method, 3-1-1-1 tempos on everything but the main movement, prefer DB to BB. Spreading volume throughout the week. . I also want to do some sort of strongman/conditioning each session. Yoke walk, farmers walk, prowler push, sandbag carry. Something. While I’ll program something, I’ll have to be flexible on this per gym conditions/equipment availability. . Today and this week is just about getting on the groove. Going to have to adjust my weights a bit, but it’s pretty good. And I haven’t pushed a Prowler in years. Oh hell, that hurt. . . . #gym #ignitefitnez #liftlocal #wendler531 #531 #liftrunbang #prowlerflu #fatloss

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2019Q1 Mini-Cut; Leg Emphasis 1

  • High-bar Squat (5,4,3,2,1,AMRAP,50%)
    • bar x 10
    • 135 x 5
    • 185 x 4
    • 225 x 3
    • 275 x 2
    • 315 x 1
    • 225 x 10
    • 225 x 5
  • Leg Press (feet low and narrow, 3-1-1-1 tempo)
    • 180 x 10
    • 270 x 10
    • 360 x 10
  • Lying Leg Curls (350 Method, 3-1-1-1 tempo)
    • 35 x 20
    • 35 x 12
    • 35 x 9
  • Seated DB Press (3-1-1-1 tempo)
    • 30e x 10
    • 50e x 12
    • 50e x 8
    • 50e x 5
  • Incline DB Curl (3-1-1-1 tempo)
    • 15e x 12
    • 15e x 12
    • 15e x 12
  • Conditioning
    • Prowler push
    • high handles
    • 90#
    • run to the end of the turf (about 30-35 yards), turn around, run back.
    • 1:30 rest
    • 3 times.

2018-12-20 training log

Today wasn’t training – today was fun.

I’ve long wanted to do some lifting challenges, but never could find the right way to work it into my greater programming and goals. But everything converged well to make this week a fun week.

Two days ago, I hit a nice milestone of bench pressing 300 lb.

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Bench Press. 300 lb. PR. . Bar x 10, 95×5, 135×5, 185×3, 225×3, 250×1, 275×1, 300×1, 135×20. . Superset facepulls during bench warmup. Wide-grip pulldowns after. . One step closer to my “3” goal for Bench Press. 3 would be “3 wheels” – 315# – but “300” is a “3” milestone along the road. And a pretty cool one. Very happy with this PR, especially given all the injury and hurdles to get here. I learned a lot along this road. . Again, it’s just a fun week and this was one of the fun. So simply did 135×20 for giggles, then some lat pulldowns and 10 minutes on the bike for my knees. . . . #gym #benchpress #pr #ignitefitnez #liftlocal #wendler531 #531 #300poundsisalways300pounds

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And then today I opted to try the Half-Hour Deadlift Challenge (from Dan John over at T-Nation). Basically, deadlift 315 60 times in 30 minutes. A number of ways to approach it, and I took the “1 rep every 30 seconds” approach.

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Deadlift. 315×60. Yes, 60 reps. . 135×5, 225×3, 315×60. . This week is a fun week. For sometime I’ve wanted to do some lifting challenges, and Dan John’s Half-Hour Deadlift Challenge seemed like it would be fun. Deadlift 315 lb 60 times in 30 minutes. I opted for the “1-rep every 30 seconds” variation. . I expected to die, but I didn’t. Sure I’m going to be sore tomorrow, but it really wasn’t too bad. The mental of staying in the zone for 30 minutes was the tougher part. . That was a lot of fun. Happy I did it. . It was also an excuse to try out time-lapse video. A bit a bit disappointed, since it looks like I’m just standing around the whole time. But it makes sense given the lift itself only took a couple seconds. Oh well. . . . #gym #deadlift #ignitefitnez #liftlocal #wendler531 #531 #timelapse #halfhourdeadliftchallenge #danjohn #tnation

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(the time-lapse video didn’t turn out as illustrative as I wanted… but still fun)

I’m pretty sure I’ll be sore as hell tomorrow (and Saturday), but it really wasn’t that bad. Oh sure, I started to feel it maybe 10 minutes in, and close to the end I was getting a little tired, but I could have kept going for a while. It was more the mental, the “have to be in the zone for 30 minutes” that was the tougher part. But about 20 minutes in, it all went auto-pilot.

One thing I got out of it is the joy of singles, which I already was exploring with squats. It’s just different than going for reps. It can’t be all the program is about, but there’s quite the place for it.

Anyways, it was a lot of fun. I’m glad I did it.

2018-12-06 training log

500 lb deadlift. PR. Major milestone achieved.

That is all. 🙂

Opted to just do that and end there. I’m at the end of all the cycles and all the things, so felt no reason to beat myself up.

  • Deadlift
    • 135 x 5
    • 200 x 5
    • 245 x 5
    • 295 x 3
    • 370 x 5
    • 420 x 3
    • 470 x 4 (rep PR)
    • 500 x 1 (PR)
  • Stationary Bike
    • 10 min.

2018-12-04 training log

PR of 295×1.

300 is just around the corner.

Today was pretty solid. The work up went well. Technique generally felt good. Focused on being tight, so much it hurt. Not rushing. Settle. All that good stuff.

Top work set of 275×4 was a rep PR. I remember when I hit 275 for a single and it was my all-time PR, and I’m sure it was kinda sketchy. Now 275 is just working weight, and I’m doing more. In fact, the 295 moved pretty well that I am certain 300 will be just fine.

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Bench Press. 295×1. Top set. PR. . Bar x 10, 115×5, 145×5, 175×3, 215×5, 245×3, 275×4, 295×1. . Superset facepulls, DB rows. Paused Bench Press. Close-grip pulldowns. . 1+ week & Joker. Good day! Top work set of 275×4 was a rep PR. Then 295×1 went up easier than expected. Like yesterday’s squat, not an ideal bar path, but I’ll take it. Sets a lifetime PR. . 300 should be cake. . I found another reason I like the pause bench: descent. Note on the 295 a “twitch” during the descent? There’s a weak point (for lack of a better descriptor) there. I noticed on my pause benches, since the descent is very controlled, a little something happened at that point. I reckon this sort of lighter, more deliberately controlled descent work ought to help those stabilizers. . Anyways, good day. . . . #gym #benchpress #pr #ignitefitnez #liftlocal #wendler531 #531

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I also found another reason to like the pause benches. If you watch the 295, you’ll see a little… I don’t know what to call it, but on the descent a little “hitch”? weak point? stumble? Whatever it’s called, something wasn’t too stable. I noticed while pause benching that, because of the exaggeratedly slow descent, that when I hit that same point there was “something” there. I reckon maybe there’s some sort of muscle weakness at that point? Can’t say for sure, but it’s interesting to me. So, I hope that the pause benching, because of the descent work, should provide some additional improvements beyond the “no momentum to get out of the hole” work.

Anyways, happy day.

5/3/1 (8th cycle, 3+/5/1+PR, Joker)

  • Bench Press
    • bar x 10
    • 115 x 5
    • 145 x 5
    • 175 x 3
    • 215 x 5
    • 245 x 3
    • 275 x 4 (rep PR)
    • 295 x 1 (PR)
  • Face Pulls (superset with bench warm-up sets)
    • 90 x 15
    • 90 x 15
    • 90 x 15
    • 90 x 15
  • DB Rows (superset with bench work sets)
    • 105 x 10e
    • 105 x 10e
    • 105 x 10e
  • Pause Bench Press
    • 185 x 5
    • 185 x 5
    • 185 x 5
  • Narrow-Grip Pulldowns
    • 90 x 10
    • 125 x 12
    • 125 x 12
    • 125 x 10

2018-12-03 training log

That was alright!

Through the summer and into the fall, my squats were horrible. Biggest things were confidence, which then affected my ability to hit depth. Plus all the knee issues and such, and in the end I opted to take a couple steps back. I lowered the weight, changed from a 5/3/1-base to a Strong-15 base. That has helped. The reduction in volume has been good because I can still progress yet it’s not putting as much wear-and-tear on my body – and that’s a good thing to do: to see how little work you can do and still make progress.

So today hitting 350 was not a PR (355 is my all time best) but it was solid progress.

I’ve been a little uncertain about things lately because sessions have been poor and lifts feeling so heavy. But I told myself today to just be focused, in the moment, and (shut-up-and-) lift. And BE TIGHT. I will either make the lift or I won’t, and life will go on. And the 350? I don’t even remember it. I was so into the lift, just being there and doing it and not necessarily trying to remember or process it – just put it on my back, settle, get tight, let things sink down (i.e. don’t fret about depth, just do what feels normal — which these days IS hitting depth), then power up.

It was a little messy (watch the bar path) as on the way up I felt a bit of hips rise and back remain down. But there we go. Did it and it felt pretty good.

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Squat. 350×1 top set. . Bar x 10, 135×8, 190×5, 220×4, 255×3, 280×2, 330×1, 340×1, 350×1. . 280×3. pause squats. No leg press, no bike; taking it easy. . Wow! First, feeling so much better than last week. Then today? Kinda surprised. Things have felt so heavy I was unsure how today would go. But I told myself it will or it won’t; just stay in the moment and lift. Oh – BE TIGHT! My cue for the day. 340 hit the sticking point. 😬 For 350? I was so into the lift I don’t remember doing it. 😄 It felt so easy, I wondered if I must have cut depth. Nope! Hooray for video. . While it’s not a great number and it wasn’t too pretty, it’s good progress for me. I’m more confident under the bar, depth happens. My knees feel better, my body feels better. I’m glad I took 2 steps back to work on my squat. Still a ways to go tho. . . . #gym #squat #pausesquats #🍑 #ignitefitnez #liftlocal #wendler531 #531 #strong15 #liftrunbang

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All in all, I’m happy with how things are going.

Part of me wants to keep going because I’m so close, but this is time to call it and reset. In fact, this is the last heavy week I’m doing for a while. Next week will be a deload. The week after I’m going to just lift to have some fun (e.g. thinking about doing things like the Half-Hour Deadlift Challenge), then totally off for Christmas. When I come back, going to do a 6-week-ish cut and some hypertrophy-style lifting (planning that out now). After that, the plan is to resume 5/3/1 (and likely Strong-15 for squats) with a reset of weights and continue forward.

Anyways, tomorrow – bench!

7th cycle, fixing my squat; modeled after Strong-15

  • Squat (superset with band pullaparts)
    • bar x 10
    • 135 x 8
    • 190 x 5
    • 220 x 4
    • 255 x 3
    • 280 x 2
    • 330 x 1
    • 340 x 1
    • 350 x 1
  • Pause Squats
    • 280 x 3

2018-11-20 training log

Good bench day.

Starting a new 3/5/1 cycle, with Jokers. And this Joker logically works up to the top Joker I did last session. What I like about it is as I’m hitting PRs there, which are generally touch-and-go, making this repeat be paused. It’s a good progression. The 290 felt good, heavy, close to my max. But hitting 295 at the end of this cycle seems do-able. And yes, 300 does as well.

I opted to not do just 3×10 supplemental bench work, instead changing to do pause benches (not Spoto Press, but full on rest on the chest, hold it there for 1-2 seconds, then go). It’s not so much working that bottom position, as it is just getting more comfortable with the pause.

Anyways, a pretty good day.

5/3/1 (8th cycle, 3+/5/1+PR, Joker)

  • Bench Press
    • bar x 10
    • 115 x 5
    • 145 x 5
    • 175 x 3
    • 205 x 3
    • 230 x 3
    • 260 x 6 (rep PR tie)
    • 280 x 1 (Joker)
    • 290 x 1 (PR tie)
  • Face Pulls (superset with bench warm-up sets)
    • 90 x 15
    • 90 x 15
    • 90 x 15
    • 90 x 15
  • DB Rows (superset with bench work sets)
    • 105 x 10e
    • 105 x 10e
    • 105 x 10e
  • Pause Bench Press
    • 185 x 5
    • 185 x 5
    • 185 x 5
  • Narrow-Grip Pulldowns
    • 90 x 10
    • 125 x 12
    • 125 x 12
    • 125 x 12

2018-11-09 training log

Press PR – 205×1.

The day went well. Good work-up. Top set was 195 – which 2 weeks ago I did on a Joker set for an easy 3. Thus, I wanted to get at least 4 today. As you can see, it started to go up but sticking point – opted against grinding it because hitting 205 was more important. And that happened. I was a little nervous because I think I’m nearing my limit before I have to reset, but it went up easier than I expected.

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Press. 205×1. PR. . Bar x 10, 85×5, 100×5, 125×3, 155×5, 175×3, 195×3, 205×1, 135×10, 135×10, 135×7. . 1+ week. Joker. Superset face pulls during warmup. Medium width neutral grip cable rows during work sets. Finish with wide grip lat pulldowns. . Top work set @ 195 was done for an easy 3 2 weeks ago on a Joker, so I wanted to try for 4. Nope. Could have ground it out, but grinding was not the plan – setting a new PR @ 205 was. Done. 🤘 . Body feeling better in some ways, beat up in others. Looking forward to next week’s deload. Plus, might be breaking from the plan slightly if something comes together. 😁 . Gym music? That’s why I was listening to the new @allthatremains on my headphones. . . . #gym #press #militarypress #pr #ignitefitnez #liftlocal #wendler531 #531 #allthatremains #victimofthenewdisease

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Still, not sure how much more I have left in me – reset is coming. But I’m still very happy with the progress I’ve been making.

Next week is deload, and I’m certainly going to take it easy – not a “7th week” protocol. I need to just get some blood into areas and let some things heal up. For sure tho, there’s at least 1 more 3/5/1+Jokers cycle ahead of me.

Ah dang it – forgot to do hex DB holds. Ah well.

5/3/1 (7th cycle, 3+/5/1+, Joker Sets)

  • Press
    • bar x 10
    • 80 x 5
    • 100 x 5
    • 125 x 3
    • 155 x 5
    • 175 x 3
    • 195 x 3
    • 201 x 1 (PR)
    • 135 x 10
    • 135 x 10
    • 135 x 7
  • Face Pulls (superset with press warm-up sets)
    • 85 x 15
    • 85 x 15
    • 85 x 15
    • 85 x 15
  • Medium-width neutral grip cable rows (superset with press work sets)
    • 165 x 10
    • 180 x 10
    • 195 x 10
    • 210 x 10
  • Wide-grip Pulldowns
    • 90 x 10
    • 145 x 12
    • 145 x 12
    • 145 x 10

2018-11-08 training log

Today was a great milestone for me: deadlifting “5 wheels” (495 lb).

It’s been a long goal to do: 2/3/4/5 wheels (225/315/405/495 lb) or more plainly, 200/300/400/500 lb in press/bench/squat/deadlift.

I’ve pressed 200 lb. I’m close to 300 on bench. And today, hit deadlift.

So why stop at 495? Why not just go for 500? Because it wasn’t part of the progression. Oh sure, I wanted to, but it’s obviously there and I’ll do it soon enough. Plus, I figured why not celebrate 2 milestones instead of 1? 🙂

What also got me was how easy it went up. Oh sure, it’s not nothing, but I did expect it to be harder than it was. The whole session was oriented with the lift in mind. Explode the weight up, be definitive, commit. I knew if it came off the floor, I’d have it. Sure enough.

Really, to me it’s testimony to just staying on a solid plan of progression and being patient.

5/3/1 (7th cycle, 3+/5/1+, Jokers)

  • Deadlift (superset with band pullaparts)
    • 195 x 5
    • 240 x 5
    • 290 x 3
    • 365 x 5
    • 410 x 3
    • 460 x 4 (rep PR)
    • 495 x 1 (all time PR)
  • RDLs
    • 315 x 8
    • 315 x 8
    • 315 x 7
  • Stationary Bike
    • 10 min.