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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Not An Update

No updates because there is nothing to update. I have been having some shoulder pain, which turned out to be upper back (subscapular) pain. Looks like training the upper back five days a week leads to overtraining - who knew. So I'll dial that back to three days and only do light band pullaparts on other days.

Decided I need to do less shoulder training too. It got to the point where I was overhead pressing 2-3 times per week, on top of regular, close-grip and incline bench presses.

I've lowered the weights on my heavy bench press day and am doing more volume. This was in part due to the shoulder issue and in part due to the reps getting sloppy as the weights got heavier. Doing 330x6 would be nice, but not if I'm just getting more efficient at cheating the weight up.

Deadlift - I'm keeping volume high, 405x5 and then triples as I go 10 lbs. up in weight. Usually up to 455 or 465 lbs.

Squats - more or less the same weights as above, plus a few sets of paused reps (up to 375-385x3 or so). I'll keep doing this until the end of summer and test some maxes.

Pullups are getting super easy and so are dips. Not sure why because I haven't lost any bodyweight. But I can now crank out tons of sets and reps without elbow pain.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Losing Ground

My last post in the year usually summarizes best lifts, things that I tried out, what worked and what didn't. Given that 2018 had exactly zero training highlights, I won't spend much time on going over that. But I did hit:

Deadlift - (fatigued) single at 525 lbs., which ties my best ever (non-fatigued) single.

My worst lift is the only lift in which I have not lost strength over the past few years.

Squat - 480 lbs. x 3 may be the best I've done this year.

I have not tried a max squat single in 2018 and I don't think I will any time soon.

Bench Press - 380 lbs. x 1

This is not great, but it's also not that far off my best bench press ever. Still looking for that magical solution to 405.

Overhead Press - military press (standing) 205 lbs. x 2, behind-the-neck (seated) 205 lbs. x 3.

These are not a priority, and my military press is but a shadow of its former self.

More recently, I bench pressed 330 lbs. for 5 reps in two separate workouts, but was too cowardly to attempt a sixth rep each time (no spotter). Did some heavy triples in the squat and deadlift, focusing more on getting a bunch of reps in. A tentative goal for now is 30 reps per big lift per workout, counting only reps above 80% of 1RM.

Some things that I tried and that worked:

  • Close-grip bench presses and incline presses,
  • Shrugs 1-2 times per week, back work more or less every training day,
  • Rest-pause sets on assistance work (minus most barbell lifts),
  • Mashing sore pecs and traps with a Back Buddy stick,
  • Band pull-aparts.
What didn't work:
  • Bench press against bands (great exercise, but shoulders didn't like it),
  • Regular-grip pullups (will never do these again - neutral-grip all the way).
What I need to do more:
  • Hang from a pullup bar after every workout to stretch the chest/shoulders,
  • Shoulder dislocations with a rope,
  • Soft tissue work around the elbows.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Who He?

After decades of reading science fiction, I've decided I don't really like science fiction that much. Basically I enjoy reading books by a handful of "sci-fi" authors who have cool ideas and write good stories. I'm including Margaret Atwood on that list just to piss her off, given her publicly expressed views on science fiction. Because she's obviously one of the three and a half people who read this blog and this will make her regret what she said about sci-fi.

Anyway, her sci-fi books (which she doesn't write) are really pretty good.

One thing I never understood was fanboys' obsession with "classical science fiction". I've read quite a few books by Heinlein, Asimov, Niven and Bester. They are okay and I can see how they may have been mindblowing in the period they were written/published. But the prose has aged poorly, there is little to zero character development and whatever plot can be surmised from the text usually ends when the author runs out of ideas or gets bored, not through any logical conclusion. Also I guess readers back in the day really didn't mind monologues that go on for hours. Maybe people talked that way in the 1950s/60s. Almost all the old people I know still do.

Bester may be an exception, if you read his stuff as a parody of classical sci-fi, or as Bizarro fiction 50 years before that was a thing. Not sure if this was his original intention and he's dead so I can't ask him. I've read Stars and Demolished Man. The latter title (sadly) has nothing to do with the sci-fi hit of a similar name, starring Stallone and Wesley Snipes. On my to-read list are Who He? and Golem 100. Here's the blurb for Who He?:

"A TV variety show writer who wakes up after an alcoholic blackout and discovers that someone is out to destroy his life."
It's supposed to be a "mainstream novel".

Newer sci-fi is also sometimes a struggle to get through. Much of it is written based on a cookie-cutter template of what sold at the time. Which is fine - writers gotta eat - but gets a bit tiresome after a while. Hard science fiction is also a hard sell for me, as is stuff with heavy worldbuilding. I like technology and science and all that, but quite a bit of it I don't understand, and if I wanted to read a physics textbook and edumacate myself I would buy one.

Military sci-fi is another thing I don't get and will probably never read. Mostly because I have a hard time wrapping my head around Napoleonic navies in space, or pitched battles in the year 3157 that rely less on technology than modern warfare in 2018. Vide: space marines. It's like zombie novels in a way - read one and you've kind of read them all.

I also don't give two shits whether the economic system is 'realistic' or 'sustainable' or not. Insert meme of fedora'd neckbeard. Real-world economic systems don't make sense, nor are they sustainable. If the story has dispossessed natives mining Unobtainium and living in slums, because something something evil Terran/Andromedan/Hrangan colonists, I don't need to know whether the supply chains are vertical or horizontal, or how the magic the hero local shaman uses ACKCHYUALLY works.

My favorite sci-fi writer wight now might just be Ursula K. Le Guin. Of the half dozen books of hers I've read so far, there wasn't one I found less than awesome. I'm sure she wrote some garbage too, but I haven't come across any yet. She also wrote the Earthsea series which I haven't read but have heard is pretty good. I'm not a big fan of fantasy but I might give it a shot.

Or not.

I've changed my approach to squatting and deadlifting slightly. No more singles or pushing max triples - building a strength base is more important. I'll just do a bunch of sets of (mostly) five and try to hit 30-ish total reps at high intensity. Basically anything over 385-405 lbs. counts as a working set.

Using this approach, I did:
  • Deadlift - triples with 405-415-425-435-445-455, then a double with 405,
  • Squat - worked up to 460x3 over six sets (26 reps total), starting and finishing with 395.
I also changed my deadlift stance, moving my legs out a bit wider while still lifting conventional. This seems to be working very well and the weights moved more explosively.

Bench press is still stuck at 325x6 for my top set. I don't expect this to improve much (ever), but I will start upping the weight and reducing the reps when I start my next pressing cycle next summer. If I can hit 325 consistently until then, along with a few back-off sets, I'll be happy.

Standing OH press - I haven't tried upping the weights in a while, but I have done multiple doubles with 205 a few times now.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Short, Brutish and Uneventful

I came down with a sinus infection and simultaneously managed to bruise my knee. So no squats this week and no increases on the bench press. I'm also back in travel mode until at least April, so training and posting about training will be sporadic.

Bench press - I haven't been able to improve on 325x6. Still stuck around the same weight.

Standing overhead press - did 2.5 reps with 205 lbs., then a single right after. Marginal improvement.

Deadlifts - I worked up to a moderate 495x1 and 465x2. Could have done more, but was extra cautious because of the knee.

I've been slacking on the band pullaparts and have the shoulder pain to prove it. For now the target is 100 reps per day. Let's see how consistently I stick to it.

Monday, November 5, 2018

No Bulk No Power

Pressing is going well. I've been hitting 320 lbs. for sets of 6 pretty regularly, then doing two back-off sets with 285. Bumped these up to 325 and 290 respectively. I'm thinking about adding a third set at the lighter weight on really good days. After the heavy bench presses, I do 3 working sets of floor presses (close grip). These are awkward and hard, but I feel like they're working. I'm noticeably stronger in locking out heavier weights.

Second press day is done with a close grip, plus 2-3 sets of incline presses. These have been going well too. My goal is to hit around 4-5 working sets of 5-6 close grip, and I've been successful so far. Two press sessions per week equal is a lot of stress on the pecs and shoulders, so I make sure I do plenty of band pull-aparts and stretches every day. It's really made a difference and almost completely eliminated the shoulder pain I was having before.

Overhead pressing is done twice per week. Seated behind-the-neck presses in the Smith machine and standing military presses with a barbell. Not really pushing these lifts, just trying to stay in the groove.

Both squat and deadlift sucked this training cycle. I have dropped a bit of bodyweight (down to 215 now), but this shouldn't affect the lifts that much. The poundage I use on the leg press has gone down too. Everything felt great two weeks ago. On the plus side, there is no pain or anything that feels like an injury. Just soreness and weakness.

  • Deadlift - worked up to 485x1. Didn't feel like I could do more.
  • Squat - 450x3 with knee wraps. This was also a max for the day.
  • Bench press - I hit 325x6 for two sets and 285x6 close-grip. Not bad.
  • Standing overhead press - 195x2 after deadlifts and 190x3 after squats. Also good.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Haunting of Bullshit Jobs

I had a couple of days off so I binge-watched a Netflix show called The Haunting of Hill House, loosely based on Shirley Jackson's novel of the same name. The book is the greatest horror novel ever written in the English language, so I didn't expect to like the show. But it is an exquisitely crafted piece of television - visually compelling, poignant and scary as hell. Five star rating.

Reading the book Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber. I'm only a quarter through it but already some of the hard truths are hitting home. Don't know what the rating's going to be, but it's a great read, and goes a long way in dispelling some deep-rooted magical thinking, e.g. that the private sector is efficient and does not create utterly pointless jobs (spoiler alert: it does). Maybe I just find this amusing and fascinating because I've spent almost half my life working in the corporate sector and can relate to the examples in the book. Definitely recommended.

Lifting-wise things are going well. I'm pretty much doing whatever I feel like, within reason. Trying to get a lot of sets of 6 reps on bench and close-grip bench press. Lower body is trained one day light and one day heavy, alternating squat and deadlift on the heavy day.

Some of the more recent stuff included:


  • Deadlift - 465x2, then singles with 485 and 505 lbs.,
  • Squat - 365x4 paused, then worked up to 465x3 with knee wraps,
  • Bench press - 320 lbs. 2s x 6, also got 280x6 close-grip, which should put me around 315 for a single,
  • Standing military press - worked up to 195x3. Because of my schedule, I do these the day before heavy bench press, so far without detrimental effect.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Up Again

I've changed up the bench press training slightly in that I no longer follow my usual cycle template. Due to travel, I'll be taking long layoffs from training over the next 6-7 months. The goal for now is to maintain strength with higher reps, then run a couple of peaking cycles next summer. So I'll start off with sets of 6 and stick with the same weight for a while, increasing slowly when the current weights start feeling light. No real plan here.

Close-grip presses will be the main assistance exercise, followed by incline presses for 3-4 sets of 5. I'll keep overhead pressing in the rotation, doing behind-the-neck presses on one day and military/push presses on my heavy squat/deadlift day. This should help me build a good base and improve shoulder and triceps power.

I've stepped up the volume of band pull-aparts. Not sure about sets and reps, I just try to do tons of them every day, and from different angles.

In the past two weeks, I did:
  • Deadlifts - worked up to singles with 465-475-495-495. Could have done a bit more, but I have to be careful with these.
  • Squats - worked up to 355x5 paused, then two sets of 445x3. Very pleased with this after 30+ days of neither squatting nor pulling.
  • Bench press - 315 x 2 sets x 6. I'll stick with this weight until it feels light, then increase by 5 lbs. and still try to get 6 reps. On a different day, I got up to 275x5 on close-grip presses and did multiple sets with 265 lbs.
  • Tried overhead pressing from the front position for the first time in forever. I managed a military press of 185x3 and a push press with 200x3, which was cool.