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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.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Kill Your Inner Bro

I finished the short bench press cycle with a 380-lb. single. Pretty happy with this, as it is an improvement over my most recent test single (370) and also because the cycle wasn't going all that well, i.e. I didn't expect much from it.

The last "rep" workout was all over the place. I was supposed to do a few sets of heavy triples, then the weights weren't moving right, then I managed to recover at the very end of the workout.

One reason I hate programs with preset weights/percentages is the lack of options on a bad day. If I'm supposed to hit 315 for 3sx5, but only get 3-4 reps on the first set, it totally messes with my mind and I feel like I'm failing. I usually try to force the reps, which is the lifting equivalent of beating your head against a wall.

The correct solution would be to knock the weight down to something doable for five reps and try to get 3x5 with that, then maybe go a little heavier on the accessory work. Alternatively, lower the weight way down and do paused bench presses. Rationally I'm aware of this, but sometimes it's hard to stifle your inner meathead and train in a productive way.

E.g. on the weak rep day I did:

315x2 (last warmup, already knew something was off)
325x2 (was supposed to be my first working set of 3)
335x1 (because if 325x3 didn't work, 335x3 surely will)
340x3 (out of nowhere, felt lighter than 315)
350x2 (absolutely unnecessary)

The smart way would have been to lower bar weight to something I could actually lift:

315x3
325 x 3s x 3
315x3

Which would have equaled an extra 1,000+ lbs. of workload and better quality reps.

I need more of this and less of the above. It's a very useful lesson I learned from reading about the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) and Mike Tuscherer's blog. RPE 9 is always RPE 9, whether you have 300 or 350 on the bar.

In spite of screwing that up, the one-rep test went fine:

315x2
340x1
355x1 (felt like I had two, but curbed my enthusiasm)
380x1 (much stronger and more explosive than 370 was a couple of months ago)
315x5

This may be my last cycle and one-rep test in 2018. Over the next 3 months I'm back to irregular training, mostly sets of five.

Wrapped up the cycle with some moderately heavy squats and deadlifts, done on the same day. I squatted 455 for two reps and pulled 445 for a single - both below my working weights, but heavy enough to matter.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Something's Gotta Hurt

I'm done with sets of five on the bench press. Last two workouts went:

315x5-320x5-325x3-325x4, and
315-320-325-330, five reps on all except the last set with 330 lbs. (4).

Triples started out okay: 325x3-330x3-335x2.

I usually don't get much pectoral soreness from bench pressing, but at the start of this workout I was really sore and under-recovered, so I didn't push it.

Overall I'm feeling strong and confident right now, but we'll see. I'm dialing down the overhead pressing as the benches get heavier, just a few moderate sets. The weird shoulder pain I had in the heavy phases of the last cycle is mostly gone. In almost twenty years of lifting, I've never had shoulder and knee pain until the last few months. I guess something's always got to hurt.

Squats went well, worked up to 475x2 regular, 375x4 paused. The good rack is always taken and I squat in the shitty one almost exclusively. Paused squats now feel very strong for some reason.

Deadlifts felt great this time round. I pulled 465x3 easily (might be some sort of PR) and felt good for at least one more. Hit a 485 lb. beltless single, which is easily the most weight I've ever pulled without a belt, and followed it up with a moderate 505 lb. (belted) single. Next time round I'll shoot for fewer reps and heavier singles.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Sweet Split

Past two weeks I have kept an erratic lifting schedule due to some time off over the weekend. Something like lift for five days in a row - rest for five days - lift for three days in a row. My ideal training split is:

Sunday - heavy bench and medium shoulders
Monday - light squat and pulls
Wednesday - inclines and light bench, heavy shoulders
Friday - heavy squat or deadlift (alternating)

This split ensures optimal recovery and even lets me get in some extra (light) exercise on the off days. I expected that lifting 5 days in a row would destroy me, but to my surprise I found that I was recovering fine (although I did cut down on the accessory work). Would not recommend it for optimal results tho.

Still powering through the bench press workouts on schedule. But I'm no longer doing sets across with the same weight. Instead, I figure out a minimum weight for the set/rep scheme for the day, e.g. 305 lbs. for 6 reps. Then based on how I feel, I either do something like 305-310-315 for sets of 6 (if feeling strong), or stick with 305 x 3s x 6, or some combination thereof.

Last two heavy days I worked up to 315x6, followed by a fourth bonus set of 320x5 (one day), then 320x5 with a bonus set of 325x5. I won't be able to keep up the bonus sets throughout the program, but will try to squeeze one in whenever I feel energetic. Shoulders are feeling fine - knock on wood.

Followed this up with behind the neck press, standing, of 185x4. I can now press 185 lbs. standing pretty consistently. Still making (painstaking) progress on inclines, around 5 lbs. every 2-3 workouts. Did a seated BTN press of 205x3, which I am quite happy about.

Banded bench pressing is tough as hell, but it's a new movement, so I can still make progress from workout to workout. It's only been a few sessions, but already I feel like I'm faster and more explosive at pressing without bands.

Deadlifted on Day 4 of the five-day stretch and my lower back was definitely not fully recovered. Still did 465x2, then singles with 485 and 505, which wasn't bad. Squats felt a little off, and I squatted in the shitty power rack so getting the bar off the hooks was way harder than it should have been. Top set was 455x2 and I decided to call it a day.

I'd be really interested to see how far I can take this simple yet brutal squat/deadlift progression. My training schedule will be all messed up from September onward due to work, so I won't find out.