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Monday, June 17, 2019


I've had a pretty consistent lifting summer so far. Some interruptions here and there, but nothing to set me back. I've gotten to the point where I can take 1-2 weeks off lifting and lose little to no strength, which is good. On the other hand, this also means I don't gain any strength in that time, which is not so good. My lifts have been stalled for a few years now and my squat has in fact gone down by at least 30-40 lbs. I'm not expecting to set many more PRs at my age, but one or two would be nice.

Bench press - 330x8 and 335x8 in consecutive workouts, followed by 360x2 and 365x2

During my deload week, which is really a low volume week, I worked up to an easy single with 375 lbs. I might try 395x1 next time.

Close grip bench press - 325x5 again and 330x3

The 330x3 set would count as a PR, except I've never tried to max out on close grip triples before so I have nothing to compare it to.

Overhead press - 175x9 and 180x7, 200x2

Squat - 470x2,

Deadlift - 470x2

Bodyweight - just under 220 lbs., around 217-218 most days

Tuesday, May 28, 2019


Shoulder is still sore, but pressing is going well. I have been breaking rep PRs on both the regular and close-grip bench press. My overhead press has stalled, which I'm not overly concerned with. It seems like my bench presses stall when my overhead presses are progressing, and vice versa. So far my experience with the Cast Iron program has been positive.

Recently I did:

Close-grip bench press - 315x6 and 325x5.

Both these are big rep PRs, and I feel like I could have done more.

Bench press - 315x7, 320x8, 325x10, 350x3

The last three are rep PRs. I've done 325 lbs. for 4 or 5 reps in the past, but never came close to ten. I may have pressed 350x3 before but I doubt it.

Of course, now I'm tempted to make big jumps in weight, but I won't. Slow and steady and all that.

Not much to report on the squat/deadlift front, and I'm fine with that too. As long as I maintain strength on those two lifts and incrementally up my bench and overhead press, all is well.

Deadlift - 445x3, 465x2

Squat - 445x3, 455x3

Standing overhead press - worked up to 220x1 with some cheating

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Backward Hat

Not much to update here. Shoulder is still messed up but I'm still bench pressing. Oddly it doesn't hurt at all when I press overhead. Maybe that's a sign to work more on my overhead pressing and bench less. Maybe it's a sign I'll ignore. Stupid sign.

Speaking of overhead pressing, that's been going well, increasing slowly but steadily. Recently I did 180x6, followed by 200x3. Still not quite at my best-ever weights, but I've neglected front presses for a long time.

On a totally unrelated note, there's this widespread stereotype of the gym douchebro working out in a tank top, with a baseball hat turned backwards, doing nothing but arm exercises. I always thought it was one of those exaggerated gym memes (like "curling in a squat rack", which I've seen exactly twice in 20 years of lifting in commercial gyms). But lately douchebros with backwards hats seem to be everywhere. I counted no less than five in the gym this morning. Guess it's a case of life imitating meme. With apologies to Richard Dawkins.

I stopped pressing behind the neck until the shoulder pain goes away. Not that I think BTN pressing causes shoulder issues, but it does place extra strain on an already overworked muscle group. I read a shoulder saver article by Eric Cressey where he lists all the exercises that can cause scapular issues. While they're all good and productive exercises, the accumulated strain on these small muscles (rotator cuff and scapular area) can over time lead to nagging aches. At one point I was back squatting twice a week and pressing behind the neck twice a week, never really giving the scap muscles time to recover. Band pullaparts are usually prescribed for rotator cuff issues, but now I'm starting to think they may have the opposite effect.

I might also switch to floor or board presses for a few weeks. It's not like I'm setting any records anyway, and they may give my shoulders a rest.

Interestingly, paused benches hurt way more than my regular touch-and-go reps. Probably more time under tension for the injured muscle. Also, close-grip presses hurt just as bad as those done with regular grip. So much for broscientific claims that close grip benches are better for the shoulders. But my last close grip pressing workout went 275x5, 300x4 and 310x4, so there is improvement.

Back squats seem to be the main culprit. I'm keeping them in rotation, but I've now moved the bar higher on my back. Sort of a mid-bar position. This hopefully means less rotator cuff strain. These past weeks I worked up to 435x4, 445x3 and 465x3, which is pretty much what I was doing low-bar.

Deadlift reps were a grind. I feel like the straight-legged deadlifts I'm doing on light lower body day are hurting my heavy sets. Sure, the weight is very light, but the stress still adds up. But I'd rather work my hamstrings than set deadlift PRs, so I don't think I'll back off the straight-leg deads. I still hit fairly comfortable triples from 405 to 445, then easy singles with 455 and 475.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Save the Last Vertebra For Me

Close-grip bench presses are progressing better than expected, for no rational reason. I got 290x6 after three weeks of no pressing, then 295x5 and 300x4 the two weeks after that. All three are close-grip PRs for those rep ranges. Maybe doing pushups to failure is the key to stronger triceps? None of this lifting business makes sense anymore.

Bench pressed 310x10 and 340x3 last workout. I'm following the Cast Iron Pressing Template by a guy named Marc Keys as a last-ditch assault on 405 lbs. It's going well so far and the progression seems reasonable. Kind of like 5/3/1 except with more challenging weights. Also includes lots of overhead and close-grip benching, which is all good.

Overhead pressing is still not great but getting better. Recent achievements include 170x8, 190x4 and a ton of machine presses. Once my shoulders feel a bit better, I'll reintroduce Smith machine behind-the-neck presses for high reps.

Squats are really hurting my shoulders and I'm starting to suspect they are also holding back my bench press. I've been experimenting with remedial exercises and moving the bar around, but it hurts in every position. As I get tired or the weights get challenging, the bar sinks to one side and distributes the load unevenly across my hips and legs, which is an injury just waiting to happen. I'll have to work on this. I have yet to put up a decent squat weight in 2019.

Deadlifts are neither progressing nor regressing. I keep the weights slightly lighter and the volume higher these days. E.g. getting 20-25 reps per workout in the 385-455 lb. range, rather than doing heavy singles above 500. It doesn't look like a 600 lb. pull is in the cards for me, so I might as well lighten the load and do some productive strength training and save a vertebra or two.

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.