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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.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Do U Even Plasma Bro

For the bench press, I'm running an abbreviated version of the last training cycle, going from sets of six to sets of two and a test workout in 10 weeks. Overhead pressing twice per week and incline pressing once. Started out the cycle with 300 lbs. 2s x 6 and things felt good. Pressed 165x5 behind the neck standing and 195x3 seated. Back is worked three times per week and arms are worked twice.

Deadlift is moving along nicely. This cycle I went 465-485-505-525 for singles. That last one may be an all-time PR, or at least ties it. I no longer have a training plan for the deadlift, just a few triples with whatever I feel like, then singles until I get to a good weight for the day. I'm able to get away with it because I'm only lifting heavy once every two weeks. More importantly, I'm feeling solid and strong lifting the weight and my back/hip injuries are not acting up.

Squats are also going well. 480x3 went up without a hitch, and I am consistently doing paused triples in the 380-405 range. I would like to work up to triples over 500 lbs., as this is where I was at my strongest.

But I'm done with setting specific goals and pushing toward them like a robot. Programs no longer interest me, except as general guidelines. I have a pretty busy work schedule and things to do outside of lifting, so adding weight to the bar week in and week out is not always an option. At this point I can take a few weeks off completely and still maintain my best lifts, or very close to them. I don't think there is any point in random or unstructured "training by feel", but slaving after some bullshit progression seems equally delusional.

Some new things I have tried:
  • Bench pressing against bands: it took me a couple of workouts to figure out how to do these. The first time I anchored the bars to the bench and did not get much extra resistance at all. I did 20 rest-pause reps with 275 lbs., similar to what I'd expect to get without bands. The second time I used two dumbbells as anchors and doubled up the bands. This was much harder - 14 tough rest-pause reps with 215 lbs. on the bar. The band resistance is almost unnoticeable until it slams down on you like a brick wall. I used 60-lb. dumbbells as anchors and the bands were pulling the bells up at full bar extension, so they probably add 110-120 lbs. of resistance at lockout. 330-335 lbs. doesn't seem like much weight for lockouts, but the reps add up, and I got a nice triceps pump.
  • Bench press isometrics: I have used these in the past with mixed results. Pressing off pins for reps (bottoms-up) led to huge gainz... in shoulder pain. Now I just do one support 2-3 inches from lockout and one support 2-3 inches off the chest. The latter is particularly painful (in a good way) and will hopefully lead to some improvement.
  • Smith machine seated BTN press: I really like the feel and convenience of this exercise. It is much easier to do iso holds at certain angles/positions than with a barbell. I don't think I'll replace barbell presses with Smith machine presses, but they offer a nice change.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

No Plasma, No Gainz

Bench press cycle topped out at 350x2. To prepare for the heavy bench press singles, I was inspired by a simple template outlined in this article by Christian Thibaudeau of T-Nation fame. I modified it to:
  • Wednesday - did 3 sets of 3 with 70%, or 260 lbs.
  • Friday - 3 sets of 2 at 80%, or 290 lbs.
I did not increase my Plasma(TM) intake as advised, so I probably missed out on some gainz. Oh well.

Lifts went like so:

135 x 8
185 x 6-8
225 x 3
275 x 3
315 x 1
335 x 1
355 x 1
370 x 1

I expected to smoke 365, so I added 5 lbs. and it turned out to be a very rough single. Should have stuck with the original plan and upped the weight if 365 went well. But no complaints. I wrapped up with a rest-pause set with 285 lbs. x 14 reps, a little bit of back and arm work.

Last overhead press day was the previous Sunday and I did not do any inclines this week. Assistance work was limited to small stuff like curls, face pulls and cable pushdowns. It was refreshing to get into the gym, mess around a while and leave not even tired. Maybe a sign I should do this more often. On off days I messed around a bit with cable exercises at home, limiting myself to 1-2 working sets.

I did not make changes to the lower body program. As scheduled, Monday was a light squat / high pull day with some leg presses and shrugs thrown in.

Friday was heavy squat day this week, plus the light benches. I aimed for a double with 485 lbs., but didn't set up properly and only got one rep. Not a problem, because (unlike on the bench press) I know there was strength to spare there. 


Friday, June 29, 2018

Harlan Ellison (1934 - 2018)

Saw on Twitter yesterday that Harlan Ellison had exited this poorly programmed ancestor simulation we call life. He wrote some good stories. He wrote a lot of stories, for sure. His anthologies gave exposure to some really good and less-known writers at the time.

Apparently he was bad-tempered, ornery and an unrepentant iconoclast IRL (IRAS), which I highly appreciate and strive to emulate (except no one takes me seriously).

Having read a bunch of his stuff, I believe that old Harlan saw through the simulation and that's he's not too bothered not to be part of it anymore.

Here is some recommended Ellison reading:

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

Dangerous Visions (really both Dangerous Visions books)

Slippage

Finished bench press triples with 335 lbs. for 3x3 and kicked off the doubles part of the program with 340 x 3s x 2. This is still well within my limits - in fact, I was only supposed to do 2x2, but felt combative. One more week of doubles, then I'll work up to a cautious single.

My shoulders are starting to hurt a bit, which I'm blaming on overhead pressing twice per week and much more incline bench work than I've ever done in the past. The plan is to drop behind-the-neck overhead presses altogether in the last two weeks. Speaking of which, I hit 175x5 standing fairly easily and inched up the inclines by another 5 lbs.

Squat this cycle was up to 405x3 paused and 475x3 unpaused. I felt like I had more in me, but I'm overly cautious due to past back strain. Pulls today went 465x2 - 495x1 - 515x1. The last single matches my all-time PR.

Friday, June 15, 2018

International Bench Day

On Monday the gym was packed, but all three benches were unoccupied. There was a waiting line for the two lifting platforms, where an assortment of gym rats was performing deadlifts and pseudo-Olympic lifts. The infernal din of 95-lb. barbells being elevated overhead with terrible form and allowed to crash down without control brought to mind the Dark Tower from the writings of Stephen King. The visuals only affirmed this initial impression. Weak, undeveloped bodies twisted by miserable toil, straining toward some unfathomable purpose. The Crossfit slogan of "forging elite fitness" should be replaced by "abandon all hope, ye who enter here".

I had to do my pulls in the power rack, which is unethical but I get a pass since no one was waiting to do squats.

We are indeed living in interesting times. When I started lifting, no one in their right mind would do anything but bench press on Mondays, and few people even contemplated squatting or deadlifting. Most gyms didn't even have power racks, let alone lifting platforms. Fast forward two decades, and the International Bench Day has been officially replaced by the International Fake Olympic Lifting Day. Chiropractors around the world are rejoicing and rubbing their hands.

Bench presses started off nice and easy with 325 lbs. for 3x3, then a slightly tougher 330 lbs. for 3x3 next time. In both sessions I did a few light singles afterwards. I managed 195 lbs. x 3 on seated behind-the-neck presses (twice) and failed with 205 lbs. (twice). Also did 175x5 and 180x4 in the standing behind-the-neck press, breaking a plateau.

Inclines are progressing slowly but steadily. After inclines, I now do one or two max rep sets on the bench press. No particular goal in mind, just accumulating volume. So far I've done 15 rest-pause reps with 280 lbs. (single RP set) and 17 reps with 285 lbs. (two sets with ca. 30 seconds rest, 10+7). Don't know if this does anything, but the pump is nice. I'd like to build up to 315x10 eventually.

I squatted 380x3 paused and 470x3 unpaused. Depth was fine this time round and overall squats are going well. I thought I would lose some strength from squatting heavy once every two weeks, but the light squats keep the muscles in decent shape, I guess.

Deadlifts feel harder than ever, but the new routine has yielded singles of 465-475-495-505 recently. I failed with 445x3 in the same session (only managed 2 reps), so I don't know what to make of that. Part of it may be just me chickening out of reps once I feel strain on my lower back, because I'm paranoid about injury these days. But the singles feel stronger than ever.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Finders Keepers

Watched this movie last night.

I started the movie thinking it was a mockumentary in the vein of Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show. Had to be - the premise was absolutely ridiculous. Then I looked it up and saw it was real, which blew my mind. Initially it was hilarious, but once I figured out it wasn't fiction it was pretty sad.

Done with 315 and 320 x 3s x 5 on the bench press and 185 x 2s x 5 in the seated BTN press (170 for same sets and reps standing). 170 for two sets of five seems to be my limit for now. Moving on to triples, which will be a huge relief. Standing BTN press and inclines still feel like a strain, but I'm making modest progress for now.

I have not attempted a military (front) press in some time now. Might substitute them in one of these days, just to see what they feel like.

On paused squats, I hit 355x5 and 375x4, which is good. Two reps with 470 (not paused), but I was not happy with depth. Before that I struggled with 425x3 but did 450x3 fairly easily. I'm also doing many 20-rep sets on the leg press - at least, I try to get to 20 and usually do 16-18. Another thing I've been playing with on the leg press is rest-pause.

Went up to 485 lbs. for a deadlift single two workouts in a row. Failed with 505 lbs. in the second workout. Had I gone for 495, I believe I would have made it. The way I'm training the deadlift now is a bunch of heavy triples, then a few singles tacked on at the end. If I could hit 500+ this way, I'd be pretty pleased. My best ever was 515 (or 525?), and that was just warming up and hitting 2 or 3 max attempts, not after a bunch of heavy work. I have not attempted a max deadlift in years and that's another thing I want to try so I can hurt myself and quit lifting forever.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Gammon

My most recent bench press workouts were 305 x 3 sets x 6 and 310 x 3s x 5. Sticking with sets of five for the next 2 weeks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wm8BU429MuI

Squatted 445x3 and deadlifted 445x3, then 465-475-485 for singles. I haven't hit 485 for a (fatigued) single in some time. Squats are okay but they beat the hell out of my shoulders, especially when I get silly with bar positioning. On any given heavy squat day, the weight I lift is dictated more by how my shoulders feel under the bar than how beat up my legs/hips are. Also getting some good work in on paused squats. One of these days I may just be stupid enough to try 315x20.

Did 3s x 6 with 180 lbs. in the behind the neck press (seated) and 3s x 5 with 170 lbs. standing, and now my traps hurt. Good times. With the BTN press, I have this weird issue where moderate weights keep getting lighter, but heavy weights stay heavy. E.g. sometimes I feel like I can press 165 lbs. 10 times with strength to spare, but when I do 175x3 my eyes almost pop out with strain. Kind of like with inclines, except my incline press weights are so pathetic I'm embarrassed to log them.

I'm doing all kinds of weird rows and loving them. John Meadows is a genius and everything he writes is gold. I'll probably hurt myself doing Mountain Dog exercises and blame John Meadows for ending my lifting career.

Hope everyone (anyone?) is healthy and happy and lifting, or at least just happy.