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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.

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:

325 x 3s x 3

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:

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

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.

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)


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


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.

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.

Friday, April 27, 2018

In Other News

Still lifting sporadically. My hip/back pain is gone and a few weeks ago I deadlifted 400ish pounds for five reps without anything snapping. But still taking it easy and will now alternate heavy squats and deadlifts week to week. A few years ago I got decently strong on the Advanced Texas Method program, where you don't squat or pull heavy very often. I'm looking forward to a summer of uninterrupted training and hopefully some gainz.

In other training news:

Bought a lacrosse ball to massage those hard-to-get-at muscles inside the hip and between the scapulas. I've only used it a few times but it feels good. Squats are feeling great - last night I hit 465x2 after a ton of warmup sets, with none of the usual low back, knee and hip soreness. Not bad after squatting zero times in three weeks.

Will experiment a bit with occlusion training for the arms and legs. I only tried it a few times and the pump was painful and uncomfortable, i.e. promising. I especially like the idea for leg training, as I should be able to get a massive pump using low weights, so less wear and tear on the joints. It's probably not a good idea to use them while squatting, but I will try them out on leg press sets.

Incline and BTN presses are staying in the rotation. I'm still very weak at incline presses, so more work on these will hopefully translate to a few more pounds on the bench press. I'm back on my favorite bench program and so far it's going well. Hoping to ride it out to a modest single with 365, then maybe run it one more time.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Snap, Crackle, Pop

Pulled something in my lower back or left glute while deadlifting, and it doesn't feel good. I'm about to take 3 weeks off lifting anyway, so it's not like it matters.

Before that I had a nice stretch of 4 consecutive lifting days, which may have contributed to the strain. Bench presses on Monday felt really good too. I am virtually back to my normal pressing weights, only with a closer grip, and less shoulder pain.

Squat 440x5, paused 375x3 - ramped up the weight over 5 sets and got some nice volume going here.

Bench press 325x5, SlingShot 360x1

Deadlift 460x3 - this was accidental, I thought I had 440 on the bar. Snapped my back next workout with 425x4.

Standing BTN press - 185x5, then 190x3

Seated BTN press - 200x2, 210x2

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Nothing Of Note

Squat 465x3, 375x3 paused

Bench press 330x5, then 330x4

Deadlift 465x2, 455x3

Behind the neck press 165x5 standing

Current weekly goal in the bench press is 4-5 sets of 5 with a weight higher than 315 lbs. I have been hitting this regularly. Then one day of incline and dumbbell shoulder presses, sometimes followed by a few triples with the SlingShot. Shoulders are tired from the extra bench pressing and the overhead press is stalling. I'm also doing these with a closer grip than usual, so that might be the reason.

On inclines, I'm shooting for higher reps and low weight. I have always sucked at incline pressing, so there's nowhere to go but up. It's a difficult lift to program. E.g. I'll pick a weight and do 8-10 reps easily, but then I add 10 lbs. on the next set and barely eke out 3-4 reps, which is not my experience with any other lift. Someday I'd like to work up to a 315-lb. incline press. That day seems very far now.

On squats and deadlifts, I'm working up to whatever feels like a reasonable triple on any given day. Sometimes it's only a double. That's fine, as there are no real goals right now, just maintenance training.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Master of None

Best lifts in the past couple of weeks:

Deadlift 460x3

Squat 460x3, 365x3 paused

Bench press 330x5, 320x4sx5, with SlingShot 360x3

Not sure if 330x5 is a legitimate personal best, but it's a PR with this closer grip. SlingShot press was again done after pre-exhausting with inclines and DB overhead presses.

Press behind neck 190x3 seated, 145x3sx8 standing. Did not go heavy on overhead presses these past couple of weeks.

I've started doing weighted dips. I do them on dip bars, but stay upright to hit the triceps. Not sure how much they're helping anything, but they are fun, and they don't strain my shoulders like normal dips do. You can add a ton of volume without overtraining.

Also I'm already stalling on the seated DB press. My gym doesn't have 75-pound dumbbells. 70s are no longer challenging (I do sets of 6), but 80s seem way too heavy. #firstworldproblems

Push presses are something I'd like to get back into, but have neither the time nor the energy.

Dropped some fat too and am now between 215 and 220 on most days.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Get a Grip

In highlights this week:

Bench press - 315x5 followed by 325x5, then 330x4

Deadlift - 455x3

Standing BTN press - 165x5, followed by 155x5

SlingShot bench press - 340x6

Squat - 445x3 and 455x3

Moving my grip closer doesn't seem to have affected my bench press much. I guess I'll see a difference if I work up to decently heavy weights. Shoulders feel better, but recovery is slow.

Deadlifts were flying up this week - I didn't use a belt on any of the sets. 455x3 might be a beltless PR. That probably doesn't count for anything since I can't remember ever trying 455 without a belt before. Wanted to try 465x3, but I also want to leave some room for progression next week.

Had a decent SlingShot workout. 340x6 is a goal I've probably hit before, but this time I pre-exhausted with incline bench presses. I hate inclines with a passion and suck at them. The plus side is that I can increase the weight or reps every time I do them, so I can trick myself into believing it's progress. I moved my grip in on all pressing exercises and it feels fine, although sometimes I don't feel as solid under the weight as I used to be.

I should probably also move the bar a bit higher on squats to spare the shoulders.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Don't Stop Believing

Yet another lifting restart. The plan right now is to make some time for regular training from May to maybe September. The rest of the year is 100% up in the air - literally.

Bench press 325x5, 340x2 - wanted a triple there, but this is okay

BTN press, seated - 185x5, followed by 175x2sx5

Deadlift - 455x2 - could have done a third rep, but my hip was twinging and I decided to cut it short.

Squat - 445x2, preceded by 420x5

A while ago I swore a pact with myself not to deadlift from the floor ever again. That lasted about a month, after which I went right back to full-range pulls, which have led to injuries countless times before. Because, you know, full-range movements are important, brah. Never mind that "full range" for this particular lift was determined by plate manufacturer's convention, not one's own leverages (like in the bench press and squat). So I guess I'll keep pulling from the floor until injured again.

After years of wide grip benching, the weights are starting to stall. Part of it is due to a lack of regular training, which is to be expected - no one sets PRs by lifting 3 weeks on - 2 weeks off. Part of it is due to shoulder pain (AC joint), which I've read about often but never experienced before. I think switching to a closer grip for a while (middle finger on ring, so not really close) will help me get rid of the pain and strengthen my triceps, so when I'm able to train regularly and widen my grip again I will see some gainz. Sets of five only until I can get some continuous training in.

Another thing I'll do is SlingShot press every other week instead of every week. SlingShot reps aren't "raw", but they still add up to a considerable amount of very heavy volume on a weekly basis. Also done with a wide grip, which equals more stretching of the shoulders with weights over my max. The SlingShot is a great tool and has done good things for my bench press, but it is possible to overdo it, especially when training irregularly.

Or maybe I'm just old and run down and my bench press is doomed no matter what. But I still haven't raw benched four plates, so I have to keep believing.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Lifting in the Time of Cholera

I came down with a nasty bug right after New Year's, so didn't do much lifting. Only managed to squeeze in two sessions between starting to feel human again and my departure.

Squat 455x3, paused 365x3

Bench press 345x2x2, 325x5 in same workout

Standing BTN press 175x5

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Medical Leave

A few lifts in the new year:

Squat 475x3, paused 380x3

Bench press 350x2, 330x4, SlingShot 365x4, 360x4

Deadlift 465x3

Seated BTN press 195x5

Looks like I've caught some sort of nasty virus to ring in the new year. About to travel for work through January and February, so no lifting.