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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.