June 2003 archives

June 2, 2003

Boxed in

Filed under: General

A few days of box deadlifting, stair squatting and door benching convinced me that it would be futile to attempt a hard ME Squat/Deadlift session today. Besides, all the boxes that now surround me in our new flat need some attention. Don’t even know where I put my training shoes.

June 4, 2003

Dumbells for bench form

Filed under: Workouts

Started my quest to eliminate the sticking point off the chest. I chose dumbells to concentrate specifically on two major weak points in my bench form: elbow placement at the bottom of the press and positioning on the bench. As suggested by Tate, I did flat dumbell presses with the palms facing each other throughout the movement to get accustomed to pulling in the elbows at the bottom instead of flaring them out. At the same time, I concentrated hard on driving my traps and upper back into the bench with my legs to create a stable base. On the third set I felt I was finally getting somewhere with the leg drive. It’s a start.

Until the sticking point is gone I will ditch the supplementary triceps exercises on ME Bench day for exercises that directly target this weakness. Dumbell floor presses were fairly interesting and turned a few heads at the gym as I stretched out on the floor and had a friend hand me the dumbells. “Looks like a pretty good rotator cuff movement” he commented as I laid there stabilizing the dumbells with my elbows on the floor. I don’t know if the leg drive had anything to do with it or if it was just the pre-exhaust effect caused by the preceding presses, but the floor presses felt just as heavy as the flat presses. On the third set I suffered from what I like to call “sudden failure syndrome” in reference to failure that seems to come right out of the blue (usually caused by bad groove, heavy fatigue, no mental drive, or the occurrence of something funny in the middle of the set… what’s this smell?).

Chose to mimic the bench grip on the seated cable rows. Wide grips on rows always makes me feel weak compared to close grips, but all the more reason to do them. Had some trouble with the grip in the last two sets, which explains the drop in reps on the last sets.

The dumbell presses hit the delts and triceps quite hard, which showed up in the form of quite meager results in the side delt flyes and tate press (on which I had to drop the weight from the 16 kg/35 pounds I had last workout on the second set).

ME Bench 4 June 2003

Dumbell press: 7,5,5 @ 30 kg/66 pounds
Dumbell Floor Press: 5,5,2 @ 30 kg/66 pounds
Seated Cable Rows, wide-grip: 10,10,9,5 @ 90 kg/199 pounds
One-handed Cable Side Delt Flyes: 15,12 @ 15 kg/33 pounds
Tate Press, steep incline:
1x4 @ 16 kg/35 pounds
1x5 @ 14 kg/31 pounds

Total training time: 50 min

June 6, 2003

St. Anger does Romania

Filed under: Workouts, Music

Metallica’s long-awaited studio album St. Anger was released yesterday. After reading this raving preview, it was only natural that I would buy the album before heading to the gym. I have to agree with the review; this is definitively a lot different from what they have produced earlier. Pretty rough stuff, albeit somewhat messy after a first listening. Sitting here and blogging to a third listening I can say that it is indeed growing on me. How far it will go on my personal chart remains to be seen, but yes, it is pretty good lifting music if you like the metal genre (a good rule of thumb: metal attracts metal). Seeing Ulrich bang the drums like crazy on the bonus DVD makes me wonder what kind of GPP he does.

This workout was fairly typical, if I’m permitted to use that term after only four DE Squat/Deadlift workouts. Added 15 kg/33 pounds to the bar on Romanian deadlifts for a hard 3x5 at 115 kg/254 pounds. It was a close call but my grip prevailed. My lats, and erectors to a slighter degree, were very sore from last workout’s wide-grip seated rows, which made the deads a little more challenging. After putting my abs on fire with ball crunches I did not manage to crank out a full 3x10 on the hanging leg raises landing two reps short on the last set.

DE Squat/Deadlift, 6 June 2003

Speed Box Squat, 13″: 8x2 @ 65 kg/144 pounds
Romanian Deadlift: 3x5 @ 115 kg/254 pounds
Ball Crunches: 3x20
Hanging Leg Raises: 10,10,8

Total training time: 40 min

June 8, 2003

DE Bench

Filed under: Workouts

Getting on the bench today was somewhat cumbersome as the Romanian deads and ball crunches on Friday left me with very sore hams and abs. Once I got that far the bar was really flying despite some very light chest soreness left from the ME day dumbell presses. I might go up to 50 kg/111 pounds next week if I can keep the speed up. All nine sets took only nine minutes.

90 kg/199 pounds proved to be a little too light for pulldowns to the chest, next week I’ll pile on a little more.

DE Bench, 8 June 2003

Speed Bench; close, medium, wide: 9x3 @ 45 kg/99 pounds
Close-grip Bench: 2x9 @ 65 kg/144 pounds
Wide-grip Pulldowns, front: 4x8 @ 90 kg/199 pounds
Teca Rear-delt Machine: 2x10 @ 55 kg/122 pounds
Seated Cable L-flyes: 2x10 @ 10 kg/22 pounds
Incline Hammer Curls: 3x5 @ 20 kg/44 pounds

Total training time: 45 min

A new article by Dave Tate is out at T-mag titled The Eight Keys, Part I
A complete guide to maximum strength development

June 9, 2003

The joy of Pull throughs

Filed under: Workouts

Not surprisingly, no magic transformation occurred from yesterday; my hamstrings and abs were still making their presence felt. They weren’t precisely killing me, but they were still too sore for an all-out-balls-to-the-walls-maximum-effort day. Decided to go for good mornings, but stop well short of ripping my back in two. Still, I piled on more than last time I did them. On the flip side, I stopped a little short of going parallel with the floor this time, as my hams didn’t feel like taking that deep a nosedive.

Being sore is the perfect rationale for going light, which in turn makes for a good opportunity to try out new movements. Enter pull-throughs. Some wobbliness came to pass when I didn’t keep leaning forward enough to counterbalance the weight. A new favorite I think.

Slashed the reps in half on the ball crunches to flush them a little. Did donkey calf raises after reverse-hypers, but piled on a little too much weight to keep the reps up.

ME Squat/Deadlift, 9 June 2003

Wide-leg Good mornings:
1x5 @ 40 kg/88 pounds
1x5 @ 50 kg/111 pounds
1x5 @ 60 kg/133 pounds
1x3 @ 70 kg/155 pounds
1x3 @ 75 kg/166 pounds
1x2 @ 80 kg/177 pounds
Pull through: Worked up to 2x7 @ 90 kg/199 pounds
Ball Crunch: 3x10
Reverse-hyper: 3x20
Donkey Calf Machine: 10,8,7,6 @ 195 kg/431 pounds

Total training time: 52 min

June 11, 2003

Elbows flaring in the night

Filed under: Workouts

Continued with my dumbell bench program. Got an extra rep on every set up until the second set of the floor presses; as I felt a third set would not have added anything significant I dropped it.

If every workout has a theme this one was all about my left elbow. While struggling to nail a final rep on the floor press, I noticed that it started to drift out to the side while the right one remained in place. On the JM Press the same thing happened. I know from experience that getting the last rep of any form of dumbell presses or one-handed extensions usually boils down to whether the left one can manage. I’m not sure if anything like this happens when benching, but I will have my ME Bench session next Wednesday videotaped so I can have a closer look. Besides, I have more issues to correct than just my elbows and slow motion playback doesn’t lie.

ME Bench, 11 July 2003

Dumbell Press: 8,6,6 @ 30 kg/66 pounds
Dumbell Floor Press: 6,4 @ 30 kg/66 pounds
Kraftwerk One-handed Rows: 4x10 @ 110 kg/243 pounds
One-handed Cable Side Delt Flyes: 2x15 @ 15 kg/33 pounds
JM Press: 8,6 @ 40 kg/88 pounds

Total training time: 53 min

June 13, 2003

Max deadlifts at the horizon

Filed under: Workouts

Decided to go easy on the supplementary hamstring exercise to have my hams and erectors in good order for a heavy good morning session on Monday. After next week’s ME workouts I will take a full week off to give my body some extra rest and recharge my batteries for a new cycle. Since I plan to go for a deadlift max during the next cycle I reverted back to speed deadlifts. Ball crunches for 3x25; once I get to 3x30 I will start to add extra resistance.

DE Squat/Deadlift, 13 June 2003

Speed Box Squat: 8x2 @ 65 kg/144 pounds
Speed Deadlift: 6x1 @ 110 kg/243 pounds
Ball Crunches: 3x25
Incline Board Leg Raises: 3x8

Total training time: 48 min

Link department

Home made Reverse Hyper bench for power rack: The title says it all. Haven’t tried it, but a modified non-rack version would undoubtedly be a good addition to Toffe’s gym.

June 15, 2003

Just another DE Bench day

Filed under: Workouts

Added 5 kg/11 pounds on the speed bench; still flying. Also added 5 kg to the pulldowns as they were really light last workout. Pretty light today too, but only had time for five reps before my grip failed me on the last set. Sounds like a job for Captains of Crush! Next cycle it will be revealed how much I can deadlift without straps.

DE Bench, 15 June 2003

Speed Bench; close, medium, wide: 9x3 @ 50 kg/111 pounds
Pressdowns: 12,12,10 @ 35 kg/77 pounds
Wide-grip pulldowns, front: 8,8,8,5 @ 95 kg/210 pounds
Dynaforce Rear-delt Machine: 2x12 @ 65 kg/144 pounds
Lying L-flyes: 10,8 @ 6 kg/13 pounds
Incline Hammer Curls: 5,5,3 @ 20 kg/44 pounds

June 16, 2003

Longing for a power rack

Filed under: Workouts

This week my hams and erectors were in better shape than last week. Consequently, I did deeper reps and went heavier on the good mornings. A triple at 90 kg/199 pounds was about as much as I dared to do without a power rack. With Gold’s Gym Helsinki reopening in August, it looks like my rack needs will be satisfied in the near future.

Working at another gym than last week, I had to resort to doing pull-throughs with a stack of only 75 kg/165 pounds. The nasty silver lining was that the cable was plastic coated, and those are always stiffer at higher weights; went 15 kg/33 pounds lighter than last week for pretty much the same reps. I can see where the idea of plastic coated wires came from, but the loss of smoothness just doesn’t justify the lower noise levels. Most emphatically not.

Did 3x30 in ball crunches; time to add resistance next cycle. Ditto for the reverse-hypers as soon as I hit 3x30.

ME Squat/Deadlift, 16 June 2003

Good Morning:
5 @ 40 kg/88 pounds
5 @ 50 kg/111 pounds
5 @ 60 kg/133 pounds
3 @ 70 kg/155 pounds
3 @ 75 kg/166 pounds
3 @ 80 kg/177 pounds
3 @ 85 kg/188 pounds
3 @ 90 kg/199 pounds

Pull-through: worked up to 3x8 @ 75 kg/166 pounds
Ball crunches: 3x30
Reverse-hypers: 3x25
Seated Calf Raises: 4x5 @ 100 kg/221 pounds

Total training time: 62 min

More reading material

Forgot to mention this earlier. The Eight Keys, Part II: A complete guide to maximum strength development by Dave Tate is out at T-mag. A really nice up-to-date introduction to the strength aspect of the Westside protocol. With as much authority as I can muster, I hereby declare it required reading.

June 18, 2003

Going off for a break with a new Bench PR

Filed under: Workouts

To get a closer look at what my left elbow is up to and my technique I had this workout videotaped. Something is definitively working as I did 10 kg/22 pounds more on the bench today compared to last time I went for a single a month ago.

I don’t know if I’m imagining things, but the benches felt a lot more explosive this time around. I worked up to a fairly easy 85 kg/188 pounds; it slowed down significantly nearing the lockout, but it was never a struggle. Still, after adding two tiny 1.25 kg/3 pound plates it did not go much anywhere anymore. Pretty much the same experience as last time that is. I have a feeling I might have nailed the 87.5 kg/193 pounds had I skipped the 85 kg/188 pound set, but that is just speculation. Some of the improvement probably stems from somewhat improved technique. How nasty my benching technique actually is will become clear as soon as I get my hands on a VCR player (we used an old analog recorder).

And now… a full week of well-deserved rest. Especially my hamstrings will be thankful. Contrary to what I expected, it is the hamstrings, not the erectors, which are having the most trouble recuperating between workouts.

ME Bench, 18 June 2003

3 @ 40 kg/88 pounds
3 @ 50 kg/111 pounds
3 @ 60 kg/133 pounds
1 @ 65 kg/144 pounds
1 @ 70 kg/155 pounds
1 @ 80 kg/177 pounds
1 @ 85 kg/188 pounds
0 @ 87.5 kg/193 pounds

Close-grip Bench: 6,5 @ 70 kg/155 pounds
Lying Dumbell Rows:
5 @ 35 kg/77 pounds
2x7 @ 32.5 kg/72 pounds
Standing Side Delt Flyes: 12,10 @ 15 kg/33 pounds
Pressdowns: 7 @ 40 kg/88 pounds

Total training time: 60 min

June 24, 2003

Vacation reading

Filed under: General

The third installment in the eight keys series by Tate is out. A really good look at the speed component of the Westside system that also contains some solid information on exercise rotation and overcoming weak points.

From what I gather, Tate recommends doing speed deadlifts for 5-8 sets x 1 rep @ 50% of max as a standard movement after speed box squats on DE Squat/Deadlift day. This is in contrast with the occasional 4-6 sets x 1 rep @ 60-75% load Selkäinaho mentions in his Westside manual. I rechecked the manual to make sure that he indeed refers to speed deads (pp 40). Speed is naturally the decisive factor for how heavy one should go, and as Tate points out the percentages should only be taken as starting points, so this difference in terms is no biggie. Still, I should probably consider lightening the load to get more speed and making the speed deads a standard part of my DE Squat/Dead day. That should also help keep my hams fresh for the ME Squat/Dead day. After I establish a baseline deadlift max at the beginning of the next cycle the percentages should become more meaningful.

My week of rest ends on Friday.

June 26, 2003

ME Bench video statistics

Filed under: General

Had the opportunity to sit down and watch the bench video. After watching every lift several times in slow motion, I must say that it looks better than I expected. Far from perfect, but the major elements seem to be there: arch, fairly tucked elbows (need to look closer at these though) and bar path (goes slightly towards the eyes, but quite straight up and down). No sign of the left elbow flaring in the bench either (unless the close-grips are counted… more on that later).

Watching the tape I got the bright idea of timing all lifts using a stopwatch (well, my Nokia mobile phone). For every lift I timed the whole bench (straight arms via chest to straight arms) and the press phase (chest to straight arms) three times and then calculated the average. The descent was calculated by the simple formula whole bench - press = descent. I didn’t pause the bar on the chest, so this should give a fairly accurate picture.

This experiment seems to confirm that 50 kg/111 pounds is indeed the proper weight for my speed benches. Recall that three reps should be performed within 3-3.5 seconds, which should be about the time needed to complete a true single. The press phase for each rep took 0.35s, 0.44s and 0.57s with the descent taking 0.47s, 0.59s and 0.56s. Calculating everything together gives 2.98s. Naturally there is a slight delay between reps which adds to the time, but then again I lower the bar somewhat faster on speed day. Give or take, this is pretty darn close. The 60% rule seems to hold very nicely in my case: 60% of the 85 kg/188 pounds is 51 kg/113 pounds.

The video also gives me some reason to again reconsider my sticking point and I conclude that it is indeed just slightly above the starting position for the floor press. Looking at the singles, 80 kg/177 pounds was the first set where straining started to become visible (this is also confirmed by the drastic jump in the press time, see table below). With 80 kg/177 pounds the speed decreased significantly when the arms were just above parallel with the floor, with the max 85 kg/188 pounds this is were the press came to a full stop before I powered it to lockout. After I gain more explosiveness off the bottom I expect the sticking point to migrate upwards. Floor presses and board presses seem the ticket.

Below is a break down of all first reps/singles for the workout:

weight press descent rep total
40 kg/88 pounds 0.37 s 0.40 s 0.77 s
50 kg/111 pounds 0.35 s 0.47 s 0.82 s
60 kg/133 pounds 0.62 s 0.57 s 1.19 s
65 kg/144 pounds 0.76 s 0.43 s 1.19 s
70 kg/155 pounds 0.89 s 0.59 s 1.48 s
80 kg/177 pounds 1.86 s 0.59 s 2.45 s
85 kg/188 pounds 3.27 s 0.67 s 3.94 s
87.5 kg/193 pounds - 0.62 s -

Back to the elbow flaring issue. The last rep on the second set of close-grip benches is an extreme example: the bar goes up nicely to roughly the place were the normal bench gets stuck, then starts to glide in over the mid-chest without going much higher at which point the left elbow starts going out, the bar goes a little higher then glides further towards the head and then to full lockout with almost maximum left elbow flare. Will have to figure out how to correct this; it seems to occur whenever I get very close to failure with pressing/extension movements where the elbows are tucked in.

June 27, 2003

Shrinking box?

Filed under: Workouts

First workout after my rest week. Went fairly well, except that the box felt lower than normal. I might have rigged it differently this time around (plates under a stepboard is the current setup), or then I was just very sluggish and slow today. Ah well, good work all the same.

Started doing speed deads with lighter weights according to plan. Felt really light, almost like I was doing them with no resistance. Next ME SQ/DL day I will go for a single to see where I stand.

DE Squat/Deadlift, 27 June 2003

Speed box squat, 13″ (lower?): 8x2 @ 65kg/144lb
Speed deadlift: 6x1 @ 70kg/155lb
Ball crunches: 3x15 @ 10kg/22lb
Kneeling cable crunches: 15,15,12 @ 75 kg/166lb

Total training time: 36 min

June 29, 2003

Need to get me some chalk

Filed under: Workouts

Ouch! Last workout produced very sore adductors and biceps (the former might be evidence for the shrinking box theory, the latter stems from holding the rope in kneeling cable crunches). Deadlifting tomorrow with sore legs will be interesting, but since I got offered to get it videotaped it is a golden opportunity to get my form on tape.

The speed bench felt slow today. Perhaps it isn’t such a good idea to take complete weeks off; might try doing some light work on my off weeks to keep the mental and physical groove.

Had to cut the last two sets of pulldowns a little short as my grip couldn’t keep up. I find it hardest to hold on to parallel bars, with V-bars being the easiest. Started thinking about getting some chalk to at least avoid the extra sweat which surely doesn’t help. Ordered a couple of Captains of Crush grippers from ironmind.com last week which should help.

DE Bench, 29 June 2003

Speed Bench; close, medium, wide: 9x3 @ 50kg/111lb
Pressdowns: 10,9,9 @ 40kg/88lb
Pulldowns, parallel grip: 9,9,8,7 @ 95kg/210lb
Incline cable rear delt flyes: 11,9 @ 20kg/44lb
Seated upright L-flyes (elbow on bench): 2x10 @ 10kg/22lb
Lying cable curls: 3x7 @ 70kg/155lb

Total training time: 53 min

June 30, 2003

Deadlift max with sore hams - fun for the whole family!

Filed under: Workouts

My adductors were still killing me to the point were it didn’t feel very comfortable to squat down. My lower back felt great though, and since there was a video camera available I decided to go for a max deadlift anyway to establish a baseline (first attempt on Westside). The last lift stopped at 130 kg/287 lbs, which also coincided with my grip limit. I could have locked it out easily, but left it a few centimeters short as I preferred to put it down instead of dropping it (no, I don’t mind dropping bars, but this floor couldn’t have taken it very graciously). As usual, it was the left hand that went. Interesting how little the weight difference is to tip the scale: 120 kg/265 lbs was easy to hold on to, but 130 kg/287 lbs not. 140 kg/309 lbs got off the ground easily enough, but as it felt like I wouldn’t be able to lift it without rounding my back severely I let it go (don’t think it would have come anyway, and my back is too valuable to mess around with).

As for form, I will get back to that as soon as I’ve seen the tape. I can tell you this though: the red skin marks on the shins/quads that usually appear after deadlifting were absent. Think I pretty much tested my stiff-leg maximum off the floor.

Rounded off with partial deads off two benches, i.e. just under knee-height. 130 kg/287 lbs was a lot less than I expected, but then I was pretty fried after the deads. Capped off with the normal stuff. As the video camera slowed everything down I shaved off some sets to keep it roughly within 60 minutes.

ME Squat/Deadlift, 30 June 2003

5 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
3 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
3 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
3 @ 100 kg/221 lbs
1 @ 110 kg/243 lbs
1 @ 120 kg/265 lbs
1 @ 130 kg/287 lbs
0 @ 140 kg/309 lbs

Partial Deadlift (from bench):
5 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
2 @ 130 kg/287 lbs

Ball crunches: 2x20 @ 10 kg/22 lbs
Reverse-hypers: 1x30

Total training time: 65 min