2004 archives

January 4, 2004

Time for some contemplation

Filed under: General, Rehab

Being in the midst of a pre-party hurricane when posting the previous entry, I neglected to mention that my left bicep tendon seems to be a little overstressed. I felt it a little doing curls on Sunday, but it really announced its presence to my nervous system after I finished the benches on Wednesday. Hence the shorter workout.

The sore point, located on the inner arm about two-thirds up towards the deltoid, feels knotty and jumpy. It could also be a local muscle spasm or something, I’m not the massage therapist in this family (she is currently on a few-day retreat so can’t get her diagnosis yet). No matter what it is, rest and massage is the ticket unless I insist on adding an arm injury to my lower back ligament sprain. I don’t think I do.

I seem to tolerate the standard four day/week Westside split fairly well, as long as I take some time off now and then to prevent my body from getting cranky or falling asunder …which is fine given that my records keep a climbin’. That being said, I have been thinking about changing things a little lately after having followed the same training routine without major modification since May. This might be the perfect time to try out a modified three day rotating Westside split proposed by Jim Wendler in the QA section of elitefts.com. It goes like this:

        Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Week I  ME SQ/DL         ME Bench         DE SQ/DL                
Week II  DE Bench         ME SQ/DL         ME Bench                
Week III  DE SQ/DL         DE Bench         ME SQ/DL                
Week IV  ME Bench         DE SQ/DL         DE Bench                

Besides providing some needed variation, this split could be good for easing into the DE Squat day again since it would allow my lower back more rest. I am also playing with the idea of gradually increasing the intensity of assistance work up to Westside standards by dropping the rest between sets to 15-30 seconds. I would be the first to acknowledge that I don’t get all that much work done during 60 minutes. In short, my plan is to gradually increase the intensity of workouts while increasing the rest time between them. Not a very novel concept, but hopefully it is all the more time proven.

The battle plan is this: take a rest week (haven’t done so since the end of September) and work out a new training routine based on this rotating split in the meantime. Depending on how my back feels, I will either be back in the gym on Friday doing a long-time-no-see DE Squat workout (in case of which I will start the split at the end of Week I) or the following Monday.

I remind thee honorably reader that there is still time to join the guessing competition about how much I will bench by June 2nd. Unless there are more participants, the Amazon.com gift certificate will automatically go to the Lone Ranger who voted for 117.5 kg/260 lbs. The rules are here, the polling booth here. Nostradamus?

January 10, 2004

Dismembering the Christmas tree

Filed under: General

It’s that time of the year again when the Christmas tree needs to be disposed of. Instead of making a mess in the parking lot by throwing it down our balcony on the third floor, I pulled out the saw and massacred the tree. I then disposed the dismembered branches in the huge plastic bag my new chair came in. Good Lord! What did I do to our cozy friendly Christmas tree?! Ooops. Think its time to get off this training break before I break the spine of my favorite Vonnegut novel.

This will happen on Monday, when I will start to train according to the new three-day cycle. My lower back has been doing pretty well lately giving me high hopes of being able to do box squats on DE day again. Am also thinking about supplementing with creatine pyruvate. How else can I bench 132.5 kg/293 lbs come June 2nd? ;-)

Speaking of the bench guessing competition, it will still be open for another 24 hours or so. As long as the thread is not closed you may enter. We now have four entries ranging from a very doable 112.5 kg/249 lbs to a hefty 132.5 kg/293 lbs dream gain (for which I have been promised my very own gift certificate should I make it). Jay, if you are reading this, please send me your e-mail address otherwise I won’t be able to send you the gift certificate if you win.

Cleaned up the archives page a little and added a new category for videotaped workouts to make it easier to find all my videos at once. Now, if I only had my own digital camera I would make more of them since my ME and DE Bench videos have proved to be fairly popular.

January 11, 2004

Drooling over my new routine

Filed under: General

Fanfares please! My new three-week rotating Westside split has been unveiled. Hopefully it works better than it shines. I feel I got good gains with the previous basic Westside routine, but now it is time to up the intensity and jolt the mind with something fresh. The script in the side bar which let’s you know where I am in my training cycle has also been updated. I for one will need it to get my mental bearings since the workout order varies every week. Tomorrow is ME Squat/Dead day, that much I know.

On a more competitive note, the bench guessing competition has now ended. The event has definitively done its duty by giving me a lot to shoot for. If everything goes well I hope to be benching 105-110 kg/232-243 lbs within the next six to eight weeks. I am now going to continue dreaming in bed leaving you to ponder these guesses on what I will bench come June 2nd:

Markus: 132.5 kg/293 lbs
James: 130 kg/287 lbs
Jay: 125 kg/276 lbs
Måns: 117.5 kg/260 lbs
Human: 115 kg/254 lbs
Sanna: 112.5 kg/249 lbs

January 12, 2004

Hey locker, how ya been?

Filed under: Workouts, Rehab

messy lockerEleven days have elapsed since my previous workout. I was happy to find that I had not grown any fungus in my locker during the rest period. After grabbing the standard stuff (wrestling shoes, lock, shampoo, pen and shaker) I changed and headed over to the power rack for some load testing.

Decided Zercher squats would be an excellent candidate to carefully poke the ligaments with since not so much weight can be moved cradling the bar in the arms. If something would not feel right, it would also be easier to eject compared to having the bar over the shoulders. Besides, the movement is also excellent for learning correct squat technique (sitting back with shins vertical and driving the head back on ascent) when done wide and deep (like I did). For those of you not familiar with this great movement, that not only targets the legs and erectors but also tax the abs heavily, here’s an article in Finnish with excellent pictures (hint “väärin” means wrong) and a video of Finnish Westsider Patteri doing them in a pulling fashion off boxes with 125 kg/276 lbs. Among several variations, the Zercher good morning is also particularly interesting.

After the initial sets with only the bar felt good I carefully pyramided up until a somewhat strenuous triple with 65 kg/144 lbs. I wasn’t quite ready to max out just yet, but this felt good. I must admit it was a teeny weeny bit scary as well, since this was the first load test for my back since the injury on December 2nd. Even though it felt good I still had visions of my back ripping again. I guess this post-injury fright will disappear as I slowly start going back to harder training. Then did two lightish sets of pull-throughs and finished with a light reverse-hyper + ball crunches superset. Did the Zerchers fairly slow, but kept rest down in between sets of the other exercises. My conclusion? Twenty seconds is a fairly short time.

Now I will wait and see how my back feels tomorrow. If it seems to be hanging in there, I might do moderately heavy box squats on DE Squat/Deadlift day on Friday. Nice to be back, even though pulling lockouts with the likes of 190 kg/420 lbs for reps still seems pretty remote.

ME Squat/Deadlift, 12 January 2004

Zercher squat, wide:
8 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
5 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
5 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
3 @ 65 kg/144 lbs

Pull-through, bent legged: 2x12 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
2 supersets:
      Reverse-hyper (off bench): 2x30
      Ball crunch: 2x11 @ 10 kg/22 lbs

Total training time: 24 min

January 14, 2004

Creatine pyruvate and floor presses

Filed under: Workouts

Creatine monohydrate (wikipedia definition) is a supplement that has been around for quite a while now. First discovered in 1835 by French scientist Chevreul, it rose to fame after the 1992 Olympics with 1995 showing a sharp rise in users (a whopping 730% in the US). Befitting its image as a forerunner in sports research, creatine was apparently used in the Eastern Bloc a good ten years earlier.

I distinctly remember the buzz surrounding it in the mid-1990s when it first hit the shelves here in Finland. At first prices were fairly steep, but as the number of users and manufacturers increased prices soon started going down. I think it was in 1996, that my training partner and I jointly bought a 500 gram jar of it. For him it immediately led to more iron on the bar, but I didn’t notice anything. The theory was that a minority of users would see no effects as they already had fully saturated creatine supplies making supplementation useless. With the majority of users reporting everything from good to great gains, this felt like something of a letdown despite the fact that having a naturally fully saturated creatine pool would be a great thing (even more so in the Stone Age).

Nearly a decade later, the efficiency of creatine monohydrate has indeed been clearly demonstrated in a number of studies:

Of the 22 studies reviewed, the average increase in muscle strength (1, 3, or 10 repetition maximum [RM]) following creatine supplementation plus resistance training was 8% greater than the average increase in muscle strength following placebo ingestion during resistance training (20 vs. 12%). Similarly, the average increase in weightlifting performance (maximal repetitions at a given percent of maximal strength) following creatine supplementation plus resistance training was 14% greater than the average increase in weightlifting performance following placebo ingestion during resistance training (26 vs. 12%). The increase in bench press 1RM ranged from 3 to 45%, and the improvement in weightlifting performance in the bench press ranged from 16 to 43%. Thus there is substantial evidence to indicate that creatine supplementation during resistance training is more effective at increasing muscle strength and weightlifting performance than resistance training alone, although the response is highly variable.
Rawson ES, Volek JS.: “Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance”. J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Nov;17(4):822-31.

Those were the days. Now there is a fairly new form of creatine on the market. Creatine pyruvate, a patented molecule, is now being touted as the next generation creatine supplement. Swedish manufacturer Eiselt lists the following benefits (link in Swedish):

  • With a 28% better absorption rate, creatine pyruvate delivers an even bigger increase in strength and explosivity than creatine monohydrate. The effect also lasts longer.
  • Contrary to creatine monohydrate, creatine pyruvate also increases endurance (a one-week study on cyclist by Van Schuylenbergh R, Van Leemputte M and Hespel P, the only published one I could find on creatine pyruvate, did not confirm this at a dosage of 7 grams/day).
  • Contrary to creatine monohydrate, creatine pyruvate provides a direct effect thus making a loading phase at higher dosages unnecessary.
  • A fat burning effect thanks to the pyruvate component.

With a sale on Eiselt’s Kreatinpyruvat at the gym (35 euro), I decided to give it a go despite my less than glorious experience with creatine monohydrate. Beginning today, I will be taking a 5 gram dose with some maltodextrin one hour prior to the workout as recommended by the manufacturer. With 30 servings in the pack, this should last me some 10 weeks.

Good thing I like sour things, as the powder proved to be quite acidic. Some 20-30 minutes after taking the supplement I started feeling a noticeable kick quite similar to that produced by caffeine. Although this is not mentioned on the Eiselt website, another guy at the gym had noted the same reaction so it wasn’t just in my head (perhaps in two heads then…?). If nothing else, I now have a decent pre-workout energizer. It is going to be interesting to see if this effect disappears with regular use or not.

Today was the first ME Bench day on my new routine and floor presses were first on the menu. Seven sets later I had a new PR at 100 kg/221 lbs, a 2.5 kg/5.5 lbs increase over my previous max. Ok, so no huge jump in weights but let’s give it some time. It was also hard to say whether I had more staying power or not as the faster pace of my new routine leaves me with very little to compare to. It was a lot of huffing and puffing.

As planned I only did between 2-3 sets on all accessory movements, which was plenty given that my previous routine gave me ample of rest between sets. Basically, I took all the rest I wanted on the floor press and then changed gear for everything else. Supersetting seated curls with tate presses turned out to be a winner as I can handle about the same amount of weight on both. First I cranked out curls sitting the edge of a bench, and then without rest I laid down for the tates. Grrrrrreat stuff! The decent arm pump that followed made me feel like a bodybuilder all over again.

ME Bench, 14 January 2004

Floor press, wide-grip:
10 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
5 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
3 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
1 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
1 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
1 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
1 @ 100 kg/221 lbs
0 @ 102.5 kg/227 lbs

Pulldowns, wide-grip: 3x6 @ 105 kg/232 lbs
Stability ball dumbell bench: 2x5 @ 32 kg/71 lbs
2 supersets:
      Seated hammer curl: 2x6 @ 18 kg/40 lbs
      Lying Tate press: 2x6 @ 18 kg/40 lbs

Total training time: 50 min

January 16, 2004

Back on the box

Filed under: Workouts

Given that this was my first DE Squat/Deadlift day since 14 November it was a good one. I still had decent speed off the box with 70 kg/155 lbs, but think it would be wisest to remain at this level (or drop the weight back a little even) for the next few weeks to get some of the lost explosivity back. What matters most is that my lower back seems to handle the return of DE Squat/Deadlift day.

Vaguely recalling the definition of the word ’sense’, I kept the weights on the conservative side on the twisting ab machine as this was my first go at any twisting movements since the injury. No problems here either it seems.

A fast workout overall. Kept 45 seconds rest between the box squat sets and 20 seconds between sets of all subsequent exercises. Pretty easy stuff, not much huffing and puffing today.

DE Squat/Deadlift, 16 January 2004

Speed box squat, 13″: 8x2 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
Twisting ab machine: 3x10 @ 35 kg/77 lbs
Donkey calf machine: 3x10 @ 155 kg/343 lbs
Dumbell shrug: 2x12 @ 42 kg/93 lbs

Total training time: 25 min

January 19, 2004

Nine years of good mornings

Filed under: General

While waiting for a plump chicken and her greasy french fries companions to tuck in for training, I found this link describing 360 variations of the good morning achieved by manipulating type with back position (rounded/arched), knee position (straight/bent), stance width, bar used and contrast methods (chains, bands, weight releasers). I think they missed one category: hat/hatless. Also, I am wondering whether one should max out on all of these… which would take on the order of nine years given a ME SQ/DL training day every week of the year with 70% of those being GM’s (as recommended by the default Westside template). I bet you would see phenomenal increases between max attempts for the same exercise.

Get serious now boy. Speed bench + heavy extensions in a bit.

More bright ideas

Filed under: Workouts, Rehab

It’s been a while since I did one of those zombie workouts after little or no sleep. Today was such a day. Began my spring term teaching at the University of Helsinki today with a course in English on Tibetan history. As usual making pdfs of supplementary readings, maps etc. demanded the whole night save for one tiny hour of sleep between 10am and 11am. No wonder then that speed benching went so-so, and I had real trouble getting my upper back pushed into the bench on rack lockouts.

Somehow I got the bright idea to do cable rows with sub-max weights to see how the you-know-what would handle it. It is hard to describe how it felt, but I could tell my lower back was not quite ready for these yet. Movements which allow me to maintain a back arch work quite well now, but these round back thingies are still out of the question (I like to streeeetch on these).

First go at the delt supersets. Did front raises, side raises and power cleans back to back sitting on the edge of a bench, which worked well except that I could not muster any clean reps on the cleans (uncleans?). Next time I’ll switch the order around which should work better (weakest muscles first, strongest last).

Before black-out I still need to write my lecture for the Chinese intermediate course I’m teaching every Tuesday. Pretty ok schedule compared to last spring term when I lectured three days in a row. Oh yes, almost forgot. Just placed a pick-up order on a digital camera (Canon Powershot A80); perhaps I will do some Zercher squats on Wednesday and tape them. Until then, train hard!

DE Bench, 20 January 2004

Speed bench; narrow, medium, wide: 9x3 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
Close-grip Rack lockouts, 4th pin:
5 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
3 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
1 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
1 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
0 @ 102.5 kg/227 lbs
0 @ 100 kg/221 lbs (dropping like this never works, so why did I do it?)

Seated cable rows, close-grip: 2x5 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
2 supersets:
      Seated front raise: 2x6 @ 12 kg/27 lbs
      Seated side raise: 2x6 @ 12 kg/27 lbs
      Seated dumbell power clean: 4 @ 12 kg/27 lbs, 3 @ 10 kg/22 lbs

Total training time: 26 min

January 21, 2004

Zercher video

Filed under: Workouts

zercher squatWe got our digital camera, so here is the video of today’s zercher squats as nearly promised. The first set looks pretty good to me (legs and upper body pushing together), but the forward lean in the subsequent sets doesn’t (leg push to good morning). I’m not quite sure whether I simply did not push back hard enough or whether I was lazy and just kind of let everything drift forward before getting upright. I do need stronger erectors, there is no denying that. With my back not complaining of today’s treatment, it does indeed seem like I am back on the erector forging path again.

Well, at least my shins seem to remain fairly vertical throughout the sets and the reps were deep.

ME Squat/Deadlift, 21 January 2004

Zercher squat:
2x4 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
3 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
3 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
1 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
1 @ 75 kg/166 lbs
3 @ 70 kg/155 lbs

Pull-through, bent legged: 3x12 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
2 supersets:
      Reverse-hyper (off bench): 2x30
      Ball crunch: 2x6 @ 15 kg/33 lbs

Total training time: 46 min

January 23, 2004

Close-grip floor press video

Filed under: Workouts

close-grip floor pressStill slightly sore pecs today, plus the Wednesday Zercher squats left me with some upper back soreness. Nothing major on either count, but decided to do a tricepcentric workout with close-grip floor presses and without the second bench exercise. Besides, next week it is the ME Bench workout’s turn to be skipped (week 3). For once I remembered to take the yucky tasting creatine pyruvate (the only thing I won’t mix with water is pure egg protein, sheesh!) with some maltodextrin an hour before the workout.

Last week I did 100 kg/221 lbs with a wide grip and that was what I ended up with today as well when I maxed out with a close grip for the first time. The video is here (6.7 MB), which also includes my new favorite hammer curl/tate press superset.

Edit: Although I have no recollection of this happening, it seems like the bar hits the rack on the final attempt with 102.5 kg/227 lbs. Next time I will do the sensible thing and press with the rack behind me.

ME Bench, 23 January 2004

Floor press, close-grip:
5 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
3 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
3 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
1 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
1 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
1 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
1 @ 95 kg/210 lbs
1 @ 100 kg/221 lbs
0 @ 102.5 kg/227 lbs

Pulldown, wide-grip: 3x7 @ 105 kg/232 lbs
2 supersets:
      Seated hammer curl: 2x7 @ 18 kg/40 lbs
      Lying Tate press: 2x7 @ 18 kg/40 lbs

Total training time: 52 min

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