September 2004 archives

September 1, 2004

Forever chasing

Filed under: General

Just found Marie Rochat’s blog Forever chasing. This one reads like good fiction, only it isn’t. On May 11, while going through a heavy bodybuilding workout, she is converted to powerlifting by a couple who notices her good build for deadlifts. She learns the intricacies of the lift and begins to train for the WABDL Bench Press and Dead Lift Championships on August 11-12. Incredibly enough, Marie ends up breaking the Oregon state record in the Teen women 16-19 148 lbs/67 kg class with a hefty 319.5 lbs/145 kg deadlift thus qualifying for the WABDL World Championships in November. Forever chasing is not just about training, but I consider that a bonus. A refreshing read indeed and apparently there is more to come.

September 2, 2004

Make that Barz-a-Bending

Filed under: General

I’m both flattered and happy to see Marie’s decision to create a new blog especially dedicated to her powerlifting adventures. Barz-a-Bending is sure to become part of my daily reading fodder. Exciting it is!

September 4, 2004

Theracaning myself

Filed under: Rehab

famed caneStarted poking around in the adductor area with Sanna’s Thera cane on Friday as the inner thigh pain did not diminish at all, even with copious amounts of muscle relaxants and pain killers. Found two v-e-r-y tender spots close to the groin in what must be the adductor longus and adductor brevis. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook confirms that adductor longus trigger points tend to make the inner thigh feel drawn up causing restricted movement in all directions. The book also warns that local trigger points form easily when these muscles are overstretched, such as when taking inordinately long steps.

My amateur conjecture is that my tender spots developed on Monday as a result of walking around for most of the day in an unnatural walking style caused by the cramp in my lower back. This seems consistent with the fact that the pain developed gradually towards the end of the day. Aggressive trigger point massage of these areas do seem to help and standing now causes much less agony.

There is also a spot about two-thirds up on the lower leg (outer side of gastrocnemius) that is nagging me. Cane cane cane, cane away the pain… hope it works. I have no idea what will happen, but my mantra remains “Mobile by Monday”. To that end, I’ve also begun doing light static stretching.

Under the bar conceptified

Filed under: General

A number of new articles have again been posted at I found Jim Wendler’s Teaching the Squat to be an especially valuable article, squat challenged as I am. He breaks the squat down step-by-step in a clear and unambiguous way; a must read. I’ve talked about learning how to correctly spread the legs before and this quest is much aided by this article.

When you are about half way down, begin pushing your knees out and opening up your groin. [..] Now the weight will be shifted to your heels and the sides of your feet. [..] For many people, once they sit back into the squat and open the hips, at this point they can simply squat down. Once your body is in perfect position, opening the hips will allow them to hit parallel without pushing back.

A couple of weeks ago Dave Tate published an article named Under the Bar that talked about how some of the values learned in the gym, such as integrity and a willingness to help others, can carry through to everyday life. This month it is about attitude. It is going to be interesting to see whether these articles will overtake the number one slot in Google from this humble blog. Here’s some google juice to get them started. ;-)

September 6, 2004


Filed under: Workouts, Rehab

Left the lair behind and survived a day at work. Apparently all the theracaning and light stretching is bearing fruit. Yesterday Sanna gave me a thorough calf massage; turned out the whole calf is more or less a single pain zone. That seems to be the last hurdle before I can walk without a limp again… Think I will hit the gym on Wednesday. Stupendous.

September 8, 2004

A workout for gentlemen

Filed under: Workouts, Rehab

First workout after my recent bout of lumbago. It was a moderate cocktail of easy rehab moves framed against a very contemplative background. I could tell my back was not quite over it yet, but overall things look A LOT brighter than in Lumbago Episode I. With the hams and calves feeling like they are still on the verge of disintegrating, I stopped my attempt at pushing some blood in there after a set on the Hamflexor standing one-legged curl with nearly no weight felt ridiculously heavy. Finished with some light stretching, but despite being warm all over I still could not convince my inner thighs to allow a full banana extension.

In between my sets of reverse hypers, I also bumped into the osteopath who mobilized my back in March. He asked me how my back had been. Deviously enough, he asked me because his trained eyes had spotted the problem as it entered the gym. Or perhaps he had just noted the limping left leg with the tired post-party eyes he off his lofty treadmill confessed having.

Dr. Lumbago workout, 8 September 2004

Muscle activation, lat pulley: 2x25 reps each of facing, right and left @ 20 kg/44 lbs
Hamflexor standing one-legged leg curl: 10 @ 30 lbs/14 kg [rolling eyes]
Upper body cable turn: 2x30 @ 25 kg/55 lbs
Standing cable crunch, lat pulley: 20 @ 20 kg/44 lbs, 15 @ 30 kg/66 lbs
Reverse-hyper, done off hyper bench: 3x30
Walkouts: 10

Total training time: 25 minutes or so

September 10, 2004

The rebound

Filed under: Workouts

nothing is black and whiteAfter a few skipped beats, I am back on Blakley despite some warm words for Korte’s 3x3 system. So far I’ve been mighty pleased with the progress, so I see no reason to abandon ship. The only thing I’m abandoning now is the Bradford press as my mushy back can’t take it nor swallow it. While at it, I’m also dismissing the JM press. It’s a pity because neither movement jammed quite yet.

Even the first new accessory movement, close-grip floor presses, proved to be a borderline case (VIDEO 1.9MB). I was happy I got to keep my legs bent as lying flat on the back is still somewhat painful; guess who has to lie on the side with tucked legs for a while before he can roll over to the back every night? It was four cautious sets, and even did much of the last two sets with my feet in the air to deload the back a little more. I love floor presses, especially when the spotter arms adjust to a perfect height.

Triceps extensions with a straight bar is my second new accessory movement. It took me a while to find a good setup that allowed easy unracking and feet up. 40 kg/88 lbs felt ridiculously easy, but Sudden Failure Syndrome (SFS) appeared when least expected on the last reps. Nobody expects the Sudden Failure Syndrome.

Not wanting to overstretch my luck, I was content with a very brief finish. Did very light pulldowns with feet resting on top of the leg pads instead of under them to lessen strain, a set of lying L-flyes and a set of seated dumbell curls. I don’t know if it is the angle of the upper pulley or the thick rubber cable, but this lat pulldown at school is probably the best one I’ve ever tried judging by the amazing lat pump. Bodybuilder, bodybuilder… gah.

Blakley accessory day, 10 September 2004

Floor press, close-grip: 6,6,5,4 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
Triceps extensions, behind head: 6,5,5,5 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
Pulldown, close-grip: 2x12 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
Lying L-flye: 14 @ 6 kg/13 lbs
Seated dumbell curl: 14 @ 16 kg/35 lbs

Total training+adjustment time: 50 min

September 12, 2004

Everything but an odyssey

Filed under: Workouts, Music

The only exciting thing about this workout was the music. Die Krupps’s powerful Odyssey of the mind album stood in stark contrast with my light pumping efforts. Capped off with some 20 minutes of self-administered calf massage and stretching.

Rehab, 12 September 2004

Muscle activation, lat pulley: 2x25 reps each of facing, right and left @ 20 kg/44 lbs
Upper body cable turn: 2x30 @ 30 kg/66 lbs
Standing cable crunch, lat pulley:
      10 @ 20 kg/44 lbs
      15 @ 30 kg/66 lbs
      12 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
Reverse-hyper, done off hyper bench: 3x40

Total training time: 25 min

September 13, 2004

The vengeance

Filed under: Workouts

I have a sore throat and am feeling like I might just come down with something else too. The triceps were also a sore reminder of the Friday action, but still headed for the gym. Blakley bench day.

I had to slide my legs down on the floor ever so slowly, but they got there with some discomfort and I got my small arch. Given the adverse circumstances, I expected the heavy singles to crash somewhere in between too much and sluggish. 90 kg/199 lbs was a piece of cake and a walk in the park. Not only that, but I went far beyond just regaining my lost rep by finally nailing 4x6 @ 77.5 kg/ 171 lbs. Next week I get to bench with two big yellow plates a side, which is perversely gratifying. Am also wondering whether I should go ahead and increase the singles to 92.5 kg/204 lbs.

After the long-awaited joy of grip work, there was yet another seasoned lifter who couldn’t resist coming over to try the Rolling Thunder. He declared the 40 kg/88 lbs I had on it after my holds a piece and a walk. After I told him nobody had even locked out 60 kg/133 lbs in our gym yet, he asked me to prepare 65 kg/144 lbs. “I have long fingers”. No matter how he tried, it remained glued to the ground. After he managed to lock out 55 kg/122 lbs with the left, but not with the right, he was shaking his head like all his predecessors to whom I’ve uttered my favorite “how much do you think you’d pull with this handle?”. My conclusion is strengthened:

[T]he average lifter without thick bar training experience will probably fail at around the 55 kg/122 lbs mark give or take 5 kg/11 lbs.

To this I add that the average lifter will dramatically overestimate his/her ability with this handle unless they’ve heard about it somewhere first. That’s why they also tend to forgo the warm-up… Rest assured this wonderful tool remains unknown to the vast majority of lifters out there. That’s what makes showing them the RT great fun. Hey, who’s next?

Blakley bench day, 13 September 2004

Bench pattern warm-up:
      12 @ 20 kg/44 lbs
      6 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
      6 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
      4 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
      3 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
      2 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
Heavy bench singles, paused: 2x1 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
Bench, paused: 6,6,6,6 @ 77.5 kg/171 lbs
Kraftwerk one-handed row: 4x10 @ 110 kg/243 lbs
Plate curl: 8,6,6 @ pinch gripping 5 kg/11 lbs, 2.5 kg/6 lbs and 1.25 kg/3 lbs plate
Rolling Thunder:
      5 @ 20 kg/44 lbs
      5 @ 30 kg/66 lbs
      3 (right), 2 (left) @ 40 kg/88 lbs
      1½ (right), 0 (left) @ 45 kg/99 lbs
Captains of Crush gripper: 2x8 @ I
Captains of Crush holds pinching 1.25 kg/3 lbs plate @ Trainer
Rolling Thunder holds: 4 sets @ 40 kg/88 lbs
Captains of Crush holds pinching 1.25 kg/3 lbs plate @ I

Total training time: 80 min

September 16, 2004


Filed under: General

electric relaxationNow that the beginning of the school year feels like old news, the academic year is about to kick into full gear and I’m back lecturing at the University of Helsinki. I’ve taught this particular course, Contemporary Chinese History, two years ago, but somehow the usual work in combination with lecture polishing drove me to skip Wednesday rehab and going light on sleep. The scheme now is to heat up the sauna to a nice 90°C/194°F or so and lay back with a nicely chilled bottle of Finnish Bear beer. Then some stretching and self-administered trigger point massage before tucking in for a nice long sleep in preparation for tomorrow’s floor pressing. Now, do I prepare the exam I’m giving tomorrow before or after this?

September 17, 2004

Moving in

Filed under: Workouts

stirred not shakenThere is a shelf in the teachers’s room that is brimming with skimmed milk powder, rolled oats, egg noodles, Japanese soy sauce, lemon juice and several kinds of tuna. Not only did I grow mighty tired of always going hungry when sitting at school in the afternoon correcting homework, but I also decided it was time I made something about having to go to the nearest gas station to get some quick and greasy protein every time I train at the school gym. Now I’ve got my own box in the gym with protein powder, corn maltodextrin and a shaker. I’ve made myself at home save for the chalk.

Had some microwaved milk based oat porridge pre-workout. For once, I wasn’t doing my floor presses to the tune of my stomach (much preferred Swedish melodic death metal band Dark Tranquillity’s Of chaos and eternal light album). It was a pinch, but I got the required 4x6 on both the floor press and the barbell triceps extensions. My thigh is still an issue, but much less so than last week. In fact, I had no major problems with going heavier on the pulldown, but I could feel it when I started straining on the seated dumbell curls (!). Good workout and nice to get a postworkout shake for once.

Blakley accessory day, 17 September 2004

Floor press, close-grip: 6,6,6,6 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
Triceps extensions, behind head: 6,6,6,6 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
Pulldown, close-grip: 4x8 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
Lying L-flye: 8,6 @ 7 kg/15 lbs
Seated dumbell curl: 8,6 @ 18.5 kg/41 lbs
Plate pinch gripping: 4 sets with two 10 kg/22 lbs plates

Total training: 63 min

September 20, 2004

Beacon of light

Filed under: Workouts

Fully recovered muscles and enough time on the pillow topped with a bottle of Adrenalyn Stack provided a good base for today’s Blakley bench workout. On the flip side, the left calf is still sending pain my way when I lay down on the bench with feet on the floor. I always teach standing/walking and the extra 2½ hours on Thursday did cause pain to surge. Based on feedback from Sanna and her books on sports massage, this sounds like an anterolateral shin splint caused by extensive walking in an unnatural posture with lumbago. Since I spend a sizable part of the day walking (to find out just how much, I’ve borrowed a trendy pedometer), getting rid of the irritation is not too easy. Sanna has vowed to give me a daily rub to loosen the fascia and I’ve started to apply a piroxicam based anti-inflammatory gel several times daily. This is ridiculous. Am seriously considering renaming this blog to Limping under the bar, but ain’t giving up.

Despite the discomfort, this was another great workout. I increased the heavy singles to 92.5 kg/204 lbs and was only two reps short of nailing 4x6 on my first go at repping with 80 kg/177 lbs. I only had time for some back work before calling it a day and contently limping towards new adventures.

Blakley bench day, 20 September 2004

Bench pattern warm-up:
8 @ 20 kg/44 lbs
6 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
5 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
3 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
3 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
1 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
Heavy bench singles, paused: 2x1 @ 92.5 kg/205 lbs
Bench, paused: 6,6,5,5 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
Kraftwerk one-handed row: 3x10 @ 120 kg/265 lbs

Total training time: 42 min

September 22, 2004

Exploding green birthday stomach

Filed under: Workouts

sushi me now!29. I’m turning into an old fart quick, but at least I am getting somewhat stronger in the process. Today was also the autumnal equinox. Darkness will soon embrace us.

The workout itself was but a sweaty prelude to the real deal: birthday dinner at Kabuki courtesy of my lovely fiancée. It turned into a massive protein overload as I ate my way through a pile of sushi with plenty of wasabi, miso soup, vegetables, rice, yakiniku and wanna-be Japanese fried bananas. Raw fish is the good life. I would surely become twice as strong within two months if I popped ten rolls of sushi postworkout instead of that lousy whey protein-maltodextrin shake. I need to fit a small fridge into my locker without further delay. There are also some electrical issues to sort out and hurdles in my supply chain of fresh tuna to overcome.

Rehab, 22 September 2004

Muscle activation, lat pulley: 2x30 reps each of facing, right and left @ 20 kg/44 lbs
Upper body cable turn:
          1x30 @ 30 kg/66 lbs
          3x30 @ 35 kg/77 lbs
Lower cable twist:
          20 @ 20 kg/44 lbs
          20 @ 25 kg/55 lbs
          15 @ 30 kg/66 lbs
Kneeling Cable Crunch: 3x12 @ 90 kg/199 lbs

Total training time: 40 min

September 24, 2004

Sinking into the floor: a case for barbell therapy?

Filed under: Workouts

I went to bed before 22pm yesterday to be in top shape for the floor pressing. About an hour later I was cleaving the night in a taxi bound for the hospital as Sanna had developed a nasty stomach pain that seemed to only grow worse. The short of it is that a splitting headache and lack of concentration sunk today’s workout. As I returned to hospital after work, Sanna was diagnosed with appendicitis (not related to the birthday binge). After midnight there was one appendix less in this family. Sometimes you couldn’t care less about a bad workout, and that is a good thing.

Ironically, yesterday I read an article in MILO by Fred Hutchinson entitled Training When You Just Can’t Concentrate where he outlines his strategy for training when life hits you smack in the face. His time-tested personal solution is a workout consisting only of ten sets singles with the same weight on one or two exercises.

[I] found that, no matter what was running through my head right before each lift, I could focus for the few seconds it took for one heavy effort. [..] The fact that the weight is on the heavy side also aids in concentration. [..] [N]o matter what’s on your mind, when you feel that heavy bar on your back or in your hands, your instincts will kick in. [..] And now for the best part: while you’re doing the lift, the mental chatter shuts off. It’s only for a couple of seconds, but what a relief! So you see, not only are you training productively, but you’re also getting a break from the world - call it barbell therapy if you want.
Hutchinson, Fred: Training When You Just Can’t Concentrate. MILO 12:2, September 2004: pp. 28-31.

This episode didn’t shake me up very badly nor was I ever really worried, but I have a feeling I agree with the author: not abandoning your training and nutrition is a good coping strategy in times of pain and worry. That said, it would be a folly to think that you could just continue with your regular routine. The barbell has an unfortunate tendency to sway with the mind long before it gets really bad.

Blakley accessory day, 24 September 2004

Floor press, close-grip: 5,4,4,4 @ 82.5 kg/182 lbs
Pulldowns, wide-grip: 2x12 @ 90 kg/199 lbs

Total training time: 20 min (who knows?)

September 27, 2004

Why I won’t need to diet

Filed under: Workouts

retrace these if you can...Among the things I mentioned I would do sometime ago was to diet. Not because I thought I’d get my six-pack out, but simply because I started to get a little too flabby for my taste, powerlifter stereotype notwithstanding (hey, even my hair is blasphemous…). Sudden twist! Since I began working at the school in August, I’ve had to tighten my belt two notches to shield myself from grave embarrassment while my weight has dropped from about 97 kg/214 lbs to 95 kg/210 lbs. From all I can tell this trend continues.

As you probably know, it is quite standard practice to induce a calorie deficit of 3,500 kcal/week in order to reach the magic 0.5 kg/1 lbs reduction per week that is generally thought to be metabolically sustainable. This can be done either by lowering caloric intake by 500 kcal/day on average (not getting into calorie cycling here) or by increasing energy consumption by the same amount (you could also mix these, but not getting into that either). Yes, and…?

Well, today was the first day I had the pedometer on me. I knew I was walking a lot (hence lower leg problems), but had no way of telling how much. The pedometer was doing its pedometering from the time I left for work until I got back home: 14,236 steps. Quite a moderate day it was, yet it way surpassed the Holy grail of 10,000 steps. Given a stride length of 65 cm (measured), today’s walking amounted to 9.25 km/5.75 miles. Naturally, not every step I take is a full step, but on the other hand the meter wasn’t on at home, in the gym or when I went to for groceries in the evening. Punch line! Based on my weight, the pedometer estimates my caloric consumption at 879.38 kcal. Any wonder I am shedding fat? Since my sorry bench is going up (at least for reps) at the same time, I’d say I’m doing pretty well.

Will continue using the pedometer at least for this week, so more torturous stats to come. Brace yourselves.

Left one rep for next week

Filed under: Workouts

Blakley bench day again. After a lengthy self-administered massage yesterday, my left leg was feeling better than last week. Added a set to the heavy singles and also managed to add a rep to my working sets, leaving me just one rep short of a weight increase. Since the singles are definitively beyond the 90% range, I’ve decided to cycle them to avoid overtraining by going from one set to three sets over three workouts with the fourth workout off.

At the end of the workout one of the few pure powerlifters in the gym came over to try the Rolling Thunder after I had loaded it to 50 kg/111 lbs for a max attempt. He barely got it off the ground with the right and nowhere with the left. Blaming his short fingers, he remarked that he had done a double with 250 kg/553 lbs on the barbell row last week. Yup, he is strong indeed, but this just goes to strengthen my theory. Pat on the back and home to Sanna who is happily back from the hospital. :-)

Blakley bench day, 27 September 2004

Bench pattern warm-up:
         10 @ 20 kg/44 lbs
         6 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
         5 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
         3 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
         3 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
         1 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
Heavy bench singles, paused: 3x1 @ 92.5 kg/205 lbs
Bench, paused: 6,6,6,5 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
Kraftwerk one-handed row: 3x6 @ 130 kg/287 lbs
One-handed cable side raise: 15 @ 15 kg/33 lbs
Seated reverse wrist cable curl: 6,5 @ 45 kg/99 lbs
Plate curl:
         1 @ 10 kg/22 lbs plate
         8,4 @ pinch gripping 5 kg/11 lbs, 2.5 kg/6 lbs, 1.25 kg/3 lbs and 0.5 kg/0.2 lbs plate
Rolling Thunder:
         6 @ 15 kg/33 lbs
         2 @ 25 kg/55 lbs
         1 @ 45 kg/99 lbs
         ½ @ 50 kg/111 lbs
         1 @ 45 kg/99 lbs
Rolling Thunder holds: 2 sets @ 40 kg/88 lbs
Dumbell end holds: 2 sets @ 17.5 kg/39 lbs

Total training time: 80 min