February 2005 archives

February 4, 2005

Week 5: Bench and bench only

Filed under: Workouts

illegal wides, no cops in sightThis week rolled in with predictably sore hamboys and thus the riot that ensued when the masses demanded a squat workout was violently suppressed. Come Wednesday, I was feeling a bit crappy, but decided to go against the flow with the scheduled bench workout. Turned out my bench was a bit snappier than last week, and I was moderately happy with a new one-board PR of 105 kg/232 lbs. Then went for illegal wides where I felt pathetically weak, probably a sign that I should do a bit more of these… the bar also kept slanting to the right. Feeling more fluish the next day, I did the sensible thing and stayed home from work to nip it in the bud. I should be good to go for a new squat PR off the box on Monday. Until then, here’s the video (3.2MB) that also features Måns doing black belt ninja flies aka suspended dumbell flies.

Wednesday, 2 Feb 2005: Bench

Speed bench: 4x3 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
One-board press:
            worked up to 2 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
            1 @ 100 kg/221 lbs
            1 @ 105 kg/232 lbs
            0 @ 107.5 kg/238 lbs
Illegal wides:
            5 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
            5 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
            5 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
            3 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
Pressdown in lat pulley:
            3 @ 45 kg/99 lbs
            2x15 @ 30 kg/66 lbs
Close-grip pulldown: 4x12 @ 80 kg/177 lbs

Total training time: slow

February 18, 2005

Week 6: Band aid for abs and a sudden Metal Militia twist

Filed under: Workouts

With most baby preparations now out of the way, but no baby yet, I finally have time to resume my leisurly update schedule. Stay tuned, more to follow… sooner or later [laughter in the dungeon].

Monday, 7 Feb 2005: Squat/Deadlift

...and the band goes swink swink...The glorious plan to break my miniscule 13″ box squat PR was foiled by nearly taking a nose dive with a 105 kg/232 lbs that left me feeling a tad worried about what would become of me would this happen with a heavier weight. As you might recall, I was forced out of the rack when I widened my stance. I did 112.5 kg/249 lbs, but feeling how the new PR weight of 117.5 kg/260 lbs wanted to put head over heels I chickened out after a brief lift-off leaving Måns to deadlift it off my back. With two spotters or a decent rack things might have been different, but hey, daddy is still in one piece. That’s indeed something.

After a brief Romanian deadlift interlude, I tried Keith Veit’s floor GHR setup involving hooking the feet under a loaded barbell secured by plates at either side to keep it from rolling (or in my case, plates on one side, rack on the other). The gymnasium was occupied by basket ball practice so the excellent GHR Soviet-style was out. Didn’t get further than one rep before I had to make a speedy retreat due to a severe calf cramp. It was then I realized that I had finally found a way of doing spread eagle sit-ups - essentially a straight legged sit-up with legs spread wide that works the hip flexors together with the abs. I’ve tried hooking my feet under everything I could think of, including the parallel bars and the dumbell rack, but everything is at the wrong height or not stable enough (nothing is bolted to the floor). Wrapped two minibands around a bench behind me and had at it. Finished with an exercise I saw over at Metal Gym, namely standing cable crunches with a doubled mini for extra resistance (at Metal they also had a stability ball behind their back and used thicker bands). Besides creating an ideal leverage curve, the bands also make it easy to go as heavy as one wants as the pull is no longer completely from the top - with straight weight I can’t stay put with more than about 45 kg/99 lbs. A great one it is.

Box squat, 13″ (belt):
          5x2 @ 65 kg/144 lbs (speed)
          worked up to 2 @ 105 kg/232 lbs
          1 @ 112.5 kg/249 lbs
          0 @ 117.5 kg/260 lbs
Romanian deadlift: 8 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
Spread eagle sit-up:
          10,10,8 @ 2 x mini
          10 @ mini
Standing cable crunch:
          2x8 @ 20 kg/44 lbs + doubled mini
          6 @ 45 kg/99 lbs

Total training time: under an hour I hope

Wednesday, 9 Feb 2005: Bench

catapult!!!!While surfing the Metal Militia headquarters the other day, I stumbled upon Sebastian Burns’s offer to review a benching video for $30. Now, powerlifting is notoriously not where the money is (unless you ask the Nigeria Professional Powerlifting Association), but tell me another sport where you can have a world class lifter review a video tape for this price (Mikesell only asked me for $15 to do the same for the squat - need to see if he is still up for that post-baby). Great help is out there, don’t be afraid to use it!

Anyway, I fired an e-mail off to Sebastian asking him whether he would consider taking a look at a downloadable video of my raw bench. I figured I would squeeze in a couple of lifts in a short video, but I was positively surprised when he wanted me to “get everything u do for bench” including assistance work on tape. I pulled out all the videos I’ve posted on Under the Bar and put together a package that included all bench work I’ve done over the past two months plus accessory work wherever I could find it. It turned into over 12 minutes of video. Also attached my PR matrix and a short description of my bench progress ripped off the look back at my powerlifting year 2004. A well-organized blog does come in handy at times… Within a few hours I got a reply:

Thanks for taking the time to put that video together it was great to see some of those exercises I have not seen them in years. Your extra work looks good(Back Shoulders)
But your bench work needs much help. You have a very strong work ethic I can tell from the video. If you want to bench more you will need to drop some exercises and concentrate on the ones that will improve your bench the most. You really need to arch a little higher and learn to retract your shoulder blades. If you do not have my bench video I will send you one for free. It will be much easier for you to see what I am talking about than for me to try to convey what I want you to do. I am sending a chart to keep track of the exercises you should be doing. Try both days and send it back with what you did. I will look at it and tell you how I think you should revise your workouts. So send me your address and feel free to call me [..] tommorow so we can discuss your video.
[removed some extra caps from original]

How’s that for a positive reply! At the point of writing I have indeed received a package from Mr. Burns that included a DVD of his Advanced Bench Press Training Video that normally retails for $40. Needless to say, I am deeply honored by this gesture. After a lengthy reply to a second e-mail with questions regarding how I should do the two workouts he sent me to diagnose my weak points, I am starting to wonder how far $30 will stretch with this guy. Not that I am complaining. :-)

Classified this bench workout as Metal Militia business and set to work going up to a 1-3 RM max on the bench, 4 board, 3 board, 2 board and hangbar (aka hangband) bench. A whopping 28 sets of benching later I was pretty beat and somewhat surprised at being able to put up numbers close to my PRs even after maxing out on several exercises. Intuitively, I would go from low-end work to high-end work, but now I think doing it the Metal Militia way (high-end to low-end) works better. Only having minibands, I did the hangbar bench by doubling them from the supports (see picture). As you can see on this week’s video (7.8MB), this setup required about 35-40 kg/77-88 lbs to touch with very little assistance at the top (empty bar hanging below the end of my stroke). Still, only got a double at 120 kg/265 lbs.

Raw bench:
              5 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
              3 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
              3 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
              2 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
              1 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
              1 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
              0 @ 105 kg/232 lbs
              1 @ 100 kg/221 lbs
4 board press:
              3 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
              3 @ 100 kg/221 lbs
              3 @ 110 kg/243 lbs
              2 @ 120 kg/265 lbs
              3 @ 120 kg/265 lbs
              2 @ 125 kg/277 lbs
3 board press:
              3 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
              3 @ 100 kg/221 lbs
              1 @ 110 kg/243 lbs
              2 @ 110 kg/243 lbs
              1 @ 115 kg/254 lbs
2 board press:
              3 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
              2x2 @ 100 kg/221 lbs
Hangbar bench with doubled minis:
              3 @ 100 kg/221 lbs
              3 @ 110 kg/243 lbs
              2 @ 120 kg/265 lbs
              3 @ 115 kg/254 lbs
              2 @ 125 kg/277 lbs
Close-grip pulldown: 4x12 @ 90 kg/199 lbs

Total training time: 120 minutes

Week 7: Metal Militia fun continues

Filed under: Workouts

3x170 kg/377 lbsFour days of rest and then back for another 27 sets of Metal Militia diagnostic benching business. Quite frankly, it will be interesting to see what kind of suggestions Sebastian Burns gives and whether he thinks I should be doing a full-blown MM schedule considering my level, my focus on raw benching and my drug-free status. He knows all of this, and I’m willing to give his advice some serious air time and hire him to monitor my benching for a while. Live and learn, you only live once… you know the drill.

But back to the workout. Got an easy 100 kg/221 lbs close grip single (looked a lot better than last week’s wide-grip equivalent). Shirt benches were next, but I was told I can skip this since I don’t have a shirt. That being said, I suspect I will need to start to do some shirt benching as I’ve seen Sebastian suggest in the past that raw benchers can indeed be helped by doing some shirt benching as accessory work and he already suggested I get myself a poly or double denim shirt (gulp!).

The six board press was next. This essentially hits the very top of the lockout, and one would be hard pressed to explain why this is not severe ego cheating in a regular gym… As the highest board I have is a four board, we taped the two board to it to prevent a nasty accident were it to slip down on my face butt first. Having done 2 @ 125 kg/276 lbs off the four boards last week, I figured I would be good for about 3 @ 140 kg/309 lbs off the six boards. Whizzed right past that and easily did a triple at 150 kg/332 lbs. Not being used to holding anything that heavy in this position, I felt some strain in my left wrist. Weighed the odds of me sustaining a wrist injury, but then stupidly decided to go ahead ending with a max triple at a whopping 170 kg/376 lbs. Nothing happened to my wrists after I paid some attention to how I was holding the bar, but even in retrospect I can see why loading 70 kg/155 lbs over the regular max on unsuspecting wrists is not the wisest thing to do. Thank you plate curls!

Wrapped up with 2 @ 140 kg/309 lbs off the five board and 2 @ 120 kg/265 lbs off the four board. Having skipped Friday’s accessory day due to intense leg soreness following a PR attempt off the box and figuring this to be the last workout before the baby pops out, I attempted a short SQ/DL session on top of all the benching. Quickly had to conclude that despite two Red Bulls I was too beat. Bag up and home.


Close-grip bench:
              10 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
              5 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
              3 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
              2 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
              1 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
              1 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
              1 @ 100 kg/221 lbs
              0 @ 105 kg/232 lbs
6 board press:
              10 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
              4 @ 100 kg/221 lbs
              3 @ 110 kg/243 lbs
              3 @ 120 kg/265 lbs
              3 @ 130 kg/287 lbs
              3 @ 140 kg/309 lbs
              3 @ 150 kg/332 lbs
              3 @ 160 kg/354 lbs
              3 @ 170 kg/376 lbs
5 board press:
              3 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
              3 @ 120 kg/265 lbs
              3 @ 130 kg/287 lbs
              1 @ 140 kg/309 lbs
              2 @ 140 kg/309 lbs
4 board press:
              3 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
              3 @ 100 kg/221 lbs
              3 @ 110 kg/243 lbs
              2 @ 120 kg/265 lbs
              0 @ 130 kg/287 lbs

Total training time: under two hours :-)

February 24, 2005

An unforgettable 4kg moment

Filed under: General

napping with dadLast Saturday it finally happened. I had prepared for a long labor by stocking up with protein shakes and energy drinks, not to mention some pre-sliced salami. We arrived at the hospital at 1pm, three hours later our son was born powered by no pain medication on Sanna’s part and only a single shake on my part. After being there for Sanna, I have newfound respect for the mothers of this world. Raising the GPP of my delts and changing diapers will be the only exercise I will be up to for the next few days… Happiness is a warm baby. Who cares about PRs?

Pictures and the rest at the “Norbert” page

February 26, 2005

Towards lofty theoretical heights

Filed under: General

During the twenty-one months I have been powerlifting, my acquisitions have revolved around videos and equipment. A lot of the finer points of technique are still eluding me no doubt, but at this point my repository of technical information appears adequate for my needs - despite not yet being the happy owner of the Elite FTS Exercise Index Squat-Deadlift DVD. Equipment wise, I’m also quite well adjusted to the demands of basic powerlifting training, grip work and rehab (my closet is begging for mercy) . I might need some more bands, and possibly a bench shirt, for accessory work, but the rest (buffalo bar, more Ironmind grip tools…) is icing on the cake rather than immediate requisites. Time to change focus.

Enter reading project. After having gotten most of my theoretical reads from the net in a predigested form, I will now turn to the source and read the main body of the literature that Louie Simmons has used in creating the Westside system. Much of this material comes from the former communist bloc and is based on very rigorous Soviet research on strength training; Sportivny Press claims that the data in their translated Russian manuals “has been gathered from a huge pool of athletes - - over 300,000 weightlifters”. I hope to emerge from my library with a much deepened understanding of strength training and, thus, a much better understanding of my own training. Besides, a book is a great thing to have when you have a sleeping son cuddled up in your lap.

The reading list is based on the Westside FAQ and grouped according to where it is the cheapest to order from to Finland. I will buy used copies when available; get in touch if you have any of the below titles and want to get rid of them. Note that I’m going to strike out titles I’ve purchased and post a comment with the details of every purchase until this project is complete. A rough estimate puts the value of these works at around 400€ without shipping, a cost that appears quite reasonable when distributed over the long haul (I’m hoping to finish this project by end of 2005 the latest). Unfortunately, these items are too specialized to be found in the local public libraries… Here goes:

SSPower (voimaharjoittelu.net)
Supertraining by Siff and Verkhoshansky

Science and Practice of Strength Training by Zatsiorsky
Science of Sports Training by Kurz
Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training by Bompa
Power by Hatfield (lots of used copies available dirt cheap)

Sportivny Press
Weightlifting Training & Technique by Zhekov
A System of Multi-Year Training in Weightlifting by Medvedyev
A Program of Multi-Year Training in Weightlifting by Medvedyev
The Training of the Weightlifter by Roman
Managing the Training of Weightlifters by Laputin
Fundamentals of Special Strength Training in Sport by Verkhoshansky
Weightlifting Year books 1980-1985
Programming and Organization of Training by Verkhoshansky

Out of print and hard to find
Secrets of Soviet Sports and Fitness Training by Yessis
Periodization of Strength by Bompa

Note that Elite Fitness Systems is not on that list due to their ridiculously high international shipping fees caused by now only providing UPS shipping for their products. As an example, I wanted to order the new Dynamic Bench Manual, but paying $58.64 in shipping for a thin booklet that retails for $16.95 effectively put an end to that (screenshot). When I inquired about this seemingly effective way to thwart international business, I was told that the company dropped the regular airmail option since they were losing too many packages making reshipping them too expensive. I was further told that their ordering system ties directly into UPS, but that they regrettably don’t get any international shipping discounts due to their mail volume being too small (compare regular UPS rates to Amazon’s UPS rates and you’ll see a whopping difference). Of course, I cannot argue with their decision, but I simply cannot afford to be a regular customer of this great company any longer unless I ask someone in the US to order for me and send the merchandise onward ($7.20 for shipping to California sounds much more reasonable, add $5 or so for airmail to Finland). It should also be noted that within the European Union, shipping costs are added to the value of the goods to be imported when determining the import tax thus further escalating this financial violence of sorts when a 22% VAT plus a 3.5% toll fee is slapped on top.

I suspect I am not the only European powerlifter who now turn his eyes towards the EliteFTS reseller in Europe, SSPower here in Finland. The prices are a tad higher, the selection smaller and it generally takes a few weeks for novelties to arrive, but the friendly shipping costs more than makes up for that. Now, SSPower recently started enforcing a 30€ minimum on all orders, but that’s another [minor] rant. In fact, I’m just about to point my browser that way to get my first and most important reading, Supertraining, that just happens to be on a 16€ discount making it a lot cheaper for me than any other sources I know of.

Prepare for a much more theoretical Under the Bar experience!