October 2005 archives

October 3, 2005

The Orangutan Weightlifter

Filed under: General

ape lifting weights

“A national sports competition for animals is currently underway in Chongqing, China. An orangutan called Juhui competed in the weightlifting event.” (source: Uutislehti 100, 3 October 2o05)

October 4, 2005

Week 41: Beware of biting Westside camber bars!

Filed under: Workouts

Monday, 3 October 2005

Still taking it easy with the back, but did get carried away a bit with the Westside camber bar (or squat camber bar) on the Zercher squat, a combo I saw on the EliteFTS Squat Index DVD I got a while ago. I had no idea what the crooked beast weighed at this point, but a 15 kg/33 lbs plate a side proved plenty in my condition. I used a board between the bar and the crook of my elbows, but the swaying action caused by the heavy camber made for some nasty bar bites on both biceps. Later measured the bar with a scale I brought in for the purpose as the bugger was too tall to fit on top of the electronic scale standing in a corner at Metal. It clocked in at 29 kg/64 lbs, close enough to call it a standard 30 kg/66 lbs bar. How cool would it be to have one of these, preferably the rackable model, at Toffe’s Gym… now THAT was a rhetorical question if any.

Zercher squat with Westside camber bar off 8cm/3″ platform:
              10 @ 30 kg/66 lbs
              2x6 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
GHR: 4x8 (last set wide stance)
Reverse-hyper (swing-style): 2x10 @ 30 kg/66 lbs
Barbell side bend:
              10 @ bar
              10 @ 5 kg/11 lbs on one side
Side bend on hyperextension: 8
Knee-ups: 8
Standing cable crunch with stability ball:
              10 @ 4th hole (20 kg/44 lbs ?)
              10 @ 6th hole (30 kg/66 lbs ?)
              10 @ 8th hole (40 kg/88 lbs ?)
Seated calf raise:
              10 @ 20 kg/44 lbs
              10 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
              10 @ 55 kg/122 lbs
Reverse hyper: 10 @ 30 kg/66 lbs

Total training time: 60 min

October 10, 2005

Week 42: Cambered

Filed under: Workouts

Monday, 10 October 2005: Bench

Loaded up the camber bar for the first time. I figured I would be able to do about the same as on a regular bench given that my sticking point is about midway. Not so. I’m not quite back at the strength level I had before the layoff, but was a bit disappointed with failing at 95 kg/210 lbs. The movement felt slow and came to a dead stop at the sticking point. I think the extra 2″ stretch at the bottom makes for a slower than normal drive off the chest for subjects not previously exposed to the perils of the camber. It was fun though, and didn’t strain the shoulders as much as I thought it would. Instead, the arching, moderate as it may be, caused my back to get really sore and I took the rest of the week off to limp around in peace.

2″ camber bar bench:
                5 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
                5 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
                3 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
                1 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
                1 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
                0 @ 95 kg/210 lbs
JM press:
                10 @ 20 kg/44 lbs
                6 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
                2x8 @ 45 kg/99 lbs
Metal iso-lateral seated row: 2x8 @ 30 kg/66 lbs per side
Face pull: 2x12 @ 7th hole (35 kg/77 lbs?)
Reverse hyper: 2x12 @ 40 kg/88 lbs

October 19, 2005

Week 43, part 1: Preparing for the outdoors

Filed under: Workouts

Tuesday, 18 October 2005: Squat and Bench combo

An end of season trip up to Toffe’s Gym with Måns has been hanging in the air for some time now. November was the original candidate, as I would be on a father’s leave extension for the whole month. When it turned out that dad was going up for a final visit this weekend, suitably coinciding with a two-day fall leave at school, we decided to tag along to assist him with the usual chores. As we were definitively going to be pumping iron snow or no snow, I did both squat and bench days on Tuesday and took the rest of the week off. Without further ado, here’s that workout. One more ado and I bring you…

Upper body cable turn: 2x15 @ 20 kg/44 lbs (non-stop)
GHR, down parallel to floor: 4x8
Reverse hyper:
              10 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
              10 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
              10 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
              10 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
              10 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
Westside camber bar pause squat: a few sets up to about 80 kg/177 lbs (forgot to write down)
Roman chair sit-up in GHR: 3x10
Side bend on hyperextension: 8

Dumbell bench press:
              10 @ 13.5 kg/30 lbs
              5 @ 21 kg/46 lbs
              8 @ 23.5 kg/52 lbs
              5 @ 26 kg/57 lbs
              5 @ 31 kg/69 lbs
Metal iso-lateral shoulder press:
              6 @ 20 kg/22 lbs per side
              5 @ 30 kg/66 lbs per side
Wide-grip pulldown:
              10 @ 11th hole (55 kg/122 lbs?)
              10 @ 13th hole (65 kg/144 lbs?)
              2x10 @ 15th hole (75 kg/166 lbs?)

Total training time: 80 min

October 23, 2005

Week 43, part II: October outdoor lifting

Filed under: Workouts, Handiwork

Anticipation ran high as Måns and yours truly zipped along on the train destined for the summer cottage. We had both managed to get Friday off work and were looking forward to two full days of outdoor activities and… training. Among our sparse luggage was a heavy-duty rubber mat designed to cover any ice or snow that might be found in the rack. Helsinki was still void of snow, but at this time of the year the conditions 400 km/250 miles up north were hard to predict. Here’s the full story brought to you by your very own household guy under the bar.


Let’s rewind the story a bit, shall we? Earlier in the day, Rufus and I joined Måns to the veteran of fitness stores in Helsinki. In operation for more than 35 years, Wrange carries a hybrid mix of modern fitness goods and old school fitness buff stuff. We were actually surprised to find state-of-the-art protein tablets on the shelves. I use to choke them down with water by the handful - at 0.8g protein each you do the math for 40 grams of protein - long before whey protein came around.

Gently shaking myself out of bodybuilding nostalgia, let me tell you that the real cause of our visit was one slippery problem. Having been greeted by one skinny yet surprisingly muscular barbell hosting gent at the entrance, I dashed in to order one of their kuntolaitematto, or gym mats in a more international vernacular. Sold off a 1.25m/49″ roll, I figured a 1.9m/75″ long piece worth 104.5 euros would be just enough to cover the base of the rack while leaving a couple of flaps to use under the bar if needed. With a thickness of 8mm/0.3″, this mat was advertised as being very resilient and non-slippery even when wet. This is basically the kind of mat you find in freeweight areas or under machines in many gyms. Gracious as always, Måns promised to bring it to the train station as he was arriving by car. He ended up getting caught in the traffic and had to make a serious dash for it with the 16 kg/35 lbs mat jumping over one shoulder and the gym bag swaying off the other. One funny sight, but he made the train. Thanks, dude!
[photo courtesy of Måns]


Arriving at the harbor for the boat ride out to the island, the ground was bare but the temperature was hanging with the freezing point. This photo was actually taken the next day, but I bet it didn’t look much different when we arrived… except for the fact that it was pitch dark…
[photo courtesy of Måns]

Me and me chainsaw

Waking up Saturday morning, late by my standard, early by Måns’s, we had breakfast and leaped out to assist dad in preparing the place for winter. After a lot of carrying this and covering that, we took on the mount of unchopped wood still loitering about the shed. A few smaller trees also hit ground zero. Here’s me doing some small-scale chainsaw massacring in my favorite woolen sweater; knit by my mom, it features yaks across the chest and sheep along the waistline… a nomad enthusiast’s dream.
[photo courtesy of Måns]

mat cutter

In the late afternoon, we decided it was time to rev up to the first workout of the weekend. First on the agenda was the cutting of the mat to fit the rack. I cut jacks in it for the rack uprights to allow it to extend out further sideways (think sumo). And no, I am not going bald, hair is just a mess…
[photo courtesy of Måns]

kebab galore

Time had sneaked up on us and we were too hungry to hoist even the smallest of iron plates. Food break! My perverse fascination with sushi should be well-known by now, but kebab is not far behind. We had stocked up with a load of kebab meat and pita bread. I quickly whipped together my standard kebab sauce and poured youghurt over the small mound. After finishing off one serving (above) each, we were now too full to train. We dragged ourselves out for some more woodchopping to let things settle a bit. Not what I’d ordinarily have as a preworkout meal, but this was no ordinary excursion.

chopping wood

By this time, darkness had descended on the island. A light bulb at the end of an extension cord did the trick. This is Måns popping away with the axe. To the left is my old two-story fortress built around three trees… once a stronghold with the largest arsenal of wooden swords known to man. But I digress… ah, memory lane.

weight pit in torch light

At 10pm we were, digestically speaking, ready to rumble. A few torches from the End of Summer festival and two electrical lights lit up Toffe’s Gym, now transformed into a dreamy landscape of warm light and dark shadows. The music coming out of the small speakers attached to my iPod was nothing but a faint backdrop drowning in the cold breeze. The temperature was barely above freezing at 2°C/36°F. Quite refreshingly pleasant actually. This is the uncovered weight pit illuminated by a torch (duh).
[photo courtesy of Måns]


With the mat in place, the rack was ready for action.

handle squatting

Måns embarked on a light weight pit workout consisting of handle squats and handle deadlifts while I quickly hammered together some old boards for a makeshift three-board, some triceps extensions and face pulls with two minibands. It was way cool (that’s apt) to train in this setting, but my muscles didn’t agree as a double 100 kg/221 lbs on the three board, with feet on the bench to protect my volatile back, was hard enough. My form was way off, but who cares… Here’s the video (6MB), I promise it’s a tad different than the ordinary fare…

postworkout meal

It was after midnight when we finished. The workout is not one either of us will forget in the first place and I can safely say that it has been firmly added to the ever-growing list of nostalgia. Instead of the normal post-workout shakes, we had a liberal amount of protein powder mixed in with yoghurt before departing for Dreamland. It had been a full day.
[photo courtesy of Måns]

gym panorama

The next day, Sunday, it was time to wish Toffe’s a nice winter. We did entertain thoughts of training, but the temperature dropped rapidly below freezing and we even had some snow. Click on the image to see a larger panorama.

covered bench in rack

We covered the bench and put the squat box underneath it inside the rack… the mat got to spend its first winter indoors.

weight shed

A last look at the goodies before covering the weight shed with a filthy expensive 99 euro tarpaulin made of the same thick PVC used for covering trucks. Note the covered rack in the background. Heavy snow fall now welcome.


The sun was setting beautifully as we hopped in the boat for the ride home, this time in dad’s car. Until next year!
[photo courtesy of Måns]

A BIG thanks to Måns for all the help during the weekend and for allowing me to use his photos!

October 25, 2005

Week 44: Behold the Manta Ray!

Filed under: Workouts

Tuesday, 25 October 2005: Squat day

Manta Ray snapped to barI’ve been aware of the Manta Ray for quite some time now, but, as with the various camber bars, I haven’t had access to one before signing up at Metal. Now that I have tried one, I’m sure my presidential campaign would include a promise to make the Manta Ray obligatory in all gyms across the glorious nation of Finland. Unfortunately, I am not running for president. Am not running at all in fact, cuts into the recovery process too much. What I will do though is much more Manta Ray work than thus far. Read my lips, much more.

The Manta Ray, invented by Mark Pittroff, snaps easily unto the bar (at least on a standard Leoko bar, the squat bar might be too thick for it) and stays put. It is amazing how snuggly it fits over the shoulders, not that the 5 @ 80 kg/177 lbs I worked up to today is much of a stress test. The bar position mimics that of a high-bar squat and, consequently, makes it easier to stay upright than squatting with the standard powerlifting low-bar position. The upright position isolates the legs more and thus makes the movement harder. According to Louie Simmons, this will transfer well to the deadlift. I know the Westside guys and gals are big fans of box squatting with the Manta Ray, but I for my part plan to make this one of my primary quadriceps exercises by squatting with a close stance and rock bottom. Bodybuilding style if you will. The hell with vertical shins. And yes, as you can see, this polyurethane device does indeed resemble a “real” Manta Ray, especially when reduced to a bare skeleton.

The GHRs are becoming easier and easier, so continued my new policy of only going down to parallel. This might look easier, but is actually much harder because you will lose all initial inertia gained by the hyperextension phase of the movement. The EFS Squat/Deadlift Index DVD recommends you to do this once the full-range ones become easy. Added an additional miniband too for 4x8. Also dared to do some good mornings off pins and then did the usual midsection work. A good workout.

Full Manta Ray squat, close stance:
                  5 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
                  5 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
                  5 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
                  5 @ 80 kg/177 lbs (already thight)
GHR, down parallel to the floor: 4x8 @ miniband (two sets normal stance, two wide stance)
Good mornings off pins (navel height):
                  10 @ 20 kg/44 lbs
                  5 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
                  5 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
                  5 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
                  5 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
Standing cable crunch with stability ball:
                  15 @ 4th hole (20 kg/44 lbs?)
                  10 @ 6th hole (30 kg/66 lbs?)
                  10 @ 8th hole (40 kg/88 lbs?)
                  6 @ 9th hole (45 kg/99 lbs?)
Side bend on hyperextension: 3x8
                  12 @ 30 kg/66 lbs
                  10 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
                  2x10 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
Seated calf raise:
                  2x10 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
                  a couple of sets with 60 kg/133 lbs (didn’t write them down)

Total training time: 75 min