2006 archives

January 4, 2006

Looking back at 2005

Filed under: General

2006 and the world is still in one piece. A new year is always a juncture, but I can see no major changes to how business is run here at Under the Bar. Like last year, here is a look back at my powerlifting year 2005.

An unforgettable 4kg moment

The birth of Rufus on February 19th was the definitive highlight of the year that impacted my training in many ways.

For one thing, I started posting weekly workout summaries. I have liked that a lot, and despite it not always being enough to keep the ball rolling, I feel it helps structure the blog. More containers are not always better. The weekly workout summary remains standing at least thus far. Blogging is rewarding, even more so when I no longer feel the urgent need to get every workout online as soon as it happens. A guy setting a modest PR in a gym somewhere in the middle of the night can hardly be classified as breaking news, can it? Even so, I will try harder this year to keep relatively up to date, backblogging is neither cool nor my idea of stressfree blogging. Speaking of which, The Guide to Stress-Free Blogging in 2005 by Benjamin Adam is a good read for any blogger who feels there is more to life than a blog (scroll down, only available via the Wayback Machine since the original domain has been unplugged).

I also had less time to train. The victim of this was largely dedicated grip work, one of the hallmarks of the preceding year. Training was also increasingly done on a sleep deficit. Not always because Rufus didn’t sleep, he actually slept fairly well, but because I still felt I needed some time of my own. The only place to take that time was to deduct it from my sleep. Despite some pushes towards sleeping a regular seven or eight hours, sleep deficit has been a dominant theme throughout the year (as in three to four hour nights). When I finally started training at the, dare I say legendary, Metal Gym in late September, we agreed that I would mainly train between 22pm and midnight. This way I could catch as much of Rufus’s waking hours as possible. This arrangement has generally been great, but the downside is that I am not home before twenty minutes past midnight (if Måns drives me home) or 1am (if I take the nightbus). I need to get up at 6am to 6.30am to get to work in time since I have to commute through much of Helsinki to get to the school. You do the math.

Luckily, there is much more to life than powerlifting. While time has not been plentiful for neither lifting nor blogging, this past year saw me exercise my full right to the state-subsidized paternity leave. I was home eighteen days after Rufus saw daylight and the whole of November. In the year 2006, Under the Bar is sure to become toddlerfied as we have agreed that I will stay home full-time for a year beginning this fall. I have no illusions about that not being very much like a full-time job, but I couldn’t be waiting for it any more eagerly! That of course means Sanna is off to work. That might also mean that I get to train at a bit more sensible hours. Perhaps that will be the time when I start mingling with the elite lifters of the evening shift. If that doesn’t put fire under my cushion, nothing will.

napping with dad

“…the pain is still with me”

The year began on an optimistic note. After sustaining a major lateral shift of the hip in August 2004, I had slowly began the climb back up towards where my progress was abruptly cut short due to a good morning injury in December 2003. In late March, I embarked on the very low-back intensive 10-week Coan-Phillipi deadlift program with a view to smash 140 kg/309 lbs, a mere 5 kg/11 lbs from my conventional deadlift PR set in November 2003. In spite of horrendous deadlifting form, I got through the program. I never got 140 kg/309 lbs, but did reach a satisfactory 135 kg/298 lbs that I documented with my first dual angle videoclip (1.8M).

A month later, I visited the back clinic once more to assess my back health following the very strenous training bout. The therapist concluded that I had a minor protective lateral shift and cracked me straight. A mere four days after the visit, my back cramped up again during a workout (picture with lines added for emphasis). Based on what I now know this was inevitable, but I believe the manual upsetting of my spinal vertebrae made it happen sooner rather than later. I started doing the standard rehabilitation that I knew far too well by now. It cleared up some, even allowing me to max out on the squat. A month later, in late August, the full payload was delivered in the guise of a full-blown lateral shift. Limping into the back clinic once again, I was told that there was nothing structurally or neurologically wrong with my low back, i.e. no traces of the original good morning injury. That was the good news. The bad news was that my spine seems unable to handle the “abnormal levels of compression” it is subjected to under the bar causing acidic disc leakage to come into contact with the adjacent nerves, thus causing the shift. In a way, dealing with an injury that could be rehabilitated was more easier to grasp than the fact that my spine is simply not hardy enough for what I’m doing. Blame it on my years as a hobbyist programmer or whatever. Rehab seemed pointless, just took a whole month off lifting to heal physically and mentally.

Not ready to give up, I was back in the gym in late September. The logic seemed self-evident. The big weight exercises (squats, deads) is where the largest amount of compression is. Hence avoid them if the back feels at all stiff and instead strengthen the living hell out of the core/midsection region in the hopes that it will help keep stuff better in place. I spent nearly two months doing heavy midsection work, such as weighted side bends and reverse hypers with a good stretch, but despite some illusions to the contrary, I was slowly getting worse. I was able to do some light squatting, but by early November my back hurted too much to do even standing cable crunches.

That’s when it dawned on me to seek help at the Elite Fitness Systems’s rehabilitation QA. I ended up exchanging two rounds of questions with Michael Hope who pointed out what I now hope was the missing link: the spine is very compression resistant per se, it is when compression is combined with flexion (forward bending) that things go downhill fast. This suggested that squats, where there is little flexion but much compression, was the way to proceed, not all of those accessory exercises, even reverse hypers, that caused a lot of flexion with much smaller weights. He also suggested I take up heavy bag work to force my body out of the limited plane of motion provided by the lifts in the gym, which prompted me to take an extended tour down memory lane to my time as an avid martial artist. The rest, as they say, is history. On 26 December, stomach still filled with Christmas goodies, I finally broke my two year old box squat PR. Imagine how that felt.

Whether this means I am back on track towards becoming a real three-lift powerlifter remains to be seen. Let’s just say that 2006 began on a very optimistic note.

Box squat PR in the oven

A short bench pressing story

Not going to go into frenzy over my benching in 2005. I have managed to dislodge a few assistance exercises out of the rut my bench has been stuck in, notably putting up 105 kg/232 lbs on the decline bench and the floor press. I also consulted briefly with Sebastian Burns of Metal Militia fame, who even graciously sent me one of his bench pressing DVDs for free. Tripling 170 kg/376 lbs off the six boards as part of a 27 seven set Metal Militia board pressing session was probably the most whacko thing I did during the whole year. The poor low-grade bar never recuperated from the bending. I still consider myself lucky for not injuring my unsuspecting wrists.

The aforementioned recurrent back trouble and sleep deficit are probably part of why my bench has been progressing so slowly. Still, I am more and more convinced that it has more to do with certain strength imbalances in my body, notably regarding the rear and front delts and the biceps. I began pounding my shoulders with 5x5 on the behind the neck press already before the Achieving Structural Balance craze swept over the known powerlifting blog universe in, but the test indicated my biceps were really sub-par and that the behind-the-neck press, external rotations and incline bench were barely adequate. I got the behind-the-necks up from 5x5 @ 50 kg/111 lbs in early July to 3x5 @ 57.5 kg/127 lbs in mid-August before the lateral shift put the breaks on my good gaining streak. The press-centric raw bench program I sewed together after my layoff sought to address the weak incline bench, weak shoulder strength and weak bicep strength. I have been doing some decent progress on that, but this might not be enough, especially not for the biceps. After things stall, I will consider turning my accessory bench day into a pure weakpoint session and skip all the crud. Shoulder pressing, back work, cuff work and more than a few sets of biceps work might make the cut better. On max effort day, it is also time to start maxing out on various forms of shoulder pressing much more frequently.

The past year also saw the introduction of specialty bars into my training as I began training at Metal gym. For the squat, I got access to a real GHR (as much as I loved the original Soviet version), a reverse hyper, a Westside camber bar, a Manta Ray and whatnot. For the bench, it has been mainly about the two inch camber bar that I like a lot. The year 2006 will also see me start to leverage more chains at least for my benching. Need to get some speed under the hood.

170 kg/376 lbs

“…building a power rack in a forest demands a surprising amount of work”.

The whole scale renovation of my forest gym, Toffe’s Gym, into an outdoor powerlifting haven was scheduled for the summer of 2004, but since the welder never showed up, it got pushed over the winter. Not wanting to waste any outdoor training time, the first thing I did upon arriving at the summer cottage was to contract a new welder for my power rack and bench. This involved dragging all the iron to them instead of them arriving to the iron, but in the end it was worth it. I posted an extensive review of this very extensive project with a ton of pictures and cost details.

The renovation at Toffe’s was not limited to “just” the power rack and heavy-duty bench. One of the things I did while waiting for the rack to be welded was to dig a weight pit, which later turned into a concrete version as I used left-over concrete from the rack project. I also built an adjustable heavy-duty squat box, as my original 13″ box has emigrated to Helsinki, and a decline attachement for my new bench that I posted a sweet PR with. Too bad it turned out that the decline bench press might be one of the worst exercises for my back. A rubber mat also found it’s way to Toffe’s as Måns and I returned in October for a legendary night-time outdoor session.

new rack and bench at Toffe's gym


The renovation project very nearly drained the treasure chambers, but did buy some powerlifting miscellanea as well. I began an ambitious project to read the main body of the literature behind the Westside system. I did a bit of reading during the summer, but fell woefully short of my goal to finish by the end of the year. Being able to catch up on reading with a sleeping son in the lap turned out to be a short-lived illusion. The new deadline to finish this reading project is end of 2006. This deadline is officially tentative.

I also got some videos and DVDs, most notably both EliteFTS Exercise Indexes and the Westside Barbell Reactive Method and Special Strengths tapes. On the equipment side, I got myself a set of weight releasers for the bench that I’ve only used once so far… Still, the best thing of all was the 20GB iPod friends and family gave me for my birthday in September. Being able to carry around my full metal collection in the pocket has not been bad for training inspiration.

shiny new weight releasers

Concluding thoughts

There’s a lot of other things I could say, such as mentioning that I saw the insides of quite a lot of new gyms in 2005 or that the year came with an even bigger explosion of new lifting blogs that I didn’t have much time to read or that… This is where the train stops. If you want the full monty, you can always read the yearly archive for 2005. Having made peace with the past, it is now time to look forward. Hope you will enjoy the ride!

January 5, 2006

Week 1, part I: A warning on the GHR and a good incline

Filed under: Workouts

Monday, 2 January 2006: DE SQ

Moved up slightly in weight on the dynamic effort box work, but still going light. Went “light” on the GHR as well, but the puny 2.5 kg/6 lbs plate I adorned my forehead with turned out to be a bit too much and I could feel a bit of stiffness set in. Not a show stopper, but a clear warning. Heeded.

Heavy bag, 15 minutes
Speed box squat: 12x2 @ 67.5 kg/149 lbs
GHR, narrow: 10 @ bw, 10 @ 2.5 kg/6 lbs plate against forehead
Seated band leg curl: 3x12 @ mini (last set alternated to the sides)
Standing band crunch: 2x8 @ violet
Upper cable turn: 20 @ 45 kg/99 lbs
Chest supported T-bar shrug: 3x10 @ 40 kg/88 lbs

Wednesday, 4 January 2006: Bench accessory

As Måns, who has been blogging his bodybuilding adventures at Old School Iron since November, put it, I had a very good day on the incline today. It was a pinch, but I got my 5x5 @ 72.5 kg/160 lbs, a huge improvement over last time. We also did something interesting on the seated row by strapping ourselves to the machine with a belt. Well, Måns did. I had to use the dip belt to accomodate both my well-developed midsection and me…

Incline bench: worked up to 5x5 @ 72.5 kg/160 lbs
3 supersets:
                  Seated dumbell press: 3,3,2 @ 26 kg/57 lbs
                  Metal iso-lateral seated row: 3x8 @ 35 kg/77 lbs (strapped to machine)
Metal cable preacher curl: 3 @ 6th (30 kg/66 lbs?)

January 8, 2006

Week 1, part II: Manta Ray… all the way

Filed under: Workouts

Friday, 6 January 2006: ME Squat

Getting down is easyStill had a bit of residue low back stiffness from Wednesday’s accessory work. Takin’ it easy. Or so I thought. Once I had belted up and blasted up 90 kg/199 lbs, I felt ready for more, comfy manta ray and all. I was working with a close stance, going down all the way, trying to hit the quads hard. The 117.5 kg/260 lbs I put up on the 13″ box two weeks ago gave me confidence that I might hit something decent. Got 100 kg/221 lbs and loaded up 110 kg/243 lbs. It felt like an aeon, or an episode of Twin Peaks by the very least, as I struggled to straighten up. For a second, it felt like I was going to get my face buried in the floor, but then I got it. Couldn’t ask for more right now.

Here’s the video (1.8M), fully in color.


Heavy bag, 10 minutes
Full Manta Ray squat, close stance:
                    6 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
                    6 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
                    6 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
                    1 @ 70 kg/155 lbs (belt on)
                    1 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
                    1 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
                    1 @ 100 kg/221 lbs
                    1 @ 110 kg/243 lbs
Seated band leg curl:
                    15 @ mini
                    2x16 @ mini (alternated to sides)
Seated calf raise:
                    10 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
                    10 @ 60 kg/133 lbs

Sunday, 8 January 2006: ME Bench

Getting it up is hardLook at that guy… is he… Dear Lord! Well yes, he is. Attempted 107.5 kg/234 lbs on the floor press twice. The first time I managed to pin it, the second I actually got it all the way, but only after I lifted the back of a hip that forms one of the fleshy parts on which a person sits off the ground. Needless to say, this PR doesn’t count… or… wait… it was a decline PR!! ;-)

The dumbell bench went great though, got 5x5 on my first go at the 36 kg/80 lbs dumbells.

Floor press, wide:
                    5 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
                    5 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
                    1 @ 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 @ 107.5 kg/234 lbs
                    1 @ 107.5 kg/234 lbs (butt off ground)
5 supersets:
                    Dumbell bench: 5x5 @ 36 kg/80 lbs
                    Wide-grip pulldown: 5x8 @ 90 kg/199 lbs

January 15, 2006

Week 2: Deload

Filed under: Workouts

After two good squat PRs and a lot of heavy pressing, it was time to deload the spine. As per the correspondence with Michael Hope, I plan to do a deload every few weeks.

Wednesday, 11 January 2006: Deload squat

Did some speed box squats with the Westside camber bar, then went for a rep max on the GHR with Måns doing the counting. It was painful, but did 27 non-stop reps with decent form. Let’s just say that hamstrings have never been my weak point. Followed up with some leg extensions to counter the humongous hamstring pump.

Heavy bag
Westside camber bar speed box squat: 10x2 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
GHR, close: 27 @ bw
Leg extension: 2x10 @ 6th (30 kg/66 lbs?)
Leg press calf raise: 25 reps with whatever was on the sled
Dumbell shrug with 5 second count at top: 10 @ 28.5 kg/63 lbs

Saturday, 14 January 2006: Deload bench

As I lay down on the stability ball with the 23.5 kg/52 lbs dumbells, I knew what I was aiming for. I buried the 24 reps I did in December with the 21.5 kg/48 lbs dumbells with a good 29 reps. Deload week is fun.

Heavy bag, 15 minutes
Dumbell bench on stability ball: worked up to 29 @ 23.5 kg/52 lbs
Dumbell flye on stability ball: 2x15 @ 11 kg/24 lbs
Seated power clean on stability ball: 2x12 @ 8 kg/18 lbs
Chest supported T-bar row: 3x15 @ 35 kg/77 lbs
Preacher curl: 2x15 @ 18 kg/40 lbs

January 22, 2006

Week 3: Unrestrained fun

Filed under: Workouts

Wednesday, 18 January 2006: ME Squat

In the holeDuring the standard heavy bag work, I hyperextended the left knee with a badly timed front kick that missed the swinging bar by a millimeter or so. As the pain set in, my first reaction was that I just popped my knee. Nice. After a ten minute rest or so, I could stand on it and decided to try the planned squat workout. My knee locked itself a couple of times as I was just standing on it, so I figure I overstretched the ligaments a bit.

What followed was one crazy squat workout. Måns has been talking about doing some training closer to home making this the last chance to find out my squat max with the Westside camber bar. This 30 kg/66 lbs curvaceous bar is not the rackable kind and going all out in the monolift without a spotter is a bit too hardcore for me. Going all out in the monolift with a single spotter, using a bar that is notorious for transfering much of the load to the lower back, is hardcore enough for a back case that is known to be prone to losing his squat forward. Måns is an accomplished spotter who has never failed me, but I had a feeling I rather just make it up with whatever I put on the bar.

I had no idea where I was heading bad knee and all, but a tight rep at 120 kg/265 lbs was already way beyond what I thought I could do with this challenging bar. I figured I was still good for another 5 kg/11 lbs and loaded the bar to 125 kg/276 lbs. Compared to the recent manta ray max, the bar forced me forward quite a bit but I got up. Don’t think I would have been able to do more on this day, but couldn’t have been more satisfied… There wouldn’t have been time to find out either as the time was now 11:56pm, four minutes before closing time. Weights off bar, lights off and then run out into the moon-lit snow in full training gear. A fun end to a fun session.

This was an interesting day for Måns as well, as he tested his bench max for the first time. 115 kg/254 lbs with feet on the bench and a minimal arch was not shabby to say the least.

Anyway, here’s the video (2.4M) of today’s squatting action.

Heavy bag, 5 minutes (hyperextended left knee)
Westside camber bar squat:
                  5 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
                  3 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
                  3 @ 70 kg/155 lbs (belt on)
                  1 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
                  1 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
                  1 @ 100 kg/221 lbs
                  1 @ 110 kg/243 lbs
                  1 @ 120 kg/265 lbs
                  1 @ 125 kg/276 lbs

Sunday, 22 January 2006: ME Bench

chains in your faceLast time, I got 5 sets of 5 reps with the 36 kg/80 lbs dumbells on the dumbell bench. This means it was time to move up one notch again. Unfortunately, the next dumbells are a whopping 41 kg/90 lbs as there is only one 38.5 kg/85 lbs dumbell in the rack. To ease the transition, I have decided to forego the max effort bench movement in favor of beginning the workout with the dumbell benching. Even so, I only did two sets today as I landed at 3 and 2 reps respectively. An additional rep was annoyingly close on both sets, but just didn’t get it.

Next up was speed benching. After having completed a couple of waves with straight weight (only plates on the bar), it is time to roll in the chains. It’s been a while. There’s plenty of chain at Metal Gym, but I was content with loading the bar with the two chains recommended for people, like yours truly, who can only bench 201-300 pounds. A single chain weighs 5 kg/11 lbs according to the digital scale at Metal, the whole package of two chains, carabiner and feeder chain weighed 12.4 kg/27 lbs. This means a tad over 20 kg/44 lbs chain weight at lockout in addition to the 50 kg/111 lbs on the bar.

As you all know, three reps should be accomplished within three seconds when speed benching Westside style. This is where a camera comes in real handy to assess the appropriateness of the load. I then use my video editing software to precisely determine the time from where the bar starts to descend on the first rep to when it stops after the third rep. I taped sets 4 through 9 and got the following times:

Set 4 (wide grip): 3.04 sec
Set 5 (medium grip): 3.05 sec
Set 6 (close grip): 3.06 sec
Set 7 (wide grip): 3.04 sec
Set 8 (medium grip): 3.08 sec
Set 9 (close grip): 3.10 sec

Right on the money. I put sets 4 to 6 on today’s video clip (2.4M) together with the best dumbell bench set. Not that I was very happy with the dumbells.

Dumbell bench: worked up to 3,2 @ 41 kg/90 lbs
Speed bench (wide, medium, narrow): 9x2 @ 50 kg/111 lbs + 20 kg/44 lbs chain
2 supersets:
                Assisted pull-up: 6,5 @ light band (purple)
                Flat dumbell flye: 2x12 @ 13.5 kg/30 lbs
Close-grip pulldown: 12 @ 14th (70 kg/155 lbs?)
2 supersets:
                Face pull: 2x12 @ doubled mini band
                Preacher curl: 7,6 @ 28 kg/62 lbs

January 23, 2006

Yin and Yang

Filed under: General

Protein and caffe latte shakes

Preworkout cafe latte flanked by a postworkout whey-maltodextrin shake. The latte has come to largely replace the filthy expensive commercial energy drinks as the buzz of choice in the preworkout ritual.

January 29, 2006

Week 4: One only

Filed under: Workouts

Friday, 27 January 2006: DE Squat

Only had time for one workout this week. Horrendous!

Heavy bag, 10 minutes
Speed box squat: 8x2 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
Full Manta Ray squat, close stance: worked up to 2x8 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
Reverse hyper: 3x8 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
Seated calf raise: 2x15 @ 60 kg/133 lbs

February 5, 2006

Week 5: Of fortified and demolished structures

Filed under: Workouts

Monday, 30 January 2006: Bench accessory

Got a flying start with 75 kg/166 lbs on the incline, but didn’t quite get to the champagne. Can’t complain about the way the incline is progressing… less than two months ago, I struggled to get 5x5 @ 70 kg/155 lbs.

Heavy bag, 10 minutes (mainly punching due to hyperextended knee)
Incline bench: worked up to 5,5,5,4,3 @ 75 kg/166 lbs
3 supersets:
                  Seated dumbell press: 5,4,2 @ 26 kg/58 lbs
                  Metal iso-lateral seated row: 3x6 @ 40 kg/88 lbs per side
Wide-grip pulldown: 8 @ 16th (80 kg/177 lbs?)
3 supersets:
                  Preacher curl: 4 @ 28 kg/62 lbs, 5 @ 33 kg/73 lbs, 7 @ 28 kg/62 lbs
                  Face pull: 3x8 @ doubled miniband

Wednesday, 1 February 2006: ME Squat

Parallel... or not?Hit 120 kg/265 lbs on the regular squat, a modest 20 kg/44 lbs PR. The depth wasn’t quite as convincing as on the recent 125 kg/276 lbs cambered bar squat, but based on the video (3.5M) and the photo to the left it seems to be right around the mark. Any verdicts?

Increased strength and better back health are surely factors behind the recent jump in squat results, but I believe the use of a belt and a new approach to squatting technique should receive the real accolades. Before getting a belt to push the abs into, I didn’t pay much attention to tightening the midsection and, as a result, squatted without tensing much anything. A year ago, I started using a belt for dynamic effort squatting, but haven’t belted up for max effort work before Michael Hope suggested I do. The result is a whole new level of stability on both belted and non-belted squats. I have also abandoned the foolish project of trying to emulate equipped squatting while training raw. Sitting back with vertical shins throughout the lift just doesn’t make much sense when the only support you’re getting is that provided by the Mickey Mouse underwear. Allowing the knees to come forward a bit keeps me straighter under the bar and feels much more natural. This might have more than a little to do with the fact that I always squatted ass to the grass with a close stance before converting to powerlifting. My body knows how to squat if I allow it to. One of the most evident side-effects of these changes is that I no longer dip forward as heavily as I used to.

I am hoping that these changes will provide me with a good base for bumping up the weights over then next few months, back willing.

                  6 @ 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 (belt on)
                  1 @ 100 kg/221 lbs
                  1 @ 110 kg/243 lbs
                  1 @ 120 kg/265 lbs
GHR, narrow:
                  2x6 @ 5 kg/11 lbs plate against forehead
                  15 @ bw

Saturday, 4 February 2006: ME Bench

Chain angleA flop. My biceps, primarily the left one, got really strained on the dumbell benches. I felt some strain already during last week’s workout, but this time it was bad. My best guess is that the strain stems from the lowering of the dumbells to the floor, essentially an eccentric concentration curl with 41 kg/90 lbs, after each set. After a very poor and painful performance on the dumbell benches, I went ahead with the plan and loaded up 10 kg/22 lbs more on the speed bench with chains than last time. This, 60 kg/133 lbs, is closer to the generic 60% of max that is recommended for a raw intermediate bencher. Felt the biceps, increasingly also the right one, at the bottom of each rep. Felt like I wasn’t able to fully open the throttle, but the set times were decent, even if a tad too slow, as gleaned from the video. Put sets seven through nine on this week’s video summary (3.5M). As for the biceps pain? Rest, sauna, massage and an anti-inflammatory cream. Not the first time I get these kind of overuse symptoms.

Heavy bag (sluggish legs after the squat workout, took it easy)
Dumbell bench: worked up to a lousy 2,2,0 @ 41 kg/91 lbs (biceps pain)
Speed bench (wide, medium, narrow): 9x2 @ 60 kg/133 lbs + 20 kg/44 lbs chain
            Set times:
                set 1 (wide grip): 3.13 sec
                set 2 (medium grip): 3.11 sec
                set 3 (close grip): 3.14 sec
                set 4 (wide grip): 3.12 sec
                set 5 (medium grip): 3.14 sec
                set 6 (close grip): 4.01 sec
                set 7 (wide grip): 3.08 sec
                set 8 (medium grip): 3.11 sec
                set 9 (close grip): 3.13 sec
Parallel-grip pulldown: 3x8 @ 16th (80 kg/177 lbs?)
Seated cable L-flye: 2x10 @ 10 kg/22 lbs
Dumbell curl: 3x8 @ 18.5 kg/41 lbs

February 12, 2006

Week 6: Contemplating plates, entire butts and halos

Filed under: Workouts

Thursday, 9 February 2006: DE Squat

Not one of the most dynamic dynamic days. The left biceps pain flared up after a few sets of speed box squats at 75% of my current 120 kg/265 lbs raw max. Had to do without the quad busting Manta Ray squats instead wrapping it up with reverse hypers, GHRs and even some easy flexion work in the guise of standing pulley crunches. Perverted as it may be, I spent the time between the sets systematically going through every single weight plate I could find at Metal. If you ever wondered how much weight it takes to open up a small hardcore powerlifting dungeon or what a respectable weight plate distribution is, wonder no more.

Weight Pieces % of all Total weight Total price
1.25 kg/2.8 lbs 10 7% 12.5 kg 40€
2.5 kg/5.5 lbs 10 7% 25 kg 90€
5 kg/11 lbs 8 6% 40 kg 120€
10 kg/22.1 lbs 24 18% 240 kg 720€
15 kg/33 lbs 16 12% 240 kg 720€
20 kg/44 lbs 60 44% 1200 kg 3600€
50 kg/111 lbs 8 6% 400 kg 1200€
Total: 136 100% 2157.5 kg 6480€

In American, this is a total of 4768 lbs of iron at a cost of about 7,675 dollars. The price is based on current rates at Voimaharjoittelu.net and does not include shipping. No doubt there would be some volume discount, but this gives a rough idea. These MB Euroclassic plates “has the same standards as most international brands training quality but for much lower price”. The weight tolerance on these are 1% as opposed to an extreme 0.1% for calibrated Eleiko competition plates. More than good enough.

Flying sideways now, here’s the workout.

Speed box squat: 8x2 @ 90 kg/199 lbs (left biceps pain)
Reverse hyper: 4x8 @ 45 kg/99 lbs
GHR, narrow: 15
Standing cable crunch with stability ball:
                  8 @ 6th (30 kg/66 lbs?)
                  2x8 @ 4th (20 kg/44 lbs?) + doubled miniband

Saturday, 11 February 2006: Bench accessory

Gruesome pizza

Had a big piece of homemade pizza pre-workout. Not ideal, but sometimes pizza is the only thing that will satisfy a bottomless hunger. I almost burned it, but still yummy for the tummy. Sorry for being so graphic about it. Who said powerlifting blogs were always comfortable reading?

Approaching Metal Gym

Standing smack in the middle of an industrial area in Helsinki, Metal Gym lives in one square box indeed. The gym occupies one side of the third floor. As I arrived at 22pm, only half of the lights were lit; a sure sign that everyone else is home sleeping. In retrospect, I would have been better off doing the same. I began the workout with the usual inclines, but the biceps pain flared up again and prevented me from reaching the reps I did last time. Ah well, got to take care of that before something really bad happens.

Incline bench press: worked up to 4,3 @ 75 kg/166 lbs (left biceps pain)
3 supersets:
                  One-handed dumbell press: 3x8 @ 23.5 kg/52 lbs
                  Assisted pull-up: 7,7,6 @ ligh band (purple)
Face pull: 20 @ 6th (30 kg/66 lbs?)

Entire Butt, very cheap.

Hopping on the midnight transit bus back to downtown Helsinki after a bad workout, I almost felt like joining the party crowd for a few Entire Butts. I said almost.


The workout might not have been a good one, but the halo around the moon more than made up for it. I ended up staying outside for some time snapping pictures of it. I like this one, taken from underneath a pine standing in front of our house. According to a news flash on the web site of the Finnish Meteorological Institute, there have been a lot of halo sightings over the last few days. The Finnish Halo Observing Network has some further info and pictures of this wonderful phenomenon caused by the scattering of light by minute ice crystals in the atmosphere. Things like these must be nature’s way of reminding us of what is important in life. Snuggled in with the family in a warm bed.

February 28, 2006

Week 8: A visit to Måns’ basement

Filed under: Workouts

Wednesday, 22 February 2006: Light SQ and Bench

The biceps overuse problem got a nice natural solution: fever induced rest. Instead of being under the bar, I spent the whole last week under the weather. Still not quite sure if the normal gear was back in, I made a pilgrimage to a certain basement to find out.

Those of you who have been following Old-School Iron, the blog of my good friend and occasional training partner Måns, are no doubt well aware of the small gym located in a basement in his housing company. Known as kuntotila in Finnish, “exercise space” in a more international vernacular, the gym measures something on the order of 3x5 meters (15 square meters). Come to think of it, that’s a lot like our current living room, only weights are out of the question there. Anyway… with Måns now on the premises, the gym has been woken from its quiet coma with a bang. His buying of extra plates to supplement the measly 48 kg/107 lbs vinyl barbell set apparently got a former gym owning neighbor going too - a chinning bar, some more plates and other goodies appeared there soon after. Rumor has it that more equipment has been spotted in the parking lot since my visit. If Måns gets his way and the needed funds, this place will yet turn into a hardcore little beast, possibly even with a rack of some sort.

Here’s a panorama of the gym stitched together from several shots; the crooked bottom of the Proteus multistation machine is an artefact from the stitching. Click on the image for a larger version.

Kuntotila panorama

The workout, again done at the customary 11pm to way past midnight, turned out to be a little less light than I had anticipated. I worked up to 80 kg/177 lbs on the front squat, the most I wanted to do without a belt, and ended up doing a triple max on illegal wides with an extremely wide grip (grabbed the actual weight sleeves using a extra pair of locks to prevent the plates from moving into my hands). If loading up enough weight on the bar was no problem (can be taken to about 110 kg/243 lbs at the moment), then the multistation pulldown was a whole other monkey business with its teenage 100 lbs/45 kg stack. After I added a double miniband, brought with me for some band leg curls, to the pulley the stack was turned. I didn’t even need to use the whole stack… Tried a couple of different variations on setting up the band, see them on the video (5M) together with the rest of this workout.

Training in this gym brought back a lot of memories from the time I had my own home gym in my room. It had a huge Redwood Hanging Bar built according to the nice Hanging Bar Plans (1991) booklet from Health for Life, a Weider Cobra bench (briefly in use at Toffe’s Gym), some 80 kg/177 lbs of iron plates (now at Toffe’s Gym as dumbell plates), dumbell bars, a couple of different bars, a classic Armblaster, a home-made calf board and whatnot. The bar would barely fit between my bed and my closet, so not precisely a large gym that one either… I am still kicking myself daily for never taking any photos in there. I just wasn’t in the habit of taking pictures of myself or my habitat before I started this blogging business…

Passing lightly over that, here’s the workout. Thanks Måns for driving me to the gym and back home afterwards! Will come again, perhaps for deload week.

Full front-squat:
                  6 @ 50.1 kg/111 lbs
                  5 @ 60.1 kg/133 lbs
                  3 @ 70.1 kg/155 lbs
                  1 @ 80.1 kg/177 lbs
Seated band leg curl:
                  2x10 @ mini
                  8 @ mini (alternated to sides)
Wide-grip pulldown:
                  2x6 @ 100 lbs/45 kg + doubled miniband
                  10 @ 70 lbs/32 kg + doubled miniband (constant tension)
Illegal wides:
                  5 @ 47.5 kg/105 lbs
                  5 @ 57.5 kg/127 lbs
                  5 @ 67.5 kg/149 lbs
                  3 @ 77.5 kg/171 lbs
Standing barbell curl, leaning against wall: 10 @ 23 kg/51 lbs (hmmm…)

Saturday, 25 February 2006: DE Squat

Bar ready, summon squatterFuddled up the buss connections royally by forgetting (?) it was the weekend. Arriving at Metal some 40 minutes later than usual, I got held up trying to figure out the best chain setup for my dynamic effort squatting. You see, I have decided to alternate chains between DE bench and DE squat in three week waves.

This was the first time I tried chains on the squat, and boy, do they ever give you that max effort feeling even with light weights. Time being a scant commodity by the time I finally got myself into the rack and unto the parallel box, I only did 5x2 @ 85 kg/188 lbs with two pairs of chain per side. The longer kind of chain weighed 5 kg/11 lbs, the shorter 8 kg/18 lbs a piece. The script for Dave Tate’s three-week dynamic effort cycles wanted me to have 27 kg of chain at lockout, but based on the amount of chain left on the floor I estimate I get about 23 kg/51 lbs at lockout. After the speed work I worked up to a heavy double, something that is recommended that is done at least once in the cycle, stopping at 2 @ 105 kg/232 lbs on the bar plus the chains for a 128 kg/283 lbs lockout. It was getting hard, but could probably have loaded an additional 10 kg/22 lbs on the bar. This makes me believe I will annihilate the current parallel box squat PR very soon. Had to make a run for it to make it outside by closing time. Changing in an empty parking lot at midnight in the middle of winter after a very successful workout is my idea of fun.

Got a minor lateral shift after the workout, but it had cleared up by the time I was back home.

VIDEO (3.5M)

Speed box squat:
                  5x2 @ 85 kg/188 lbs + 23 kg/51 lbs chains
                  1 @ 95 kg/210 lbs + 23 kg/51 lbs chains
                  1 @ 105 kg/232 lbs + 23 kg/51 lbs chains

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