February 2006 archives

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