April 2006 archives

April 3, 2006

Getting out of the sagittal plane

Filed under: Workouts

Somehow landing a spinning back kick

By popular demand… here’s the only video snippet (1.5M) I have of my heavy bag work, from a certain deload week in early January. It’s not pretty, it’s not serious, but it gives you the general idea. At this point, I still needed more than a few refreshers on latching on to the rhythm of the bag and a lot of the kicks show a glaring lack of follow through as a result. Who would have thought this man actually carries a black belt? Let’s just say that it’s been ten years and await the sequel.

April 12, 2006

Week 11 to week 13: Off to another planet

Filed under: Workouts

I feel thankful for paying per visit and not monthly at Metal… First I spent a week recovering from the latest bout of back trouble. For once, I actually managed to fix myself up in a record time by doing nothing but avoiding flexion and decompressing frequently. Eleven days after the relapse, I was in the gym doing front squats and feeling dandy. Then I suddenly lost my voice and caught a fever. A far nastier critter than the usual flu fare, I was down and out from work for the whole of week 13. If I don’t have any energy to compute, I know it’s bad. When Rufus also caught it we had our hands full. Then it was Sanna’s turn, who is at the time of writing still recovering from hers. I could have sweared Metal Gym was no longer in the same dimension.

Here’s a quick glance at the two workouts I got in before falling ill.

Tuesday, 14 March 2006: ME Bench

Dumbell bench with bandsBeing the first workout after the back pain, I played it safe and kept my feet up on all the benching. After posting a routine failure at 102.5 kg/227 lbs on the close-grip bench, I worked my way up on the dumbell bench with a light band around my back (VIDEO 1.8M). Not perhaps what you’d expect from a guy vehemently opposed to starting on the bands too early, but, or so the story goes, I did it in an effort to solve the two-fold problem I have with the dumbell bench: the lack of a dumbell pair between 36 kg and 41kg/91 lbs has proven to be too big a weight jump to continue the 5x5 progression and lowering the 41 kg/91 lbs bells to the floor seriously strained my weak biceps. With the band, I can achieve the same level of work with much less dumbell poundage while drastically cutting down on the weight I need to lower to the floor. The 26 kg/57 lbs dumbells were plenty for a set of six. And yes, I am going to bring my biceps up with more direct biceps work, for I really want to manhandle the heavier bells soon. If it takes bands to do it, then so be it.

Heavy bag work
Close-grip bench press, feet on bench:
                    6 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
                    6 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
                    6 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
                    6 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
                    1 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
                    1 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
                    0 @ 102.5 kg/227 lbs
Dumbell bench, feet on bench:
                    8 @ 13.5 kg/30 lbs + light band
                    8 @ 16 kg/35 lbs + light band
                    8 @ 21 kg/46 lbs + light band
                    8 @ 23.5 kg/52 lbs + light band
                    6 @ 26 kg/57 lbs + light band
Chest supported T-bar row: 3x8 + 6 shrugs @ 55 kg/122 lbs
Parallel-grip pulldown: 2x8 + 6 shrugs @ 14th (70 kg/155 lbs?)
Metal cable preacher curl:
                    3 @ 3 plates
                    9 @ 2 plates

Friday, 17 March 2006: Squat

Sting ray in pastel

Due to the aforementioned back episode, my newly acquired Sting Ray was confined to the stinky darkness of my gym bag for two weeks before it finally got out in the limelight. The Sting Ray does for the front squat what its cousin the Manta Ray does for the back squat, namely delivers a much increased surface area for the bar in the guise of blue high-tech polyurethane polymer that snaps readily unto the bar. The end result is sheer comfort that allows one to concentrate on the task at hand without worrying about the bar. For more ramblings on this, see my post on the Manta Ray.

The Manta Ray provides an easy way to do an extremely high-bar squat that taxes the quads to the max, but no serious powerlifter would consider using it exlusively since it is illegal in competition and a low bar placement gives better leverage anyway. Leave that for the bodybuilders. In contrast, I see little point in doing front squats without the Sting Ray since it does not noticeably alter the mechanics of the lift. As anyone who has done front squats extensively can attest, the front squat is an uncomfortable lift where you get to choose between sacrificing your shoulders or wrists to keep the bar in front of your body. With the Sting Ray the discomfort is virtually eliminated, provided you get the two pieces properly spaced on the bar. I also found that you don’t even need to hold on to the bar at all, but it felt more natural for an old front squatter to keep the arms over it. Just in case.

For obvious reasons, I took it easy with a few fivers at 70 kg/155 lbs, but it was more than enough to convince me that the Sting Ray will be worth much more over the years to come than the mere $39.95 plus $11.60 shipping that I paid for it suggests. Inspired by Alberto, I continued the quad assault with walking dumbell lunges from the end of the lifting platform to the Metal shop. Turned out to be sixteen lunge steps. The next day my glutes and quads were fried.

Heavy bag work
Full Sting Ray front squat, close stance: worked up to 3x5 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
Walking dumbell lunge: 16 steps @ 13.5 kg/30 lbs dumbells
Reverse-hyper: worked up to 3 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
GHR, narrow: aborted with a cramp in left calf
Seated band leg curl: 12 @ mini

April 13, 2006

Week 14: Shaking off the flu

Filed under: Workouts

Wednesday, 5 April 2006: Light bench/squat combo

Still got a slimy cough, but who can stay out of the gym forever? I eased back into it by doing a light combined squat and bench workout involving plenty of supersets. As you can see, I am indeed serious about upping my biceps strength. In fact, I think I will start my bench assistance day with plenty of biceps work and also put in a few sets on max effort day. I should probably start to do biceps pull-ups…

5 supersets:
        Barbell curl:
                8 @ 30 kg/66 lbs
                6 @ 35 kg/77 lbs
                3x6 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
        Full Westside camber bar squat, close stance:
                8 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
                6 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
                6 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
                2x6 @ 80 kg/177 lbs

3 supersets:
        Seated hammer curl:
                6 @ 13.5 kg/30 lbs
                4 @ 18.5 kg/41 lbs
                4 @ 16 kg/35 lbs
        Reverse hyper:
                10 @ 30 kg/66 lbs
                2x10 @ 45 kg/99 lbs

2″ camber bar bench: 10 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
Walking dumbell lunge: 16 steps @ 13.5 kg/30 lbs dumbells
Face pull: 12 @ 7th (35 kg/77 lbs?)

Saturday, 8 April 2006: ME Bench

On a whim, I decided to see how it would feel if I moved my grip out on the bench. I usually bench with pinkies on or just inside the rings, but now worked up with ring fingers on the rings. To my surprise, there was no shoulder discomfort. As is to be expected when using unfamiliar grips, the normal bench poundage was too much right now. I also moved the feet in as much as I could while still keeping my heels on the ground in an attempt to keep my arch better. If things continue to feel this good, I will likely keep the wider grip as I sure could use a bit shorter range of motion… Am also slowly bringing the total volume up a bit on the assistance work with shorter rest periods. I could use a bit more muscle and GPP. Then again, who couldn’t?

Bench (ring fingers on rings):
                5 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
                5 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
                5 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
                5 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
                3 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
                2 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
                0 @ 100 kg/221 lbs
Wide-grip pulldown: 4x10 @ 14th (70 kg/155 lbs?)
Metal row:
                3x6 @ 35 kg/77 lbs per side
                15 @ 25 kg/55 lbs per side
Cable crossover lying rear delt flye: 3x8 @ 15 kg/33 lbs
Lying L-flye: 2x8 @ 7 kg/15 lbs
2 supersets:
        Pressdown in lat pulley: 2x12 @ 6th (30 kg/66 lbs?)
        Metal cable preacher curl: 2x8 @ 3 plates

April 16, 2006

What is 92″ long, weighs 52 pounds and is not straight?

Filed under: General

We added a new weapon to our arsenal at the gym. [..] The 92.5″ Buffalo Bar with its magnificent curve boldly rests on the angled uprights of our Excalibur power rack. What a truly handsome piece of steel it is; super-long with it’s super-thick deeply knurled bar, smoothly rotating Olympic sleeves and cool silver-steel finish. We don’t use this ultimate squat bar for training purposes, as it is far too beautiful for clanging around, dropping and racking. We, girls and guys, take turns standing next to the thing like it was a frontiersman’s musket or a gladiator’s lance, vain warriors posed for a point n’shoot photograph.
Dave Draper: Buffalo Stampede.

Tongue in cheek aside, I followed in the footsteps of the Blonde Bomber and arranged to purchase my very own Buffalo Bar for Toffe’s. It all started when I got the latest issue of MILO and read Dr. Ken’s ravings about how this legendary bar is “made for one thing and one thing only and that’s the squat”. As it happened, some time later I browsed in at Voimaharjoittelu.net to look at their used equipment sections. The first thing I saw was a Buffalo Bar for 195 euros. For a second, I was torn between the Buffalo Bar and the Texas Powerbar (”the best all-purpose bar on the market“), but with Leistner’s words, a vision of my squat numbers continuing their climb and a 50% discount on my mind (the retail price is 395 euros), I went for the Buffalo. I contacted Sakke, the owner of the shop, and inquired about the condition of the bar. Turned out he had two (Europeans, one more is up for the grabs!), both in good condition. One had been in use at a public gym, the other one is from a private gym. He also readily agreed to hold the shipping until late April when dad will be at our summer cottage to pick it up. Saves me from slugging it all the way from Helsinki. Good service!

I will definitively need to replace the generic bar at Toffe’s with a proper bar at some point, but for now I am happy to have a legendary squat bar in my forest. Unlike what the thick layer of ice still covering the sea here in southern Finland suggests, the outdoor training session is just around the corner. Can’t wait.

April 17, 2006

Week 15: Light stuff on fire

Filed under: Workouts

Monday, 10 April 2006: “ME” Squat

Not quite with it...Thumbs down for this workout. Apparently I was not fully recovered from the light introductory workout I did last week following the illness. It took two attempts to get 80 kg/177 lbs on the front squats… a tad embarrassing. The hammies were too tired for GHRs and 40 kg/88 lbs on the reverse hyper was one lethargic experience. Praise the God of Iron that these kind of days are not the norm and move on. Måns’s take on this day is bound to be much different. He posted a 150 kg/332 lbs legal depth raw squat on his first ever max attempt on the squat. That’s no belt. I confess to suggesting he max out… the force is strong with this bodybuilder!

Heavy bag work
Full Sting Ray front squat, close stance: worked up to 1 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
GHR: hamstrings too tired, aborted
Standing cable crunch with stability ball: 2x15 @ 7th (35 kg/77 lbs?)
Reverse hyper: 6 @ 40

Friday, 14 April 2006: Bench weakpoint day

Metal Gym neon logo outside the building

A good workout. Got the “Light your biceps on fire” campaign to a good start and also resurrected the dumbell benching with bands. After three sets of five with the violet bands, I tried a set with 33.5 kg/74 lbs without bands. I was tired by then, but a set of six wasn’t too hard. It being Easter and all, the fuel for today’s workout was naturally lutefisk and mämmi.

Heavy bag work
4 supersets:
          Barbell curl: 4x7 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
          Dumbell bench:
                  3x5 @ 26 kg/57 lbs + light band
                  6 @ 33.5 kg/74 lbs

3 supersets:
          Incline curl in cable crossover:
                  6,5 @ 25 kg/55 lbs per side
                  9 @ 20 kg/44 lbs per side
          Plate raise:
                  2x7 @ 20 kg/44 lbs
                  10 @ 15 kg/33 lbs

2 supersets:
          Face pull: 2x12 @ 7th (35 kg/77 lbs?)
          JM press: 2x10 @ 40 kg/88 lbs

Sunday, 16 April 2006: DE Squat

A bison behind barsThere’s a lot of resurrecting in the air; Jesus, the aformentioned band work, and now, speed squats. I want to get back to the chains soon, but for the next few weeks I am easing back into it au naturelle. Went light at 80 kg/177 lbs owing to a stiff sacroiliac joint, perhaps due to having slept some decent hours and then carrying Rufus around at the Helsinki Zoo looking at bisons, tigers and owls (his favorite). Måns and I arrived fairly late at the gym, which probably saved me from overdoing it tonight. Still, moved up to a record 60 kg/133 lbs on the reverse hyper. Sure, I’ve repped with 60 kg/133 lbs in the past, but that wasn’t with a full stop between reps to put it mildly. At that time, I couldn’t have gotten 60 kg/133 lbs to the top without momentum. Something’s getting stronger. Since it is Easter and both of us had Monday off, we wrapped up the workout with a nocturnal visit to the centrally located kebab place Eerikin pippuri (loosely translates as Eric’s pepper), widely heralded as THE place to eat kebab in Helsinki. This time around, I will not torment your appetite with any more compromising pictures of kebab. Just eat it. Why am I suddenly thinking of bison kebab?

Heavy bag work
Speed box squat: 8x2 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
Full Manta Ray squat, close stance: worked up to 4x3 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
3 supersets:
          Reverse hyper: 3x10 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
          Standing band crunch: 3x12 @ two doubled minibands

Interesting Buffalo Bar trivia

Filed under: General

Subject: Question about the original Buffalo Bar
Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2006 16:59:53 +0000


I just purchased a used Buffalo Bar. As a proud owner with an interest in
lifting trivia, I would like to briefly inquire about the history of the
bar. I found a forum post on the internet where it was stated that the
specs used to be 1 1/8″ diameter and 86″ length as opposed to the
current 1-3/8″ diameter and 92″ length. Is this true, and if so,
when did you start to manufacture it with the larger specs? I would also
be interested in when the first bar hit the shelves.

-Kristoffer Lindqvist, Helsinki, Finland

Dear Kristoffer,

Congratulations on your new (to you!) Buffalo Bar.

IronMind began selling cambered squat bars in 1990, after they had
been ignored for decades, and although it’s more history than trivia,
we did this as they are tied to the training program featured in the
book SUPER SQUATS. We had two models then, and the predecessor to
our current model, in fact, was 1-1/8″ in diameter. I do not have
the product introduction dates at my finger tips, but that bar moved
first to 1-1/4″ in diameter, before settling in at its current
diameter of 1-3/8″.

I hope this information helps you and that you enjoy your Buffalo Bar
for many years of productive training.

Best wishes,

Randall J. Strossen, Ph.D.
IronMind Enterprises, Inc.

A BIG thanks to Randall J. Strossen for his generous answer to a question that many lesser companies would regard as a waste of their time and for giving me the permission to cite the correspondence on this blog. The links that appear in the posts have been added to point the reader to the relevant information.

April 29, 2006

Week 16: Higher ground

Filed under: Workouts

Saturday, 22 April 2006: ME Bench

Prime pieces of workout action

Bench day, back to the widened grip. Based on a radical loss of speed similar to illegal wide benching and some acute shoulder discomfort as the bar drifted towards the throat as I missed the last attempt, I have some reason to suspect that I took my middle fingers for my ring fingers. Can’t really tell from the clip (6.9M). Be that as it may, the only fingers I want on the ring for now is the ring fingers. I sense a faint… association.

Followed up with a standard array of accessories. The seated pin presses went well. Not having a board handy, I rigged them up the usual way with a short curl bar as the back rest; only nose-haters do these off an incline bench. Got 3x5 @ 60 kg/133 lbs. Any guesses on what my max will be next ME workout when I will do this one first in the workout for a single? For reference, the best I’ve ever done is 2 @ 70 kg/155 lbs.

Bench (middle fingers on rings, no speed):
                  worked up to 2 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
                  0 @ 100 kg/221 lbs
4 supersets:
        Seated pin press:
                  5 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
                  3x5 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
        Chest supported T-bar row: 4x8 @ 55 kg/122 lbs
2 supersets:
        Close-grip pulldown: 2x10 @ ??? (forgot to write down)
        Cable crossover lying rear delt flye: 2x10 @ 15 kg/33 lbs (per side)
Metal cable preacher curl: 15 @ 3 plates

Sunday, 23 April 2006: ME Squat

High box squat, westside cambered bar squat and walking dumbell lunges

I love to squat. After being sidetracked for so long, it feels great to surf on a good gain wave again. If anything, this high box squat session boosted my confidence even more. Got a good shot at 150 kg/332 lbs, alas… As the video (7.3M) will no doubt reveal, the attempts were very uneven; just look at the contrast between the 140 kg/309 lbs that I nearly dumped forward and the subsequent easy 145 kg/320 lbs follow-up. I have since reflected a bit on my form, especially in regard to how I set-up, after having watched the excellent NASA DVD Trouble Shooting Your Own Lifts. I will experiment a bit during DE day and return with my observations in the next weekly installment. The next two ME sessions, I will set a new parallel box PR (shooting for 135-140 kg/298-309 lbs) before annihilating the contemptibly small 120 kg/265 lbs squat record from February. That’s the plan anyway.

Feeling quite beat after the last three high box attempts, I was happy with a sloppy set of Westside cambered bar squats and an even sloppier set of walking dumbell lunges across the gym. I must have taken a somewhat longer stride (go glutes, go!) this time, because I only got 15 steps in as opposed to the usual 16. Trying to look good on camera, eh? Eh? Got a long way to go, Mister. Mango soup anyone? Reverse hypers and out seconds before midnight.

Box squat, ~17″:
                  5 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
                  3 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
                  3 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
                  3 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
                  3 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
                  3 @ 100 kg/221 lbs (belt on)
                  2 @ 110 kg/243 lbs PR!
                  2 @ 120 kg/265 lbs PR!
                  1 @ 130 kg/287 lbs PR!
                  1 @ 140 kg/309 lbs PR!
                  1 @ 145 kg/320 lbs PR!
                  0 @ 150 kg/332 lbs
Full westside cambered bar squat, close stance: 8 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
Walking dumbell lunge: 15 @ 13.5 kg/30 lbs dumbells
Reverse hyper: worked up to 6 @ 65 kg/144 lbs

Reverse hyper wear and tear

Filed under: General

Worn reverse hyper loading pin

The reverse hyper loading pin showing off some astonishing wear, incidentally of the same width as a 20 kg/44 lbs plate… the dent is most pronounced at the top, with very little on the underside. Pretty much the same thing that happens to joints subjected to years of mechanical stress under maximal loads. This is where you, like me, hope I’m at least half kidding.