July 2006 archives

July 1, 2006

Week 24: Healing up, not slowing down

Filed under: Workouts

Tuesday, 13 June 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 3, day 1 (heavy bench, light squat)

Self-made bar marksI’ve turned into a restoration nut after aquiring the first, but not surprising, overuse problems last week on the Russian routine. Lots of saunas alternating between heavy steams in the regular 80-90°C/176-194°F sauna with extended plunges in the admittedly fairly warm sea of 21°C/70°F followed by massage and generous amounts of anti-inflammatory creams, horse liniment and vitamin C (aka the everything but the kitchen sink approach). The left biceps pain had diminished a lot and I got through the heavy benching without too much pain nor strain. Couldn’t feel any pain in the groin, so went for the squats, but as the preliminary groove up sets summoned a minor pain genie, I decided to let the light squats be. My goal on this program is to not miss a single heavy workout, but I will skimp on the light ones if needed for recovery. The program itself states that this is ok, given the demanding nature of it.

This being the first benching session at Toffe’s this year, it finally dawned on me to do something I should have a long time ago. Since my generic bar doesn’t have any markings (imagine that, a stealth bar) and the knurling is actually ever so slightly uneven, I drew them up myself with a permanent marker. Not as good as the real thing as I can’t just feel my pinkies stroking the thin line etched into the steel (how kinky), but at least now my grip is precisely where I want it to be without any guesswork. Should have done this a decade ago when I first got the bar. Actually, should have gotten another bar in the first place. Come to think of it, I should have gone inte powerlifting already then. How futile is not human post-facto wisdom?

Bench: worked up to 6x5 @ 77.5 kg/171 lbs
Skipped the squats due to lingering groin pain

Thursday, 15 June 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 3, day 2 (heavy deadlift)

Death to the mosquitosHad some light pain on the right side of the groin, but it was a huge improvement over last week. It no longer felt serious. My pulls went well and I left a few reps on the platform for later. Also did a few sets of light accessory work with a mini band, mostly L-flyes, pressdowns and pull-aparts.

On another note, the mosquitos have arrived en masse. Nothing repellent can’t take care of, but they do swarm quite a bit, especially when doing the customary evening/night lifting. Come to think of it, Mosquito Gym would actually be a cool alternative to Toffe’s Gym. In case someone hasn’t made the connection yet, Toffe is a common nickname for Kristoffer in the Swedish speaking corners of the globe. In international communication, I prefer the easier to grasp Kris though. Hmmm… Mosquito Mass Murder Gym?

Sumo deadlift: worked up to 6x5 @ 112.5 kg/248 lbs
Brief accessory work with a mini band

Saturday, 17 June 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 3, day 3 (heavy squat, light bench)

The groin pain was nearly gone and, praise the God of Iron, NO biceps pain at all. Aggressive massage and anti-inflammatory cream applied several times daily can do wonders. It felt really good to be able to do the light benching without soreness. The squatting was really tough today though, not so much because the reps got heavy as me running out of stamina. Took a longer break between the fourth and fifth set which helped some.

Squat, buffalo bar: worked up to 6x5 @ 100 kg/220 lbs
Bench: worked up to 6x2 @ 77.5 kg/171 lbs

Week 25: Peak volume

Filed under: Workouts

Lofty cloud

This was week 4 of the Russian routine where the volume peakes at 6 sets of 6 reps at 80% on all three powerlifts. Just another camp en route to the new PRs for sure, but the squats felt like a victory as I’ve never before considered 100 kg/220 lbs something I would rep with. The overuse problems were gone this week, but still skipped the light squats on Tuesday as I was pretty sore from last week’s squats and deads. I’m keeping this short, instead leaving you with the promised video (5.4M) - speaking of which, sorry ’bout the occasionally bad light due to me lifting around midnight when Rufus is sound asleep. Clips will probably appear a bit more frequently as the weights start going up sharply while the volume tapers off beginning next week. Playtime is over.

Tuesday, 20 June 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 4, day 1 (heavy bench, light squat)

Bench: worked up to 6x6 @ 77.5 kg/171 lbs
Skipped the squats due to leg soreness

Thursday, 22 June 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 4, day 2 (heavy deadlift)

Sumo deadlift: worked up to 6x6 @ 112.5 kg/248 lbs

Saturday, 24 June 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 4, day 3 (heavy squat, light bench)

Squat, buffalo bar: worked up to 6x6 @ 100 kg/220 lbs
Bench: worked up to 6x2 @ 77.5 kg/171 lbs

July 3, 2006

Week 26: Jetsetting

Filed under: Workouts

Rufus sharing his dad's fascination with cloudsThe recent skewed ratio of clouds to powerlifting photos has lead several of my readers, and myself, to think this is now a meteorological blog. I almost did an extensive write up on a particularly nice cirrus cloud I spotted while I happened to lay down for a benching workout. Let me assure you that this, contrary to what it may seem, is a good sign. The fact that I am fascinated by clouds soaring high in the sky, birds nesting in the trees and the regular ant marching past the power rack shows that I am finally putting the work related stress behind me. Perhaps another reason why the Russian routine seems to be working so well. The workouts have been tough ever since week 3, yet every week I seem to come back stronger and more explosive than the week before. A good routine, good restoration, enough sleep, family time and clouds are what defines me right now. Lifting hasn’t felt this good in a good while.

The training week began with benching at Toffe’s on Tuesday, followed by a strenous deadlifting session at Metal Gym on Thursday within an hour after landing on the Helsinki-Vantaa airport, and finally squatting on Saturday at Metal in the monolift with the squat bar (to get the now customary biceps saving wide grip) an hour after attending a wedding where food intake was more than generous. Then on Monday, we hopped on a train back to the summer cottage and Toffe’s. The nicest thing about the whole week was how well traveling with Rufus went - he didn’t even flinch when he took off for his very first flight. He also got a nice little teddy from the stewardess… there I go again. So, here’s the video (3.9M) for this week. And you know what? I now know very little about the future again. Yes, yes, this blog, or homegrown powerlifting magazine if you will, is now again up to speed.

Tuesday, 27 June 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 5, day 1 (heavy bench, light squat)

Bench: worked up to 5x5@82.5kg/182lbs
Skipped the squats due to leg soreness

Thursday, 29 June 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 5, day 2 (heavy deadlift)

Sumo deadlift: worked up to 5x5@120kg/264lbs
Reverse hyper: 12 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
Lat pulldowns: a couple of very light sets

Saturday, 1 July 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 5, day 3 (heavy squat, light bench)

Squat: worked up to 5x5@107.5kg/237lbs
Bench: worked up to 2 @ 77.5 kg/171 lbs (ran out of time due to the wedding)

July 6, 2006

Outdoor lifting in Senegal

Filed under: General

Benching with iron rod and car rims

Helsingin Sanomat, the leading newspaper in Finland, recently carried an interesting article on a city constructed outdoor gym in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. All the equipment is made of scrap metal gathered from here and there, but, to paraphrase the article, the view towards the sea is luxurious. As you can see from the attached picture, the lifting bars are made of iron rods with rusty car rims functioning as plates. While many of today’s top of the line rims weigh in at under 5 kg/11 lbs, older rims such as these weigh around 10 kg/22 lbs a piece or more. With three rims per side and a resonable bar weight estimate of 7 kg/15 lbs, my guess is that the guy in the picture is working with roughly 65 kg/143 lbs. One of the lifters interviewed for the piece states that exercising became something of a national pastime after the 2002 Soccer World Cup when Senegal beat their former colonial ruler France and, against all odds, advanced all the way to the quarterfinals before being sent home by Turkey. Indeed, this seaside gym buzzes with life in the evenings being mainly favored by young men from the nearby university. In sum, this is very very cool and something special as far as outdoor gyms go. That’s a dedicated bunch right there.
[ Source: Minna Nalbantoglu: Dakarilaisia opiskelijoita ei kiinnosta pyrkiä laittomasti Eurooppaan, Helsingin Sanomat, 27 June 2006 ]

July 19, 2006

Week 27: Several kinds of volume

Filed under: Workouts

Creative speakers and iPod at Toffe's

After popping in and out of Helsinki and Metal Gym to attend a wedding, I returned to Toffe’s armed with a pair of Creative’s Inspire 280 speakers. The soundscape that emerges from an amplifierless and powerless small speaker ripped from an old ghetto blaster is slim at best. Figured it would be quite cool to actually hear the tunes while panting under the bar, especially now that I got my iPod filled with metal goodness and the weights continue their climb towards an extended russian crescendo. I looked at more powerful sets, even thought about subwhoofing my weight shed, but came to the conclusion that 5 Watts RMS divided over the two speakers would be enough for my purpose. I respect nature and the other cottages on the island enough to not want to blast death metal all over the place. Don’t want to be scaring the four sheep that reside on the other side of the small forest, do I now? Speaking of which, Rufus was thrilled to see them sneak around the gym area the other day as they had, for the umpteenth time, dashed out for a stroll and some green munchies. Anyway, “the choice for stylish entertainment” was the second cheapest set of speakers I could find (25 euros) and I have been quite content with them. Then again, I am not much of an audiophile.

With temperatures hovering around an unusually hot 30°C/86°F for most of the week, the new speakers got to spit out the metal fare in the evening as I worked through the week at 4 sets of 4 reps at 90%. The bench sets where surprisingly easy even if I didn’t always hit the sweet spot at lockout. One thing I have forgotten to mention is that I after all decided to follow the Metal Militia and Rich Peter’s recommendation to tuck the wrists back at the bottom of the bench. Been doing that since the beginning of the program and must say it feels surprisingly good. You can see this well on the videos from the previous weeks. The squat and deadlift weren’t as easy, but nailed them as well. For specifics, please consult the weekly video summary (4.4M). It also shows how I have started to set up L-flyes with mini bands, been experimenting with that a lot lately to find a suitable resistance curve.

The week also saw me reflect on the relationship between volume and intensity on the Extended Russian Routine. The routine is getting tougher and tougher, but when have I actually surpassed my previous 1RM? Using the Epley formula 1RM = (weight lifted x reps performed * 0.033) + weight lifted, I found that this week’s 4 sets of 4 reps at 90% is roughly equivalent to four singles at 101.88%. Epley assumes that the input data was an all-out set to failure, but obviously doing multiple sets means that some gas was spared at least on the first sets. To my knowledge, no formula can reliable answer the logical follow-up question: given four singles at 101.88%, what would my max be if I put all my energy into a single set? As you can see from the table below, every set is above the old 1RM beginning with week 6, but my guess is that when taking the multiple sets into account, the routine predicts an improvement already at week 4. What you can also see is that my hunch that week 8 is tougher than week 9 is correct; in week 8 you are doing the equivalent of two singles at 106.6% whereas week 9 has you down to a single at 105%. Perhaps it is safe to say that if one passes week 8, one should theoretically be able to hit a single of perhaps 108%? In my case this would amount to a 105.3 kg/232 lbs bench, a 153.9 kg/339 lbs deadlift and a 137.7 kg/303 lbs squat. Makes me think the goals I have put up are fairly realistic, if I pass week 8 that is. One thing that has to be taken into account though, is that the actual weights used are rounded to the nearest 2.5 kg and thus the predicted percentage of the max will vary slightly between the lifts every week. Also, these calculations do not take into account the supercompensation that ideally continue to occur all the way up to the meet/max attempts after week 9. That said, whatever strength gains occur after week 8 are bound to be fairly slim.

Actual load
sets x reps @ % of 1RM
Epley predicted equivalent singles
sets x reps @ % of 1RM (difference from previous week)
1 6 x 3 @ 80% 6 x 1 @ 87.92%
2 6 x 4 @ 80% 6 x 1 @ 90.56% (+2.64%)
3 6 x 5 @ 80% 6 x 1 @ 93.2% (+2.64%)
4 6 x 6 @ 80% 6 x 1 @ 95.84% (+2.64%)
5 5 x 5 @ 85% 5 x 1 @ 99.025% (+3.185%)
6 4 x 4 @ 90% 4 x 1 @ 101.88% (+2.855%)
7 3 x 3 @ 95% 3 x 1 @ 104.405% (+2.525%)
8 2 x 2 @ 100% 2 x 1 @ 106.60% (+2.195%)
9 1 x 1 @ 105% 1 x 1 @ 105.00% (-1.6%)

Tuesday, 4 July 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 6, day 1 (heavy bench, light squat)

Bench: worked up to 4x4x87.5kg/193lbs
Brief accessory work with a mini band

Thursday, 6 July 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 6, day 2 (heavy deadlift)

Sumo deadlift: worked up to 4x4@127.5kg/281lbs

Saturday, 8 July 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 6, day 3 (heavy squat, light bench)

Squat, buffalo bar: worked up to 4x4@115kg/253lbs
Bench: worked up to 6x2 @ 77.5 kg/171 lbs

July 20, 2006

Week 28: 2 am tripled squat PR

Filed under: Workouts

Illuminated gym in the middle of the night

Week 7 of the Russian routine was tough on paper, 3x3 @ 95% or roughly the equivalent of three singles at 104.405%, but I seem to be coming back with a vengeance every week. The squat was actually stronger than last week and the other lifts were manageable although it is clear that my speed is starting to suffer under the increasing weights. Still, I have to hold myself back from suddenly introducing loads of accessory work as the rapidly decreasing volume is actually making the workouts feel easier. The guy who came up with this routine is a genius!

For the first time this summer, one session was foiled by the weather as a heavy thunder storm forced me deadlift on Friday instead of the usual Thursday. This was all good in the end, since a family gathering over the weekend would effectively have prevented me from training on Saturday anyway, thus pushing the heavy squat day to Sunday. Did that workout after midnight in halogen light after we returned to the summer cottage following a four hour car ride. Finished the workout at 2 am after squatting 3x3 with my PR of 120 kg/264 lbs. The reason I PR’d so early in the game is that the max I plugged into the Extended Russian Routine for the squat was based on a 127.5 kg/281 lbs estimated max and not a true achieved max. So far I haven’t had to concede defeat by going out on a limb. Showdown next week.

Weekly video summary (4.1M)

Tuesday, 11 July 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 7, day 1 (heavy bench, light squat)

Bench: worked up to 3x3x92.5kg/204lbs
Brief accessory work with a mini band

Friday, 14 July 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 7, day 2 (heavy deadlift)

Sumo deadlift: worked up to 3x3@135kg/297lbs

Sunday, 16 July 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 7, day 3 (heavy squat, light bench)

Squat, buffalo bar: worked up to 3x3@120kg/264lbs (PR!)
Bench: worked up to 6x2 @ 77.5 kg/171 lbs

July 21, 2006


Filed under: General

I already mentioned this in a comment, but as a general announcement the annual fall workout(s) at Toffe’s Gym will take place on September 8th-10th. If anyone is against the odds able to join Måns and me for a fun-filled weekend with outdoor lifting, sauna and copious amounts of good food, shoot me an e-mail. Also let me know if you require more weight than 300 kg/660 lbs so I can make arrangements. :-)

July 23, 2006

Week 29: Heavyish

Filed under: Workouts

Energy drink sitting on top of printed out programThis was the week I have spent seven weeks preparing for, the 2x2 @ 100% week, the week when the shit would either hit the fan or PRs fall. Looking back at the program even the previous week seems like a walk in the park, quite a different point of view compared to staring up towards week 8 from the puny mound of week 1… I would be lying if I’d say that I was sure I had this in the bag from day one. The question was whether it was sensible to use projected maxes for the squat (7.5 kg/17 lbs above) and deadlift (2.5 kg/6 lbs above) instead of the last achieved max. Another question was whether I would walk out of this without lower back trouble. Not to mention that week 2 and 3 looked pretty grim with overuse symptoms materializing in the form of biceps pain and hip pain. As a wise saying has it, one shouldn’t sell the hide before the bear is shot, but looking at how well I got through this most intense week on the program something very drastic has to happen for me to fail the last week when the intensity is actually lower despite the slightly heavier weights. Relative to my own level, I am in really good shape right now and mentally ready to tackle some all-out PRs.

Wednesday, 19 July 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 8, day 1 (heavy bench, light squat)

You might recall that I shaved 5 kg/11 lbs off my actual max on the bench in order to work up to my PR of 102.5 kg/226 lbs using a totally revamped technique. Hence 2x2 @ 97.5 kg/215 lbs wasn’t a PR in terms of absolute weight, but I doubled weight I could previously only touch for a single. The first set was convincing, but struggled to lockout the last rep on the second set, something I partially blame the mosquito which decided to land on my face in the middle of the set for. This near miss experience showed that the change of benching technique appears to be working according to plan as the sticking point appears to have migrated from the pec/delt transition point towards the lockout. The ever astute Alberto suggested via e-mail that I attack the new weak spot with boards and heavy chain benching in addition to the standard shoulder work, heavy dips and close-grip benches. The lockout has been my forte in the past, what gives? Alberto suggested I might have lost lockout strength by focusing on full range work lately, which is probably true. Still, I believe a major culprit lies in the new bar path - am just not used to locking out heavy weights with elbows flared out that high over the chest. Tripped by sport specificity? Be that as it may, I think Alberto is right on the money and will follow suit as soon as I am done with this full-range paradigm. Thanks Alberto! In the meantime, next week’s 102.5 kg/226 lbs single does not appear to be all that much to worry about.

Bench: worked up to 2x2@97.5kg/215lbs
Brief accessory work with a mini band

Friday, 21 July 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 8, day 2 (heavy deadlift)

The deadlifts were heavy, but think I had at least one more rep in me. True to myself, I ripped them off the floor in the usual back dominant way, but it could have been a lot uglier than it was. Wish I had the rocket launch off the floor Stinn has, but then again, I wished I pulled the kind of weight he does too. Wishing just does not get you very far in this game. 2x2 @ 142.5 kg/314 lbs was naturally a PR.

Sumo deadlift: worked up to 2x2@142.5kg/314lbs (PR!)

Sunday, 23 July 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 8, day 3 (heavy squat, light bench)

On paper, the squats was were the real shit was lurking. Besides being in at the deep end with much more weight than I had done on free squats in the past, having to do them with only one day of rest between heavy sumo deadlifting means I have rarely felt 100% recuperated come heavy squat day. Today was no different, could feel Friday especially in my legs and low back. On the other hand, this would appear to be good psychology - if I can squat this much with tired legs, what will my squat not look like when I go for a PR fresh?

Perhaps less good psychology was the fact that I had some serious questions about what would happen were I to miss one of my lifts. Since I nowadays hold the bar outside the rack, my arms are between the safety pins and the bar. In the event of a crash I would just need to remember to rotate the elbows up, but a nasty side-effect of having to leave some space for the arms is that the safety pins are actually much lower than the bar itself when in the hole. With the fairly wide stance I am using, I can’t really drop much beyond parallel without ripping something, leaving a severly deep forward dump or backwards bar drop as the only viable options. MILO recently carried a good article on the importance of learning to dump the bar over the head in the squat, but not going to attempt that without practicing with lower weights first… I tried moving the hands in at 120 kg/264 lbs, but having become accustomed to fondling plates while squatting it felt like a very heavy single. Figured I better not miss and loaded 127.5 kg/281 lbs on the bar for two sets of two. The first set was deep but heavily forward oriented, the second one much better. Impressive squat face notwithstanding, I wasn’t even close to missing, but should probably look into using chains hanging from the top of the bar for safety during the all-out PR attempts. Then again, I’d probably come up with a nice way to dump it in the hour of need… To sum up: good going, but it might get worse. That’s was another PR folks.

Squat, buffalo bar: worked up to 2x2@127.5kg/281lbs (PR!)
Bench: worked up to 6x2 @ 77.5 kg/171 lbs

Finally, here’s what must be one of the most intense videos (4.7M) I have published so far… lovingly uploaded via dial-up.

July 30, 2006

Week 30: All wrapped up

Filed under: Workouts

Spider munching on a caught flyTrue to anticipation, I nailed the last week of the Extended Russian Routine as well. On paper, I was looking at a single of 105% in the big three, but in practice it amounted to 100% on the bench, 107% on the deadlift and 110% on the squat due to having based everything on “tweaked” maxes. The 102.5 kg/226 lbs bench attempt was not altogether convincing, but being able to lock out what was technically a poor lift gives hope for better. What was utterly convincing was the deadlift - 150 kg/330 lbs came up in one smooth rep. I shall be royally surprised if I can’t add at least another 5 kg/11 lbs to it next week. Given my tendency to overemphasize the low back when deadlifting, I was quite happy with the technical nitty-gritties of that lift. Finally, the 132.5 kg/292 lbs squat. It was a tight rep, a tad more forward oriented than I’d like - but given that I was far from recovered from the heavy sumo deadlifts two days earlier, it was a decent lift. I bet there’s more gas in the tank when I have another shot at it in a more recovered state next week. You can judge that for yourself, here’s the video (2.4M).

In conclusion, I will now rest up for about a week and then go for all-out PRs. I still haven’t made up my mind whether to mimic a meet by doing them all in a single session or to spread them out over two or three workouts. Be that as it may, my secondary goals stand intact: a 135 kg/297 lbs squat, a 105 kg/231 lbs bench and a 155 kg/341 lbs deadlift. On a good day, I might even be able to crack a 400 kg/880 lbs RAW total if I can do one better. After that, it is time for a week of total rest and three visits to a massage therapist, then two weeks of lightened training. What happens after that is still open, but I don’t rule out doing this (or Korte) for another cycle. Everyone and his brother knows that one cannot gain indefinitively by running the same program over and over, but I think I have a fair shot at improving for one more run. Whatever I do, it is not going to be Westside just yet. Suggestions welcome.

Wednesday, 26 July 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 9, day 1 (heavy bench, light squat)

Bench: worked up to 1@102.5kg/226lbs
Brief accessory work with a mini band

Friday, 28 July 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 9, day 2 (heavy deadlift)

Sumo deadlift: worked up to 1@150kg/330lbs (PR!)

Sunday, 30 July 2006: Extended Russian Routine, week 9, day 3 (heavy squat, light bench)

Squat, buffalo bar: worked up to 1@132.5kg/292lbs (PR!)
              worked up to 2x2 @ 77.5 kg/171 lbs
              2x3 @ 77.5 kg/171 lbs (played around with speed work)