August 2006 archives

August 10, 2006

One-man RAW meet

Filed under: Workouts

The big three

Decided to stage a simulated meet to test for final PRs after the Extended Russian Routine instead of splitting the lifts over several days. It seemed likely that the deadlift would take a hit from this being the last lift and me not being used to three lift events, but as the plan is to eventually compete in three lift raw meets I need to train for it and get some experience doing it. Klingons might do it otherwise, but last time I checked no earthling powerlifting federation mentions the possibility of taking a few days between attempts on the squat and deadlift. I can see the attraction of push-pull meets, but that’s not were I’m heading.

The meet turned out to simulate one of those events that drags on for whatever technical or other reason leaving impatient and increasingly tired lifters in its wake. I had hoped to start at 9pm, but, due to driving my dad to the train and the time needed to stage the scene, it was 10:20pm before I had my squat opener on a stomach filled with an emergency shake consisting of a respectable pile of licorice ice cream mixed up with raspberry protein powder and milk. The plan was to primarily go for the secondary goals of a 135 kg/297 lbs squat, a 105 kg/231 lbs bench and a 155 kg/341 lbs deadlift, even at the risk of flunking the total due to missed attempts. Thus, I would open at 10 kilos/22 pounds below the goal, then go for it on the second with the third attempt reserved for an opportunity to retake a failed lift or go one better. It still seemed to me that the odds for easily bagging the squat were good thanks to the legs being fresh from a week of rest; if I could go on to 140 kg/308 lbs and get the goal weight on the bench and deadlift I would be hitting a nice and round 400 kg/880 lbs RAW total. Failing that, I could still save the day with a somewhat realistic 160 kg/352 lbs deadlift. Again, I would play it safer if this was a real meet, but for now it was all about thinking BIG and setting some nice final PRs.

The 125 kg/275 lbs squat opener was alarmingly stiff, but the reason was easy to find. Following Stinn’s helpful comment, I tried hard to push the knees out on the ascent instead of letting them buckle in. This is a mechanically more advantegous squatting position as it activates the hips, but, having trained extensively with knees drifting in, I was just plain stronger doing things the way my body had gotten used to doing them. On the second PR attempt at 135 kg/297 lbs, I decided to save correcting the knees for the next training cycle and just focus on the task at hand. It went up, but it wasn’t all that easy and would definitively have been red lighted in a real meet due to me losing the balance at the top. Still, 140 kg/308 lbs was just 5 kg/11 lbs away. Or so I thought, it was only when I moved on to the bench press that I realized I had misloaded the bar on both attempts by using 1.25 kg/2.75 lbs plates instead of 2.5 kg/5.5 lbs plates. This meant I was actually going up 7.5 kg/17 lbs in weight and had not yet set a new PR. Good thing I didn’t realize this then. “Only three plates a side” I told myself and went on to do the strongest lift of them all. It might have been a bit higher than the previous two attempts, you be the judge on whether I got the depth or not (the picture above is from the bottom position). It was an amazing feeling to put an additional 7.5 kg/16.5 lbs on my squat on top of the 12.5 kg/27.5 lbs the nine weeks on the Russian Routine had given me. Better yet, it seemed I still had a bit more to give, but a three lift meet is a three lift meet. Not having failed a single squat in months, and knowing there is more, is likely to be worth much more than the relatively small gratification an additional 2.5 kg/6 lbs on an all-out lift could provide. Almost forgot, as you can see I used to the buffalo bar instead of the straight bar for the squats as I don’t yet have a squat bar at Toffe’s that allows for the wide grip I am currently accustomed to.

The bench started really well with the 95 kg/209 lbs opener flying up like I had way less weight on the bar (only this time there wasn’t!). The pause was on the shorter side, but got good speed on the descent. Apparently, the 105 kg/231 lbs lift was nothing worry about. Perhaps so, but I got a cold reminder on how every lift is still a lift when I lost it by drifting the right hand further back than the left on the drive off the chest (the picture above shows the predicament clearly). And that’s when the meet organizer did his first technical blunder by accidentally tipping the halogen light off the squat box that doubled as a combined camera/light stand. Midnight in early August, the rack descended into pitch black darkness. It took a whopping 45 minutes before I had replaced the broken bulb and satisfied my now screaming stomach with another emergency licorice ice cream shake, this time with maltodextrine instead of protein powder. The second attempt at 105 kg/231 lbs went much better, but couldn’t quite get past the sticking point, not even after I desperately red lighted it by seeing if I could lock out by raising the family jewels up against the star lit sky. Ok, not what I had hoped for, but on to the deadlift.

I now needed a 165 kg/363 lbs deadlift to reach the 400 kg/880 lbs total; this seemed like a somewhat unlikely scenario, but then again there had been a lot of air when I did 150 kg/330 lbs last week. The late hour and lack of solid food under the hood was not working any magic, so worked up to the opener using 20 kg/44 lbs and 15 kg/33 lbs jumps instead of the customary 10 kg/22 lbs jumps. Besides, the legs and hips still felt nice and warm. Including the time needed to load the bar, I did the 145 kg/319 lbs opener only eleven minutes after the last bench set. The attempt was a bit funky as I lost my balance forward just as I was about to take off causing the bar to actually leave the ground twice - another clear case for a red light as the bar is generally not allowed to drop downwards at all after it has left the ground. That’s when I broke the brittle halogen light for the second time. Really, it WAS an accident! Once I had the new bulb, scarily the last replacement, in place the camera gave up filming just as I reached down to retake the attempt. Let’s just say that you didn’t miss anything there.

Not getting a new PR on the deadlift was a bit of a disappointment knowing that the strength was there. The bench was no biggie, as the main goal had been to work up to my old max using a radically different technique - next cycle, I will shoot for a solid increase. The dream increase on the squat went a long way to cover for the minor setbacks on the other lifts, three plates is a milestone for me. The sum of it all is that the Extended Russian Routine put 20 kg/44 lbs on my squat and 10 kg/22 lbs on my deadlift while teaching me to bench in a new way - can’t be but very satisfied! That’s a 140 kg/308 lbs squat, a 102.5 kg/226 lbs bench and a 150 kg/330 lbs deadlift or a 392.5 kg/864 lbs RAW total. In that light, the meet could have gone a bit better with its 380 kg/836 lbs gym total at 103 kg/227 lbs (Wilks 228.6), but I learned a lot about weight selection and how it feels to do a three lift event. The whole thing was over at 2am; next time I do this, it is imperative that I speed things up quite a bit by taking better care of the pre-meet nutrition and not breaking every halogen I lay my hands on. I might also have to talk to the meet sponsors about being able to host next meet well before darkness descends… Headed straight into a nice 100°C sauna before taking a few plunges into the sea. Rest and recuperation ahead.

Here’s the video (8.1M) which also happens to be the first vertically oriented video here at Under the Bar. Parenthetically, I also re-organized the PR matrix by separating the competition lifts from the accessory work and adding columns for tracking the gym totals.

Sunday, 6 August 2006: RAW test meet at Toffe’s Gym

        Attempt 1: 122.5 kg/270 lbs (misloaded, should have been 125 kg/275 lbs)
        Attempt 2: 132.5 kg/292 lbs (misloaded, should have been 135 kg/297 lbs)
        Attempt 3: 140 kg/308 lbs (PR)
        Attempt 1: 95 kg/209 lbs
        Attempt 2: 105 kg/231 lbs
        Attempt 3: 105 kg/231 lbs
Deadlift (sumo):
        Attempt 1: 145 kg/319 lbs (funky lift-off, good enough for a gym lift)
        Attempt 2: 155 kg/341 lbs
        Attempt 3: 155 kg/341 lbs

RAW Total: 380 kg/836 lbs total at 103 kg/227 lbs (Wilks 228.6)

August 11, 2006

International Bloggers’ RAW and Natural Open Virtual Powerlifting Meet… anyone?

Filed under: General

You know how everybody always says the internet gives the small fish enough mojo to connect into one whopping Golden Horde with the power to transcend the traditional boundaries of time, order and space? The idea of staging an international raw meet with near simultaneous lifting venues around the world has been brewing in my head for at least a year now. I don’t know about you, but personally I feel this could give us bloggers the opportunity to be a bit hordish in the spirit of camaraderie and learning from each other. Besides, the idea is wickedly cool, isn’t it?

Here’s how I propose this will work. Every participant will take three attempts on the squat, bench and deadlift and capture them using any convenient equipment which can handle video files (such as a video enabled digital camera, a camcorder or even a mobile phone), much like I did last week, making sure that especially the depth of the squat and the bar touching on the bench are clearly visible. The footage is then submitted via the internet (I provide the server space) for judging. Final results will then be calculated based on one of the relative strength formulas (such as Wilks) taking bodyweight, age and gender into account. The rest, including the weigh-in, adherence to the equipment rules and drug-free status, falls back on personal old-school integrity. This meet is RAW in the sense of the 100% RAW Powerlifting Federation; the only equipment allowed is a belt. The technical rules (pdf) would be those of the 100% RAW Powerlifting Federation (or the IPF if more lifters feel comfortable with that), sans the signals from the judges of course (there must be a visible pause on the bench). Since most participants will not be blessed with qualified spotters, the use of power racks and similar safety devices are encouraged as long as they don’t affect the lift (if the bar touches the safety pins it gets red lighted). In the spirit of fairness, a walkout is required on the squat even if a monolift is used. Equipment rules would similarly be lax allowing any straight bar and bench to be used as long as they appear standard enough… and no, you don’t need expensive calibrated plates. The dress code does not require a singlet, but whatever you wear must be tight enough to allow for accurate judging (normal gym pants as opposed to, say, a toga or a sari) - one option would be to enforce bare knees and elbows, i.e. T-shirt and shorts. Chalk and ammonia capsules are OK. There’s no meet fees.

Since this is a bloggers’ meet, every participant is encouraged, but not necessarily required, to blog their meet preparations in a blog, journal, forum thread or a similar publically accessible medium on the internet, in whatever language. Previous blogging experience is not required, how far you want to go beyond just scribbling down your workouts is up to you. Everyone’s mileage will vary, but two months or earlier out from the meet would be a good time to start a blog (free blogs are available at a multitude of sites nowadays, such as Blogger; your favorite lifting forum might also allow journals). If this thing takes off, I will create a meet web page with links to all the blogs of the participants along with the nitty-gritties of participating. The idea is to encourage a positive atmosphere were participants learn from each other and motivate each other to good meet results.

After the meet, an edited meet video based on the submitted footage will be released for free download. Pulling all the different lifting environments together as a whole should be exiting watching even if the weights to topple Coan might not be there. No one will claim that the results are “true meet results” or that this is an alternative to traditional federation meets (do make sure that your federation allows participating if you are a competitive lifter). This is about lifting together and learning from it. Let’s leave the serious mask at home and blow our PRs away, for the fun of it!

To make it very clear, lifters of all experience and strength levels are warmly welcome to enter, novices and veterans alike. If there is a wide spectrum of strength levels, creating a few classes based on relative strength is always an option to ensure that everyone competes against lifters of a similar strength level. SO… is there any interest out there in participating in this? If so, please comment below and share whatever suggestions and thoughts you may have plus indicate when you would like the meet to happen (am tentatively thinking early 2007 to give everyone time to prepare) - also spread the word about this, the more the merrier (up to a point at least, if there’s more than thirty or so lifters we might need to limit the amount of participants). We also need at least one judge, preferably three, who should have at least some experience of powerlifting meets either as a competitor or spectator. Naturally, judges cannot lift (if there are categories, they cannot judge their category). If there is interest, this might well turn into an annual thing, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Anyone?

August 31, 2006

Iron Night Owl

Filed under: Workouts

Iron Owl from Hell

I have quite literally been lurking in the shadows for the past three weeks, hacking away on the laptop by halogen light to the tune of a dark diet of heavy metal most every night, thankful for the demise of the vast majority of mosquitoes that used to haunt my late night sessions at Toffe’s. If I had much choice in the matter I wouldn’t have done this, I’m way past thinking that taking six hours out of your sleep for work is way cool. Long term readers will know precisely what I am talking about, another deadline on the Tibetan library project connected with getting some stuff ready for a conference. It just had to be done. At the end of it, my laptop said its last farewells by way of corrupted hard drive and, then, a totally dark LCD screen. Dark night, dark music, dark computer, how apt.

Having returned home after a phenomenal three months at the summer cottage on Monday, I finally re-entered the gym on Tuesday, painfully aware of the fact that I had missed the week of rest (read: sleep) and two weeks of lightened training that were supposed to follow the nine- week Russian routine. Not wanting to rush things, I did a very light session feeling much at ease with this - NOT! For the first time in a loooong while, I piled on a bit of iron on the low box squat and flung the ancient pre-injury PR into orbit by doing 125 kg/275 lbs. I needed to test the waters and get some reassurance that everything was not lost… or rather, I felt I had rested enough by now. I chose the low box to start correcting the two major problems that became apparent during the Russian routine, namely an overly wide squat stance that did not allow for much movement below legal depth (a safety hazard plus joint killer) and knees buckling in on ascent. It only took a slight adjustment to allow for a comfortable descent unto the 10″/25 cm box, but could not keep knees out on the final set. Will shortly return to greasing the groove with submax weights, leaning towards Korte plus a diet right now, so this is more of a diagnostic fact than cause for alarm.

Today, I was back at Metal for a brief bench workout. The bench didn’t feel all that great, but I did add 2.5 kg/6 lbs to the 2″ cambered bar PR. This bar is really great, the range of motion is nearly that of benching flat backed with a regular bar, but since you get to keep the arch the movement pattern is not altered. As for the squatting session, I went easy on the accessory work while noting that I really had not missed it. That’s good, because accessories are not here to stay.

To appease the horrendous withdrawal symptoms at least one reader is experiencing, I compiled yet another video (3.6M). As a very non-trivial errata, let me also happily announce that beginning tomorrow, this blog is run by a stay at home dad. Finally. And as a profoundly trivial errata, let me soberly announce that the iron owl that lurks in the shadows of today’s post is also available as a wallpaper for those with the requisite dark state of mind.

Tuesday, 29 August: Squat

Low box squat, 10″:
              worked up to 1 @ 105 kg/231 lbs
              1 @ 115 kg/253 lbs (PR)
              1 @ 125 kg/275 lbs (PR)
Reverse hyper: 2x8 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
Band crunch against upright: 9 reps with 2-3 second holds @ light band

Thursday, 31 August: Bench

Cambered bar bench, 2″:
              worked up to 1 @ 90 kg/198 lbs
              1 @ 97.5 kg/215 lbs (PR)
              0 @ 100 kg/220 lbs (shoulder pain)
Pulldown, parallel grip:
              12 @ 11th (55 kg/121 lbs?)
              2x10 @ 13th (65 kg/143 lbs?)
Lying L-flyes: 9,8 @ 7 kg/15 lbs