Archives for music

August 8, 2005

Week 32: Bench shrugs and other fun things

Filed under: Workouts, Music

Monday, 1 August 2005: ~SQ/DL

twilight box squatEver the optimist, I had to try out my new squat box to the tune of Finnish metal band Teräsbetoni (eng. reinforced concrete). I find the heroic medieval battle lyrics to be a bit too much, but those who want something exotic might want to give the Metallitotuus album a whirl. Worked up to 90 kg/199 lbs and made the sensible decision to stop there. The back didn’t twist up too badly, but I could definitively feel it. Wrapped up with two non-stop ab circuits on the stability ball.


Balance board standing
Box squat, 13″:
                  5 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
                  5 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
                  5 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
                  1 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
                  1 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
Swiss ball ab circuit (non-stop): 2 non-stop circuits of 20 reps each
                  left side bend
                  right side bend

Tuesday, 2 August 2005: Bench

behind the neck indeedThis was a great workout! For one thing, I was able to add another 2.5 kg/6 lbs on the behind-the-neck press for a clean 5x5 @ 55 kg/122 lbs. For another, it just plain felt great to be outdoors doing good stuff like reverse-grip benches, bench shrugs and lying rows. Since I finally caught the bench shrugs on tape (8.1MB), it is time to say a few words about this beast.

Bench shrugs involves assuming a normal benching position and then pushing the bar up by hunching the shoulders off the bench without bending the arms. This hits the pectoralis minor heavily. The first time I saw this exercise was on Blakley’s XTM bench tape where he called them “pec minor pops”. Blakley prescribes these for stabilizing the shoulder area to protect against the wear and tear of heavy lifting (as in shoulder pain). Recently, I was reminded of these when I read Kelso’s shrug book where they go under the logical name of “bench shrugs”. I am not including these based on any weakness analysis, but, like Blakley, Kelso assures his captivated reader that “this movement will [..] greatly strengthen the shoulder girdle for whatever purpose” (pp. 36). A strong shoulder girdle simply cannot be wrong.

Incidentally, 1960s bench legend Jim Williams, who sported an official 700 lbs/317 kg raw bench, was also a big fan of these “lying shrugs”. Unlike Blakley and Kelso, he always did these with dumbells for maximum range of motion. The chapter on Williams in The Bench Press by Biasiotto and Arndt does not specifically mention lying shrugs, but they are found in the attached program for 10 sets of 10 (pp. 60-61). I have no idea of the source, but I also found Williams’s own description of the movement cited on the Old School Strength Training board:

Now I will explain “my secret”-the lying shoulder shrug. After you are through with a light chest workout on the bench, find a pair of dumbbells that you can only get about 3 reps out of until failure, and as you increase in your shoulder strength, you will increase the dumbbell, even if you can’t press them once!

While lying on the bench, have 2 friends hand you the dumbbells. After doing the three reps, pause for about three exhales. Slowly let the shoulders slide down almost like relaxing. As they reach the desired angle, stop them and immediately raise them (by lifting them) as high as you can. This should be done with the dumbbells partially being held and partially lying on the delts. This should be done in sets of 10 reps, if you can, or one should work up to it. Remember, you are not pushing the weight with your triceps, because the problem is not in the completion, but the start. You may say, “Jimmy, why not use the bar?” A bar is what pins you to begin with, and secondly…it wouldn’t give you the necessary movement one needs in trying to shrug up and in. Some of the sensation that you may be able to relate to is like doing a complete dip, in which you let the body slide all the way down. Before your arms can come into play, you must first lift the body, than push with the arms. The same sensation happens at the end of he dip on a complete extension, when you cause the shoulders to raise the body.

Dips are not an easy answer because the shoulder movement in that excersise moves in a downward direction. But doing “my Shoulder Shrugs”, the shoulders move in an upward movement. How many times can I use this workout? It should be done during a training period for at least three times a week in a five-day-a-week training cycle.

Should I lose imediately on my bench? You should stabilize until shoulders gradually begin to heal. Upon the end of your training cycle, the lying shrugs should be stopped in favor of complete healing and growth. Remember, the heavier you can handle, the better. Dumbbells you can press for 6 reps to 10 reps are no good.

Add these shrugs to the rest of my workouts and you are sure to come up with the best bench press at any meet. Remember, this does not mean that you stop doing other shoulder work, but that my Shoulder Shrugs should be added.

As we Northern Europeans like to say, a dear child has many names. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Behind-the-neck press:
                  worked up to 5x5 @ 55 kg/122 lbs
Reverse-grip bench, feet in air:
                  8 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
                  8 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
                  5 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
                  5 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
Bench shrug:
                  10 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
                  10 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
                  10 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
                  10,7 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
Lying rows, reverse-grip:
                  8 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
                  3x8 @ 70 kg/155 lbs

Sunday, 7 August 2005: Bench

slipping all over the worldAfter the easy 105 kg/232 lbs decline, I figured the same on the vanilla bench would be child’s play. It wasn’t, but a nasty slip of the left foot on the wooden floor wetted by rain made sure I would never know. One word: rubber mat. Decided to get my feet out of harm’s way by raising them towards the sky. Got a very easy 90 kg/199 lbs on the reverse-grip bench with feet in the air, but for some ungroovy reason 95 kg/210 lbs was a total flop. Lying L-flyes.

If you didn’t catch it already, here’s this week’s video summary (8.1MB). A tall order at 4:28, this will take some patience in today’s internet/remote control world. Evil.

                  6 @ 42.5 kg/94 lbs
                  5 @ 52.5 kg/116 lbs
                  5 @ 65 kg/144 lbs
                  2 @ 75 kg/166 lbs
                  1 @ 85 kg/188 lbs
                  1 @ 95 kg/210 lbs
                  0 @ 105 kg/232 lbs
Reverse-grip bench, feet in air:
                  5 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
                  1 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
                  1 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
                  1 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
                  0 @ 95 kg/210 lbs
Lying L-flyes:
                  6 @ 10 kg/22 lbs

December 8, 2004

Poke her with the soft cushions!

Filed under: Workouts, Music

Air tight setupThe school received a few Dynair air cushions from TOGU. These can be used for anything from sitting on (great for bad backs) to standing on for balance training. Being SQ/DL day and all, I couldn’t resist the urge to borrow one for box squats. I seem to recall reading about this precise setup somewhere, but some brief surfing turned up squat (punny yes).

The idea of squatting off a soft box is not breaking news. On the Squatting Secrets tape, Simmons says that he began using a soft box back in the 1970s. These soft boxes, or hassocks, are nothing more than cheap foot rests that can be found at furniture stores (like these expensive ones, some have found theirs for less than $10 in the States). With a solid bottom and cushy top, squatting off them will make the lifter sink in a couple of inches. Needless to say, this makes the lift a lot harder and hits the legs more than an ordinary hard box. Hassock squats resemble free squats closely and are thus, or were at least, used the last 3-4 weeks prior to a meet at Westside.

Slapped the Dynair on top of my 13″ box and began pyramiding up. The cushion was indeed fairly unstable, but nothing compared to a stability ball… Tried to concentrate on form, especially arching the upper back and pulling shoulder blades tightly together while keeping elbows in. This made for added shoulder strain, but resulted in perhaps a bit less forward dipping (some older footage to compare with). Did around 10 sets at 60 kg/133 lbs then pyramided up. On the 90 kg/199 lbs single, I setup a tad too close with the result that I hit the outer edge of the cushion tilting it backwards. In the process the plates on the left side also slid out several inches. I felt some strain on the inside of the left leg from the unbalanced load and it was a really slow rep but up it came. Moved the box a bit further back for 100 kg/221 lbs, but got into a really sorry position and couldn’t even get lift off. Accessory work in circuit fashion was the coup de grâce.

This was the first semi-serious ME DL/SQ session in many months and no complaints from the back. I plan to reintroduce DE SQ/DL workouts to regain some speed and allow for further technique refinement. I’m momentarily quite content with my bench form, so expect more than a passing note on squat technique in the weeks to come. Meanwhile, feel free to lash harsh critique on today’s action (VIDEO 1M) powered by Slipknot’s Vol.3: The Subliminal Verses.

ME SQ/DL, 8 December 2004

Soft cushion box squat, 13″:
        Worked up to several sets @ 60 kg/133 lbs
        1 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
        1 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
        1 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
        0 @ 100 kg/221 lbs

3 circuits:
        Pull-through, straight-legged: 15 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
        Cable side bend: 10 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
        Incline sit-up: (12,11,6)
        Shrug: 10 @ 100 kg/221 lbs
        Rolling Thunder: (3,2,1) @ 40 kg/88 lbs

Fastest circuit lap time: 3:40 on third iteration

Total training time: 67 min

November 17, 2004

HardCORE rehabbing

Filed under: Workouts, Music, Rehab

workout in a nutshell

Well… the weights were still pathetic, but heavier than last week. Pounded the midsection hard with weighted everything, including hyperextensions off the swiss ball and heavy barbell side bends. Bravely continued to up the weight on the deadlift. Perhaps, perhaps… wet dreams of ME SQ/DL and so on.

Today’s music was Finnish death metal band Norther’s Mirror of Darkness and today’s lesson learned that if you bounce a barbell off pads it is liable to come right back up and hit you in the forehead.

VIDEO (6.1M)

Rehab etc., 17 November 2004

Barbell hyperextension on swiss ball:
           6 @ 20 kg/44 lbs
           8 @ 30 kg/66 lbs
           8 @ 35 kg/77 lbs
           7 @ 45 kg/99 lbs
Deadlift (slow):
           6 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
           6 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
           6 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
           6 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
Upper body cable turn: 3x25 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
Barbell side bend:
           8 @ 20 kg/44 lbs
           6 @ 30 kg/66 lbs
           5 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
           5 @ 50 kg/111 lbs
Incline board sit-up (full reps):
           3 @ 10 kg/22 lbs
           7,4 @ bodyweight
Standing cable crunch:
           6 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
           5,3 @ 45 kg/99 lbs

Total training time: 98 min (and a lot of this fits into a five minute video…)

October 15, 2004

(S)oiled floor press

Filed under: Workouts, Music

screams in the dungeonI vividly remember the night I first discovered metal band SOiL. It was November 2001 and I had barricaded myself in the University computing centre to edit contributions for an academic journal. I was listening to an American radio station over the internet and suddenly found myself editing at blazing speed to the relentless tune of Halo off the band’s then fresh album Scars. I managed to locate an mp3 somewhere and worked until noon with Halo on constant auto-repeat while I sipped on the occasional cappuccino from the coffee machine. Bought the record and listened to it, especially track 2, until it sank.

Now, three years later, SOiL re-entered my life in the guise of their latest album Redefine. This time around it wasn’t a moment of bliss - perhaps my music taste has changed too much for that - but the album was definitively good enough for a floor pressing session. And what a session that turned out to be! After noting an increased tendency to flare the elbows out on the close-grip floor press lately, I disciplined the pointy fellows by keeping them tightly tucked in. Three sets of six was child’s play and I had to recheck the bar a few times to make sure it really was the same amount of iron I was struggling with a week ago. On the fourth and last set, I got an urge to really bury the four reps I got last week and kept going. Eleven reps. Holy whatever! Can pulling the elbows in really make such a big difference? I sure was pulling them in last time I taped them, so somewhere a strength gain has been lurking in the shadow of vulgarly flaring elbows. Oh, the grim fate that will befall 85 kg/188 lbs next week…

After a modest single rep gain on the triceps extensions, it was off to tape the modified rows I talked about last week. Gave 100 kg/221 lbs a go, but again failed to get a solid enough base to pull cleanly off. Mission aborted after my left calf started cramping from the effort. The last set with 85 kg/188 lbs looked much better. This exercise is hard to do with loads above bodyweight unless somebody presses down on the shoulders.


Blakley accessory day, 15 October 2004

Floor press, close-grip: 6,6,6,11 @ 82.5 kg/182 lbs
Triceps extensions, behind head: 5,5,4,4 @ 42.5 kg/94 lbs
Modified row:
          8 @ 90 kg/199 lbs
          3 @ 100 kg/221 lbs (calf cramp!)
          10 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
          10 @ 85 kg/188 lbs
Seated dumbell curl:
          5 @ 21.5 kg/48 lbs
          8,6 @ 18.5 kg/41 lbs
Captain of Crush: 7 @ I, holds pinching 1.25 kg/3 lbs plate @ Trainer

Total training time: 70 min

September 12, 2004

Everything but an odyssey

Filed under: Workouts, Music

The only exciting thing about this workout was the music. Die Krupps’s powerful Odyssey of the mind album stood in stark contrast with my light pumping efforts. Capped off with some 20 minutes of self-administered calf massage and stretching.

Rehab, 12 September 2004

Muscle activation, lat pulley: 2x25 reps each of facing, right and left @ 20 kg/44 lbs
Upper body cable turn: 2x30 @ 30 kg/66 lbs
Standing cable crunch, lat pulley:
      10 @ 20 kg/44 lbs
      15 @ 30 kg/66 lbs
      12 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
Reverse-hyper, done off hyper bench: 3x40

Total training time: 25 min

June 1, 2004

Some kind of monster flu

Filed under: General, Music

what's left of the ticketDown with a flu again, the kind where you feel like you have a temperature, only you don’t. The kind you don’t want to train with. The kind you get after sitting for 5½ hours listening to The Lostprophets, Slipknot and Metallica on an exceptionally chilly May evening in Helsinki.

The first two bands weren’t worth another short training break. Not that they are not good bands but their music, especially Slipknot’s act with three frantic drummers on stage, warped into a mess of sounds echoing over each other. Metallica was another story. Their powerful riffs and Hetfield’s strong vocals sounded great even in the unmerciful acoustic environment provided by the Olympic Stadium. After seeing them pound away at Master of Puppets my appreciation for their skill level went through the roof. Having 50,000 guys and girls in black around you, one percent of Finland’s population, go wild also helps. Although my hair style might lead you to believe otherwise, I am not much of a headbanger. Too bad, it would have kept me warmer than the limited stomping and twitching I did.

February 2, 2004

Dumbells looking for groovy company

Filed under: Workouts, Music

40 kg/88 lbs dumbell bench sticking pointMonday has turned into traditional short sleep day. A nap before the workout helped some and loading Kalmah into the CD player helped some more. I was training very near closing time, so the number of potential complaints about the music where few. In fact, it turned out that one of the guys training was a die hard Kalmah and death metal fan. I had him scribble down some names of other Scandinavian bands in the genre that he considered to be melodic: Dark Tranquility, Godgory, Inflames and Vintersorg. All unfamiliar to me (no surprise here), will have to peruse their homepages for samples later on.

Consistent with my quest to improve benching power off the chest, I camped with the dumbells for my first exercise. My previous, and first, encounter with dumbell benches date back to Christmas Eve when I got 3 reps with 38 kg/84 lbs. Back then I noted some problems with my groove, a sentiment that was echoed today. The 36 kg/80 lbs set was especially bad, when the left dumbell drifted off course for the last rep leaving me to press it up with no power off the bottom. No big improvements; got one rep more with 36 kg/80 lbs than last time but my last set ended up at the same three reps with 38 kg/84 lbs. Tried the 40 kg/88 lbs dumbells, but couldn’t get past my sticking point (picture at right). The first rep is always hell with heavy bells… hells bells?

Tried illegally wide benches as my chest/tri assistance movement. Worked up to a fairly easy fiver with 70 kg/155 lbs and then stayed at that weight for two more quick sets (perhaps 30-40 seconds rest in between). The wide grip didn’t hurt my shoulders, but you can see from the video that the reps were a little wobbly.

video (5.2 MB)

ME Bench, 02 February 2004

Dumbell bench:
10 @ 16 kg/35 lbs
10 @ 20 kg/44 lbs
5 @ 24 kg/53 lbs
5 @ 28 kg/62 lbs
5 @ 32 kg/71 lbs
5 @ 34 kg/75 lbs
5 @ 36 kg/80 lbs
3 @ 38 kg/84 lbs
0 @ 40 kg/88 lbs

Assisted wide-grip pull-up: 6,6,5,4 @ 45 kg/99 lbs
Illegal wides: worked up to 5,5,3 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
2 supersets:
      Standing cable curl: 12,10 @ 60 kg/133 lbs
      Pressdown: 10,5 @ 80 kg/177 lbs

Total training time: 59 min (did assistance exercise really fast though)

January 26, 2004

Bumping on the box to new metal

Filed under: Workouts, Music

kalmahThe old timers among you might recall me sticking some enthusiastic thumbs up for Finnish heavy metal band Kalmah’s Swampsong (2003) record. It’s been a while since I last bought me some training cum late night working music, so decided to go grab me another cold Kalmah. I was delighted to fall victim to a marketing scheme someone with a big brain at Free Record Shop came up with: buy two CD’s for 20 euro. Located both Swamplord (2000) and They will return (2002) and had the very metal looking guy at the counter shave a twentier off my plastic. Didn’t hurt as much as crashing down on my box three hours later to the tune of Heritance of Berija from Swamplord, which in turn probably hurt a lot less than Ano’s recent heavy box squat done in preparation for the Arnold Classic 2004.

Looking at Ano’s video you will realize why he came down hard. In my case the puny 70 kg/155 lbs bar had nothing to do with it. Rather, it was simply tiredness resulting from a short night spent finalizing a lecture that made my first sets a few degrees less than graceful. Good thing I did not bring the camera today; no need to immortalize the hopelessly lost. Overall it was a decent workout with a bumpy start. Standing crunches, donkey calf raises and dumbell shrugs made it all good in the end.

And Kalmah? I will still rave about Swampsong unprovoked. My first impression is that their debut album Swamplord is their second best. Lacking some of the deep raw energy Swampsong is soaked in, it is a good album which can easily defend its place in a powerlifter’s training music collection (if you doubt that, just look at the spear on the front cover). They will return is pretty good too. Actually, all three albums are great, Swampsong is just übergreat. Buy that and find yourself instantly setting a new squat PR. Then get the other ones for the bench and deadlift PRs. If in doubt first check out the official samples and read some reviews.

DE Squat/Deadlift, 26 January 2004

Speed box squat, 13″: 8x2 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
Standing cable crunch, lat pulley: 8,7,6 @ 45 kg/99 lbs
Donkey calf machine: 3x7 @ 165 kg/365 lbs
Dumbell shrug: 2x7 @ 44 kg/97 lbs

Total training time: 19 min (now we’re talking!)

November 25, 2003

Out of commission

Filed under: Music

Came down with a flu resulting in three-days of sick leave. Tomorrow I will be benching in my dreams, but there is a slight chance that I will be in shape for Friday as I, for once, am nipping this in the bud. Realistically speaking, I have my eyes set on Sunday.

After seeing the required nurse, I popped into a music store to buy Finnish band Charon’s The Dying Daylights album to take this coughing opportunity to continue my education in Scandinavian metal post-Kalmah. With its goth inspired soft metal sound a little reminiscent of H.I.M., Charon is a lot lighter and less rough around the edges than Kalmah (read: more commercially attractive). As I found an excellent, albeit a little more optimistic than my opinion, review of the album I will refrain from attempting to write a comprehensive review bound to trip over itself. Another good review is to be found over at Let me just say that the In Trust of No One track is suitable for auto-repeat (music samples here). I presume the rest of the album will follow suit once I get to listen through it a few times, like St. Anger before it. That’s the way my ears work.

November 14, 2003

Falkenbach, Scandinavian metal and the same ole box

Filed under: Workouts, Music

Tired lower body and tired mind. The former was let off the hook easily by a hefty drop in weight on the box squats, the latter by another ABB Adrenaline Stack drink pre-workout… and by Falkenbach’s Magni Blandinn Ok Megintiri record (see the album on Amazon for music samples and reviews). First heard about this album in the Viking Metal genre through a French guy at work who is very much into everything related to Norse mythology. Melodic with heavy use of keyboards, this album was just about metal enough to be played at the gym today without scaring mainstream music listeners off (AC/DC, Metallica and Limp Bizkit being the daily norm). It alternates between nice raw screaming and lighter singing; in short, a great workout album for people who like very melodic metal without the maniac blood stains.

I would consider myself a mainstreamish metal listener: Metallica, Rammstein and Nightwish are all standard ear nutrients. The recent foray outside the chart bands have caused me to open my eyes for Scandinavian metal. From the Norwegian Einherjer to all the great Finnish bands released under the Spinefarm records label, there is a lot of potentially great metal here. In fact, I currently have the Finnish band Kalmah’s Swampsong record (2003) on auto repeat (album at Amazon). I especially love the track Heroes to Us, which is just plain mighty. An mp3 sample is available here, but it doesn’t really do justice to the track as it cuts off after the intro riffs before the going gets rough (to hear how vocalist Pekka Kokko sounds you need to check out another of the available samples). After a few listenings, the album is starting to sound alarmingly normal. I don’t know what is so normal about this kind of screaming, but I like it. If I transfer this to my portable MiniDisc player I won’t fall asleep anymore on the bus before my workouts… if I do, I know that I should not be going to the gym but straight home to bed. Period.

The workout was pretty light, which was great since my lower body is still tired from the Zercher squats on Monday and I plan to go for a box squat max on Monday. My lower back is now feeling great, seems like it actually was the combination of heavy erector work with a too hard bed that caused it as my problem has slowly vanished after ditching the futon mattress. May I remain injury free for a long time to come!

DE Squat/Deadlift, 14 November 2003

Speed box squat, 13″: 8x2 @ 70 kg/155 lbs
Pull-through, stiff legged: 3x10 @ 80 kg/177 lbs
One-handed deadlift: 5 @ 52 kg/115 lbs
Ball crunch: 3x15 @ 15 kg/33 lbs
Seated calf raise: 4x7 @ 85 kg/188 lbs

Total training time: 57 min

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