Archives for workouts

September 18, 2006

Week 37: A whiff of ammonia

Filed under: Workouts

Ammonia ampoules

This should have been my first week of dieting, but I came down with something that left me feeling sore in the throat specifically and lethargic like a wet rag generally. On the bright side, this was the week I started making a distinction between squat shoes and deadlift shoes thanks to Stinn. Got the new Red Devil Powershoes on Wednesday… guess who was back in the gym that very day despite still not really being up for it yet? I shall return to how the shoe affects my squatting mechanics in a later post, but suffice it to say that I am quite satisfied with the purchase.

I first spent around an hour or so shooting a bit of video to be used for virtual meet rule clarification purposes and did tons of squats with 65 kg/143 lbs in the process. Squatting with a heel didn’t feel as awkward as I had imagined it might and the shoes provided a good fit, velcro straps and all. Feeling a strong urge to test out the heel under some heavier iron, I loaded up for what should be an easy 13″ parallel box PR in light of recent achievements. I was really tired by now and made larger weight jumps than usual, just looking for a routine PR. Once up at 135 kg/297 lbs, a new PR weight, I popped out another little thing that had arrived inside one of my new shoes. Ammonia capsules are frequently used at powerlifting meets to psyche up for big lifts, but they were a new acquaintance for me. Cracked one open at the designated spot, took a good whiff and immediately started setting up. As I got into my stance, the ammonia really kicked into gear leaving me with tears in my eyes and a general sensation of wonder… not the best of states to be in when descending towards a squat box. The descent was horrible, the plates on the right side slid out a bit, but I got back up in some very old way. Not surprisingly, the heel equipped shoe seems to cause me to not sit back as far as with the flat soled shoe, but this attempt was just something else with knees protruding sharply (VIDEO 1.5MB). Ah well, I shall have ample of time to work my squat as I embark on the new routine. The ammonia also needs some working on before the meet; for one thing, I think it might be prudent to leave a bit of time between the whiffing and the lifting… Think the ammonia will become a good associate of mine once I get used to it.

Wednesday, 13 September 2006: ME Squat

Box squat, 13″: worked up to 135 kg/297 lbs (PR)

September 6, 2006

Week 36: A Minor Major PR and A Major Minor PR

Filed under: Workouts

In the rackGot two PRs last week and set out to grab two more this week. On Monday, squat day, I found my easy victim in a 110 kg/242 lbs ass-to-the-grass close-stance Manta Ray squat. Perhaps it is just bodybuilding nostalgia, but a high-bar Olympic squat is still in my book the most pure way to squat and seeing that climb into the voids of old competition stance PRs is somewhat dear to me. 110 kg/242 lbs was a snap. 120 kg/264 lbs was stiffer, but there was still a bit of air in it. Decided to leave it at that, a 10 kg/22 lbs PR. I haven’t failed a squat since 20 May and am really finally beginning to see the light that Mike tried to let me unto in a comment back in February last year. Not failing lifts is a huge psychological advantage and an important part of not plateauing. My squat work has never felt better and I constantly feel I have more in me. This is of course herecy as far as Westside methodology goes (max effort = go to failure), but I just can’t argue with my own gut feeling at the moment. Perhaps I will later, but right now I want to embrace the Iron God That Never Fails His Reps. This requires a lot of sensitivity to when strength levels have improved to the degree that the old PR will yield easily, and might mean not going for PRs on the same exercise all that frequently, but so far the dividends are more than worth it. If you follow this god, you don’t attempt new PRs, you smash them with confidence (most of the time anyway, reality check…). Sounds like I am now a follower of Yoda, doesn’t it… “do or do not…there is no try…” [wav courtesy of YodaJeff’s Yoda Page].

Wish I could say the same thing for the bench. I’m too lazy to go back to count the numerous times I’ve failed at 105 kg/231 lbs after punching up 102.5 kg/226 lbs back in November 2004. That’s the definition of a habitual rut right there. There’s more reasons for this never-ending Tibetan plateau of sorts, but a tradition of failure now appears to me to be one of the prime reasons. If you’ve failed a weight 15 times, what is the likelihood that you will make it when you go at it for the 16th time? Psychologically speaking, the chances are close to null. Or then I just haven’t watched enough Dr. Phil. If you look back at the recent RAW meet video (8.1M), you see 95 kg/209 fly up like putty with 105 kg/231 lbs suddenly appearing overwhelming. I knew I had the strength then, but it just was a no show. Typical.

Don’t know why Wednesday saw me select the bench press for yet another 105 kg/231 lbs attempt when I could have wiped the rack with some much easier old PR. I had a headache and was bursting with gas on account of having cooked green pea soup with ham earlier in the day like a good stay at home dad should (three hours in the oven, and this is the reward??). I did the usual jumps towards 105 kg/231 lbs, but instead of going straight into it from 95 kg/209 lbs, I did a feeler with 100 kg/220 lbs. Not surprisingly, it flew up. More surprisingly, so did 105 kg/231 lbs. I paid extra attention to all the details - getting shoulders in under me, heels down hard into the floor to shift the weight unto the traps, squeezing the bar tightly, not flopping the descent by going too fast… etc etc - and up it went without too much trouble. The descent didn’t quite hit where it should, but still. I then did a stupid thing by failing on 107.5 kg/237 lbs twice (was close to choking myself on the first attempt as I hadn’t noticed that the right safety pin was set one notch too low). Be that as it may, but I know I have that weight in me right now if I can just hit it with good technique. Now I just need to convince my body.

Here’s the video (4M). Next week I will be embarking on a new periodization program while starting to diet down for the virtual meet. This means no more PRs for most of what’s left of 2006. More on that soon.

Monday, 4 September 2006: ME Squat

Full Manta Ray squat, close stance:
              worked up to 1 @ 100 kg/220 lbs (belt on)
              1 @ 110 kg/242 lbs
              1 @ 120 kg/264 lbs (PR)
GHR: Got 3 reps before a major cramp hit my left ham
Reverse-hyper: 12,10 @ 40 kg/88 lbs
Band crunch against upright: 10,12 reps with 2-5 second holds @ light band
Upper body cable turn: 15 @ 40 kg/88 lbs (reeaaallly sloooow)

Wednesday, 6 September 2006: ME Squat

            worked up to 1 @ 85 kg/187 lbs
              1 @ 95 kg/209 lbs
              1 @ 100 kg/220 lbs
              1 @ 105 kg/231 lbs (PR)
              2x0 @ 107.5 kg/237 lbs
Metal iso-lateral seated row: 2x6 @ 35 kg/77 lbs per side
Wide-grip pulldown: 8 @ 13th (65 kg/143 lbs?)
Standing face pull: 9 @ 8th (40 kg/88 lbs?)
Metal cable preacher curl: 8 @ 3rd (15 kg/33 lbs?)

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

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)

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)

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 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 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 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 1, 2006

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

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