I am sure that I have mentioned before, at least once or twice, how my Wednesday morning, upper body training sessions feel difficult and challenging and make me feel weak and pathetic. They do. Almost every single time! I suppose I just have this mental block that the upper body work should get easier over time, or that I should feel stronger rather than weak and pathetic. Unfortunately, upper body work doesn’t agree with my way of thinking. Knowing all this and heading out to my Wednesday training session this morning, I was determined that today’s upper body work would not suck, and, even if it was a challenge, I was determined to embrace the suck and have a strong work-out. So I decided. I put my hair up into a high ponytail (the sort that makes my hair flip ever so nicely) and put on my most appropriate tank top that says: If at first you don’t succeed, fix your ponytail and try again.
1a. flat dumbbell presses
a quick warm-up with 20 lbs x 6 and 25 lbs x 5
35 lbs x 10
And this is where my Wednesday morning training session sucker punched me and blew the wind right out of my sails. Last week I did two sets with 30 pound dumbbells and two sets with the 35 pounders. Last week’s sets felt relatively easy and smooth. I just about died on this very first set. My right arm failed on the fifth rep, but there was no way that I was going to quit at that point on my first set of the session! I managed to recover enough to finish five more reps, but the entire set was shaky and awful. Michael was helping my training buddy, so I don’t think he saw that near-face rep, but he did see the last few reps. He pointed out that I wasn’t centred on the bench well, so my right shoulder wasn’t properly positioned/supported. Perhaps that explains the fifth rep fail? I wasn’t thrilled with that set, but I was ready to shake it off, knowing that I always get better as I go along.
35 x 8
Michael spotted me this time and for the remaining sets, although I don’t think I had anymore near-misses like that again. This time I was centred on the bench, but the expected better second set never materialized. This set was shaky, possibly even shakier than the first set minus the near-miss. It wasn’t quite as easy to shake off the frustration and disappointment this time, and Michael knew it.
35 x 9
For this set, Michael moved the bench to a different position in the gym, saying that a change in location would give me a change in perspective. It must have helped, because this set was better than the first two. I might have liked to have tried for a tenth rep, but Michael called it at nine.
At this point, Michael had me stretch each shoulder and then asked if the right was tighter. It was! He could tell that it was tighter by the way it was moving as I pressed, so he asked if I have been using my right arm more than normal. I said that was quite possible, because my new burr grinder has a hand crank and I am right-handed! A bit more stretching of the right shoulder…
35 x 10
This set was better than the previous, and I made sure that I had a better set-up from the beginning. Michael also wanted me to take a little more time on the descent of the first rep, because he said that I tended to do it quite quickly which could throw off my positioning and affect latter reps. I’m not too sure if that initial descent was any slower. To be honest, I was thinking about improving my set-up and completely forgot about that first rep speed. This time Michael wanted an eleventh rep, but the left arm failed.
35 x 12
This was the best set. Yes, I often save the best for last! I don’t think it was as good as last week’s sets, but I suppose I have to put things into the proper perspective. Last week I did a total of 22 reps over 2 sets with 35 pounds. Today I did 49 reps over 5 sets with the same weight. That is an improvement! Even if, in the moment, it felt like I was getting nowhere.
1b. chin-ups with small green band, neutral grip
x 6, x 7, x 7, x 7, x 6
The last set was so close to being 7 reps! Michael asked if I would count it or not. I really, really want to count it (and probably could have), but I decided that it won’t count. Chins are not high on my list of favourites, but I don’t hate them anymore. However, they still are not an easy task for me, but this was also an improvement.
2a. handstand holds?
For some reason that I struggle to understand (not really though), Michael won’t let me change my mind when it comes to the crazy goals that I gave him a few weeks ago. I thought that doing the handstand progressions using the bench the last couple of weeks were scary…today’s progression was even scarier! I started off doing a teddy bear headstand against the wall. As pathetic as it sounds, I don’t have the strength to push my body up into a handstand, so Michael pulled up on my legs as I pushed up with my weak arms. Then I just held the position. The second attempt finished off with a small unlocking of the elbows. The third attempt had 5 reps of unlocking the elbows and doing very small presses. The last attempt was just me doing a teddy bear headstand. I tried to kip myself up into a handstand, but I didn’t get anywhere!
2b. chest-supported rows
35 x 15, 60 x 10, 65 x 10