Upper body work tends to present a challenge for me, a challenge that I don’t always feel capable of rising up to meet; however, I am well aware that, despite my legitimate upper body weaknesses, my biggest obstacle is all in my head. The upper body stuff is difficult, so I usually approach it feeling defeated before I begin. Even knowing that this is really a mental game doesn’t make it any easier to overcome. I like to believe that I am mentally tough, determined, and able to narrow or broaden my focus as required, but I am learning that sometimes mental toughness needs to be exercised as frequently as a muscle. When it comes to upper body work, I guess I need to exercise that mental muscle, too. And so, I determined last night already that I would rock my upper body session today. This morning, I put on a Wonder Woman tank top to wear to the gym and I filled my head with all sorts of positive, empowering thoughts. If the session was tough, so be it, but I was going to rock.
I warmed up with a couple of minutes on the rower and 3 sets of L-sits on the parallettes for 10 seconds each set.
1a. military press rack slides
(I don’t remember what Michael called these, but I essentially did the military press while sliding the bar up against the rack, working to keep my shoulder blades back and down.)
45 x 8, x 8, x 7.5, x 8
The military press is not a favourite of mine, but that is most likely due to the fact that I suck at it. I suck at it, because I obviously have weaknesses and technique issues to sort out. This is why I am doing these slides! It feels rather pathetic to say that these felt heavy with no added weight to the bar, but I am choosing to believe that this was true because I was really focused on keeping my shoulder blades where they belonged and pushing the bar against the rack. As heavy as the bar felt for these, each set did seem to get a little easier…well, except for that third set when I couldn’t finish the final rep. For the final set, Michael told me to go for another rep after I finished the eighth, but I couldn’t get the bar more than a few inches off my chest.
1b. lat pull-downs
80 x 10, 100 x 10, 120 x 5 and 3/4, 110 x 6
Somehow I missed Michael telling me that he wanted a rep range of 6-8 until I got to 120 pounds! Ha!
80 x 8 but without fully extending the arms each rep; only going to about 90 degrees
2a. handstand push-up progressions (push-ups with my knees on the bench)
x 10 for 3 sets
These got faster each set, I think. How odd!
2b. single arm kettle bell rows
16 kg x 12 each, 20 kg x 12 each, 20 kg x 12 each
10 kg kettle bell x 12 each, x 8 each
3a. lateral raises
15 lb dumbbells x 8, x 10, x 15
So, here I was rocking along to my upper body workout when Michael said that lateral raises were up next. Ugh. Okay. Then he handed me the 15 pound dumbbells…I might have thought he was insane. But I managed to get more reps each set! With the 15 pound dumbbells!
3b. incline dumbbell curls
15 pounds x 10, x 8, x 7 plus 2 hammer curls
3c. lying barbell extensions
35 x 12, 40 x 12, 40 x 10
I might have entertained a little niggle of doubt when Michael set me up for this one, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it could be. Fatigue was evident in the last set as I had a harder time keeping the bar level and the arms moving at the same pace. I might have been able to grind out another rep or two on the final set, but that tenth rep was a bit of a grinder on its own.
I think I made it through upper body day quite well. It wasn’t necessarily an easy training session (is there even such a thing?), but it certainly didn’t leave me feeling weak, pathetic and defeated. For once, upper body day didn’t kick my ass!
But then Michael mentioned the new program he is preparing for me that begins on Monday. Then he asked how I would feel about not doing back squats for the 6 weeks of this new program. Seriously? You want me to not do back squats for 6 weeks?! Are you trying to break my heart? <sigh> I am a big girl. This is not the end of the world. I have lots of time before my next competition. I get to do front squats! And single leg squats…but really, who gets excited about those? Working the front squat will work my core and upper back which will only help my back squats. Hey, I can work my way up to a PR front squat, maybe even 200 pounds! That would be exciting. But no back squats? I don’t even know what life without them looks like anymore…not even joking! I trust my coach. I trust my coach. I trust my coach.