The King of Lifts

Deadlifts. The king of lifts, or so some say. Opinions may vary. My own opinion of deadlifts has fluctuated between love and hate over my training life. Over the past couple of months I have been enjoying deadlifts again. That might be due to the fact that I am finally able to consistently and regularly deadlift without pain or further aggravation to my back, despite last week’s minor tweak.

Just as I was nervous about squats earlier in the week, I felt the same about today’s deadlifts. The weight jumped again, which is to be expected as I’m gearing up for competition, but it also puts me at a weight I have not pulled since early June. When you throw in the tweak to my back last week and 9 months of recovering from back injury, a bit of apprehension is to be expected. The weight itself wasn’t really scary, as it is still a far cry from my max; however, I am not used to doing a lot of volume with heavier weights when deadlifting. Was that part of my previous coach’s training philosophy? Or was it what he thought worked best for me? I’m not completely certain, and I am striving not to get hung up on what I used to do under the direction of my former coach. That said, I am still in the process of learning what my new coach’s training style and philosophy is, and he is still trying to figure out what works best for me and what I respond to well.

Sometimes I look at my program for the week and think my new coach is pushing me beyond my capabilities or comfort zone. I look at the number of reps and sets and the weight, and I feel a surge of panic. I can’t do that. I’m not used to doing that many reps at that weight! But you know what? For the most part, I have done what I thought I couldn’t. Up until now, I was used to doing maybe one set of 2 or 3 reps at a highish weight for deadlifts and definitely only two or three single reps at high weights. Although today’s weight wasn’t truly high yet, I did more reps and sets with it than I have ever done before…and the back felt okay!

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 2-3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 6, 135 x 4, 165 x 3, with belt 195 x 2, 225 x 2

main event, with belt: 240 lbs x 3, 240 x 2, 240 x 2, 240 x 2, 240 x 2

The final two sets were beginning to feel a little tough, especially the final rep of each. My capacity may have increased, but heavier deadlifts are still taxing on the system. Unlike last week, the back was essentially fine. I felt some very minor aching after, but the ache truly was extremely slight. Heavier deadlifts, at least for me, will usually result in some minor back soreness for a day or so, particularly after a competition. That’s normal and to be expected. I just don’t want a repeat of last week where the pain increased throughout the day to a throbbing mess.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 3, 85 x 3, 100 x 3

main event: 110 x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3

All of my warm ups, except for the set at 100 pounds, were done with my feet on the bench and no arch. I probably would have been fine to set up normally, but I want my back to get better and stay that way. Although there was that slight ache from the deadlifts, my back felt completely fine benching with an arch for my working sets.

3. plank

x 45 seconds, x 41 seconds, x 36 seconds

 

I also had an appointment with my chiropractor today. My right hip is a tad tight. So shocking! 😉 The tight hip can be causing the back issue, so I need to keep working on that.

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Wrestling Wifi

I’m blogging later than I had hoped to be tonight. Really, I’d much rather be procrastinating about getting myself ready for bed so I could get sufficient hours of sleep before my open shift in the morning; however, I’ve only been home for the past half hour and I spent all of that time trying to resolve a problem with my laptop’s ability to connect to most websites. I had no problem connecting to Facebook or Gmail or updating my training log on googledocs, but I could not connect to any other site. The problem started last night, but I didn’t want to spend all night messing around more than I did. I’m not a super techie person, but I’m not too afraid to poke around until I find something that works. I finally got everything working, I think, so now I can blog about tonight’s training before rushing myself into bed.

1. wide grip bench (2-2×0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 6, 65 x 5, 85 x 3

main event: 90 lbs x 5, 90 x 5, 90 x 5

2. high bar squats (3-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 7, 95 x 7

main event: 105 lbs x 7, 105 x 7

3. close grip bench (3-1×0)

80 lbs x 8, 80 x 8

4a. back extensions x 15

4b. leg raises x 15

This is the end of my deload week, so there was less volume. Everything is generally feeling good. The left knee is still feeling wonky off and on, but I’ve got some exercises to do that should eventually work it out. The back still doesn’t feel perfect, but I’m able to arch with more ease as I’m setting up for my bench presses. I’ll take progress like that!

B is for Bench

I am a bit surprised to realize that I wasn’t nearly as nervous about this morning’s bench press session as I had expected to be. I was back at a commercial gym, and I managed to bribe my eldest son to come along as my spotter. It might have been harder to convince him to come with me than it was to actually bench, but I am glad that he did agree. He thought it was weird, but it would have felt weirder and more nerve-wracking for me to have had to ask a stranger to do it. Since I knew my son was already reluctantly agreeable, I decided to only do my bench pressing and band pull-aparts, which made for a short and sweet training session.

1a. bench press-competition grip, with legs and arch

45 lbs x 10, 65 x 6, 85 x 5, 95 x 3, 105 x 3, 115 x 3

125 x 1, 135 x 1

115 x 3

Today was my last heavy bench day. My coach’s instructions were to work up to 125-135 for singles without grinding or missing a rep. I’ve been mildly stressed all week thinking about the heavy singles. I knew I was capable of hitting both 125 and 135; however, I’ve only hit 135 pounds once and that was a couple of months ago. Even though I’ve always felt I was strong enough for more, my competition bench press has been stuck at 132.3 pounds since October 2015. Every time I’ve attempted to do more, I’ve failed and that has been frustrating. It’s messed with my head a fair bit, I think; so I have been nervous all week, wanting to hit 135 again but afraid that it wouldn’t happen, especially knowing that I shouldn’t even attempt 135 if 125 was slow. But this morning, I didn’t feel stressed out at all.

One positive to come out of my lengthy back pain battle is that I have done a lot of benching without an arch and without leg drive, which essentially put me in a less advantageous position, making pressing harder even with lighter weights. While I can’t say that 100% of my reps have been perfect, I have really dialed in my technique. It is more consistent, smooth and solid. Although we don’t test my maxes very often, we do believe that my bench is stronger. Okay, so sometimes Michael probably believes that more than I do! But I believed it today.

My warm-up sets all moved well. The single at 125 was fast and smooth, so I had no doubts about going up to 135. In the moment, the single at 135 felt a bit slow but decent, but it looks a bit faster in the video than it felt. Perhaps I can walk away from Provincials next week with a new bench personal and Provincial record!

9

Another not so great sleep. Another early start to the day. My body feels somewhat achy…a combination of the back, the shoulders, the neck, and mild muscle soreness. I am tired. Sounds like a broken record, I know. Do young people these days even know what a broken record sounds like?

My coach is still away, but I was blessed to be able to train at a friend’s house this morning. She has a lovely squat rack, one with reasonably spaced holes so I didn’t have to worry about awkward rack heights. It was a little odd to train in someone’s home, but it was also kind of nice. And I was glad to have someone “spot” my heavy squat attempts. Although a squat fail is rare for me, heavy weights can be scary and intimidating, so having someone there is comforting.

1. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6

with belt: 135 x 5, 165 x 3, 185 x 1, 205 x 1, 215 x 1, 225 x 1, 225 x 1, 225 x 1, 205 x 2

I am reasonably confident that my coach isn’t going to read this blog post, which may be a good thing, because I kind of did a little more than he probably would have liked. In my defense though, he had only given me the vaguest of instructions…on Thursday you could work up to 225 for singles…did he say single or singles? I don’t remember, but I don’t always do well with vague instructions, depending on the situation. I’m a details kind of person.

Ironically, my coach texted me as I finished the first rep at 225; however, his feedback was a little too slow to prevent me from going ahead with two more singles at that weight. By the time he texted that the first single was enough, I had already done two more! The first one was alright. The second one was more of a grinder than it should have been, which means I should have stopped. Sometimes I am stupid. The last one was okay, better than the second. The reason I went ahead with the third single was that the second one had issues. As I was stepping out with the bar, I hit the racks significantly. I should have racked the bar and refocused, but I didn’t. Then I was focusing on making sure I hit depth. I survived, but I know that my coach would have shut me down there based on bar speed.

2. bench press-competition grip, with legs and arch

45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 6, 105 x 3, 110 x 3

These were easy and solid today. I just had to keep the bar moving well and with good speed. The heavy bench single will be Saturday.

My Provincials count down is now in single digits at 9 days! It feels so incredibly close but still so far away.

Hitting Depth!

Competition is 3 weeks from tomorrow. Excitement is beginning to blossom, slowly and cautiously. This competition will be unlike any of my previous 7. Indeed, nothing in my training/peaking has been normal for heading into a competition. It wasn’t too many weeks ago that my coach asked me if I was certain I actually wanted to compete still. As stubborn as my intention to compete has always been, the lingering disc/SI joint issues have definitely messed with my head and confidence. My expectations have had to change, which isn’t always an easy thing to accept, but this is reality. Whether I like it or not, this competition is not going to be my best ever. That chafes. I am competitive, and I strive to be better every time. Sometimes that won’t happen, and that should be okay. I know that is true, but I can feel the inner tug-of-war between accepting my limitations and striving for more.

My coach asked me today what I am hoping for at Provincials. That’s a tough question to answer. Obviously I can’t base my hopes on a completely healthy body and ideal peak, but the limitations to my training have been significant enough that I honestly have no idea what I might be able to do. The only personal best expectation that I have is for my bench press, because I’ve been stuck at the same weight in competition for too long and should be able to surpass it. Aside from that, my response to my coach was that I would really be happy just to go 9 for 9.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6

with belt: 135 x 3, 165 x 2, 185 x 3 (RPE 7), 185 x 3, 185 x 3, 185 x 3

Michael told me to treat each rep almost like a paused squat, so I controlled my eccentric and almost paused at the bottom. And you know what that did? It allowed me to finally make legal depth! Yeah! I think there might have been one rep in the final set that was iffy for depth, but the rest were all good. Finally!

1b. bench press-competition grip

with feet on bench: 43 lbs x 10, 63 x 5, 83 x 3, 103 x 1

with feet on floor and arch: 115 x 1, 125 x 1, 130 x 1, 130 x 1

The first single at 130 was a bit slower than what Michael was expecting. It was slower than I expected, too. I focused on some inner frustrations before the next single in order to make it faster, and it worked.

2. TRX rows x 15, x 20

Just a Squat That I Used to Know

Provincials are 25 days away according to my countdown app…just under 4 weeks, which means I really only have 3 weeks of real training. The final week will be for deloading.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves, slower eccentric

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6

with belt: 135 x 5, 165 x 3, 185 x 2, 200 x 1, 210 x 1

The set at 135 pounds actually felt really good. Michael even said that he might pass most of the reps. The slower eccentric helped a bit, but I’m still mostly hitting parallel for depth. We took video of the 185 and 200 sets to assess. It’s difficult to judge the depth with certainty. Maybe I’ll have to start wearing my singlet. One thing that was quite obvious in the videos was my ankle mobility and extreme angle of my shins! My body is doing all sorts of things in the effort to squat safely, to protect my back, and to try to hit depth. Unfortunately, that also means that my squat looks different almost every time I go to the gym! But my final single did move better than my heavy single last week. Hopefully my body is getting used to the feel of heavy weight on my back again.

1b. bench press-competition grip

with feet on the bench: 43 lbs x 10, 63 x 6, 83 x 5, 103 x 5

with feet on floor and arch: 113 lbs x 5, 118 x 3, 118 x 3

My back is still not 100%. I’m hesitant to even attempt to rate the state of my back at this time. It is definitely improving and has improved significantly compared to a few weeks ago, but I can still feel a degree of pain or discomfort through most of the day. There may be a reasonable chunk of time with almost no pain, but then the simplest thing, like taking a step up a stair, can jostle the back uncomfortably. Although my back generally feels okay at the gym, I want to keep it feeling that way through my training session and beyond, and this is why I elect to do as much of my benching with my feet up on the bench. Having my feet on the bench enables me to have less of an arch…or no arch, if necessary. It’s not my favourite way to bench, but sometimes you do what you gotta do. Benching was all solid and smooth today.

2a. pause squats-low bar, with belt, 2 second pauses

155 lbs x 3, 175 x 3

I love pause squats! There is something about doing a pause squat that allows me to nail my technique. Michael was hoping that having a slower eccentric on my regular squats would have the same result, but it didn’t. I’m not sure why, except for maybe the difference in knowing that I will be staying in the bottom for a bit when doing pauses. Pause squats have always been a good tool for me, but we mostly avoided using them over the past few months because of my back and not wanting to put more strain there. That was likely a good decision, but I’m glad that I am able to use the pause again.

2b. hanging leg/knee raises

x 12

I started off raising my legs and switched to knees at some point. There was some minor back discomfort doing these, particularly with the legs straight…the feeling of muscles being pulled or stretched more than they want to. That same sensation has been present at the bottom of my squats since the back problems started. It’s only been in the last week or so that I’ve been able to squat without feeling it, so I’d say that’s progress. Several weeks ago, I couldn’t even do hanging knee raises without significant discomfort. More improvement!

4 weeks and a day

The week isn’t quite over yet. I have one more work day to go before my weekend, but this week has felt rather long. At least a dozen threads of thought are floating inside my head wanting to be tugged and put to words. And yet, if I try to focus my attention inward, I find my eyes glazing over and my focus sucked into a black hole of nothingness. Maybe a solitary tall Americano simply wasn’t enough caffeine for the day. Maybe I didn’t sleep as well as I thought I did last night, but I am on the wrong side of the bed. The work day was steady but good, except for spilling several litres of frapp roast all over the fridge, the floor, and myself. My training session was decent, I think. I have eaten fairly well today. Had plenty of water. Regardless of the cause, I am fading fast.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 5

with belt: 135 x 1 + 5, 165 x 3, 185 x 3, 190 x 3, 190 x 3

My coach was training alongside of me today, so we were sharing the squat rack. I was squatting, while he was doing Anderson squats. That meant the safeties needed to be changed every set. For my set at 135, I lifted the bar and walked it out, braced and squatted. Clang! We had forgotten to change the safeties after Michael’s set. Made the change. Reset. Finished the set. Ironically, a couple of sets later, we forgot to change them again, but this time after my set which meant that Michael was squatting deeper than anticipated.

The rest of my sets were okay. A couple of reps had a slight forward pitch. These past several months have taken my squat and turned it into something else. It’s still a squat, but it isn’t exactly how I used to squat or how I should. After Provincials are over, we’re going to deconstruct my squat and start at the beginning, but that’s something to think about in 4 weeks plus a day or two.

1b. bench press-competition grip

with feet on bench, small arch:

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 5, 83 x 3, 103 x 1

with feet on floor and arch:

115 lbs x 1, 125 x 1, 125 x 1

115 x 3 paused each rep

2. TRX rows x 20

Now almost time for bed.