Respect for 225

I opened up the week’s training plan this morning. This might have been the first time in recent weeks that my eyebrows didn’t pop up and my jaw didn’t drop while reading what my coach had programmed for me. I actually find that fact quite interesting. With competition less than 3 weeks away now, the volume is dropping. Hallelujah! Of course, the weights are still increasing, although not beyond anything I’ve done in the past. I will be doing more reps at those weights than I’ve done before, but I think multiple single reps shouldn’t be a problem. Having had a couple of weeks with strong results recently, I feel very optimistic about the week ahead.

And yet, there is that teensy sliver of apprehension with tomorrow’s squats. 225 pounds for 1-2 reps. It is only 10 pounds more than I did last week for triples. I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but I haven’t had that much weight on my back for a long time! I keep saying that because it is true. It’s been more than 4 months. The last time I squatted 225 pounds was leading up to Provincials in June. Hitting that weight in training then was fine; however, my second squat attempt at Provincials was 220 pounds. Although I was successful in the lift, something tweaked in my back in the process and the squat was painful and ugly. What should have been an easy second squat wasn’t and the back issues continued.

I think my back is generally doing quite well now. There was a little flare up a few weeks ago while deadlifting, but I’ve been aggressive in rehab and it seems to be doing fine. Squats have been feeling good the past couple of weeks, so I honestly have no reason to expect anything drastically different tomorrow. They could feel a bit heavy or tough and still be good. The first set will be important as it is where my confidence can be made or broken. My first set isn’t always the best, but being able to push through to finish well can fill me with the confidence needed to regroup and improve the next set. Alternatively, a really tough first set can make me feel weak and incapable. I am not either of those things.

225 pounds should be a relatively easy weight for me, but I also know that you need to respect the weight on the bar. That is a decent amount of weight! There are grown men who weigh that much…and I’m figuratively about to throw one of them on my back and squat once, twice, and over again.

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Wonder Woman vs Deadlifts

What do I do when it is deadlift day and my program calls for 5 sets of 2-3 reps at 255 pounds, and the heaviest I have EVER deadlifted for reps was 250 pounds for a single set of 2 reps? I put on my Wonder Woman tank top, Wonder Woman socks, and Wonder Woman earrings. I fill my Wonder Woman shaker bottle with my recovery drink and put it in my Wonder Woman gym bag. Then I go to the gym and do what I know how to do.

PRs can come in all shapes and sizes. There are competition PRs and gym PRs. PR for reps. Pr for sets. With or without belt or knee sleeves. Low bar or high bar. Mix grip or double overhand or straps. PRs set in the gym are nice, but I think they should be looked at like the markings parents put on the wall to track the growth of their children. You want to see improvement and growth in the gym; however, for competitors, the platform is where you take all that training, mix in the adrenaline that comes from competition, and strive to taste the fruits of your labour.

I do get a little thrill out of hitting gym PRs, because it shows me that I am getting stronger, better. My eyes are still firmly focused on the ultimate PRs though. These past few months have been challenging, exciting, scary, and educational. This is part of the journey of becoming…taking the skills I’ve learned in one environment and learning to apply them and improve on them in a completely different environment. I am walking along unfamiliar terrain in some ways, and I think that has been a good thing.

I wasn’t afraid of today’s deadlifts, but I was cautious and hopeful and determined. Cautious because the back injury lingers in the shadows of my mind. Hopeful because it is exciting to see my progression into uncharted territory. Determined because I want it and I’m willing to work hard for it.

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 2-3 reps

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

main event: 255 lbs x 2, 255 x 2, 255 x 2, 255 x 1, 255 x 2

The warm ups moved well and felt good. The first working set was okay. Maybe even more than just okay. The bar moved well, I think, but I could tell that completing five sets would require almost every ounce of energy and willpower. I have never done very well with multiple reps at heavyish weights, hence my previous PR of 2 reps at 250 pounds! The first two sets this morning were good. The third set was still quite decent, but it was more difficult for me to create enough tension in my body to initiate the lift. The fourth set was some kind of mess from the beginning. The chalk box was completely empty, like so empty that I had to resort to scraping my hands along the bottom of the box in an effort to get any residual bits of chalk on my hands. There wasn’t really any! Then, as I was setting up my position and creating tension, I could feel my belt buckle against my arm, so I had to adjust the belt and start again. By this point, my brain was subtly telling me that I wouldn’t be able to get any tension. I managed one rep. Barely. I stood up for a moment to try to refocus before attempting the second rep. I managed to get the bar off the floor by maybe an inch or two, but I had to drop it. I know my body well enough to know when it is best to say no, but I was determined not to have such a mental lapse for the final set.

So I had two PRs of sorts today. The very first working set was a PR, and the entire volume at the working weight was a PR. If all this hard work translates into a PR on the platform on November 4th, then it will be worth it.

2. bench press (2-1×0) 3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 3, 100 x 3

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

My warm up sets prior to 100 pounds were done without feet and arch. The reps all felt solid and good. I’m not sure if my perception was reality or merely a sensation, but it felt like my arch was slightly bigger and better for my working sets today. Probably not really.

Since I bench every training day, I am not always wearing the same shoes. On the days that I squat, I wear my Olympic weightlifting shoes which have an elevated heel. These are also the shoes that I have always worn for benching at competitions. However, on my deadlift days, like today, I wear a flat shoe (Nike Free) and I don’t bother to change shoes when I move over to the bench. Over the course of training for the past 4 years, I have practiced my bench press with both pairs of shoes. But I have been noticing a small difference over the past few weeks when I am wearing my flat shoes to bench. It’s barely perceptible, but I have noticed that I feel more connection with the floor and my leg drive with the flat shoes. I suppose it kind of makes sense since the Nike Frees are very light and thin-soled. I’m not sure what I am going to do with that information yet, but it is intriguing and worth more observation.

3. planks

x 35 seconds, x 30 seconds, x 30 seconds

The planks felt tough today, which I think is the result of the deadlifts. My core was quivering throughout each plank.

 

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.

Here I Go Again?

Something happened in the midst of my deadlift sets this morning, and my back has been cranky ever since. Only this is the right side of my lower back, while the left side has bothered me most over the course of the year. <sigh> Just yesterday my coach had asked how the SI was feeling, and I said everything was feeling good. <sigh> About 5 weeks out from competition and this is not what I want to be feeling right now. Fatigue? Yes. Minor aches and pains? Okay. This? No. But I know what to do and I am motivated to do what it takes to get this back under control again.

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 4-5 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 7, 135 x 4, 165 x 4, with belt 195 x 3, 205 x 2

main event, with belt: 220 lbs x 5, 220 x 5, 220 x 4, 220 x 4, 220 x 2

Deadlifts were feeling good up until midway through the third working set when I felt a mild ache on the right side of my lower back. It could be felt throughout my final sets, too. In fact, the final set was cut short, because I lost my tension while trying to stretch my back a bit between reps.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 6-8 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 4, 100 x 3

The mild back ache gained some intensity during my bench sets thanks to the arch. I put my feet up on the bench to keep my back flat for my final two warm up sets.

main event: 110 lbs x 5, 110 x 6, 110 x 4, 110 x 3

Feet down and as much arch as I could tolerate which seemed to get less and less each set. These felt tough today, and I certainly had better numbers with the same weight last week. Thankfully my shoulder wasn’t an issue, but the back certainly was.

3. pause deadlifts (3-1×0) 4-6 reps

145 lbs x 5, 145 x 5, 145 x 4

With the way my back was feeling, I expected that these would be problematic and hard; however, they actually felt pretty good. I was definitely fatigued by the final set though, and there was a lovely burn in my glutes by the time I’d finish a set.

4. pull downs

70 lbs x 8, 80 lbs x 6

My coach programmed 90 pounds for these today, but I could barely get the bar to my chest. I dropped the weight and then added a bit on the second set. Again, I had better numbers for these last week.

5. plank

x 50 seconds, x 35 seconds, x 30 seconds

I came into the gym expecting a tough but good session, so what I experienced was a bit frustrating. Tough is acceptable, but I am so done with the back issues! And right now, I’m in a bit of pain. I’ve got some stretches and rolling to do at home, and I’ve been instructed to take an extra rest day. I will. That will mean making adjustments to next week’s training days, but I need to keep this back issue from becoming a major thing again.

Deadlifts on the Rise

My ability to perform deadlifts was significantly hampered for a great deal of this year because of my lower back injury that occurred at the end of January. I might have attempted a couple deadlift sessions in the first few weeks after the injury and another short session a couple months later, but mostly I couldn’t deadlift until May when I needed to prepare for Provincials in June. I think I worked up to a single rep at 225 pounds, and even that didn’t feel very good. At Provincials, my deadlifts felt really good and easy…because they were easy weights for me. Tweaking my back during one of my squats meant I had to be even more conservative with my deadlift attempts than originally planned. My three deadlift attempts were: 187 pounds, 226 pounds, and 248 pounds. That was the end of deadlifting for a little more than a month or late July.

Deadlifts returned to my training when I got my new coach and program. Even though I had provided him with all of the pertinent information as it related to my injury/recovery and previous training and competitions, the first deadlift session, as programmed, was a little too much. Those first deadlift sessions were from a deficit, but the original working weight was 220 pounds. I never even bothered attempting to use that weight, because my warm up set at 195 pounds felt heavy, tough, and hard on my back. My coach scaled back my deadlift numbers. After a few weeks of deficits with back aches, he took away the deficit. Since then I’ve been feeling the deadlift love once again. Today’s deadlift session saw my working sets at 220 pounds…that same weight I couldn’t do 9 weeks ago!

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 6, 135 x 5, 165 x 3, 195 x 3, 205 x 2

main event, with belt: 220 lbs x 6, 220 x 4, 220 x 3, 220 x 4, 220 x 3

The first set felt like it was flying. So good and honestly surprising. The second set still felt decent, but I knew I’d have difficulty maxing out reps for each set. The third and fifth sets were not as good as I’d like, since I didn’t even get the four reps I was shooting for. It was a case of the loss of tension, loss of rhythm in both sets. On the third set, I tried to regroup. I stood up and reset my position, inhaled and tried to lock my body into tension…nope. When it comes to deadlifts, I listen to my body when it tells me to stop. I also know that as the weight on the bar gets heavier, my ability to perform multiple deadlift reps drops significantly. I’ve never been someone who can use 80% of my max for reps. But aside from those two glitches, I think my deadlifts were decent today. It was good to feel progress, to know that I am indeed coming back from injury and getting stronger all the time.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 6-8 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 6, 65 x 4, 85 x 3, 100 x 3

main event: 110 x 6, 110 x 6, 110 x 6, 110 x 6

These felt a little tough today. I’d say each set was an RPE of 9. The fact that my calluses were now tender and sore from the deadlifts probably didn’t help, but mostly I just feel a little fatigued this week.

3. pause deadlifts (3-1×0) 4-6 reps

145 lbs x 4, 145 x 4, 145 x 4

Legs felt done like dinner. Grip felt done like dinner. I’d rather pause squat.

4. pull downs 8-12 reps

70 lbs x 12, 80 lbs x 12

This is the first time pull downs have been in my new training program, which also means that I haven’t done pull downs for a few months now. My coach left the weight up to me. I did a couple of reps at 50 pounds before deciding that 70 would be a better place to begin. That was relatively easy, so I increased the weight on the second set.

5. planks

x 45 seconds, x 40 seconds, x 30 seconds

The first plank felt almost easy. On the last plank, I could hear my abs screaming in misery.

And now, after two training days which saw increases in weight along with lots of sets, I’m almost looking forward to Friday’s 10 working sets of bench. When I first saw this week’s program, I thought all those sets might do me in, but now I think they might be the easiest part of the strength portion of this week’s program!

Desperately Seeking Energy

I’m waiting for the caffeine to hit my bloodstream and infuse me with some energy, because I feel as limp as a noodle right now. Although today’s training session saw me moving significantly less weight than Monday’s session, I feel done in. Deadlifts can do that to you.

1a. deadlifts (2-2×1) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 5, 135 x 4, 165 x 3, 195 x 3

main event, with belt: 205 lbs x 6, 205 x 6, 205 x 6, 205 x 4, 205 x 6

Today was my first time deadlifting more than 200 pounds since Provincials in June. These felt decent, although I am a little disappointed to have dropped two reps on the fifth set. Deadlifts and I have a complicated relationship when reps are involved, especially when there is a definitive stop before each rep. There is a natural rhythm involving the creation of tension, breathing and bracing against the belt, and initiating the lift. For me, if that rhythm is broken, even just a smidge, I find it difficult to continue the set. That’s what happened in the fifth set. Between finishing the fourth rep and initiating the fifth, something happened to upset my rhythm and I couldn’t do it. The smallest thing can ruin the rhythm…an extra second, an ill-timed breath or the wrong type of breath, the bar rolling. Even though I was already feeling the fatigue, I knew I was capable of maxing out my reps on every set, so I was determined to finish my final set well.

2. competition bench press (2-1×0)  6-8 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 6

main event: 100 lbs x 8, 100 x 8, 100 x 8, 100 x 6

Bench press is my weak link in the powerlifting chain, although I think I can safely say that I am generally solid up until a certain weight. My competition best has been stuck at the same weight forever, but my working sets feel good and strong.

3. pause deadlifts (3-1×0) 4-6 reps

145 lbs x 6, 145 x 4, 145 x 4

Today was my first time doing these for a long, long time!

4. barbell shoulder press 8-12 reps

45 lbs x 10, 45 x 6

My dislike for shoulder presses is strong, while my ability to do them well is weak. The first set felt okay, but the right shoulder fatigued rapidly during the second set.

5. plank

x 36s, x 30s, x 25s

I don’t understand how people can hold a plank for minutes at a time. If I was completely fresh, I might be able to hold a plank for a minute, but by the end of my training session I was fighting to maintain form as long as I did.

Looking to November

Over the past couple of training sessions I have begun to feel the stirrings of ambition, focus, and determination, along with the thrill that comes with pursuing a big goal. I’ve had a big goal for a long time now, and the competition where I will potentially have the opportunity to challenge that goal is now less than two months away. Although I’ve been eyeing this goal since before this year began, my grip on it has purposely been kept loose. I’ve been injured for most of the year and not lifting to my full potential. I am currently feeling better than I have felt all year, but I need to stay healthy and continue to rebuild my strength. That’s the main reason for the loose grip on my goal, but a secondary reason is that there are still opportunities for someone to move the marker on my goal. My goal involves a World record, but there is always the potential that someone could break that record (even multiple times) between now and my competition, possibly even breaking it beyond my ability to challenge. But regardless of what happens with that record between now and November 4th, of far greater importance is how I feel and what I am capable of doing. Breaking records is exciting, but it doesn’t define me. Being able to put in a solid competition after a disappointing Provincials would feel redemptive and rewarding, and my ultimate goals are to place well at Nationals next year and qualify for Worlds. Breaking a record in November would be super cool, but it won’t help me win Nationals or get to the World Championships. And yet, I am beginning to feel confidence in my ability to have a solid competition in November. Even when the training is tough or there’s an exercise I don’t like doing, I am finding the grit and determination to push through with my eye focused on November. This girl has goals and each one is a stepping stone on this journey.

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 6, 135 x 4, 165 x 3

main event, with belt: 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 6

Deadlifts are feeling good and moving well. The back isn’t bothered in the slightest.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 6-8 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 4

main event: 95 x 8, 95 x 8, 95 x 8, 95 x 7

3. stiff legged deadlifts (3-1×0) 8-12 reps

115 lbs x 12, 115 x 12, 115 x 8

4. BB shoulder press (2-0x1) 8-12 reps

50 lbs x 8, 50 x 7

This is one exercise that I do not enjoy and struggle to see improvement in.

5. plank

x 40 seconds, x 30 seconds, x 25 seconds