Dippity-Do

For a while now Mondays had been the end of my weekend, but that has now changed. This is my first Monday which is actually my Thursday. It was odd working yesterday, and I frequently found myself thinking it was Saturday rather than Sunday. I am not used to working on a Sunday, but I will adapt.

1a. tempo squats-high bar, flat shoes, closer grip

45 lbs x 6, 95 x 6, 115 x 8, 135 x 6, 145 x 6, 145 x 6

My hand position when I squat usually has the outside of my hands touching the outer rings. Of course, I have often noticed that many powerlifters squat with their hands in much closer to their shoulders, so last week I started using a slightly closer hand position with my tempo squats and continued with that today. My hands were roughly a thumbs length from the inner edge of the knurling. The position certainly helps keep my elbows from flaring back, but it is also harder on the shoulders. So far the shoulders are doing okay.

The tempo squats were somewhat easier today compared to last week, although I did a few sets of single leg box step downs prior to last week’s squats. Today my coach let me do the squats before any single leg work. Maybe that made the difference or maybe I was just more familiar with the movement. Really, the breathing is the hardest part of the tempo squats. They were done with a 4 second eccentric, a 1 second pause, and a 2 second rise.

1b. incline bench press, grip about a thumbs length from inner knurling

45 lbs x 10, 65 x 8, 70 x 6, 70 x 6, 75 x 6, 75 x 5 + 1

The second set at 70 pounds was faster and easier than the first set at the same weight. That could be because my coach told me to blast through my sticking point as I was setting up for the set. Sometimes the little cues will help me. Sometimes they won’t. I ran into a positioning problem on the fifth rep of the final set. I had to rack the bar, take a couple seconds to regroup, and then finish the final rep.

2a. barbell split squats-high bar, same closer grip

75 lbs x 10 each, 85 x 10 each, 85 x 10 each

After the tempo squats, I had expected the single leg work to suck. These did not suck. Sure, I was breathing hard, dripping sweat, and shaking like jelly after each set, but the actual work wasn’t too difficult.

2b. hip thrusts with hip circle

with circle below knees x 30, with circle above knees x 30

2c. barbell rows-wider grip comparable to my bench press, trying to keep the elbows out

65 lbs x 12, 75 x 12, 75 x 10

2d. dips

with blue band x 7, with orange band x 7, with orange x 6

Dips are one of those things that always intimidate me a bit, because I imagine that they are too difficult for me to do. The set with the blue band was easy enough. As I was setting up for the second set and felt how little resistance there was with the orange band, I imagined that I would not be able to do many reps. That first set of orange band reps actually surprised me. It wasn’t super easy, but it wasn’t as tough as I had expected. The final set was tougher, but my entire body was mostly jelly by this point.

There is still lots of time ahead me, but I have begun to allow trickles of competition thoughts to seep through my protective barriers. My next competition is 4 months away minus a few days. But what took me by surprise was realizing that Nationals will be about 3.5 months following that! It’s still plenty of time, more time than I had between competitions last year. In fact, last year I did 3 competitions within a 3 month span! That was just a little crazy and definitely not ideal. This year is certainly moving at a different pace than the previous year, but I’m okay with it.

Discs & Disappointment

Normally I prefer to blog about my training session as soon after training as possible, because I don’t want my impressions and thoughts to fade from memory before I am able to put them into writing. Even though I trained at 8 this morning, I was rather intentional about not blogging as soon as I got home. It is now 1:30 in the afternoon, and I think I have delayed long enough. My training session was not what I had hoped it would be. In fact, it was mostly an exercise in frustration and pain. The back wasn’t too bad yesterday, but today is an entirely different story.

Yesterday I left my chiropractor’s clinic feeling more optimistic than I have felt for several weeks. There was a measure of relief in knowing that the SI is fine and that this is all disc-related. I’ve been through the disc thing before, although there was no pain in my back then and it didn’t really affect my training. This round of disc issue is different from the pain in my back to the way it affects my training and daily life. I like to think I am fairly independent and self-sufficient. I don’t always like to ask for help, especially not for something I feel should be easy enough for me to do on my own, but even the most simple of tasks presents significant challenge and pain lately. I’m weary of it all.

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 8, 93 x 5, with belt 113 x 5

The front squats didn’t feel very good from the start, although the later reps in each set were somewhat easier than the first couple. Just not good enough to continue.

1b. dips

with small green band x 8

unassisted: x 6, x 5, x 5

It’s been a while since I’ve done dips, so I wasn’t very confident in my ability to do any unassisted. I’m always glad to be wrong when it comes to self-doubts. These didn’t hurt the back really, but there was some mild unpleasant sensations in having my lower half hanging.

1c. seated cable rows

70 lbs x 12, 80 lbs x 12, 80 x 4, 80 x 12, 100 x 10

I’m not sure what happened during the second set at 80 pounds, except to say that the back hurt enough that I just stopped.

2a. front foot elevated split squats

x 12 each

with 10kg kettlebell x 12 each

These actually felt kind of good. No stress on my back which was already in a ton of pain.

2b. double kettlebell curls

8kg x 7, 8kg x 12

That’s quite a discrepancy between the first and second set, and I cannot explain why the second was so much better. Sometimes my second sets just are better, because I needed to prime the movement or simply remember how much effort I need to exert.

2c. standing triceps extensions

10kg kettlebell x 15, 12kg x 12

My chiropractor says it is important for me to continue training, and I would be miserable if I had to give it up. But I’m desperately looking forward to the day I can train without pain once again.

Triceps & Abdominals

Upper body day has left my triceps, my lats, even my armpits sore. The abdominal muscles are also quite sore. I’m really not surprised, and I guess I should expect to have sore abs for a few days longer as the ab work will be a regular part of my training.

1a. kettlebell swings

24kg x 10, x 5, x 5, x 5

28kg x 8

These were easy, but they weren’t intended to be challenging, I think.

1b. deadlifts, conventional

95 lbs x 8, 135 x 7, 185 x 6, 215 x 5

with belt and straps: 230 x 2 + 4

The set at 230 pounds was supposed to be 5 reps, but I ran into a snag after the second rep. Michael had pointed out after the previous set that I had been dropping my hips too much. As I began the 230 set, I felt that I dropped my hips again on the first rep, tried to correct it on the second rep, but then I had a very quick break in my rhythm and that never bodes well for me on a heavy deadlift rep set. I lost the tension and couldn’t recover to pull the third rep. Took a moment to recover and reset, then pulled 4 reps. Honestly, I think that was a PR set.

Then Michael dropped the weight and wanted a speedy set of 5.

215 lbs x 0

Yes. Zero! I set myself at the bar, wholly prepared to grip it and rip it, but I just could not do it. I don’t think I could even create the necessary tension in my body. My brain simply said no.

Drop the weight some more for a set of 5 touch and go reps.

185 x 5

Hey! I do still know how to deadlift!

1c. GHD sit-ups

bodyweight x 10, 6kg kettlebell x 10, 6kg x 8, bodyweight x 8

The drop in reps was entirely due to the abdominal soreness.

1d. dips-unassisted

x 5, x 5, x 5, x 4

I honestly wasn’t sure that I’d be able to do any unassisted dips with how sore my triceps are, but I was pleasantly surprised. The reps weren’t necessarily easy though.

2a. TRX triceps extensions (because the triceps weren’t sore enough already)

x 12, x 5

2b. barbell curls

45 lbs x 9 x 2 sets

 

Dreaming Big

I had the privilege of going to the gym after work today rather than tomorrow.

1a. deadlifts

95 lbs x 5, 135 x 6, 165 x 6

with straps: 195 x 5, 215 x 5, 225 x 5

I think these felt pretty good today. Every single rep might not have been completely perfect, but I think I’m getting better, more consistent at keeping the bar close to the legs. I don’t have a chart or the mental capacity at this moment to determine the best record, but I’ve never 5 reps at 225 pounds before. Certainly not without a belt.

1b. dips

with blue band x 6

no band x 5, x 4

with orange band x 5

2a. block pulls, sumo and with straps

205 x 8, 235 x 8

These felt easier than I expected, but then I think I usually find block pulls to feel easier.

2b. glute ham raises

x 9, x 20

I love glute ham raises. I really do! The problem with my first set was the DOMS in my quads. Sore quads pressing into the pad of the GHD is super uncomfortable and painful. I was grimacing with every rep, not from effort but due to the pain. Suck it up, buttercup! The second set was much better. I tend to find that subsequent sets are less painful. It’s almost like the first set hurts until the muscles warm up and remember that they are doing something simple.

2c. flat dumbbell presses

25 lbs x 5, 39 lbs x 7, 39 x 9

Then at home I did a 20 second RKC plank and 15 lying leg raises.

At one point during the session, our conversation touched on my bench press. On Monday I had done 6 reps at 112 pounds. As Michael pointed out today, that works out to a 1RM of 132 pounds, which is where my bench press PR has been stuck at for a very long time. Then Michael threw out a comment about me being able to bench 150 pounds soon. That got my attention. “Seriously?! You think so?” He wasn’t joking. I have to admit that my hopes began to rise in that moment. I’ve had a 150 pound bench as an unspoken goal for a while. Truth be told, I have several bench press goals written down in my little book of goals, because I was/am doubtful about how realistic some of them are. Like c’mon! Why would I give myself the goal to bench 150, when I’ve been stuck at 132 for a year? Quite honestly, my primary bench goal is just to break through that plateau, even if that means a 135 pound bench press. Michael then said that we could test it in a few weeks, but then he asked if I wanted to try 150 today…unless it would-how did he put it-mess with my mental state, or something like that. I had to think about it for a moment. The temptation to see if I could was strong, but Michael knows me well enough to have tacked on the right qualifier to his question.

It is not very often that I turn down an opportunity to attempt a new PR. Even when I am not completely confident that I can, I want to; however, Michael’s comment about the possibility of throwing my head space into turmoil was valid. Setting a new PR would be awesome and would energize me in a multitude of ways. On the other hand, attempting a new PR and failing, especially one I’ve struggled with like the bench press, would be mentally devastating. It’s funny how some things can mess with your head, or at least mine. I have missed PR attempt squats in the gym before, not many but at least two or three, and none of those misses were nearly as crushing as missing a bench press PR. So, I acknowledged that missing such an attempt would mess with my head, and we didn’t pursue it. I’m okay with that for today. While I cannot hesitate to try for fear of failure, there are definitely many variables as to when it is best to try. I trust my coach’s judgement, and we’ll give it a go when the time is right.

Shoulder On

My right shoulder is very tender today, which only makes sense after everything that my chiropractor did to it yesterday. Undoubtedly, that treatment probably also affected my performance in the gym this morning, at least in some ways.

1a. overhead squats

35 lbs x 7, 55 lbs x 7, 65 x 8, 75 x 8 PR

Since I knew today was deadlift day, I put my flat shoes on and just went with those for the overhead squats. When I did the same thing last Wednesday, I definitely noticed the difference without my squat shoes; however, there did not seem to be any difficulty in adjusting today. The final set was a personal record, and it felt fairly easy. I only had trouble getting the bar overhead, although Michael only let me make one attempt before giving me assistance.

2a. dips

Michael said to do a few reps with a band and then do some without the band. Okay.

with red band: x 4…then 3 attempts to do even a single unassisted dip without success…so 3 more with band

My right shoulder just didn’t seem able to support me without the benefit of the band. As soon as I would unlock my elbows and begin the descent, the shoulder would give and I couldn’t even hold myself at the bottom position. Even the extra reps with the band tacked on after the failures didn’t feel right. I could feel the left side doing more work to support and get me back up, while the right shoulder lagged behind. So Michael had me switch to push ups, a few regular and then some more with the slingshot.

x 5 + 8 with slingshot, x 4 + 8, x 4 + 8

2b. deadlifts

warm up: 115 lbs x 8

with mini red bands: 115 x 5, 155 x 8, 185 x 6, 195 x 6

The bands add about 53 pounds at the top position. Michael really wants me to work at keeping the bar close to my legs and pulling my hips to the bar. I think today was better.

3a. Romanian deadlifts

135 lbs x 11

3b. chin ups

with purple band: x 5, x 3…that deteriorated quickly so I had to drop the band and do one slow, controlled eccentric that lasted 11 seconds until the right shoulder couldn’t hold on anymore

3c. floor press, with pause at the bottom and an explosive press (or as explosive as I can get)

75 lbs x 10, 85 lbs x 8

 

Wednesday Wiped Out

It is 7:00 in the evening as I am finally able to sit down to blog. I finished work a half hour ago. A great portion of my shift was chaotic, and so my body is feeling exhausted and beat up. I am looking forward to crawling into bed…after I blog, eat, gather my gym gear for tomorrow, assemble my stuff for work in the morning, and decompress a bit…as quickly as possible since my alarm will go off before 5AM.

1a. overhead squats

43 lbs x 6, 63 x 8, 70 x 8

2a. skater squats, holding 5 lb dumbbells

with 2 mats x 10 each leg, with 1 mat x 10 each leg

Ironically, the left leg was stronger and more stable.

2b. bottoms up kettlebell presses

8kg x 10 each, 10kg x 3 left + 4 right + 8kg x 4 each

And predictably the left arm was weaker.

3a. deadlifts with mini red bands

95 lbs x 8, 135 x 8, 165 x 8, 185 x 7

The purpose here, I think, was to work at bringing my hips to the bar, because that is something that I am not so great at doing apparently. You can see a video of my final set at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBFshqQSIeo  (for some reason wordpress isn’t letting me create hyperlinks)

3b. dips

with blue band: x 8, x 8, x 3 + 5 with red band

with red band: x 5

4a. good mornings with a small green band at hip height

45 lbs x 15, 85 lbs x 14

4b. chin ups (how did those get in there?)

large green band x 10

purple band x 7

4c. lying dumbbell extensions

15 lbs x 10, 20 lbs x 8? + 15 lbs x 2

Surprisingly, the right arm was lagging behind during the final set.

The banded good mornings were to work one of my weaknesses. I’m pretty sure that it has to do with getting my hips to the bar quickly. I didn’t mind the banded good mornings, but Michael made a point of saying that we could drop them and do something else if they weren’t working for me. Hmmmm. I made sure to tell him that chin ups don’t seem to be working for me either, so we can drop them. While I’m sure he laughed, I am equally sure that chin ups will still be in my program next week.

 

 

 

Shoulder Supplemental

As much as I annoyed with my shoulder for acting up yesterday, I was at least glad that I had an appointment scheduled to see my chiropractor this afternoon. Thankfully the numb toe and the knee haven’t bothered me since I saw Dr. Ben last week, but still I always feel slightly embarrassed when I need to ‘fess up to another injury or tweak. Ben likes to tease me about the way that I beat myself up. In fact, I am certain that he has worded it as ‘saving me from myself’. He jests, I think. I hope. I think he understands me. I hope. But seriously, my chiropractor is the best and I sincerely appreciate all that he does to help keep me healthy.

Surprise, surprise…my right shoulder doesn’t like to/want to extend properly. My chiropractor is something of a shoulder expert, but even I am aware of my shoulder’s issue on some level, despite the fact that the right shoulder has been good for a long time now. The right shoulder is how I wound up with my chiropractor extraordinaire almost two and a half years ago. Since then I have had several shoulder issues, but most of them have been located in the left shoulder. It’s been a while since I’ve been bothered by the right one, and I’ve certainly run the gamut of physical complaints over the past two years. Big right toe, both knees, right hip, rib, both shoulders, left elbow, neck, headaches, and the disc issue that caused a lot of grief without me feeling any actual pain in that specific area. Am I forgetting something? Probably.

So, my right shoulder doesn’t like to, or want to, extend properly. Why am I not really surprised by that? The good news is that I don’t have to stop doing dips, but I do need to go back to using a band for a while. <sigh> One step forward, two steps back, or so it seems. What isn’t a surprise is that Ben gave me an exercise to do at home. As I attempted to replicate the exercise in my chiropractor’s office, I felt much the same as I did during my first attempts at Anderson squats last Friday. My right shoulder really does not like to extend! At least my range of motion is greater than it was last night…