Start of Week 4

I think the only thing I don’t like about Mondays is the accessory work in my training program. There is just something about this day’s accessory work that fills me with a sense of dread as I walk into the gym. This is not how I feel about the accessory work on my other training days. Today was my fourth week with this program, and I still feel the same. By the time I finish my high bar squats, close grip bench, and front squats, I’m exhausted and muscles are quivering. This morning was no exception. I didn’t mind the main lifts, but I had to dig deep to find perseverance to complete the accessories.

1. high bar squats (2-0x0)

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

main event: 160 x 6, 160 x 6, 160 x 6, 160 x 6

The first working set felt off. I realized that I hadn’t put my belt on, and it felt as if my stance was a touch wider than normal. The second set felt somewhat better with the belt and better stance but still a bit tough. The final two sets felt the best; however, I did get a random discomfort/ache in my left leg below the knee.

2. close grip bench press (2-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 65 x 6, 85 x 6, 100 x 3

main event: 110 x 4, 110 x 4, 110 x 4, 110 x 4

This felt tougher than last week even though I did the same weight for the same number of reps and sets.

3. front squats (3-1×0)

75 lbs x 12, 75 x 10, 75 x 8, 75 x 8

4a. walking lunges

70 lbs x 12, 70 x 10, 70 x 10

4b. dumbbell rows

35 lbs x 10, 35 x 10, 35 x 7

4c. plank

x 40 seconds, x 30 seconds, x 27 seconds

4d. dumbbell rear delts

12 lbs x 12, 12 x 12, 12 x 10

Friday Fatigued?

It’s been a rather good day. With my current work schedule, Fridays are my Mondays. I don’t often get too caught up in negative feelings about particular days of the week. Sure I look forward to my weekends as much as anyone else, but Mondays have the same potential to be good days as any other day of the week. I slept okay last night but was awake more than asleep for at least an hour before my alarm, which isn’t a good thing when the alarm is set for 4:45 AM, but I got out of bed feeling mostly rested and ready for the day. Work was good, a smooth day with lots of laughter and connections. After work I hit the gym for my final session of week 3. This week was about incurring fatigue; however, for the most part, I felt stronger this week than I have for a while.

1. wide grip bench press (2-2×0)

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

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

2. high bar squats (3-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 7, 65 x 5

main event: 95 lbs x 12, 95 x 12, 95 x 12

3. close grip bench (3-1×0)

75 lbs x 12, 75 x 11

4a. 45 degree back extensions

x 12, x 12, x 12

4b. leg raises

x 12, x 12, x 10

Fatigue Week

This morning’s training session was a good one, I think. Even though my coach is wanting to incur fatigue this week, I felt pretty good throughout my session. The only instances where I didn’t feel so fine were my final deadlift set and during the glute bridges. The back felt achy and uncomfortable during that final deadlift set, and it also felt uncomfortable the moment I settled the weight across my abdomen for the glute bridges. Still, the back is feeling better every session, every week, so I just hope to continue to increase my weights without further set-backs.

1. deficit deadlifts (2-2×1)

warm up: 95 lbs x 8, 135 x 4, 165 x 4, 195 x 2

main event: 205 x 5, 205 x 5, 205 x 4, 205 x 2

As I mentioned already, the back felt fine until the final set here, which is why I only managed 2 reps. Although I most likely could have pushed through to complete another rep or two, I do not want to inflict further harm. Know your limit, play within it!

2. incline bench press (3-1×0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 10

main event: 60 lbs x 12, 60 x 10, 60 x 8

My incline bench is definitely weaker than my regular bench. My shoulders were burning with fatigue by the third set.

3. stiff legged deadlifts (3-1×0)

110 lbs x 15, 110 x 10

4a. side plank

x 30 seconds, x 22 seconds, x 25 seconds

4b. barbell rows

70 lbs x 12, 70 x 12, 70 x 12

4c. glute bridge

40 lbs x 15, 40 x 15, 40 x 15

Two in One

With Remembrance Day on Friday and other considerations, this morning’s training session was a combination of two sessions in one. Although the total number of exercises performed wasn’t really any different, I was completely wiped out by 9:00 in the morning and I still have a full day of work ahead of me.

1. overhead squats

43 lbs x 5 or 6, 53 lbs x 3, 63 x 6, 63 x 6, 63 x 6

Today I sort of snatched the bar overhead. I say ‘sort of’ because it wasn’t perfect or pretty.

2a. deadlifts, conventional, touch and go

115 lbs x 10, 165 x 10, 185 x 10, 195 x 10, 195 x 6 + 4, 195 x 7

The broken set at 195 was due to a cardio issue, I think, or maybe cardio and fatigue. Michael pointed out that I needed to take a breath at the top of each rep, that I was holding my breath too long. He’s probably right, even though I feel as if I am breathing. But I did make sure to breathe at the top during the final set. Honestly, the set just felt hard and I felt tired. As much as I wanted to complete all the reps, my body wanted to stop. I think being more conscious of my breathing at the top slowed things down enough that the constant tension of touch and go reps fatigued the muscles more quickly.

2b. push ups

x 5 on my knees + 5 real push ups with chest touching the floor

x 5 chest to floor + 5 with 4 second eccentric to floor, then on knees to push up explosively. This was Michael’s solution to get enough work in knowing that I’d not get many reps solely doing chest to floor push ups. Honestly, I think the adaptation was tougher. My explosive pushes from the knees weren’t very explosive by the end!

x 5 + 5

x 4 + 4

x 11 chest to floor using the slingshot. Michael really would have liked 15 reps, but the left shoulder was moving funky for the last two reps and I ran out of juice.

3a. seated dumbbell presses with back support

20 lbs x 9, 25 lbs x 5 + 20 lbs x 3

These just felt heavy today.

3b. a deadlift variation…without really changing back position, lift the bar to just above my knees then back down to just off the floor, repeat…all about using the legs

115 lbs x 7, 115 x 10



The Blame Game

Today has been a day, not a bad one necessarily but I couldn’t call it a great one. Can I blame it on a not so great sleep last night? On a series of events at work? The boredom of my diet? The fatigue of training? I’m not sure that I can pinpoint one specific cause, although I suspect that the actual reason is a tangled web of threads that, unraveled, would lead to a wide array of stressors. My mood was melancholic this morning, and now it is slipping into grumpiness.

1a. squats, low bar

without belt: 45 x 8, 95 x 5, 125 x 5, 145 x 3

with belt: 175 x 2, 195 x 1, 215 x 1

185 x 5

Midway through this set, Michael moved my elbows in a bit which made the last rep a bit tough. I might have snarled a bit as he touched the bar on that last rep. He didn’t want me to have a grindy rep. Okay.

I know that my elbow position is less than ideal, and I have been trying to bring them down; it’s just not that easy to do! Michael thought that my depth was not as deep as last week. My hips were shooting up faster than my upper body.

185 x 5

For this set I tried to keep my upper back super tight, my elbows down and pulled together as much as I could. I think it helped during the first few reps, but keeping all that tightness was definitely a challenge for the full five reps. The last rep was tough. I don’t think my upper back has ever worked so hard during squats before.

1b. bench press, competition grip

43 x 8, 63 x 6, 83 x 5, 100 x 5, 110 x 1, 115 x 1

100 x 5, 100 x 5

At least my bench press technique seems to be consistent more than it isn’t.

2a. ab wheel

x 10, x 10

2b. pause squats, no belt, 2 second pause

160 x 3 reps x 2 sets

Love the pause squat! No issues with technique with the pause!

Hopefully tomorrow will be a day with a brighter outlook and sunnier disposition.

Things I Have Learned at the Gym

Way back at the very beginning of my fitness journey two years ago, I began to make notes in a little notebook. On the inside cover of this notebook, I wrote the title, “Things I Learned at the Gym.” And so, as often as I learned something about training, about fitness, about myself, I wrote it in this little book. While I am sure that I missed recording some things, I have still managed to accumulate a good number of tidbits. For Christmas, I took most of those tidbits and created a booklet for my trainer, complete with photographs and images clipped from fitness magazines. He’s already opened his gift, so I am okay to post my list here now. There may be slight differences between my original edition, Michael’s edition, and this blog post, because I tend to edit and ad-lib as I re-write/type.

  1. Skipping isn’t as easy as it was when I was a kid or since I have had kids!
  2. Even foot muscles can become stiff and sore.
  3. Push-ups are slightly easier if I keep my core engaged.
  4. If I feel like I am choking, then my elbows are sufficiently raised for front squats.
  5. Be sure to tilt the pelvis while ab-rolling-that’s what keeps the back from hurting and makes the abs work.
  6. If at first you don’t succeed-use chalk.
  7. Training as a powerlifter is not the same as working out.
  8. Never show weakness to your trainer; he will be sure to work it.
  9. Breathe deeply. Expand your waist. Then contract your abs.
  10. Treat light weights the same as heavy ones.
  11. The start of a new training plan will result in several days of sore muscles.
  12. Lifting heavy things is fun.
  13. Trust my trainer’s judgement-it’s likely more accurate than mine.
  14. Shoulder blades back and down.
  15. Tension is important.
  16. A foam roller and lacrosse ball can be my friends and enemies.
  17. I can do more than I think I can.
  18. Powerlifting is fun and addicting.
  19. I’m an athlete. I need to eat like one.
  20. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, and I haven’t died yet.
  21. Push through my legs and heels.
  22. Spotters can save your face!
  23. If there is pain, tell your trainer!
  24. Crunches are over-rated.
  25. Running before squats kills the squats. Squatting before a run kills the run.
  26. Believe in yourself!
  27. Pull those shoulders back.
  28. Heavy weights won’t make me bulky or manly.
  29. Your trainer can make any body part sore.
  30. Attempt to “break the bar” when bench-pressing.
  31. Even difficult, loathed exercises can become easier with practice and time.
  32. Keep a training log-my memory falters quickly.
  33. A 5-second pause is a long time when doing pause squats.
  34. When bench pressing, keep my elbows in line with my hands, not flared out.
  35. Banded mountain climbers are a good way to feel my hip flexors.
  36. Pull myself down with my hips.
  37. Break the bar across my back when squatting. Elbows down. Break at the knees and stay upright.
  38. Knee sleeves can save your knees!
  39. Breathe!
  40. Caffeine is a great pre-workout!
  41. Eat carbs within an hour of a heavy training session to replace glycogen.
  42. You can always practice and refine your technique.
  43. Do more pulling than pressing!
  44. Breathe!
  45. Lats back/chest up for squats.
  46. Neurological fatigue is real.
  47. I’m looking forward to a de-load week, even though I will likely hate it when it arrives.
  48. My deadlift on the platform will always be better than my deadlift in the gym.
  49. Trust my trainer!
  50. Breathe!
  51. Carbs aren’t evil. They help build muscle.
  52. Be careful what goals you proclaim to your trainer, because you can’t take them back.
  53. You can plan to have a great training session, but that doesn’t mean you will.
  54. But a seemingly “off” training session can still finish with improvements and personal records.
  55. Sometimes you just need a fresh perspective, even if that is as simple as moving the bench.
  56. I know that I’ve adapted to my current program, when I expect to be sore after a particularly challenging session but I’m not.
  57. A scary big goal doesn’t need to be reached all at once. Take small steps!
  58. Breathe!
  59. Sometimes a stomp of the foot can help me finish a grinder rep, even if it isn’t “legal”.
  60. Pull my hips through!
  61. 4″ deficit deadlifts are no fun after squats.
  62. Momentum is everything when doing toes to bar.
  63. My second rep is usually better than the first.
  64. Between my trainer and I, someone knows how many reps I’ve done. I think.
  65. The gym is the antidote to a bad day.
  66. Breathe!
  67. A minute with the battling ropes can feel like an hour.
  68. The 25 pound dumbbells won’t own me forever.
  69. My nose will always get itchy as soon as I’ve wrapped the straps around the bar or chalked my hands.
  70. Be careful what you say-it will come back to bite you.
  71. “Every competition is an opportunity to get better” -Michael Danis


A Bench PR

Friday’s training session was this morning, because sometimes that’s just the way life rolls. My lower back is a little sore from yesterday’s deadlifts, but I felt good to go.

1a. squats

warm-ups: 95 x 5, 115 x 5, 135 x 3, 155 x 3, 175 x 2  all beltless

main event: 190 x 1, 200 x 1, 210 x 1 all with belt

pause squats: 2 sets of 3 @ 160

In general, my squats felt great today. They felt fast and solid. I think the bar path was fairly consistent with just a slight forward pitch once, maybe twice. The last single was not as fast, and it was not as easy as the rest. Michael knew it was going to be a struggle, so he was giving me cues before I even walked the bar out. Even though I don’t take those heavy weights lightly (ha ha!), I was still kind of taken by surprise when I hit a sticking point on this last rep. It isn’t very often that a sticking point takes me out of a squat, but I did have a moment of mental panic that I wasn’t going to be able to finish this squat. It seemed like I was stuck forever! I just kept pushing my legs and lifting my chest, even when it seemed as if I was not actually moving, and mentally attempted to put out the flames of panic. I did not quit, and I finished the squat! I had no idea what had happened, but Michael knew. Neurological fatigue from yesterday’s deadlifts. Good to know! My form didn’t break down. It wasn’t a lack of strength issue. I can live with that.

1b. bench press

warm-ups: 45 x 8, 65 x 5, 80 x 5, 95 x 2

main event: 105 x 1, 110 x 1, 112.5 x 1 PR

90 x 9 (AMRAP) The last rep was a bit slow to lock-out, and I probably could have ground out at least another rep or two. So Michael had me do something new…benching to a board, or really a stack of 4 boards.

105 x 4 with the 4-boards for 2 sets

2a. wide grip pull downs

70 x 12, 90 x 12

And Michael gave me homework! 2 sets of 20 lying leg raises.