Return of the RDL

There will be lots of squatting and pressing in my training over the course of the next 6 weeks leading up to Provincials. By the sounds of it, I’ll be squatting and pressing three times a week. I don’t mind at all, but I really need my back to agree with my mind. Since this back saga began at the end of January, I have hardly done any deadlifting. My back just couldn’t do it. So when Michael said he’d like me to do some Romanian deadlifts this morning, I was both excited and nervous. I so desperately want this back/disc issue to heal up and go away. I desperately want to be able to go about living and training without the pain and physical limitations I’ve had for three months now. Although the back is finally improving, I recognize that there are still restrictions in my movement and there is still pain.

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 8, 93 x 6, 113 x 6

with belt: 133 x 6, 143 x 6, 160 x 1, 143 x 6

I think the first several sets were okay. The set at 143 was a bit tougher, but my RPE was probably 7-8. I no longer remember if that was the set where my back started feeling cranky or if it was already achy the set before. The pain wasn’t sharp or intense, just an all-over achy, sore feeling, which really isn’t a very helpful description but the best I can do. Michael thought about having me do a wave, so he bumped up to 160 and wanted 3 reps but called it after one. The bar was heavy from the moment I unracked it, and I know I felt tentative and doubtful. I think a second rep might have been a bit better, but I wasn’t too disappointed in having that set cut short. I am also second-guessing the final set now that I’m blogging about it. I had written in my book that I did 133 lbs x 6, but I think we actually added 10 pounds more to the bar.

1b. bench press-close grip, with feet on 45 lb plates

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

The first set at 115 pounds was tough. I had some bar positioning problems. I’m not sure that I was gripping as hard as I could, and I was likely thinking too much about the ache in my back. With the crankiness going on in the back, the act of getting into position and arching was not the most comfortable thing to do.

Early on as I was doing my squats and pressing, I experienced a tightness or sensation of something pressing/squeezing between my shoulder blades. I did a bit of foam rolling and then used a lacrosse ball before a couple of my squat sets. The sensation wasn’t painful, but it did make me feel a bit winded more than normal for what I was doing and simply felt off. The rolling seemed to help.

2a. Romanian deadlifts

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 3

These first ones were done with squat shoes on. Then I took the shoes off and did them in my socks.

95 x 8, 95 x 9

I would like to know how these would have felt if my back wasn’t already feeling achy and cranky. Despite how the back was feeling, I think these felt okay. We had the bar set up in the rack, so I didn’t have to bend over to pick it up. Probably a good idea! The initial act of pushing the hips back to lower the bar was not super comfortable, and I could feel some pressure in the back; however, the discomfort wasn’t too much. The pain wasn’t sharp, shooting, radiating, throbbing, or worse. It was certainly no worse than the feeling during squats and bench. Now, an hour later, my back is definitely achy and cranky, but I think I’ll be okay. Time will tell, I guess, but I’m going to operate on the assumption that soreness is to be expected when you begin using muscles for movements that you haven’t really done in 3 months!

2b. single arm kettlebell rows

16kg x 12 each, 20kg x 12 each

 

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.

One Step at a Time

Provincials is 10 weeks away and registration opens on Sunday! The SI joint is still a problem, but I privately celebrate every little bit of progress no matter how small. As I closed the store last night, I was able to lift stacks of patio chairs without the discomfort that was present the night before doing the exact same task. I can lift my right leg higher to put my pants on without discomfort and without needing to hold onto something as I bend forward. I could get out of the car with slightly less pain. There is a bit less pain from sitting on the toilet. But a sneeze can make the lower back feel as if it is being ripped apart. Lowering myself to the floor is still a slow, tentative process. I’ll take those small forward steps, even if they seem to come slowly, sporadically. Progress is better than regression. Although it feels as if this issue is going to last forever, I have to trust that there will come a day when this is but a memory. Until that day, I am just going to do my best to stay positive and upbeat, to focus on what I can do and continue to improve on those things, and trust that I will be successful at Provincials.

warm-up:

bottoms up kettlebell presses:

8kg x 5 each, 10kg x 8 each

box jumps:

…can’t remember how many I did…we were focused on making sure that my back wasn’t being bothered by the jumps that I don’t recall the reps…guess I should get in the habit of writing down more of my warm up stuff in my training log…ironically, the back was completely fine with jumping up onto the box, although I was bending my knees to absorb the impact; however, I did have to step down softly as that was more jarring on the back!

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 6, 73 x 6

with belt: 113 x 6, 135 x 6, 135 x 1

I wouldn’t normally require a belt for these weights, but Michael wants me to use it as much as possible leading up to competition and also just to be mindful of my back. The first belted set was with my own belt, while the other two were with a softer, velcro closure belt of Michael’s. Before I even did the first rep with my belt, something didn’t feel quite right on the left side of my lower back. It wasn’t the same discomfort and it settled down by the next set, whether because of the softer belt or just no reason at all. Speed and bar path were good. Breathing sucked but that’s front squats! The final set didn’t get very far though. I did the first rep and felt enough discomfort in the lower back as I came out of the hole that I paused at the top, considered a moment and then racked the bar. Michael said that was enough.

1b. floor presses-competition grip

45 lbs x 8, 75 x 8

with slingshot:

95 x 6, 115 x 6, 120 x 4 or 5?, 115 x 6

Using the slingshot for floor presses is interesting, because you don’t get all of the benefit of the slingshot due to the limited range of motion. Again, I am not sure if I completed 4 or 5 reps at 120 pounds before failing. Michael said that he wouldn’t count that as a missed rep…that it didn’t happen! But I know it did. I think the bar got out of position on me, but Michael chose to drop the weight anyway.

1c. prone trap raises

5 lb dumbbells x 11, x 12

band face pulls with wrist rotation, orange band

2 sets of 15

2a. barbell reverse lunges-low bar

75 lbs x 16, 95 x 16

I expected these to feel tougher. The first set was super easy. Although the second set did get a little harder towards the end, it was still surprisingly easy.

2b. back extensions, with 25 lb dumbbell

2 sets of 15

I have been given homework…doing 100 band pull aparts today, tomorrow and Sunday. Always need to work on that upper back! Maybe one day I will look like I actually lift weights! 😉

 

 

Bulgarians Bite

This ongoing SI joint issue is super frustrating. In some ways it feels like I’m back at the beginning of the issue but not completely. Some things are better than at the beginning of this ordeal, so I have to trust that this won’t last forever, but I’ve determined that I am going to do everything within my power to get through this with grace and strength. I can do that. Right?

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 8, 93 x 6, 123 x 6

with belt: 133 x 6, 133 x 6

At least I can squat without pain in my lower back!

1b. glute-ham raises

x 10, x 10, x 5 + 5 with 8kg kettlebell

with 8kg kettlebell: x 10, x 10

1c. floor presses, with a pause at the bottom

43 lbs x 6 + 63 lbs x 5, 83 x 5, 103 x 6, 103 x 6, 105 x 6

1d. ab wheel

x 10, x 10, x 10, x 10

Michael said the first two sets were too easy and wanted me to roll out a bit further and slower, so I did. This is an example of how there is still improvement in my lower back, because I couldn’t roll out too far when the SI joint issue started. But the back bothered me too much to do sit-ups on the GHD…

2a. Bulgarian split squats with 54 lb vest

x 10 each leg

My balance was terrible. Although the extra weight isn’t always fun, I tend to find it slightly easier to balance if I’m holding some dumbbells in my hands. No counter-balances today though. I think part of my problem is that my back foot never quite feels secure, and that was definitely the case today. I’m glad I only had to do one set, otherwise I’m not sure I’d have been able to walk.

2b. single arm kettlebell rows

20kg x 15 each

 

Lack of Sleep Leg Day

While I have no issues with ‘falling back’, ‘springing forward’ is a struggle. I haven’t slept well for the past two nights, but I don’t think I can wholly blame Daylight Savings Time for that. Yesterday morning was the first time in many years that I actually slept through my alarm! My daughter actually turned on my bedroom light and might have even given me a shake before I actually woke up…all while my alarm had been ringing for at least 10-15 minutes. I went to bed around 11PM last night, fell asleep quite quickly, started to dream, then woke up 15-20ish minutes later. I did not fall back asleep until at least 2AM, if not even later. A morning training session meant I had to get up, even though I desperately wanted to stay in bed. Thankfully, I could try to have a nap this afternoon. Maybe. Or not. I can sleep in a little bit later tomorrow. Also, I have coffee!

1a. split squats

warm-up: 8kg kettlebell x 8 each leg

with barbell: 45 lbs x 10 each, 75 lbs x 10 each, 100 x 10 each, 110 x 10 each

It was nice to have a barbell on my back; it’s been a while! Low bar position. These were relatively easy, although I was gasping for air and had to take a knee after the final set. I might have been content to stay at 100 pounds for the final set, but Michael made a comment and I added some more weight to the bar. The lower back felt perfectly fine.

1b. dumbbell presses while laying on a foam roller

25 lbs x 12, 34 lbs x 10, 34 x 10, 39 x 8

2a. front squats

110 x 4

Quite honestly, this set felt heavy from the moment I moved to unrack the bar. As I was stepping back and preparing for my reps, I could not recall how much weight was on the bar, but I assumed that it was more than what it actually was. It felt heavy. So heavy and uncomfortable. I still have tender spots on the fronts of both my shoulders from last Friday’s front squats. Michael only wanted me to do 3 or 4 reps for this set. I felt like stopping after the third but toughed it out for a fourth rep. Each one felt slow and tentative.

130 x 5

After the first set, Michael said to try a slightly different grip…as in essentially not holding onto the bar at all. I did one rep that way before racking the bar and resetting myself for normal front squats to finish the set. Not holding the bar felt heavier and unbalanced and I didn’t like it. The rest of the set was slightly better but still slow and heavy feeling.

130 x 6 with belt

I don’t know if it was a result of the belt or not, but this final set was the best of the bunch. My reps were faster, smoother, and they felt easier.

2b. bench press-touch and go

93 lbs x 8 competition grip

93 lbs x 10 slightly wider grip, roughly a centimeter in from the outer knurling

This set actually felt and looked pretty good despite the wider grip. It wasn’t a major change to my hand positioning, only a centimeter or so, but shoulder health is always the primary concern when making grip adjustments. The shoulders felt fine this set, but the right shoulder felt ever so slightly sore a few minutes later, which meant that Michael had me go back to my regular grip for the final set.

105 lbs x 8 competition grip

3a. some kind of seated pulldown, around a 45 degree back angle

100 lbs x 12, 100 x 8

3b. flyes

10 lbs x 20, 15 lbs x 15

3c. incline dumbbell curls

10 lbs x 15, 10 lbs x 6 + 15 lbs x 4 + 15 lbs x 11 standing

I just now realized that I was able to set up for my bench press with an arch without obvious discomfort to the lower back! Even though I had been given the okay to arch while pressing, getting into that position hasn’t been achieved without facial contortions from lower back discomfort. I don’t think I felt any of that today. Aside from sitting in the car this morning, my lower back has felt fairly decent over the weekend, which is an improvement over most of last week. I have an appointment with my chiropractor tomorrow, and I am desperately hoping that he will give me the green light to resume back squats and deadlifts. It is time to start prepping for Provincials, and I kind of need to put a barbell on my back. Although I can ultimately do whatever I want to do, I really do want to be smart with my body and health. However, I am fully prepared to beg, bribe, whine or cry tomorrow if my chiropractor isn’t as agreeable as I would like.

SI Sighs

Today felt a little rough, or I felt rough. A headache settled in fairly early and stuck around all day. As my work day wore on, I deteriorated. I’m not sure if I was feeling a lack of caffeine, mere fatigue, a tight neck, or finally succumbing to something. I’ve woken up with a touch of a sore throat the past couple of days. While the throat hasn’t been too bad, it’s enough of a bother to make me desperately hope that I am not getting sick. The sore throat, the headache, and a sense of being overly warm made my work day feel long. I almost never get sick, and I don’t have time for getting sick. I am not sick. I refuse to get sick!

I arrived at the gym this afternoon feeling okay…of course, I arrived sipping a quad tall Americano (my second one of the day). I wasn’t feeling super amazing, but I was at my happy place. As is often the case, a training session has a practically magical ability to make me feel better, no matter what the issue may be. So, I left the gym feeling better than when I arrived. See, I refuse to get sick! 😉

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 8, 73 x 6, 93 x 6

with belt: 123 x 6, 143 x 5, 143 x 5, 143 x 5

I might have had some minor difficulties with the front squats today. I had to re-rack the bar at the start of a couple of sets, because I realized upon un-racking that I wasn’t properly centred. The sets at 143 pounds were a little challenging but still not maximal. I suppose it makes sense that they were more of a struggle considering how I felt today. Michael wanted me to use my belt today for every set over 100 pounds. The first set felt a little weird merely due to re-familiarizing myself with my belt. The lower back felt fine though, and that’s really my main concern.

1b. incline close grip bench press

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 6, 73 x 8, 83 x 5, 83 x 7PR, 83 x 7

For incline, I think these were pretty good. The range of motion was ginormous, but I am generally happy with how these moved. And I just looked in my little book of PRs…to discover that I set a new PR!

1c. rope face pulls

30 lbs x 15 x 6 sets

These felt easier today, almost too easy really.

2a. hip thrusts

95 lbs x 7

This first set was with a barbell and really should have been easy-peasy. I’m capable of using significantly more weight for hip thrusts, but the lower back was not happy with the barbell hip thrusts today.

bodyweight with hip circle x 20, x 20

For reasons unknown, the lower back was completely fine with bodyweight hip thrusts! I did these with a sandbag a few weeks ago without any bother to the back, so we thought we’d try a set with the sandbag. Or at least a rep or two…

70ish lb sandbag with hip circle x 20

And no bother to the lower back at all! I really don’t understand why the barbell caused such a bother to the back. Actually, there’s a lot that I don’t understand about the ongoing issues with my SI joints. I’ve tried to be patient. I’ve done everything that I need to be doing to help the issue. I’ve not been sitting anymore than absolutely necessary, like for driving. Heck, I don’t even sit while on my break at work! I have a competition in 3 months…kind of need to start lifting heavy things soon.

2b. hanging knee raises

overhand grip x 12, x 12

neutral grip x 12

Despite my angst with the SI joints and lower back, I am happy to say that the back didn’t bother me doing the hanging knee raises today, which has not been the case since the back issue started. The back actually felt okay with these today. I guess that’s improvement! The right shoulder felt a bit sore after each of the first two sets, so I thought I’d try a neutral grip on the final set. I think the neutral grip helped, although it is really difficult to say that with certainty. In all honesty, I’m just relieved that I was able to do an exercise that I haven’t been able to do since the SI joint issue first presented.

And you, despite how I felt for most of the day, I left the gym feeling better than when I arrived. I’m one more day away from a long weekend. I am not going to get sick!

 

 

The Benchmark

It’s been a month since I’ve done back squats. Gosh. I don’t think I was fully aware of how long it has been until just now when I looked back in my training log. Provincials are roughly 3 months away. My desire to compete again is intensifying, and I am trying not to let my thoughts linger too long on how the current SI joint problem may affect my training and performance. I have goals. I am not content to put in a sub-par performance on the platform; I want to continue to improve. I want to break my records, go to Westerns, go to Nationals next year, and qualify for Worlds. Provincials is not the ‘be all and end all’ of competitions, but I want to start and finish well.

I’ve been assured that my strength isn’t going to evaporate into thin air from a lack of back squats. My confidence in that statement may waver depending on the day; however, I do trust my coach, except for those times when he tells me that a pesky little exercise is going to be easy and I know that it won’t be. My chiropractor still doesn’t want me to do back squats, but he has given me the okay to do goblet squats and front squats. I’ll take whatever form of squats I can get!

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 6 or 7

This first set was just the bar, so it was naturally easy and light; however, I did feel some discomfort in my lower back at the bottom of the squat. Not too bad…certainly less than the pain I felt sitting to put on my gym shoes. But the discomfort was enough to make me slightly apprehensive about putting weight on the bar.

73 lbs x 8, 93 x 6, 113 x 6, 133 x 6, 113 x 8

That discomfort I felt during the warm-up set? It was non-existent once there was some weight on the bar! In fact, these front squats felt really good. Bar path was good. Speed was decent, I think, although the weight was far from maximal. My rack position was probably the best it has ever been! I seemed to have no trouble at all keeping my elbows nice and high. Honestly, I am supremely satisfied with my front squats this morning. It almost makes me forget just how much I am missing the back squats!

1b. bench press-competition grip, using the fat bar

43 lbs x 8 warm-up with a regular bar since the fat bar itself weighs 74 pounds

74 lbs x 8, 94 x 6, 109 x 6, 124 x 5118 x 8

The sting of no back squats has been lessened by the recent spate of pressing PRs. I am not going to complain about finally seeing gains in my bench press, even if I still don’t always feel confident. After the 109 pound set, Michael said to put 124 pounds on the bar, that I could do that for 5 reps. I changed the plates on the bar and said nothing, but my thoughts were swirling. Does he seriously believe that I can do 5 reps at that weight?! I just set a new PR last week of 120 lbs for 5…with a regular bar. This is a fat bar and more weight. What if the previous PR was a fluke? Inside I was apprehensive, but I can be stubborn in my willingness to try just about anything. And I did it! All of the hard work is finally paying off.

1c. seated cable row-leaning back

80 lbs x 12 x 4 sets

90 lbs x 12

2a. hip thrusts-with hip circle and medium sandbag x 20

2b. TRX knee-ins x 8

2c. triceps cable pressdowns

40 lbs x 12 overhand grip + 20 lbs x 18 underhand grip

As I’ve been laying here composing this blog post, I’ve been considering a walk this afternoon. The sun is shining and there is actually blue sky. I want to plug in my earbuds and walk. Part of me wants to put that off until tomorrow, but the forecast doesn’t sound so wonderful. Of course, the forecast for today doesn’t truly look much better than tomorrow’s, but the weather in this moment is actually nice. I guess that seals it then…time to put on some socks and shoes!