6 Minutes of Torture

It was so good to be back at the gym this morning, and I can still say that after a training session that left me dripping in sweat and gasping for breath. I knew my training would look different and would not focus on powerlifting, but I did not know exactly what to expect. By the time I finished my last rep, I could only collapse on the floor, breathing hard and muscles rubbery. My coach told me that he hadn’t intended to kill me, but I think he kind of did, at least subconsciously. Somehow I’m okay with it. The true intent is not to slaughter me but to make me better and stronger. Variation is good. Conditioning is good. Working weak spots is good. Moving is good.

warm-up:

Turkish get-ups with 8kg kettlebell x 2 each side

single leg box step downs x 10 each side

1a. single arm kettlebell presses + carry

10kg x 10 each + 4 lengths, 12kg x 8 each + 4 lengths, 12kg x 6 each + 4 lengths

1b. single leg box step downs with the box on top of 15 lb bumper plates

3 sets of 10 each leg

I was actually surprised with how “easy” these were. Single leg stuff can often be problematic for me. My balance isn’t always very good, and single leg stuff is just tougher. The warm up set with the box on the floor was rather easy, still I was skeptical when Michael increased the height with the bumper plates. Indeed it felt like I was lowering my leg a very long way, but I powered through my reps with much more balance and ease than I had expected.

2a. trap bar deadlifts-touch and go

75 lbs x 6, 115 x 8, 135 x 10

2b. barbell push-ups

x 12, x 12, x 8

2c. hanging leg raises, keeping a posterior pelvic tilt

2 sets of 8

Hanging leg raises and toes to bar have been more challenging for me since the problems with my SI joints began. Actually anything requiring a posterior pelvic tilt has been more challenging, because my back feels like it doesn’t want to move that way. It’s not so much pain, at least not anymore, so much as a sensation of the muscles being tight and not wanting to move that way. I’ve been working on making the back happier with that position, so there has been improvement…it’s just not completely there yet. The hanging leg raises today were definitely tougher to do with maintaining that pelvic position, but I will get better.

For the last portion of my training session, Michael had me do some conditioning work. He gave me 3 exercises. 30 seconds for each one followed by a 30 second rest. Repeat 3 times. You can call it whatever you like…I think I’m going to call it ‘6 minutes of torture’.

a) double clean & presses with 10kg kettlebells

I didn’t get more than 4 or 5 reps the first round, because I’m not so great at the clean & press. I think I got at least 6 reps on the second round, but the final round dropped back to 4 or 5 from sheer fatigue. I also anticipate seeing some bruises on my upper arms/shoulders over the next couple of days!

b) bear crawl

I think I managed to crawl a little bit further and with better form each round.

c) ab wheel

My brain can no longer recall how many reps I got each round. As Michael noted, my roll-outs were not very far either. Seriously, by the time I got to the ab wheel, my body and brain was rebelling against me. Every muscle was shaking. I needed oxygen in the worst way, and, on the final round, I probably came the closest I have ever come to feeling as if I might puke while training. I am glad to report that I did not.

This conditioning torture is going to be a common occurrence for a while, I think. As much as I am not looking forward to it, I am also oddly saying, “Bring it on!”

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!

Deadlift Disappointment

Deadlifts.

While I wouldn’t say that I hate deadlifts, there are certainly days where I am just not feeling much deadlift love. Today may not have been quite that bad, but my deadlifts weren’t exactly what I was hoping for 11 days before competition. I walked into the gym anticipating a good training session. I had eaten well the day before and put some good carbs into my body. I had an excellent sleep. My head was ready for deadlifts, and my skipping warm-up was perfect. I was expecting to hit my last heavy single, although I really had no idea what that would look like. When it comes to deadlifts in training, I rarely hit a heavy number. Turns out that trend continues…

1. 95 x 8, 135 x 6, 185 x 3 plus 1 after a brief rest

The first two sets weren’t bad. I did a better job of tightening my lats! The set at 185 felt heavy and slow, and my left shoulder didn’t feel too happy when I locked out each rep. I had switched to a mixed grip for this set, and, since I prefer my dominant hand to be overhand, my left hand was underhand. The single after the initial set was with my hands switched the other way which presented no discomfort in my shoulder at all. That rep also felt easier and faster.

with belt: 215 x 2

235 x 1

In competition, I don’t rotate my hands each time I deadlift. I feel strongest and more secure with the right hand overhand, so I stick to that grip for each competition deadlift. However, when using a mixed grip in training, I do alternate which hand is overhand each set, and I’ve never had an issue before today. The set at 215 was done with the left overhand…no pain. The single at 235 was done with the right overhand…pain. So, as much as I didn’t like keeping the left overhand, that’s what I did for the rest of my deadlifts.

255 x 1

This felt tough. Michael thought I wasn’t tight enough, and I did feel that I wasn’t tight enough. I had to practice taking the slack out of the bar, because I don’t always do that. But Michael also dropped the weight. Guess how I felt about that!

235 x 1 better

235 x 1

Then Michael suggested doing a single every minute on the minute at the same weight, to just practice technique. Okay.

235 x 6 singles in as many minutes

These were good. They felt better every rep, even though I was still kind of frustrated. Michael put it into perspective for me by pointing out that I had still done roughly 80% of my max, which is basically where he would want me to be anyway. Hearing that eased my frustration and disappointment slightly. I mean it is good to know that I’m still on track and right where I need to be. It’s just that sometimes I think deadlifts mess with my head more than the bench press or squats. Because really, I’m not weaker with my left hand overhand in mixed grip, but I feel like I am. When my deadlift struggles a bit in the gym, it is all too easy to think that it is going to struggle on the platform. The good news is that I have already learned the lesson that my competition deadlift is better and easier than what I experience in the gym, so I don’t usually fall into that rabbit hole of negative thinking when my deadlifts struggle.

2a. glute ham raises

3 sets of 12

2b. hanging leg raises

x 4, x 4, x 3

These weren’t my best. Well actually, the first set was pretty good, in my opinion! I kept my legs straighter than usual for all of those reps, so I consider that an improvement. Michael wanted more reps, but my hands were too sweaty and slippery.

The next while is going to look different as far as training. My coach has a family wedding to attend, so I’m training again tomorrow. Then on Sunday I will have my very first weight training experience in a commercial gym…without the watchful eye of my coach! That should be interesting. My son has already told me not to wear my singlet…as if I wear my singlet all the time. My last heavy squats will be next Wednesday.

I Don’t Know Squat

I was a little surprised by the scale this morning, when it said that I weighed 164 pounds. To be honest, I felt a moment or two of panic, not because I think I am fat but because I don’t really want to get further away from my competition weight class. I guess I wasn’t really too surprised, when Michael suggested cutting out sugars and flours so that I can lose a few pounds to make my pre-comp weight cut more reasonable. I’m okay with that. It might not be super easy to cut out the sugars and flours, but then again it shouldn’t be too difficult. I’ve done it before, and I am capable of narrowing my focus in order to reach my goals.

Michael said that we’d likely hit a single at 80% of my max with my squats today. I was excited about that, but it never happened.

1a. squats, no sleeves

without belt, high bar:

45 x 6, 95 x 5, 135 x 5, 155 x 3

Last week Michael had me try a small adjustment to my pause squats in an effort to protect my knees, since my knees typically push forward quite a bit when I squat. So I tried doing the same thing today. It wasn’t too bad, but I was definitely slower and grindy.

with belt:

high bar, new style 175 x 1…slow and grindy

low bar, new style 175 x 1…still a bit of a grind but felt better than the high bar

low bar, old style 175 x 1…We were trying to see which style felt better and faster, but I seemed to have gotten all mixed up to the point that I didn’t know how to squat anymore. This rep was super deep which caused a heartbeat of panic. I made the rep, but it wasn’t a very accurate indicator for which style was best.

low bar, trying to reclaim my old form 185 x 1

low bar, still trying to reclaim old form:

175 x 5…Made it but it felt harder than it should have. Michael asked if I wanted to drop the weight to work on technique. I agreed, but I didn’t like it much.

165 x 5…slightly better

165 x 5…even more slightly better

I’m trying not to give too much weight to the issues with the squats today, so I’ll just blurt it all out here and then, hopefully, wipe the mental slate clean. It was a little disconcerting to have those struggles today. I know that every training session isn’t going to be perfect, but I suppose I have grown comfortable in believing that the squat is my favourite lift, quite likely my best lift and where I feel the most confident and consistent. Today’s squats rattled that belief and shook my confidence. Just a little. I know I will get it back! Michael pointed out that there are many variables at play. This was really my first time doing squats without knee sleeves for quite a while, so that can mess with my head and possibly make the squats feel a bit more difficult. My lower back was really quite sore over the weekend from Friday’s deadlifts, more sore than it had been for some time. In fact, it might not have been that sore since post-competition last October! Even though the back is feeling significantly better today, there is still fatigue going on there. Those are two of the big and obvious factors.

1b. bench press, competition grip

43 x 8, 63 x 6, 80 x 6, 95 x 3, 105 x 1, 110 x 1, 100 x 5, 100 x 5, 100 x 5

At least my bench press is great! I don’t think there was a bad rep in the bunch today. They were solid, smooth, and consistent.

2a. lat pulldowns, mimicking my bench press

100 x 8, 100 x 8, 100 x 9

2b. reverse barbell lunges

75 lbs x 12, 75 x 12

I just spent at least 3 minutes looking at my training log, taxing my brain to figure out why I only had two sets of lunges written down. Did I do three sets and forget to write the last set down? Or did I only do two sets? Why would I have only done two sets of lunges, when I did three sets of pulldowns? My brain is done for the day, but I finally remembered that Michael scrapped the last set of lunges to give my legs a break after all the squats!

3a. hanging leg raises, no momentum, keep my legs as straight as possible and raise as high as I can

x 10, x 10

3b. glute-ham raises

x 10, x 10 (7 with hands behind the head and keeping my upper back super tight + 3 with hands free)

Okay, now it is time to shake off the less than satisfactory squat session, so that I can fall asleep instead of chasing after a hundred random thoughts.

 

Inside Out Girl

It isn’t a typical Friday night for me, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After my training session, I hurried home so that I could then hurry to have dinner with some friends. While I can be fussy about getting enough sleep (because I need it), some things are worth losing a few hours and this was one of those times. The food was amazingly delicious, and the company was delightful. But now I need to blog (because NaBloPoMo, of course) and scurry off to bed. Or it might be more like drag myself to bed, because, although I am quite tired, I am at the stage where I want to stay up and have fun. Sleep does sound pretty good though.

1a. sumo deadlifts

without straps: 95 x 10, 135 x 10, 155 x 10

with straps: 175 x 10, 195 x 10, 155 x 10

I am fairly certain that I have never done so many reps of sumo before, but these felt rather good. Most of the sets were touch and go, while the set @ 195 was not touch and go. Michael noticed that I had a little more breakdown in that set than in the touch and go sets. It would seem that keeping the tension constant is easier for me than it is to reclaim that tension when I re-set each rep. Keeping the bar close to my legs is always an issue for me, but I did manage to scrape up a couple of spots on one leg so I must have been somewhat successful.

1b. walking bottoms up double kettle bell presses

6 kg x 12, 6 kg x 12, 8 kg x 11, 6 kg x 8

The first two sets were rather easy, so Michael asked if I wanted to increase the weight for the third set. I was willing, even though he cautioned me that it would be difficult. I thought he was teasing me when he said that he personally finds it challenging to use the 12 kg kettle bells. It turns out he wasn’t joking! I struggled to get the 11 reps with the 8 kg kettle bells and was more than willing to go back down to the 6s for the final set.

2a. seated dumbbell presses

25 lb x 5

Usually when Michael tells me to use the 25 pound dumbbells, I cringe and whimper and feel like there is no way that I can use that weight. This might have been the one and only time where I actually did not feel that way when he said to grab the 25 pounders! However, this is probably also one of a very few instances where Michael has realized that 25 pounds was maybe too much!

20 lbs x 10

Then Michael told me to do single alternating arms. Oh boy! That’s like asking me to think while I’m training and that seldom goes well.

20 x 16, 20 x 14

2b. front squats

45 x 6, 95 x 8, 115 x 8, 125 x 8

Speed was mostly decent with these. I’m not enjoying the choking sensation from the bar, but I do like my front squats.

3a. trap bar farmers carry

155 lbs x 5 lengths (about 100 feet total) x 2 sets

Michael started off saying that I’d do the first set without chalk and with chalk the next, but the chalk never made an appearance. Of course, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing either, although I am positive that my grip would have felt more secure during the latter half of the second set if I had chalk. However, I survived. My hands survived and I didn’t cut the distance at all. Michael had me set the bar down at the end of each length and re-set by deadlifting the bar. During the second set he said I could keep the bar up and turn rather than set it down, but there is no way that my grip would have held on had I taken that extra step. Still, I carried my body weight (at least today’s body weight) roughly 200 feet!

3b. hanging leg raises using straps

x 8

x 3, x 3 then Michael had me try some without the straps…bwahaha! I managed 3. Back to the straps for another 5. It’s not that I couldn’t do more than 3 without straps, but my grip was basically shot by this point in time and I didn’t fancy falling from the bar.

(Inside Out Girl by Tish Cohen)

Angela versus the Safety Bar

My husband and I drove up to Kamloops on the weekend to watch a powerlifting competition. I appreciate the fact that my husband doesn’t mind indulging my new-found passion. While I have no problem watching powerlifting for 5 hours, I understand that not everyone will have that same enthusiasm. Thankfully, my husband doesn’t seem to mind it, even if his favourite powerlifter isn’t competing! Of course, being there and watching others compete only makes me want to compete more. Registration hasn’t opened yet, but I am hoping to compete in October.

With eyes on that October competition, Michael is just about ready to switch up the training program again. I wasn’t sorry to say good-bye to the sets of 10 reps for squats, but that didn’t mean I had it any easier today.

1a. squats-safety bar

beltless, body-builder style: 75 x 8, 125 x 5, 145 x 3, 165 x 3

still beltless but with a pause between reps now: 185 x 3

with belt:  205 x 0

I don’t miss very many squats. Since I began personally keeping a training log at the end of October 2014, I have missed only 3 squats. Two of those were in training and were complete failures, while the third was in competition and was a technicality rather than a strength issue. I just don’t miss squats! So, I set up for this one and expected it to be no big deal. It felt heavy as I unracked the bar, but I knew that I was wholly capable of handling that weight. I squatted, tried to lift and the bar just tipped me forward and there was nothing I could do to stop the momentum. I fell to my knees, the bar landed on the safeties, and I’m pretty sure I resembled Bambi after his first step onto ice. So glad that we weren’t filming that rep! Gosh darn it, I hate to fail! It’s amazing how many horrible thoughts and images can flash through your mind in those few seconds, but I think I’m okay.

drop the weight to 185 x 1, 195 x 1, 205 210 x 0

We loaded the bar with 205 pounds, because Michael knew that I wanted redemption. Before I actually made the attempt, Michael added another 5 pounds. We both knew that the weight wouldn’t be a problem. <sigh> I descended into the squat and started back up and found myself stuck somewhere around the midway point. It felt like I was stuck there for an eternity. With the safety bar, I couldn’t see if Michael was going to grab the bar and I wasn’t sure if I wanted him to grab it or not! Okay, really I didn’t want him to grab it, but I wasn’t certain that I’d be able to finish the squat. Eventually the bar began to rise and I finished, only to learn that Michael had indeed assisted, which meant that he wouldn’t let me count that attempt. Meanie! Just kidding. I wouldn’t count it myself. I want to earn every rep I make. Still, it is a little frustrating that the safety bar kicked my ass today. Michael kept reminding me that the safety bar will do that and the nature of the bar does make it more difficult. I know he’s right, but I don’t have to like it, right?

without belt: 165 x 6 x 3 sets

1b. bench press-close grip

45 x 5, 75 x 5, 90 x 3, 105 x 3, 110 x 1…there was an attempt at a second rep but it didn’t survive

95 x 6 x 3 sets

2a. incline dumbbell presses

25 lb x 10, 27.5 x 8, 27.5 x 8

2b. band pull-aparts with red band

behind head x 10, x 10

across chest x 10, x 10

2c. toes to bar

x 6, x 5  Grip was totally an issue here, as in my hands were much too sweaty! Need to use chalk!

3. some sort of bent over, pinch shoulder blades, pull arms back and up with 5 lb dumbbells x 20 reps

Sumo & Front Squats

Have you ever woken before your alarm is set to go off? That can be a good thing or a not so good thing depending on a number of factors. While I am resigned to the fact that I will usually wake up earlier than hoped for on my days off, when it comes to my working days I can get quite cranky about it. Even though I make every attempt to get to bed early on a work night, the fact is that I would need to fall asleep instantly, stay asleep all night, and wake up with my alarm in order to get a full 8 hours of sleep, and that simply doesn’t happen. By the time I crawled into bed last night it was already 7:15 pm, and my alarm was set for 3:15 am. I was still awake at least 15-20 minutes later, and I woke up around 9:00 and again around 11:30. My sleep was strangely deep yet shallow, filled with tossing and uncomfortable positions. Then, I was suddenly wide awake and it was 2:30. Wide awake…as in I was not going to be able to fall back asleep for the final 45 minutes I had available to me, and yet it was 2:30 in the morning and there was no way that I wanted to get up that early! Of course, I never did get back to sleep, but I somehow survived the day even though I waited until roughly 7:00 to get some caffeine into my body.

Today’s training session was fun, but it was still hard work that I am going to feel for a few days.

1. deadlifts

We’re switching things up for a while before the next competition prep, which means I’ll be doing sumo deadlifts. I haven’t done sumo for quite a while, but these felt pretty good, possibly even easier than the last time I tried sumo.

95 x 6, 135 x 8, 165 x 6, 185 x 6, 185 x 6, 185 x 7, 165 x 4

2. front squats

slightly narrower stance than my typical squat stance

45 x 6, 95 x 6, 115 x 6, 135 x 6

I love front squats. Okay…I just love squats. It’s been a while since I’ve done front squats, too. While I don’t necessarily enjoy the sensation of being in a choke hold, I really do enjoy my front squats.

3a. good mornings using the safety bar

75 x 10, 85 x 10, 85 x 10

3b. toes to bar

Normally I climb up to hang from one of the squat racks to do these, but Michael wanted me to do them using the bar suspended from the ceiling…and he wanted me to jump up and grab onto the bar to do them. My hesitation showed. He kept telling me that if I could squat 200 pounds, then I could jump high enough. I knew that I was capable of getting the height. I just wasn’t so confident that I could grab hold of the bar in the process. Sometimes I feel completely uncoordinated and awkward. But I took a leap of faith, literally, and grabbed hold of the bar! Yes, I do manage to surprise myself still.

x 7, x 6

3c. calf raises

x 12 each, x 9 each

I do these after a run; however, I haven’t done a lot of running this year, which means my calves are going to be sore tomorrow.

3d. skipping

The goal here was to do 100 skips or 1 minute and throw in double-unders when I could. I couldn’t keep up with counting, so I skipped for a minute each of the 2 sets. Really not sure how many double-unders in the first set, at least 4-6 but maybe more, and 12 in the second set.