Yokes & Blocks

Generally if you were to ask me which day in my training week is my favourite, I would hesitate with uncertainty. Upper body work is not really a favourite, because my upper body is basically weak; however, I do enjoy most aspects of my training. Picking a favourite day isn’t an easy thing to do. Since my last competition, my training has looked vastly different than it has for a long time. This is not a bad thing, but it has been tougher than training for a competition in some ways. As I was driving to the gym this afternoon, I thought about what I’d be doing today and felt almost a sense of relief that I’d most likely be doing block pulls. My training lately has been a lot of single leg work. I’m not complaining…not really! I know there is tremendous value in switching up the training, and I am more than willing to put in the work. Somehow block pulls just feel less challenging than the single leg stuff. In fact, I was given the option today to do block pulls or trap bar deadlifts. I chose block pulls, which was probably the better choice anyway, since the blocks are about the height where I tend to run into trouble when deadlifting.

1a. single arm landmine presses

45 lbs x 6 each, 55 lbs x 8 each, 65 lbs x 7 each, 65 x 6 each, 65 x 7 each, 55 x 20 each

1b. block pulls, with a pause hovering just off the blocks

75 or 95 lbs (not sure what was on the bar) x 6, 135 lbs x 8, 165 x 8, 185 x 8, 185 x 8

These were really good. Lowering the bar to barely skim the blocks and pause there helped with keeping the bar close to my legs. Back positioning was good. I was using my legs. All good.

1c. V sits

x 6, x 8, x 6, x 5 or 6

2a. walking lunges with kettlebell in opposite hand, one side at a time, with knee raise

12kg x 8 each, 16kg x 10 each

These were actually rather easy. The hardest part was resisting the natural inclination to step forward with the opposite leg after each rep.

2b. supine rows on the rings, with legs straight + with knees bent

x 5 + 6, x 5 + 8

2c. hanging leg raises

2 sets of 10

2d. standing kettlebell triceps extensions

12kg x 10 x 2 sets

3a. yoke walk

185 lbs x 4 lengths (about 60 feet), 205 lbs x 4 lengths, 205 lbs x 5 lengths (about 75 feet), 205 lbs x 5 lengths

I haven’t done yoke walks very often and not for a long time, but they’re super fun.

3b. close grip floor presses with a pause at the bottom

75 lbs x 12, 75 lbs x 9




Head Case

Something happened on the way to the gym this morning.  It was nothing tangible, nothing observable. It was completely internal…my head messing with my emotions or my emotions messing with my head. Either way, my training session felt tougher than it should have because of the turmoil inside.

1a. front squats-flat shoes

43 lbs x 6, 93 x 6, 113 x 6, 123 x 6, 123 x 6

1b. chin ups using barbell and inclined bench, underhand grip

x 10 with bench at knees

with bench at mid-calf: x 5, x 5, x 5, x 3 + ? 3 or 4 or more? with bench at knees, I forgot to write that part down after and now I forget

2a. single leg deadlifts with single kettlebell

10kg x 8 each, x 9 each, x 10 each

16kg x 10 each

The last two sets were the best.

2b. seal rows

75 lbs x 12, 85 x 10, 85 x 10

2c. hanging leg raises with posterior pelvic tilt x 15

3a. barbell curls

45 lbs x 8 x 2 sets

3b. cable triceps pulldowns

40 lbs x 12, 40 lbs x 7 + 30 lbs x 10

Monday Morning Blues

It’s Monday and I feel a bit discombobulated. After a lengthy period of usually having Mondays off work, I am now working them. Not the end of the world but I do tend to prefer having two days off in a row rather than one day at a time, and I also prefer some semblance of consistency. I am able to be flexible and spontaneous when necessary, but there is a mental toll to the adjustment. Also, my husband is currently at the hospital getting his heart shocked. It should be fine, but he’s there and I am here. There are a million thoughts racing inside my head. My neck hurts. A lot. I am wiped out and wishing for a nap, but I work in a couple of hours and napping doesn’t come easily to me.


windmills: body weight x 5 each side; 10kg kettlebell x 8 each side

Turkish get-ups: body weight x 1 each side; 10kg kettlebell x 2 each side

1a. single leg box step downs

x 8 each

with box on block: x 10 each, x 12 each, x 12 each

1b. single arm kettlebell press

10kg x 8 each

with carry: 12kg x 8 each + 5 lengths; 12kg x 7 each + 4 lengths; 12kg x 5 each + 4 lengths

2a. trap bar deadlifts

115 lbs x 8, 135 x 8, 135 x 10

2b. Pendlay rows

75 lbs x 8, 85 x 8, 85 x 8 + 4

2c. push ups on barbell with feet on box

3 sets of 6

2d. hanging leg raises with posterior pelvic tilt

x 10, x 10, x 8

3a. double kettlebell curls bottoms up

6kg x 10 x 2 sets

3b. skipping

10 double unders; 1 minute


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.


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


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.