Out the Door

Going to the gym and training by myself has presented me with a new obstacle to overcome. As I was driving to the gym this morning I realized that this “drag myself out the door” mentality was exactly the same thing I experienced back in my running days. Even though I looked forward to running and enjoyed the run itself, most days I would find myself struggling to get out the door; however, the moment I put on my shoes and shut the door behind me, my attitude flipped like a light switch and I was happy to be running. This is what I am currently experiencing whenever I need to go to the gym. I want to train. I am committed to training and won’t skip a session, but getting out of the house is a reluctant process. I’d like to think this will change in time as I grow more comfortable in my new gym surroundings and get to know the people there. And even if it doesn’t change, at least I know that I am focused, determined, and committed to doing what I need to do to reach my goals.

1. deficit deadlifts (2-2×1)

warm up: 95 lbs x 6, 135 x 5, 165 x 4

main event: 195 x 5, 195 x 5, 195 x 5

Oh boy! So, I put my belt on beginning with my second warm up set. I generally wait longer to use my belt, but since the back has been achy for the past week I figured I’d play it safe. I was in the midst of my second working set, when I suddenly realized why the deadlifts were feeling so easy today…I had forgotten all about the deficit and was doing regular deadlifts! Oops! I considered sticking with the conventional for the final set but ultimately chose to grab a plate and get at least one set of deficits in. Definitely a difference with the deficit! Yet, I think they still felt better than they did last week, and the back was less irritated during the sets.

2. incline bench (3-1×0)

45 lbs x 8, 55 x 15, 55 x 12, 55 x 10

These also felt better than last week!

3. stiff legged deadlifts (3-1×0)

105 lbs x 15, 105 x 8

Unlike last week, there was chalk in the box at the gym today, which meant I was able to maintain a solid grip for all of my deadlift reps. A solid grip helps make the reps feel easier…at least a little bit.

4a. side plank

x 30 seconds each, x 30, x 15

4b. barbell row

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

4c. glute bridge

30 lbs x 15, 30 x 15, 30 x 15




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.

Safe Squats

Like most Wednesdays, I had a morning training session and then I went to work. At one point at work, I was connecting with a customer as I made his latte. He asked if I had done my powerlifting training already this morning, which took me by surprise. I don’t hide the fact that I am a powerlifter; however, aside from my barbell tattoo on my forearm, I don’t exactly go out of my way to advertise it. This customer didn’t look familiar, and I am generally very good at remembering faces…names, not always, but faces most of the time. There is always the possibility that I have chatted with this customer about powerlifting before, but the fact I don’t recall his face would mean that any such interaction would have taken place quite some time ago. I just find it all rather odd and amusing. It’s not as if I look like a powerlifter!

Today’s training session was not my typical upper body Wednesday type stuff…I got to do back squats…after sufficient warm-up.

1a. squats-low bar, squat shoes

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 7, 115 x 6

with belt: 135 x 4 + 1 paused

with belt, 3 second eccentric and 1 second pause:

135 x 5 x 5 sets

After not having done back squats for more than a month, I was super glad to get back at ’em. These squats were okay. The low back was basically fine…just a bit of a feeling of tightness at the bottom. My depth was high or questionable for many of my reps. At first we weren’t concerned with pushing for depth, but I wonder if I’m just subconsciously tentative. It’s quite likely actually. But today wasn’t about setting new PRs. It was about getting back under the bar, working on technique, and getting some reps.

1b. incline bench press-competition grip

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

The first two sets were good, but the two sets at 83 pounds felt a bit heavy. The first set was probably harder than the second but not by much.

2a. chest-supported kettlebell rows

12kg each hand x 15, 12kg x 15, 16kg x 15

These were easier than I expected. Michael demonstrated with 16kg kettlebells, and I was relieved when he gave me 12’s to start, thinking the 16’s would be too heavy. Isn’t it funny how we (or is it just me?) can doubt our ability despite previous successes! I should have gone up to the 16’s on the second set…

2b. push ups

x 8, x 6

Just realized that I never did my final set of these! Oops.

And then, my coach and I talked a bit about my targets for Provincials in June. My competition best results are: squat 253 pounds, bench 132 pounds, and deadlift 308 pounds. What am I hoping to accomplish at Provincials? While I have a bunch of goals I want to reach at any given time, for Provincials I don’t have anything more specific than bettering my last results and breaking my own Provincial records. We settled on a conservative 5% increase, which would give me numbers that I think are just a tad scary but doable. And exciting!

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!



Big S, Little S, What Begins With S

The right shoulder has not been happy all weekend. It’s not super bad…just enough to be uncomfortable in certain positions, like overhead at various angles. It simply does not feel right, and that makes me unhappy and frustrated as it impacts my day-to-day life in big and small ways. The actual level of pain may be on the lower end of the scale, but even minor pain can be demoralizing.

As much as I don’t always admit every little ache and pain to my coach, I think I am smart enough to be honest when there is an issue that should be acknowledged. Michael gives me a hard time when I am not forthcoming about discomfort in a body part, but I think there is a difference between some minor discomforts and actual signals of pain, overuse and injury. That’s why I didn’t mention the right hip this morning until it made my final set of squats feel a little tougher; however, I did admit to the shoulder being sore all weekend. Michael then asked if I wanted to skip the overhead squats today, and I agreed. I really didn’t want to skip them, but sometimes you just need to be smart with what you do!

1. bottoms up kettlebell presses (in lieu of the overhead squats)

8kg x 10 each side

10kg x 4 each side while balancing on a bosu…just for fun

2a. front squats

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 8, 125 x 6, 145 x 8

The last set was a bit of a challenge. It felt like the bar was slipping off of my left shoulder, and I was likely also having trouble maintaining tightness in my upper back.

high bar squats

125 lbs x 8, 145 x 8, 165 x 8

It is always an odd feeling to do back squats right after front squats, and I feel as if I struggle more with pitching forward even at relatively easy weights like these. It also feels like my depth is super low. As I mentioned earlier, the last set here was a bit tough due to some discomfort in my right hip, both at the front and back/bottom. Nothing major…just annoyance.

2b. military press

45 lbs x 8, 55 x 8, 60 x 7, 60 x 5 + 1 push press

Although it really only matters to me, the weights recorded likely aren’t 100% accurate. I’m not sure which bar I was using for these today, so I don’t know if the bar weighed 43, 45 or 47 pounds. I’m going with 45 pounds, but it was probably the 43 pounder.

My third set was one rep better than the same weight last week, and that was the only reason why I even attempted that seventh rep. For the final set, Michael told me to do 5 strict reps, then as many push presses as I could manage. Obviously I didn’t get very many! He expressed some surprise at that. It’s disappointing and frustrating for me, but the right shoulder was burning something fierce.

incline bench press

60 lbs x 8, 65 x 8, 25 lb dumbbells x 9

Michael had me do the final set with dumbbells instead of the bar, thinking that would be easier on my shoulder. It was…the shoulder just felt weak and fatigued. The first set of incline actually felt the worst on the shoulder. The second set still presented with a sense of discomfort, even though it wasn’t as bad.

competition bench press

75 lbs x 10, 105 lbs x 8 or 9? using the slingshot

I wasn’t sure that Michael would let me do the regular bench portion of my ramp set, but he did. It didn’t feel quite as uncomfortable as the incline, but he still switched things up for the next set. He upped the weight and had me use the slingshot, since the shoulder seemed bothered more at the bottom range and the slingshot would help most off the chest. That set wasn’t horrible, but I wouldn’t say it was fantastic. The right elbow never did fully lock out on the final rep, and I can’t remember if it was 8 or 9 reps.

2a. TRX rows

2 easy sets of 12

2b. push ups

Michael had to step out before I did the push ups, so he has no idea how pathetic they were. He said I could do real push ups, and then use the slingshot. Ha ha! Oh that shoulder had other ideas! I got myself into position to begin. I began to lower myself to the point that the tip of my nose was touching the floor. My brain sent signals out to my arms to push my body back up, and that right shoulder said, “Not gonna happen!” So I collapsed on the floor. Does that even count as half a rep? A frustrated word escaped my lips. Push ups are not something I excel at, but I am completely capable of banging out at least 10 reps. <sigh> Michael wasn’t in the gym. I could have quit there, but I didn’t. Not quite. I put on the slingshot and did 10 reps that felt utterly ugly, but at least the shoulder held up. And held me up!

In my training journal, I let my frustration show:

right shoulder sucks! skipped overhead squats. burned on military. wimped out on push press. cried on incline bench. annoyed at bottom of competition bench. failed on pushups.


A Shoulder, a Hip & Big Goals

I woke up yesterday with some discomfort in my right shoulder that persisted throughout the day. It was a familiar kind of pain, mostly with my arm in an overhead position or reach back past my body. Possibly I slept on it funny, or it is simply from sleeping on that side more frequently again. On a pain scale, it wasn’t too bad, but it was enough that I was giving serious consideration to asking Michael if I could skip the overhead squats today. My desire to skip an exercise usually only makes an appearance when I’m doing things like laterals or chin ups, and my willingness to back down the weight or reps comes grudgingly. Given my resistance to backing down, you’d think that the shoulder was more of an issue than it really was. I suppose I just wasn’t confident with how stable the shoulder would feel holding the weight overhead, when that position presented the most discomfort. However, I am proud of myself for at least being honest with Michael about the fact that something wasn’t feeling quite right, but that stubborn streak did make an appearance and I went ahead with the overhead squats, although we did decide not to increase the weight.

1. overhead squats

35 lbs x 8, 43 x 8, 63 x 8, 65 x 8, 65 x 8

I think my hang snatch was better this week, especially the latter sets. The shoulder didn’t bother me too much, although I did feel some pinching in my right hip flexor. :/  With overhead squats, every set seems to get easier and smoother. It felt like I could have gone heavier, probably even surpassed my best weight for reps, but there is no harm in backing off a little from time to time.

2a. front squats

95 lbs x 8, 125 x 8, 140 x 8

high bar squats

125 lbs x 8, 145 x 8, 155 x 8

After overhead squats and front squats, the first set of high bar back squats feels tougher than it should. The legs feel like Jello, and I find myself needing to think about so many more technical details. Thankfully the next two sets felt more natural, although I think the rack might have been set a tad lower than my usual. We were set up in a different rack than I usually use for squats, one without numbers to mark the holes.

2b. military press

43 lbs x 8, 53 x 8, 60 x 6

incline bench press

43 lbs x 8, 65 x 8, 65 x 8

bench press

75 lbs x 10, 90 x 10, 90 x 10

Michael commented during one of my military press sets that I was remembering the positioning cues today. Isn’t that the hard part! The military press still isn’t a favourite and still isn’t my best lift, but nailing technique is so important for success. My incline press was better today, even if I only improved by one rep on the final set. Today I brought the bar down higher on my chest and did a better job of keeping my elbows properly positioned. The bench press was okay, although I did have to verbally tell myself to breathe during the second set and I wasn’t using my legs for every rep. The last set was much better with better breathing and leg drive.

3. TRX rows 2 sets of 20

The shoulder still doesn’t feel quite right, and I’m sure that the hip doesn’t either. I will definitely be doing my homework and some mobility stuff this afternoon. I have an appointment with my chiropractor tomorrow. When I last saw him, he said that my right hip was rather tight and wanted to see that loosen up. Judging by how tight that hip felt at the gym this morning, I have a strong feeling that I’m not going to be given a glowing report tomorrow.

But on a more positive note, Michael and I chatted a bit today about competing next year and what I might like to do. I know that I want to do the BCPA Provincials again, but I wasn’t giving a lot of thought to a local RAW competition, especially upon realizing that those two competitions could potentially be only 2-4 weeks apart. Then Michael asked about potential RAW world record attempts. I started to say that the ship had sailed as I will enter a new age group in January, but then he asked about the records in the new age group. I am the sort of person who knows that sort of information, or at least has quick access to it. In fact, I have it written at the back of my training journal. There are a couple of records that I could very realistically challenge, and that has me buzzing with excitement and possibility. It even makes me believe that I am crazy enough to do two competitions that close together and do them well. Believing I can do it is half the battle.

In With the New

I was excited last Friday when Michael said we’d be starting a new program this week. Sometimes it is hard to say good-bye to the current programming, because it is fun, familiar or filled with favourites, but I am always thrilled to change things up, even if the changes are small. It’s not very often that Michael only lets me do the things that I am good at or the things that I enjoy most. His value as a personal trainer would likely be greatly diminished if he never worked my weaknesses or challenged me. I will probably always groan every time he mentions laterals or chin ups, but I will do the work.

1a. overhead squats

First Michael had me use the 35 pound bar to practice some behind the neck push jerks. Not too much difficulty with those. Then 3 overhead squats.

Then I tried doing some of the push jerks with the 45 pound bar. Not so good. I had a tough time with these, so I switched to the hang snatch and then did 5 overhead squats.

63 lbs x 5

This set was done inside the squat rack, because we switched to a bar that was already loaded there. The set felt really tough, and, as I did each rep, I doubted myself. This weight shouldn’t have felt as tough as it did, and I never truly felt comfortable, which is why I cut the set short by at least a rep. I told Michael that it felt tough and heavy. He asked if I’d been sleeping well and such. I wondered if I wasn’t quite warm enough, so he had me do a minute of skipping. While I skipped, Michael tried a few overhead squats with the bar inside the rack. He also said it felt harder being inside the rack. Maybe that’s all it was, a mental block from being contained inside four posts and safety bars. As I had done that set I did worry about what could happen if I had to dump the bar; it’s not quite the same as failing a back squat in the rack and that likely weighed heavy on my mind. So, we moved the bar out of the rack to open space.

63 x 10

I did a hang snatch to get the bar up, and it was a good one. The set felt so much easier and more stable than the first one.

70 x 8

This hang snatch wasn’t quite as good, but it was still pretty decent, or legal, as Michael joked. In Olympic lifting, your arms need to be fully locked out when you catch the bar. Since I’ve not had much experience or practice with Olympic lifting, my hang snatch isn’t always “legal”, especially when I add a little more weight to the bar; however, I think I feel more comfortable trying to use a hang snatch to get the bar overhead rather than the push jerk.

And here begins the new program! So I don’t know the proper terminology for this, and if Michael mentioned it then I don’t remember what he said. I started with a few sets of front squats, then switched to high bar back squats. The squats were alternated with pressing sets which followed a similar pattern. First I did military presses, then incline presses, and finally regular bench presses.

2a. squats

front squats: 95 lbs x 8, 120 x 8, 140 x 6

I had the strength to do a few more in the final set, but the bar was slipping on my left side, making the reps tougher and leaving me uncertain of my ability to not collapse on further attempts.

high bar back squats: 123 x 8, 150 x 8, 150 x 8

We opted not to increase the weight on the third set, so that I could work on form. My hips were coming up a little faster than my chest, and I wasn’t bringing my hips forward fast enough. I’m not sure the final set was much better than the second. It’s been a while since I’ve done regular squats, so they felt weird, especially coming right after overhead and front squats. I’m able to get really good depth on both of those squats, but then it felt like I was maybe too deep for the back squats. It will get better.

2b. presses

military: 55 lbs x 8, 55 x 8, 60 x 5.5

I do not like the military press. The first set was easier than I expected. The second set wasn’t too bad. The last set wasn’t horrible, but I do tend to waste too much energy at the bottom position by holding the bar off of my chest. Also, further into each set as I fatigue, my elbows fall back behind the bar which puts them into a bad position for pressing.

incline bench: 60 lbs x 8, 65 lbs x 8, 65 x 7

The first set was kind of awkward, while the second set was much better. The third set was okay but tough at the end. Michael said that I was probably bringing the bar down too low on my chest, more like for a normal bench press.

bench press, competition grip: 65 lbs x 10, 85 x 10, 90 x 10

These felt so much smoother!

3. step ups with a 55 lb vest

x 20, x 24, x 24

I strongly feel like there was more weight in that vest than the last time I used it. Granted, I haven’t had to wear it for a while, but it felt so much heavier today.

So, all in all, I didn’t mind this first day of the new program. I’ve been told that there will be more pressing and deadlifts on Wednesday and more squats on Friday (although probably Thursday this week). I get to squat two days a week again! Nah, that doesn’t excite me at all!