Start of Week 4

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

1. high bar squats (2-0x0)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. front squats (3-1×0)

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

4a. walking lunges

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

4b. dumbbell rows

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

4c. plank

x 40 seconds, x 30 seconds, x 27 seconds

4d. dumbbell rear delts

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

Week 3, Day 1

With today being a holiday and thus the changes in operating hours both at work and the gym, I knew that I had to begin my training session no later than 8:30 this morning if I was going to get it done at all today. I set my alarm for 7:30 and still found myself fighting the urge to shut it off without actually getting out of bed. I’m sleeping reasonably well these days, and I’m fairly good at ensuring I get enough hours of sleep…sometimes the body just wants more! But I got up and dressed and ready. By 8:30 I was at the gym and ready to begin.

1. high bar squats (2-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 8, 135 x 5, 165 x 4

main event with belt: 175 x 5, 175 x 5, 175 x 4, 175 x 3

My coach added an extra working set this week but kept the weight the same. I’m trying to work on my breathing technique, and I have a feeling that will be an ongoing, lengthy process. Still, the squats felt better this week compared to last week, even with the extra set and reps. I felt stronger. The back was less of an issue. With the same weight last week, I only managed a total of 8 reps over 3 sets, so this is definitely an improvement.

2. close grip bench (2-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 65 x 6, 85 x 5, 105 x 3

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

The weight jumped a little this week and another set was added, but I think the bar was still moving well. The back felt achy as soon as I started arching on the very first warm up set, but by the time I got to the working sets the arch wasn’t really bothering my back at all. At least not during the pressing…getting out of the arch was a tad slow.

3. front squats (3-1×0)

75 lbs x 10, 75 x 8, 75 x 8, 75 x 7

4a. walking lunges

60 lbs x 16, 60 x 16

4b. dumbbell rows

30 lbs x 12, 30 x 10

4c. plank

x 47 seconds, x 30 seconds

4d. dumbbell rear delts

10 lbs x 15, 10 x 13

There was supposed to be 3 sets of all of these exercises, but I called it quits after the second round. Actually, I wanted to pack it in during the first round but managed to push myself to complete two.


Procrastination Delayed

It feels like I half-dragged myself to the gym this morning. My intention was to go first thing in the morning, assuming my coach sent me week 2’s program before I was ready to head out. I got up this morning, had a bite to eat, and got ready for the gym. Looked for my car keys and could not find them. I am not the sort of person who misplaces or loses things very often, so it didn’t take long for me to realize that my husband likely had taken my car. A look out the window confirmed my suspicion. Since I work this afternoon and late into the evening, I had a small window of opportunity to hit the gym this morning. I determined that I’d have to train tomorrow morning if my husband didn’t bring my car back by a certain time. Thankfully, he brought it back and I was able to go today. I’m glad I didn’t have to push it off until tomorrow.

1. high bar squats (2-0x0)

warm up: 95 lbs x 5, 135 x 4, 165 x 3

main event, with belt: 175 x 3, 175 x 2, 175 x 3

My coach gave me a couple of new cues to use for my squats, so I was trying to incorporate those today. I’m not sure how successful I was, but I tried. The new cues made the heavier sets feel a bit tougher; however, I think these still felt better than last week’s sets at 165 pounds.

One of the things my coach wanted me to do was to face out of the squat rack rather than facing the mirror. Mirrors are a new thing for me in the gym, because my old gym simply didn’t have any. There I would squat facing the wall or facing the open gym…neither bothered me very much, even when there were other people training in front of me. While I am not fond of seeing my reflection while I squat, I found facing the gym today to be rather disconcerting. In competition I am used to focusing on one spot, having tunnel vision and blocking out everything around me. In the gym during my set, I am still quite capable of focusing my attention and ignoring my surroundings, so I don’t know why I was bothered so much today. Maybe it was the fact that there was someone using the rack directly beside the one I was using…close enough that I had to wait for her to finish her set before I could change my weights.

2. close grip bench (2-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 5, 95 x 3

main event: 105 x 5, 105 x 5, 105 x 5

These definitely felt stronger and easier than last week’s sets at 100 pounds. I was nervous about these this morning, because I didn’t have my husband to give me a hand-off for the heavy sets. Somehow I figured out a way to get the bar off the rack by myself without putting my shoulders into a bad position or sapping my strength. The back is still achy and cranky, so the arch wasn’t super comfortable.

3. front squats (3-1×0)

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

Even though the weight increased from last week, I’m so glad that it is still relatively light, because the legs turned into gelatin in the midst of the second set.

4a. walking lunges

60 lbs x 12, 60 x 12, 60 x 10

4b. dumbbell rows

30 lbs x 10, 30 x 10, 30 x 8

4c. plank

x 40 seconds, x 30 seconds, x 25 seconds

4d. dumbbell rear delts

8 lbs x 13, 8 x 12, 8 x 10



A New Beginning

I received week one of my new online coaching program yesterday, but I wasn’t able to get to the gym until after work today. It probably wasn’t the best time to train, but sometimes you just got to do what you gotta do! I worked a closing shift last night, and the night owl woke up pretty much as soon as I slipped into bed. Between a brain that wouldn’t shut off and shoulders that couldn’t quite seem to get comfortable, I didn’t sleep too well. I worked until 5:00 tonight, which meant I wanted to hit the gym as soon as possible, before eating dinner and winding down for the night and my weekend. I was under-caffeinated, tired, and feeling sluggish.

I am actually quite excited with my new program. The first day didn’t feel super great, at least not all of it, and I did drop some weight and sets. It will get better. I know it will. My most recent training had a different focus, so my body has forgotten what it is like to do these sorts of things. It will remember!

1. high bar squats

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

main event: 185 x 2, 165 x 4, 165 x 4

The warm up set at 165 felt tough, so I put my belt on for my working sets. 185 pounds felt tough and ugly. Ironically, when I looked at the video after, my form actually looked good, certainly better than how it felt. Still, that weight was tough and I was supposed to do 4-6 reps. I dropped the weight in the hopes that I could at least get more reps in, but the second set still felt quite tough and ugly, especially the fourth rep where I’m sure my chest was lagging behind. The final set was the best. It didn’t exactly feel easy, but the reps felt better.

2. bench press, close grip

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

main event: 100 x 6, 100 x 5, 100 x 4

Warm ups felt great. The first working set felt good. The fifth rep on the second set misgrooved a bit and felt tough enough to call the set, and I was basically done after the fourth rep on the final set.

3. front squats

65 x 15, 65 x 10

I was given a decent weight range for the front squats, since my new coach is only just learning what I’m capable of and what works for me. Since the front squats have been feeling tough lately, I stuck with the lowest weight in the range…well, for that reason and also that I was feeling wiped out and weak already!

4a. walking lunges

40 lbs x 15, 50 lbs x 15

4b. dumbbell rows

20 lbs x 12, 25 lbs x 12

4c. plank

x 30 seconds, x 30 seconds

4d. dumbbell rear delts

8 lbs x 12, 8 lbs x 12

These four exercises were supposed to be done for 3 sets, but I cut it at 2.

First day done and so am I. Tomorrow I’ll be back for day 2, and then I can get back on track with my regular training days.

Belts, Squats & One-armed Planks

My lower back has been bothering me since Monday. Well technically, there has been some discomfort there for more than two weeks, ever since I hung out in a body weight squat for 5 minutes. Perhaps that wasn’t my smartest move…but that was only a very mild ache. This Monday when I squatted, the lower back quickly became an intense pain affecting almost every aspect of my life. Sitting, putting on shoes, bending forward, bending forward and lifting an object, sneezing, getting into a reclining position…all inflicted varying degrees of pain and discomfort. After the gym on Monday, I spent the rest of the day flat on my back, because I was in too much pain to do anything else. Every day since then has seen improvement, slow and gradual. As of today, I can sit with only mild discomfort, although I still seldom sit. Bending forward and lifting is still kind of an issue, but I did notice that I can bend over to put my boots on without nearly as much pain and struggle as the task required even yesterday. The fact that there is progress reassures me and illuminates my mood more than it has been all week.

Still, I headed to today’s training session with doubts in my ability to deadlift with the way that my back has been feeling. I wasn’t surprised when Michael said that I wouldn’t be deadlifting today, but what was surprising was how that news didn’t make me cranky. I suppose I am just resigned, or accepting, to the fact that adaptations and changes are sometimes necessary to stay healthy and prolong my powerlifting life. Or maybe I just see a glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel!

1a. belt squats

I’m not even completely sure what all we used, except that we used almost all of the bumper plates to create two towers for me to stand on for these belt squats. This is something I have never done before. They weren’t horrible, but they are definitely challenging. It’s amazing the difference with the back taken out of the equation, along with the addition of the wobble from the hanging weight and the threat of a big fall if I didn’t maintain my balance.

24kg kettlebell x 15+

I did more than 15 reps, but I’m not really sure of the exact number. I did at least 3 or 4 to get the feel of the squat, and then I did a full set of 15 reps.

24kg kb + 35 lb plate: x 12, x 10, x 10

It feels slightly embarrassing to say that roughly 88 pounds felt a bit challenging. It almost felt like I was just learning how to squat, but I sure didn’t mind being able to squat without pain in my back!

1b. floor presses-no arching of the back allowed!

43 lbs x 10, 63 x 8, 83 x 8, 93 x 8, 103 x 6

After the set at 93 pounds, Michael said I could go up 5 or 10 pounds, my choice. I chose 10 pounds. I had to think about it. The weight on its own wasn’t super challenging, but keeping my back flat impeded my ability to put my shoulders into the proper position and keep them there. With my shoulders not in my usual tucked and tight position, the pressing was more difficult. But I can be stubborn and maybe part of me wanted to compensate for my inability to deadlift. I was likely overly optimistic, but that’s okay.

Drop the weight for as many reps as possible:

83 lbs x 15

The last rep was a real grinder, as in my left arm locked out well before the right, my head turned to the left, and I snarled at Michael to not touch the bar. I got the rep, and he didn’t touch the bar. The left shoulder didn’t feel very great for the entire set, and the funkiness continued well past it; however, I am reasonably confident that this was a result of the change in shoulder position with the flat back and maybe a little bit from the grind of the final rep.

1c. planks-one arm, one leg

4 sets of 10 seconds each side

These were a bit challenging, but I think the last set was the best.

2a. back extensions

x 20

with 20 lb dumbbell x 20, x 15

For some reason the first set, the body weight set, felt the hardest. I was a little tentative getting into position on that first set, because I could feel a measure of low back discomfort. Thankfully, there was no discomfort or pain once I was actually in position and going through the motion.

2b. decline single arm rows

10kg kettlebell x 12 each side, 12kg x 12 each, 12kg x 12 each

These were easy. Really, I am quite capabe of rowing more than a 12kg kettlebell, but that left shoulder was feeling a little funky after the floor presses.

2c. ab wheel

2 sets of 12

Michael wanted some kind of ab exercise without taxing the back. These were better than I expected, to be honest, but I also didn’t extend out as far as I usually do and that was intentional.

After a couple of pain-filled and frustrating training sessions, today was a pretty good day. I wasn’t upset about not being allowed to deadlift. I still felt like I challenged myself and did something. I could feel that my back was bothering me less. And my coach once again spoke words of wisdom into me. I got to do something new! I don’t know what next week’s training will look like…guess it all depends on my back!

Dreaming Big

I had the privilege of going to the gym after work today rather than tomorrow.

1a. deadlifts

95 lbs x 5, 135 x 6, 165 x 6

with straps: 195 x 5, 215 x 5, 225 x 5

I think these felt pretty good today. Every single rep might not have been completely perfect, but I think I’m getting better, more consistent at keeping the bar close to the legs. I don’t have a chart or the mental capacity at this moment to determine the best record, but I’ve never 5 reps at 225 pounds before. Certainly not without a belt.

1b. dips

with blue band x 6

no band x 5, x 4

with orange band x 5

2a. block pulls, sumo and with straps

205 x 8, 235 x 8

These felt easier than I expected, but then I think I usually find block pulls to feel easier.

2b. glute ham raises

x 9, x 20

I love glute ham raises. I really do! The problem with my first set was the DOMS in my quads. Sore quads pressing into the pad of the GHD is super uncomfortable and painful. I was grimacing with every rep, not from effort but due to the pain. Suck it up, buttercup! The second set was much better. I tend to find that subsequent sets are less painful. It’s almost like the first set hurts until the muscles warm up and remember that they are doing something simple.

2c. flat dumbbell presses

25 lbs x 5, 39 lbs x 7, 39 x 9

Then at home I did a 20 second RKC plank and 15 lying leg raises.

At one point during the session, our conversation touched on my bench press. On Monday I had done 6 reps at 112 pounds. As Michael pointed out today, that works out to a 1RM of 132 pounds, which is where my bench press PR has been stuck at for a very long time. Then Michael threw out a comment about me being able to bench 150 pounds soon. That got my attention. “Seriously?! You think so?” He wasn’t joking. I have to admit that my hopes began to rise in that moment. I’ve had a 150 pound bench as an unspoken goal for a while. Truth be told, I have several bench press goals written down in my little book of goals, because I was/am doubtful about how realistic some of them are. Like c’mon! Why would I give myself the goal to bench 150, when I’ve been stuck at 132 for a year? Quite honestly, my primary bench goal is just to break through that plateau, even if that means a 135 pound bench press. Michael then said that we could test it in a few weeks, but then he asked if I wanted to try 150 today…unless it would-how did he put it-mess with my mental state, or something like that. I had to think about it for a moment. The temptation to see if I could was strong, but Michael knows me well enough to have tacked on the right qualifier to his question.

It is not very often that I turn down an opportunity to attempt a new PR. Even when I am not completely confident that I can, I want to; however, Michael’s comment about the possibility of throwing my head space into turmoil was valid. Setting a new PR would be awesome and would energize me in a multitude of ways. On the other hand, attempting a new PR and failing, especially one I’ve struggled with like the bench press, would be mentally devastating. It’s funny how some things can mess with your head, or at least mine. I have missed PR attempt squats in the gym before, not many but at least two or three, and none of those misses were nearly as crushing as missing a bench press PR. So, I acknowledged that missing such an attempt would mess with my head, and we didn’t pursue it. I’m okay with that for today. While I cannot hesitate to try for fear of failure, there are definitely many variables as to when it is best to try. I trust my coach’s judgement, and we’ll give it a go when the time is right.

Routine Chaos

You don’t truly realize how important your routines are until something comes along and throws those routines into chaos. I have no regrets about changing my job, but my carefully constructed routines have definitely been disrupted and I’m still trying to adapt. I haven’t been sleeping well. Regardless of how exhausted I am, falling asleep is like running a marathon…uncomfortable, gruelling, and taking a long time to reach the finish line. Then I wake up frequently between 2:00AM and whatever time my alarm is set for. My routines for drinking water and coffee and eating my meals have been upset the most, I think, because my old work schedule was essentially the same, day in and day out, that it was easy to find a routine, a rhythm that fit. Right now my days off work are not consistent, and that throws off my old routines for doing laundry, housework, errands and scheduling appointments. My gym training times haven’t been affected as much, but they are by no means immune to this season of chaos. Today I was at the gym in the morning instead of later in the afternoon. Not that big of a deal. Eventually, I think, there will be a sense of order and routine in my life once more.

1a. safety bar box squats, with flat shoes, with a full pause on the box to unload the weight unlike the previous weeks where it was only a touch on the box

75 lbs x 8, 125 x 8, 145 x 8, 155 x 7, 155 x 6, 145 x 8

using a sumo stance: 125 x 10

Pausing to actually sit on the box and unload the weight certainly made these more challenging. I worked up to less weight today than I did last week, but today’s sets were tougher. When Michael told me to do the final set with a wider, sumo-type stance, I expected the set to feel even harder; however, it actually felt easier. Michael made sure I realized that he had dropped the weight for that set, which I had been aware of, but I still feel like the set was easier, regardless of the difference in weight.

1b. military press

45 lbs x 8, 55 x 8, 60 x 6, 60 x 6, 60 x 6

50 x 9 AMRAP

You know, I wasn’t convinced that there would ever be a day when the military press wouldn’t intimidate me. Okay, so maybe I’m not completely unafraid of the military press yet, but I think I am finally feeling confidence in my ability to press overhead. These past few weeks have seen me make progress with my military press that I used to think was impossible for me to achieve. I am 99.9% certain that I have never done so many reps with 60 pounds before. My technique, while probably still not always perfect, is so much better than and more consistent than it has ever been. I honestly do not know what has suddenly clicked inside of my brain, but I am glad that the military press mental block seems to be diminishing.

2a. safety bar split squats

75 lbs x 10 each leg, 100 lbs x 10 each leg

Can I just take a moment to say that I do not like the safety bar? Seriously. When I said this out loud this morning, probably between these split squat sets, Michael pointed out that I probably wouldn’t be much of a fan of a regular bar right about this time either. Yeah.

2b. standing single arm kettlebell presses, elbow out to the side

10kg x 10 each side x 2 sets

The second set was easier than the first.

2c. TRX hamstring curls

2 sets of 15

My knees were close together during the first set, and Michael instructed me to have a little separation of the knees during the second set. It doesn’t matter which way I did them…my hamstrings are going to feel it tomorrow!

3. a plank, in the push-up position, with a 35 pound plate on my lower back

held it for about 40 seconds

Of course, that time is based off of what Michael said, and I’m not quite sure if I can trust his judgement in telling time. He counted down the final 10 seconds, and I know his count got slower and slower. It rather felt like the final 10 seconds lasted at least 20!