The King of Lifts

Deadlifts. The king of lifts, or so some say. Opinions may vary. My own opinion of deadlifts has fluctuated between love and hate over my training life. Over the past couple of months I have been enjoying deadlifts again. That might be due to the fact that I am finally able to consistently and regularly deadlift without pain or further aggravation to my back, despite last week’s minor tweak.

Just as I was nervous about squats earlier in the week, I felt the same about today’s deadlifts. The weight jumped again, which is to be expected as I’m gearing up for competition, but it also puts me at a weight I have not pulled since early June. When you throw in the tweak to my back last week and 9 months of recovering from back injury, a bit of apprehension is to be expected. The weight itself wasn’t really scary, as it is still a far cry from my max; however, I am not used to doing a lot of volume with heavier weights when deadlifting. Was that part of my previous coach’s training philosophy? Or was it what he thought worked best for me? I’m not completely certain, and I am striving not to get hung up on what I used to do under the direction of my former coach. That said, I am still in the process of learning what my new coach’s training style and philosophy is, and he is still trying to figure out what works best for me and what I respond to well.

Sometimes I look at my program for the week and think my new coach is pushing me beyond my capabilities or comfort zone. I look at the number of reps and sets and the weight, and I feel a surge of panic. I can’t do that. I’m not used to doing that many reps at that weight! But you know what? For the most part, I have done what I thought I couldn’t. Up until now, I was used to doing maybe one set of 2 or 3 reps at a highish weight for deadlifts and definitely only two or three single reps at high weights. Although today’s weight wasn’t truly high yet, I did more reps and sets with it than I have ever done before…and the back felt okay!

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 2-3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 6, 135 x 4, 165 x 3, with belt 195 x 2, 225 x 2

main event, with belt: 240 lbs x 3, 240 x 2, 240 x 2, 240 x 2, 240 x 2

The final two sets were beginning to feel a little tough, especially the final rep of each. My capacity may have increased, but heavier deadlifts are still taxing on the system. Unlike last week, the back was essentially fine. I felt some very minor aching after, but the ache truly was extremely slight. Heavier deadlifts, at least for me, will usually result in some minor back soreness for a day or so, particularly after a competition. That’s normal and to be expected. I just don’t want a repeat of last week where the pain increased throughout the day to a throbbing mess.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 3, 85 x 3, 100 x 3

main event: 110 x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3

All of my warm ups, except for the set at 100 pounds, were done with my feet on the bench and no arch. I probably would have been fine to set up normally, but I want my back to get better and stay that way. Although there was that slight ache from the deadlifts, my back felt completely fine benching with an arch for my working sets.

3. plank

x 45 seconds, x 41 seconds, x 36 seconds

 

I also had an appointment with my chiropractor today. My right hip is a tad tight. So shocking! 😉 The tight hip can be causing the back issue, so I need to keep working on that.

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Here I Go Again?

Something happened in the midst of my deadlift sets this morning, and my back has been cranky ever since. Only this is the right side of my lower back, while the left side has bothered me most over the course of the year. <sigh> Just yesterday my coach had asked how the SI was feeling, and I said everything was feeling good. <sigh> About 5 weeks out from competition and this is not what I want to be feeling right now. Fatigue? Yes. Minor aches and pains? Okay. This? No. But I know what to do and I am motivated to do what it takes to get this back under control again.

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 4-5 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 7, 135 x 4, 165 x 4, with belt 195 x 3, 205 x 2

main event, with belt: 220 lbs x 5, 220 x 5, 220 x 4, 220 x 4, 220 x 2

Deadlifts were feeling good up until midway through the third working set when I felt a mild ache on the right side of my lower back. It could be felt throughout my final sets, too. In fact, the final set was cut short, because I lost my tension while trying to stretch my back a bit between reps.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 6-8 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 4, 100 x 3

The mild back ache gained some intensity during my bench sets thanks to the arch. I put my feet up on the bench to keep my back flat for my final two warm up sets.

main event: 110 lbs x 5, 110 x 6, 110 x 4, 110 x 3

Feet down and as much arch as I could tolerate which seemed to get less and less each set. These felt tough today, and I certainly had better numbers with the same weight last week. Thankfully my shoulder wasn’t an issue, but the back certainly was.

3. pause deadlifts (3-1×0) 4-6 reps

145 lbs x 5, 145 x 5, 145 x 4

With the way my back was feeling, I expected that these would be problematic and hard; however, they actually felt pretty good. I was definitely fatigued by the final set though, and there was a lovely burn in my glutes by the time I’d finish a set.

4. pull downs

70 lbs x 8, 80 lbs x 6

My coach programmed 90 pounds for these today, but I could barely get the bar to my chest. I dropped the weight and then added a bit on the second set. Again, I had better numbers for these last week.

5. plank

x 50 seconds, x 35 seconds, x 30 seconds

I came into the gym expecting a tough but good session, so what I experienced was a bit frustrating. Tough is acceptable, but I am so done with the back issues! And right now, I’m in a bit of pain. I’ve got some stretches and rolling to do at home, and I’ve been instructed to take an extra rest day. I will. That will mean making adjustments to next week’s training days, but I need to keep this back issue from becoming a major thing again.

Desperately Seeking Energy

I’m waiting for the caffeine to hit my bloodstream and infuse me with some energy, because I feel as limp as a noodle right now. Although today’s training session saw me moving significantly less weight than Monday’s session, I feel done in. Deadlifts can do that to you.

1a. deadlifts (2-2×1) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 5, 135 x 4, 165 x 3, 195 x 3

main event, with belt: 205 lbs x 6, 205 x 6, 205 x 6, 205 x 4, 205 x 6

Today was my first time deadlifting more than 200 pounds since Provincials in June. These felt decent, although I am a little disappointed to have dropped two reps on the fifth set. Deadlifts and I have a complicated relationship when reps are involved, especially when there is a definitive stop before each rep. There is a natural rhythm involving the creation of tension, breathing and bracing against the belt, and initiating the lift. For me, if that rhythm is broken, even just a smidge, I find it difficult to continue the set. That’s what happened in the fifth set. Between finishing the fourth rep and initiating the fifth, something happened to upset my rhythm and I couldn’t do it. The smallest thing can ruin the rhythm…an extra second, an ill-timed breath or the wrong type of breath, the bar rolling. Even though I was already feeling the fatigue, I knew I was capable of maxing out my reps on every set, so I was determined to finish my final set well.

2. competition bench press (2-1×0)  6-8 reps

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

main event: 100 lbs x 8, 100 x 8, 100 x 8, 100 x 6

Bench press is my weak link in the powerlifting chain, although I think I can safely say that I am generally solid up until a certain weight. My competition best has been stuck at the same weight forever, but my working sets feel good and strong.

3. pause deadlifts (3-1×0) 4-6 reps

145 lbs x 6, 145 x 4, 145 x 4

Today was my first time doing these for a long, long time!

4. barbell shoulder press 8-12 reps

45 lbs x 10, 45 x 6

My dislike for shoulder presses is strong, while my ability to do them well is weak. The first set felt okay, but the right shoulder fatigued rapidly during the second set.

5. plank

x 36s, x 30s, x 25s

I don’t understand how people can hold a plank for minutes at a time. If I was completely fresh, I might be able to hold a plank for a minute, but by the end of my training session I was fighting to maintain form as long as I did.

Looking to November

Over the past couple of training sessions I have begun to feel the stirrings of ambition, focus, and determination, along with the thrill that comes with pursuing a big goal. I’ve had a big goal for a long time now, and the competition where I will potentially have the opportunity to challenge that goal is now less than two months away. Although I’ve been eyeing this goal since before this year began, my grip on it has purposely been kept loose. I’ve been injured for most of the year and not lifting to my full potential. I am currently feeling better than I have felt all year, but I need to stay healthy and continue to rebuild my strength. That’s the main reason for the loose grip on my goal, but a secondary reason is that there are still opportunities for someone to move the marker on my goal. My goal involves a World record, but there is always the potential that someone could break that record (even multiple times) between now and my competition, possibly even breaking it beyond my ability to challenge. But regardless of what happens with that record between now and November 4th, of far greater importance is how I feel and what I am capable of doing. Breaking records is exciting, but it doesn’t define me. Being able to put in a solid competition after a disappointing Provincials would feel redemptive and rewarding, and my ultimate goals are to place well at Nationals next year and qualify for Worlds. Breaking a record in November would be super cool, but it won’t help me win Nationals or get to the World Championships. And yet, I am beginning to feel confidence in my ability to have a solid competition in November. Even when the training is tough or there’s an exercise I don’t like doing, I am finding the grit and determination to push through with my eye focused on November. This girl has goals and each one is a stepping stone on this journey.

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 6, 135 x 4, 165 x 3

main event, with belt: 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 6

Deadlifts are feeling good and moving well. The back isn’t bothered in the slightest.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 6-8 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 85 x 4

main event: 95 x 8, 95 x 8, 95 x 8, 95 x 7

3. stiff legged deadlifts (3-1×0) 8-12 reps

115 lbs x 12, 115 x 12, 115 x 8

4. BB shoulder press (2-0x1) 8-12 reps

50 lbs x 8, 50 x 7

This is one exercise that I do not enjoy and struggle to see improvement in.

5. plank

x 40 seconds, x 30 seconds, x 25 seconds

 

Of Exhaustion and an Ear

It was difficult to get out of bed again this morning, even after more than 9 hours of sleep. My sleep quality was a little less than the previous night but still a respectable 75%. Some eucalyptus helped with the nasal congestion, but I could still feel that lingering headache. Then my right ear began to bother me at some point in the night. I wear earplugs when I sleep, because I cannot fall asleep with noise or snoring. There was occasional painful pressure in the right ear which had me wanting to remove the earplug; however, the snoring beside me wouldn’t allow me to fall back asleep if I did. Right now I feel nothing in my ear, so I’m not sure if that was just a random experience or a part of whatever is trying to attack my body. At any rate, I slept until almost 8:30 and honestly could have stayed in bed to sleep some more, but I had to go to the gym.

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 8, 135 x 4, 165 x 3

main event, with belt: 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 6, 190 x 4

Generally these felt good. I did feel a little exhausted by the third working set, but I was mentally prepared to go the distance on the final set. The first rep of the final set felt strong, so I thought I’d be able to get the full six reps. Take my little pause before the fifth rep, breathe and create tension, and realize that I can’t. No tension. No lift.

2. competition bench (3-1×0) 6-8 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 8

main event: 90 lbs x 6, 90 x 6, 90 x 6

These felt okay for the first few reps of each set, but the sixth rep always felt like an RPE of 9. It was possible that I could have squeaked out at least one more rep each set, but the likelihood of finding myself unable to press that extra rep was just as possible.

3. stiff leg deadlifts (3-1×0) 8-12 reps

115 lbs x 10, 115 x 8, 115 x 6

I should have been able to do more here, but I dropped reps because of fatigue and the arrival of some aching in my lower back. The lower back has been feeling pretty good lately and was fine until the stiff legged deadlifts.

4. barbell shoulder press (2-0x1) 8-12 reps

45 lbs x 12, 50 lbs x 8

It’s been a while since I’ve done overhead pressing, and overhead pressing is not something I enjoy or excel at, which meant that I wasn’t completely sure where to begin in terms of weight. My coach left the weight blank for me to decide. That’s a good thing since he doesn’t know how much I suck at them, but then it leaves me to decide whether I want to play it conservatively or push myself. Oh boy! I did flip through my old training logs to see what I have done in the past, so I knew that I’ve not done a heck of a lot of multiple sets of high reps with significant weight. Play it conservatively, Angela! And that’s what I did. I used just the bar for the first set and managed to max out on the reps. It felt okay, but I could also tell that my shoulders were fatiguing by the final rep. I had thought about sticking to the same weight for the final set, but I figured an extra 5 pounds should be a reasonable increase.

5. plank

x 37 seconds, x 40 seconds

 

Week 5 Deload

I’m not gonna lie…I was excited to see “unloading week” in my coach’s message to me this morning. I was even more excited to see that I am only needing to do one round of the accessory work. With a left knee that is still acting funky, I’m not going to complain about an easier training week.

1. high bar squats (2-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 95 x 8, 135 x 6

main event, with belt: 160 lbs x 3, 160 x 3, 160 x 3

2.  close grip bench (2-0x0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 8, 85 x 4, 100 x 2

main event: 110 x 3, 110 x 3

3. front squats (3-1×0)

75 lbs x 8, 75 x 8

4a. walking lunges

70 lbs x 14

4b. dumbbell rows

35 lbs x 10

4c. plank

60 seconds

4d. dumbbell rear delts

12 lbs x 12

Everything felt fairly good. There was some bother here and there with the knee during squats, but that was minor and annoying more than a hindrance. Despite only one round of accessories, they still managed to make me sweat more than the heavy lifting.

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