Wonder Woman vs Deadlifts

What do I do when it is deadlift day and my program calls for 5 sets of 2-3 reps at 255 pounds, and the heaviest I have EVER deadlifted for reps was 250 pounds for a single set of 2 reps? I put on my Wonder Woman tank top, Wonder Woman socks, and Wonder Woman earrings. I fill my Wonder Woman shaker bottle with my recovery drink and put it in my Wonder Woman gym bag. Then I go to the gym and do what I know how to do.

PRs can come in all shapes and sizes. There are competition PRs and gym PRs. PR for reps. Pr for sets. With or without belt or knee sleeves. Low bar or high bar. Mix grip or double overhand or straps. PRs set in the gym are nice, but I think they should be looked at like the markings parents put on the wall to track the growth of their children. You want to see improvement and growth in the gym; however, for competitors, the platform is where you take all that training, mix in the adrenaline that comes from competition, and strive to taste the fruits of your labour.

I do get a little thrill out of hitting gym PRs, because it shows me that I am getting stronger, better. My eyes are still firmly focused on the ultimate PRs though. These past few months have been challenging, exciting, scary, and educational. This is part of the journey of becoming…taking the skills I’ve learned in one environment and learning to apply them and improve on them in a completely different environment. I am walking along unfamiliar terrain in some ways, and I think that has been a good thing.

I wasn’t afraid of today’s deadlifts, but I was cautious and hopeful and determined. Cautious because the back injury lingers in the shadows of my mind. Hopeful because it is exciting to see my progression into uncharted territory. Determined because I want it and I’m willing to work hard for it.

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 2-3 reps

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

main event: 255 lbs x 2, 255 x 2, 255 x 2, 255 x 1, 255 x 2

The warm ups moved well and felt good. The first working set was okay. Maybe even more than just okay. The bar moved well, I think, but I could tell that completing five sets would require almost every ounce of energy and willpower. I have never done very well with multiple reps at heavyish weights, hence my previous PR of 2 reps at 250 pounds! The first two sets this morning were good. The third set was still quite decent, but it was more difficult for me to create enough tension in my body to initiate the lift. The fourth set was some kind of mess from the beginning. The chalk box was completely empty, like so empty that I had to resort to scraping my hands along the bottom of the box in an effort to get any residual bits of chalk on my hands. There wasn’t really any! Then, as I was setting up my position and creating tension, I could feel my belt buckle against my arm, so I had to adjust the belt and start again. By this point, my brain was subtly telling me that I wouldn’t be able to get any tension. I managed one rep. Barely. I stood up for a moment to try to refocus before attempting the second rep. I managed to get the bar off the floor by maybe an inch or two, but I had to drop it. I know my body well enough to know when it is best to say no, but I was determined not to have such a mental lapse for the final set.

So I had two PRs of sorts today. The very first working set was a PR, and the entire volume at the working weight was a PR. If all this hard work translates into a PR on the platform on November 4th, then it will be worth it.

2. bench press (2-1×0) 3 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 8, 65 x 5, 85 x 3, 100 x 3

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

My warm up sets prior to 100 pounds were done without feet and arch. The reps all felt solid and good. I’m not sure if my perception was reality or merely a sensation, but it felt like my arch was slightly bigger and better for my working sets today. Probably not really.

Since I bench every training day, I am not always wearing the same shoes. On the days that I squat, I wear my Olympic weightlifting shoes which have an elevated heel. These are also the shoes that I have always worn for benching at competitions. However, on my deadlift days, like today, I wear a flat shoe (Nike Free) and I don’t bother to change shoes when I move over to the bench. Over the course of training for the past 4 years, I have practiced my bench press with both pairs of shoes. But I have been noticing a small difference over the past few weeks when I am wearing my flat shoes to bench. It’s barely perceptible, but I have noticed that I feel more connection with the floor and my leg drive with the flat shoes. I suppose it kind of makes sense since the Nike Frees are very light and thin-soled. I’m not sure what I am going to do with that information yet, but it is intriguing and worth more observation.

3. planks

x 35 seconds, x 30 seconds, x 30 seconds

The planks felt tough today, which I think is the result of the deadlifts. My core was quivering throughout each plank.

 

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End of Week 9

I am glad that this training week is finished. It’s felt like a long, tough week, and I suppose I shouldn’t expect much to change over the next few weeks. There’s a competition to prep for, after all!

1. competition bench (2-1×0)

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

main event: 100 lbs for 10 sets of 3 reps with 90 seconds of rest between

Although I felt fine enough when I arrived at the gym, my right shoulder felt a little funky from the very first warm up set. It still feels a bit off almost two hours later. I don’t think it is anything to get excited about yet, but I should make sure I’m doing some band pull-aparts on a daily basis and try to minimize how much I sleep on my right side. As I continued warming up, I made sure to do some stretching and also felt a few more reps at 65 pounds would be beneficial. I was able to perform all 10 working sets without too much difficulty, but I could foresee difficulty coming my way in a short while with close grip bench also on the agenda.

2. competition squat (3-0x0) 5-7 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 7, 95 x 5, 135 x 3

main event: 155 lbs x 6, 155 x 5, 155 x 5

These squats felt decent. They even looked decent when I watched the videos I took, but they did feel a little tough. Not tough in a “that’s too heavy or difficult for me” kind of way, but rather in a “my body feels drained of it’s life force” kind of way.

3. close grip bench press (3-1×0) 6-8 reps

105 lbs x 6, 105 x 4, 105 x 4

Just as I predicted, the close grip bench sets were super tough and not at all fun. I managed to get the minimal number of reps on the first set but barely. The RPE for that set was 9.5 and stayed that way for the next two sets. I don’t like dropping reps, particularly when I’m not even achieving the lowest number in the rep range; however, I’d rather drop reps than put myself into a potentially bad situation, like complete and utterly catastrophic failure. Even though I always have safeties when I bench, I am not a fan of my gym’s benches and safeties. Quite frankly, they suck. There are times when it appears as if the safeties would be too short compared to my bar path. Since I could barely finish the fourth rep each of those final two sets, I figured I should stop there.

4a. back extensions

20 lbs x 12, 20 lbs x 12

4b. side planks

x 30 seconds each side, x 25 seconds each side

Now I am looking forward to a couple of rest days and hoping to feel fresh for Monday’s training session…whatever it may look like. I have a feeling it’s going to be another long, tough, sweat-filled session.

Deadlifts on the Rise

My ability to perform deadlifts was significantly hampered for a great deal of this year because of my lower back injury that occurred at the end of January. I might have attempted a couple deadlift sessions in the first few weeks after the injury and another short session a couple months later, but mostly I couldn’t deadlift until May when I needed to prepare for Provincials in June. I think I worked up to a single rep at 225 pounds, and even that didn’t feel very good. At Provincials, my deadlifts felt really good and easy…because they were easy weights for me. Tweaking my back during one of my squats meant I had to be even more conservative with my deadlift attempts than originally planned. My three deadlift attempts were: 187 pounds, 226 pounds, and 248 pounds. That was the end of deadlifting for a little more than a month or late July.

Deadlifts returned to my training when I got my new coach and program. Even though I had provided him with all of the pertinent information as it related to my injury/recovery and previous training and competitions, the first deadlift session, as programmed, was a little too much. Those first deadlift sessions were from a deficit, but the original working weight was 220 pounds. I never even bothered attempting to use that weight, because my warm up set at 195 pounds felt heavy, tough, and hard on my back. My coach scaled back my deadlift numbers. After a few weeks of deficits with back aches, he took away the deficit. Since then I’ve been feeling the deadlift love once again. Today’s deadlift session saw my working sets at 220 pounds…that same weight I couldn’t do 9 weeks ago!

1. deadlifts (2-2×1) 4-6 reps

warm up: 45 lbs x 10, 95 x 6, 135 x 5, 165 x 3, 195 x 3, 205 x 2

main event, with belt: 220 lbs x 6, 220 x 4, 220 x 3, 220 x 4, 220 x 3

The first set felt like it was flying. So good and honestly surprising. The second set still felt decent, but I knew I’d have difficulty maxing out reps for each set. The third and fifth sets were not as good as I’d like, since I didn’t even get the four reps I was shooting for. It was a case of the loss of tension, loss of rhythm in both sets. On the third set, I tried to regroup. I stood up and reset my position, inhaled and tried to lock my body into tension…nope. When it comes to deadlifts, I listen to my body when it tells me to stop. I also know that as the weight on the bar gets heavier, my ability to perform multiple deadlift reps drops significantly. I’ve never been someone who can use 80% of my max for reps. But aside from those two glitches, I think my deadlifts were decent today. It was good to feel progress, to know that I am indeed coming back from injury and getting stronger all the time.

2. competition bench (2-1×0) 6-8 reps

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

main event: 110 x 6, 110 x 6, 110 x 6, 110 x 6

These felt a little tough today. I’d say each set was an RPE of 9. The fact that my calluses were now tender and sore from the deadlifts probably didn’t help, but mostly I just feel a little fatigued this week.

3. pause deadlifts (3-1×0) 4-6 reps

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

Legs felt done like dinner. Grip felt done like dinner. I’d rather pause squat.

4. pull downs 8-12 reps

70 lbs x 12, 80 lbs x 12

This is the first time pull downs have been in my new training program, which also means that I haven’t done pull downs for a few months now. My coach left the weight up to me. I did a couple of reps at 50 pounds before deciding that 70 would be a better place to begin. That was relatively easy, so I increased the weight on the second set.

5. planks

x 45 seconds, x 40 seconds, x 30 seconds

The first plank felt almost easy. On the last plank, I could hear my abs screaming in misery.

And now, after two training days which saw increases in weight along with lots of sets, I’m almost looking forward to Friday’s 10 working sets of bench. When I first saw this week’s program, I thought all those sets might do me in, but now I think they might be the easiest part of the strength portion of this week’s program!

Fatigue Week

This morning’s training session was a good one, I think. Even though my coach is wanting to incur fatigue this week, I felt pretty good throughout my session. The only instances where I didn’t feel so fine were my final deadlift set and during the glute bridges. The back felt achy and uncomfortable during that final deadlift set, and it also felt uncomfortable the moment I settled the weight across my abdomen for the glute bridges. Still, the back is feeling better every session, every week, so I just hope to continue to increase my weights without further set-backs.

1. deficit deadlifts (2-2×1)

warm up: 95 lbs x 8, 135 x 4, 165 x 4, 195 x 2

main event: 205 x 5, 205 x 5, 205 x 4, 205 x 2

As I mentioned already, the back felt fine until the final set here, which is why I only managed 2 reps. Although I most likely could have pushed through to complete another rep or two, I do not want to inflict further harm. Know your limit, play within it!

2. incline bench press (3-1×0)

warm up: 45 lbs x 10

main event: 60 lbs x 12, 60 x 10, 60 x 8

My incline bench is definitely weaker than my regular bench. My shoulders were burning with fatigue by the third set.

3. stiff legged deadlifts (3-1×0)

110 lbs x 15, 110 x 10

4a. side plank

x 30 seconds, x 22 seconds, x 25 seconds

4b. barbell rows

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

4c. glute bridge

40 lbs x 15, 40 x 15, 40 x 15

Good Morning Glutes

I was grumpy for most of the weekend, likely a combination of the lingering SI joint issue, feeling defeated and frustrated with food, and just my own internal demons. Although my attitude began to shift yesterday afternoon, I think the grumpiness left completely this morning. I woke up feeling as if I needed more sleep, probably due to some tossing to find a comfortable position. As I opened the living room curtains, I realized that I still have another day off to look forward to, and that realization made me deliciously happy. I love my job, but days off are nice. It also helps that the SI issue is improving. In fact, I noticed that I was moving with more ease at the gym this morning than I was last week. Before my back hurt to bend over to pick up a light kettlebell, to lift a 45 pound plate onto the bar, or to even lay back onto the bench. I could do all of those things today without any pain or difficulty. The pain may not be all gone yet, but I’m so glad that there is improvement. Sitting is still a painful activity. As little as I do sit, unfortunately I have no choice but to sit while driving!

1a. goblet squats with kettlebells

16kg x 5, 24kg x 10, 32kg x 8, 40kg x 6, 40kg x 6

This was the first time I’ve ever done goblet squats with this much weight, and it was pretty good. They didn’t bother the lower back, but the 40kg kettlebell was definitely a challenge for the upper back. On both sets I tried for a seventh rep and bailed at the bottom.

double 24kg x 0

Michael thought that this might be easier to hold, but I didn’t feel comfortable at all and never even attempted a rep.

double 16kg x 2

This weight felt more doable, but the back of my left shoulder/delt was burning with fatigue and couldn’t hold position anymore.

1b. bench press-competition grip, no legs

43 lbs x 10, 65 x 10, 85 x 9, 95 x 6, 95 x 5

These got a bit tougher as I went along, probably because of holding the heavy kettlebells for the squats.

1c. plank with 2 small sandbags on my back

4 sets of 30 second holds

I’m not really sure how heavy the sandbags were, but I am reasonably confident they were more than 30 pounds.

2a. landmine presses

43 lbs x 8 each, 53 lbs x 8 each, 53 x 8 each

The left shoulder was still burning at the beginning of these, but that fatigue had faded substantially by the final set.

2b. Bulgarian split squats-with 54 lb vest

x 10 each

My balance was all over the place this first set, so I wanted to hold a kettlebell for the following sets.

plus 10kg kettlebell x 10 each, x 10 each

2c. ab wheel x 4 or 5?

The abs didn’t feel so good.

lying leg raises x 11

3a. dumbbell flyes

15 lb x 12, x 12

3b. hip thrusts with band around knees and large sandbag on my hips

x 30, x 30

Again, not completely certain the weight of the sandbag…maybe 70 pounds?

All in all, it felt like I did something this morning! A personal best for goblet squats! The suggestion that I might be able to do squats on Thursday (depending on the back, of course!) And I somehow managed to complete all 30 reps of the hip thrusts even though my glutes were on fire by the midway point! I’m still thankful that I’m not training three consecutive days this week, and that tomorrow is a rest day!

Three Days

Earlier this afternoon I saw a meme which stated, “I feel like I’m already tired tomorrow.” That is exactly how I feel! I did sleep mostly better last night; there just weren’t enough hours of sleep. Exhaustion is oozing out of my pores, and I cannot even begin to imagine feeling well-rested when I wake up tomorrow. It would be nice to be wrong though.

I trained first thing this morning, which means that I was at the gym for three consecutive days. That is not typical for me, but it is how it had to be this week. I’m okay with it. But it is tiring. Thankfully, I’m not in the midst of a heavy, pre-competition training block, but then again…do I ever really have easy training sessions? I keep wanting to say that the past two weeks of training almost feels like a deload, because I haven’t deadlifted or done real squat. There is some truth to that. It does feel like a bit of a deload, and yet, I’ve still been pushed and challenged and worked hard in different ways.

1a. front rack alternating reverse lunges

43 lbs x 12, 73 x 12, 93 x 12, 93 x 12

I just knew that lunges would show up today! Since my chiropractor wants me to do lots of single leg work to help my SI joints and I’ve already done Bulgarians and split squats this week, predicting the arrival of lunges wasn’t all that amazing.

The first few sets were okay. The final set was tough, not due to the weight but simply fatigue. Michael pushed me to finish the final half of the set, and that was okay, too. Sometimes I need that little push, the reminder that I am capable of a little bit more. My coach is pretty good at recognizing when I can keep going or when I should stop.

1b. flat dumbbell presses-without legs

25 lbs x 12, 34 lbs x 9, 39 x 8, 39 x 8

Michael almost had me do military press here, but then he decided against it in order to avoid putting my back into a potentially bothersome position. I’ve got to say that I am loving the flat dumbbell presses lately, even without using my legs. While pressing a 25 pound dumbbell for reps while standing presents a challenge for me, I am no longer intimidated by the bigger dumbbells when I’m on my back.

1c. single arm, single leg plank

x 10-15 seconds each side

x 10-15 seconds each side

x 15 seconds (actually timed for this set) each side

2a. back extensions with 25 lb dumbbell

x 15

x 18 with an 8 second hold on last rep

2b. TRX supine rows (legs straight + knees bent)

x 5 + 6

x 5 + 5

2c. triceps cable pulldowns

40 lbs x 11

40 lbs x 8

I don’t want to get too excited prematurely, but I can’t help but notice that my back feels better than it has for the past 11 days. It isn’t pain-free yet, but it will get there. At one point this morning, we joked about the list of ailments I am either currently experiencing or have recently experienced: hip, knee, back, etc. I pointed out that I am 45 years old! Then I tacked on that I also feel great. It’s true! Despite the current back pain, despite the off and on again knee pain, despite all of the little tweaks, twists, and boxes dropped on my head, I do feel great. I almost never get sick. Current fatigue level aside, I have more energy than I did in my thirties. I am in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I am strong and getting stronger, and I do things many, if not most, women my age cannot.

Conventional Threads

Westerns are 23 days away and training is narrowing in preparation. Time feels as if it is moving most strangely. Provincials was only a month ago, yet it feels like it has been much longer than that. I’m sure the next few weeks will fly by, but I strongly suspect that there will be a sense of time slowing, dragging, and anxious anticipation. There is a lot going on over the next few weeks, which could be a welcome distraction or a stumbling block. There are so many threads of thought tangled inside of my head.

1a. block pulls, conventional

95 x 8, 135 x 5, 185 x 3

with belt: 205 x 1, 225 x 1, 245 x 1

After several weeks of doing sumo block pulls, I have to say that conventional pulls feel so much tougher.

1b. bench press, competition grip

45 x 10, 65 x 5, 85 x 5, 100 x 5, 110 x 3, 115 x 3

105 x 4 my right shoulder moved a bit on the last rep

105 x 4 better

105 x 4

2a. conventional deadlifts

185 x 4

with belt: 205 x 2, 225 x 2, 245 x 1, 250 x 2, 250 x 1

with straps: 225 x 3

These weren’t horrible but maybe not super great. It’s not very often that I do multiple deadlift reps at heavier weights, so the double at 250 was nice. It’s not a PR though. I did a double at the same weight last September.

2b. side plank with 5 leg raises and then a 10 second hold

I only did this once, but I was surprised that they weren’t as tough as I’d thought they would be. It’s been a very long time since I’ve done side planks!