Pushing a PR

When I walked into the gym this morning, my coach said I’d be starting off with block pulls and push presses. Since front squats have been on the agenda for the past several Wednesdays and they’ve been feeling tough, I was so happy about the block pulls that I almost forgot what the push presses were and how much I do not like them. It wasn’t until I was tying my shoes that I finally realized that my coach had actually said¬†push presses. <sigh> What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

1a. push press

45 lbs x 5, 55 x 6, 65 x 6, 75 x 5 PR?, 75 x 5, 75 x 5

I am reasonably confident that I hit a PR today. Last September I did two sets of 4 at 75 pounds. PRs are always a confidence boost, especially when doing an exercise that always seems to be a struggle.

35 lbs x 11 behind the neck presses

1b. block pulls

95 lbs x 8, 135 x 8, 165 x 8, 185 x 8, 195 x 8, 195 x 8

All of my sets were touch and go except for the final set. The first set at 195 found me moving my hips a bit more than normal, so my coach had me stop each rep for the final set. I think I did a better job keeping my hips from dropping on that final set.

2a. glute ham raises

x 11, x 12, x 10

2b. pull ups-wide, pronated grip

3 or 4 reps with just the small green band which wasn’t going to assist me enough to hit the target rep range, so added a blue band with the green and did another 8 reps for the first set

then x 9, x 9

2c. side laterals

10 lbs x 12, 15 lbs x 4 + 10 lbs x 8, 10 lbs x 11

Laterals are not a favourite, but using the 10 pound dumbbells seems to be okay. Sadly, the jump to the 15 pound dumbbells always seems to feel super heavy. The left shoulder had some clunking going on, so I was trying to minimize that by controlling my shoulder and arm positioning. The left shoulder also fatigued more quickly than the right, so my face would contort towards the end of each set in an effort to keep that left arm moving.

 

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

 

 

Aches, Blocks, Core

1a. snatch grip block pulls

73 lbs x 8, 113 x 8, 143 x 8, 153 x 8, 163 x 8, 163 x 5

I cut the last set short, because I was beginning to feel my lower back. Although my back is generally improved and close to being 100%, I am still experiencing some achiness, particularly at night and first thing in the morning. Last night was an uncomfortable and achy night. The back was still achy when I arrived at the gym but fine enough. Even what I felt in that last set wasn’t anything significant, but I’d rather stop at the right time.

1b. double flat kettlebell presses

10kg x 8, 12kg x 10, 16kg x 10, 16kg x 10, 16kg x 10

2a. single leg deadlifts with barbell, alternating legs each rep

63 lbs x 14 x 3 sets

2b. single arm kettlebell rows

16kg x 10 each

starting with a wide row and moving to narrow:

12kg x 15 each (10 wide), 12kg x 10 each (5 wide)

2c. GHD sit ups

x 15

with 6kg kettlebell x 10

Thought about doing another set and even got into position before deciding that the back might not appreciate it.

Just the Facts

warm-up:

overhead squats

with dowel x 12

35 lbs x 8, 55 lbs x 8

1a. skater squats

x 12 each leg to 2 mats, x 10 each leg to 1 mat, x 7 each leg to the floor, x 5 each leg to the floor

1b. standing single arm dumbbell presses

25 lbs x 8 each strict

29 lbs x 5 each with push

seated x 4 each @ 29 lbs

seated x 8 each @ 25 lbs

2a. front squats-flat shoes

93 lbs x 8, 118 lbs x 8, 128 lbs x 5, 113 lbs x 8

2b. chin ups with small green band, neutral grip

x 6, x 5, x 5, x 4

3. every minute on the minute x 6 rounds

10 kettlebell swings @ 20kg

3 push up walkouts

Pulling Weeds

I’ll be honest…my head is lost in thoughts and emotions that I am trying to process and work through. It will be okay in the end. I will be okay. Sometimes you just take an unexpected hit. Even when you ultimately know that the hit hasn’t harmed you, there is still a sting and rush of emotion. In situations like this I tend to not say much for a couple of reasons, but the main one being that I simply need time and space to process. Another reason is that I realize how volatile and deceptive emotions can be in the moment. I’m currently cycling through several feelings and thoughts, but I know that not all of them are true in this situation. I don’t want to respond or react from a false position. That wouldn’t be fair to anyone else, and it wouldn’t be fair to me. Part of my eternal struggle is with self-confidence and self-image, and the unexpected hits, both harmless and barbed, flood me with all sorts of negative thoughts about myself. I’ve come far enough in this journey to realize that not all of those negative thoughts are true or accurate. Some of those feelings can help me grow and be better. They can be used to my advantage; however, a great many of those feelings simply need to be discarded, since they only tear me down. But in the moment it isn’t always easy to sift through those thoughts and feelings. Even when I allow myself the time and space to work through them, those feelings and thoughts are insidious and quick to plant deep roots. Pulling each negative thought out is hard, emotional work. This is my thing. It has nothing to do with training or work or anything really, at least nothing that I am going to share. Sometimes I withdraw into myself, so if the blog posts become a little sparse or robotic for a time, that’s why. Or I’m just busy with life.

But anyway…

1a. snatch grip block pulls

45 lbs x 10, 95 x 8, 125 x 8, 145 x 8, 145 x 8

1b. double kettlebell bench presses

10kg x 12, 12kg x 10, 16kg x 10, 16kg x 10

1c. sit ups on the GHD

x 10, x 8, x 10, x 8

This was my first time doing sit ups in a very long time.

2a. single leg deadlifts holding 2-10kg kettlebells

x 10 each leg

2 sets of 20 alternating legs which was much easier for my balance

2b. single arm kettlebell row

16kg x 15 each, x 12 each, x 10 each

2c. renegade rows with 10 lb dumbbells

x 10, x 14, x 12

3. a 5 minute circuit

every minute on the minute: 5 pushups and then kettlebell swings (15, 12, 10, 10, 10)

A Nap or Coffee?

Training for a powerlifting competition is vastly different than the training I am doing right now. The change is good, but it is also hard work. It is only mid-morning and I am desperately wishing for a nap, except I am seldom able to nap and I have to work in a couple of hours. A one hour training session has utterly wiped me out. I might need some coffee before work to make it through my closing shift.

warm up:

overhead squats with 35 lb bar-2 sets of 10

narrow stance windmills-bodyweight x 8 each, with 10kg kettlebell x 8 each

1a. skater squats with 5 lb dumbbells

to 3 folds of the mat x 12 each leg

to 2 folds of the mat x 10 each leg

1b. single arm dumbbell push press

20 lbs x 8 each, 25 lbs x 8 each

2a. front squats-flat shoes

43 lbs x 10, 93 x 8, 113 x 6, 113 x 6

2b. chin ups-neutral grip, with small green band

x 7, x 6, x 6, x 3

3. a 12 minute circuit of:

-dumbbell curls with 15 lbs x 15, x 13, x 10

-kettlebell triceps extensions with 10kg x 15, x 10, x 6

-ab wheel x 15, x 11, x 10

-skipping 1 minute x 3 rounds

Maybe I can try closing my eyes for 15-20 minutes…

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.

warm-up:

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!”