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.

 

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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…

A Weak Day Morning

My attitude towards upper body days has been shifting ever so subtly over the past few months. Dread might be too strong of a word for how I used to feel about the upper body work, but it has always been blatantly obvious that I would much prefer to squat, bench press or deadlift than to narrow the focus to smaller, weaker muscles. While I still prefer the main lifts, I realize that I head to the gym with a positive attitude even knowing that upper body stuff is on the agenda. That doesn’t mean the work is always easy, but some of the tasks are getting stronger and more consistent…more often than not. But there are days when everything just feels tough once again.

1a. Pendlay rows-with my bench press grip

75 lbs x 10, 95 x 8, 105 x 7, 105 x 7, 105 x 7

I ran into some bar positioning trouble with my first set at 105 pounds. The bar was too far ahead rather than centred over my feet. With better positioning, the final sets felt better, but it was still a struggle to get the reps.

1b. military press

45 lbs x 8, 55 x 8, 65 x 6, 65 x 5, 65 x 5 + 4 push presses

Wrist positioning was an issue for some of these sets. Even though I’d start a set with the bar sitting low on my palms and wrists in good position, somehow the bar would shift during the set and the wrists would bend back.

1c. dragon flies

x 10, x 10, x 8, x 7

Michael had warned me that ab work was going to become a part of every training session. Part of me is looking forward to it, while the other part of me is trembling in fear of the pain coming my way. Michael allowed me to choose which ab move to do today. My choices were heavy GHD sit-ups, ab wheel, toes to bar, or dragon flies, and he wanted 4 sets of 10 reps. In all honesty, I don’t know why I chose dragon flies, as they are probably the most difficult of the options. Obviously I didn’t manage the full number of reps for the final two sets…my abs were pretty much giving out at that point. I could almost feel my abs cramping up on my drive home, and I know that the post-training soreness will come.

2a. chin ups

I was supposed to try to better my record of 2 unassisted reps or at least equal it, but I could barely manage one.

with small green band: x 6, x 5, x 4

I’ve been assured that I do indeed have lats and that activating them will help my chin ups. I think I noticed a bit of a difference on the last set when I followed the cues given to me by Michael. Sadly though, chin ups are a struggle and my reps drop quickly.

2b. push ups on parallettes

x 8, x 8, x 6 + 2 more partial reps

The last set was tough. I almost couldn’t even push myself back up on the sixth rep. Took a 2 second breather and then reset to finish the reps. Although I hadn’t been descending too deep anyway, those final two reps were cut shorter than the rest. I wouldn’t have survived them otherwise. I think my triceps are a bit sore from Monday’s close grip Spoto presses.

Friday “Night” Deadlifts

It wasn’t all that long ago that two of my weekly training sessions would take place after I had put in a full day’s work that began at 5 or 5:30 in the morning. There haven’t been too many of those days since starting my new job, since my early work days have mostly been on non-training days. Not all of them though and today was one of those days. Thankfully today was a smoother, better work day than yesterday, although my early starts seldom seem to have a negative effect on my training. Maybe I just love training! Or, possibly the fact that I do train has resulted in increased stamina and energy.

1. overhead squats

43 lbs x 6

63 lbs x 6 This set was a little unstable feeling, and my hang snatch was not so great.

63 lbs x 8 This was much better overall. I got down deeper in the snatch than ever before, and my squats were much more stable, easier.

70 lbs x 6.5 I tried to snatch the bar up a couple of times and couldn’t do it, so Michael gave me some assistance to get the bar overhead. The squats themselves were decent. I was so close to finishing the seventh rep, too.

2a. deadlifts, conventional, touch and go

135 lbs x 10, 185 x 8, 205 x 8

Sometimes I mess up with knowing the weight or counting reps, and sometimes Michael is the one messing up. He added 50 pounds after my 135 pound set, then after I blasted through my reps, he said we could go up to 185. Um…pretty sure I just did 185! So, since it looked like I was feeling strong today, we bumped up to 205 pounds; Michael called it after 8 reps. That set was fairly fast and nearly effortless. Last week’s sets at 195 felt tough, but these were easy. Then Michael asked if we should maybe go up to 225. I felt confident.

225 x 3 + 205 x 3 So 225 pounds might have been a little ambitious, at least for touch and go reps. I feel confident that I could have completed 10 reps if they weren’t touch and go, but the weight was just a little too heavy for the light touches that I’m used to doing. Then Michael decided that we didn’t need to max out on the deadlifts and dropped back to 205. I didn’t get very far though. I guess the 225 pounds took more out of me than I expected, which was kind of ironic considering the conversation we had just a few minutes prior, talking about how long it can take to recover from maximal deadlifts and how I have yet to feel depleted by deadlifts, even after a competition. Of course, my coach is smart with my training, so I’m not allowed to do anything near maximal after a competition, but I felt like I had to eat my own words after only managing 3 reps at 205 after the 225 attempt.

2b. push presses

45 lbs x 8, 55 lbs x 8, 65 x 6, 65 x 6, 65 x 6

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of the push press or military press or overhead pressing in general, but these were actually decent. It’s been a while since I’ve done them, but I’m always happy when an exercise I suck at feels a bit easier than normal.

3a. Romanian deadlifts

135 x 11, 135 x 8, 135 x 12

Three sets doesn’t seem to do justice here. Not only did I do the sets, but there was practice with a dowel, practice with Michael pulling my hips with a band, and just practice without a bar or dowel. I want to pull the bar instead of bringing my hips to the bar. It’s a mental block kind of thing, because even though I understand what I’m supposed to do, my brain just doesn’t think it will work that way. Just another thing to practice with my dowel at home…

3b. torture

Okay, so this wasn’t really called torture, but it may as well have been! Here’s what it was:

with dumbbells while sitting: side laterals, front laterals, then clean and presses

10 lb dumbbells (hahaha!) x 11 side laterals, x 8 front laterals, x 2 c+p plus 8 lbs x 4

There is nothing quite so humbling as pesky little isolation exercises, particularly when they involve my shoulders. Before I did my second set, Michael decided to show me that these weren’t much easier for him. He used 25 pound dumbbells and did 10 reps per exercise, but it wasn’t super easy.

8 lb dumbbells x 18 side laterals, x 10 front laterals, x 5? c+p

Good grief! I’m sure that I could have used 1 pound dumbbells and still struggled by the end. Sure I can squat or deadlift a decent amount of weight, but it is the little weights that make me feel weak.

But I did get some good news. Michael said that he will have a new training program for me on Monday, although he wouldn’t tell me what it will look like. I’m excited to see what the new program will bring, although I suspect that there will be things that aren’t so exciting, but I’ll do what needs doing.

 

Rainy Day Squats

Today is Monday. It rained for a good chunk of the day. I started work fairly early, and I experienced my first huge rush while I was working the bar. Still, I think it was a good day. I love the rain. My body is still used to getting up early, and I had support to help me through the rush. There are still drinks that throw me out-of-sync or that I am not confident making, but I think I am remembering more than I am forgetting now. I hope. After work, I got to go to the gym. I knew that squats would be on the agenda, but I expected them to be safety bar box squats since that has been what I’ve been doing since Westerns. Hey! I just realized that it has been exactly a month since Westerns, but I digress. When Michael said I’d be doing normal squats, I got a little excited!

1a. high bar squats, no sleeves, flat shoes,

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6, 135 x 6, 155 x 6, 170 x 5, 170 x 5, 170 x 4

After four weeks of squatting with the safety bar, I struggled a bit today with these high bar squats. My depth was definitely not in doubt, as I found myself getting quite low more often than not and unintentionally. I also had a lot of trouble with pitching forward, both my feet (usually the right but not solely…see what I did there?) and the bar. The weight shouldn’t have been too challenging, but the struggle was definitely with form.

Then Michael suggested a cardio set of 20 reps and I agreed, although I’m not sure that he was actually asking for my agreement.

115 lbs x 20

It’s been a very, very long time since I’ve done a 20 rep set of squats, so I expected this to be more difficult than it turned out to be. The weight was light, and that was perfectly fine by me.

1b. military press

43 lbs x 8, 53 x 6, 63 x 3 + 3 push presses

push press

63 lbs x 5, 73 x 3, 83 x 0, 83 x 1

1c. top half military press

73 lbs x 6, 73 x 8, 73 x 6

2a. pause squats

135 lbs x 4 reps with 4 second pauses

115 lbs pause squat for 10 breaths…had no problem holding form for the lengthy pause but I could not get up. Michael even tried helping me by lifting the bar slightly, but I still could not get my legs to unfold to push myself up.

3a. triceps extensions using rope handle with 20 lbs of chain

standing: x 12, 12, x 8? + 14 laying on bench

3b. lying rear laterals

8 lb dumbbells x 20, 10 lb dumbbells x 15, x 15

I may not be a fan of the rear laterals, but I am getting stronger at them, even if only a little.

3c. band pull-apart hold for 8 seconds with orange band

3 sets of 3 reps

The days where I leave the gym feeling like I didn’t do anything are so rare that I may as well say that they never happen. Today was SO NOT one of those days! I feel like I trained absolutely everything, and I pretty much did. I could barely lift my arms to put my hoodie on, and stiffness is already creeping into my legs. As much as I moaning and groaning right now, an hour and a half later, I love the hard work! Of course, that didn’t stop me from slipping into my winter pyjama pants as soon as I got home. This is the first time I’ve pulled my winter pyjamas out of the drawer since early spring, and I might regret my decision in the middle of the night. That’s okay. Right now I just want to feel comfy, cozy and warm. I love Fall!

The Push Press

The push press is not my most favourite thing to do during a training session. Anything involving overhead pressing is not high on my list of favourites, but I understand their value and I generally try to do what my trainer asks me to do. In these things he has much more wisdom and experience than I do! Of course, my dislike tends to flow out of weakness, and Michael is pretty quick to pick out my weakness and find ways to fix the problem. In other words, there is usually some form of overhead press in my program.

As much as I am not a fan of the overhead pressing, I’d be lying if I said that I wished to never do it again. I love being able to do something that was once tough and seemingly impossible. Not every training session is about setting new records, but when you do set one…the feeling is fantastic! I might prefer to squat and deadlift all the time, however, I know that there are many ways to get stronger. Besides, powerlifting is a 3 lift sport, and so I do all the overhead pressing.

As I was about to start my push presses this morning, Michael said that there wouldn’t be any expectations for my push press, but then he said that I’d press heavier than before! Ha ha! No expectations, right!

One of the most difficult things for me with the push press is the timing, getting that bar to move at just the right moment so as to get the benefit from the dip of my knees. Okay, so timing and bar path are the most difficult things for me. I don’t always have the bar close enough to my face, which makes the weight all the heavier to push up. But I think I’m getting closer! I did actually hit my chin with the bar again today on one rep.

So what did I actually do?

  • warm up set of 5 with just the bar (45 pounds)
  • a set of 5 at 55 pounds
  • a set of 5 at 65 pounds (my previous best)
  • a set of 3 at 70 pounds
  • two sets of 3 at 75 pounds

The final rep of that final set was a challenge. I couldn’t get the bar up past the top of my head. Michael told me to rack the bar and told me to wait 10 seconds and finish the rep. I waited, re-focused and tried again. And again I couldn’t get past my sticking point. I racked the bar with a little bit more force than usual. Michael jokingly told me that I was not leaving the squat rack until I made that last rep, and I’m so glad he said that because I had already been thinking it! I may not particularly like push presses, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to crush them. I re-focused again, felt a little angry at the bar, and set myself up and got that final rep! That feels great!

 

A Complex Matter

Barbell complex. This isn’t something that I do regularly, so I feel rather excited when my trainer throws it into a training session. A barbell complex really should strike fear into my heart and dissolve my bones into jelly at the very mention of its name, because a complex is no easy task. I like the challenge, the act of pushing myself further than I think I can go. I tend to forget, at least until midway through, just how physically demanding the complex is!

My complex consisted of 6 different exercises performed with an unloaded bar (45 pounds) for 8 rounds with descending reps. So, I did 8 reps of each exercise for the first round, 7 reps of each for the second round, 6 reps for the third, and so on down to the final round of 1 rep per exercise. The exercises went in this order: overhead press, push press, front squat, back squat, bent-over row, and Romanian deadlift.

Overhead pressing is not a great strength of mine, although I suspect I may have more of a mental block thing going on there than an actual lack of physical strength. Still, the complex was at the end of my training session, and I had already exhausted my arms with dips, chin-ups, floor presses and rows. The first few rounds, especially the presses, were quite exhausting and difficult. I honestly wasn’t sure that I would be able to do the presses for all the rounds. I was fairly certain that I would die in the middle of a press, and I wondered why I had ever been eager to do the complex in the first place!

I will freely admit that I did miss a few push press reps in the early rounds. Surprisingly, I was able to do every single rep of overhead pressing without too much difficulty. Sure, my arms felt shaky and exhausted, but somehow I always had enough to do those overhead presses. The push presses were the greatest threat, although they did get stronger as I got to the smaller digits and found a better groove between the push with my legs and the press. Once I got past those presses the rest was mostly easy. The most difficult aspect of the remaining exercises was transitioning the bar from the back squat to the row.

After finishing the complex and enjoying a minute to calm my heart-rate and resume a normal rate of respiration, all those negative emotions evaporated and I suddenly felt invincible and strong, albeit with still slightly shaky muscles! Perhaps that euphoric feeling after a challenging work out is why I get excited about the challenge before I begin. I know the task will be tough, but completing it is always rewarding!