Remember the Deadlift

When I walked into the gym this morning, my coach said that we’d do some deadlifts if my back was feeling okay. I’m sure he was hoping that my back was feeling okay, because, aside from wanting me to be healthy again, being able to deadlift is kind of important heading into a competition! Last week I was allowed to do one super light set of deadlifts at 65 pounds, and those felt good. I did have a couple of deadlift sessions in March, but the second one was cut short because of the back. Really, I have hardly deadlifted at all since the beginning of my back problems at the end of January. As excited as I was to be allowed to deadlift this morning, I was also tentative and nervous. What if the back screamed in pain? What if deadlifting set me back again? Only one way to find out…

1a. deadlifts!

but first a set of Romanian deadlifts 45 lbs x 10

95 lbs x 5, 135 x 5, 165 x 3

with belt: 185 x 2, 205 x 1, 205 x 1, 205 x 1

Although I haven’t deadlifted for a while, we kept my reps low, because why run the risk of aggravating the back for the sake of more reps! The first couple of sets felt pretty good. I think I first “felt” my back during the set at 165 pounds. It was fine as I set up and even as I created tension, but I could feel some discomfort and pressure in the low back as I lifted. I think that first “heavy” set was the worst in terms of how the back felt, but there was a measure of discomfort, maybe even pain for the rest of the sets. As a result, I was probably more tentative than I should be. The second rep at 185 was too far from my body from the start, but I was using a double overhand grip beyond what I would normally be able to manage. An alternated mixed grip for the heavy singles worked well, and each single improved on the previous. The deadlifts weren’t all perfect, but I was able to deadlift. The best part is that there was no pain or discomfort in the back beyond each rep. After my training I went to work and still felt no change or increase in back pain or discomfort! Hopefully the back will still feel as good tomorrow!

1b. bench press-close grip

feet on bench, small arch: 43 lbs x 10, 63 x 5, 93 x 5

with legs and arch: 103 x 3, 115 x 3, 115 x 3, 115 x 3, 120 x 3

With how much benching I’ve done over the past five months, I am beginning to dislike the close grip. The range of motion is just so huge, and I always seem to have more issues with bringing the bar down to the same place on my chest consistently. My last set at 115 was the best and fastest. The set at 120 was kind of slow, and I’m pretty sure the second rep’s bar path was a mess.

2a. reverse hypers with long strap

60 lbs x 20

2b. single arm kettlebell rows

16kg x 15 each

 

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Don’t Cry Out Loud…

Yesterday I set out the top and socks that I would wear for training this morning, and I had selected a Wonder Woman tank and my FIGHTER socks. As I was getting dressed this morning, I changed my mind and grabbed a different tank top, one that says, “If at first you don’t succeed, fix your ponytail and try again!” There was no rhyme or reason for the change. I just felt like it. Little did I realize just how appropriate the shirt slogan would be…or how frustrating my training session would be.

Most of the time the gym is my happy place, and even a difficult session can still be a rewarding and positive experience. While there were glimpses of smiles this morning, they were rare and weak and merely attempts to keep tears at bay. I suppose, in that regard, the smiles were effective. I did not shed a single tear at the gym today! At least I can claim that as a victory. My coach could tell that I was frustrated, although I’m sure it was rather obvious. He reminded me that one bad workout isn’t the end of the world…but it has been more than one. Over the past two months, there have been more bad training sessions than good ones in terms of being able to do what I need to do without pain or physical limitation and discomfort, and I am extremely frustrated by that. Frustrated doesn’t even accurately describe how I am currently feeling.

When it comes to personal pain and situations, it is easy to be myopic. For all my frustration and angst over this ongoing back issue, I do know that my struggle is actually quite small. There are so many people who struggle with issues and pain much greater than what I am dealing with, and the fact that I can’t train the way I want cannot compare to the true limitations many people experience on a daily basis just living life. I understand that. I really do. My husband is scheduled for hip replacement surgery at the end of April and has been in pain daily for years. I can complain about not being allowed to back squat for several weeks, but my husband literally cannot squat. I can complain about how uncomfortable it is to sit long enough to put my shoes on, but there are days when my husband cannot even put his own sock on. In the grand scheme of things, my current struggle is minor. I know it, but it is still frustrating and disappointing to feel as if you are stuck and going nowhere. The ‘one step forward, two or three steps back’ thing gets really old, really quick.

The back felt pretty good yesterday. Not 100% normal but really good. Then I woke up this morning. It seems that the back is stiff and achy almost every morning when I get up. Then add a little bit of necessary sitting, like using the toilet and driving to the gym, and the back just gets crankier. And then training doesn’t go as planned either.

1a. deadlifts-conventional

95 lbs x 8

After this warm-up set, Michael asked me how it was or if I just like to make faces on warm-ups. The weight itself was fine, but the back wasn’t exactly thrilled with deadlifting. The discomfort was just that…uncomfortable but not unbearable.

135 x 8

Same as above.

165 x 1 + 1 + 2

There was stronger pain on the first rep, which is why the reps were disjointed. Now I could get into position just fine, but the back started to hurt as soon as I created tension prior to initiating the lift and then as soon as I initiated lowering the bar.

with belt and straps: 165 x 0

I think it was about this point that Michael asked me what my body was telling me, and this was when frustration reared it’s ugly head. Michael pointed out that my response to his question was my mind talking and not my body. <grumble> So, then we tried a bunch of variations to see if one would feel better. Deficit deadlifts were a no-go. Block pulls were a no-go. Sumo block pulls were a no-go. Even kettlebell swings were a no-go. By that point, the fighter in me wanted to fix my ponytail and try again, but that inner fighter was also mentally sitting in a corner, sobbing her eyes out.

1b. military press

43 lbs x 7, 53 x 6, 63 x 5, 63 x 5, 63 x 5, 63 x 5

The last two sets were a bit tougher and likely sloppier, but the previous sets were decent and the bar moved well. The military press has long been a trouble lift for me, but I feel as if I am finally feeling more comfortable with it and struggling less. It used to be that my shoulders would burn with fatigue just holding the bar in the rack position between reps, but I didn’t feel any of that today. And that is one thing I have going for me…that no matter how frustrated, upset or defeated I feel, I can still manage to find a positive somewhere!

2a. reverse hypers

x 20, with 10 lbs x 20, 10 lbs x 20

I’m capable of doing these with more weight than this, but I’m also used to doing reverse hypers without discomfort in my lower back! It didn’t take many reps for me to appreciate the fact that my coach was keeping the weight light.

2b. back extensions

x 25, with 10kg x 25

3. single leg deadlifts

2-10kg kettlebells x 12 each leg

2-12kg kettlebells x 10 each

The first set was pure ugliness. My balance was horrid. The second set was a bit better with slightly less balance issues, especially with the right leg planted.

 

 

Gutted by a Glute

My work schedule was a bit different this week, so I had today off and was able to do my training in the morning. Despite a restless night filled with dreams of being trapped in an apartment complex full of zombies, my mind and body were in good spirits as I headed to the gym. It was deadlift day…my other favourite training day! Except when the deadlifts suck.

1a. skater squats

10 reps per side to a mat roughly 2-3″ thick

10 reps per side to a gardener’s knee pad roughly 1″ thick

Surprisingly, at least to me, my left leg felt much stronger and more stable than the right leg even during the second set, but then again what do I really know! I’ve got some tingling/numbness going on again in my right foot and, while my chiropractor doesn’t believe that it is related to the previous disc issue, perhaps whatever is going on there is affecting my leg. I don’t know.

2a. sumo deadlifts

95 lbs x 8, 145 x 8

with straps 185 x 6, 205 x 3

I was supposed to do more than 3 reps at 205 pounds, but I stopped. As I began the second rep, I felt a bit of a pop in the lower part of my left glute. It was a weird feeling, but I didn’t feel like it was anything too serious. There wasn’t any burning pain or anything like that, and the third rep wasn’t too bad. However, I could feel some discomfort at the beginning of the third rep and again as I prepared for the fourth rep, and that was when I shut that set down. Michael had me try to find the spot with a foam roller and then a lacrosse ball. It wasn’t super easy to find, but I think I did find it eventually where the glute and the hamstrings meet. Again, not majorly painful but definitely not comfortable. Drop the weight to see how it feels…

185 x 0

I’m sure I could have done it. I know I could have done it, but there was enough discomfort in the simple act of settling into the sumo position that I don’t think I even really made a serious attempt. There are always ways to work around a problem, so Michael had me try a conventional stance.

185 x 5

from a deficit 185 x 8

The conventional stance presented much less discomfort, although I wouldn’t say that it was entirely eliminated and I think the discomfort started creeping in as the number of reps increased.

2b. Savickas press

47 lbs x 8, 52 x 8, 57 x 7, 57 x 6, 57 x 6

These weren’t too bad for only my second time doing these. I added 7 pounds and an extra set.

3a. reverse hypers

90 lbs x 15, x 15, x 13, x 10

I was really supposed to do glute-ham raises today, but Michael changed it up due to the current state of my glute. The first set was awful, but I think that was mostly a result of being set up in a most uncomfortable position. The following sets were an improvement, yet the low back felt quite fatigued by the third set.

3b. barbell rows

95 lbs x 10 + another 5 so Michael could see my technique

Then he changed it to Pendlay rows.

95 lbs x 5

I know Michael would have wanted more reps, but I had to stop at five. The glute was not too happy in that position, and the entire movement felt very tough. So another change to chest-supported rows.

90 lbs x 2 (yes only 2) + 4

drop the weight and change grip: 55 lbs x 10, 55 x 9

I have been instructed to use a lacrosse ball on that trouble spot over the weekend. That should be just another level of fun added to the foam rolling that I need to do on the right leg. Actually I have four spots on the right leg to work every day. I need to use voodoo floss on the ankle and just below the knee. I need to foam roll the hip and the inside of the leg right above the knee, and let me tell you that rolling that inner leg spot has got to be the most painful spot to roll ever! It’s actually a very simple movement, but the agony is intense. I’m pretty sure I cannot breathe while doing it, and my family must think that a wild animal is devouring me alive. It hurts! A lot. But I’ll keep doing it as long as I need to.

Training didn’t go as planned today, not according to what Michael had laid out and not according to how I envisioned the session. That’s moderately frustrating, and yet I realize that I still worked hard. I was still moving and sweating and using my muscles. Any little perceived set-back, injury or tweak is certain to invoke a measure of frustration, yet I am not stuck in the mire over it. This is minor and tough days will come and go.

 

Aches & Pains

Since I am laying here staring at my laptop and zoning out when I am trying to compose a blog post, I guess I will just get right down to the training session details.

1a. squats, low bar, knee sleeves

warm-up: 45 x 8, 12kg kettlebell goblet squats x 8, 45 x 8

Michael had me do a warm up set with the bar, then the goblet squats and back to the bar. I’ve been having some issues with the back of my right knee, and he wanted to see how each felt. The goblet squats presented the most discomfort, but it was still not too bad.

95 x 5, 125 x 5, 155 x 5, 175 x 5

I was consciously making an effort to expand my chest more before beginning my squat, and I did notice a difference in my squats as a result. There was less of a sticking point! I also experimented with my hand position…not sure if that was a good idea or not though. I began to feel some uncomfortable pressure in my left shoulder during my last few sets.

with belt: 195 x 3, 205 x 2, 205 x 3

185 x 3 definitely not as good looking or feeling as last Friday’s back down sets at the same weight and I think the left shoulder is the reason

1b. bench press, my wide grip

43 x 8, 63 x 8, 83 x 5, 105 x 5, 110 x 3, 110 x 3, 110 x 3

Spoto presses with pause 1 cm off my chest:

95 x 5 x 2 sets

2. reverse hypers

50 lbs x a bunch

I’ve been having some mild pain and discomfort in my lower left back. It doesn’t bother me too much, but there is definitely tenderness and I can palpate the area and feel that something is not the same as on the other side. There always seems to be something…

Back At ‘Er

I slept last night! In fact, I slept very well, and what a difference that made to my outlook upon waking. What a difference it made to my training today! Today wouldn’t normally be a training day, but that’s how it worked out this week. There is no way that I could have made it through tonight’s training without having had a good night’s sleep, although I’m sure that Michael would have changed things up if I wasn’t up to the task.

I also had a chiropractic appointment today. The headaches are improving, I think, and there doesn’t seem to be much point in getting too worked up about them. The potential variables are many, and those variables can change on any given day or time. Basically, my neck is feeling pretty good. The headaches are getting less frequent, less of a disturbance. My right hamstring got most of the attention today, and I’ve been given some homework to deal with that soreness. This is probably related to my disc issue. Does that make it good news? I don’t know. I don’t think it was presented as bad news.

1a. reverse hypers

50 lbs x ?, x 15, x 15

1b. incline dumbbell presses

20 lbs x 12, 25 lbs x 8, 29 lbs x 8, 29 x 8, 29 x 8, 29 x 9

These felt good today, easy enough…certainly easier than last week.

2a. deadlifts, squat stance, keep the tension each rep

without straps: 95 x 8, 135 x 7, 165 x 5

with straps: 185 x 5

175 x 10 x 4 sets, all touch and go

The third set of 10 was the best. Now that may have been because, prior to my starting that set, Michael said I would do one or two more sets depending on how that set went, and there is no better way to ensure that I have a really good set than to suggest dropping the workload. The second set was okay but weird, because I couldn’t seem to touch both sides to the floor. Since I was doing touch and go reps, I’d touch down quickly but only the left side actually touched for virtually the entire set, even as I realized the discrepancy and tried to correct in as I continued. Maybe that is why Michael said the third set might be my last…

But the deadlifts felt good today! These were certainly easier than the snatch grip ones I had been doing of late. It was certainly more volume than I’ve done lately. Today I pulled 10, 455 pounds! Last week’s deadlift total was only 4455 pounds.

2b. glute ham raises

x 14, x 14ish, x 12

3a. single leg hip thrusts with a 70 lb sandbag

x 10 each leg for 2 sets, the last rep of the second set with a 4-5 second hold at the top

3b. toes to bar

x 10, x 6

I worked hard today, and it felt good after two less than stellar training sessions earlier in the week. Isn’t it amazing what a good sleep can do?