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.



One Step Closer

It feels like I’ve hardly done anything these past few days, yet somehow I feel exhausted. A good portion of my time has been spent at the hospital, which isn’t exactly the most energizing place to be. I sat far too much Monday and Tuesday, which may be why my back feels slightly achy today, but the achiness is within reasonable limits. I think. My husband was released from the hospital this afternoon, so hopefully my extended sitting periods are over.

One thing that I did do today was my Wednesday morning training session. It was an interesting session, mostly good. Internally, the session was good enough for me to let loose a sigh of pent-up hope. Thanks to the disc/SI joint issues, many aspects of my training have been put on hold, because I couldn’t do certain things. With Provincials less than 5 weeks away, I am acutely aware of how long it has been since I’ve deadlifted or even been able to hinge my hip with any kind of load. We tested a little this morning, and I was able to do kettlebell swings, a set of super light deadlifts, and some barbell rows. The back was achy before I even started at the gym, so I think I’m safe in saying that my back is no worse for having done these things.

warm-up with 3 sets of:

16kg kettlebell swings x 10

5 medicine ball passes

5 medicine ball slams

Tested my ability to deadlift with 65 pounds for roughly 6-8 reps. There was a slight sensation of tightness/pulling similar to what I have felt at the bottom of the squat, but this was minor. Of greater concern to me was whether I’d have any pain when I’d create tension throughout my body before lifting, but there was only slight discomfort. Now normally I would begin deadlifting with significantly more weight than 65 pounds, but I was happy with how it felt to go through the motions once again.

1a. barbell rows

65 lbs x 8?, 85 x 10, 95 x 10, 95 x 10, 95 x 10, 95 x 10

I generally don’t get too excited about rows, but being able to do these put a huge smile on my face.

1b. close grip bench press with feet on bench

45 lbs x 6, 65 x 8, 85 x 6, 105 x 6, 105 x 6

1c. banded monster walks with blue band

2a. seated side laterals, front raises, and clean & presses, 10 lb dumbbells

-2 sets of 10 for the side laterals

-2 sets of front raises with varying reps that I cannot remember

-2 sets of clean & presses, averaging 5 reps, because I could barely press by this point

2b. double kettlebell curls

8kg x 4 + 6kg x 8; 6kg x 7?

2c. kettlebell triceps extension

12kg x 12 x 2 sets

Uplifting Upper Body Day

While I’ve known for some time that music can help me focus my mind and energy onto a specific task or goal, driving my son’s car this week has reminded me of that truth and especially today. The radio just won’t cut it, and the lack of music made it all too easy for my thoughts to roam and wander in the opposite direction that I wanted them to take. This morning was upper body day…the one training day when I most need the mental focus and determination, because upper body days are challenging. Without Sia reminding me that I’m titanium, invincible, unstoppable and powerful, I’m afraid my positive self-talk took a detour when I turned the corner at Gordon and Guisachan. And yet somehow, I think I managed to pull myself together to get the job done. Yup! I left the gym with shoulders feeling as if they were the size of beach balls, but I am rather happy with what I did this morning.

1a. military press

45 lbs x 8, 55 x 6, 60 x 5, 60 x 5 with the last rep eked out on my tiptoes!

These haven’t been so great of late, and last week was about learning to engage my lats properly. I think I did a better job of that today, although the last set finished a little rougher than I had hoped. As I set up for that set, Michael said that we could up the weight for another set if my rep speed was good. As soon as he said that, I wanted it. Really, I don’t know why…the military press isn’t a favourite. Okay, so  I’m competitive, even with myself. I love a challenge. I love being able to do more, to be better. <sigh> The last couple of reps were a bit tougher, and I was only able to grind out the last rep as I extended myself onto the tips of my toes. Now how being on tiptoe helps finish an overhead press, I do not know. No increase in weight, but my set up was better.

1b. chin ups-using a barbell with my legs on the top of an incline bench

x 10, x 9, x 8 all with an overhand grip

x 8 with an underhand grip

These were easier than I expected but still challenging.

2a. Pendlay rows-bench grip

63 lbs x 10, 83 x 10, 93 x 10, 93 x 10

I feel like these were better today, at least in terms of reps completed. I chose not to go up in weight on the final set in order to maintain my rep range. I’m capable of using a bit more weight than this, but the reps usually drop quickly. My lower back has been a bit achy since Monday afternoon, which I could definitely feel in the position for these rows.

2b. push ups on parallettes

x 8 , x 8, x 8, x 6

The first set was ugly. On one rep the left arm would almost feel as if it were collapsing, but another rep the right arm would slack off. The second set was better for both arms working together properly, but my shoulders were hunching forward. The final two sets, with effort to focus on keeping those shoulders down, were better.

3a. side laterals

15 lb dumbbells x 3 or 4 (too heavy, in my opinion) + 10 lb dumbbells x 10

10 lbs x 10

3b. alternating dumbbell curls, held at end and supination of wrist

15 lbs x 5 (Michael said that was too easy) + 20 lbs x 17

20 lbs x 20

3c. triceps cable pull downs

40 lbs x 11 x 2 sets


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.


Rain, Rows & Pushups

It is another grey and drizzly day in the Okanagan. It was also upper body day. Coincidence? I think not! 😉 I drove to the gym singing Unstoppable along with Sia. On repeat because why not. Some days I need the reminder.

Michael had me do a few warm-up exercises to stabilize my shoulders, because my shoulders do not always play nicely. Let me say now that trying to do push-ups on a band is incredibly tough and humbling.

Then Michael had me do my first two exercises against a 15 minute timer. The challenge was to see how many I could get done in that time, keeping to 8-10 reps per set. For the inverted rows, I used the widest grip on a Swiss bar and had my legs fully extended for 2-4 reps before bending my knees for the remaining reps. The push ups were done on an incline using a barbell. Michael lowered the bar at least twice and had me widen my grip at one point. With the push ups, I also had to make sure that I was rounding my back a bit at the top position.

1a. inverted rows

7 sets of 10, 1 set of 9

1b. incline push ups

8 sets of 10

That was a lot more volume than I usually do with either of those exercises, yet I never felt as if I was close to failure. The final reps of the last couple of sets were tougher though.

2a. seated dumbbell presses with back support

15 lbs x 6 + 20 lbs x 8, 20 lbs x 8, 20 x 8, 8kg kettlebells x 10

The left shoulder was feeling quite fatigued by this point and struggled a fair bit with these presses.

2b. bent over barbell rows, with a plate on my lower back to keep me bent over

75 lbs x 10, 80 lbs x 10, 80 x 10, 80 x 10

3a. triceps pulldowns

30 lbs x 15 x 2 sets

3b. side laterals

10 lbs x 12, 10 lbs x 15

I’m having a confused moment. In my training journal I have written 15 lbs for both of these sets, but I don’t think I actually used the 15 pound dumbbells. I think that was what Michael initially gave me. I’m pretty sure I picked them up, got into position, could barely lift my arms and changed to 10 pounders. Yeah, I am reasonably certain that is what actually happened. Laterals don’t like me and the feeling is mutual.

3c. kettlebell curls

8kg x 9, 8 kg x 2 + 6kg x 5

Michael didn’t see that last set of curls, so he doesn’t know that I dropped the weight or the reps. I don’t like dropping either number, but sometimes I figure that it is better to do so and get some reps than to struggle to get any reps. Honestly, if my arms were fresh, I am confident that I would be able to get more reps; however, by the time I got to this last set of curls, I had to struggle to get those measly 2 reps with 8kg. Even downgrading to 6kg wasn’t enough to allow me to get enough reps.

But I survived.

Yesterday I saw my chiropractor, and he decided that we are going to attack whatever the issue is with my right knee and make it better. While the knee is generally fine at the gym, it tends to be bothersome when I am doing simple things like walking, standing, or going about basic tasks at home or work. It isn’t exactly a painful problem, although it doesn’t feel comfortable. It feels more like things aren’t sitting or lining up properly in my knee. So, after putting me through some motions, my chiropractor believes that the real issue is my right hip. I guess that makes sense. I now have a handful of exercises to do at home every day to attack the problem, and I think that is why my hips feel a little stiff today.

Deadlifts & Delts

I think it will be a very, very long time before my trainer lets me forget about what I could have done on my third deadlift at last week’s competition. He gives me a hard time about it regularly, in good fun, and I really have no other option than to laugh along with him and accept it. Today he quipped about a potential t-shirt slogan along the lines of “You know it’s too easy when nobody cheers your third deadlift!” or something to that effect. I laughed. It’s so true!

My deadlift was a lesson in frustration for so long, that it feels quite remarkable to actually look forward to deadlift day now. Before this last competition, I approached deadlift day with fear and trepidation. My competition deadlifts were so easy and practically effortless, that I suddenly found my attitude completely flipped. Last week’s deadlifts felt really good, so I was excited to deadlift today. Let me tell you something…it’s a good thing we learned a few things about my deadlift from the competition!

Today’s deadlifts weren’t bad. They were probably still better than my pre-competition deadlifts, but they certainly felt tougher than last week’s and my competition lifts. I need to remember that my gym deadlifts are likely always going to be tougher than my competition deadlifts. I can put in the work. I can leave the gym with chewed up hands. I can feel frustrated that my deadlift still sucks and will always suck, but I can be confident that I can perform better on the platform. So, even though today didn’t feel quite as good as I had maybe hoped it would, I am not disappointed or frustrated. This isn’t where it counts.

1a. deadlifts

95 x 8, 135 x 5, 165 x 5, 195 x 3, 220 x 1, 220 x 1-all beltless

The 220 pounds felt heavy, definitely heavier than any of my lifts in competition! The second single was a little better than the first.

3 sets of 8 @ 185 touch & go, beltless

1b. military press

35 x 7, 45 x 6, 55 x 8, 55 x 8, 55 x 8, 55 x 7

3a. block pulls

185 x 8, 185 x 8 both with straps

I am going to have a nice bruise on my shin, not from any of the actual pulls, but rather from rolling the bar out of the way to put the block downs. A silly misjudgment as to where my leg was and how far the bar would roll but what’s another bruise anyway!

3b. side laterals (my favourite…NOT!)

10 lbs x 8, x 7 or 8 followed up by 8 L lateral raises

My left shoulder was making a lot of clunky noises with these today, even with ensuring that my shoulders were pulled back. The L lateral raises did not create any such noises.

3c. plate raises (another favourite)

10 lbs x 10, x 5

My left delt really does not like this exercise. It is burned out and fatigued so quickly.

3d. seated cable rows

80 x 8, 60 x 8, 50 x 8

80 x 7, 60 x 5?, 50 x 8

The first drop set felt tough enough, but the second set was so much worse. Can I blame it on having sore lats, pecs, triceps and abs from Monday?

Of Delts, Dumbbells, and Low Bars

The good news is that my quads are no longer quivering lumps of pain. Instead, my hamstrings have claimed top spot in the pain department. They were sore yesterday; today they are sore to the point of limping. I expected this after Wednesday’s deadlifts. I also expected the upper back stiffness from the paused deadlifts. I expected my lower back to be sore, but I am excited to say that my lower back actually feels rather good! How very odd, but I’ll take that to mean that I was pushing with my legs rather than pulling with my back and that’s a good thing, I think. Soreness will likely be my companion for at least a little while longer, because Michael has switched things up for me. It will get better eventually.

1a. front squats

45 x 8, 95 x 8, 115 x 8, 135 x 8

A long, long time ago, like back near the beginning of my time with Michael, I think I really didn’t like front squats very much. They were hard on my wrists, and I had a heck of a time finding the “shelf” for the bar to rest on. Then we didn’t do front squats for a long time. When Michael did throw some front squats into the mix, I suddenly discovered the “shelf” and my wrists weren’t nearly as bothered being bent back in that way. Now I love the front squat!

1b. floor press

75 x 8, 85 x 8, 85 x 8, 85 x 7

These felt pretty good, even though we are working a slightly wider grip than I usually use. The final rep of the last set was tougher. I lost my right shoulder positioning, and I wound up bringing the bar down to the wrong place.

2. Just because…we threw in a teensy, tiny bit of low bar squats. I might have had difficulty wiping the widest of smiles from my face when Michael said that we’d try a couple of easy reps. Shhh! Don’t tell my chiropractor! I’m joking, of course. We’re taking it easy, and Michael was constantly making sure that I wasn’t feeling any pain or discomfort in my shoulders. I really want to work towards a low bar squat, but I understand the need to take it slow and easy.

45 x 5, 95 x 4, 135 x 2

3a. block pulls

115 x 6, 165 x 3 and this is where my grip began to fail…so this set doesn’t even really count, 185 x 8 with straps, 185 x 10 with straps

3b. side laterals

Remember how I said before that there weren’t many things I hated doing in the gym? Here is another one of those few things!

10 lb x 8, 10 x 8, 10 x 8 but probably actually 9 or 10 or 12…I lose track when Michael pushes me to grind out more than I feel like I can possibly do

3c. plate raises

15 lb plate x 11

15 lb x 5ish, 10 lb x 5ish

10 lb x 12ish

This was my first time doing these. Michael wanted 20-30 reps for that first set. Ha ha! So not going to happen! My left delt fatigued so quickly, and there was no way that I could lift that plate over my head once my shoulder said no more. Obviously I have a weakness that Michael will now target without mercy.

3d. barbell curls

45 x 8, 45 x 8, 45 x 7

Then one set of 10 lb dumbbell curls with wrists bent back x 12 reps, I think. I might have been momentarily distracted by thoughts of throwing a dumbbell at my trainer, which I have to say was the first time I have ever felt even the slightest bit violent towards Michael! Ha! I wasn’t mad at him. He didn’t do anything wrong. As much as I might have made faces over the side laterals and plate raises, I know they serve a purpose and I will always give it my best. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just comfortable enough to let my weakness and dark side show. But I would never actually throw a dumbbell at him!