Angela Descending

It’s probably a good thing that I’ll be going to work in a little more than two hours, because it will be easier to plaster my face with a fake smile and pretend that everything is okay. At least until I move the wrong way and the jolt of pain scrunches my face up momentarily, but most people don’t even notice anyway.

I think I stepped on some loose rock, and the landslide is bringing me down. So many thoughts and no words to say.

1a. floor presses-competition grip, with knees bent, slight arch

43 lbs x 10, 73 x 8, 93 x 5, 113 x 5

with slingshot: 123 x 5, 123 x 5, 133 x 3

Hey! I just realized how much weight was actually on the bar for that last set. Yes, it was with the slingshot, so a wee bit of assistance but not as much as there would be if I was on a bench, but I’m not used to seeing that much weight on the bar when I press. At least I can bench press.

1b. chest supported rows

35 lbs x 14, 60 lbs x 10, 60 x 10, 60 x 10, 60 x 10

These had to be fairly strict, so that I wasn’t extending my back and irritating my already irritated SI joint. The first set was fine. The additional weight was basically fine, but I did have to experiment with my foot positioning to minimize the pressure on my low back.

1c. alternating reverse lunges

with a 10kg kettlebell x 20

with a 12kg kettlebell x 22

with a 16kg kettlebell x 20

switch to split squats with two 16kg kettlebells x 12 each leg

2a. hip thrusts with hip circle and sandbag (I think 70 lbs)

x 16, x 20

 

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Discs & Disappointment

Normally I prefer to blog about my training session as soon after training as possible, because I don’t want my impressions and thoughts to fade from memory before I am able to put them into writing. Even though I trained at 8 this morning, I was rather intentional about not blogging as soon as I got home. It is now 1:30 in the afternoon, and I think I have delayed long enough. My training session was not what I had hoped it would be. In fact, it was mostly an exercise in frustration and pain. The back wasn’t too bad yesterday, but today is an entirely different story.

Yesterday I left my chiropractor’s clinic feeling more optimistic than I have felt for several weeks. There was a measure of relief in knowing that the SI is fine and that this is all disc-related. I’ve been through the disc thing before, although there was no pain in my back then and it didn’t really affect my training. This round of disc issue is different from the pain in my back to the way it affects my training and daily life. I like to think I am fairly independent and self-sufficient. I don’t always like to ask for help, especially not for something I feel should be easy enough for me to do on my own, but even the most simple of tasks presents significant challenge and pain lately. I’m weary of it all.

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 8, 93 x 5, with belt 113 x 5

The front squats didn’t feel very good from the start, although the later reps in each set were somewhat easier than the first couple. Just not good enough to continue.

1b. dips

with small green band x 8

unassisted: x 6, x 5, x 5

It’s been a while since I’ve done dips, so I wasn’t very confident in my ability to do any unassisted. I’m always glad to be wrong when it comes to self-doubts. These didn’t hurt the back really, but there was some mild unpleasant sensations in having my lower half hanging.

1c. seated cable rows

70 lbs x 12, 80 lbs x 12, 80 x 4, 80 x 12, 100 x 10

I’m not sure what happened during the second set at 80 pounds, except to say that the back hurt enough that I just stopped.

2a. front foot elevated split squats

x 12 each

with 10kg kettlebell x 12 each

These actually felt kind of good. No stress on my back which was already in a ton of pain.

2b. double kettlebell curls

8kg x 7, 8kg x 12

That’s quite a discrepancy between the first and second set, and I cannot explain why the second was so much better. Sometimes my second sets just are better, because I needed to prime the movement or simply remember how much effort I need to exert.

2c. standing triceps extensions

10kg kettlebell x 15, 12kg x 12

My chiropractor says it is important for me to continue training, and I would be miserable if I had to give it up. But I’m desperately looking forward to the day I can train without pain once again.

Continuing On

successladder

I think my brain is still in the process of gathering up the pieces, but I have to believe that I will get there eventually. Even if my heart and my brain aren’t there yet, I am too stubborn to stop trying.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill

1a. bottoms up kettlebell presses

10kg x 10 each, 10kg x 8 each

It’s highly satisfying to hit little PRs in the gym considering, or despite, the limitations I’ve been experiencing for the past couple of months.

2a. split squats-with safety bar and flat shoes

75 lbs x 12 each, 95 x 8 each, 115 x 7 each, 125 x 8 each, 125 x 8 each

2b. floor presses-moderate grip, no legs

45 lbs x 10

I didn’t have to do that many reps for the first set, but I had to fiddle with my leg positioning in order to find what would be the least bothersome to my back. Michael didn’t want any arching, but having my feet in the air and bracing is too painful on the back. Although I’ve been find with my knees bent and feet flat on the floor, today wasn’t super comfortable. What actually felt the best was to have my left leg bent and my right leg out straight on the floor. There was still a small arch in order to have some sort of good shoulder positioning, but I think it was small enough to not be a bother.

65 x 8, 90 x 8, 105 x 8, 105 x 6

I think these were all reasonably solid reps with decent speed.

3a. glute ham raises

x 10 just bodyweight

10kg kettlebell x 10

3b. single arm kb press while kneeling on a bench

10kg x 10 each x 2 sets

These felt a little tough, especially as each set wore on. I’m also not convinced the back liked these a whole lot, but it wasn’t too bad.

3c. single arm kettlebell row

16kg x 12 each x 2 sets

While the weight wasn’t overly challenging and I could have gone up on the second set, I think the better decision was to stay at the same weight rather than risk aggravating the back. There wasn’t significant pain during these, yet I could feel a bit of pressure in the back.

3d. ab wheel x 0

Despite having no troubles using the ab wheel earlier in this injured season, I just couldn’t do it this morning. I started to roll out but didn’t get too far.

hanging knee raises x 12, x 0

These were generally okay, except for the last rep. I’m not sure what I did…maybe lifted my knees too high or too fast or flexed my back a bit…I don’t know, but that last rep hurt. A fair bit. Tried for a second set and the very first attempted rep hurt, so I just hung out until my grip began to fail.

And just like that I had a decent training session, maybe one of the better ones I’ve had in the last week or two. Still so far from where I want to be, but focusing on what I can do is more productive than moping over what I can’t do.

Squats & Presses

The lower back is still cranky, very cranky and achy. It’s little things that cause the most bother and discomfort and pain. Sitting which I try to limit to the toilet and the car. Getting out of the car. Laying on my side with my knees pulled up. Bending forward to pick something up. Sitting on the floor at the gym, leaning forward to put on my socks and shoes. Getting up from the bench after pressing with heavy dumbbells. Lowering my body to the floor. At times I feel as if I am moving like an old lady, but I also think that most of the time my level of pain or discomfort isn’t even noticeable to anyone but myself. My coach notices most of the time…when I can’t quite keep it hidden. 😉 But, for all that is not easy to do right now, I am glad that there is still plenty I am able to do without too much bother. I might not be able to deadlift for a while yet, but I can still squat.

1a. squats-low bar, sleeves

45 lbs x 10  Michael had me experiment with bar position for the last several reps to see the difference in my back angle between high and low bar. There wasn’t much difference.

95 x 7, 125 x 7, 145 x 7

with belt: 155 x 7, 165 x 7, 170 x 7

total volume: 6435 pounds

Depth is still questionable. I’m not entirely certain if that is due to an actual restriction in the lower back or just a subconscious restriction to protect the lower back. Either way, it is a little frustrating. My depth isn’t super terrible…probably right about parallel, but another inch deeper would be better when it comes to competition. I’m not too worried about it yet.

Despite the depth issue, these squats were pretty good. Michael said he’s happy with them and that they are an improvement…that I’m getting my squat mojo back! The final set was virtually as fast as any of the earlier ones, and I believe my bar path was good overall.

1b. bench press-competition grip

43 lbs x 10  I think Michael noticed the expression on my face as I got up from the bench after this set. Of course, the weight was negligible; however, the lower back wasn’t too happy with arching. Michael recommended benching with my legs up, because doing so would only make my bench stronger without putting more stress on my back.

63 lbs x 7 I had my feet in the air for this set, but the lower back actually hurt more in this position than it did with the arch.

83 x 7, 100 x 7, 105 x 7, 105 x 7

total volume: 3622 pounds

The working sets were done with my feet on the bench rather than in the air. This seemed more comfortable on the back, and I managed to keep myself from using leg drive.

2a. barbell split squats-high bar position

95 lbs x 10 each, 105 x 10 each, 105 x 10 each

Split squats are a funny animal. With the left leg planted on the first set, my balance was atrocious. Same set, right leg planted was so much better. For the second set, my balance troubles switched legs. The final set was easier overall, but finishing off the final rep was torture and there was a definite pause between finishing that rep and being able to rack the bar thanks to jelly leg syndrome.

2b. chest-supported rows-keeping constant tension, using 2-16kg kettlebells

3 sets of 12

2c. flat dumbbell presses-with feet on the bench just like the barbell presses

34 lbs x 10 x 3 sets

I think these presses were okay. My biggest struggles were in getting into position on my back with the heavy dumbbells and then getting back up after. Michael has some pity on me since my back is injured, so he’d take the dumbbells from me so I could sit up. Normally I could do it on my own, even with the dumbbells, but the current state of my back makes that uncomfortable and difficult. He did offer to hand me the dumbbells once I got into position, but I’m too stubborn and managed to get into position without too much trouble.

 

Lack of Sleep Leg Day

While I have no issues with ‘falling back’, ‘springing forward’ is a struggle. I haven’t slept well for the past two nights, but I don’t think I can wholly blame Daylight Savings Time for that. Yesterday morning was the first time in many years that I actually slept through my alarm! My daughter actually turned on my bedroom light and might have even given me a shake before I actually woke up…all while my alarm had been ringing for at least 10-15 minutes. I went to bed around 11PM last night, fell asleep quite quickly, started to dream, then woke up 15-20ish minutes later. I did not fall back asleep until at least 2AM, if not even later. A morning training session meant I had to get up, even though I desperately wanted to stay in bed. Thankfully, I could try to have a nap this afternoon. Maybe. Or not. I can sleep in a little bit later tomorrow. Also, I have coffee!

1a. split squats

warm-up: 8kg kettlebell x 8 each leg

with barbell: 45 lbs x 10 each, 75 lbs x 10 each, 100 x 10 each, 110 x 10 each

It was nice to have a barbell on my back; it’s been a while! Low bar position. These were relatively easy, although I was gasping for air and had to take a knee after the final set. I might have been content to stay at 100 pounds for the final set, but Michael made a comment and I added some more weight to the bar. The lower back felt perfectly fine.

1b. dumbbell presses while laying on a foam roller

25 lbs x 12, 34 lbs x 10, 34 x 10, 39 x 8

2a. front squats

110 x 4

Quite honestly, this set felt heavy from the moment I moved to unrack the bar. As I was stepping back and preparing for my reps, I could not recall how much weight was on the bar, but I assumed that it was more than what it actually was. It felt heavy. So heavy and uncomfortable. I still have tender spots on the fronts of both my shoulders from last Friday’s front squats. Michael only wanted me to do 3 or 4 reps for this set. I felt like stopping after the third but toughed it out for a fourth rep. Each one felt slow and tentative.

130 x 5

After the first set, Michael said to try a slightly different grip…as in essentially not holding onto the bar at all. I did one rep that way before racking the bar and resetting myself for normal front squats to finish the set. Not holding the bar felt heavier and unbalanced and I didn’t like it. The rest of the set was slightly better but still slow and heavy feeling.

130 x 6 with belt

I don’t know if it was a result of the belt or not, but this final set was the best of the bunch. My reps were faster, smoother, and they felt easier.

2b. bench press-touch and go

93 lbs x 8 competition grip

93 lbs x 10 slightly wider grip, roughly a centimeter in from the outer knurling

This set actually felt and looked pretty good despite the wider grip. It wasn’t a major change to my hand positioning, only a centimeter or so, but shoulder health is always the primary concern when making grip adjustments. The shoulders felt fine this set, but the right shoulder felt ever so slightly sore a few minutes later, which meant that Michael had me go back to my regular grip for the final set.

105 lbs x 8 competition grip

3a. some kind of seated pulldown, around a 45 degree back angle

100 lbs x 12, 100 x 8

3b. flyes

10 lbs x 20, 15 lbs x 15

3c. incline dumbbell curls

10 lbs x 15, 10 lbs x 6 + 15 lbs x 4 + 15 lbs x 11 standing

I just now realized that I was able to set up for my bench press with an arch without obvious discomfort to the lower back! Even though I had been given the okay to arch while pressing, getting into that position hasn’t been achieved without facial contortions from lower back discomfort. I don’t think I felt any of that today. Aside from sitting in the car this morning, my lower back has felt fairly decent over the weekend, which is an improvement over most of last week. I have an appointment with my chiropractor tomorrow, and I am desperately hoping that he will give me the green light to resume back squats and deadlifts. It is time to start prepping for Provincials, and I kind of need to put a barbell on my back. Although I can ultimately do whatever I want to do, I really do want to be smart with my body and health. However, I am fully prepared to beg, bribe, whine or cry tomorrow if my chiropractor isn’t as agreeable as I would like.

SI, Sleep & Squats

Yesterday’s visit with my chiropractor wasn’t as gloomy as I dreaded. I think my disc is fine. The issue seems to be that the SI joints do not take kindly to hanging out in a squat for an extended length of time. They weren’t designed to do that. So, I learned my lesson, and now I have a couple of exercises to do at home and lots of single leg stuff to do at the gym. The home exercises are super easy…probably the easiest homework my chiropractor has ever given me! Still, I spent most of the rest of the day flat on my back and in pain, and I had yet another less than stellar sleep. Well, I slept okay from 10pm until 2am, but four hours is not nearly enough. I went to the gym this morning and did better than expected considering my morning cup of coffee failed to perk me up.

1a. single arm bottoms up kettlebell presses

8kg x 8 each, 10kg x 4 each, 10kg x 3 + 3 each

29 lb dumbbell x 3 each

The left shoulder sucketh. The right arm was completely capable of doing a few more reps, but the left arm just wouldn’t, not even if I tried to give some assistance with a push from the legs.

1b. decline single arm kettlebell rows

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

2a. incline barbell push ups

x 10, x 8

with 30 lb sandbag on back x 6 + 8 bodyweight

I think the sandbag is 30 pounds. Those six reps felt really tough, so I’m kind of amazed that I could finish off with eight more reps once Michael removed the sandbag.

2b. chin ups

with barbell + incline bench x 8

with red + small green band, neutral grip x 9

with both bands, wide pronated grip x 8, x 8 with a 6-8 second hold on last rep

2c. elevated split squats, both feet on 4″ boxes

x 16 each side, x 15 each

x 15 each with hands behind head and shoulders tight

Oh how the legs burned by the end of each set of split squats! Yesterday’s 20 rep belt squats and Bulgarians combined with these split squats means that my legs are going to be a little sore and rubbery. At this moment in time, I don’t know if my final training session of the week will be early tomorrow morning or later Friday afternoon. I could end up training three days in a row, which wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened and would not be the end of the world. I just need sleep.

 

Squats, Squats & Squats

Thanks to Remembrance Day last Friday, I was able to enjoy a couple of extra days of rest. To be perfectly honest, I don’t actually enjoy having extra rest days, but I know they are important. And sometimes the rest really does a body good!

1. overhead squats, with a 2 second pause at the bottom

43 lbs x 8, 63 x 6, 63 x 6, 70 x 6 PR

I was able to hang snatch the bar for each set. The first three sets were decent, while the last set’s hang snatch was a little rougher, but I’m improving. My biggest problem is usually over-thinking, particularly with movements that I’m not familiar with or are more intricate. I want to get it right, but I need my brain to process all the details before my body is comfortable doing what I want it to do. I am the sort of person who has a length of wooden dowel, which means that I am also the sort of person who will practice hang snatches in my living room.

2a. Anderson squats, high bar

95 lbs x 8, 115 x 3, 145 x 8, 145 x 8, 145 x 8, 145 x 8

Last week I did 145 pounds for my final set, so four sets at that weight is an improvement. The third working set was a little rough and tough, but the final set was much better.

2b. bench press with Swiss bar, touch and go, medium grip

33 lbs x 8, 53 x 7, 73 x 10, 83 x 10, 93 x 6 + 3 with wide grip

These were easier than I expected, I think. Mostly. Somehow I didn’t realize what weight was actually on the bar for the fourth set. My hands were slippery on the final set, so I got stuck on what should have been the seventh rep.

3a. chest supported rows

12kg kettlebells x 12, 12kg x 15, 12kg x 20

3b. incline dumbbell presses

29 lbs x 10 x 2 sets

3c. barbell split squats (wearing flat shoes)

95 lbs x 10 each leg x 2 sets

The first set felt tough, likely due to the overhead squats and the Anderson squats.