Friday, November 30, 2007

Training 11-30-07

Token Asian Roommate and I blasted through this workout in about 50 minutes from walking into the gym to walking out, since we had a dinner with some friends to go to. As a result, the Power Clean learning was dropped from the workout. I think I'll head to the gym for an hour or so tomorrow to practice hang cleans and jump cleans and and do some light Deadlifts.

Week 1, Day 3

5 x 5 x 205

5 x 5 x 130

3 x 5 x 45

Squat form is staying solid as the weight increases. One bad rep today -- 3rd rep of the last set. But even that rep was way better than what I was doing on every rep a short 3 weeks ago. 215 next time, again with the qualifier that I immediately go back down if form struggles.

Press was also solid. Overhead situps yesterday helped me feel the sensation of really pushing my torso through while locking out overhead, which I think helped. 135 next time.

Doing only 3 sets of Chinups across lets me use a bit heavier weight. I'll try 45 on weighted Pullups next week, then 50 on Chinups the week after.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Training 11-29-07

Did a little bit of nothing at the gym today. New Workout Buddy wanted to lift, so I spotted him and did a couple of really light sets of Squats and Bench Press to get the blood moving. Then I did some light work that was worth actually writing down:

Overhead Situps (decline)
3 x 10 x 45

Good Mornings
2 x 10 x 45

10 minutes

Overhead Situps are exactly what they sound like -- situps while holding a weight overhead. It should help build ab strength to help support me on Press.

Good Mornings are a posterior chain exercise in which you place the bar on your shoulders in a Squat position, keep your back straight and bend from the hips until your back is parallel to the floor.

Was a good light exercise. I'll get as much sleep as possible tonight after the Cowboys game and I should be feeling good for the weights tomorrow afternoon. Woot!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Training 11-28-07

Worked out before work, as I'll have to do on every Wednesday. Getting up early is a little rough, but about halfway through Squats I began to feel alive, and by the end of the workout I was feeling fully awake and ready to face the day -- a full 20 minutes before I'm usually even awake!

Week 1, Day 2

5 x 5 x 195

Bench Press
4 x 5 x 225
4 x 225

1 x 5 x 285

12, 9, 8

Squat form was a bit rougher than usual at first, probably because I'd only been awake for half an hour and was still tight. It got much better as the sets went on, and my very last rep was the best of them all. I need to remember to take more time warming up for my next morning workout. 205 on Friday, if the form stays solid.

Missed the last rep of Bench Press, but only by a hair. I stalled about halfway up, but a light spot from Token Asian Roommate was all I needed to get past that point and finish the rep. I'm only benching once every other week, so I'll stay at 225 when it next rolls around.

Deadlift felt good at 285. I like one heavier work set better than sets across for Deadlift. 295 next time.

Chinups for reps were harder than expected, probably since I haven't done them in a while. This is my baseline, so aim for at least one more rep next week.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Training 11-27-07

Generally, I let my hair grow out until I look like one of the Beatles and my hair is constantly in my eyes. Then I shave it all off. My Mom doesn't like it very much when I shave it all off. She says my hair looks good long. My hair's been getting very long lately, so I shaved it all off this afternoon. Sorry, Mom!

4 x 400 meter sprints, 1 minute rest between

Calf Raises
3 x 10 x 150

Spinal Decompression Hangs

When I came in, I was planning to do a heavily scaled down Michael, but I wimped out because I didn't want to draw stares by leaving a treadmill running while going back and forth between the treadmill, the back extension station and a situp mat.

I remembered a WOD from the Crossfit main page that was basically four 400 meter sprints, so I did that on the treadmill instead. I went all out on the last 2 sprints, which might not have been the best idea since this was supposed to be a light workout between lifting days. D'oh!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Training 11-26-07

Thanksgiving vacation is over, and I'm as unmotivated as ever at work. On the plus side, I'm learning that I really really do enjoy this whole physical fitness thing -- reading, learning, doing and teaching anything and everything to do with fitness and, more specifically, lifting weights. I'm feeling more and more confident that I want to do something like this professionally after I quit my current job.

First day on the new program, and an additional friend was added to the stable of occasional workout partners. Good times!

Week 1, Day 1

5 x 5 x 185

5 x 5 x 125

Hang Clean (learning)
3 x 10 x 45

Bent Over Row
5 x 5 x 155

As previously discussed, Squats are starting off light and the focus will remain on preserving PERFECT form as the weight advances. The form was damn good with 185, and I'll move up to 195 next time. If form struggles on the first set, though, move back down.

Press was just a 5 pound backoff from the last time I did the exercise (over 2 weeks ago), but it felt easy. A good sign! Move up to 130 next time.

Hang Cleans were for learning purposes, as the first step in progressing to the Power Clean. I think I did pretty well. Token Asian Roommate struggled, and New Workout Buddy was getting the hang of it by the end. Next time I'll move on to Jump Cleans, and the other two might as well, depending on how they do at Hang Cleans to start.

I'm doing Bent Over Rows like Pendlay Rows -- complete deload on the floor between reps, which makes the movement harder because you lose the elastic bounce out of the bottom of the rep. I don't want to advance too fast on an exercise I'm only doing as assistance once a week, so 160 next time.

Overhead Press & Squats Galore

A disclaimer to begin: this program is a work in progress. I'll probably be revising it as time goes on. I might even come back and edit this post to reflect any such revisions.

First, my goals:
  1. Press my bodyweight (~200 lbs)
  2. Squat double my bodyweight (~400 lbs)
After reviewing some numbers and estimates online, I've decided that the first goal might be a bit of a stretch, but I'm sticking with it. "Shoot for the moon; even if you miss, you'll land among the stars" and all that crap. The second should be attainable, especially since my Squat form is now officially BADASS.

So how am I going to get there? With the following unnecessarily complicated two week program:

Week 1
M: Squat (5x5), Press (5x5), Power Clean (5x3), Bent Over Row (5x5)
W: Squat, Bench (5x5), Deadlift (1x5), Chinups (3x failure, unweighted)
F: Squat, Press, Power Clean, Chinups (3x5, weighted)

Week 2
M: Squat, Press, Power Clean, Bent Over Row
W: Squat, Dips (5x5, weighted), Deadlift, Pullups (3x failure, unweighted)
F: Squat, Press, Power Clean, Pullups (3x5, weighted)

Note that if a set & rep scheme is listed once for an exercise, that scheme is used for all iterations of that exercise unless otherwise noted. Thus, all Squats are for 5x5, all Power Cleans are for 5x3, etc.

Now for some explanation of the reasoning behind the madness:

I'm Squatting 3 times a week because if you don't Squat 3 times a week, you're a pansy. And also because Squat has been the least trained of the core exercises for me over the past few years, so I need to get my reps in to get the weight up.

I'm Pressing heavy twice a week, with Bench and Dips alternating on Wednesdays. This is because My focus is obviously on improving Pressing strength, but I also want to at least maintain my Bench and Dip strength. Plus, I think that working in a variety of pushes will help keep my Press progress from stagnating.

Deadlifting heavy once a week is plenty to get stronger on that lift from what I've read (and experienced), so Wednesday morning is Deadlift time! Power Cleans on Monday and Friday to work the posterior chain and help overall power development. The first few weeks will be learning the exercise with the progression outlined in Starting Strength, since I'm brand new to Power Cleans.

Pullups/Chinups are great assistance exercises for the Press, and I originally had them programmed on every day, but I added in Bent Over Rows for the same reason I added in Bench and Dips -- variety and warding off stagnation.

I'll be doing metabolic conditioning workouts from Crossfit on Tuesday and Thursday, quite heaviliy scaled down at first. I won't be aiming to push myself as hard as those Crossfit guys generally do, at least at first. It's more to keep above a minimum level of GPP ("General Physical Preparedness") and keep the habit of getting into the gym as often as possible. Oh, and to freak people out by doing weird Crossfit things at the gym.

So that's the plan. Modifications will be made as the necessity for doing so becomes obvious, and will be noted on this blog. If you, o random denizen of the internet, have any thoughts or ideas about how I could improve this, please leave a comment!

Training 11-24-07

I'm back from the annual Thanksgiving Family Reunion. It was good times -- I slept in a converted box car decorated with way too much railroad paraphernalia and ate disgusting amounts of yummy food. Surprisingly, I didn't do too bad of a job of sticking to my eating rules. (I refuse to call it a diet, dammit!)

On Saturday, I decided to freak out my relatives by doing some Tabata intervals. 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for 4 minutes per exercise with 1 minute or less of rest while switching between exercises. I didn't keep very good track of my totals, but I recorded my lows:

low: 6 girl pushups (pitiful!)

Dumbbell Deadlift
(30 pound dumbbell in each hand)
low: 10

low: 10


I was wiped out by the time I got to sprints, and the last few felt like sprints but looked more like slow-motion zombie shuffles. I know this to be true because apparently some of my relatives saw me running from their windows and asked me if I had a good jog. D'oh!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Training 11-22-07

Happy Thanksgiving! Spent today with my roomates & some of their family, my aunt, uncle & cousines, and my grandmother. Good times!

Went to the gym for some more maxing and general messing around.

1 x 255
1 x 275

Form work up to a good form double of 225

17 consecutive

Bench was about what I was aiming for, though 285 would've been nice.

Squat form is coming along nicely, though a try with 275 went straight down without any chance for me to push back up. I think I just wasn't ready for it, but I didn't want to try again for fear of losing my resurgent form.

Like Bench, 17 pullups is pretty good and around what I was aiming for, but I would've been happier if I'd broken 20. Maybe next time!

I'm about 80% sure what my new program next week will look like. I'll finalize it over the weekend and write it up later.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Training 11-20-07

Thanksgiving vacation is officially beginning. I'm typing this while sitting in a living room filled with me, my 3 roommates, 3 siblings of said roommates and 1 father of said roommates. It feels like a long college weekend!

Some light work and max deadlift today:

Various light weights to get the blood flowing (didn't keep track at all)

Form work -- I'm starting to get it!

1 x 275
1 x 315
1 x 355

I really wanted at least 365 on Deadlift, but didn't quite get it. I just couldn't get it off the floor. 355 is respectable, though.

The real happiness from this workout comes from the fact that I think my Squat form is on the rebound! Knees pointed out wide over the toes, sit back to at or barely below parallel, and come straight back up. Mainly, just think, "knees out, back straight." Focusing on those two seems to help everything else stay right -- I get to right about parallel, my knees stay over my toes, my posterior chain stays involved, my upper back and chest stay right, and I go straight down and back up. It's like magic!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Training 11-19-07

The first of three mess around/max out days leading up to Thanksgiving break. Woot! I took my time, did plenty of warming up and made sure I was fully rested between all sets/attempts. I've only recorded the successful tries below -- if I tried a weight and didn't get the rep, it's not written here.

3 x 3 x 225
3 x 3 x 205

1 x 135
1 x 155
1 x 160

1 x 55
1 x 65
1 x 80
1 x 90

Form is still the limiting factor on Squat, I think. But it's getting better. I need to keep my knees pointed out over my feet, sit back instead of down, keep my lower back straight and concentrate on using the posterior chain from the bottom.

A note on terminology -- I'm switching to the terms used by Rippetoe in Starting Strength: Overhead Press = Press and Underhand Pullups = Chinups. I'm happy with both maxes here. 155 felt relatively easy on Press, but I couldn't even get 165 above my forehead. I might need to work some partials at some point in the future. We'll see how it goes.

I really wanted 100 lbs on weighted Chinups, but on two seperate tries I got about 60% - 70% up and was stuck. I'll get it yet!

Lessons Learned Thus Far

I've learned a lot since I started actually recording my workouts and trying to learn as much as possible about lifting three months ago. Looking back, it's almost comical how little I knew when I started. I'm sure that, 3 months from now, it'll be comical to look back on how little I know right now. But here are a few of the highlights of what I've learned:

1 - Lifting weights doesn't build muscle. Recovery builds muscle.

That's the biggest mistake I made when starting out in September -- I took a 3-day a week program, looked at my schedule and said "4 days a week works better for me," and proceeded to transform a well-organized program into something that almost ran me into the ground on a couple of occasions.

Working out tears up your muscle and makes you weaker than you were before. Your body then repairs the damage and adds a little more muscle and strength on top (supercompensation). It is this rebuilding process makes you stronger, and if you don't give it enough time to occur between workouts, you'll end up overtraining to some degree.

Maximize your recovery between workouts by spacing your workouts 24-72 hours apart, eating right (pay special attention to getting enough protein -- roughly 1g per pound of bodyweight per day) and getting plenty of sleep.

2 - For strength in non-elite athletes, isolation is basically useless.

Want to get strong? Stop the bicep curls. Now. Seriously. Put those 30-lb dumbbells down and do some pullups. If you want to get stronger, you have to use compound exercises that work multiple joints and muscle groups, because that's the way your body is designed. In the real world, bicep strength isn't important -- pulling strength is. Tricep strength isn't important -- pushing strength is.

Isolation exercises work muscles in a way that you'll never actually use them -- alone and without regard to strengthening the rest of the musculature that would contribute to pushing, pulling, lifting, dragging or carrying heavy stuff. Compound movements work all muscles involved in a certain motion in the proportion to which those muscles contribute to that motion. That leads to a high level of balanced, functional strength.

3 - You are what you eat.

We exercise buffs rarely admit this publicly, but what you eat is possibly more important than how you exercise when it comes to how you look. If you want to look like a fat slob, eat like a fat slob: twinkies, doritos, cheesburgers, etc. If you want to look like you're fit, eat like you're fit: veggies, fruit, lean meat, whole grains.

Diet also has a big impact on performance. If you want to be as "strong" as Kate Moss, eat like Kate Moss: celery, water, water, celery and water. If you want to be as strong as a powerlifter, eat like a powerlifter: meat, eggs, milk, and veggies.

Yes, it's important to train hard in order to get stronger or look better. But if you don't give your body the right "raw materials" to use in recovery (see #1), then your results will be less than optimal.

4 - A training partner is essential.

I don't have a regular, every-day training partner. And I don't mind it -- I like being able to do my own thing in the gym and not worry about keeping someone else happy. But I do have a roommate who trains with me once or twice a week, and having him there has been invaluable to my progress. He keeps an eye on my form, helps keep me motivated, and keeps me honest when I'm tired and start trying to cheat a little bit on the last few reps.

If you can't get somebody to work out with you at least some of the time, invest in a video camera. Video a few of your workouts so that you can see what you're doing and spot any weaknesses or technique flaws. Post the videos online and ask for tips or advice. It'll act as both motivation and a chance to learn.

5 - I love this crap.

I thought I liked working out before, when I did so with no real plan and with no real attention to what I was doing. But now that I'm learning as much as I can, keeping track of what I'm doing and trying to make educated, practical decisions about what I need to do in order to improve, I'm having twice as much fun as I was before. Seeing my progress (or lack thereof) and finding ways to improve or fix problems is an incredibly satisfying experience for me.

Based on what I've learned over the past months, I'll be starting a new and improved program next week. I'll be lifting 3x a week instead of 4, so I'll have adequate recovery time between sessions. I'll be refining my exercise selection in order to meet specific goals and hopefully facilitate slightly shorter, more intense workouts. I'll be adding some general conditioning twice a week in the form of Crossfit.

Early this week, I'll test some maxes and goof around. I'll do whatever I can figure out for workouts while traveling for Thanksgiving. Then next week the fun starts! Here's hoping that I've got a better grip on what I'm doing this time than I did last time!

Training 11-17-07

I was in Memphis for the weekend, so I didn't have a chance to get a normal lifting session. On Saturday, however, I went to the hotel gym, grabbed some 20 lb dumbbells and did Tabata Thrusters.

The Tabata protocol is simple but intense: 20 seconds of exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times for a total of 4 minutes (2 minutes 40 seconds of work, 1 minute 20 seconds of rest). If you want to get a hard workout in really fast, try it. I spent a total of about 12 minutes in the gym -- 5 minutes warming up, 4 minutes of Tabata, and 3 minutes sprawled on the gym floor sucking air afterwards.

Here's how I did (It was my first time, so don't laugh):

Tabata Thrusters
40 x 10, 10, 10, 9, 7, 6, 5, 5

Total reps: 62

Not too shabby for a first try, I think. I lost a couple of reps on the last 2 sets because I was so wiped out that 10 seconds of rest time wasn't enough for me to put down the dumbbells, take a step to the right, jot down my reps for that interval, take a step back to the dumbbells and pick them back up.

This week will be a "whatever I feel like doing" week, and then the training routine will be changing after Thanksgiving. I'll even set goals! More on that today or tomorrow.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Training 11-15-07

The Day the Squats Died...


4 x 205
2 x 5 x 205
3 x 205

Squats - focus on form!
3 x 7 x 135

5 x 5 x 225

3 x 5 x 275

Pullups (underhand)
2 x 5 x 40
4 x 40
2 x 3 x 40

Squats were just plain terrible. Even when I got a full set of 5, the form was atrocious. I've decided to go all the way back to the beginning, a la Starting Strength. I started with an empty bar, and added weight in 10-pound increments until I got to a weight where my form was not absolutely, 100% perfect. I then did 2 more sets at that weight, and called it a day.

From here on out, that's what I'm going to do. Focus on form above all else, gradually increase the weight ONLY as long as I can do so with perfect form, and drill it into my head. Also, no more Front Squats for at least a few months, until I get the motion of a perfect Back Squat burned into my mind and body for all eternity.

Bench was solid, only arched on the last rep of the last set. Also kept my head off the bench for most reps, which is good. 235 net time!

Deadlifts were ok, but the back rounded on the 4th and 5th reps of the last 2 sets a bit. Could be because my glutes and hamstrings were already worn out from so many Squats. 275 again.

I used up all my time on Squats, so I only had 8 minutes before the gym closed for pullups. Rest was minimal, so I expected to lose a few reps compared to last time. Stay at 40 for now, and I should be able to get all the reps next time, with adequate rest.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Good Carbs!

I didn't lift yesterday. I forgot that I had a meeting after work until 8, and I'd already arranged to go out with friends at 8:30, which if I hadn't had that silly meeting, would have given me plenty of time to go home, work out and shower. D'oh!

But it's not all bad. I'll get a bit of rest, which I'm beginning to suspect is the missing element in my current program. Hopefully the extra rest will help me fix my Squat problems on Thursday.

Since I have no workout to report, let me ramble for a bit about nutrition. A few months ago, I was of the opinion that nutrition was unimportant and what really mattered was working hard in the gym. Boy was I wrong. Working hard in the gym matters. A lot. But nutrition is probably even more important.

Since about a month ago, I've been basing my diet on the paleo diet. The basic idea is this: only eat things that, in theory, you could go outside, pick up off of the ground (or out of the water) and eat. This means that pretty much all meat is ok, most veggies, fruits, and nuts. But no bread, pasta, potatoes, legumes, dairy or processed food.

Some people would call this a low-carb diet. I disagree. It's not a low-carb diet, it's a good-carb diet. Let me explain what I mean by this.

From the time I was a kid up until I took bread, pasta, etc. out of my diet, I would become very emotionally and psychologically unstable if I was hungry. If I hadn't eaten in a few hours, I was either on top of the world or I hated it. Something as small as stubbing my toe or thinking about having to go to school the next day could send me from one end of the spectrum to the other in seconds. I learned to control it by eating often and making sure that I always had food close to hand. My stomach literally controlled my mood, and to an extent, my life.

Now I realize that this pattern was the result of a post-carb crash. Traditional high-carb foods such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes cause a big spike in blood sugar after you eat them. Most of my meals would be full of whole grains, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc., which would spike my blood sugar levels and make me feel good for a couple of hours. Then, as my body released insulin, my blood sugar levels would plummet and I'd be moody. Since I started avoiding these foods, I've noticed that my mood is much, much less dependent on the state of my stomach, because I avoid blood sugar spikes and the lows that come after them.

So what makes the carbs from bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc. "bad" and other carbs "good?" Well, the good carbs, those that come from veggies, fruits, nuts, milk, etc., promote a slow, long-lasting boost in blood sugar levels instead of the spike that comes from eating the bad carbs found in bread, pasta, etc.

A carb source's status as "good" or "bad" is determined by its rating on the glycemic index:
  • Low glycemic index = slow, long-lasting blood sugar boost = good
  • High glycemic index = fast blood sugar spike = bad
Following a diet that has a relatively low glycemic index has been shown to reduce the likelihood of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and other conditions. Also, you avoid what I call the "after lunch nap syndrome," where you feel lazy and tired after meals. By getting my carbs from fruit, veggies, nuts, and other low glycemic index sources, I've found that my energy level stays higher throughout the day, I no longer get moody when I haven't eaten, and I don't get tired in the afternoon or early evening like I used to. I'm not eliminating carbs; I'm just being picky about my sources.

So this isn't a low-carb diet because I'm not trying to minimize the amount of carbs I eat. Instead, I'm cutting out carbohydrate sources with a high glycemic index, and only eating the good carbs. On this diet, I average 170-200g of carbs a day, which, while it is below the 271g recommended by the USDA, is more than enough to keep my body properly fueled. (I personally don't think much of the USDA's dietary recommendations, anyway, but that's another post.) As a result, I feel better, I'm healthier (I think), and my stomach no longer controls my mood. I call that a win.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Training 11-12-07

Monday, Monday, Monday. On the plus side, I'm taking the day off on Friday and getting a most-expenses-paid trip to Memphis this weekend! Beale Street, here I come!


2 x 5 x 215
2 x 215 (lost tension in posterior chain)
5 x 215
3 x 215 (just failed)

Bench Press
4 x 5 x 225
4 x 225

3 x 5 x 275

Pullups (overhand)
3 x 5 x 40
2 x 4 x 40

Squat was disappointing. There's got to be something about the form that I'm just not getting. While talking about it with Token Asian Roommate, I developed a suspicion that I might be trying to bring my hips forward and under myself at the bottom of the rep when I get tired. I need to focus on keeping the hips back and pushing straight up. 215 again until I get it right!

Bench Press is coming along nicely. Form is pretty easy, so all I have to think about is getting set, getting tight and going fast. Was really close to the last rep on the last set. Should be able to get it next time!

Deadlift was seeming to push back with the heavier sets, so I'm back to working 3 sets of 5, at least for now. Form was iffy on the last rep, but I should be able to get 285 next time.

Pullups are also coming along. Underhand is easier than overhand, so I should be able to get a full 5 sets of 5 next time.

Overall, I was really fatigued towards the end of this workout. I was getting a headache, and had a tingly feeling almost like a pinched nerve from the front of my left shoulder down to the pinkie of my left hand. It's a good sign that I'm working hard, but I'm glad I'll be mixing stuff up with a new program in a couple of weeks. I'm thinking that should help with the fatigue and hopefully give my numbers a boost.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Training 11-9-07

Just finished a late evening of poker with the roomies and friends. Making this posed based on my notes from earlier this evening. Must... sleep...


5 x 5 x 205

Bench Press
3 x 5 x 225
3 x 225
4 x 225

5 x 135
5 x 225
3 x 5 x 275

Pullups (underhand)
3 x 5 x 40
2 x 4 x 40

Squats were pretty solid. I notice that my form gets better when I feel like there's someone watching me, so I have to do it right. So just always assume that people are watching me critically, so I'll do it right! 215 next time.

Bench Press was better, though I couldn't convince my spotter for the last set not to touch the bar. I got the first 3 100% on my own, I think I got number 4 on my own, and though I didn't really feel him pulling up, I think the 5th rep wouldn't have happened without him. That's why I only counted four.

Deadlift is pushing back against being trained heavy very often, which is what I'd heard would happen. I need to start learning Power Cleans so I can alternate between the two.

Pullups are progressing. Hopefully I'll get a full 5 sets of 5 next time.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Why you should always lift fast

There are a lot of different ideas out there about lifting speeds. Some people tell you to lift slow, some say lift fast. Some particularly power-mad coaches will even try to prescribe the exact amount of time for the eccentric (lowering) and concentric (raising) portions of the lift, as well as the amount of time you should pause between each.

The slow rep or precisely timed methods might work for advanced bodybuilders who have decades of high-level training under their belts and who don't care how strong they are as long as you can see the definition in their pecs. For anyone other than a professional bodybuilder, there is one speed you should go: fast.

Why should you go fast? Power. Whip out your old high school physics book, and you'll find the following equation:
We can tell from this equation that the longer you take to perform a given task (the "work" part of the equation), the less power you are producing. So a lifter who takes 1 second to complete a rep of with 200 pounds is producing much more power than a lifter who takes 3 seconds to complete one rep with the same weight.

So it takes more power to lift faster. Using more power in your workout means you're building more power. Simple enough.

Why should I care about power, you ask? I'll tell you why. Power is basically the real-world application of strength. Pure strength is isometric, when you're exerting force but nothing is moving. Power is dynamic, when you're exerting force to accelerate or decelerate an object. So while pure strength might enable you to hold 300 pounds overhead, you'll need lots of power to move the weight from the floor to overhead.

There's another reason you should lift fast. Lifting weights at a certain speed builds strength at that speed AND ALL SLOWER SPEEDS. Train fast and you'll be able to lift heavier weights slow. Train slow, and you'll still be able to lift slow, but you won't be building power like you would lifting fast.

Now a bit of qualification: don't pick a super light weight and throw it around as fast as you can. You should lift fast, but controlled. Never lift so fast that you're in danger of throwing the weight away from you or your form breaks down. If you can go that fast, you're not using enough weight! You should lift like you're trying to throw the bar up in the air, but if you find that you're actually almost succeeding in doing so, add some weight to the bar.

Training 11-8-07

For some reason I'm inordinately excited about the upcoming Will Smith movie entitled I Am Legend. I like Will Smith as an actor, and the previews I've seen lead me to believe that the plot will be interesting, unusual (for Hollywood) and provide plenty of opportunities for shooting things, jumping off of buildings, etc. Anyway, I discovered today that this is actually the third cinema adaptation of a novel by the same title by Richard Matheson. After a quick post-workout meal, I'm headed to Half Price Books to see if I can snag a copy.


Front Squat
2 x 5 x 185
3 x 185 (leaned forward and dropped the weight)
2 x 5 x 185

Overhead Press
2 x 5 x 130
3 x 130
2 x 4 x 130

Bent Over Barbell Row
5 x 5 x 165

5 x 5 x 80

Overhead Press Lockouts
2 x 4 x 135
2 x 3 x 135

Front Squat form is still occasionally iffy, as evidenced by the drop in the third set. Fix it! Keeping my focus on pressure in the chest and abdomen and moving fast is helping. Breathe in at the top, NOT while moving down.

Overhead Press is advancing slowly. I sucked on the 3rd set, got pissed off about it, and did better on the last two. I need to get pissed off beforehand, so the sucking doesn't happen. Keep tight and shrug the shoulders at the top.

Bent Over Barbell Row still hurts my right wrist. Not sure what the deal is. Form was a bit loose, but try 170 next time.

Dips were solid. 85 next time. Go fast.

I want to bring up my Overhead Press Strength, and my stick point on failed reps is just above my head, where the triceps take over for the shoulders as the main movers. Working some heavy lockouts (set pins in squat rack just above head, press from pins to top) once or twice a week should help.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Training 11-6-07

Had dinner tonight with my friend from work and a couple of other folk. It was highly enjoyable, and contributed nicely to my "Lucas being more social" project. Woot!


5 x 5 x 195

2 x 5 x 225
4 x 225
2 x 5 x 225

5 x 135
5 x 185
5 x 225
5 x 275
1 x 325

Pullups (overhand)
2 x 5 x 40
3 x 3 x 40

Squat was best when I focused on going all the way down, going fast and pushing as hard as possible. Think about the up when going down and think about the 5th rep when doing the first. Try 205 next time, but if it compromises form, move back down.

Bench was a bit artifically enhanced. I asked a guy to spot me on the last 2 sets, and I told him not to touch the bar unless it looked like I was going to drop the bar b ack on my chest. It didn't work, and he touched the bar as soon as I lost even a little bit of bar speed. On the plus side, it made me go as fast as possible, which helped. Same as with Squat: stay tight, go fast. 225 again next time.

Deadlift was disappointing. My legs felt a bit weak going in, but still, only getting 1 rep with 325 after previously getting a triple on two different occasions is disappointing. I need to keep the pressure up in my chest and abdomen. That should help next time.

Pullups were ok. A bit of short rest, since I was running late for dinner. 40 lbs underhand next time.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Training 11-5-07

Today was a mediocre day at work, but a good day overall. I'm trying to make a conscious effort to be more friendly and open to meeting people. In the past, I'd head into the grocery store, almost completely ignore the people around me, get my food and go home. Today at the store, I made an effort to notice the people around me and give them a friendly smile. A small step, but I felt good about it.


Front Squat
5 x 5 x 185

Overhead Press
4 x 130
5 x 130
3 x 130
2 x 4 x 130

Bent Over Barbell Row
4 x 165
4 x 5 x 165

5 x 5 x 75

Still doing the Crossfit Warmup beforehand, and it makes those Front Squats slow and painful. But I got a full 5 sets of 5 with 185, which I wasn't sure I'd be able to do after the warmup. I initially tried the clean grip, but it just didn't feel right, so I went back to the cross-arm grip. Form got better in the later sets. 185 again next time to solidify the form.

I had form problems on Overhead Press and Bent Over Barbell Row, which explains why the reps jumped around on those exercises. On Overhead Press, I need to focus on keeping my base stable: squeeze the glutes and abs, and keep the shoulderblades back and tight. I think I can get a full 5 sets of 5 next time if I do that. For Bent Over Barbell Row, focus on pulling back with the shoulder blades. I have a tendency to come a bit upright and shrug on the last rep of a set in an effort to get all the way up, and I need to fix that.

A full 5 sets of 5 with 75 lbs on Dips! Nothing will get you noticed in the gym like adding weight to what are usually bodyweight exercises. Guys who could snap you in half start to think that maybe you're not a complete weakling after all. 80 lbs next time.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Progress Thus Far

I've been feeling frustrated by my apparent lack of progress over the past few weeks, and I've been considering switching things up. I'm trying to decide between staying with my current program, switching to an "intermediate" program such as the Texas Method or Bill Starr's 5x5, or doing a ME Black Box Crossfit program. So, before making this decision, I decided I should take a look at the numbers so far.

A quick rundown:

Squat weight increased from 205 to a best of 225, but I failed to move up to 235 and am in the midst of a deload. Front Squat moved from 165 to 205, but once again, I'm currently deloading after failing spectacularly with 205 the workout after I first got it.

Bench Press has gone nowhere but down. My bests in workout weight (225) and volume were both achieved on day 1. I just worked through a deload to try to get back there, but haven't yet matched my first day totals. Sad. Overhead Press started at 125 and I actually made it to 135, but then hurt my back. Now I've worked back up to 130.

Deadlift has seen nice improvement, probably because I've never done it before. Started at 225 and can now rep 275. I even have done two triples of 325 thus far. Bent Over Barbell row has increased from 145 to 165, but form is still problematic and I may need to do a second deload to fix it.

Pullups and Dips have gone from bodyweight to successful 5x5's of 35 and 70 lbs, respectively. They seem to still be advancing, too, as I expect to best those weights by 5 pounds within the next week for Dips and 2 weeks for Pullups.

I'm frustrated by my progress on both kinds of Squats, Bench and Overhead Press, have been doing well on Deadlift, Pullups and Dips, and am still trying to find my groove on Bent Over Barbell Row. Physically, I think I look better than I did before starting this program. I didn't take pictures, but I'm pretty sure that I've added some size and definition.

But strength is what I'm going for, and I just haven't gotten the results I want. A working Squat of 225, Deadlift of 275, Bench of 220 and Overhead Press of 125 are ok, but not the results I was looking for. The Squat is particularly disappointing, though that's probably to be expected since I'd neglected my lower-body training for so long.

For now, what I'll do is hit this program as hard as humanly possible for two and a half more weeks. I'll try to blow through my deloads and push as hard as possible to get the weight up as much as I can on every single lift before Thanksgiving.

I also noticed, looking over my log, that I'm on the verge of falling back into the trap of giving myself a free pass for missing reps or not giving 100% intensity with the mindset that I can do more reps to make up for it. Fix that, go hard for two weeks, and re-evaluate at Thanksgiving.

A full breakout of the important numbers is below. "Work weight" refers to the amount of weight I have on the bar when doing my work sets. "Volume" refers to the total weight lifted for the workout (sets x reps x weight). "Best work weight" refers to the heaviest weight with which I completed a full 5 sets of 5. "Best volume" is just the highest single-day volume thus far.

Starting work weight: 205
Starting volume: 5125
Most recent work weight: 195 (deload)
Most recent volume: 4875
Best work weight: 225 (10-2-07)
Best volume: 5625 (10-2-07)

Front Squats
Starting work weight: 165
Starting volume: 4125
Most recent work weight: 175 (deload)
Most recent volume: 4375
Best work weight: 205 (10-25-07)
Best volume: 5125 (10-25-07)

Bench Press
Starting work weight: 225
Starting volume: 5625
Most recent work weight: 225
Most recent volume: 4275
Best work weight: 225 (9-10-07)
Best volume: 5625 (9-10-07)

Overhead Press
Starting work weight: 125
Starting volume: 3125
Most recent work weight: 130
Most recent volume: 2730
Best work weight: 130 (9-25-07)
Best volume: 3250 (9-25-07)

Starting work weight: 225
Starting volume: 3375
Most recent work weight: 275
Most recent volume: 5475
Best work weight: 275 (11-1-07)
Best volume: 5475 (11-1-07)

Bent Over Barbell Row
Starting work weight: 145
Starting volume: 3625
Most recent work weight: 165
Most recent volume: 4125
Best work weight: 165 (11-2-07)
Best volume: 4125 (11-2-07)

Starting work weight: Bodyweight
Starting volume: 34 reps
Most recent work weight: 40
Most recent volume: 760
Best work weight: 35 (10-26-07)
Best volume: 875 (10-26-07)

Starting work weight: bodyweight
Starting volume: 57 reps
Most recent work weight: 75
Most recent volume: 1800
Best work weight: 70 (10-25-07)
Best volume: 1800 (11-2-07)

Training 11-2-07

Friday was an interesting day. I did a half-day at work (to make up for working last Saturday), and then drove to Austin to hang out with some friends. In between, I had about 30 minutes to squeeze in a workout.

B (abbreviated)

Front Squat (deload)
5 x 5 x 175

Overhead Press
4 x 130
5 x 130
3 x 4 x 130

Bent Over Barbell Row
10 x 130
9 x 130
8 x 130

Rest was definitely a factor in this workout. I was trying to get as much into my 30 minutes as possible, so rest was cut short. I think I could've gotten a couple more reps on Overhead Press if that hadn't been the case. Overall a decent effort for a short day.

Oh, and I ran a 5K on Sunday. Chip time of 27:24. Not bad considering I haven't run in a while and we did a 1-mile warmup beforehand.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Training 11-1-07

I've been doing some thinking about updating or changing my program. It feels like I haven't made much progress on any lift except for those that are new to me (Deadlifts, weighted Pullups and Dips). I'll go back and look at the numbers, then figure out what to do.

(Crossfit Warmup beforehand! Woot!)


Squats (deload)
5 x 5 x 195

Bench Press
5 x 225
2 x 4 x 225
2 x 3 x 225

5 x 135
5 x 185
5 x 225
2 x 5 x 275

Pullups (underhand)
5 x 40
2 x 4 x 40
2 x 3 x 40

I'm re-figuring out form on Squats. I think I'm going to go back to high bar. I just can't get a stable, comfortable position with a low bar. The main thing, as Token Asian Roommate pointed out, is to keep my palms on TOP of the bar and my wrists flat, and create a solid platform for the bar on my shoulders. I did that on my last two sets, and it felt much better.

On the first two sets of Bench Press, I tried to keep my head off of the bench as advised in Starting Strength. It made me feel much less stable, and those sets were, honestly, crap. I abandoned the head thing and just focused on staying tight and pushing hard, and the last three sets felt much better.

This was the sub-max day for Deadlift. Next time I'll go back up to 325 and shoot for 4 reps there.

Pullups were hurried because the gym was about to close and, on top of the short rest, I was probably already a bit fatigued from teh pullups in the warmup. 40 lbs overhand next time, shooting for at least as many reps as today.