Showing posts from December, 2011

Deadlift grooving and an Overhead Press PR

For the past two days, we've actually gotten some snow up here in Canada, Oakville, Ontario to be specific.  Despite being late for Christmas, the snow is a welcome if inconvenient confirmation that winter is upon us.  Once it's impossible to see the grass, I start mentally counting down days until golf season opens again.  If we're lucky, we'll have to suffer through about 100 days of winter before diehards start braving the mushy early spring conditions on the links.

In the meantime, I've got some strengthening to do and today's snowfall meant most of the normal gym population at the Oakville YMCA would have an excuse not to show up.  Since this particular gym isn't stocked with competitive lifters, I actually prefer if it's mostly empty.  If you want to get stronger and you can't find a gym where there are other competitive lifters, it's better to be the only fish in the pond rather than a competitive fish in a non-competitive pond.  At least…

Squat de-load workout

After polluting my system with all manner of Christmas treats for the past two days, I woke up today feeling like the Tin Man in need of oil.  While I feel like there is a certain amount of over-hyping going on over the whole gluten thing, I have to admit, when I don't eat tremendous amounts of wheat-based foods, it does seem like my joints feel better.  Whether it's the gluten or the general malaise and over-eating that comes with holidays with family, my body is looking forward to a few days of clean eating.

After reviewing my training log, I decided I'd lower my squat volume and take a de-load week.  I have a pretty high intesity deadlift workout scheduled for Thursday and my hips have been asking for a break the past two weeks so it seemed like a good time.  Turns out, my squat felt good today and I seemed to have re-discovered my squat groove.

I don't know about anyone else but there are days when my squat feels like my body is a bunch of giraffe parts and there …

Richard Talens has an effect.

Richard Talens and Brian Wang are the founders of  To quote an article that included Fitocracy as one of 2011's most exciting NYC startups, "While in college, they realized they had to make a lifestyle change and thus became “addicted to fitness”. Inspired by their experience, the two built a platform that tracks workouts and turns personal fitness into a social game."

I have alot of fun at logging my workouts to accumulate points, quests and challenges.  It gives an extra little bit of motivation to get me through tough workouts or even to the gym at all if I've had a tough day or I'm feeling a little tired.  According to the article mentioned above, the site is having that effect on a lot of people and over 1,000,000 workouts have been logged on the site since the inception of its current platform.

In addition to creating a tool and a community that motivates fitness minded individuals to get their workouts done, I experienc…

Christmas Eve Front Squats and Bench Pressing

After dealing with terrible traffic and super crowded malls yesterday, I was looking forward to today's workout in the hopes that the post-workout high would carry me through the remainder of today's shopping chores.

I re-introduced front squats as a solution to easing some of the shoulder pain I've been getting.  I'm hoping that limiting back squats to once a week will give my shoulders a bit of a break.  The front squats will also help with conditioning my upper back and fixing some quad weaknesses.

I started very slowly today but will look to increase the poundages in coming weeks as I get re-acclimated to the front squat groove.

Front Squats:  135x5x3 sets, 185x5x2 sets, 225x5x3 sets

None of the sets were difficult but I could definitely feel stress in supportive muscle groups that weren't used to being worked this way.

Bench presses didn't start off well with my shoulders threatening to bark up a storm.  As I proceeded through my warm up sets, things star…

Deficit deadlifts and no overhead press PR for me

After taking last week off from deadlifting, I was looking forward to getting back into it today.  Today's plan was 5 sets of 2 off of an approximately 2" deficit (the width of a 45# plate).  Next week will be timed singles off the floor with a heavier weight and the week after that, 5 singles pyramiding up to a gym max and then another off week.

Deficit Deadlifts:  225x3, 315x3, 405x3, 495x2x5 sets.

The last two sets of 2 with 495 were tough.  I'll be honest and say that I do not enjoy heavy pulling at all.  It's my best powerlift by far but it's also the most uncomfortable (not painful) lift for me to do.  Sucking it up to do 5 work sets whether singles or doubles is as much a mental challenge for me as it is a physical one.  I'm now working at training volumes I used to use when I was successfully deadlifting much more weight so I'm expecting some nice PR's come February's competition.

By the way, I found this photograph taken by the meet photog…

Is it harder to get strong today?

Smolov, Smolov Jr., Sheiko, 5/3/1, Starting Strength, Texas Method, Max Effort/Dynamic Effort, 5x5, German Volume Training, StrongLifts, etc, ad nauseum.  So many programs, so many choices.

Not to sound too much like an old timer but back when I started lifting weights in 1982, we started with 3 sets of 10 reps and added weight.  Simple linear progression.  Virtually every 'program' of the day was a variation of a linear progression. Sometimes 3's, sometimes 5's, sometimes 1's.  It wasn't very complicated and the talented lifters got real strong.  The rest of us got stronger too.

In the following video from 1989, Bill Cavalier was 44  and Dusty Caldwell, R.I.P. was 41.  Cavalier, one of the greatest deadlifters of all time, lifted as a light 198 lb class lifter and easily hoists 733 lbs.  Caldwell also easily completes a deadlift in the high 600's as a light 242 lb class lifter.  Cavalier's deadlift would be a top 10 deadlift even today based on www.po…

Doing the work

While the internet gives me a forum to share my experiences and to hold myself accountable (if it's written it's real), the internet is also a source of frustration.  Thanks to the internet and multitudes of forums and message boards, every kid that's read "Starting Strength", pored over, and memorized every article on thinks he's an expert because he can regurgitate things he's read.  Never mind that none of these kids have years of training under their belts and none have ever lifted anything heavy.  Coach Rip or Louis Simmons or Dave Tate says so and they repeat it like a mantra.

Equally as frustrating are the internet 'experts' that are so afraid of hurting themselves (are these the kids that grew up never having an unsupervised play date or never rode bikes all day knowing to be home before the streetlights came on?) that they preach "form over weight".  Again, never ever lifting anything he…

re-building the Bench Press and Squat adjustments

I skipped thursday's deadlift workout, not totally intentionally but it got skipped.  My body took advantage of the extra rest to fully recover from the previous weeks' heavy squatting and pulling workload and things mostly felt better today on high-bar squat and bench press day.

I also brought a new toy to the gym, a new set of bluetooth stereo headphones.  The Motorola S10-HD bluetooth headphones have been on sale at a number of different stores and after dealing with cords and crappy sound from earbuds, I figured a bluetooth headphone set had to be an improvement.  Since I have an unusually large cranium, I have to wear the headphones upside down but they're still comfortable enough.  Sound is actually better than the earbuds I've been using because there's a better seal in the ear and I'm actually able to hear some bass in the music.  Not dealing with a cord is a huge improvement.  Because the headphones have a neckband rather than a headband, they're i…

Squat cluster singles

My planned squat cluster singles didn't go as planned.  It became clear very quickly that my lower back still wasn't recovered from last week's workouts.  I had to drop my weights very early in the cluster and was only able to raise them back up a small amount.  Did manage to do an extra two singles though.  Afterwards, along with my lower back, my calves were pretty trashed.  I guess all that unracking, setting up, and re-racking takes a toll.

Squats:  135x10x2 sets, 225x10, 315x5, 365x3, cluster singles (1" rest between singles) 405/415/415/405/365/365/375/375/380/380/380/380

I bumped up my "light day" work weight in the standing military press.  Felt good, glad that the fatigue affecting my squat workout didn't affect my shoulder pressing.

Military Presses:  45x10, 95x10, 135x5, 155x5, 155x5, 155x5

I also bumped up the weight used for barbell shrugs.  I guess progress on 2/3rds of my workout is still a net positive.

Barbell Shrugs:  315x8, 405x5, 455x…

Squat volume and Bench Press cluster singles

I clearly wasn't fully recovered from Thursday's deadlift workout.  Thought I could try powering through it but my first planned work set of high bar squats with 365 almost broke me in half.  I barely got through my second rep and actually thought I was going to dump it over my head.  I took that as a sign and dropped the weight back down to 315.  I finished with a set of 225x20 that I thought would be easy but turned out to be quite hard as my lower back fatigued far quicker than my legs.  I only did that because I wanted to cross of the "baby widowmaker" quest on If you're interested, you can join here.  It's a pretty cool site and I'll admit, it does motivate me to do a little more than I would normally do.

High Bar Squats:  135x10, 135x10, 225x5, 315x5, 365x2, 315x7, 315x7, 225x20

Next up were bench presses.  Warm ups went okay but my shoulders were not really happy with my first work set of 245x3.  I decided to do cluster singles (…

Deadlift day and breaking through a weight-loss plateau

Despite my relative successes within the ongoing process of dropping my bodyweight from a high of 299 lbs in November 2007, I have struggled with breaking through a 'set point' of approximately 240 lbs.   In August of 2010, I managed to get down to 228 lbs  but yo-yo'd back up to 250 by January 2011.  I got back down to 231 lbs in August 2011 but yo-yo'd back up to 240 by the end of September.  I started monitoring my diet in earnest on November 1 and finally managed to break through my August 2011 low point with a weigh-in this morning of 230.5 lbs.    If one were tracking my body-weight over time as if it were a stock price, the 231 lb mark would probably be described as a line of support.   Finally breaking through is a big emotional victory for me and really allows me to visualize my goal weight of 205 lbs.

In addition to following the slow-carb plan described in Tim Ferriss' book, Four Hour Body, I'm also following an intermittent fasting meal protocol wh…

Unexpectedly good squat day

I guess last week's workouts must've done me good.  Today was heavy squats, light overhead presses, and barbell shrugs.  The squats felt great from the first warm-up set.  Like last week I was going to do 10 singles with 405 with minimal rest between each single.  I had no idea doing singles that way had a name but according to this article that ran on T-Nation, it's called a cluster set.  Who knew?

Anyways, I ended up doing the 10 singles in just under 12 minutes.  This workout, I just started my stopwatch when I started the first rep and stopped it after I had completed my last single.  So, when you figure in the time spent un-racking, lifting, and re-racking the weights, my average rest between singles was less than 1 minute.  I counted time differently last week, basically only timing the rest period at approx 1 minute but not counting the time spent actually under the bar.  After comparing the two schemes, I like the running clock version better as it does a better j…

Revenge of the Deadlift workout

Thursday's deadlift workout kicked my butt pretty good.  I've been profoundly sore--in a good way--but today was high-bar squat day, heavy partial squats, and barbell bench presses. Toronto Rex Powerlifting teammate Mark and Trish Boyle's garage gym was open today so I went over to get in a workout with Mark.  Mark and his wife Trish had recently returned from a multi-week trip in Europe that started with Trish's participation as a member of Team Canada at the IPF World Powerlifting Championships.  It was very inspiring seeing Trish lift via live video feed a number of weeks ago.

Mark complained that he was pretty de-trained after three weeks of sightseeing in Europe but he was game to get back into it.  It was good to get back in the garage where there are round, steel plates, chalk, no mirrors, and no bros.

I had planned on work sets of 365x3 reps for three sets but it was pretty instantly clear that my back was not yet recovered from Thursday's deadlift workout.…

Deadlifts and slow-carb diet adaptation

After 4 weeks, I'm starting to get used to the feeling of training on low carbs.  Since I usually have at least one meal before my evening workout, it's never actually fasted training but many times, I will have had less than 50 grams of carbs from low-glycemic sources from 1pm until my workout at approximately 8 pm.  My workouts usually last about 75 minutes and for the first 30 minutes or so--when I schedule my main full body lift (squats or deadlifts), I have a strange nervous energy.  After that, things start to hit a bit of a wall but if I keep the pace up, I'm able to power through the rest of the workout. So far, I haven't noticed much of a loss of strength with the 7-8 lbs lost so far.

Today was deadlift and heavy overhead press day.  I also worked in reverse lunges and pendlay rows.  Deadlifts were 5 singles with less than 2 minutes rest between sets.  I used 545 lbs and by the 5th single, I was pretty gassed.  Still, 5 singles with 545 lbs was the most volume…