Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Deadlift assistance day

This week I've been tuning into the live feed of the 2011 IPF World Masters Powerlifting Championships taking place in St. Catherines.  It has been truly inspirational to see friends and training partners lifting for their country and taking home medals.  As with the Junior/Sub-Junior Worlds that took place last month, I was struck at how many lifters at the World Championship level pull their deadlifts sumo style.
A video from 2008 of me doing a 495lb sumo deadlift in training.  I was about 270 (roughly 40 lbs heavier than I am now) in this video.

That 495 lb sumo deadlift was my high-water mark for the sumo style deadlift.  I've always been a comparatively poor squatter so the sumo deadlift was never the ideal format for me.  Still, after seeing so many top lifters using the style, I thought today I'd give it a shot.  If nothing else, the training variation would be beneficial and the reduced load would give my back a rest.

My sumo sets went like this:  135X5, 225X5, 315X3, 405X3, 455X2, 475X1.  In my final set, I tried to pull the 475 for a double but the second rep was unsuccessful.  A very humbling experience compared to my top conventional deadlift of 606 lbs.  Still, it revealed my weaknesses and for that it was a good day.

I moved next to some half squats with a narrow stance.  I've read that half squats can have good carryover to the conventional deadlift so I decided to do them after the sumo deads.  Again, despite only going down to a point about 3" above parallel, my quad weakness made these very difficult.  Right now, I actually feel stronger taking them to below parallel so I can get my hips and hamstrings into the action.  I think the significant difficulty I'm having with these will actually provide some beneficial carryover to the mid-point of my squat in addition to helping my speed off the floor in the deadlift.

Training movements that highlight weaknesses is tough on the ego but I'm hopeful that improvements will carry over into better competition lifts.  I aspire to reach the heights of my friends lifting in the World Championships but I need to get significantly stronger to do that.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Setting goals and making plans

The week after a meet is usually a week that's easy to take off under the premise of restoring one's batteries after a stressful pre-meet training cycle and the heightened CNS output at the meet itself.  In my case, one doesn't have to twist my arm quite that hard.  Simply put, with no competition in the immediate future, it's really easy for me to blow off a week of training.   I stayed on my diet strategy for the most part so the week wasn't a total write off.  That being said (a phrase I used far too often but after Vivian made fun of me for using "evidently" all the time, I had to find some other space-killer to over-use) I got back in the gym today and started thinking about next year's schedule.

The training session today was mediocre but to be expected after taking a week off.   I had planned on squatting for high reps but all I could do was two sets of 10 with 315.  My knees were sore and I didn't have the endurance to do the 15's I thought I could do.

I followed that with some military pressing.  I haven't done any overhead pressing for about 6 months and it showed.  I worked up to a harder than it should've been set of 2 with 185.  There's alot of room for improvement there and will be part of my program for the foreseeable future.  I finished off this introductory workout with some landmines.  My core and shoulders didn't care for those at all but that means I need to do them more often to rebuild supporting strength.

I did only  two of these variations, it was plenty

As for my plans for the upcoming year, I'm definitely going to lift in the OPA Provincials in January 2012.  After that, I'm torn between taking the rest of the year off to get leaner and get stronger and following through with my original plan of competing in the 2012 CPU Nationals in Calgary (April 9-14) as a geared lifter.  Even though I've been lifting for many years and should be close to my potential (if not already past it), I don't feel over the hill and still believe I can get stronger, significantly stronger.   To do this, will take time and a commitment to hit some weaknesses.  Competitions tend to intrude on the training cycles needed for the remedial work that I need to do if I'm going to get past my current level.  The other option is to lift in the 2012 CPU Classic Nationals (sometime in November) if they are in a reasonably close location.  Travelling across Canada is expensive in both dollars and vacation days and Vivian and I haven't taken a proper vacation for a number of years.   For the next 4 weeks or so, I'll be able to some corrective work and concentrate on losing bodyfat.  After that it's time to start training with an eye towards the 2012 OPA Provincials.  I'll be lifting raw in that meet so it will reduce training stresses significantly.

Powerlifting nostalgia

When I started my powerlifting return--I originally wrote 'comeback' but it's not really a comeback if you never got anywhere the first time--in 2008, I lifted in USAPL meets in Ohio.  I chose those meets for a couple of reasons.  One, I was familiar with the USAPL or at least its earlier version the ADFPA. Two, they had started offering a "raw" division.  Since I wanted to know where I stood relative to my competition, the drug-tested USAPL's "raw" category seemed the most appropriate.  It was at that time that I scanned the USAPL's lifter database to find out who the other lifters in my age and weight class were.  One name I remember reading was Phillip Wylie.  In the three years since, Mr. Wylie has gotten stronger and stronger to the point where he is a top open class competitor and a top master (40-49) lifter, finishing 5th in the open 110kg class and 1st in the (45-49) age division at the recent 2011 USAPL Raw Nationals.  And lest anyone think this was another 'national' meet in name only, think again.  The 2011 USAPL Raw Nationals had over 300 competitors, 18 alone in the men's open 110kg class.  Mr. Wylie truly distinguished himself amongst the best in the country.  5th place with a 705kg raw total!  A total like that would place top 5 (maybe even top 3) in the geared CPU Nationals.

So why am I writing about Phillip Wylie?  Because I follow his powerlifting blogs (and also here) and after reading his post about why he started powerlifting, I started reminiscing about some of my early meets.  I rummaged through some old photographs and found a couple.
1989 ADFPA California State, 90 kg class

1989 USPF East Beach Open, 100 kg class

I managed to find an copy of my meet results from the 1989 ADFPA California State championships and I squatted 207.5 kg, benched 122.5 kg, and deadlifted 260 kgs.  I used a Marathon super suit and Marathon goldline wraps.  I used an Inzer Blast shirt in the bench and deadlifted raw (belt only).  At that time I had been 'powerlifting' for about two years.  I finished 5th out of 7 or 8 competitors.  I remember that meet taking place the weekend after my last final exam on my last class at UCLA.  I had to cut some weight so I remember taking my final exam while in the midst of a 24 hr fast.  As soon as I turned in my test, I went straight to my car, put on an extra track suit and drove 5 hrs north with the heater on in an effort to sweat out the remaining pounds.  Back in those days, you could weigh in the night before so once I weighed in, I met my buddies who were already there and we had our traditional post-weigh-in gorge-fest at a local Denny's.  I went 5 for 9 in that meet so, in hindsight, cramming for the test pulling an all-nighter and then cutting 8 lbs wasn't the ideal pre-meet prep.

The second picture was from a USPF meet that was held on the beach in Santa Barbara.  That meet was in probably the best location I've ever experienced.  I used to lift in the USPF meets at Venice Beach and they were nice but the platform didn't face the beach and Santa Barbara is one of the most beautiful places on earth.  I remember that meet for a couple of reasons.  One, I got picked for drug testing ( I passed, why a lifter with a 1300-1400lb total got picked was a mystery) and two, the best lifter at the meet was a lifter named Mike Porretta.  He was a total beast and had won his weight class at the USPF Senior Nationals the year before.  He did something like 800/500/800 as a 110 kg lifter.  Back in those days, a 2100 lb total was epic.  There was gear but the carryover was nothing like what we get today.

old-timers will recognize this
Those old Marathon super suits were not much heavier than a singlet and blew out with regularity.  I didn't remember training in a squat suit for more than a month before a meet and even then, you wouldn't use your competition suit in training because they stretched out or blew out so fast.  The blast shirt was a joke too.  Harder to put on than today's shirts but with none of the carryover.  If I got 10 kg out of my shirt, that was being generous.

Being nostalgic is fun, at least I'm still stronger than I was in those early years of my powerlifting competitive 'career'.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

100% Raw Easterns, squat videos

After having a chance to review video of my squat attempts from this past weekend's 100% Raw Powerlifting Eastern Nationals, I'm surprised because they actually look worse than they felt.

My opening attempt looked fine but considering it was a weight I was handling easily in training, should've moved alot faster.
200 kg (440 lbs) opening attempt--that didn't look like a weight I could do for reps

While I was squatting it, my second attempt with 207.5 kgs (457 lbs) felt like a near miss.  I let the bar get forward and I didn't have the back strength to good morning it up.  After watching the video, it looked as if the weight was 10 kg too heavy--which doesn't make much sense since I just lifted a weight that was only 7.5 kgs less heavy.
207.5 kg (457 lbs) second attempt--getting pinned sucks.

My third attempt, a re-try with 207.5 kgs, went much better.  Before the meet started, I thought a squat of 212.5 kgs (468 lbs) was in the bag since I had done a couple of singles with 470 lbs in training.  After getting pinned with 457 lbs, I was confused and honestly, a bit discouraged.  Everything about my training pointed to improvement in my squatting but here I was at the meet and I was showing every sign of regressing.  I didn't cut any weight and got some good sleep so I had no game day excuses to fall back on.  My only guess is that I had grown reliant on watching myself squat in the mirror in front of the squat rack and was used to seeing a visual cue for my depth rather than feeling my position.  In all of my attempts I appear to search for depth rather than descending with commitment and blasting out of the bottom position.  Since the new power stations at my gym don't have mirrors in front of them anymore, I'm hopeful I'll re-learn my squat positions so I can lift at the limit instinctively instead of having to think through form cues mid-lift.
207.5 kg (457 lbs) third attempt--much better and a 2.5 kg meet PR

Sunday, September 18, 2011

100% Raw Easterns meet report

Before the meet I had the following checklist:
  1. new raw squat PR
  2. maintain bench press levels
  3. successfully use hook grip in competition
My training had gone well enough to suggest 1 and 2 were attainable and, aside from a comical fall last week, 3 was sure to happen, the only thing I didn't know was how heavy it would let me go.

I ended up weighing in at 107 kgs, comfortably under the 110 kg limit but significantly far from the next lower weight class at 100 kg.  A few weeks ago when I woke up at a surprisingly light 231.5 lbs (105 kgs), I thought there might be a chance I could cut a few pounds and lift at 100 kgs.  Alas, it was not to be as a few cheeseburgers and pizzas soon got me up to my then normal weight of 240-245 lbs.  After that fiasco of gluttony, I decided to implement the "slow-carb diet" as a strategy to gain control over my crazy tendency to over-eat.  So far it has seemed to work as my weight was hovering around 234-235 prior to meet weigh-in this morning.  I may still yet lift as a 100 kg lifter but it'll be sometime in the future.  Right now my goal is to gain control over my eating habits and let my weight settle on its own.  Luckily for now, I'm losing weight but I'm not overly concerned with calorie counting while on this plan.

My squat warm-ups went well, I had a very slight twinge in the area usually associated with piriformis or sciatic pain but other than being noticeable, there was no apparent effect on my ability to squat.  Earlier I had planned to lower my opening attempt to 200 kgs (440 lbs) and the warm up gave me no reason to change from this plan.  My opening attempt was successful although I didn't feel like it was as fast as I would've liked.

I stuck with my plan of going for a small PR on my second attempt and requested 207.5 kgs (457 lbs).  After having hit this number or more in the gym over the past few weeks, I felt comfortable that this should be in the bag.  I still felt that way as I un-racked the bar and got in position.  I didn't feel that way about 1/4 of the way out of the hole as the bar stopped and shifted forward.  I got pinned.  When a "should be easy" second attempt doesn't go your way about a thousand thoughts run through your head in the seconds it takes for the spotters to help you back into the rack and on the walk to the scorer's table to enter your next attempt.

I managed to filter out most of them and settle on the two that I felt would be productive:  stop searching for the bottom of the squat and explode out of the hole.  While setting up under the bar, I also heard fellow competitor, Murray Anderson, shout, "SPEED!!!" or something to that effect.  I got the squat command, went down, came back up, fought through a sticking point and completed the lift.  While not the result I was ultimately hoping for, 207.5 kgs was still a 2.5 kg improvement on my last competition and I learned some thing.

Squatting in front of a mirror caused me to rely on seeing my position rather than feeling it leading to crappy competition squatting.  Boy am I ever glad the YMCA put their new power stations in places where there are no mirrors. 

Moving to the bench press, my only goal was to maintain my bench press poundages from the last meet.  My right shoulder has been sufficiently painful to completely stall any attempt to progress the lift and I've just been trying to slow the decline.  The last meet I managed to lift 142.5 kgs (314 lbs) and I knew it would be a tall order to match that because the most I've lifted with a pause in training was 305 lbs.  My opener with 135 kgs (297 lbs) was smooth but not fast and my second attempt with 140 kgs (308 lbs) was slower than steady.
 My max 3 months ago was 2.5 kgs more than this, the rate of decay of my bench press ability seems to be about 0.8 kg/month.  I suppose I could see a health care professional about this...

Finally, deadlifts.  I always look forward to the deadlift, not because it's my best lift but because it means the meet is almost over.  Invariably, I have more fun training for a competition than actually lifting in the competition.  I took my customary abbreviated warm-up routine (3 reps with 275, 1 rep with 440) and waited for my turn to take my opener with 250 kgs (551 lbs).  It went surprisingly well.

An easy 250kg opening attempt, also a meet PR for the hook grip

The 250 kg opener went so well that I decided I might as well take my normal 2nd attempt jump to 275 kgs.  Prior to my adoption of the hook grip, 250-275 was my normal jump but I hadn't pulled anything heavier than 245 kgs this training cycle due to the hook grip and my issue with tearing calluses.  While I was a little uncertain, to use a golf descriptor, "I didn't come all this way to lay up."
Even though it felt like it took forever to come off the floor, it never felt like I was going to miss the lift.

I ended up calling for a third attempt of 280 kgs but it was too much on this day and it didn't even break from the floor.  Despite not actually lifting it, I managed to tear off a callus (for old time's sake?) AGAIN!

So, along with my first place medal (there was only one competitor in my weight/age class), I got yet another torn callus.  At least now I have a good excuse for taking time off from heavy deadlifts for a couple of weeks.

Much thanks to Toronto Rex Powerlifting Team members Mark and Trish Boyle for coming to the meet to support, assist, and video record my lifts.  Thanks also to Barry McEvoy and 100% Raw Powerlifting for a great experience.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Gym renovations are bad news for the Jersey Shore crowd

The gym renovations at the Oakville YMCA are done and I was very excited and a bit nervous to see what they had done.  They call the gym the "wellness centre" and part of me feared it would be transformed into one big yoga studio with a few small dumbbells and a smith machine.

As Vivian and I drove into the parking lot, it was already evident through the windows that there was at least one additional power rack.  Good news so far...

When I got to the 'wellness centre', I was immediately shocked and amazed.  Somehow, somewhere, some equipment salesman/woman had convinced the Oakville YMCA to create a 'wellness centre' in the style of a training facility.  No, there weren't any sleds or tractor tires but what they had done was get rid of all the stand alone bench press, decline press, and incline press stations and instead install 6 (SIX!) power stations. Each station is equipped with two chinning grips, bar dip attachments and an adjustable bench.
4 of the 6 new powerstations, that's Vivian getting her bench press on

While they aren't full cages, so no reverse band work, they do have band pegs at the base for traditional band work.  The picture above was taken at about 7:30pm on a tuesday night.  Notice how there's no one else there.  There were actually about 5-6 other people using the room while Vivian and I were there but I honestly think this set up scares many of the Jersey Shore wannabe's that normally would be there.

First of all, notice there are no mirrors.  Because it's nighttime, you can see some reflection in the windows but during the day, there would be very little reflection at all.  Not good for the average GTL'er that wears a tanktop so they can constantly check out their pump every two minutes.   Second, those are power racks.  The average GTL'er doesn't know what to use a power rack for unless it's barbell curls or somewhere to rest the bar in between sets of sloppy underhand grip barbell rows.

While every pro and college level weight room has long ago shifted to the power station configuration due to its versatility, the multitude of options offered by a power station set up is confusing to the average upper body only 'bodybuilder'.  I suspect in time, gym members will learn to appreciate this new set up but I think they'll forever complain about the lack of mirrors.

Another little gem obtained by the gym as part of the renovation is a Grappler Base.  Again, I suspect the average GTL'er will see this as only something to use for sloppy form T-bar rows but there are so many excellent upper body and core exercises that can be done in addition to rows and presses.
yay! the Oakville
YMCA has one of these!
After seeing the new powerstations and the grappler base, I half expected to find a reverse hyper machine hidden somewhere but, alas, all my dreams didn't come true.  Still, I am very happy to see what the Oakville YMCA has done to their 'wellness centre'.

As for my workout, since the meet is this Sunday, today was just to keep the cobwebs at bay.  I worked up to a double with 405 in the squat and did some speed work in the bench press.  One more light volume workout on Thursday and then rest and get strong until lifting day on Sunday.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Deadlift Fail, a first for everything!

So, on saturday, I went to Toronto Rex headquarters at the House of Boyle for what was planned to be a workout to deadlift and bench press openers.  Everything felt very good and I was looking forward to another session to practice the hook grip.

We started with bench presses because Ulrike Kruger, a teamate training for the upcoming IPF Masters World Championships, was also bench pressing and I figured, you bench and then you deadlift in the meet, might as well practice the same way.

Bench presses went very well and my planned opening and second attempts of 297 and 308 were confirmed with some relatively pain-free lifts.  I even finished up with a successful touch and go attempt with 315.  A little over a year ago I was doing sets of 2 or 3 reps with 315 but shoulder pain has kept the landmark three wheel bench press out of reach for quite a while.  It was good to press it again.  Hopefully this is a sign I'll get some bench press power back.

After bench presses, it was on to deadlifts.  Mark Boyle trained deadlifts with me and he worked up to a nice top set with 425.  My warm-up progression was:

135X5, 225X5, 315X3, 405X3, 495X1

My plan from there was to do my projected opener of 545 and then go up to 565 and maybe even give 585 a yank. 

Instead, what happened was, I pulled 545 off the ground and to lockout significantly faster than two weeks ago but for some reason I got on my heels and started losing my balance.  I tried to catch myself and took a couple steps back.  That wasn't working (duh!) and eventually I ran out of platform and had to dump the bar.  Murphy decided to enforce his law and of course the bar hit the edge of the platform and bounced back into my already scarred up shins and down I went.

While I wasn't hurt, I took that as a sign to call it a day.  This the first time I've ever dumped a deadlift and I was embarrased as hell.  I was happy that my speed off the floor had improved and all through my stumbling and bumbling, my hook grip held fast.  Now Vivian will have another set of scars to tease me about.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Last hard squat workout before the competition

Today is eleven days out from my next competition on the 18th.  It was scheduled to be my last heavy single squat day and my goal was to continue to feel comfortable with sets of "one and done".   Still training at the Burlington YMCA because the Oakville YMCA's renovations aren't complete, I ended up sharing the power rack with the one guy I usually have to share with at Oakville.  I don't know if Burlington works their legs less than Oakville but it seems strange that the solitary power rack both nights was occupied by two Oakville members.

Is this the look the guys at the Burlington Y are going for?
Anyways, my squat workout went reasonably well and I ended up with the following singles:
445, 455, 455, 435, 435
I then finished with two pause squat sets with 365x3 reps.  365 is the most I've used for pause squats so far and they felt fast.  I believe they are helping with my heavy singles.  The singles with 455 and 435 all required some grinding yet still moved well with little form breakdown.  Sitting here typing up this entry, I can feel that my core has been worked very hard.  Right now it looks like my attempts for the meet will be:
Opener: 440 (200 kgs) 
Second Attempt:  457 (207.5 kgs)  
Third Attempt:   463 (210 kgs) or 468 (212.5 kgs)
The second attempt will represent a modest PR at this bodyweight and the third will depend on how the second attempt goes.  Then again, the day of the competition I may feel like I ate a bowl of awesome for breakfast and I'll lift even more.   Yeah, I'm going to go with that plan!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Great squat/leg day and my current diet strategy

This week my home gym, the Oakville YMCA, is closed for renovations.  This should be a good thing as they are getting at least one power rack and new bench presses.  While waiting to see if the new 'wellness centre' will be conducive to smashing weights, I traveled down the QEW to the Burlington YMCA.

The Burlington YMCA is a little older and alot less chichi than the Oakville YMCA.  Maybe that's not good news for Oakville soccer moms looking for new age fitness (a workout without sweat or effort) but for a lifter, it means an old-school power rack and those familiar, old, metal, clangly plates.  Not quite dungeony but about as good as one would get south of the QEW and miles from the border of the Hammer.

Today was scheduled to be my volume leg day or the day where I pre-exhaust the quads prior to doing my work sets in the squat.  The Burlington Y has an old Nautilus branded leg press.  I'm not familiar with the lines of  equipment Nautilus made after their classic cam and chain driven machines but this leg press didn't have chains or any evidence of a cam.  It did have some kind of hinging foot plate that amplified the effort and changed the leverage to keep stress on the knee extension part of the movement.

In any case, this leg press machine was very efficient and after a warm up with 4 plates a side, I did two work sets of 10 with 5 plates a side.  

I then went to the power rack and worked up to my projected work sets with 405.  I did 5 sets of 2 and felt very strong at the end.  I definitely feel like I've improved the work capacity of my quads with these pre-exhaust workouts.  

I then had the pleasure of bench pressing on a proper bench press.  A flat bench pad and bar supports that weren't designed for a 7-foot basketball player greatly reduced the stress on my achy right shoulder.  I was able to do my speed work with 225 with little complaint.  I finished up the workout with db rows with the largest dumbells they had, lowly 100 lb'ers.  Like I said, the place had a dungeony look but was still missing some key ingredients--heavy dumbells being one of them.

My energy levels have been very good for the past few workouts and I'd love to give some of the credit to the latest dietary strategy I've adopted but that would be hype.  Still, I've been pretty happy with how it's gone for the past two weeks and it gives me some hope that I'll be able to continue paring off bodyfat gained  during a period where I just didn't care.

Whenever friends or acquaintances have asked my opinion on this or that diet, I've usually refrained from recommending any of the fad diets.  The problem isn't losing weight, it's keeping it off and virtually all fad diets do nothing to really address the issue of long-term compliance.  While physical culture hobbyists can adhere rigidly to the bodybuilder's special of chicken breasts and steamed vegetables for months at a time, most 'normal' people have no desire to plumb the depths of orthorexia.  Still, those bodybuilders (and now fitness competitors) do have some method to their madness.  

I do alot of reading on obesity, both because I struggle with it myself and because I want to be able to help others.  One of my favourite resources is Dr. Yoni Freedhoff .  He recently wrote a blog post titled, "10 useful Twitter sized weight management truisms".  The first one was, "If you can't happily eat any less, you're not going to eat any less."  That fits me to a T.  It also matches up very well to a theory about a significant factor in obesity called food reward.  A scientist blogger named Stephen Guyenet has written quite a bit on the impact of food reward on obesity in his food reward series of posts as well as an overview of obesity that includes factors other than food reward.  I'd do him a disservice to summarize his articles but suffice it to say he makes the point that the body is designed to seek out foods that 'reward' and that part of the challenge in today's world is the vast amount of processed foods that are designed specifically to trigger the 'reward' centers with the obvious goal of encouraging greater consumption and thus greater purchases.  He talks of the concept of 'hyper-palatability'.  Something I know very well as I've been known to polish off 10 or more of these potent calorie bombs at a single sitting.
I've also been known to polish off one or both sides of the menu at McDonald's and most would argue that McDonald's is hardly hyper-palatable.  Yet, the fact remains that I deal with the ticking time bomb of over-eating on an on-going basis.  Which brings me back to my original point of choosing a diet strategy.  The diet I've been utilizing and one that I recommend to people that ask me is the very simple and relatively uncluttered by pseudo-science slow-carb diet from the book "The 4 Hour Body".  In a way it's ironic that the diet I like the best is part of a book written by one of the most prominent promoters on the internet, Tim Ferriss, but the diet itself is simple and it doesn't need to sell you any supplements to be very effective.

There's a good summary of the diet here.  What I like about it is it's not dogmatic in the way either the Paleo cultists or the Taubes' anti-carbers are.  It allows for structured cheating and it does an excellent job of re-training or re-calibrating one's food reward settings.  The basic plan is no 'white' carbohydrates.  While that does mean no cereal, sugar, fruit, pasta, rice or bread, it does allow for liberal carbohydrate consumption via lentils, beans, or vegetables.  In addition, all meats and eggs are encouraged.  Dairy is out but with the exception of cheese, that's not a great loss for me.  Besides, if I really have a jones for it, I can eat it on the scheduled cheat day.  

There is also a small window for 'fast' carbs right after an intense workout.  A nice way to kill one theoretical bird and one real one with the same stone--modern exercise theory suggests eating simple carbs after a workout replenishes muscle glycogen without being stored as fat; at the same time getting to eat something sweet is a nice incentive to get active and have a tough workout -- a different kind of food reward than what Guyenet describes.

Going back to the food reward theory, my experience with the 'slow carb diet' is that the diet is not necessarily bland but because it is devoid of processed, hyper-palatable foods, it isn't prone to over-eating simply because it's hard to overeat the foods allowed on the plan.  On the seventh day, when cheating is not only allowed but encouraged--the premise includes stuff about up-regulating the metabolism but the pragmatic reason is to encourage long-term compliance, remember that part earlier about happily eating less, everything is a negotiation--I've found that when eating things like donuts or ice cream, that the 'hyper-palatability' is very evident and once identified, easier to control.

So far I am encouraged by the positive changes I've experienced with respect to impulse control.  I know if this strategy is successful with moderating my life-long tendency to over-eat, I'll be on my way to finally gaining some control over my weight future.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hook grip speed singles

Two deadlift workouts before the next competition--not enough time to get the deadlift up to previous standards but still a chance to get the hook grip dialed in enough to at least hit a 550-575 lb deadlift.

The workout yesterday was scheduled to be a 'light' day, perfect for trying some speed singles in an effort to gain more confidence in the security of my newly adopted hook grip.  The plan was to do singles with 485 lbs (80% of my 1 rep max) with 1 minute rest.  Each repetition would use the hook grip and my goal was to try to rip them off the floor.  I hoped that I'd be able to gain confidence in the hook grip so I wouldn't waste a second thought on it.

I ended up doing 5 singles and with the relatively short rest period between reps, still ended up feeling fairly tired. I stopped after 5 singles because my thumbs started feeling really beat up.  I actually have a small blister on my right thumb from the abuse.  On the positive side, the grip was secure and I didn't tear any calluses.

Not being able to deadlift much has definitely had an effect on my lower back strength and recovery ability but the priority has been to learn the grip so I never considered strapping up.  If I can't hold on to it, no point on lifting anything heavier for the time being.

Next week's deadlift workout will be a work up to a heavy single that will likely end up projecting as my second attempt on the 18th.

Bench presses were painful.  For whatever reason, my shoulder didn't want to loosen up so virtually every repetition felt strained.  I ended up working up to one easy single with 275 and then finished up the workout with close grip bench presses.

The gym I use, the Oakville YMCA, is undergoing a renovation next week and they're apparently replacing the current bench presses with new ones.  I'm looking forward to this as the current bench presses are terrible.  They have fixed barbell hooks and the upper hook is too high and the lower one is too low.  Because of this, I can't train my bench press with the same set-up as I'd use in competition.  I don't think this has an effect on my shoulder pain but it does greatly reduce the poundages I can use.  They're also getting a new squat/power rack--I hope they actually get more than one because the current single squat rack they have gets plenty of use.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Singles night and bench press desperation

16 days and 5 workouts (including today) left until the 100% Raw Eastern National Championships.  On the schedule today were heavy squat singles.  As with all of my scheduled 'heavy' days, the goal is to single up until a training max (9 RPE) but with the competition so close, instead of following up the training max single with 3-5 sets of 2-3 reps, I would do singles with 90%+ to practice the competition squat.

I've been watching the live feed of the IPF Sub Junior and Junior Worlds and it has been inspiring to watch those kids move some monstrous weights.  I hoped this inspiration would lead to some smashed weights and a training PR.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen but I was able to get in some very good work.

Warm-up sets:  145X10, 235X10, 325X3, 375X2
Singles:  415X1, 450X1, 450X1, 450X1, 425X1X4 sets

I had hoped my training max would be higher than 450 but my first single felt very slow so I decided to stay there.  After the third single, I dropped the weight and singled until I ran out of speed. I think the single strategy worked well as I was able to develop a consistency from set to set.  I'm looking forward to the next heavy single day late next week.

I haven't documented much about my bench press training because it has been so discouraging.  My right shoulder hasn't felt good ever since my last shirted training cycle leading up to last year's Niagara Open (August 2010).  Since that time, I've been doing minimal volume and keeping the weight low in the hopes that whatever was hurting would resolve itself.  My goal for this meet (and the past 2 meets prior) was simply to maintain a raw bench press in the 305-310 range and avoid further pain.

Tonight's workout was scheduled to be 3 sets of 5 with 225.  I'd like to call it 'speed work' but in reality I can't move it all that fast with a sore right shoulder.  As usual my shoulder hurt as I did my first set of 5.  For some reason, I was more discouraged than normal so I decided to try something new. I remembered a Christian Thibaudeau article he posted over at T-Nation where he described his unique raw bench set up. For raw bench pressing he recommends setting up so that your shoulders are shrugged towards one's ears rather than back and down as in a shirted bench.  After so many months of bench press frustration, I decided I had nothing to lose so I gave it a shot.  I won't say it was miraculous but that set up did result in less shoulder pain.  I'm not scheduled to press any heavy singles until next weekend at Toronto Rex headquarters but I'll give the new set up a shot in the next couple volume/speed workouts.