Showing posts from 2015

November training recap

Since November culminated in a competition and because that competition didn't really meet expectations, there's not much to say about November that wasn't already said in my meet recap.

Squat:  4 sessions, 52 work reps, 73.8% avg intensity

Bench Press:  6 sessions, 114 work reps, 77.5% avg intensity

Deadlift:  2 sessions, 23 work reps, 69.8% avg intensity

In order to reduce strain on my back, I'm planning on competing in the 93 kg wt class in the future.  I've committed to a meet in May 2016 so that gives me 5 months or so to lose 25-30 lbs.  My goal for the meet in May is to make weight and get a Masters 2 (50-59 age group) qualifying total for Provincials.  The qualifying total requirement is very low so as long as I'm in the weight class, I should be able to meet the requirements (477.5 kgs).

For the next couple of months, at least, I'll be doing variations of the squat and deadlift at much lower loadings than my competition squat and deadlift so there …

Meet Recap, 2015 Ontario Powerlifting Association Classic Provincials

Well, my last meet as a M1 (40-49) division competitor came and went.  Some bad but mostly good things.  I suppose there will come a point where there is no longer an expectation that forward progress will be made but now is not the time.  Based on my experiences at this meet, I'm starting to get an idea of what it might feel like when I'm just trying to hold on and resist the inertia of the inevitable aging process.

My training leading up to the meet was, for the most part, pretty good.  I didn't have any new aches or pains (at least I didn't think so) and my bodyweight, while not as low as I would've liked, was low enough that I wouldn't need to do anything crazy to make the 105 kg wt class limit.  I was dealing with a weird loss of power in my back but it didn't come with any acute pain or muscle spasms so I really didn't know what to make of it.

Since I had booked my hotel room early to take advantage of a non-refundable, non-modifiable rate, I was…

October training recap, 3 weeks out from Provincials

Roughly three weeks left before the Ontario Classic Provincials and things aren't really meeting expectations.  Which isn't to say things are going poorly, just that I think my expectations are incorrect.  What I have been unable to predict the last couple years, has been how my late 40's age body will react to training, especially the higher loads required in a pre-meet peaking phase.  I can feel fast and solid at 80% but at 90% or higher, not only does my positioning lose consistency but the amount of recovery I need from those sessions is much longer that I remember in younger years (not really that long ago, when I was 41-45).

At this point, I'll be very happy if I can match my gym PR in the squat, 505 lbs, that I set a number of weeks ago.  I'll also be happy if I can retain my current bench press numbers over the last 3 weeks since I'll have to cut a few pounds to make weight.  Deadlift is another story.  It feels great up to about 90% of my previous comp…

September training recap, 6 weeks out from Provincials

September was a good ramp up to the final stages of preparing for Provincials in November.  I reconsidered my plans and decided not to compete at the CPU Nationals in 2016 so November 20-22 (whenever my weight class lifts) is now the only focus.  While Nationals are an amazing experience, the best competition experience a non-international team lifter can have, in the end, I just couldn't justify the travel expenses for something that only I could enjoy.  The $1000+ I would've spent on entry fees, airfare, hotel, food, parking, etc will be better spent towards a vacation for both Vivian and I.

Overall, I got in 17 training sessions and increased training intensity in all three main lifts.  I'm trying to balance training volume. lower back recovery, and increased intensity with my squat and deadlift workouts and so far, things feel pretty fresh.  I had one episode where I couldn't do my planned squat workout due to some unusually persistent sciatic pain but other than t…

The Fat Free Mass Index and approximating your bodyfat percentage-Updated 3/21/2016

The "natty limit" of a 25 Fat Free Mass Index (FFMI) is quite commonly known in those places on the Internet where all things lifting weights are discussed, debated, and argued.

Apparently it comes from a 1995 study where researchers compared pre-steroid era champion bodybuilders with a contemporary sample of "bros", some of which admitted to using steroids and others that claimed they had never used steroids.  Using the FFMI (a measure generated using maths that is beyond the scope of my meagre skillset), they determined that it was extremely unlikely that one could amass a FFMI of greater than 25 without the use of drugs.

That same study  also mentioned that the "natty limit" of 25 might not apply to "fat athletes" since there was an idea that there was some lean mass gained with excessive accumulation of non-lean tissue.  Whether or not that lean mass was muscle or just stuff that wasn't fat wasn't mentioned.  In any case, whatever th…

August training recap, 11 weeks out from Provincials

Although I got 14 training sessions done in August, it was a relatively low volume month.  Both work reps and total poundage were done about a third from July.  This was planned as I intended for August to include some deload time.  Instead of taking one week very easy, the month ended up containing workouts of somewhat less volume, normal intensity,  but with greater amounts of days off in between.

Rather than doubling up main lifts on each workout (ie:  bench press/squat, squat/deadlift, deadlift/bench, etc), each session in August typically involved only one of the main lifts and filled in the rest of the workout with accessory work.  I started using a Gironda-style 8x8 set/rep scheme for exercises like parallel grip pulldowns, leg presses, and tricep pushdowns.  I also used that set/rep scheme for squats on a "light day", followed up by 8x8 on the leg press.  That particular session left my legs sore for two days, something that hadn't happened for a while.

Because t…

If they had told me it would take 21 years of training before I would finally squat over 500 lbs...

I got my first gym membership in 1980 when I was 14 years old.  I worked out consistently until I was 27.  In those early years, I was always interested in getting stronger.  I competed in powerlifting between the ages of 21 and 27.  I was never particularly good at it but I enjoyed the camaraderie and the process of slowly increasing personal records.

Back in those days (87'-93'), there was only equipped lifting so we competed in squat suits, used knee wraps, and near the end of that period, the first rudimentary bench press shirts.  As a result, I never tested my 1 RM "raw" squat.  Back then, my 1RM in a squat with knee wraps and squat suit was 500 lbs.  Even though the internet nowadays likes to somehow claim the suits and knee wraps of the early 90's were equal to today's singlet and tight knee sleeves, this was not close to the truth.  I got almost 100 lbs from my Marathon squat suit and Marathon Goldline knee wraps.

In 1993, I moved to Toronto, Ontario…

Week 31, July training recap

As expected, July was a good month of frequent training.  With no scheduled trips, holidays, or special occasions, I was able to get to the gym 17 times. It felt good to push the volume up a bit and by the end of the month, I could tell I was getting just to the point of needing to back off.  Next week will be a deload for recovery and then hopefully another 4-5 weeks of solid training.

I have been almost exclusively squatting high bar without my knee sleeves since November.  Since January, I had only squatted low bar twice, the most recent time in June with knee sleeves.  I decided to work up to a top single this month just to see where things were and I was pretty surprised to find I had made significant progress.  In June, I had worked up to a triple with 435 but since it was the first time handling anything heavier than 405 since November, I stopped there.  This month, I decided I'd push my top triple higher and then go further based on how solid I felt.

I ended up matching my…

Introducing Leash and Keys, professional dog walking, pet sitting and house checks in the Oakville area

This blog post is blatantly marketing focused because I am very proud of my wife Vivian and her decision to go into business for herself.  Vivian decided to combine her love of animals, her experience volunteering for Canadian Dachshund Rescue, and her previous work experience at a luxury concierge service to start her own business, Leash and Keys.

Leash and Keys offers personalized dog walking, pet sitting, and house check programs in the Oakville area. Leash and Keys also offers private pet boarding services for those that see the value in having their cherished family member boarded as a member of our family rather than locked in a kennel for all but the hour or two of supervised play offered in most boarding facilities.

If you are in the Oakville, Ontario area and need the best in personalized dog walking, pet sitting, or house check services at reasonable prices, please contact Vivian at or call her at 905-599-1936.

week 27, June training recap

Even though I only got in the gym for 9 training sessions this month, it was a good month.  June included a scheduled deload due to a business trip so I was very happy to come out of the month feeling better and having made some nice progress.

My scheduled deload was due to a business trip for a conference in Whitehorse, Yukon Territories. I had never been anywhere in Canada west of Ontario so I was really looking forward to this trip.

 I was very surprised and happy to find out there was a nice gym in Whitehorse so I actually got in a couple good workouts before the conference started.  The gym was 2.5 kms from my hotel and since I didn't rent a car for the week, I walked to and from the gym each time.  Later in the week I also did an 18 km hike around a local lake with a buddy so I got in quite a bit of very low intensity cardio.  I dislike walking but I have to admit it felt pretty good.  I haven't resumed the habit of walking since I've been back but it really does help…

Week 22, May training recap and starting to build the calves

May was a good training month.  I was able to get to the gym 17 times and made some nice progress on all lifts.  Since this is still in what I'd consider the "off-season" because I'm not yet working towards peaking for a competition, I'm also happy that there are no new aches and pains that otherwise would require some amount of management.  And by "management" I mean, taking extra days off to recover or hitting the whirlpool and steam room after workouts.  I'm not a big believer in the benefits of training so hard that one's body is in a constant state of soreness or dysfunction so, unless I've got a competition in the near future and a deload/reload period is out of the question, I prefer to train through as little joint soreness as possible.

That may be sub-optimal for maximal strength development but I'm also looking at the long-range view and figure I need to stay active for the next 30 years or so.  I can appreciate the intensity …

New shoes reviewed, Adidas Drehkraft to replace my Adidas Power Perfect 2's

I don't know if I have bad luck with gym/workout shoes or if my experiences are typical but it seems like the shoes I buy specifically for lifting weights have abnormally high failure rates.  Back in 2009 I had trouble with two different pairs of Nike Frees.  That experience soured me on Nike's customer service so I've never seriously considered owning a pair or Romaleos.

In November 2012, I bought a pair of Adidas Power Perfect 2's during a "friends and family sale" through the website.  Those shoes performed well until I somehow managed to break an eyelet about a year or so ago.   Given that I only ever walked in the Nike Frees and only squatted, walked, and bench pressed (flat-footed) in the Power Perfect 2's, I did not expect any of those shoes to ever suffer a structural failure.

I have …

Week 18, April training recap

True to the pattern that seems to have emerged since the beginning of the year, I had another 7-10 day layoff from the gym in April.  I'm actually starting to enjoy the sequence of 5-6 weeks of training and 7-10 days off.  This time the time away from the gym was due to a business trip to Las Vegas.  After I got back, I spent another few days recovering from 5 days in Vegas for a total of 10 days of deload/unload.

Despite the long layoff, all of my training picked up right where it left off.  I'm taking that as a sign that the previous weeks' training required the long unload.  Looking forward, I have another 6 weeks of what should be mostly uninterrupted training until I have another week long business trip in the middle of June.  The rest of the year seems to fall into nice 6 week on/1 week off cycles until my next meet in November so I'll just stick with that.

April training summary:

Total sessions:  12

Squat:  3 sessions, 140 total training lifts, 64.7% avg intensi…

Week 15, April training has been pretty good so far

The first 10 days of April have been pretty good.  I was able to get in 7 workouts and the body feels good.  I have a built-in rest period the next 5 days because I'll be away on business and will only have access to a hotel fitness center.  The only time I'll be able to get there will be 0600 hrs and I'm sure there will be some late nights so I'm not counting on getting much work done in the gym.

I'm still training most lifts in the 8+ rep range but deadlifts are in the 5-8 range.  Volume and intensity for the squat (still exclusively high bar), bench press, and deadlift are up from March.  I dislike counting higher than 5 but I know the foundation I'm re-building will help when I start to focus on competition style lifts in August or September.

Main lift summary through April 10

Squats:            2 sessions, 90 work reps, 64% avg intensity
Bench Press:   3 sessions, 101 work reps, 76% avg intensity
Deadlift:         2 sessions, 56 work reps, 68% avg intensi…

Week 14, March training review

After missing the first week of March due to being sick, I was able to get back onto a regular schedule and begin building up a base of work capacity.  Since I'm still on a slight caloric deficit, I've deliberately kept initial training volumes and frequencies on the low side.  However, since I'm training in rep ranges of 8-10 reps for most lifts, it still feels pretty tough.

I'm currently using a split of squats/leg accessory, bench press/back accessory, overhead press/deadlift, bench press/back accessory.  I go through that 4 day split over and over, usually taking Saturday and Sundays off as well as the odd day mid-week.  Every 4th time through a particular day, instead of training in 8-10 rep ranges, I'll work up to a top set of 3.  The reduced volume combined with the higher intensity functions as a bit of a deload while also keeping me somewhat accustomed to lifting heavier weights.  Since I started the schedule in the middle of a week some time ago, I don&#…

Week 12, March 16-22, training update

After a 12 day layoff from the gym (or exercise of any type) and then two days back in the gym, I managed to catch a cold/flu that kept me out of the gym for another 9 days.  I guess I was due since I hadn't gotten sick with anything significant in quite a while.

February ended up being a very low volume training month.  Only 8 total training sessions with 4 squat sessions, 3 bench press sessions, and 3 deadlift sessions.  Total volume of work sets (more than 50% of my 1 RM) was:

Squat:  95 total reps, 27,700 lbs, avg lift: 292 or 58.8%  All of the work was beltless high bar squats so the intensity is somewhat understated since my 1 RM for that particular variation would be quite a bit less than my 1 RM for a competition, low bar back squat.  However, since I've never tested my beltless, highbar squat, I just use comp lift 1 RMs.

Bench Press:  92 total reps, 24,085 lbs, avg lift:  262 or 76.7%

Deadlift:  65 total reps, 23,225 lbs, avg lift:  357 or 57.9%.  These were a mix of …

Week 9, back in the gym and the return of an old foe

After 12 days away from the gym, I finally made it back in this morning.  I expected some de-conditioning so I didn't push things too hard.  Even still, the workout felt pretty tough.  I expect things will snap back fairly quickly although it is still a bit of a bummer to give up 20 lbs on my work sets after only 2 weeks off.

During the 12 days away from the gym, I realized I was dealing with an old foe that I haven't seen in about 8 years.  8 years ago at the height of my unhealthfulness, highest bodyweight, and lots of stress both at home and at work, I had a difficult bout with depression.  I think it's something that always lurked in the background but was made worse because I was unhealthy and I was dealing with plenty of external stresses.  I was fortunate that I was able to mitigate the symptoms with medication but it took a couple years before I felt confident enough to wean myself off the anti-depressants.

The past 12 days brought back memories of the feelings and…

Week 7 and Week 8, no training

I trained once in Week 7 on Feb 12th in the AM.  Since that session, I haven't been back to the gym save for a deadlift seminar given by Mark Giffin on the evening of the 12th.  The deadlift seminar was excellent.  Even though attendees ranged from beginners to experienced competitors, Mark dispensed the kind of information only a veteran with 30 yrs of competitive experience at the highest level could offer.  I picked up some good information on how to best perform accessory movements as well as becoming more diligent and disciplined with my deadlift set up.

Despite the excellent seminar, I have been in a period of low motivation the past couple of weeks so I decided to stay away from the gym to "recharge the batteries", so to speak.  A fortunate side effect of this rather extended hiatus from the gym is a much reduced appetite.  I've been able to keep my average caloric intake at 2500 calories a day quite easily, something that is monumentally more difficult when I…

Week 6, 3 sessions, Week 7 first 2 sessions

Last week I got in three training sessions.  I had planned to train more but my back was sore and I was pretty beat so I spent more days recovering than training.  I think it worked out well because the first two training sessions this week have felt great and I'm not sleepy at the end of the day.

The 6th training week of the new year started well.  I was able to progress my bench press waves past the point where I failed the previous week.  My next training session based around a highbar squat wave didn't go as well.  I started the first wave of 7/5/3 reps too ambitiously and the top set of 385x3 was as close to a RPE 10 as I can remember.  I wasn't too disappointed because my best ever high bar triple is 405 and that was with knee sleeves and during an evening training session.  I'm pretty okay with a first thing in the morning, knee sleeveless 385x3.  It was, however, too high an effort for what I'm trying to do.

Rather than drop down and do the second wave with…

Week 5, sessions 4 and 5 and January recap

Sessions 4 and 5 of last week on Thursday and Friday morning wrapped up January's training.  I had planned on getting in one last session for some deadlifts but my back was not feeling great so I decided to rest.  That turned out well from a pragmatic standpoint because we got a dumpload of snow on Sunday and Monday and I had to do a lot of snow shoveling.  Shoveling 5 times in two days with a sore back would've been pretty crappy.  Especially since I ended up with a sore back anyways.

Thursday AM:  

Squats: 135x5, 135x5, 225x5, low bar, 225x5, add belt, 315x5, 365x5, 365x5, 365x5

Stiff legged deadlift:  225x10, 315x10, 365x10

Thumbless barbell shrugs:  275x8, 275x5

Friday AM:  

Overhead press:  45x10, 95x5, 135x5, 165x5, 185x4, 185x4

Behind the neck press:  45x10, 45x10, 45x10

Bench press:  all reps touch and go, 135x10, 225x10, 255x6, 255x6

Wide grip chins:  5, 5, 5, 5, 5

Pulldowns:  150x10, 150x10, 150x8

Behind the neck pulldowns:  90x10, 100x10, 100x10

I decided to work in s…

Week 5, last three training days

A big reason for writing out my training sessions after they've been done is to force myself to be mindful of what I am doing.  While I keep records of the actual workouts in a spreadsheet, my training objectives and/or mindset for each session isn't recorded anywhere else but my training blog.  That my training blog is public is mostly for accountability.  Even though there are very few that read or follow it, knowing that it's out there in the ether and subject to question or ridicule forces me to take ownership over my training decisions.

Since I don't have any meets of any importance in the near future, I'm taking the time to try to build up a better foundation.  That usually means trying to build some muscle but I'm not sure how much that will happen at my age.  I have a feeling what it will really mean is the somewhat lighter weights used will allow my joints to recover some from the previous seasons of powerlifting competition.  Either way, fresher join…

Week 4, Day 1 upper, Day 2 lower, using a wave loading scheme

I read a Charles Poliquin article on wave loading and decided to try it for my 'volume' work on some of my main lift work.  I've done them in the past with singles as part of a peaking phase but never tried them with a 7/5/3 rep scheme.  In his article, he recommends two waves with a small jump in weight for the second ladder.

I tried it with touch and go bench presses on Tuesday and it seems like an interesting way to accumulate volume in a 'hypertrophy' phase of training. I planned on doing it for highbar squats and stiff legged deadlifts this morning but decided to stick to one wave for this session.


Bench Press: all reps touch and go, 135x5, 135x5, 225x10, 245x7, 265x5, 285x3, 250x7, 270x5, 290x3

Wide grip chins:  5, 5, 5, 5

Pulldowns:  150x10x3 sets

Chest supported row:  90x10, 90x10, 90x15

Rear delt raises:  35x10x3 sets

Incline DB curls:  35x6, 35x8, 35x10


Highbar squats:  135x5, 135x5, 225x5, 225x5, 315x7, 340x5, 365x3

Stiff legged dead…

Week 3 training recap and a slight change in training emphasis

Week 3's training was adequate, mostly maintenance type work.  I was able to get to the gym four times but it just didn't seem like that extra gear was there.  Maybe after pushing to try to have a good meet a the end of November just pushed me into a bit of a lull.  Or maybe, I'm finally starting to feel a little old.

I'm considering changing my training emphasis for the next 18 months or so.  While I'll still be training to compete at the Classic Provincials each year, a recent IPF rule change has changed my plans for 2016.  In the most recent IPF AGM, they changed their eligibility rules so that they are consistent with the IOC.  What that means is in order to represent a country at an IPF meet, the lifter needs to be a citizen of that country. Since I am only a landed immigrant of Canada, any hopes, however remote, of representing Canada as an M2 lifter in 2016 are eliminated since, even if I applied yesterday, the citizenship process takes 2-3 years.

While I d…

Week 2, Day 5, deadlift deload

I was planning on doing sets of 5 with as much as 505 but it was pretty obvious from my first warm up set that this was going to be a 'deload' week instead.  My lower back and hamstrings were still sore from the week's work so no hard pulls today.

Deadlifts:  315x5, 405x5, add belt 455x5

Thumbless barbell shrugs:  275x5, 275x5, 275x5

Week 2, Day 4, Bench Press

My chest was still a little DOMsy from Wednesday's upper body workout but it didn't seem to impair today's workout.  The weight still feels heavy on my bench press work sets but it seems to be improving week over week.  I've been using a "no spare change" method to my weight progressions on the three main lifts (no 5's or 10's, just 25's and 45's) so the jump is a little higher on bench press and my rep ranges are lower as a result.

Bench Press:  all reps touch and go, 135x10, 225x10, 275x6, 275x6, 275x5, 275x4

Wide grip chins:  5, 5, 5, 5

Dumbbell flyes:  40x10, 50x10, 60x10, 60x8

Hammer curls:  50x8, 50x8, 50x8

Week 2, Day 3 lower body volume

Decided to type this training log entry on my phone because I'm a masochist and I wanted to see if I could do it. My goal for today's lower body volume workout was 5 sets of 10 in the highbar squat. After that I planned to do stiff legged deadlifts and thumbless shrugs. I didn't have a volume goal for SLDL's because I figured that fatigue from the squats would dictate what followed. I was able to get 4 sets of 10 squats with 315. I started to feel a bit of a quad strain midway through the 4th set so I didn't do the 5th. My goal was to work to a point of fatigue and knocking on the door of a minor injury achieved my goal. I'm sure my leg will feel fine in a few days even though it's a bit sore right now. It's mostly amazing to me how maladapted I am to even a relatively small amount of hypertrophy driven volume. Based on how this first block of hypertrophy driven volume work goes,  I may repeat with another block since I suspect I'll just be getting …

Week 2, Day 2, upper body volume

Did a different workout today, one inspired more by bodybuilding than powerlifting.  I started with incline dumbbell presses to failure followed with bench presses and weighted dips.  Basically working down the pecs with shortish rest between sets in order to try to fatigue all of the pushing muscles.  After that I did wide grip chins, pulldowns and seated face pulls to work the pulling muscles.  It was a nice change of pace to get in an increased volume of hypertrophy inspired work.  It's been basically forever since I've actually trained with the goal of building muscle so I have a lot of work to do to really get to the workload and effort level needed to grow anything.  I'll stick with it for a few weeks and at the very least it'll be a nice mental break from always pushing bar speed and one rep maxes.

Incline dumbbell press:  75x10, 90x10, 100x10, 100x6, 100x6

Bench Press: all reps touch and go, 135x10, 225x6, 225x6, 225x6, 225x6

Weighted dips:  bwt x 8, 45x6, 45x6…

Week 2, Day 1, squat sets of 8

My back muscles from top to bottom were still a bit DOMsy from Sunday's workout but it didn't inhibit my squat session tonight in a negative way.  Since I'm trying to increase work capacity and also 'toughen' up my squats a bit, I figured doing sets of 8 with a little extra fatigue would be a good exercise.

I decided to work with 365 for the sets of 8 and I was able to get through 4 sets before my form had deteriorated enough that the end of the sets were turning more into squat mornings than I wanted.  It felt good to get in some fatigued volume.

Squats:  135x5, 135x5, 225x5, low bar, 225x5, add belt, 315x5, add wrist wraps, 365x8, 365x8, 365x8, 365x8

Parallel grip chins:  5, 5, 4

Week 1, day 2, deadlifts

The gym was much busier today.  I have a feeling it will be very busy tomorrow night.  It's a good thing we're hitting the gym in the mornings on weekdays.  Luckily I was able to get a bar and a work station right away so I was able to get everything done before Vivian and I had to leave to do our weekly grocery shopping.

Added in some thumbless barbell shrugs to work on the grip.  It was pretty humbling to say the least.  Since I use a hook grip in competition, grip strength isn't super critical to holding onto a deadlift but grip strength is part of a big bench press and since I don't have a big bench press, I decided that I should be doing grip work.

Deadlifts:  315x5, 405x5, add belt, 455x5, 455x5, 455x5

Snatch grip stiff legged deadlifts:  275x8, 275x8, 275x8

Thumbless barbell shrugs:  275x3, 275x4, 275x3

Wide grip chins:  5, 5, 4