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 and dedication shown by those that come back from a catastrophic lifting injury but that's not me.  Competitive powerlifting isn't my life so, if even being careful, I end up unlucky enough to suffer a catastrophic knee or back injury, I'm rehabbing enough to get back to full function but that would be the end of competition for me.

I've been training my bench press with more frequency than either the squat or deadlift but mainly because I've been training around a sore back.  My lower back is still very extension intolerant so rather than continue irritating it with 2x/weekly squatting and 1x/weekly deadlifting, I've reduced each to only 1x/week.  So far I've found I've had much less back pain while both the squat and deadlift are progressing.  I'll revisit training frequency when I start my competition peaking schedule in August but I may just keep it the same and see how things go in November at Provincials.

May 2015 summary:

Squat:     5 sessions, 168 total work reps (all high bar), 67.2% avg intensity
Bench Press:  8 sessions, 290 total work reps, 74.4% avg intensity
Deadlift:  4 sessions, 114 total work reps, 69.3% avg intensity

Considering how well recovered I have been from my training, I'm happy with the workloads.  The average work lift intensities for the Squat and Bench Press are all close to the intensities used in months leading up to a competition.  In the deadlift, the work lift average intensity for May was higher than in any other month in the past year and a half.   For all lifts, total volume is lower than peak months leading up to competitions but so far, it hasn't reflected negatively on strength levels or body composition.

Last September and October, leading up to Provincials last November, I experimented with a much higher training frequency than I have ever used but wasn't able to realize results on the platform. Those failures weren't due to over-training or early peaking they were from trying to chase a Wilks number by cutting bodyweight more than necessary instead of just lifting more.  When work-set rep ranges drop in August, I will determine if I need to increase frequency to keep driving progress.

A side project I've been working on has been showing nice progress.  About two months ago, I decided that I needed to strengthen and build my calves.  Since my gym doesn't have any calf machines, I used that as a convenient excuse to simply not train them.  However, at their nadir, my calves were as small as 15" and two months ago were 15.5" (because I was 10lbs heavier than when they were 15").  I decided I would simply do bodyweight single leg calf raises using the 3x3" rails of the squat racks.  Coincidentally, that same week (3/19/2015) there was a Chad Waterbury article on T-nation about bodyweight calf training.  I guess calf work was in the air.

When I first started doing single leg calf raises on March 18, 2015, I could only do two sets of 10 with bodyweight only.  My calves were sore for days.  I kept hitting them with the same thing and slowly I was able to increase the frequency so that I was doing them every workout (at the end). Eventually I could do 15 reps per leg, then I started doing them in a sequence where I'd start with my left leg (the weak one due to an old ankle injury) and alternate between legs without rest until I had done three sets on each leg.  I considered that one set.  I'd rest a couple minutes and do it again.  Lately, I've been able to do the first "set" holding a 25 lb plate.

The results so far from about 10 weeks of work has been an inch on each calf (right is now 16.5" and the left is 16.25").  I'm still in the "no calves" club but another inch on each calf should get me out of it.  A VERY nice side benefit has been noticeably less back pain after a day of walking a golf course.

from May 29, 2015, you can almost see where my calves should be


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