Tag Archives: Physical exercise

Breaking Frustration

The shortened and delayed ski season we experienced this year did much to create havoc for my fitness. A few months before the season started, I switched from a strength based 5×5 varient (Mad Cow) to one more oriented to endurance. The plan was quite simple. Build strength and mass during the off season, then get the muscles ready to spend 8 hours on skis during a weekend shift. It seemed like a good idea, but it didn’t work.

Going into the switch, I had the momentum in my favor. My body fat percentage was hovering around 15% and showed signs of dropping lower. My abs were starting to make an appearance and my waist looked to stay under 34 inches. My one rep max on dead lift of 250 became my 3 rep. My squat wanted to stay above body weight and even 225s were recorded. Only my bench suffered a bit due to my left shoulder weakness. Goals were reached. Looked good.

Pushing heavy weights around is very different from pushing snow for hours. Sure, strength does help, but so does balance and finesse. Mark Rippetoe speaks on how it is easier to build endurance from strength than it is the other way around. Looking at the calendar and the goals I had reached, I decided it was time to switch. Workouts became more 4x oriented. I knew some strength would drop, the amount was one I did not realize.

Normally by mid-December, the ski season is well underway. This year, December closed and being open was not near. The first week in January saw a hand-full of runs open, but nothing upon which we could train. Not until the latter half of January did the hill get opened and ski training could really start. By this time, it had been over 8 weeks since my last heavy sessions. During a busy ski season, this isn’t a problem as long hours in boots and on the hill have made up for it. Not this year. This year, my fitness started to drop far too much. Pants became tighter and the wrong kind of weight showed up.

After the season was over, I tried returning to the Mad Cow 5×5 program, but my heart was not in it. Looking for a change, I decided on some German Volume Training. The first two weeks were good, but as time went on, my ability to meet the required schedule for the training sessions to be of their greatest value waned. GVT without the volume is missing the key component. Though the workouts were good, my charts remained flat and my body fat percentage was still going the wrong way.

Time for a change.

Today I decided to return to the Mad Cow 5×5 with a reset to workout A. The gym was crowded, so I started on the leg press to get warmed up and stretched. Once the rack became available, I started in on the squats. I made my way up to 170 x 5 on the final set and things felt tough, but good. During the rest period between squats and bench press, I decided to make another change: make this an actual leg workout.

Ok, why the double change?

One nice thing about the German Volume training routines is they are not too long. I really want to be out of the gym within 45 minutes most days and want good effectiveness. There is far too much to be done to spend two hours per session. So an idea came across my mind. Five heavy sets of squats. Five heavy sets of leg presses. Then five sets of 12 rep walking lunges. Surely that will work.

Time will tell what the results will be. Here is the routine:

  • Warm up and stretch
  • Squats
    • Warm up: 3 x 5, increasing slightly each set, 30 seconds rest
    • Medium heavy: 1 x 5, 85 seconds rest
    • Work: 5×5, heavy on each set, same weight, 85 seconds rest
  • Presses
    • 1 x 5, heavier than light, consider it a warm up, 75 seconds rest
    • 1 x 5, medium heavy, 75 seconds rest
    • 5 x 5, heavy on each set, same weight, 75 seconds rest
  • Walking Lunge
    • 5 x 12, as much as you can do, same weight every set, 65 seconds rest

Borrowing from the 5×5 and 4x ideals, do not neglect the negative, especially on the leg presses. Go for as much as 6 seconds on each rep. Do not increase the weight until all the sets can be performed with the same weight. Get your ego out of the way. Form counts.

Now to find companion routines for Wednesday and Friday. Time to break out of the rut. Time to break the frustration.

Extra twist: do the weight on the walking lunge unequal. Keeping your torso straight with unbalanced weight will also work your core.

 

Say Hello To Good Mornings

Good Mornings with a barbell
Good Mornings with a barbell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many a casual gym rats have looked at charts of back exercises and made the same remark about Good Mornings, “Those look like they hurt your back.” Wrong. They are great for the back when done properly.

The good morning exercise works the erector spinae muscles in the lower back, as well as, the hamstrings and the gluteus maximus. The exercise helps to strength the lower back and core. Have a weak squat? Hit a limit on your deadlift? The good morning can help strengthen both. Strengthening these muscles also helps with standing and seating posture. I’ve had lower back problems for several years and I do good mornings once a week. This exercise helps my back immensely.

But what about the bending?

When starting to do the good morning, it is important not to grab the Olympic bar, throw some plates on it, lift it off the rack, and bend over. It is best to get used to the movement with limited weight. Grad a light handle and put it on the spin of the scapula. A good place to hold the bar is in the same manner for a low bar squat. This will keep it off the spine when you bend over and from dropping down the back when you stand back upright. It is better to keep the weights light and do more reps than it is to try to move the world.

For safety’s sake, start with the bar in a squat rack with the pins at the same height you would for a low bar squat. Ensure the bar is centered, duck under it, and turn around. Squat down a bit and place the bar on the spine of the scapula. Hand placement is similar to the low bar squat, though it is not total necessary to point your elbows way back. Find a comfortable location.

Now stand up, lifting the bar off the pins, and step forward. There should be enough room in the rack to bend over without banging into any back supports. Keep your back slightly arched while bending and let your butt move backward similar to the squat. Having the knees slightly bent will also help keep the lower back in the proper position.

Once your back is parallel to the floor, push back up with the lower back and stand up straight. There is no need to hyper-extend at the top of the movement. Slowly lower back and do another rep. Down and back up is one rep and a good speed is 2 seconds each way. Going quickly on the positive side may make the weight hard to stop at the top. Slow, steady, and higher rep count will work the muscles adequately.

Now that the reps for your set are done, step back until both sides of the bar are firmly against the rack. Squat down slightly to re-rack the bar. If you have a workout partner, they can help guide you back properly. Walk about a bit and rest for 40 seconds.

Time for the next set.

Deadlifting Past Barriers

English: Deadlift pic
English: Deadlift pic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Several weeks ago I passed doing body weight for a bent-legged deadlift. For me, body weight varies between 206-210 pounds and the weight I lifted for 3 reps was 225. That was really a max for me and I thought for sure it would stand for a bit of time.

Today, the week C cycle was up for my deadlift in the 5-3-1 workout routine. The final work set weight was 205 pounds and the rep range was 3+. I didn’t just push past the 3 reps, I doubled up to 6. If I could have kept my back a bit more straight, I feel I could have squeaked out a few more. I am nearly religious with correct form, so I stopped with a little more in the tank, but pumped none-the-less. I cannot wait for the max rep cycle next week.

Over the last few months, I’ve been rotating between 5×5 and 5-3-1. I use the former until my knees need more than two days to recover and my weights start to go backward. The latter I usually do for 2 complete cycles and need to change to add muscle confusion. Normally when I switch back to 5×5, I make good progress for a time.

Hitting the body weight amounts has been a limiting factor for months. A year ago, my sticking point was getting to 130 pounds on squats for 10 reps. Now I can push through 3 sets using at least 150 and 160 on a good day. Getting those 20-30 pounds has been a big fight with my 46 year old knees and I have learned much about how my body reacts. A few weeks ago, I was very emotional when I hit 195 pounds on squats for 1 rep. I cannot image how I will be when I hit body weight. The attempt is coming soon.

As much as I like Steve Holman and his 4X/TORQ ideas, it wasn’t until I switched to more strength oriented workouts that I saw results. Perhaps it is due to my lack of strength and his workouts being more modeled on endurance. Perhaps the ideas of Mark Rippetoe are more what I need for now. Perhaps this is why I accidentally let my subscription to Iron Man Magazine to expire. Yes, I will be correcting that soon. I do wonder if I should write to Steve and let him know of my predicament. This would require me to open to the Universe in search of a solution. Ok.

Dear Steve Holman, I’ve been an avid reader of your columns for more than two years. I even bought your program Old School/New Body. You are responsible for me getting back into lifting and into the gym. I cut some body fat and gained some muscle, though I topped out at 27% body fat and 217 pounds before switching to a more strength oriented workout. The biggest complaint I had was the amount of time the workouts in you Train Eat Grow column. Is this due to my lack of strength first? I am confused. How may you help me?

There you are Universe. I am reaching out to Steve for help. I will seek a way to pass it on to him more directly, though I do want him to find my blog and read about my path to fitness. Here he will know more about me, my path and journey, and better understand how he can guide me to a better outcome. I fully anticipate solutions I require and humbly await their arrival. I will show all Graciousness for the offerings.

Product Review: SuperPump 3.0 And Assault

The September Jacked-In-A-Box from Muscle and Fitness magazine contained several pre-workout products and SuperPump 3.0 by Gaspari Nutrution and Assault by MusclePharm are two of them. By due contain some amount of caffeine, so those sensitive to it need to take some note.

SuperPump 3.0

The strawberry kiwi blast flavored pre-workout packet contains 2 servings. The instructions state to first take a single serving in order to test sensitivity. As I’ve been taking pre-workouts for awhile, I figured I should be ok. Well, I wasn’t. This stuff kicked in really soon and kept me up for hours (I workout in the evenings after a day of work). The taste wasn’t too bad and it is not sweet. It almost seems to have an artificial sweetener, but I’m not sure. None seems to be listed.

Overall, SuperPump 3.0 by Gaspari Nutrition dissolves well in a shaker bottle. The taste is good and smooth. I found that it only took about 5 minutes before I good feel tingling and activation. For workouts under an hour, a single dose is more than enough. If you want to workout longer, my suggestion is to take a single dose about 30 minutes before the workout and then a second halfway. Don’t overdo it or you may be up for hours.

Assault

The sample of Assault by MusclePharm comes in a single serving soft tube. The Raspberry Lemonade flavor is a wonderful departure from the typical fruit punch flavorings. It dissolved easily enough and the flavor was quite good; an eight of ten.

Within minutes of finishing the mix, the effects could be felt. Yeah, it doesn’t take 20 or 30 minutes to show up. The tingling in my lips and face started nearly immediately. Off to the gym for a 5/3/1 leg workout. It lasted for an hour or so, then I could feel it start to slip away. For me, this was perfect. No sugar drop and no caffeine keeping me up half the night. Very good. Is definitely one I would buy.

Blasting The Arms

English: PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 17, 2008) Store K...
English: PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 17, 2008) Store Keeper 2nd Class Rafael Alexander, a native of Honolulu, Hawaii, lifts weights using the bicep curl machine in the weight room of the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70). Lake Erie is operating off the coast of Hawaii in preparation for a ship’s Board of Inspection and Survey. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Hight (Released) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my current round of workouts has my triceps getting hit on two different cycles: on chest day and on arm day. When these days fall one after the other without more than 24 hours of rest, the triceps fail fast and the biceps get bored. Today was such a day.

The chest routine performed yesterday has the following exercises for the triceps at as the last two:

  • Pushdowns 3×10, 8, 6
  • Weighted Dips 3×6-8

Doesn’t seem like much, but coming after flat bench presses, inclined presses, pec-deck, standing military press, upright barbell rows and barbell shrugs, it doesn’t take much to finish off the triceps.

And now, here’s arm day.

The exercises for arm day are meant to compliment the rest of the week. They are here to finish off and stimulate more directly the triceps and biceps. Sometimes the forearms are coaxed to come out and play. Some sets are done in a 1 second positive, 3 second negative cadence. Others are in a more conventional 1 second, 1.5-2 second. After warmup and stretching, the routine is this.

  • Triceps
    • Bar pushdowns 3×30, 20, 15
    • One-arm dumbbell extensions 3×30, 20, 15
    • Rope pushdowns 3×30, 20, 15
  • Biceps
    • Dumbbell Hammer Curl 2×10, 12
    • Rope Hammer Curl 3×30, 20, 15
    • Dumbbell Curl 1×15-20
    • Preacher Curl 1×8-10, 8, 8

There you go. That looks good, doesn’t it? The triceps, being tired from yesterday, didn’t take much to reach lactic acid buildup and fail. Ok, bicep time. Warm up. Stretch. Go. The rope hammer curls were hard. Had to pause a few seconds to get to 30 and 20 reps. Perhaps the 45 pounds is too much. Keep pushing.

Preacher curls are odd for me. With my long arms and short muscle bellies, I have a great deal of bone with no support. The weights are way out there on the lever and the bar plus a total of 30 pounds is more than enough. I squeezed out each rep required. Cool. Done.

But wait. My biceps are not burning. They are not cramped like my tris. They are also not getting hit directly on other days, so they need a burn out set. What to add? What to use as a speed set to really work the biceps and finish them off for the day?

Ah, the bicep curl machine. Yes! I sat down and did two sets of 15 reps, 1.5 seconds for each rep at 40 pounds, keeping form good. Just because a set is done at speed doesn’t mean the form is allowed to be sloppy.

The result? Holy cow, yes! This exercise has been added as the last one for the arms. Can’t wait for next time.

 

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Adding 30 Pounds To Squat

English: weight lifting
English: weight lifting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The need to change workout routines differs between people. Some like to do the same routine for months, sometimes for years. There is debate as to whether the body adjusts and stops responding or not. For me, I get bored, so switching every 6 to 8 weeks is a requirement. It is time to address the leg routine and make some changes. The previous routine served well.

What to do?

Looking through several issues of Iron Man Magazine did yield several interesting ideas. As the previous routine was built on articles by Steve Holman, a different author may provide new insight, new ideas. The May 2013 issue, the one with Samantha Ann Leete on the cover and her awesome interview and pictorial inside, contained the winning routine. I’ll write more about the lovely Samantha later.

The article by Roger Lockridge is titled “30 in 30” and aims to add 30 pounds to your squats in 30 days. That is some tall claim. When I first read the article in April (that’s when the May issue arrived), I was more into Steve’s routines, so there was no impetus to install it into the workouts. The time for change has now come.

The routine is brutal with rest periods of only 1 minute or 90 seconds, depending on the exercises being performed. It is centered around the squat, duh, using the leg press as a method to really burn the leg muscles. Leg curls and extensions are first used to warm the muscles, not as a pre-exhaust, and then as a finishing super set. The calves too get their our exercise at the end.

My gym does not have a seated calf raise, so standing raises are used as a substitute. Here is the routine I’m following every 4 days.

  • Leg extension (warmup) 2×20
  • Seated leg curls (warmup) 2×20
  • Squats (light to heavy to 1 rep max)
    • Light 2×10
    • Heavier 2×5
    • Very Heavy 2×3
    • 1 Rep Max 2×1
  • Super set
    • Leg presses (feet high, close) 3×15,12,10
    • Leg presses (feet low, wide) 3×15,12,10
  • Super set
    • Leg extensions 3×25
    • Leg curls 3×25
  • Calf raises 4×20

Rest for a full minute between warmup sets and 90 seconds between work sets. This isn’t a power lifting routine, so don’t let your heart rate drop.

Time to move some iron.

 

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Changing Up The Chest

Pain is temporary, Failure is forever.
Pain is temporary, Failure is forever. (Photo credit: lta362)

The chest workout log has become filled with seven weeks worth of exercising. Starting weights for the flat bench press rose to 25 pounds a side, but staid there since August 23rd. Declined flyes went down in weight, but the angle of the bench was increased, making the reps harder. Pec deck too saw a decline as the emphasis was set to the reps of 30, 20 and 15 for 3 seconds per rep. Only the machine seated press saw significant increases over the seven weeks. It was time for a change.

Finding a new chest workout is quite easy. A simple search in Google will bring back scores of hits, so it was time to read. As the goals of the previous regime were focused on declines with some flat bench finishing, the idea of flipping around is quite central. Bodybuilding.com had several great workouts. Scanned through the beginner ones and moved to more advanced. Ah, blending several into one focused workout.

The result is a workout with one goal: get the chest to respond and grow. On to the layout.

  • Warmup – 10 minutes. Arms, shoulders, chest. They all need to be warm and stretched.
  • Incline Bench Press – 3×8
  • Smith Machine Barbell Neck Press – 2×15, 1×25
  • Incline Dumbbell Flye – 3×8, 1×25
  • Seated Machine Chest Press – 3×30,20,15

No sets are pyramid style. Rest between sets is 45 seconds, except the neck press which is 2 minutes, including after the 1×25 set. The rep speed should be 1 on positive side and 1.5 on negative. The finishing sets on the machine press are 3 seconds on the negative. For added burn, press 6 second negatives after the last set of 15. Go until fail.

Enjoy.

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Stretching The Chest

English: an exercise of chest
English: an exercise of chest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been 2.5 months since June’s “Time To Move To Heavy” and the updated chest workout. The moving to heavier weights and 45 second rests lead to good gains in size and strength. Eight weeks is long enough for the same workout and it is time to confuse the body with an update.

This time around, it is time to raise the intensity and simplify the routine. This new routine will be a combination of TORQ and 4x, keeping in mind the principles of doing Mid-Range, Stretch and Contraction in a routine. The chest workout, therefore, become three sets of three exercises. No super-sets and no negative only.

Flat bench press

Start with a mid-range movement and do sets in a pyramiding 3×8 still. The first set should be a weight that can be done for twelve reps. The rep cadence is 1 second positive and 2 seconds on the negative. Stop at 8, rest for 40 seconds and add 5 pounds to each side before doing next set.

Declined Flyes

Next is stretch movement is next. Bring the dumbbells up and keep to the 1 second positive/2 seconds negative pass. As the weights finish straight above the chest in a nearly press position, there is very little contraction here. The set is 3×10 with the same weight each time. Finish all three sets? Add weight at the next training session.

Pec Deck

The last exercise brings TORQ into the picture. The 1 second/2 second cadence is still used, but the number of reps increases to 30 for the first set, 20 on the second and 15 on the final. As with the second set, if the number of reps is reached, add weight at the next workout. Be sure to compress at the top of the move and pause for nearly a second there. Getting over 100 seconds in the set time for the first set should easily be reached.

Push this routine for at least 4 weeks and look to change after 6. Here’s a recap:

  • Flat bench presses  3×8 – adding 5 pounds each set
  • Declined Flyes  3×10
  • Pec Deck  3×30,20,15
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That Pain In My Chest

English: Squat lifing
English: Squat lifing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It took two extra days to get to, but it finally happened. The new chest workout given in “Time To Move To Heavy” was finally done. It stretched my chest in new ways. It contracted with higher intensity. Some exercises resulted in same weight as before, some lower. Rest was extended a bit. Negatives were pushed.

Oh the pain in my chest when it was over. That great pain that says a muscle has been worked out, just to the limit, but not so far that it tears. That pain the means your muscles will pull in all the protein you eat afterward. That pain leads to growth afterward. That pain that tells you your body is alive. That glorious pain. Awesome sauce.

The next workout day brings an updated leg workout. So, it is time to review that one.

  • Leg extension (pre-exhaust, TORQ3×30,20,15
  • Squats  5×5 (rest to 1.5 minutes)
  • Leg Press  3×8
  • Leg Curls (TORQ3×30,20,15
  • Feet-forward Smith Machine squat (negative1×9
  • Hyperextensions  3×10
  • Dead lift (pyramid the weight3×5
  • One leg, standing calf raise  3×20
  • Free hand, two leg calf raise (speed, full stroke2×30+

There it is. The leg workout changes. On TORQ, the idea is to get full range of motion over a 4 second rep. Squats are meant to go heavier this time around, but the rep speed should still be 3 seconds. Be sure to warm up all the muscles very well and stretch. For squats only, rest at 1.5 minutes between sets, including the last. All over sets see 40 second rest between.

Feel the burn. Feel the pain. Grow.

 

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The Best Laid Plans

Sprint006 plan
Sprint006 plan (Photo credit: J’Roo)

The plan was simple. Yesterday I updated my exercises for chest, back and abs. Want to know what it is? Sure, here’s the link. Then today, it was time to hit the gym after work and see how good this workout was. Yeah, that was the plan.

Today, reality happened. My daughter had a very emotional reaction to her summer school. I couldn’t blame her. The Northwest Passage School isn’t the nicest place and it is all computers. She had this same class on computer at regular school this year and couldn’t pay attention long enough to pass. She nearly broke down.

After talking to her and getting her to calm, she finally agreed to try it. After all, we’ve already paid and we cannot get that back. They were also having technical issues and didn’t have a computer for her for over an hour.

Ok, enough about my struggles. The results put me to work late, which put me home late, which meant no new workout time. Ugh! Time to hit the arms with dumbbells at home. Curls and extensions to failure, then some negatives. Then a call.

The call was good, but lasted longer than I planned. Nuts. Now I’m late with supper. While I have time for a smoothie? Yeah sure. Who cares about sleep for tomorrow.

 

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