Training journal update: 4 weeks out

So the idea for this strongman comp was for me to go back to my ‘roots’ per-se, and get back into some serious heavy barbell work so I can kick some ass at this comp.

There’s one problem: After 4 weeks of deadlifts, military presses, and bench pressesI feel like I’m regressing.

That’s not to say this stuff isn’t good for its purposes; but for the past 6 months I’ve been waking up more and more energised; having no DOMS sitting at my desk in the office; and basically feeling (to borrow a phrase from Pavel) “Fast and loose” – and I’m begrudged to lose that.

So for the past week and a half I’ve been attending Bikram Yoga classes (survived four so far; and to survive is definitely the appropriate verb), and have dropped deadlifts from my programme after hitting a comfortable 230kg for the second time in the training cycle.

 

 

Wow.

That’s all I can say. Those two changes, and I feel like me again; this lead me to the following decisions (pretty much in this order):

  1. Deadlifts are off the menu;
  2. Stretching and yoga need to be put back on the menu (in the case of the former with greater emphasis).

I’ve also been checking out some vids of Scott Sonnon‘s, and re-reading a few books of his I’ve neglected for the past few months (Intu-flow; the big book of clubbell training) and I’m reminded why they struck a chord with me the first time. Given this, I’ve also decided to drop useless half-plane movements (namely the bench press, and the military press), and focus on functional, multi-planar strength.

 

Basically I’ve decided to instead do loads of power cleans every day; as part of a complex (or “superset” for all you bodybuilders) along with front squats, and agility band sprints.

I’m following this with a few circuits of multi-planar exercises, using a nice mix of plyometrics, single leg and balance drills, clubbells, kettlebells, and gymnastic rings. For example, today’s circuit (using gymnastic rings) was:

  1. 20 pistol squats (2 sets of 5 each side) with a 12kg kettlebell
  2. 10 jumps over approximately a 30″ box (so kind of a combined box and depth jump)
  3. Cutting side-to-side for 20 reps
  4. Dead-hang pullups with rings to 2 reps short of fail with legs held straight out in-front (about 8 reps)
  5. ice-cream makers to near-fail (4-6 reps)
  6. wipers to near-fail (core exercise – google it; 12-16 reps)
  7. skin the cat, 4 reps
  8. body flyes with rings set near the ground, 5 reps
  9. plyobox pushups to near-fail, 8-10 reps (see here, but more explsoive. Kudos to Tim Ferriss for showing me this)

Go straight from one to the next without significant pause. Total of 3 circuits; 2-3mins rest between circuits.

Yes, this was after 5 sets of power clean complexes. I swear my heart almost a-sploded.

So yes – no deadlifts in the run up to a comp. Am I nuts? Time will tell ladies and gentlemen, but know this: I feel much much better training this way.

This is, after all, FULLCIRCLESTRENGTH.

 

FUCK THE BENCH PRESS.

– fullcirclestrength

How to: Warm-up Sets for Maximum Results

First allow me to clarify that this does not cover (nor constitute) a more general warm-up which everyone should be doing before hitting the weights: this covers specific warm-ups for a particular exercise or movement.

With that minor caveat out of the way, onwards!

 

The problem

Let me start off with an observation: Most people have no idea how to train heavy. The odds are that includes you (sorry) – but not to fear, help is at hand!

The amount of times I see people going TO OR NEAR-TO FAILURE on warm-up sets is staggering: How do you guys expect to see improvement (see previous blog post: Progressive Overload) if you waste your energy, insistent on “feeling the burn”, warming up?!

 

… Okay, okay, calm down Chris.

Let’s start with some definitions of specific warm-ups (from Google ‘define:’)

“Gradually prepares your body and mind for the workout.  Elevates body temperature and increases circulation of blood and oxygen throughout your body.  The intensity level of the warm-up is very low.  Performing a warm-up prior to your workout reduces the risk of injury. …”

“… a gradual increase in the intensity of exercise to allow physiological processes to prepare for greater energy outputs.”

“Movements and/or movement phrases designed to raise the core body temperature and bring the mind into focus for the dance activities that follow.”

Okay, okay – so that last one about dancing is a bit tenuous. But it’s there for a very specific reason I’ll come to in a moment.

 

The main objectives of specific warm-ups

  1. Increase blood and oxygen circulation in the area worked by the specific movement;
  2. To allow the body to prepare for greater exertions (i.e. getting into the ‘flow’, or polishing motor patterns);
  3. To focus the mind on the specific activity for the greater exertions to come.

(This is not an exhaustive list; if you can think of more, feel free to chip-in in the comments section!)

As we can see, the third quote quite neatly addresses objective #3.

 

What this means – the Golden Rule

Re-read quote one. Did you see it? No? Read it again. What this means is that: “The intensity level of the warm-up is very low.” Bold. Italics. Underline.

Let’s be crystal clear about this: Doing lots of warm-up repetitions is a darn good idea (refer to objectives 2 and 3 above); but it does not take a significant load to achieve the first objective, and this is where 99% of gym-goers fall down.

If at any point a warm-up rep feels even slightly hard, even a teensy-weensy bit; park it. You’ve done enough (well, more likely, you’ve already overdone it, but let’s make the best of the situation).

 

Question: Which sets count as warm-up sets?

Answer: Any set that isn’t specifically defined in your programme (e.g if your target for that day is 5 sets, then those 5 sets are not warm-ups. If you’re shooting for a new rep max, the anything but the one max effort set counts as a warm-up)

 

Further information (or, back-up sources)

For those of you who think I’m talking like a quack, let me point you to a few external articles on this very subject (there are quite a few, but these are my pick-of-the-bunch):

Fast forward to point 3 of 6: Here, Dave Tate gives you some sample numbers for a guy shooting for a new 300lb (~136kg) bench press PR, and has some choice quotes on most people warm-up technique. The article concludes:

“According to Tate, the smart lifter primes technique, activates the nervous and muscular systems, and gets the job done. The stupid lifter gets pinned.”

Amen.

(If you’re going to disagree with Dave Tate, best do it when his back is turned)

 

In his awesome e-book on strength training, Jim Wendler advises the following:

“• 1×5 @ 40%

• 1×5 @ 50%

• 1×3 @ 60%

• Work sets

The purpose of a warm-up is to prepare yourself for a great day of work sets – not an average one. You really shouldn’t need too many warm-up sets to prepare yourself for your work sets.”

It’s worth noting than Jim gives us some actual numbers: See that the top warm-up weight he advises is 60% of your training max (technically this is not quite your one rep max, but it’s hardly worth fussing about for our purposes). This means if your max bench is 315lbs, your top warm-up weight is only 190lbs or 84 kilos, and for a meagre 3 reps!

Quote of the day: straight from T-Nation: “If you don’t know who Jim Wendler is, you’re probably not very strong.”

 

Summary

Well, there’s not really much to summarise today folks – but please recap those objectives of warming up. If you take the advice written here, you’ll be posting new PR’s in no time!

– fullcirclestrength

Intro: new health & lifestyle blog!

Hi and welcome!

What this blog is about and why I’m doing it

This is my new and pretty wide-reaching blog covering all aspects of health and wellbeing. My intention is to catalogue various topics and review existing information, input my own thoughts, and provide readers with a somewhat-comprehensive and ever-growing resource of steps one can take to feel better in their own skin: I fully believe anyone is capable of enacting positive change be it large or small.

My (blog-savvy) partner suggested blogging would, if nothing else, be a good way for me to keep track of all the information I come across in my reading and experience… and would be far more effective than my current ‘link-dump’ approach of bookmarking in Firefox. But now I’m here, I’m really looking forward to creating a resource for both myself and others :)

Although the name of the blog would suggest a grizzled weight-training resource (and certainly there will be plenty of training info and links included here), I use the word ‘strength’ in terms of mobility and the ability to control your own body: everyone can (and should) have the strength to stand on one leg, to run and jump freely, and sit on a chair with correct posture and without back pain: these are all strength-related issues!

Who am I? – the short

My name’s Chris, 26 years old, living in the UK, and while I feel like I’ve sort of missed-the-bus on the whole blogosphere thing, but the universal rule is that it’s not too late unless your parents are doing it first (thankfully this is not the case so I’m all clear).

… the long

I work in Big Business, having spent most of my youth jumping through all the right hoops to get on the corporate ladder, but have recently resolved (having been thinking about it from around 3 months into my first career job) to take the plunge and get off The Great Treadmill(™) of modern living. And while it’s not like I’m throwing it all away to become a Witch Doctor in South Africa (not quite, but it feels like it sometimes), I’m upping stakes and moving with my partner to Istanbul due to her family commitments. We only have a very vague timescale for this at the minute, but it’s going to happen at some point.

You see, while I’m a competent financier, this impending reality-shift provides me with a great opportunity to re-evaluate my life and do something I really feel worth doing. Exactly what that is I’m not sure yet, but it involves educating on the truths of healthy living, nutrition, exercise, longevity, and most importantly happiness.

I’ve spent little time really evaluating my options, but I think personal training (though I dislike the term and it’s ‘salesman’ connections), nutrition and wellness coaching is something I would love doing. The reason I say this is because I feel passionately PASSIONATELY about these topics: I feel the urge to shout these things from rooftops; to teach mum (the universal “mum”) why a healthy, vibrant and strong body is more important than losing 5 lbs the Weight-Watchers way; and to show corporate-types that back pain, lordosis, and a spare tire are not part-and-parcel of the job.

In short, this is something I would happily do for free: and isn’t that the niche we’re all be seeking?

Is this blog for you?

If you are someone :

  • Interested in health, wellness and nutrition (as mentioned above, I shall be using this as a platform for providing free advice as well as a repository for all the fantastic links I have found over the years);
  • Looking for practical solutions, on a small or large-scale, to improving your wellbeing;
  • Interested in witnessing my extrication from the shackles of a salary-man to a dream-pursuer, possibly as a person who’s been having the same “is this it?”-type thoughts (and I know there are a lot of you out there);
  • With waaay too much free time

– then please stop by!

I’ll be aiming to provide updates at least weekly with a quasi-regular article on a specific topic I believe is of interest to myself and my wider audience (and if anyone would like my opinion on a particular topic all you have to do is ask!), as well as links to awesome stuff I find on the internet ;)

Thanks for reading,

– fullcirclestrength