End of April update

It has been nearly a year since I posted here- I do keep my other blog with some frequency, at least more than this one. I apologize if any one was anticipating me to post here, it just did not happen. But here we go with a recap of the last year.

This last year was up and down for my lifting. I was without a gym membership for June and July- I was talking summer classes and was forced by time constraints to put aside my training. I started school in the fall and the on campus had very limited hours for the weight room; therefore, it was crowded and hard to get onto equipment- however I managed to get 3-4 day a week, training my major compound movements with my auxiliary/supplementary movements.

Then in late October, I hyper extended both of my thumbs playing intramural football- I was nearly impossible for me to hold a barbell, pushing or pulling; it was extremely painful to hand write for any length of time. I had to abstain from lifting for nearly 2 months. During winter vacation, I started lifting again- It was good to be back in the gym.

This spring semester, I was able to lift constantly, 3-4 times a week. Mondays, legs- Squats, RDLS, bent over row variation. Wednesday, Bench- Flat barbell, incline, back flye and facepulls. Friday/Saturday, Deadlift and OHP. And of course, biceps and Triceps everyday.

I tested my maxes during spring break. Squat 475, Bench 385, 515 Deadlift. Not nearly as much I wanted to gain, but the gains are still coming, so I have little reason to complain. I have seen myself getting much more comfortable under heavy weights, but still have healthy respect for the potential of my physical limits.

-Pennell

Mid May Update

I must say, I have been very happy with my weight lifting progress. I am finally starting to break the mental blocks of heavy weights. Just 6 months ago benching 225 what hard enough, I could not fathom pushing 320 for 3 with fair ease. For squats, two of my working sets are over 4 plates- my max back in high school; the same for my deadlift, my singles are fast approaching 5 plates, and it is all mental.

For this past month, my best lifts have been. Squat, 430 for 3 reps. Bench, 320 for 3 reps. Deadlift, 475 for 1 rep.

I have made some changes to my routine- they all appeal to my mental state… The biggest change is to face away from the mirror while squatting. This is something I have not done since high school.  I found that I was using the mirror to correct my stance and depth instead of using mental cues. Next is using body weight squats to enforce weight squat cues. These two changes have greatly increased my confidence in my squat. Lastly, I have been physically logging all my workout in a binder. I has been so helpful to see my work laid out on paper. I allows me to gauge and track my progress and take notes of problems in my training. It also helps me keep on track in the gym-I know what each set is going to be, not trying to figure it out on the spot, all my weights, reps and set laid out.

I got to work out with a gentleman from the gym. I usually train by myself- my schedule is awkward, so I do not make obligations to train anyone. This man looks to be in fairly good shape- a gym rat, he was interested in trying something new and decided to jump in with me on my Bench/Back day. First exercise is Bench volume day, I program 5 set of 12-8 reps just as warmup. The guy I was working with was not expecting that. Most people in the gym do one or two sets and then jump straight into working sets. Most people take 5 minutes between sets, not 2-3 minutes. To do my major compound lift of the day it may take 9 to 11 set done in about 25-30 minutes.

I am becoming confident with my big three lifts (Bench, Squat, Deadlifts). I have set goals, 3 rep maxs for deadlift and squat at 450lb and my bench at 350lb,- and so far I am on track to hit them with in 6 months, in hopes that I do not stall more than once or twice. I have been thinking about entering a competition- I know full well that I am by no means an above average powerlifter, but I think I could do well in a local compitition; more so if dropped a few pounds while maintaining or increasing my strength.

Speaking of dropping a few pounds, my weight has stayed consistent for the last month. I have added cardio to my routine- I am walking at a brisk pace and slight incline for 20-25 minutes- this is done at the end of weight training session. Am I happy about the scale stagnating, no; is it my fault, yes, I am not strict enough about my diet to start cutting weight. However, if this is to my understanding, since my weight is not fluxing, I am consuming at a caloric maintenance level- All I have to do is remove a couple hundred calories, this is the first time in awhile that my weight has not been moving rapidly up or down. I have started taking protein shakes- I don’t know if this is what helping stabilize my weight, but I do not feel that it is harming it.

At the time of writing this I will be in LA a little less than 24 hours. It has been nearly three years since I have been here. So far, I am not impressed by the gawd-awful traffic, I am not looking forward to travelling in it tomorrow on my way home. I forgot LA is so large and expansive. Thursdays are normally volume leg days (5×5) and Fridays is my power bench day (5×3, increasing weighs). I will be missing both- on top of that I will spending 4+ hours sitting my truck, which for me, is about the worst thing I can do in terms of mobility. The next day will be in the gym is Saturday, which I might just hit bench, squat and deadlifts in the same day; however, I am contemplating taking time off till Monday off… we will see. For sure I will be doing some mobility drills until I go into the gym again to keep a bit limber. This time off might be good for my body to rebuild itself…

Mid April Update

Crazy months. Thing have not settled still. The last week of March I spent in Santa Cruz on a mission trip with my youth trip. No gym, but it was a good change of pace for my training. I was on my feet and moving for 8+ hours a day. The time allowed me to figure out if what I was doing in the gym is actually useful in the really world. It also gave me some time to figure out what I need to work on.

The time out the gym gave my joints and muscles to recover a bit. I did a good bit of stretching; both dynamic and static. My depth for squats has improved; however, my upper body mobility is still lacking- it still much improved compared to even 3 months ago.

My 5×5 norms have stalled quite a bit and it was getting boring. My workout were becoming ridiculously long, many time 2+ hours. My weight stagnated. So it is/was time for something new.

So this is what I am doing- I cut out my auxiliary and complimentary lifts, most of them at least. I have moved back to doing Legs 2 days a week and doing Chest/Back 2 days a week and day dedicated to Deadlift, Cleans, OHP and shrugs.

I have two different leg routines. Monday are strength. Back squats with my hybrid stance. Warm up to 70% of max and work set of 3 reps up to 90% of max.  For example, This week my max is 460, warmup set were 8-12 rep @135, 185, 225, 275, and 295. Work sets, 3 reps, were: 320(70%), 345(75%), 370(80%), 390(85%), 415(90%). From here I hope to increase weight each time I work strength. After 3 weeks my top set should be 435 1×3. My assistance work is Farmers walks, lunge or leg press.

Thursday is speed day- I am hammering out details, but it will include back squat at 50-60% 1RM, focused on form and speed. Warmup sets are as Monday; however, work sets are 5×5. Adding front squat movement- Very light weight, trying to increase upper body mobility and lower back stability. Sets are higher reps of 8-10 range focused of form. Assistance is is glute/ham bridges or hip thrusters. Explosiveness and strengthening for getting out of the hole on squats and bottom position of Deadlifts.

For Chest/Back splits, there are two major barbell movements- Press and row. My body is still responding to the 5×5 for flat and incline bench. (I hit 395 for reps a couple weeks ago!)  I have started to pull heavier for rows, using 5×5 to build strength, alternating between 45 and 90 degrees. I have add dips to the mix with are more efficient than tricep extensions. I am dropping the cable cross over for the sake of focus on barbell movements.

Saturdays or “dead days” or “Barbell Mania” are 4 barbell movements. Open with deadlift. Warmup are like squat except reps are restricted to 5 or 6 reps opposed to 8-12. Today, when I hit last warmup set, 315, I started to increase my weights by 20lb total and dropped reps to 3. My work set were 335, 355, 375, 395, 415-triples and a single @435. Next was shrugs, 3-4set of 10-12 reps at high weight my grip can take after deads. Next was clean, I prefer hang cleans, but right now all I am working on is form and flexibility in the rack position. Last lift of the day is Over Head Press, standing- 5×5 for strength with a linear progress.

I am focusing on building strength at this point opposed to the more bodybuilding approach I had been taking. I have no desire at this point to put any more mass on. I mean, my waist line has shrunk (good), I have lost some circumference on my legs (saddening). My traps are more visible, and my arms and shoulders pushing me to next shirt size, ie more bicep/tricep growth . My weight has been constant at 230 for the last month, despite the poor eating and time off. I am not weight I want be, but physical I am feeling the best I have in over a year. I am adding in weighted cardio, ie farmer walks, and added jump roping which I find more interesting then running on a treadmill.

Side note, my body stores fat on my lats and under my armpits… and it the last place it leaves. Also, I started to take protein powder because it is eating whole chickens and I was hard up to get enough proteins in my normal food. It has been only a week, but we will see how it go before I sink a bunch of money into it….

-Until next time, lift heavy things and don’t get yourself killed.

Frustration

To be truthful, I am a bit frustrated with myself. My lifting has been going well- I am upping my cardio; however, my weight had not gone down- It has actually increased a little. I had a physical a couple of weeks and the doctor said I was in great shape expect for my body weight and my blood pressure. When you envision a guy that is 5’7/5’8 that is weighing in at 245ish in street clothes, I am not the average guy. I don’t have a bear belly. (between my wallet, phone, Ipod, knife, flip flops and other crap I carry on a daily basis.. it adds up fast- I am still 235 in workout clothes- I am not cheating you fitocracy!) Point is I need to lose weight for the sake of my heart and my over all health. It ain’t going to be easy I feel.

(Rant: I hate of the rack clothing. After you hit “large,” manufactures do not make the shoulders or arms any bigger. They just make the belly bigger. So every thing I buy to fit my shoulders, make me like I am wearing a smock- not flattering. Same thing with jeans- nothing fits quite as well as I want them too.)

So today, I have spent a couple hours at my local Starbucks researching different diet methods. I have heard a lot about IIFYM- If It Fits Your Macros. So I decided to do some research. It is pretty straight forward- you use your body weight  activity level and lean body mass to figure out how much of each macro nutrient you need to maintain weight (from there you can adjust for bulk or cut) Macro nutrients are Protein, Fat and Carb. It seems that there is a great amount of focus placed on Protein intake and that Carbs are used the fill in the leftover calories.

Most of the information I used was from here: The Spartan Warrior. It was a quick, straight forward read. I was able to figure out my approximate needs in under an hour. I am not going to go in depth here, because it is covered beautifully in the linked article. Point is that I am going to try this for the next few weeks. It will be interesting to try to measure my macro intake.

I am not a dietition, nutritionist, nor a health care professional- all this is personal research that I am sharing with you. Use at risk If you are interested in the excel worksheet that I created for myself that has fillable data, I have attached it to this post, here: Personal IIFYM-. All the spots in red are replaceable with your personal stats. You do need to know your body fat percentage for this to work and it only works with body weight in pounds, sorry.

Now for personal numbers. (36×30 Lucky jeans, relax, large/xlarge button down shirts, athletic fit, 17-18in neck… Wait, wot? Wrong numbers. Sorry.)

So I calculated macro with a body fat estimated at 25% at 106.6kg, leaving me with ~79kg lean body mass (LBM) From there I calculated my maintenance calories and my cutting calories (to cut weight, I shot for 1lb a week, 3500Kcal= 1lb; therefore, 500Kcal a day for a week, 7 days, equals 3500Kcal, which equals 1lb.) I am would consider myself moderately active- I workout 5 hours at a time and walk to my destination, weather and time permitting. I also calculated fat intake for high body fat, which used the the factor of 1-2g of Fat per LBM, for average person it is 1-2g Fat per total body weight (in kg, of course)

When all is said and done, I am slated with 160g Protein, 120g Fat, 232g Carbs. (Note: because I am using High BF% fat calculations my fats are lower than average and my carbs are up.) I am using cutting numbers right now. So if this works- will drop about a pound a week, there about.

Here is the worksheet again: Personal IIFYM-

Bon voyage

End of February Log

This past week has been a week of deloads on my major compounds- I feel that I look like a weakling.

For squat I did doubles and single Monday night, because I did not feel like doing a bunch of reps. I hit 405 for two reps; (I have not done that since Junior year of high school and that was for 3 reps (at sub 200lbs :-P), I am 30lbs heavier now…). My left knee felt pretty good, going to invest in wraps soon. I deloaded to 315 for Thursday’s workout and moved from 3×8 to 5×5 plan. I feel for me that my legs have a better response to 5×5. I am adding back the 15-20 rep closing set- leg killer. I am going to work this progression out as long as possible. (I squat twice a week, up by 10lbs a work out, 20lbs a week; so 80lbs a month- is that too much to ask for?)

I deloaded my bench to 225 and have kept the 5×5. For bench is is all nerves, the mental aspect of weight approaching 315lbs is overwhelming. I deloaded from 290ish for 5×5- I just am not there mentally yet to do that with out a spotter.

This last month I have been playing around with my complimentary exercise.

For legs I have been switching between romanian deadlifts and seated leg curls for the hammies; and lunges and and leg extensions for the quads. It all depending on how I am feeling that day. Lunges are one of those exercises that I find more beneficial for more than just quad development- If I do extensions I will do lunges.

For chest I interchange cable flyes with dumbbell flyes and dumbbell bench. Cable flyes provide better ROM and tension for the whole movement. Also I am starting to put more emphasis on Incline bench- It works my upper pec as well as my deltoids (which are quite week, IMO).

I am working on the motivation to get my cardio in- the weather here has been great so I have started to walk and bike to work and other events. I still drive to the gym on leg days because ridding a bike is a pain the ass when your legs no longer support body weight.

That’s all I got- until next time, lift strong and lift hard.

Mid February Update

It has been good coming so far. My weight has stalled at 233 +/-4 pounds. Looking in the mirror and using the way my clothes fit are indicators of changes in body composition. I have started limit myself to looking at the scale twice a week. Am I please about the stall at 233? No, I would like to drop weight for the sake of joints and overall health, but at this point I am not going to deviate from my lifting. I have added in more cardio per session. Hard thing is that I find cardio so boring…

The first half of this week, 12th and 13th, were OK days. Squats, I hit my volume of 3×8@325. Today, flat bench stalled in set 4 of 5 at 285 on 4th rep- it was mental block. I only learned how to bench properly about 6 months ago- just to think of the years I wasted with crass benching form. 

For the last month, I have been trying to figure out my goals and then establishing the ways to hit those goals. Have decided that I am trying to build functional strength. I am not trying to be a bodybuilder nor a strongman. I want to strong, but I don’t just want to be a huge mass of muscle covered in fat. I also want to be mobile- I want to enjoy running around and having fun. 

So what does this mean? First off, get the diet under control- making sure I am eating good portions and decently “clean.” Second, I continue to lift weights- When I stall at a weight I will either deload and/or change set/reps. Third is that I must force myself to do cardio and engage in activities that get me to run around; lifting is easy and fun, cardio not so much. Lastly, I will have to drop some auxiliary lifts to allow for time for cardio and more/other compound lifts- this includes adding bodyweight dips and pull ups. 

This is a lifestyle, not just something to get me ready for summer. Lift and train with a goal in mind. Checkout/follow my workouts here.

Last half of January update

I have started to use fitocracy to track my workouts- you can see my workout here, via tumblr: here. I will see about reposting those reports here.

This past week of work outs have been great. For my major compounds I hit my increases. Squat 3×8@315, Bench 5×5@270 (I jumped from 255 to 270 on accident…oops), deadlift 2@365 2@385 1@405 and almost 1@425. 

Started to ride my bike to work and such when the weather is pleasant enough. My mobility in my left shoulder is improving, I have taken more time to warm up and stretch the shoulder. I am still trying to recover decent eating habits from the after the holidays- I am stuck on sweets, need more meat and veggies (I am sounding like a girl…) February ain’t going to be helping that- I am on the road for a good chunk of time- we shall see. 

Stay strong and work hard.