Legs Again

After an arms session on Tuesday consisting mainly of dumbbell curls and triceps pushdowns with short rest periods and various intensity training methods employed, I hit legs light on the following day. After 5 sets of leg presses I went to the lying curl machine. My hamstrings are prone to cramping so I had to go very light on these after doing the leg presses.

Back to the leg press machine for another 5 sets, peaking at 470 for 5 reps twice - after hitting 580 on Saturday I did not want to push things too hard just 5 days later. Total volume was about 30,000 pounds.

June 19,20 Weekend

I haven't posted for a long while. I had started a weight training blog elsewhere, but I'm back here with people who share the goal of fitness...

Anyway, this weekend was dedicated to strength training. Reps were low, in the 5-rep range. My motivation level was high. I love changing things up; not only does it keep the muscles 'guessing', but it keeps me sharp mentally. Sometimes I think I should call my workouts ADHD Training, because I seem to have a short attention-span when it comes to this stuff.

I didn't try for new PR's, rather, I just made sure I hit some previous ones. I did hit a new high for the Leg Press, 580 pounds for 5 reps. My right-knee MCL sprain a few months ago luckily did not keep me away from squats, deadlifts, and the leg press machine for any length of time.

 

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Bench Press

I've been staying away from the flat bench lately, except when using dumbbells. The shoulder pain just hasn't been worth it. It seems no matter what I do or how light I go, I just can't avoid pain in the area between the chest and right shoulder joint. I've done extensive research on proper bench technique, but I can't seem to avoid that pain. And quite frankly, it feels nice not having pain to deal with.

I warmed up extensively today. Three sets with just the bare bar on the incline bench. Then gradually adding weight for three more warm-up sets. The payoff came during my working sets. Everything felt good, and I hit a personal high weight-wise. I added two sets of flat-bench dumbbell presses at 12 reps each.

I'm still fighting mild pain from what may be a sports hernia. I went heavy on machine hack squats two weeks ago. The pain went away with rest, but I twisted my torso getting out of bed last night and some pain has returned. That's typical of a sports hernia - it will respond to rest, but twisting and torquing action in the pelvic region can bring back the discomfort.

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Extra Day

I slipped in an extra day at the gym today, a chest workout. All lifts were of the inclined variety, first with DBs and then the bar. I hit new personal highs with both.

Personal records have been coming pretty rapidly for me of late, but I share Jim Wendler's basic philosophy that such attainments should not be rushed. Wendler's  5/3/1 program has been criticized by some because the increases are incremental, but I feel that incremental increases lay a solid foundation for future progress.

While I don't do Wendler's program as written, I do use a very gradual process when going heavy. For instance, say I do one set at a new personal high. Then I'll follow that with an added set or two at that weight at a future session. Once I can do three sets at an acceptable number of reps, I'll then look to add weight. To me, when I can do three sets at a given weight/reps, it shows that I have 'control' of that weight and can consider moving up.

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Aching Back

I went to the gym today and did deadlifts despite a sore back. My back wasn't aching from deadlifting, but instead from poor form on overhead barbell presses I did on Sunday. For some reason, I was arching my back rather than just keeping it straight. I wasn't pressing near-maximum weights either. I was doing around 65% of my single-rep max. It was just bad form, and by the time I figured it out midway through the second set, the damage was done.

The deadlifts went well. I did 6 sets of 3 reps each, not pushing things too hard. Lat pulldowns hurt and I had to quit those, and pullups were painful too. I hit the heavy bag for 15 minutes, working up a nice sweat, and called it a day.

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One Year In The Gym

Here's a Report Card style summary of what the past year in the gym has done for my major muscle groups in two categories - Effort and Results:

1. Legs - My legs have always been strong from all the walking I do at work, but doing squats and deadlifts, along with regular calf work and isolated hamstring work has made my legs stronger and more muscular than at any time in my life - not bad for a 50-something. Grades: Effort A Results A

2. Shoulders - Always a sore point until this year, my shoulders were too narrow and bony. I've worked hard to pack meat on them, and I've been pretty successful. My upper traps are beefier too, mainly as a result of deadlifts. Grades: Effort A Results B

3. Chest - My chest was decent before joining the gym, but now looks 'deeper', with more visible separation in the pecs. I tend to put weight on in this area (as well as my belly), so I need to work especially hard to tighten things up, and more work is needed. Grades: Effort B/Results B

4. Back - I usually work my back harder than any other upper body area. I have seen good results, with visible widening and some thickening. But I when I flex, my back still lacks the muscle separation that you'll see in a well-defined posterior chain. More work is needed. Grades: Effort A Results C

5. Core - I don't much direct core work. Working abs via crunches causes pain in my middle spine, so I stopped doing those. Leg raises hurt in the area where I had hernia repairs - a convenient excuse, I know, but I am very prone to inflammation there.

Despite this, I have improved in overall core strength due to emphasis on exercises like squats, deadlifts, and overhead press. I also do unilateral training, which demands core stabilization. Still, my obliques are too thick, which detracts from the wider lats that every bodybuilder strives for. Grades: Effort C Results C

Arms - Triceps account for about 3/4 of arm mass, and I'm happy to report than my Tri's look bigger and better-defined. My biceps have always been big, and I just don't spend much time on them because 1) I prefer to work on weaker areas and 2) They get indirect stimulation with all the pulling I do. A few curls each week or so seems to be all they need. Grades: Effort C- Results B+

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Gym Complaints

A couple days ago I was reading a Facebook feed from Gold's Gym, the subject matter being complaints about people who train at gyms. Needless to say, there were lots of comments in response. And at discussion boards such as the one at Bodybuilding.com, threads on gym complaints are often the most active.

My feeling on gym complaints is pretty simple - if someone flaunts safety and/or courtesy rules, I'm not happy. But other than that, there's just not much that bothers me to a serious extent.

Racking weights and wiping down equipment are my two major concerns. I always do both, unless I simply forget. And I don't like it when people don't bother to do one or the other.

But many of the complaints I read are kind of nit-picky. For example, there are many complaints about people using cell phones at the gym (which I don't do by the way). But if someone wants to chat on the phone during a workout it's their loss, not mine.

Another peeve is grunting. Again, I'm not a grunter, but if someone grunts - even if they don't seem to be pushing a lot of weight - why should that bother me? I am bothered by Maria Sharapova's grunts during her tennis matches, but her grunt is actually a blood-curdling scream, and I don't hear those in the gym.

In summary, my suggestion is to just relax - gyms are a public place after all. As long as people obey safety rules and are reasonably clean, I'm not going to complain. Besides, whom among us doesn't do one or two things that others probably find a little unusual?

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The Weekend

I don't think of myself as a weekend warrior, since I also train during the week. But I do like to hit the gym on both weekend days whenever possible, since I usually have more energy on Saturdays and Sundays.

This weekend was no exception. I did a 'no-weight' workout Saturday - a short stint on the bike followed by a long stint at the heavy bag of close to 30 minutes. Again, I kept moving to promote stimulation in the calves in particular. Following that, 3 sets totaling 50 reps on the hack squat machine (no weights added), then the horizontal leg press for 50 reps using 90 lbs - so I'll have to confess to using some weight.

Sunday was shoulders day, with 3x5 on standing barbell presses, rear delt work, standing DB presses, and finally machine lateral raises. I did a bit of Farmer's Walking around the gym too, with two 45-pound plates.


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Overhead Press

This T-Nation http://www.tmuscle.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/the_overhead_press_bodybuildings_forgotten_muscle_builder contains a good explanation of this exercise and why it's been largely forgotten in bodybuilding circles. By "overhead" press, the article is referring primarily to what is often known as the "military" press, and its variations.

The distinguishing factor is the standing nature of this press. The seated overhead press is, after all, still quite common in gyms. But how many lifters are performing the standing overhead press? Not many; in fact, in my gym, I've observed very few performing the move.

Fact is, the overhead press is a fine barometer of overall strength as well as key in developing the deltoids. And unlike that current barometer of strength in the mind of most people, the bench press, the overhead press can actually be performed with less risk to the shoulders.

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Today was single-bar workout day. One fixed weight barbell. Take it and do as much as you can. Today was arms. Triceps extensions, inclined, superset with close-grip presses. Then biceps curls, superset again with various grip-widths. First set, for example, was 30 reps - 10 wide, 10 medium, 10 narrow grip. Wound things up with some forearm work.

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Today was the first day since joining the gym that I've trained without lifting weights.

Staying away from the weights is hard for me. I walk into that gym and feel like a kid in an ice cream parlor. There's all those weights and all those machines to tempt me. But today I managed to hit the stair-climber for 10 minutes, the exercise bike for 10 minutes, and then shadow boxing and calf-raises (I did use a barbell for the raises).

I find shadow boxing to be just as effective, if not more effective, than actually hitting the bag.

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Hacks

Here's a http://www.flexonline.com/quads_bodybuilding_weightlifting/training/157 concerning working the quadriceps hard while going a bit easier on the back. One of the exercises suggested is hack squats.At the gym, the hack squat machines are among my favorites. I can work the quadriceps without worrying about balancing a bar on my back, as in regular squats. There's two types of machines available at my gym; a Hammer Strength piece that's plate-loaded and doubles as a high pull unit, and a machine in which the user stands on a plate and pushes up after bending and getting the shoulders under pads.

This weekend I did 11 sets, 8 on Saturday. Normally I wouldn't work the same muscle group a second straight day, but I made an exception on Sunday.


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Embarrassing Moment

I almost had a very embarrassing moment at the gym this morning. I was set to do ab crunches with a triceps pulldown rope attachment. Instead of doing them on the floor, I wanted to try doing them seated on a nearby bench.

I pulled the bench over, but didn't realize that I needed to use a lighter weight, since my momentum wouldn't be as great as it would be had I been pulling down to the floor. I flew back into the cable station as I held onto the rope. Luckily, the gym was sparsely populated at the time, so it didn't look like anyone saw me.

Since I've joined the gym, my average sets per workout is up considerably. I'm averaging 25.3 sets every time I go. Generally, this load is spread between 3-4 muscle groups during the session. Today for instance I spread 28 sets between shoulders, arms, and legs.

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Signed Up

I joined the local fitness center last week, and entered a raffle while I was at it. I won three-months free membership. It's not the first time I ever won anything (about 20 years ago, my wife won a drawing for a free weekend at a hotel/theater in Valley Forge), but it's the first time in quite a while.

As part of their special promotion, the gym also was serving energy and fitness drink "shots", and free protein drinks. The shots were pretty tasty. The protein drinks, like most, tasted pretty awful, but hey, the price was right.

I worked out my shoulders with a combination of machines, free weights, and a few minutes at the heavy bag, then topped it off with a bit of treadmill cardio. I have yet to visit the theater room, where you can watch movies as you do cardio. The treadmills and other cardio equipment have TVs as well.

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