Sleep was spotty last night, which may have been part of my problem. However, a cup of coffee, a glass of water, and a small bowl of yogurt can go a long way.
I looked at the outside temp and it said 55 degrees F (a hair over 12 degrees C) so I figured I could go out without wearing my hoodie. The forecast said rain, but for later in the morning. I looked out a window and confirmed everything looked dry, although the wind had picked up quite a bit.
I got ready to head out to the gym, opened the garage door, and it was pouring outside.
What the heck. It’s only water.
I pulled into the gym’s parking lot at about 3 to the hour. Joe was already waiting at the door, so I figured I’d wait with him. Yikes, rain is cold and so was the wind.
Oh well, it was only 3 minutes.
A couple of other regulars waited with us, but no one was at the door who uses free weights, so I was golden. Then the lights popped on, the doors were unlocked, and I was in and determined to make at least one PR this morning.
Here’s how I started my Thursday.
Overhead Press in Squat Rack
10x 45lbs/20.4117kg (warm up)
5x 75lbs/34.0194kg (1+)
2x 85lbs/38.5554kg (joker)
1x 85lbs/38.5554kg (joker)
3x 85lbs/38.5554kg (joker)
Rack Pull in Squat Rack
5x 155lbs/70.3068kg (warm up)
5x 235lbs/106.594kg (1+)
3x 255lbs/115.666kg (joker)
1x 275lbs/124.738kg (joker)
1x 290lbs/131.542kg (joker) PR
Overhead Press in Squat Rack
Box Squats in Squat Rack
Leg Back Raises
Leg Side Raises
Alternating Arm/Leg Raises (Bird Dog)
12x each side
Standing on One Foot
30 seconds each side
My warm up set of overhead presses felt hard on my delts, but I figured I was just stiff and needed the warm up to get loose. I didn’t make the mistake of setting the weights too heavy this time, and did my planned 3 working sets, doing 5 reps for my 1+ set.
For my first joker, I jacked the weight on the bar up by 10 pounds, but only made 2 reps with an 85 pound barbell. I increased the weight to 90 and then rested about a minute-and-a-half.
Then I made my attempt to match my previous PR in the second joker set, but didn’t even get the barbell off my chest. It felt too darn heavy.
I was going to do something with my jokers, so I took the weight back down to 85 pounds and did a single.
That was pathetic. Let’s try that again. For my third and final joker, I managed 3 reps at 85 pounds, but I had to pour everything I had into the lift.
What’s done is done. I’ll chase a PR for the overhead press again next week.
Meanwhile, on to the rack pulls. Here’s where “redemption” comes in.
The warm up and first working set went fine. Things started to feel heavy on the second working set, but I kept going. Last week, I did 2 reps with my first joker set using a 255 pound barbell, but today, I did 3.
I had my eye on doing a final joker using a 295 barbell, but when I did my second joker at 275, the amount of effort it took to do that single told me I wasn’t going to make it with a barbell that’s 20 pounds heavier.
I increased the weight on the bar to 290, five more pounds than last week’s PR, and then rested for 2 minutes.
After that, I approached the barbell, squatted down, took my grip, tightened everything up, took several deep breaths, and tested the bar.
It felt heavy and I momentarily doubted my ability to even move it let alone stand up with the thing in my hands.
Then I lifted. The weight came up just a tiny bit faster than 285 pounds did last week, but it was still slow and required a lot of effort. I could see my face getting red, and after several seconds, I actually felt amazed when I saw my reflection standing completely erect. I stood there for a second or two before lowering the weight.
Wow, that felt good! 290 pounds for a new PR in the rack pull.
That took a lot out of me and I found myself dreading doing deadlifts as an assistance lift. So on the fly, I changed my plan and went back to more barbell overhead presses in the rack (good thing no one was in the weight room who squats).
I’ve made this substitution before using just the 45 pound bar, and today, I just slightly increased the weight to a modest 50 pounds.
That doesn’t sound like much, but I worked up a sweat doing 5 sets at 10 reps per set (although I was already sweating from rack pulls). I was a little embarrassed, since shaved head guy and his daughter were there (using both of the bench press stations, of course) as well as a few of the other regulars.
I ignored them as best I could and just kept cranking.
Since assistance lifts are supposed to help with plateaus, and since I seem to have hit a wall with back squats, I decided to stay in the squat rack (nearly the whole hour in the squat rack…it was like Heaven), went and got the 12 inch tall box, and made box squats my last assistance lift, setting aside deadlifts altogether.
I kept the weight on the bar at 50 pounds, since box squats take my thighs below parallel and this is more for form than strength.
It really burned at the outside of each thigh and was kind of “knee intensive” as well, so I kept the reps to 5 per set rather than 10. I noticed at the bottom of the hole that my knees were drifting forward past my ankles, which explains a lot, including why my knees get sore.
It also probably explains why I’m not getting the power out of my squats that I should be seeing. Getting my knees to drift back to center was hard, and it required much more effort from my quads.
Even with just a 50 pound barbell, getting up off of the box hurt each and every rep.
I was sweating like the proverbial pig by the time I finished with my final set. I “deloaded” the bar (if taking off two 2.5 pound plates can be considered a “load”) and used the box like a tray to take my gear to the other side of the gym so I could grab a mat and do my Kasey the Chiropractor core work.
As I was on my hands and knees, I put my rag on the mat to catch the sweat that was still dripping off of my face.
My final core exercise, balancing on each foot for 30 seconds, is still difficult. I managed to balance on my right foot for the full amount of time without having to steady myself against a rack or let my foot touch the floor, but trying the same thing with my left foot was miserable.
I looked at the clock and saw it was just about 5 past the hour and time for me to leave.
That’s it. The end of 5/3/1+ week and the end of my second complete circuit in my rebooted strength training program post-personal training.
You may remember from yesterday that I said I found a useful article called Plateau Busters: 5 GUARANTEED Ways to Analyze and Break Through Plateaus. It’s a rather long article but it has some good takeaways.
You can click the link I provided and read the whole thing, but the author had a couple of strategies for braking plateaus: The Body Part Perspective and The Sticking Point Perspective.
The Body Part Perspective is basically identifying the part of your body, muscle group, whatever, where you’ve hit your plateau.
The bodypart perspective is quite simple; figure out which muscle group(s) are weak, strengthen them, and then watch the primary lift go up! Zatsiorsky defines this as delayed transmutation; strengthening a specific muscle group with a non-specific exercise. So while a lunge may not transfer directly to an improvement in your squat, it could. Here’s an example:
You miss your squats towards the top, indicating a weakness in the quadriceps. To combat this, you insert short-stroke lunges into your accessory work to strengthen the quads. Once you’ve increased the strength and size in the quadriceps, your body will learn to translate this increased quadriceps strength into your squat motor program, and thus obliterate your sticking point!
The downside to using this technique is that you have to understand something about biomechanics and anatomy. To help the reader out, the article provides a handy chart of exercises (squat, bench press, deadlift), where you experience the sticking point (top, mid-range, or bottom of the lift), and what body parts to focus on in your assistance lifts.
The Sticking Point Perspective is sort of the same, except you’re focusing on where in your lift you “stick” rather than the body part(s) involved.
The sticking point perspective is very similar to the body part perspective, except this time you’ll be training a specific range of motion versus a specific muscle group. The problem with the body part perspective is this: What if you don’t understand functional anatomy? And therefore what muscles groups are lagging behind? In my estimation, the sticking point perspective is more easily applicable to beginners or those who don’t have a firm grasp of biomechanics and anatomy.
To use the sticking point perspective, simply train your sticking point and the positions above and below it. The research on functional isometrics by O’Shea determined that isometrics not only increased strength at the joint angle you trained, but also 15 degrees above and below that position. So don’t worry if you miss a squat at 85 degrees of knee flexion and you’re training at 79; the carryover will still be there!
As you just read in the quote, this perspective is more readily utilized by novices and people who otherwise lack a great deal of knowledge about anatomy.
The article also provides a handy chart of which assistance exercises you should do depending on which main lift is involved and where (again, top, mid-range, or bottom) in the lift you are stalling.
There’s a lot more to this write-up so I encourage you to click the link I provided above and read the whole thing.
Here’s how the author summarizes his content:
Do you ever wonder what the difference is between the guy who continually makes gains and the guy who looks the same year-after-year? While we can’t discount the psychological differences between these two lifters, understanding how to choose appropriate lifts to bring up weaknesses is something every lifter should know and understand. The better you understand the body and how to choose appropriate exercises, the less likely you are to suffer from plateaus and poor overall progress.
As I mentioned yesterday, plateaus involve not being able to push past a sticking point in your main lift working sets. So far, that’s not my problem. I’m hitting a wall on my heavier joker sets, so I will likely revisit this T-Nation.com article by Mike Robertson as I keep moving forward.
In the meantime, I need some rest. Cardio and core tomorrow, and then I consider how to set up my weights for the next circuit. I think I can do without a deload week, at least in this cycle, and just start up with my next 5/5/5+ week.
Here’s to getting stronger and pushing limits.
There is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up.