End of Cycle Six 5/5/5+ Week and Rack Pull Strength

rack pulls
Photo: nailsworthstrengthandfitness.co.uk

We had our son and the grandkids over for dinner last night, so by the time they left and I got some wind down time, it was getting to be around 10, so I got to bed late.

Forced myself out of bed this morning at 5 til 4 not only because I had rack pulls scheduled, but because the missus said she wanted to go into the gym with me. Turns out, she needed the extra rest (she came to bed after I did), so she got up at around 4:30 and show up at the gym until 5:30.

Decided to lift fasted, so one cup of coffee and one glass of water later, I was dressed and out the door. Pulled into the gym’s parking lot at 3 until 5, waited a minute, and got out of the car. Terry was at the door but his trainer Chase, who he and his group normally work with on Fridays, is currently in Las Vegas at some sort of martial arts competition.

The receptionist gal turned on the lights and unlocked the door for us and in we went. A couple of other regulars came in soon afterward, but I got to the squat rack first and set it up for my warm ups.

I set my last PR at rack pulls 3 weeks ago. It was 1 rep at 300 pounds. I was feeling kind of tired. Could I top my current PR today or was I just plain crazy?

The end of cycle six 5/5/5+ week. Let’s see how I did.

5/5/5+

Main Lift

Rack Pull in Squat Rack

10x 155lbs/70.3068kg (warm up)
5x 195lbs/88.4505kg
5x 225lbs/102.058kg
6x 255lbs/115.666kg
3x 275lbs/124.738kg (joker)
2x 290lbs/131.542kg (joker)
1x 305lbs/138.346kg (joker) PR

Yes, I achieved a new PR, but the build up to it wasn’t easy. Of course the warm ups were just to loosen me up. The weight started to feel heavy at 225 pounds and doing 6 reps at 255 felt difficult, unexpectedly so. I was concerned this was a bad sign.

rack pull form
Image: redcappedbandit’s YouTube channel

Did 3 reps for my first joker at 275 pounds, which is pretty typical. When I pulled up 290 pounds for my first rep on the second joker set, I was questioning the wisdom of trying for a new PR. I managed to get the barbell up to the lockout and spontaneously attempted and succeeded at a second rep.

That convinced me. If I could do 2 reps at just 10 pounds under my current PR, why not try for a single at 305 pounds and a new PR?

Up until this point, I’d been resting 2 to 2 1/2 minutes between sets, but this time, I allowed myself a full 180 seconds (approximately) to prepare. By the way, the Hammer Strength rack and the metal weight plates shown in “redcappedbandit’s” image to the right just above are exactly the same ones I use at my gym. Just thought I’d point that out.

A few of the regulars had been walking in and out of the weight room, including Terry who was training alone. I almost called him over to watch me try for my new PR but thought better of it. I’m doing this for my personal health goals, not because I want to be a performing seal (more on that in a minute).

I took my position and set myself. Tightened everything up. Pulled just enough to tighten my lats and arms. Then I pulled hard.

For the first second or two, I didn’t think I’d get the barbell more than an inch or so up, but I kept pulling and slowly started making progress. I was getting frustrated with weight and kept muttering something like, “Oh c’mon”. I got past the halfway point in the lift and after that, I knew I was going to make it.

Did the lockout, then I just stood there for 3, 4, or 5 seconds looking at myself in the mirror holding a 305 pound barbell in my bare hands.

Finally I reversed the lift and the barbell came down on the supports with the usual loud, metallic “Bang!”

I did it, just barely, but I did it.

I looked around. Terry was talking with another regular. There was no one else in the weight room. Yeah, I kind of wanted an “At a boy” but I wasn’t going to get it. Guess I’ll just have to settle for self-satisfaction and a new PR in my rack pull.

I didn’t feel as fatigued as I remember after pulling up 300 pounds the other week. Headed for the elliptical machine and did a little light cardio for 25 minutes (20 minutes cardio, 5 minutes cooldown).

squat rack
Photo credit: mensfitness.com

That’s when my wife showed up at the gym. Saw tall, formerly broken foot guy but he never went near the squat rack. Just worked on his biceps.

I did see that 17-year-old kid I mentioned the other day and he did go into the squat rack. I was too far away to see what he was doing and at that point, I didn’t care. As I was winding down my cardio, I saw a number of weight room regulars walk in, and the place started getting crowded. Glad I got my work done early.

I finished with cardio and decided to skip the Kasey core work. I did do my usual ham and quad stretches and I’m noticing a lot less discomfort in my left leg. Hope this bodes well for my back squats next week.

Topic Change

I came across a recent article written by Mark Rippetoe called Performance vs Training. To sum up, he says:

A performance is the test. Training is studying for the test. Your problem may be that you haven’t decided which class you’re going to take, so you haven’t thought about how to study for it. May I suggest that Strength would be a good class to enroll in first, because strength benefits quite literally everything – your physique, your speed, your endurance, and your toughness.

Basically, Rip says that if you’re in the gym working up to the heaviest you can lift just because you can, you’re performing, not training. Training, and I agree with him, is a goal-oriented, pre-determined, scheduled set of lifts, weights, sets, and reps designed to promote adaptation in your body to overcome specific weaknesses (such as my lagging triceps).

Rip used examples of how athletes train for specific performances such as the Olympics or professional football, and so on. What you do to train for an event doesn’t always exactly mirror your performance at the event.

So what am I doing? I’m not an athlete, professional or otherwise. The only person I’m competing against is myself. I have my specific program, my working sets, which is designed to strengthen me and overcome weak areas. But I also have my joker sets and goals for PRs, which, I suppose is my “performance”.

But the goal isn’t the performance, it’s the adaptation. It’s what happens when you aren’t working out. It’s what happens on rest days when you body is recovering.

That’s when you get stronger.

rippetoe rack pull
Mark Rippetoe. Image: ejerciciosencasa.es

Fortunately, Rip addressed that, too:

You may well never aspire to athlete-status. You may just be interested in looking better and staying healthy. Still, give some thought to the way your gym time is spent, and you won’t have to just hope you’re getting better. You’ll know, because you trained for it.

So I’m training for strength. Sure, I’d like to lose my belly fat and look better, but the ultimate goal is to get stronger and stay strong as I get older. My goal is to not fall over like a doddering old guy when I’m 70, 75, or 80 years old or older (God be willing). My goal is to be able to keep up with my grandkids as I get older and as they get older.

So lifting, following the 5/3/1 program, doing joker sets, and achieving PRs are all just a means to an end. The goal isn’t to fight age, which is impossible. We all get older chronologically. The goal is to fight the weakness and disabilities that come to many people as they age and lead their sedentary lives.

These people will die old, weak, and sedentary deaths. I don’t want to be one of them.

Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing.

Pele

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