OK, four weeks to atone for our poor showing this year, and prepare for 2018. I will continue with my Push-Pull Split and try to add one pound to my Squat 1RM at each iteration of the split, then use my Iron Ratio to determine the loads of the other five, primary lifts. My Iron Ratio is: Deadlift = 4.6 Squat = 4 Bench Press/Chin-up = 3 Row = 2.5 Overhead Press = 2 I will also try to ride 4-5 miles each morning or at least walk a couple of miles each day, and finally work in the sled push and pull after my afternoon lifting. The short-term goal is get up to around a 275-pound Squat 3RM (= about 315-pound Deadlift 3RM), either by the end of this year, if I am able to add more than a pound to each Push-Pull iteration, or early next, if I continue to add just one pound. After that I will decide if I want to continue with my simple program of adding one pound to each Push-Pull Split iteration, using a 3 x 3 protocol on the six primary barbell lifts (including chinups or pulldowns), or try something new or different, like building reps at a given load, or going back to a weekly wave of 5-7-3 reps. I think it will be tempting to just keep microloading until my 1RM Deadlift projects to 400 pounds, and I can finally test it and hopefully claim title to our contest, unless Abide comes through and adds another two pounds to his PR. Of course, it's always when I think too much about the future that my present training tends to slack off . . . . Here are this cycle's load projections, based on adding one pound to the Squat 1RM after each iteration of the Push-Pull Split: ---------------Week 1: Cycle VII--------------- Sunday, 17.12.03 AM Riding: 2 mi., commute Walking: 1 mi., mid 40s. I was going to go for a bike ride, but one of my brake pads was rubbing on my new rims, so I went home to make adjustments. Later, went for a barefoot walk to the store with my daughter and one of her goofy friends. Monday, 17.12.04 Late Afternoon Lifting: Push, Squat 1RM = 283 lbs SQ: 2/3/3 @ 255 lbs TKOP: 2 x 3 @ 128 lbs BP: 2 x 3 @ 185 The first Squat workset felt heavy, but the second and third felt fine. I think I need to warm up a bit more. Tall Kneeling Overhead Press also felt a little heavy but solid. I stopped at two worksets in order to have plenty in the tank to continue working up my Bench load. But during Bench warmup, everything felt pretty lite on my last warm-up set of 135, so I skipped 175, as planned, and went right up to 185, or two 45s and one 25, for my worksets. Felt pretty solid as well, but I held it to two worksets just to make sure I'm not over-stressing the shoulders after a fair amount of time not benching or benching at lower loads. I'm less than ten pounds off my Iron Ratio load now, so no hurry. I'll try a proper load next time and see how it feels. Felt good to start off the first Monday of the cycle on solid footing, with all three lifts more or less where they need to be in order to serve as a base for progressive microloading. My custom cables came in the mail, so I put the main one on the two permanent pulleys. The length turned out perfect. I'll try the low-row cable on Tuesday's Pull workout. Then I put the finishing touches on my new garage gym, hanging the fractional plates on the side of the 4x4 beams, as well as the locking collar, which I had been storing on a plate storage bar up high. Now everything's easy to access, and the simplified and orderly setting helps me motivate for and focus on the necessary drudgery of lifting. I really like the six-lifts simplicity, and pretty basic equipment set-up. I may yet work in a little assistance though, with the usual preferences for Dips and Pullovers on Push days, and Cable or Dumbbell Rows on Pull days, and possibility the Landmine Twist as well. Tuesday, 17.12.05 Snow overnight. That gives me an excuse to put off sled work and cycling for another day or two. Late Afternoon Lifting: Pull, Deadlift 1RM = 325 lbs DL: 3 x 3 @ 293 lbs Rw: 3 x 3 @ 160 lbs PD: 3 x 3 @ 120 lbs Got to finally do some pulldowns on my new setup. Kept it relatively light for the re-introduction. Not sure how to set the load for Pulldowns, maybe tie it to the Row ratio of 2.5? I remember last time I did pulldowns with some consistency, I tended to top out around 200 pounds before my body would get pulled up. Also wondering if I should follow Abide and make the upper body pulls and maybe all the upperbody stuff higher rep . . . Wednesday, 17.12.06 Thursday, 17.12.07 Late Afternoon Lifting: Push, Squat 1RM = 284 lbs SQ: 3 x 3 @ 256 lbs TKOP: 2/3/3 @ 128 lbs BP: 2 x 3 @ 192 Felt a little strain in my right shoulder on the second set of the Bench Press, so called off the third set. May have climbed up to my Iron Ratio load a little too quickly it seems. Friday, 17.12.08 Right shoulder feels stiff waking up. Saturday, 17.12.09 ---------------Week 2: Cycle VII--------------- Sunday, 17.12.10 Monday, 17.12.11 Early evening Lifting: Pull, DL: 3 x 3 @ 225 lbs Rw: 3 x 3 @ 160 lbs PD: 10 @ 100 lbs Shoveled the driveway, patio, and sidewalks, then got the kids. My right glute has felt a little niggle since last week, occurring on one of the Squat reps I think. It's the same spot that led to crippling pain a few years ago when I pulled it while doing deadlifts. I felt it a little while shoveling an hour before my workout, so I just did 225 to make sure everything is OK. Also went light on the pulldowns as my right shoulder is still bothering my from last week's first full-load bench press. Crap, the niggles have returned. Tuesday, 17.12.12 Late Afternoon Lifting: Push, SQ: 3 @ 225 lbs Still felt a bit of a niggle in my right glute. I'm probably being too cautious, but I shut it down on my last warm-up set. And with the niggle in my right shoulder still there, but getting better, I decided to shut it down altogether, and skipped the presses too. Wednesday, 17.12.13 Thursday, 17.12.14 Late Afternoon Lifting: Push, Squat 1RM = 261 lbs SQ: 1/2/3/3 @ 235 lbs, 5 @ 222, 5 @ 209 BP: 3 x 3 @ 95 TKOP: 3 x 3 @ 95 lbs I brought everything down to see how my niggles handled it. I reduced the Squat 1RM by more than 20 pounds and adjusted everything accordingly, but went even lighter on the presses just to be sure. Everything felt OK. On the squats I made an attempt at the 1/2/3/3/5/7 protocol that I mentioned in my last post. I didn't make it to seven reps at 80% 1RM, but I could tell adding a set of five and seven reps is the right thing to do. It also felt good to begin my 3RM worksets with just a single rep, then two, before getting to two sets of three. I may keep the Squat 1RM light even if my niggles clear up, and build back up from there. I like it when everything feels easy, plus it gives me time to see how the added volume and higher rep counts feel. In any case, even though I never gave the super simple 3 x 3 protocol a chance for more than a cycle or two, I'm pretty sure three reps is the optimal count for maximal strength gains, but somewhat higher rep counts are probably good for overall development and fitness. I'm trying to make general fitness the priority, and strength gains second, but it's hard not to chase those PRs. Just gotta be patient though, and do what feels best overall. Now I'm thinking for the Pulls I will try to shake things up somewhat too, and diverge from the 3 x 3 protocol there as well. Maybe increase the Deadlift to Squat ratio to 5:4 instead of the current 4.6:4, and do four sets of two instead of three sets of three. Then for the upperbody pulls do everything five reps. I think Abide suggested something similar at some point. I may also increase the volume of the pulls, try to get closer to the 2:1 back to front ratio a lot of people recommend. So that would mean adding in dumbbell rows and cable rows too, and maybe two different kids of pulldowns. Plus upper body pulls seem less taxing than upper body pushes/presses, so I think it makes sense to increase their relative volume. Friday, 17.12.15 Early evening Lifting: Pull, DL: 4 x 2 @ 275 lbs Deadlift felt fine, no niggle. If I continue to do Deadlifts at two reps instead of three, I may just keep the Deadlift to Squat ratio at 4.6:4, and use 95% of the DL 1RM. That would be simplest and keeps my system intact. I think Deadlifts, being the heaviest lift, are the most dangerous to do in a fatigued state, so I like the idea of just doing two reps and an extra set or two, instead of three reps in three sets. Just have to decide if it's best to do four sets of two reps or five sets of two reps. Overall, I seem to adopt more and more of Abide's protocols. I'm seriously considering making all the upperbody stuff five reps per set. For the presses, this would probably be easier on my shoulders. I've considered something like this before, with a continued focus on heavy Squats. Maybe now's the time to try that experiment. So a split would be: Push Primary Squat: 1/2/3 @ 90%; 5 @ 85%; 7 @ 80% OP: 3 x 5 @ 85% BP: 3 x 5 @ 85% Secondary Dips: 2 x 5 @ 85% Pullover: 2 x 5 @ 85% Conditioning: Sled Pull Primary Deadlift: 4 x 2 @ 95% Rw: 3 x 5 @ 85% MG PD: 3 x 5 @ 85% Secondary NG PD: 2 x 5 @ 80% C Rw: 2 x 5 @ 85% DB Rw: 2 x 5 @ 85% Conditioning: Rower (MG = Medium Grip, NG = Narrow Grip) So even within the six primary lifts, I'm making Squats and Deadlifts the point of emphasis, with slightly less importance attached to the upperbody lifts. Also, within the secondary lifts, the secondary pulls are probably more important in order to maintain structural balance. The presses just take more out of me, and don't really seem to require any real assistance exercises, whereas the pulls seem to benefit from variety. I think Abide has made this point as well. In any case, I doubt I'll get around to pullovers or dips anytime soon, but I will probably make a stab at getting some more upper body pulling. Saturday, 17.12.16 Late Afternoon Conditioning: Sled Four laps @ my wife and son (=180 lbs) + sled (=87lbs). Got home late and didn't really feel like lifting, so I decided to finally give my sled a push out on the streets. I had taken off the wheels a week or two prior. The street still had a thin layer of snow on it, so not much resistance and no dreaded scraping noise. Instead of plates, my wife and son offered to ride on top. Interestingly, they equal almost exactly the four 45-pound plates I had intended to load. I pushed them to the end of our property lines out on the street, pausing after each way, going back and forth a total of eight times, or four laps. Felt pretty good. I'll have to measure the distance for documentation sake. I justified not lifting and doing sled work instead as a sort of test of a possibility I've been mulling over, which is adopting a three-day split between Push-Pull-Cardio, instead of my current, nonfunctioning plan to cycle 4-5 miles in the morning, then lift and do conditioning in the afternoon. Normally, the sled push would be at the end of my Push workout, as its conditioning component, but I let it sub as a Cardio workout, a sort of placeholder if I do go through with the three-day workout plan. Lifting six times a week feels like too much, if not physically, then definitely mentally. So the idea would be to lift and do conditioning two days in a row, then take a break with a longer bike ride. This would get me out of my plan to ride the bike every morning for a shorter distance, which would also get boring on a daily basis. On the lifting days then, I could just walk to my office instead of drive. So it would be Day 1 Lifting: Push Conditioning: Sled Push or Medicine Ball Throws Aerobic: Walking Day 2 Lifting: Pull Conditioning: Rower or Sled Rope Pull Aerobic: Walking Day 3 Aerobic: Cycling There could be some flexibility to this plan, perhaps lifting more than two days in a row if it snows too much to cycle for a day or two, or skip the cycling if I miss a day of lifting, etc. I guess I'll spend the last two weeks of this cycle trying to decide between the two plans, so I can get off to a running start at the beginning of next year/cycle. ---------------Week 3: Cycle VII--------------- Sunday, 17.12.17 Walking: 2 mi commute Mid Afternoon Lifting: Push, Squat 1RM = 263 lbs SQ: 1/2/3/3 @ 237 lbs TKOP: 3 x 5 @ 112 lbs BP: 10 @ empty bar I felt a little something still in my right glute, so that was all the excuse I needed not to do the higher rep sets. Overhead Press felt fine at five reps. My anterior delt still felt a little something on the Bench Press, so I just did a lot of reps with the empty bar, to practice the movement. Felt good to walk in the cold. I've become such a weather wuss since I gave up running. I need to get back to embracing the elements. Just being outside in them is an essential part of fitness and well-being, I think. Monday, 17.12.18 Walking: 2 mi commute Early evening Lifting: Pull, Deadlift 1RM = 302 lbs DL: 4 x 2 @ 287 lbs Rw: 3 x 5 @ 140 lbs PD: 3 x 5 @ 120 lbs Not sure about the two rep Deadlift protocol. That third rep often seems like the most productive, but I like the complete absence of any fatigue with just two reps. I have to adjust the upper body pulls a bit. The Row felt too light, even at five reps, the pulldown was too heavy at 130, so I brought it down ten pounds, although I should be able to do 130 after another session or two of priming. Seems like my pulleys and poles add considerable friction to the pulldown. I think my pulldown should be more in the 160-pound range, even after all this time off. I'm just using seven-dollar pulleys from Menards. Maybe I should get some with ball bearings in them? Tuesday, 17.12.19 Wednesday, 17.12.20 Late Afternoon Lifting: Push, Squat 1RM = 264 lbs SQ: 1/2/3/3 @ 238 lbs I dunno I'm going to be able to motivate for the five- and seven-rep sets on a consistent basis. Plus I get lost of stamina work with the sled and rower and cycling I've got programed in. I think maybe three reps for Squats and Deadlifts, and five reps for everything else, may be my programming nirvana, both physically and mentally. Anyway, time was short, and it can't hurt to have my sore anterior right delt rest a bit more, so I blew off the presses. Thursday, 17.12.21 Late afternoon Lifting: Pull, DL: 1/1/2/3 @ 290 lbs Rw: 3 x 5 @ 150 lbs PD: 3 x 5 @ 120 lbs Still wavering on the Deadlift protocol. Can't decide between leaving it at three reps at 90% or two-rep sets at 95%. I kinda like the rhythm of three reps. Felt good today anyway. Maybe I'll keep three reps but change the ratio of DL to SQ again. I dunno, but I like the idea of keeping the Squats and Deadlifts the same at three reps and all the upper body stuff at five reps. The new cable station's pulldown pulleys are definitely adding a lot of friction. My son who can't weigh more than 45 pounds wasn't able to be pulled up by 70 pounds when he grabbed and hung on the pulldown attachment. I think I need pulleys with ball bearings in them. Friday, 17.12.22 Saturday, 17.12.23 ---------------Week 4: Cycle VII--------------- Sunday, 17.12.24 Monday, 17.12.25 Tuesday, 17.12.26 Wednesday, 17.12.27 Thursday, 17.12.28 Friday, 17.12.29 Saturday, 17.12.30 Walking: 2 mi commute That's a wrap. Not as good of a cycle as I would've liked, but got a little of everything in, and it helped me decide to try five-rep sets for the upper body press and pulls of Cycle I in 2018.