This is what a yearlong log might look like: Statement of Goals for Year: Lifting Deadlift: 400 Squat: 320 Bench Press: 285 Overhead Press: 170 10 Inverted Rows 10 Pullups: Running 24min 5K/3mi 2hr Half-Marathon 220 BW Statement of Goals for Cycle: Lifting Deadlift: 340 Squat: 260 Bench Press: 250 Overhead Press: 145 1 Inverted Row 1 Pullup: Running 30min 5K/3mi 3hr Half-Marathon 240 BW I'm starting my Deadlift and Squat 15-20 pounds lighter than the RMs of last cycle, to make sure I build up more slowly this time around and avoid any minor strains or pulls. In the uploaded chart, I've projected the gains and rep-counts for each eight-week cycle, and will do my best to adhere to them, and not get ahead of myself. I will try to add 10 pounds to the Deadlift and Squat, and 5 pounds to the Presses, at the beginning of each new cycle. I will also try to knock a minute off my 5K/3mi time, and 10 minutes off of my half-marathon time each cycle. If successful, I will meet my 2015 goals by the beginning of December, after six full cycles, with almost four weeks left over to deload, try something new, or continue with more of the same. In this cycle, I will try to implement a modified version of the Texas Method, scheduling a Volume workout on Monday, and Density/Assistance/Recovery workout on Wednesday, and an Intensity workout on Friday. Once again, each workout will be based on doing the six basic lifting patterns: Push up (overhead press) Push down (squat) Push out (bench press) Pull up (deadlift) Pull down (pullup) Pull in (row) I'm really going to try to let volume and frequency do just as much work as intensity, and let the gains come to me, rather than chasing after them, but I still find it difficult to trust the process. ---------------Week 1: Cycle I--------------- 15.01.04--01.10 Sunday - 01.04 AM Running 1.7 mi, -2F/-25F windchill, -32C Halfhearted fartleks around Como Lake. Only one out mid-morning, enjoyed the loudness of the cold. Monday - 01.05 AM Running 3.5 mi, -11F/-29F windchill. Franklin-Marshall bridge circuit. My shins were surprisingly sore from Sunday's short fartleks, so I just walked the whole way. PM Mobility & Flexibility 5-10 minutes. I'm going to build an identical straddle traction contraption for home use. Hurts so good. My shins were very painful when I rolled them with 'the stick.' Funny how just the little running I did on Sunday could make the lower leg muscles so tight. I'm really out of shape. Lifting -- Volume Deadlift: 3/3/4 x 215 Cable Row: 2 x 10 x 150 OH Press: 4 x 5 x 85 Squat: 3/4/4 x 125 B Press: 3/3/4 x 200 N. Pulldown: 2 x 5 x 150 Kept everything light or at reduced reps or both. Deloading stinks; everything felt heavy and/or sluggish. I wish I could've gotten in two more light workouts last week, so that I'd be ready to go this week. Oh well. I'll keep bringing things up gradually. No sign of the hip/glute pull, but I stretched between almost every set to make sure everything was nice and loose, and kept the squats to a minimum, even though it was "volume day." The garage felt cold at first, but I eventually got down to my shorts and t-shirt. I felt great afterwards--good to be lifting again. Geek alert: I really enjoyed using my smaller rubber grip plates for the first time. It's aesthetically pleasing when all the plates look the same, and I like the feel of the soft rubber, and the softer sounds while loading. Makes it easier to get in a meditative state without the clanging. Tuesday - 01.06 Early PM Running 1.7 mi, Como Lake. 8F/-5F windchill. Nice, brisk walk. Gonna wait until my shin tightness is gone before I run again. Little by little . . . I got a whole year now. Wednesday - 01.07 PM Lifting -- Density/Assistance Reloading Deadlift: 2 x 5 x 250 OH Press: 2 x 5 x 105 Squat: 5 x 150/125 Dips: 2 x 5 x BW+Green Band N. Pulldown: 2 x 5 x 150 Garage was like a refrigerator, and I was still a little sore from Monday's session after so much time off, so I just continued reloading/priming everything, building back up slowly. It's great having a long-term, yearlong perspective on this. So glad we reset for 2015. Really helps keep my OCD impulses in check. On the last rep of the first workset of squats, I felt the slightest hint of a fledgling niggle in the upper right glute/hip area, so I reduced weight for the second set. Still learning how to do dips with an band. Hopefully I'll be back to doing unassisted dips by the end of this cycle. Thursday - 01.08 Friday - 01.09 Saturday - 01.10 AM Lifting Deadlift: 4.5 x 270 Bench Press: 2/2/3/3 x 215 Squat: 3 x 85 OH Press: 3/3/4 x 110 N. Pulldown: 2 x 5 x 170 I was trying to get my workout in before the family began to wake up, so I didn't warm-up as much as I should've. Then I felt a little brash and added 30 pounds onto Wednesday's deadlift workset weight. It felt pretty easy at 270, but then on the fourth rep I felt a little something in my problem area. Very faint, almost non-existent. I probably should've stopped right there, but I wanted to get in the final rep, and then a sharp pain shot through my hip/glute area and I had to put the bar down quickly. I had aggravated that area again, only this time it hurt a lot more. Cripes. This was very frustrating. I'll have to rehab all over again and go even more slowly once I'm able to do deadlifts again. I got through most of the rest of the workout, but I wasn't very motivated. I could almost hear Dama mocking me. And then when I told my wife when she woke up, she asked me how lifting weights could possibly be good for me if I get injured doing it. Telling her that I must be doing something wrong failed to convince. So what am I doing wrong? I think not warming up enough, but also not running. I think running really helps recovery and keeps things loose. Then later in the day it occurred to me that I used to do deadlifts last, but I got this pull after I started doing them first. So maybe when the deadlifts are last I'm better warmed up. So another vote for warming up better overall. In any case, nothing I can do about it for a while. I can barely walk right now, the pain is too much. Nothing to do today except massage it, stretch it, and watch football while I play with the kids. ---------------Week 2: Cycle I--------------- 15.01.11--01.17 Sunday - 01.11 Monday - 01.12 Tuesday - 01.13 Wednesday - 01.14 Thursday - 01.15 Friday - 01.16 Saturday - 01.17 ---------------Week 3: Cycle I--------------- 15.01.18--01.24 Sunday - 01.18 Monday - 01.19 One mile or so walking through the neighborhood after dropping my daughter off at a friend's house. Tuesday - 01.20 Early morning Chiro, felt great for the rest of the day. Late afternoon: 1.7-mile walk around Como Lake. A little pain was constant, but I was able to walk at a pretty brisk pace. Felt good, but then at night it hurt like a fother-mucker. Must be all the somewhat atrophied muscles tightening up and pulling on the injured area. Still, I think a more active rehab is probably the way to go at this point. Wednesday - 01.21 Lots of massaging and stretching throughout the day. Late afternoon: 1.7-mile brisk walk around Como Lake. Pain is decreasing, I'm definitely on the mend now. Might be able to start running as early as next week . . . Thursday - 01.22 Afternoon: 1.7-mile brisk walk around Como Lake. Not enough massaging and stretching throughout the day, apparently, as I had to stop a handful of times during my walk to try to stretch the knots out, with limited success. Even so, the pain is less sever / not as debilitating. Friday - 01.23 PM 1.7 miles around Como Lake, 38F/33F windchill, barefoot for the first time in a while. Lots of residual salt but the asphalt foot path was mostly dry. Extensive massaging during the day with my Homedics back massager really helped loosen things up. I even ran 20-39 steps, but I could feel it was premature. Saturday - 01.24 AM 3.5 miles, Franklin-Marshall bridge circuit. 28F/25F windchill. Once again bare, my feet felt a little too numb towards the end. Would've been fine if I could've run. It's been encouraging this week to feel the injury heal significantly. At this rate of improvement, I think I should be able to start running short distances and do light squats by the end of next week. ---------------Week 4: Cycle I--------------- 15.01.25--01.31 Sunday - 01.25 Monday - 01.26 PM Lifting Bench Press: 2 x 5 x 125 Squat: 2 x 5 x 85 N. Pulldown: 2 x 5 x 100 Earlier in the day the Chiro gave me a clean bill of health. Over the weekend the pain had all but disappeared. Frequent massaging since my last visit and the daily walks seemed to have done the trick. Unfortunately, she told me I had bruised some muscle in my mid back as a result of overly enthusiastic use of the Homedics back massager. I had thought the pain was tightness, so I was probably making it worse each time. I think this week I'll just bring up these three lifts--bench press, squat, and pulldown--because they put the least stress on the back. OK, the squat stresses it a bit, but I think the full ROM stretch is good for it. And doing squats for a week before I try deadlifting is a good way to make sure I use the squats as a gauge for my deadlifts, as planned. During my rehab, building the loads back up, I'm not going to let the deadlift weight exceed the squat weight until my squat weight is back up where it used to be. Then I'll gradually shift the 1:1 ratio to more of a 4:5 ratio, squat to deadlift. I had intended to go for another walk before the ST, but didn't have time. I know I have to get better about warming up though as I add to the loads. I'm also going to use this period of lighter loads to try to hone a bit more on good technique. Overall, making a greater effort at 'beginner's mind' and forgetting whatever long-term goals I have. Hopefully I've learned now that the real keys are consistency and injury-prevention. Tuesday morning there's a mild, dull ache in the glute, so the squat worked that area a bit. Will start massaging it presently, but will spot it on the lower back only. Tuesday - 01.27 PM Running 3.5 miles, Franklin-Marshall bridge circuit. 34F/28F windchill. I ran about 10-15% of it, in 5-6 short segments, sort of slow Fartleks, which is a contradiction in terms, but what's Swedish for 'slow play'? The rest of the way was walking. There were a fair amount of small wet patches crossing the path with melt-off, and my feet were fairly numb by the end. I think that's the most barefoot walking I've done at that temp/windchill. I didn't feel my sacroiliac injury at all while running, but I wanted to keep it minimal my first day back in the game. I'll add a bit each day now. Wednesday - 01.28 AM Running 1-mile run-commute, 27F/16F windchill. I ran a block or so, and the legs felt fine, but then decided it was prudent to walk until I had a chance to roll and stretch out whatever tightness I might have from the previous day's outing. Baby steps . . . The surfaces were mostly dry, so I went bare again. PM Running 1-mile run-commute, 31F/?F windchill. I just walked back. Since the weekend I've had this strange soreness/tenderness on the inside of my right thigh, above the knee but in the soft tissue. At first I though it was where my son was hitting me to see if he could get a reaction, but there's no bruising. I don't think it's related to the SI injury. I'll give it this week and if it's still bothering me maybe go back to the Chiro next week. Doesn't hurt during movement, so I'm not too worried, but it's strange I can't pinpoint a cause. Lifting Cable Row: 5 x 100/100/150 Squat: 2 x 5 x 85 OHP: : 2 x 5 x 85 N. Pulldown: : 2 x 5 x 150 Bench Press: 2 x 5 x 175 The Cable Row at 150 lbs and the light Squats hinted at just a little discomfort in the Sacroiliac joint, but everything else felt good. 175 is a good weight for tweaking my bench press technique. I might stay there for a while until I got it down. I'm mostly messing with degree of elbow tuck, but also the arch in my back, seeing what degree, if any, feels good, and also with bar position, trying to come down a bit below the nips. Thursday - 01.29 PM Running 3.5 miles, Franklin-Marshall bridge circuit. 27F/12F windchill. Ran 3-4 segments, a few at an above-aerobic pace, then ran last mile continuously before stubbing my left toe a bit on Marshall Bridge. So I walked the last quarter mile or so back to my car. I guess I was a little fatigued, or maybe my feet had gotten too numb. The benefit of numbness is that the stubbing didn't hurt at all. Friday morning now the toe hurts a bit, but hopefully it'll be good to go tomorrow. It felt so good to run for real, now I want to see how two continuous miles feels. Really looking forward to getting back into running. My injured area felt 100% fine. A couple passed me at one point, just before I began the longer segment, and the dude turned to give me an enthusiastic thumbs up. I was listening to loud music, so I didn't hear if he said something too. His female partner had a nice round tush for a runner. They turned around at the end of Marshall Bridge and were coming toward me just as I was at the bridge's halfway point, a few steps after I had stubbed my toe. Once again he gave me a very enthusiastic thumbs up. I probably should've pulled out an ear bud to hear what he said. I think I saw his lips move. Earlier in the day I went to a 'bodywork' massage therapist. My brother had given me a groupon coupon for my birthday back in August, and it expired that day, so I finally went. The guy was good, but I can't say I felt any better afterwards. I guess one needs to make a habit of it before long-term benefits set in. Anyway, he said I was "well-balanced," whatever that means, but my traps were a little tight. It was interesting he sort of scoffed at the Chiro's diagnosis of my sacroiliac injury. He thought it might just be tight muscles after a minor pull apparently. I wonder if I would've healed quicker if I would've started massaging that area right away, instead of waiting 10 days. Maybe I should've used the coupon right after my injury, but I waited until it no longer hurt to walk. Stretching was the Chiro's main recommendation, but it didn't seem to help much. Anyway, it's good to get a second opinion I guess, and it made me hopeful that the injury was indeed very minor, and will be very manageable as I build the loads back up. Friday - 01.30 The visit to the bodywork guy got me thinking. I did a little searching, and apparently a pulled piri formis muscle can cause the same pressure on the sciatic nerve as a sacroiliac injury can: http://www.spine-health.com/video/piriformis-syndrome-video A diagnosis of piriformis syndrome seems more consistent with my experience: 1. Not warming up properly in a cold garage. 2. Receiving a little warning on the rep prior to the acute pain along the sciatic nerve on the subsequent rep. If it were the joint, maybe the injury would've been more likely to occur all at once? 3. The piriformis stretch did the most good. 4. The Chiro's massaging did more good than her technique of supposedly popping the SI joint back in place. I never felt anything pop back into place, and if it did, wouldn't it hurt? 5. I began to heal quickly once I started self-massage and walking. And experienced no healing progress in the 10 days prior to beginning this self-therapy. It seems like a joint injury wouldn't respond so quickly or completely in that time frame. Of course, it could be both things, a strained joint and a tight muscle in response. I would think I'd still feel some pain in the joint when I'm running now if the joint was really injured. Plus, if a relatively immobile joint like the sacroiliac was unable to sustain a load of 270, how come it could sustain a load of 355-365 several months ago? That is, if it's a structural weakness, why would it be weaker now than before? I don't think my technique has changed. PM Lifting Cable Row: 2 x 10 x 150 Squat: 2 x 5 x 100 OH Press: 5 x 85/100/100 N Pulldown: 2 x 5 x 180 Bench Press: 2 x 5 x 190 1DB Row: 2 x 5 x 80 Deadlift: 2 x 5 x 100 Added in the One-hand Bent-over Dumbbell Row and Deadlift, and brought up the other lifts a bit. I've really atrophied on the OH Press. Did the prescribed Intensity Day weights for Pulldown and Bench Press. Bench Press felt light, but it was a good weight to work on technique. I slide up a bit on the bench, so that the bar is just clearing the bolts that hold it when I derack. This puts the bar right over my sternum, which is perfect for getting my elbows to tuck just right, I think. I have a slightly different order now, with the Squats coming first after the warm-up rows. Then the vertical press and pull are paired, as well as the horizontal press and pull, so that I can do them as alternating sets if I feel like. Might be a good option on Volume Day. Deadlifts are last again, so I do them after everything is good and warmed up. Everything felt good, and it felt good to exert myself a bit more. Next week I'll bring the squat up 10-20 pounds, and keep tying the Deadlift load to the squat load at a 1:1 ratio, even though it feels like I could lift a lot more. Patience, patience . . . Saturday - 01.31 One-mile walk-commute, to and fro, 21F/23F respectively. Stubbed toe still stiff, but getting better. I consider the numbing walk a form of icing it. Overall, a solid week of rehab. Should be in a good place by the end of this cycle. ---------------Week 5: Cycle I--------------- 15.02.01--02.07 Sunday - 02.01 Monday - 02.02 PM Lifting - Volume Day Squat: 4 x 5 x 130 OH Press: 3/5/5/4 x 105 N Pulldown: 3 x 5 x 170 Bench Press: 2 x 5 x 180 1DB Row: 2 x 5 x 105 Deadlift: 2 x 5 x 130 Did close to a full version of volume day. Everything felt pretty good, although the OH Press was still 10 pounds lighter than it's supposed to be. The six lifts +/- loaded carries is really a pretty good workout, I wonder if I really need a recovery/density/assistance day. Maybe just varying the volume and intensities of these basic lifts is enough? In any case, I'll give the density day as drawn up on my chart a chance tomorrow. My big toe is a lot better, but still a bit painful. Hopefully I can start running again on Thursday or Saturday at the latest. Over the weekend the inside of my left knee got sore from all the walking on the outside of my left foot, avoiding putting pressure on the injured big toe. A feeling of fragility is beginning to invade my consciousness, and I don't like it. Tuesday - 02.03 Wednesday - 02.04 PM Lifting - Density Day Squat: 5/7 x 130 OH Press: 3 x 105, 6 x 95 N. Pulldown: 2 x 7 x 150 1DB Row: 2 x 7 x 90 Deadlift: 7 x 130 Got a new idea for Density Day, but wasn't able to implement it due to time constraints. Following up on a comment made a day or two ago, and in keeping with the desire to make workouts as workaday as possible, I'm thinking of making Volume Day all five-rep sets, Intensity Day all three-rep sets, and Density day all seven-rep sets. It did kinda suck to do more than five reps, and I wasn't able to make seven on the OH Press at the projected load, but I think it's probably a good rep variation. I'm not interested in hypertrophy per se, but from what I've read, higher rep sets do confer unique benefits that may help make me stronger over all. We'll see. In any case, seven reps is on the lower end of the hypertrophy protocol, right? Right now I'm working off the percentages of 95%, 90%, 85%, and 80% for 2RM, 3RM, 5RM, and 7RM, respectively. I'm also thinking of tying the assistance lifts into a percentage of the main lifts, so, for example, the Farmer's Walk, which uses the traps in a way similar to the deadlift, will be a certain percentage of the Deadlift 1RM. As my Deadlift gets stronger, so too should the loaded carry, goes the thinking. Others are a bit more obvious, like tying in the DB Bench Press to a certain percentage of the barbell Bench Press. The assistance lifts would still be done on Wednesday, Density Day, since it only took me twenty minutes to get through most of the main lifts at 7RM. Thursday - 02.05 Friday - 02.06 PM Lifting - Intensity Day Squat: 3 x 3 x 145 OH Press: 3 x 3 x 100 N. Pulldown: 3 x 3 x 180 B Press: 3 x 3 x 200 1-DB Row: 3 x 3 x 105 Deadlift: 3 x 3 x 180 Power Clean: 3 x 3 x 90 Squat weight was just right with the extra depth I've been going for. Funny how adding a few inches below parallel makes the squat a lot harder. I wonder if I should only go for greater depth on Density Day, when I'm doing a seven-rep count . . . OH Press formula was wrong. It was a 1:2 ratio to the Bench Press, when it's supposed to be 2:3. I didn't realize it until I was done. I just fixed the Excel doc. Still, 100 lbs felt heavier than it should have. I hope I don't have to wait too long before I can get the OH Press back to where it was at the end of last year. Pulldown was a little heavy at a 1:1 ratio to the Bench Press, so I brought it down to 90% of the Bench Press. That felt just right. The 1-DB Row felt light, but I can do it with stricter form at 105 for triples. Deadlift felt absurdly easy, but that's OK, it can wait for the squat to start coming up. Next week I think I'll add 10 pounds to the squat weight, and hopefully keep adding 10 pounds per week for the rest of this cycle. The Power Clean at a 1:2 ratio to the Deadlift, which in turn is at a 5:4 ratio to the squat, also felt light, but my technique stinks, so it will be good to train light while I wait for the squat to come up. Overall, the workout didn't feel that intense for intensity day. Hopefully everything will start to click in a few weeks, but this reset approach feels correct. Until the end of the current cycle I'll just focus on getting the weights and ratios right, continue rehabbing my SI issue, and not really worry about pushing anything until next cycle. Saturday - 02.07 Lots of walking with my son, but my stubbed toe is still a little tender, so no running for at least a few more days. ---------------Week 6: Cycle I--------------- 15.02.08--02.14 Sunday - 02.08 Early PM Rowing 15 minutes, easy effort. My knees protested a bit in the beginning, then everything settled down and I got into a nice, relaxing rhythm. This will have to do until I can run again. Then the rower will serve nicely as a st warm-up. Although it's great to have an aerobic exercise that works the back and arms as well as the legs. Later, another mile or so walking around with the kids, still limping a bit. Monday - 02.09 PM Rowing Five-minute warm-up, 1100 meters, easy to moderate effort. Lifting - Volume Day Squat: 3 x 5 x 160, 5 x 150 Tall Kneeling OH Press: 4 x 5 x 105 N Pulldown: 4 x 5 x 170 Bench Press: 2 x 5 x 175 Cable Row: 2 x 5 x 170 Deadlift: 2 x 5 x 185 Power Clean: 2 x 5 x 95 Good workout, everything felt pretty well-balanced. The five-minute rowing warm-up was just right. I did 10 pounds more than I was supposed to on the first three sets of squats before I realized it. 160 felt OK, but I want to stick to small load increases, and give each increase at least a whole week to work through the three different rep-counts of 5, 7, and 3. Another four weeks of ten-pound weekly increases and I'll be close to squatting what I was doing last fall. But I may want to go slower than that. I reorganized my chart so that now all the loads are contingent on my OH Press. I also tried the "tall kneeling" version of the press, which more closely mimics the Standing OH Press than the (Unsupported) Seated OH Press. I figured if I'm going to work off the 2:3:4:5 general guideline for lifting ratios, with, in my case, everything based on OH Press = 2, then I should do the OH Press that most of the people do when using those guidelines. Unfortunately, my garage ceiling doesn't permit Standing OH Presses, so Tall Kneeling OH Presses are the second-best option. It felt better than the Seated OH Press, more stable and natural. Everyone says one should be able to do more weight with the Seated Press than with the Standing Press, and this seemed strange to me until I realized most people do the Seated Press with back support. The Unsupported Seated Press is harder, in my opinion, than the Standing Press. Anyway, I'll continue doing the Tall Kneeling OH Press for the time being I think. In my Excel Sheet I was calculating the Bench Press at 1.6 times the OH Press, but maybe I should do a strict 1.5 times and take the bench press and upper body pulls down a little bit further. I've read that there are no real good arguments for emphasizing the bench press, it's just become tradition because it's more weight than the OH Press and easier to judge. Maybe the OH Press is better for pure strength training, insofar as it demands a greater shoulder ROM and engages the stabilizers, back extension, etc., more. I like Cable Rows better than 1-DB Rows on Volume Day. Otherwise it gets to be a lot sets switching between left and right hands. Maybe just do 1-DB Rows on Intensity Day, and Inverted Rows on Density Day? Deadlifts still feel too easy, and Power Clean technique still stinks, but it feels good to end the workout with those two lifts. Just have to figure out Density Day a bit better now, and I think my bastardization of the Texas Method will be all set. Tuesday - 02.10 Wednesday - 02.11 AM One mile walk-commute in Sockwas. Fresh coating of snow, ran a bit, but toe still a bit tender. PM One mile walk-commute. Lifting--Density Day Squat: 2 x 7 X 150 TK (=Tall Kneeling) OH Press: 2 x 7 X 105 N Pulldown: 2 x 7 X 170 Bench Press: 2 x 7 X 160 Cable Row: 2 x 7 X 170 Deadlift: 2 x 7 X 190 Everything felt great, and the workout only took 30 minutes or so. Seven reps of squats felt challenging, even at 150 lbs. Higher reps is definitely a different training stimulus. My squat technique is coming back and the lift is feeling more natural and automatic again. Still trying to maintain good depth a few inches below parallel. I didn't realize I had 10 pounds too much on the cable pulls, but 170 felt fine, so I'll bump those and the bench press up. This gives me a 1.6:1 ratio to the OH Press instead of the 1.55:1 ratio planned for the day. Ideally it should be 1.5:1, or 3:2, but if the Pulldowns and Rows get stronger than the OH Press, I won't fight it. I think they're just as important in supporting the Bench Press and preventing shoulder issues as the OH Press, so as long as they're tied to the Bench Press at a 1:1 ratio, I should be OK. I think the Bench Press/Row/Pulldown-to-OH Press could even rise up to 1.7:1 and I'd still be OK, but hopefully with continued emphasis the OH Press will keep getting stronger and the ratio will end up closer to the idealized 1.5:1 or 3:2. I'm still enjoying the cable row a lot more than the 1DB row. It's easier to set up, since it's set at the same weight as the pulldown, and it's easier to maintain stricter form so I can really target the lats and retract them at the end of the movement. The initial stretch might also have more carryover to the squat and deadlift. So I might just do heavy 1DB rows on Intensity Day. Deadlift still feels too light, but the load is enough now that I can feel some benefit/pump, especially since it comes towards the end of the workout. I think for the remainder of this cycle, I may limit Density Day to just the main lifts, which will make it more just a Recovery day. This way I can get a good idea of how the three different rep-counts--4x5, 2x7, 3x3-- work as a weekly whole. I want to make sure this is sustainable before I introduce new variables, but it feels like it should be OK to add in some other exercises. Time-wise, the six main lifts at 2x7 only takes 30 minutes or so. If adding in assistance exercises on seven-rep day gets to be too much effort-wise, I could lower the seven-rep percentage to 75% instead of 80%. It would be nice to do some assistance once a week I think, but I don't want to mess with the basic scheme too much as long as I'm making progress. It would be nice to settle into a workable program for several months now, but I might suffer from chart-tweaking withdrawal if I did. It's funny, but I'm realizing now that with my latest tweaks, the six-lift program has really become a three-lift program, as the deadlift, bench, and row wait for the squat, press, and pullup, respectively, to catch up. I kinda like the simplification. My mental and physical focus is mostly on the first three lifts of the workout, after which I can coast and relax a bit. It can be dangerous though--a few workouts ago I caught the bar beginning to drop forward on the bench press when I got caught in a daydream. Thursday - 02.12 AM Was going to try a walk down by the river, with a few short stretches of jogging to see how the toe's doing, but the windchill was -20F. I don't really like walking that much anyway, and I don't know if it really helps prep me for running again, so I let the cold convince me to blow it off. I guess I'll probably wait to get the running up and running again next week. By then my toe should be good enough for half-assed fartleks at least. Eventually I think I'd like to adapt the same mix of light, medium, and heavy intensities I have for ST with the running. Maybe something like this M: Medium (volume) ST Tu: Heavy (intervals/hills) Running W: Light (density) ST TH: Medium (Tempo) Fri: Heavy (intensity) ST Sat: Light (LSD) Running Friday - 02.13 PM Lifting -- Intensity Day Squat: 3 x 3 x 175 TK OH Press: 3 x 115/120/120 N Pulldown: 3 x 3 x 190 B Press: 3 x 3 x 190 1DB Row: 3 x 3 x 120 Deadlift: 3 x 3 x 215 Very satisfying workout. At the end, I felt like I had won a small prize. The Tall Kneeling Overhead Press felt very good, close to pre-mishap levels. I added five pounds after the first set, but even 120 felt pretty good, like I could do it five-rep instead of three. So next week I'll boost each rep count 10 pounds and see how I do, from 105/110/115 to 115/120/125 for seven, five, and three reps. If it's too much, I'll come down five pounds. Now that my press has caught up, in strict 2:3 ratio to the weights I've been using for the bench press, pulldown, and cable row, it will be interesting to see if I can keep this ratio, or get impatient and maybe cheat a bit. The bench press feels too easy. On the other hand, the upper body pulls are about right. Ideally, I'll let the OH Press and upper body pulls come up gradually to meet my bench press potential. My left shoulder feels great these days, so mis' well keep strengthening all the muscles worked in the overhead press and upper body pulls, because these are the ones that support the bench press. I'm convinced a stronger back is half the reason my shoulder issue has cleared up. The other half is probably improved technique. Squat felt good. I should probably raise it ten pounds next week, but I think I'll keep it the same because my form was a little shaky on a couple of the reps. I would like to progress with immaculate technique and good depth if possible. I decided to go with heavy dumbbells for the rows. I used a cheating form with a little torso torque to generate initial momentum. For cable rows, however, I think I will continue to try to use strict form and really target the lats. The bar looked good with four wheels on it for the Deadlift. I was a little nervous though. I felt good and warmed up but I still made sure to stretch everything out real well, and I pull on my nylon belt (I bought a cheap nylon belt http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00074H7Y6/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1 because it feels better than the stiff leather one on everything but squats, plus it's easier to get on). The weight went up pretty easy and I didn't feel any niggles in my sacroiliac area. Still, I thought about quitting while I was ahead after two sets. I did the third set just fine though, trusting that I would get a warning sign before injury if I was pushing things too fast. So that was a real confidence booster. With a 45- and a 25-pound plate on both sides of the bar for the squats, and two 45-plates on the deadlift, I fell like I've achieved a rehab base of some sorts. I can start to build on it, but I feel like I'm already getting enough resistance to make the workouts feel complete. I'll start adding five or ten pounds a week whenever the squat feels solid and a touch easy, but even if I never go above these weights, I think I'm still doing adequate strength training for general fitness, so there's no hurry. If I can get the running going again next week, then I'll feel golden. Good lord, life sucks when you don't exercise every day. Saturday - 02.14 AM 3.5 miles, Franklin-Marshall Bridge Circuit, walking in my Merrel Bare Access. 0F/-30F windchill. Toe still feels a little tender on push-off, but I think my walking gait was close to normal. The wind was pretty fierce, especially on the bridges. I love the way running (or walking when you're preparing to start running again in this instance) gets you out in the elements. ---------------Week 7: Cycle I--------------- 15.02.15--02.21 Sunday - 02.15 PM Rowing 40 minutes, mostly easy effort. Started to move into medium effort for second half of the session but then was interrupted by bored son, so I stopped 20 minutes short. Monday - 02.16 AM Running One-mile commute, 10F/2F windchill. Ran the last quarter mile or so. Left big toe is still a bit tender, but it seemed to tolerate the short run OK. So I guess I'll try a bit more on Tuesday. PM Running One-mile commute, walking with light fluffy snow falling. Thought about running a bit more, but figured it was best to wait a day to see if the toe was at all aggravated by the morning's short jaunt. Lifting -- Volume Day Squat: 4 x 5 x 175 TK OH Press: 4 x 5 x 115 N Pulldown: 4 x 5 x 180 B Press: 2 x 5 x 190 Cable Row: 3 x 5 x 180 Deadlift: 5 x 215 Walked back home early. It was President's Day so the kids were home and my wife had to work at 2pm. I asked the kids if I could get a quick workout in before we did something. My son wanted to lift with me, but fortunately he got bored after I finished my squats. Then his playtime patience wore thin by the time I had gotten to my rows, he started to fight with his sister and kept coming into the garage crying, asking for mediation. So I came up one set short on the rows and only managed to get in one set of Deadlifts with him sitting on the bench behind me. I was a little nervous anyway about doing five reps of deadlifts with decent resistance for the first time since my second sacroiliac mishap in January. Having him hovering didn't help, so I figured no harm in getting in just one set. I'll probably do this same weight next Volume Day. The four sets of squats were taxing, but my form stayed pretty good throughout. 115 was the perfect load for the Tall Kneeling Overhead Press. Actually all the loads felt about right for five-rep sets, so I guess I'm pretty much set. I'll just follow the chart and when things start to feel easier add weight. The Bench Press and Deadlift continue to feel light, but it's getting easier to trust my 'program' of bringing up the weakest lifts using the 2:3:4:5 ratios, and resist the temptation to go heavier on the BP and DL. My intention on volume day is to do four sets of the weaker lifts, and just two for the BP and DL. On the Bench Press I didn't notice that I had put a 10-pound plate on the left side instead of a five-pound plate, so I lifted 190 instead of the prescribed 185. My right hand felt stronger and I thought to myself, maybe those advocates of unilateral lifts are right, maybe bilateral barbell lifts disguise imbalances. Then I realized the mistake and the imbalance was explained. I always thought the unilateral/dumbbell argument was exaggerated--after all, if you have smooth, controlled form, both hands are lifting the same weight. Still, I think in the next cycle I may make Density Day more of a unilateral/assistance day. I think variety in exercise selection would be more beneficial than rep variety, that is, doing the same six lifts, at seven reps, that I do on Monday and Friday at five and three reps, respectively. I sometimes wonder if I ever need to do anything but three and five rep sets. They just feel so right. Tuesday - 02.17 Left knee was a little sore upon waking up, and windchill was -30F, so I blew off the planned walk/run. I wonder if the squat volume is getting to be too much? Or maybe it's time to get more serious again about stretching and massaging post-workout? I have a hard time getting around to it when I'm not running. The left toe felt pretty good, so maybe the previous day's short run was therapeutic? By the end of the day I was regretting not having tested it with some short fartleks. Wednesday - 02.18 PM Lifting--Density Day Squat: 2 x 7 X 165 TK OH Press: 2 x 7 X 110 N Pulldown: 2 x 7 X 170 Bench Press: 2 x 7 X 180 Cable Row: 2 x 7 X 170 Deadlift: 2 x 7 X 205 Managed to follow my chart's prescribed loads to a T, and they all felt just right, in a Goldilocks sort of way, except the deadlift, which felt too easy as usual. I'm starting to become convinced of the value of doing seven reps. Actually, sometimes I think maybe I should try to get in one more and make it eight, but I like the odd spacing of 3, 5, and 7 reps. Each rep-count feels a little different and is challenging in its own way. In any case, I think I'll stick with these loads for another week and finish out this cycle with them, although I should probably raise the Cable Row ten pounds to match the Bench Press weight, at 1.6 of the OH Press load, instead of 1.5, like the Pulldown. The Cable Rows felt a little too easy. Then I can start the next cycle with a somewhat challenging load increase of five pounds on the upper body lifts and ten pounds for the lower body ones. It's going to get kind of boring if I really do settle on this bastardized version of the Texas Method and start doing more punch-the-clock workouts according to the chart. For the last several months I've been constantly experimenting, either with rehab or program tweaks. I might miss obsessing over this stuff. Overall, the workout took me 50 minutes, but my rest intervals should probably be shortened so the workout only takes 40 minutes and I can finish with some assistance stuff. Garage was pretty cold with below zero (F) windchill temps outside and a poorly sealed door. I should almost claim some Winter Challenge credit for lifting barefoot on such cold rubber mats. Thursday - 02.19 Big toe felt completely healed, but my left knee was still a little sore, and it was frickin' cold out, so I blew of the initiation of yet another attempt to regain my running fitness for another day or two. Friday - 02.20 PM Lifting -- Intensity Day Squat: 3 x 3 x 185 TK OH Press: 2 x 3 x 125, 6 x 125 N Pulldown: 3 X 190/200/200/190 B Press: 3 x 3 x 215 1DB Row: 3 x 3 x 120 Deadlift: 3/3/2 x 230 Squat weight felt perfect again. Three reps was about all I could do; a little heavier and I would've had to have cheated the depth a bit. Hard to believe I used to do this 30-40 pounds heavier a few months ago, but maybe my depth wasn't quite as good? In any case, it might take longer than I thought to get back up there. I was pleasantly surprised, however, by how solid 125 felt for the Tall Kneeling Overhead Press. I went for extra reps on the last set and managed six. I guess I can bump up all its rep-counts by five pounds next week instead of waiting until the next cycle. The extra volume on Monday seems to be working its trick, or maybe it was the switch from unsupported seated presses to tall kneeling ones . . . 190 felt a little too easy for the Pulldowns, but 200 was a little too challenging on the third set, just barely getting the bar under my chin, so I added another set of 190 to make sure I was getting the bar all the way down to my clavicles for full ROM. Since the OH Press felt really good, I decided to go over my chart-prescribed bench press weight, and brought it up to two full wheels on either side, for 215 (four 45s + 35-pound bar). The last rep of each set was a little hard but doable. I might free up the 2:3 ratio of OH Press to Bench Press a bit more until I get back to 225 triples like I had last fall. As long as my left shoulder doesn't get sore, why not? The recent increases in the OH Press have given me some confidence that the two lifts might settle on the ideal ratio on their own, as long as I keep doing the OH press with greater volume than the Bench Press, so hopefully I can tap its potential without too much programming fuss. Constantly manipulating the formulas in my Excel chart is already starting to get old. It would be nice to just take each lift on its own and add weight when I start to 'own' it, as the young people say. 1DB Row was again done with cheating torque to gain initial momentum after each rep was deloaded onto the floor. And once again I'm wondering if I might be better off doing less weight with stricter form for more reps. A fair amount of people seem to favor lower rep intensity only for the performance lifts: squat, deadlift, bench and overhead press. Maybe I can include Pullups once I'm able to do them unassisted. On the last set of the deadlifts, I felt a little stiffness in my right hamstring, so I gave the last rep a miss. Proud of myself for being so sensible, but I think I really have finally adopted the long view on this thing, always willing to retreat from the slightest hint of a waylaying niggle in order to live to fight another day. Still, I'm wondering if in a month or two it will be safe to decouple the deadlift from the 5:4 ratio to the squat a bit. It's such a great lift for overall strength, and I kind of miss that final hard effort at the end of the workout. Here's a photo capture from my Excel Log, minus the running part: Saturday - 02.21 AM Running 3.5 miles; Franklin-Marshall bridge circuit; 16F/0F windchill; light flurries. Managed to run about half the distance, in about 10 short segments. No niggles or sign of left knee soreness but my left big toe met began to feel a little tender after a mile or so and my gait might've been a little off because of it. Hopefully it will be 100% by the time I can run continuously again in a week or two. Pretty chilly headwind going north, but then a pleasant tailwind on the Minneapolis side. Felt great to do some aerobic exercise out in the elements again. ---------------Week 8: Cycle I--------------- 15.02.22--02.28 Sunday - 02.22 AM Two one-mile walk-commutes to stretch the legs. 5am: -7F/-23F windchill; 8am: -8F/-34F windchill. On the bridge over the railroad tracks coming home, I actually felt my eyeballs getting cold from the wind. Did some massaging and stretching. My left foot in particular had stiffened up after Saturday's light reintroduction to running. Monday - 02.23 Stomach flu, slept all afternoon. Disappointing, I was really looking forward to seeing if I could handle 4x5x120 OH Presses. Tuesday - 02.24 AM One-mile walk commute, close to freezing. Feeling a little better, needed to walk a bit after lying in bed so much the day prior. PM One-mile walk-commute, wind picked up, about 0F windchill. Still a little weak and tired so no ST. Wednesday - 02.25 PM Lifting - 'Volume' Day SQ: 5 x 175/180 TK OHP: 5/3/3 x 120 N PD: 2 x 5 x 150 BP: 2 x 5 x 175 1DB Row: 2 x 5 x 90 DL: 2 x 5 x 195 I was a bit hesitant about working out, but it went OK. Squats felt fine, but then on the second set of the OH Press I felt a little hallow from not having eaten that much. I think next week 4 x 5 x 120 should be fine though. I'm trying to understand how I've improved a bit on the OH Press after taking time off. Must be adopting the kneeling stance position. After feeling a little hungry on the presses, I did everything else a little light, viewing this workout as prep for Friday's Intensity Day more than a proper workout in its own. Doing the 1-DB Rows lighter allowed for me to do them with strict form, but I'm still undecided on whether this is a good thing or not. I mean, in real life, when you pull something towards you, you tend to yank it with rotational torque, right? By overloading the DB Row, I make it more of a full-body exercise. Same with Cable Rows. Felt great to get back at it in any case. I think I'm set-up well for next cycle. Thursday - 02.26 Friday - 02.27 PM Lifting -- Intensity Day Squat: 3 x 3 x 190 TK OH Press: 3 x 3 x 130 N Pulldown: 3 X 3 x 190 B Press: 3 x 3 x 215 Cable Row: 3 x 3 x 190 Deadlift: 1/3 x 215 I tried going a little lower on the squat than I have been doing, and I may have encountered the infamous "butt wink." I don't think it's a normal butt wink caused by inflexibility, but rather by going too low with a low-bar position. I think on Monday I may try some box squats to get a better idea of my depth. In any case the squats felt solid, I can tell I'm getting stronger and should be able to add weight in a week or two. The Tall Kneeling Overhead Press at 130 felt challenging but doable. That's probably a PR of some sort, and it felt like I should be able to raise that up five pounds in a week or two too. It felt rewarding to get the two presses more or less proportional. The OHP no longer has to catch up to the bench, and so I can progress evenly from here on out. I may even stop doing greater volume on the OHP, and just focus on pushing it a bit each workout. Did the Bench Press a little lighter than planned, was feeling a little lazy. One the Cable Row I got the bright idea of adding a little chain length so that I started the movement in the right position. Otherwise, my first rep is taken up with leaning forward to grab the handle beyond my feet, then pulling it back until I've re-seated myself in proper position. I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier. For some reason, it makes the ensuing reps easier to do with stricter form. On the Deadlift I felt a little strain in my lower back. Since I got the stomach bug on Monday, I haven't been stretching or massaging much, so it's probably just tightness, but I shut it down after one complete set to avoid any risk. I know the DL weight will come up pretty soon one way or the other, no hurry. Hopefully once I'm running again I'll start stretching regularly again too, and that will take care of the tightness. So that's a wrap on this cycle's ST. I'll go for a run/walk later. Everything's feeling pretty good, and I'm liking the rep-count alternations, so I'll continue with more of the same next cycle, except I think I may try ten reps instead of seven on Wednesdays, just to exploit the higher rep parameter a little more and see how it feels. I've always hated higher reps, but I think there's probably some conditioning benefit there, and it's also probably good for honing the patterning of each movement. Saturday - 02.28 No real progress this cycle, but I learned a few things technique-wise, honed a few things programing-wise, and feel like I'm in a good position to make some decent progress in all facets of fitness next cycle. ===================================================================== First of all, anyone is welcome to join in! All levels are welcome, but we would like to keep the focus on basic or minimalist strength training, and not, for example, functional fitness, powerlifting, or bodybuilding, although these may, of course, be potential offshoots of the strength training. Assessment of Cycle I and Statement of Goals and Program for Cycle II Most of the last cycle was spent rehabbing an (re)injury I incurred at the end of the first week, while doing deadlifts without a proper warm-up. Although the injury was minor, the pain was great due to pressure on the sciatic nerve. Massaging and walking took care of the injury quickly once I ignored the Chiro’s diagnosis of injury to the sacroiliac joint, and went back to my original self-diagnosis of having pulled a muscle. So I failed all my cycle goals except for the OH Press, which went up to a projected 145-pound 1RM as planned. I think this increase came about mostly by switching from an unsupported seated position to a tall kneeling position, and not from any real strength gains. But who knows? Maybe deloading for the first half of the cycle helped . . . One positive outcome of the injury is that I began doing full squats instead of half squats again, although I should probably video-record myself again to see exactly how far below parallel I’m actually going. What I call my full squat is simply me going down as far as I can before the stretch reflex kicks in, which may feel deeper than it really is. Another plus, possibly, is that I began thinking more seriously about the ratios between my lifts, in order to identify my weakest lifts and develop tactics for bringing them up to speed. I then began basing my weekly lifting charts on these ratios. A third good result was that I became a little stricter about varying the rep-counts on a regular basis, and so have moved further away from a true version of the Texas Method. In this cycle, I will try to adhere to a 5/10/3 rep-count alternation, with each rep-count corresponding to one of the week’s workouts, across all the lifts. Apparently, according to Alwyn Cosgrove, this is an ‘undulating’ protocol. I will only add volume to my weakest lift, the Squat, probably on the five-rep day only. So there’s no more real ‘volume day’ or ‘intensity day,’ as per the Texas Method, but of course different rep-counts imply different intensities and/or different sorts of challenges. Five-rep sets seem like the best ones, with the right intensity, to increase for greater volume work on the weak lift. I will continue with the (so-far-unfulfilled) intention of working in more assistance exercises, most probably on the 10-rep day. Based on my limited experience using chart formulas in the last cycle, as well as Thibaudeau's recent article on recommended ratios (https://www.t-nation.com/training/know-your-ratios-destroy-weaknesses), I will revise the formulas a bit in this cycle, once again using the OH Press as the fundamental unit: 1. OHP x 1.67 = BP, up from OHP x 1.6 = BP at the end of the last cycle. In essence, the OHP has caught up to the BP, according to Thibaudeau's ratios. 2. OHP x 1.45 = Full Squat, same as at the end of the Cycle I. The long term goal is OHP x 1.75 = F SQ, down from a previously targeted OHP x 2. The OHP x 2 ratio was based on half/parallel squats. Since I’m going beyond parallel now, and not just breaking it, I’ve reduced the ratio in order to account for the greater difficulty of a deeper squat. Bringing the squat up will be the main focus this cycle. 3. Full Squat x 1.3 = DL, up from 1.25. In this cycle, I will start with 1.3 and then try to get the ratio up to 1.4, and then hold the multiplier constant for a while as I wait for my squat to improve and drive further gains in the DL that way. In the last cycle I tied the squat to the DL as a limiter of the latter, in order to force myself to build the DL back up gradually while I rehabbed the glute/hip injury. But now that I’m reducing the ratio between the OHP and SQ and doing deeper squats, I think I can increase the ratio between the SQ and the DL and still be both safe and balanced. That is, I think a lighter deep squat may be  just as preventive/safe as a heavier half squat because deeper squats stretch and warm-up up the weak area of my deadlifts better, and  just as balanced as heavier squats because a strong posterior chain is still the number one priority in strength training. Whatever I lose from not doing heavier parallel squats I think I will gain in greater hip/groin mobility and strength from doing deeper squats. 4. Instead of a 1:1:1 ratio between the BP, PD, and Cable Row, I will bring the latter two down to 90% of the Bench Press, as Christian Thibaudeau recommends for the Pullup. I think the Cable Row is similar in weight to the Pull-up/-down. I’ll try to make the barbell row (if my t-grip bar ever arrives) 65%, a little lower than Christian Thibaudeau’s recommended 70% for the chest supported bb row, since I won’t be doing them with support. (Hmnn, that seems a little light -- we'll see.) I’ll keep the 1-DB Rows to 5o% of the Bench Press, now that the latter will go up, but focus on stricter form and more volume. So here's how the cycle will start, with a chart of the projected year-end goals to the left of it: Goals for this cycle: Avoid injury! Five-to-ten pound improvement for the OH Press, with attendant increases in all the dependent lifts, plus another 10-20 pounds improvement in the full squat, if possible. Running-wise, I just want to establish some semblance of consistency, and maybe work in a little variety too, like a hills/interval day every Tuesday or something like that. ---------------Week 1: Cycle II--------------- 15.03.01--03.07 Sunday - 03.01 Late AM Running 3.5 miles, Franklin-Marshal bridge circuit, 24F/10F windchill. I ran about a third of the distance, in a handful of segments, took off my Sockwas for the last mile or so. Would've gone barefoot the whole way if I weren't doing the walking intervals. My left big toe met became tender as I ran more, but Monday morning the tenderness is gone, so I guess no harm done. Still, it's a little concerning/frustrating that it's not completely healed by now. I think it's been more than a month since I stubbed it. PM 1/3 mile pulling son with a cord tied to a plastic car toy he's outgrown. Could this be the initiation of sled-pulls? Monday - 03.02 OK, here's a revised chart that includes the programming and some assistance exercises: The assistance exercises I'll basically just do one set to failure. "Failure" will be interpreted broadly to include motivational failure. On Mondays, I'll probably do both the bench press and deadlift at 2x5 instead of 3x5. I put the harder assistance lifts on Wednesdays, the easiest day for the main lifts. PM Lifting - Volume Day (5RM) Squat: 3 x 5 x 185 TK OH Press: 3 x 5 x 120 N Pulldown: 3 x 5 x 180 B Press: 3 x 5 x 205 C Row: 2 x 5 x 180 Deadlift: 3 x 3 x 215 Everything felt close to my 5RM, except for the deadlifts, so near-perfect loading. It felt good to be benching hard again. Short term goal is to bench 5 x 225, a nice benchmark since 225 x reps is used at the NFL combine. I guess I'll continue adding one set to my weakest lifts, the Squat and Pulldown, although, according to Thibaudeau's ratios, I can probably take the Pulldown of the Weakest Species list. I'll keep it on until I can start to do unassisted pullups, even though that is more contigent on losing my belly flab than real strength gains. For the deadlift, I came up with the bright idea of increasing reps every workout at 215 until I get up to 10, then begin adding weight until I get up to where my 10-rep count should be for my squat weight (Squat x 1.4). At my current Squat loads, that should be 235. Then I can add weight until I get to where my 5RM should be, which is currently 265, and then, finally, add more weight until I get to my 3RM, which is currently 280. I think the fourth rep at 270 is the weight that provoked re-injury of my hip/butt pull in early January, so if I spend 3-4 weeks meticulously building up to it again, I should be safe. From then on, my squat gains will drive increases in the deadlift, which should keep me from lifting anything my butt/hip region isn't ready for. And by then my garage will be warmer, so I won't have to worry as much about lifting with cold muscles either. Tuesday - 03.03 PM Running - Fartleks 3 miles, Pelham to Franklin Bridge and back, 29F/5-10F windchill I would guess. I would've run bare except it had snowed a few inches in the morning and the asphalt path still had patches of it or was wet from the melt-off. My wife called just before I started running and asked if I could make dinner because she wasn't feeling well. So I cut the run a bit short in order to have time to stop by the butcher on my way to picking up the kids. I ran up to Franklin Bridge but then turned around and came back instead of crossing over to the Minneapolis side. This saved .6 miles. (I just looked on Google Maps and apparently my normal bridge circuit is 3.6 miles, not 3.5 miles. I must have been remembering an old Garmin measurement, but I forgot I parked the car off the river road.) Anyway, I ran fartleks again with walking breaks, at least half the distance was run I think. I tried to keep the pace between 9-10mm, and stopped whenever I got out of breath or my left foot started to bother me. The big toe's met head is still sensitive but doesn't remain tender post-run anymore, so I guess it's on the mend and the short running spurts aren't doing it any harm. My ankle gets a a little nigglish but I think it's because I'm still compensating a bit with my gait to keep a little weight off the big toe on push off, even though the landing feels more or less natural now. Overall, I felt noticeably better than on Sunday's run, so hopefully it won't take too long to gain some semblance of running fitness. It's supposed to warm up for good by the weekend, so this is a good time to make a push. Wednesday - 03.04 PM Lifting - Stamina Day (10RM) SQ: 6 x 165, 10/9 x 155 TK OHP: 9/10 x 100 N PD: 2 x 10 x 150 BP 10 x 170 I quickly changed my 10RM percentages from 75% to 70% after the first set of squats. Once again, dos Remedios's percentages on ExRx proved most appropriate for me. It didn't help that I was pretty hungry. I've been trying to cut back a bit but dieting just isn't for me, especially before an ST session. After my first set of 10 reps on the bench press, my wife called and asked why I hadn't come in to say hello. We ended up hanging out for 45 minutes, which is exactly why I went straight to my workout when I got home--in order to avoid any distractions. I had come home 30 minutes early in order to try some assistance stuff, but I didn't even make it through the six main lifts. Oh well, the perils of a home gym I guess. Anyway, the 10RM sets were a success. The last 8-10 reps are hard mentally, as that's when the fatigue begins to set in, but I think it's a worthwhile parameter to train. And the three-rep sets on Friday will feel like a relief. I thought I would be able to get through the sets with shorter rest intervals, but 10 reps at lower weight takes just as much out of me as 3 or 5 reps with greater weight. I gained new respect for all the high-rep bodybuilders although their preening beauty contests still make me laugh. Thursday - 03.05 PM Running 3.6 miles, Franklin-Marshall bridge ciruit, 13F/-5F windchill I think. I ran about a dozen short segments, sometimes pushing the pace just a bit. Probably ran at least 2/3 of the distance. Legs less glitchy, almost re-habituated to running again. Left toe continues tender but manageable. Should be last cold day of the winter, if the forecasts hold up. Friday - 03.06 AM Feels good to have mildly sore legs from running. I missed that feeling. PM Lifting - Intensity Day (1-3RM) SQ: 1/2/3 @ 215/205/200, 1/2/3 @ 220/210/200 TK OHP: 2 x 1/2/3/ @ 145/135/125 BP 1/4/4 @ 235/225/215 S(upinated) PD: 3 x 3 @ 190 Kroc Row 1 x 5, left hand I woke up in the mood to get back into the singles scene. The run the day before was a little better and seemed to have primed me for a good lifting session. I really love the way running and lifting complement each other. They've always been the bread and butter of any fitness routine I've had during settled life. Anyway, after a good exchange with Abide over the last two or three days, I decided to give his ladder sets approach a try. It's a form of my old back-off sets approach, but the descent is repeated, and the increments are a little stricter and narrower. I would be doing my 1-, 2-, and 3RMs at 100%, 95%, and 90% of my projected 1RM. I was little nervous about shooting for singles after so many months without doing them. Plus my left knee was a little sore down towards the inside by the shin. So I did the first squat single five pounds less than the projected 1RM. It went up fine though, and it was easy to achieve good depth, even pausing a bit at the bottom of each rep, so on the next round of 1/2/3 I added five pounds to the 1RM and 2RM to bring them in line with their projections. I'll probably add a further five pounds to all the rep counts next week. Then it came time to PR in my Overhead Press. I had always thought it would be too tricky to do singles with the press, but I guess this was mainly because I had always done them seated and unsupported, so it was real hard to establish initial momentum. There's just no spring in the torso without getting the hips or knees a little involved. I don't want to make it a Push-Press, but still, I think you got have a little spring to overcome inertia before the shoulders and arms can take over. In the kneeling position, it's possible to lean back just a bit without risking falling over, as I might if seated. Anyway, 145 went up pretty easy. It was challenging, but I knew right from the start that I had it. It felt great to move that amount of weight over my head--really gratifying. So my true 1RM is probably closer to 150-160. I'll bump it up to 150 for next week and see how the various rep-count percentages feel with that. The descending sets went well too and I was able to repeat the whole 1/2/3-rep sequence once again. I also liked how I didn't need that much rest in between sets this way. It's actually easier than 3x3 sets across I think. The only hassle is changing plates between every set, but since I'm dealing with 10-pound increments most times, it's not that big a deal and doesn't require any calculation. For the bench, I was also a bit hesitant about shooting for my projected 1RM of 245, which I PR'd last fall or summer. And I was still a little pooped from the OH Press, so I played it conservative and just went for 235. That went up pretty easy, so I can definitely do 245 next time. Once I dropped ten pounds, 225 felt too easy for two reps, so I went for extra reps and got in four solid ones. Same with 215. For the Pulldowns, I decided it made more sense to adopt a slightly narrow, supinated grip in order to maximize strength. It's probably also good to vary grip type and width on the upper body pulls. I don't like the pronated grip, but both neutral and supine feel good to me and each seems to work the back muscles a little bit differently. I should probably use my narrow, neutral grip handle sometimes too. For the Rows, I decided to try some Kroc Rows at 90 pounds. Kroc Rows, I've learned, are both a slight modification to conventional dumbbell bentover row technique as well as the protocol of going high reps to failure. I was in kind of a hurry by then so I don't think I set myself up quite right, and on the fifth rep of my left hand I felt a slight twinge in my left shoulder blade, so I thought it best to call it a day. I think I may have also been a bit lax in my technique because I wasn't taking the reduced weight seriously. It's just as well, with the slightly sore left knee, I was a little dubious about doing deadlifts anyway. Having a potential left shoulder tweak sealed the deal. I was done. All in all, a very productive session. It felt good to go heavier and it was good to experiment with a new set/rep scheme. It will also be fun to shoot for new, true 1RM PRs instead of assuming their projection from the 3RMs or 5RMs. This scheme is definitely a keeper so it's just a matter of figuring out the best way to program it in. Maybe do the intensity workout this way every other week, and then the other week just do 3x3? Or I could do 1/1/2/2/3/3+ each week. That might be a little more intense. Feeling so good about this workout, I guess I'll recommit to a fuller volume workout on Mondays, and try to get in four instead of three sets for the weak lifts. Now the only thing missing is getting the deadlifts back up to speed. Saturday - 03.07 Noon Running 1.6 miles. 41F/31F windchill. Very bare-able conditions, but my left knee and left big toe met head still felt sore, so I turned back at the railroad bridge heading up to Franklin and walked back to the car. Trying to remain patient, but it's getting harder now that the weather is nice again. I really want to RUN. ---------------Week 2: Cycle II--------------- 15.03.08--03.14 Sunday - 03.08 AM Running One-mile walk-commute. 31F/29F windchill. A bit cold on the feet, and my left foot muscles felt tight, but I figured the walk might help alleviate some of the soreness in my left knee. It did. I need more stretching and massaging too I guess as I try to get back into running with this tender left big toe, since everything's probably a little out of kilter. Noon One-mile walk-commute. 40F/32F windchill. Beautiful sunny day. Monday - 03.09 AM Running One-mile walk-commute. 26F, no windchill, but a fair bit of moisture from the melt-off. Nonetheless, I was able to walk the whole thing bare. The left knee soreness is pretty much gone, but the left big toe is still a little tender. I'll try massaging and stretching the crap out of my left foot today, as I think more than half the problem is the muscles getting out of kilter as they compensate for the avoiding pressure on the big toe met head, and tightening up, sort of a vicious circle. I may be able to run on the big toe tenderness alone, but adding in the tightness makes it a lot worse. PM One-mile walk commute, 51F/45F windchill. Beautiful spring day. Left foot felt better after a lot of stretching and massaging. Lifting -- Volume Day (5RM) SQ: 4 x 5 x 190 (86kgs) TK OHP: 4 x 5 x 125 (57kgs) N PD: 3 x 5 x 180 (82kgs) B P: 4 x 215 (98kgs) DL: 2 x 5 x 215 (98kgs) BB Bentover Row, Supinated grip: 5 x 125 (57kgs) BB Bentover Row, Pronated grip, Pendlay: 5 x 125, 5 x 145 66kgs) Good Morning: 5 x 85 1-DB Power Row: 5 x 105 (48kgs) Took the Squat and Overhead Press up five pounds from last week, and the Bench Press up ten. The Squats felt fine, and the technique and depth automatic, so I'll take them up another five pounds next week. The Overhead press was challenging but doable, so I'll stand pat for next week's workouts until it starts to get easier. I was starting to get pooped by the time I got to the Neutral Grip Pulldowns, so I did three instead of four sets. I had only slept four hours the night before, and I had a hard time eating enough before the workout. On the bench press I was starting to get a serious energy deficit, and only managed four reps. I think next week I'll reduce the Overhead Press sets to three instead of four. They've pretty much caught up to my bench press, but I'd like to do at least one extra set of them over the bench press, but still make sure I have enough gas in the tank for two solid sets on the bench press. The Deadlift felt fine at 215, but I can kinda tell there's still a little something in the right glute, so I think I'll keep it at 215 for Wednesday's workout, and then maybe increase by 10 pounds for the 3x3 workout on Friday. I tried the Barbell Bentover Row for the first time in a while. I feel a sort of obligation to do the barbell rows, part of my old school mentality I guess. For the first set I tried the supinated grip recommended in a recent T-Nation article. Those didn't feel good in the crook of the elbow. Several commentators to that T-Nation article mention biceps tears, and I think I felt some stress too where the biceps ties into the elbow joint. The Pronated grip felt OK though. I did these Pendlay style, deloading the bar after each rep. It felt light, but when I increased it by 20 pounds for the second set, I felt a little strain in my lower back during the eccentric phase. I guess I could just drop the bar like an weightlifter, or just do them high rep/low weight. Jury's still out on that one. Then I tried a set of Good Mornings, which I hadn't done in a long time. I dunno, I think I prefer Back Extensions. Finally, I tried One-hand Dumbbell Power Rows: I dunno, I'll have to try these again, but I think I prefer the traditional dumbbell row off the bench. Maybe Rippetoe is right, maybe rows really are an assistance exercise, since I have a hard time finding a row style that always feels great. The one-hand dumbbell rows aren't too bad, and the cable rows aren't bad either, but neither is as satisfying as the other five main lifts. I think on Wednesday I'll try the inverted rows again. Overall, a very satisfying workout. I felt completely wiped out at the end. With a few more adjustments I think I can get the volume just right and still have a little left over for a few sets of assistance exercises at the end. Tuesday - 03.10 Wednesday - 03.11 PM Lifting - Stamina Day (7-10RM) SQ: 10 x 160, 8 x 170, 7 x 180 TK OH PR: 7 x 115, 10 x 105, 7 x 120 DL 2 x 10 x 175, 5/3 x 215 N PD: 3 x 8 x 150 C Row: 5 x 150 Around 60F outside, felt good to break a sweat inside my garage once again. The new 10/8/7-rep or 70/75/80% protocol was brutal, but definitely worth doing. I had to pause a bit in between reps for the last few reps of some sets. On the Tall Kneeling Overhead Press I screwed up the plates and put on 115 instead of 105 for the first ten-rep set (probably because I was still winded from the squats). At seven reps I gave up. There was no way I was going to make it to ten. Then I realized why it felt so heavy--this was my 8RM load. So I took off ten pounds and did my ten-rep set second. After the Squat and Press I was feeling pretty wiped out already. I've got work a little harder on my pre-workout nutrition. This is something like the third time my energy has given out during a workout in this cycle. I ate a protein bar in the middle of the workout but it didn't restore me at all. I think I have to eat more carbs during the day, like sweet potatoes or something, because just protein, veggies, and fruit isn't enough. So the rest of the workout I was just kind of messing around, which was kinda fun, so I might institute that as a protocol. That is, I'll make sure to get in the Squat and Press as written, following the 10/8/7-rep sets, but then leave it up in the air as to whether I'm going to do the other main lifts high-rep or just do assistance-type stuff. Rippetoe's recommendation of putting an easy day in between Monday's volume day and Friday's intensity day is probably a good one. I also moved the Deadlifts up from last to third, so that I can start working on getting those back up to speed and make sure I have plenty of energy and focus to do so. I'm still not sure how to approach the deadlift rehab, because I'm still a little spooked by the injury and whether or not I'll be given any warning signs if it starts to flare up again. So no choice really but to go very slowly, and experiment a bit with loads and rep counts, which is what I did on Wednesday. I skipped the bench press altogether, as I was completely wiped by then, and just did light, high-rep pulldowns and one set of cable rows. This seems like a good approach; put the upper body pulls last and let the day's energy and motivation dictate how they're done. So, a semi-productive workout, insofar as the squats and presses killed me, but everything else was half-assed, but also productive inasmuch as the workout helped decide how to approach the density/stamina workout a little better. And I think I may have stumbled on a better ordering for the main lifts. Something like this: Basically, the priority is always working on the performance lifts, with an emphasis on my two weak lifts, the squat and press. I'm counting on the squat to drive progress on the deadlift, and the press to drive progress on the bench press, until all four lifts are more or less in line with the 2:3:4:5 ratio of cosmological resonance and my garage becomes misshapen snail's shell. So I've taken the bench press loads down to a strict 3:2 ratio with my overhead press, so that my current press 1RM is 66% of the bench instead of 60%. Likewise, I've reduce the deadlift to 125% of the squat instead of 140%. I will continue doing fewer sets of the bench press and deadlift until the press and squat catch up, then I'll even out the sets and reps. Otherwise, it just gets to be too much to do all the sets and reps of each workout's protocol for all the lifts. From now on, I will make sure to get in the squat and press as written, and then let energy and motivation dictate how I proceed through the rest of the workout. I might, for example, go for a true 1RM or 5RM PR on the Bench Press on Friday, or stick to the easier loads as written, depending on how my Press went. Thursday - 03.12 PM Running Was going to run down by the river by the end of the day, but I got a call from my daughter's school saying she had an upset stomach. We suspect she's starting to fake it. In any case, that put an end to the run. Need to start doing the early morning running routine again, especially now that morning temps are so reasonable. Friday - 03.13 PM Lifting - Intensity Day (1-3RM) SQ: 2 x 1 x 225, 2 x 2 x 215, 2 x 3 x 205 TK OHP: 2 x 1/2/3 x 150/140/130 DL: 2 x 3 x 250 BP: 2/3/2 x 225, 3 x 215 CG N PD: 3 x 190 S PD: 3 x 3 x 180 P-RW: 5 x 125, 2 x 5 x 135 Landmine Twist (LM TWST): 8 x 75 Got my Spud 3-ply XL belt before the workout. Really liked it a lot. Several people have recommended only wearing a belt during work-sets, but I don't know, I kind of like leaving it on most of the time. Started my workout 15 minutes earlier, which helped a lot. I did the squat rep counts together, instead of in ladders, so two sets of singles, then two sets of doubles, and two sets of triples. Not sure it really matters. Also not sure if doing 1/2/3 is any better than 3x3 straight sets across. It might be best to do the ladders only once after I increase the load, to test the 1RM, then do 3 x 3 until the next load increase. Otherwise, six sets (2 x 1/2/3) gets to be a lot, even though the rest intervals tend to be shorter. It's hard to say if I should increase the squat load next week or not, but since everything has felt super solid, I guess I'll slap on ten more pounds to the 1RM, bringing it up to 235, just 40 pounds shy of my old 1RM PR. I want to make sure I don't begin sacrificing depth for load though, so if I feel myself cheating depth, I'll take the weight back off. The squat is now 155% of my OH Press, up from 150%. I hope to get it up to double the press by the end of the year if not sooner. At the beginning of the cycle I was aiming only for 175%, because I thought I was going a fair bit below parallel, but I think perhaps I'm delusional about the amount of depth I'm achieving. It's probably not that much below parallel, so no excuses, I'm sticking to the 1:2 ratio between presses and squats, as prescribed by the Iron Ratio. I PR'd in the OH Press at 150. It was a little shaky, so I'll keep the press at this week's loads for at least another week. The rate of progress on the press will probably start to slow down now. I was able to do the Deadlift 3RM at 125% of the squat 3RM, so it's officially caught up to the squat, and now I'll just let it increase as the squat increases, keeping the ratio at a conservative 5:4 for at least a few months, before eventually allowing it to creep up to a 7:5 ratio, or 140%. I didn't do the third set because I had a mysterious spot pain on the top of my right shin close to the knee. It didn't feel like a ligament pain though, more like a bone bruise. I began to feel it earlier in the day, so I don't think it's related to lifting, but since I'm still a little spooked about the deadlift, and the deadlift seemed to aggravate it, I decided to drop the third set. Mission accomplished anyway, the deadlift has caught up and my confidence has more or less been restored. I didn't feel anything in the problem area, so with gradual increases from here on out, tied to squat progress, it should be fine. Still, it's a little frustrating not lifting as much as I feel I could. On the bench, I decided to just go for reps at 225. 225 is supposed to be my 1RM while I wait for the OH Press to catch up, when in fact my true 1RM is more like 245-250, but it seemed silly just to do one 225-rep when I knew I could do more, and I didn't really feel like doing 3x3 at a reduced weight either. Maybe I'll just sit at 225 on Intensity day for a while and keep going for reps, trying to get them up to five or so. The trick is to maintain the Bench Press without taking away time or energy or recovery ability away from improving the OH Press until it has caught up. I tried the powerlifting style on one of the reps, but it hurt my legs for some reason. It might be interesting to mess around with this style of bench pressing a bit more while I wait for the OH Press to catch up. I dusted off my close-grip handle for a set of close-grip neutral pulldowns. Man, those were tough--really felt on the top, outer areas of my back. I was getting pretty tired by that point, but my addition of extra carbs in the form of a sweet potato and an extra banana during the day prevented my energy from dissipating like it had on previous workouts. I guess this is a simple kind of carb-cycling. The idea is simply to eat more carbs on st days, but lay off them on running days. Then I took off ten pounds and did supine pulldowns, a.k.a. "chin-downs," which I like a lot for the lower reps. Got a nice biceps pump as well. I then decided to take another stab at barbell rows. I again did them Pendlay-style, and discovered that if I take an extra second or so to deload on the floor at the end of each rep, I no longer feel stress in my lower back. So I raised the weight by ten pounds and did them at the recommended load in my chart, which is 70% of my bench. I think this is according Thibaudeau's ratios, but his are for the chest supported row, so maybe I can do them a little bit heavier. I felt like I got good benefit from these rows, so they're back in the mix. Just have to decide how to best program the four row variations--inverted rows, cable rows, one-hand dumbbell rows, and barbell rows--but maybe I'll just keep playing it by ear, since rows are borderline assistance anyway. One thought, however, would be to put the Pendlay Rows on Volume Day, since they seem to lend themselves to 5RMs, then Cable Rows on Stamina Day, since they seem to work well in the 5-10 rep range, and then 1-DB Rows on Intensity Day, since my cheating or overload style of doing them makes them quite intense, and amenable to lower rep counts. Likewise the Pull-down/-ups could have a weekly rotation: Monday - Volume Day 3 x 5 -- Neutral-grip Pulldowns 3 x 5 -- Pendlay Rows Wednesday - Stamina Day 3 x 10/8/7 -- Pullups (assisted) 3 x 10/8/7 -- Cable Rows Friday - Intensity Day 3 x 3 -- Supine-grip Pulldowns 3 x 3 -- One-hand Dumbbell Rows . . . . Finally, with this cycle's program shaping up nicely and solidifying, I thought it might be time to start working in a little assistance stuff, so I did one set of landmine twists. Felt good. Overall, a great workout. I slept like a baby at night and I'm quite sore the next day (Saturday morning). Hopefully the endless tweaking will diminish somewhat and I can just keep plugging away at these lifts, in this order, with this set/rep variation, while increasing loads whenever I'm ready, but I might try doing one Stamina Day with more lift variation and assistance exercises, just to see how it feels. Saturday - 03.14 Sore, decided to put of run until Sunday. Had first protein shake in many months. ---------------Week 3: Cycle II--------------- 15.03.15--03.21 Template for Week 3: Edit: I thought better of it, and brought this week's squat increase down to five pounds instead of 10. I think sticking to 5-pound increases is a good idea, keep everything nice and gradual and avoid overstressing the joints. Sunday - 03.15 Late AM Running 3.6 miles, Franklin-Marshall bridge circuit, 48F/40F windchill. Kinda cloudy and windy, but felt great to go out without back-up footwear. I ran a handful of short intervals, including one or two at a pretty good pace, but then I got a little TOFP in my left foot, so I just walked the rest of the way. Hopefully I can massage and stretch this out before the next scheduled attempt at running on Tuesday. Monday - 03.16 PM Lifting -- Volume Day (5RM) SQ: 3 x 5 x 195 TK OH PR: 3 x 5 x 125 DL: 5 x 245 BP: 3/5 x 195 N PD: 3 x 5 x 180 P-RW: 3 x 5 x 135 B EXT: 5/10 x BW Everything went fine. I had only slept four hours and felt tired, so I didn't do the fourth set for either the Squat and OH Press, then regretted it later. I've learned that even when I'm really tired, if I've eaten properly throughout the day, it doesn't really affect my ability to lift. In any case, both lifts can probably go up five pounds next week. I'm not sure if my progress is more of a novice's expected fast progress to a 70-80% level of genetic potential, or if my weekly routine is that effective, but it's pretty exciting to think that soon my Press will have caught up to my Bench at a 2:3 ratio. Then I can start pushing them concurrently. I used a yoga mat under my knees for the Tall Kneeling Overhead Press for the first time. Now that the weight is starting to get heavy, a little padding underneath helps distribute the load around the knee joint a bit. I only did one set of deadlifts. It felt fine, but I'm still a little spooked by the glute/hip injury and happy with small victories. This was my first five-rep set at that weight since the injury, which was a five-rep set at 270 I think. Hopefully by the end of the cycle I'll be up to full loads and sets and reps, and my confidence will be 100% restored. I guess getting over 300 for my 1RM will be the true test. On the bench press I gave the powerlifting leg drive another try. I did a real mild version with close to normal ROM and my back arch about the same, but I could feel its effect nonetheless. It probably will add a few pounds to my bench. It's also supposed to be a easier on the shoulders. Wendler does a fairly mild version of it, mine is even milder, maybe like this guy around 5:10, but slightly less arch?: My technique was simply to put my head back until it bumped up against the plates of my pulley cables' loading bar, set my feet, then scoot my torso back down a few inches until I was lined up under the bar properly. So easy landmarks/cues to remember. I also moved my grip in just a bit. Instead of lining up my pinkies with the smooth ring in the knurling, I extended my thumbs hitchhiker-style to the center smooth area, then retracted them back to my palms and gripped the bar once I got the spacing. The Pendlay Rows felt good but a little light. I'll probably start increasing them bit by bit until I arrive at what feels like a better 5RM resistance without straining my lower back. This week I'm trying to follow the upper body pull variation of: (Monday--Volume Day) Pendlay Row 5 reps, (Wednesday--Stamina Day) Cable Row 8-10 reps, and (Friday--Intensity Day) One-handed Dumbbell Rows 1-3 reps, and with Neutral Pulldowns, Assisted Pullups, and Supine Pulldowns alternating in the same order per rep-count/day. I did Back Extensions for the first time in a long while. I was going to do Pikes with my suspension straps, but I was running out of time and didn't want to have to dig out the straps and adjust them. I wish I would've gotten a back extension bench with space in the middle for the privates though. I need to either cut out a middle section, or add two foam strips to the side. I was thinking a good vulgar name for this exercise would be 'Wife Repeats' or "Missionary Thrust." Enjoyed the workaday feel of the workout, with everything pretty much set. I could see doing a program like this for a very long time. This could also be changed to a more typical periodization, by doing the Volume rep-count for one whole week, the Stamina rep-count for another, and the Intensity rep-count for a third, with then perhaps a week to deload after that. Tuesday - 03.17 PM Running 1.2 miles, Hendon Hills, 45F/40F windchill. I got the bright idea a few days ago to run hills while I'm waiting for my stubborn stubbed left big toe to heal up completely. It would be a gentler landing, and would work my Vo2max just as well as intervals. So more bang for the buck and reduced impact. I used to run up this hill in 2013, my peak running year, but I didn't train on it at all in 2014, I think. I parked the car on the shallow side of the hill and then ran up and walked down the longer side, which ends at a lower elevation. I then ran back up and walked down the shallower side. From base to base it's about .3 miles overall. So one back-n-forth is a little over .6 miles, half running, half walking. I think the first side is about a 50 ft change in elevation, while the second is about a 100 ft change, so close to a 10% grade, right? I just did two 'laps.' I'm trying to reinforce my new emphasis on keeping everything super gradual, as in my st, so I can monitor progress and prevent relapse. Next time I will go up and over and back again 3-4 times. I might just stick with this for a month or two, until I get up to six miles total (10 laps), a better pace, and no walking during recovery. Could be a good way to jump start the running. Wednesday - 03.18 AM One-mile walk-commute, 29F/27F windchill. The surfaces were cold but dry. My left foot felt just a slight twinge of TOFP from the hill running on Tuesday, and my legs are just a little bit sore, so the hill training was a success. More of the same on Thursday I guess. PM Lifting - Stamina Day (7-10RM) SQ: 10/8/7 x 160/175/185 TK OHP: 10/7/3 x 105/115/120 DL: 4 x 235 Well, my carb cycling failed me. I needed to eat more pre-workout. I felt fine on the squats, although I was huffing and puffing after each set, but then on the second set of the Tall Kneeling Overhead Press, I completely bonked on the second to last rep, and missed the final one. On the next set, I only managed three reps before my strength dissipated for good. I did one light set of deadlifts, but I was toast. Oh well, we had a family dentist appointment later and I was running a little late so I wasn't going to get in a full workout anyway. For the Overhead Press, however, maybe I should be a little more conservative, and reduce everything by 5%? Or at least do something like 105/110/115 instead of 105/115/120, but the main problem was hypoglycemic I think. Nonetheless, Rippetoe has questioned the universality of rep-count percentages, saying they depend on the individual and the lift, so perhaps I can better tolerate higher reps for squats than for pressing? It would make sense if my legs had more endurance/stamina than my arms, since I walk and run, but don't do anything outside of lifting that involves repetitive arm movements. Something to work on I guess. It would be good to swim or something. Hopefully as my running improves, and I develop a better aerobic base, I'll be able to better utilize my energy systems during strength training. I never used to bonk like this, but I don't know if I've ever done strength training while being so out-of-shape running-wise. In any case, I slept like a baby and woke up Wednesday suitably sore, mostly in my upper back, so the workout was sufficiently hard to provoke an adaptation. And now I'll have a little extra in the tank for a good intensity session on Friday. I think from now on I'll try to start every workout 30 minutes earlier, to make sure I have time for sufficient rest in between sets, some assistance at the end, and also a little buffer in case I'm interrupted. I don't like beginning these sessions feeling pressured to get through everything quickly. Thursday - 03.19 PM Running 1.8 mi, Hendon Hill, upper 40s. I added one more "lap" to my hills run--going up and over and back again counting as one lap--bringing it up to three. I may have already felt a little adaptation going on, as it felt slightly easier than on Tuesday. On Saturday I'll go for four laps. Feels great to have found a way to push the aerobic conditioning a bit. I have to visit my doctor again in about a month, and it would be nice if I can show evidence of getting the blood pressure down. Friday - 03.20 PM Lifting - Intensity Day (1-3RM) SQ: 3 x 3 x 205 TK OHP: 3 x 3 x 130 DL: 2 x 3 x 265 BP: 3 x 3 x 205 S PD: 3 x 3 x 190 1DB Row: 3 x 3 x 120 After two weeks of doing the Squats and OH Press 1/2/3 style on Intensity day, I decided to just do them straight sets across, even though I had bumped up the squat five pounds this week, and have the general intention of testing my single every time I increase a lift's load. I had been up since 1am, and felt kinda crappy. Plus I was getting a late start once again, and 3x3 goes a lot quicker than 2 x 1/2/3. The Squats went up just fine, as did the OH Press. I will bump up the squat five pounds next week, to bring the 1RM up to 235, and 155% of the OH Press. The squat is beginning to separate itself from the press, as expected. It should have a higher ceiling than the press for improvement, and will eventually come up to something like a 2:1 ratio. The OH Press isn't ready for an increase though. I had trouble with the higher reps on Wednesday, and don't think I could do 130 for four sets at five reps a piece this coming Monday. 130 felt about right just for the three-rep sets. I'll probably try to follow our 3RM+2=5RM protocol of waiting until I can do 130 for two extra reps on the last set of the 3x3+, before increasing the rep-count loads on the OH Press. I went five pounds too heavy on the Deadlift so that I wouldn't have to mess with a lot of plates--265 with my 35-pound bar is just two 45s and one 25 on each side. That's supposed to be next week's weight, after the squat increase. I felt just the slightest hint of a niggle in my right glute area on the third rep of the second set, so decided to call it a day on those. The deadlifts felt pretty good and easy though, and it was probably nothing, but no use risking anything that doesn't feel absolutely right, since the squats still have a way to go before they catch up to my true Deadlift maxes. Unlike last week, I kept the Bench Press at the strict 3:2 ratio to the OH Press, so that I could continue working on adopting more of a powerlifting technique at reduced loads. I got my legs a little bit more underneath me, and arched my back just a bit more, yet my ROM was still fairly natural. I also tried to use the cue of "breaking the bar" on the eccentric phase, and "spreading the bar" going up, like I saw in one video. Seemed to help. If I can continue honing my technique at 85-90% of my training maxes, then by the time the OH Press catches up, I should be ready to start pushing the Bench Press to new maxes. Supine Pulldowns felt a little easier than last week, so that's good. The Pulldowns have felt a little stagnant for a while. It would be great if I can do these at 200 pounds by the end of the cycle. I did the One-hand Dumbbell Rows overload-style for the first time in a while. The first set was a little hard for my left side, but the second and third sets went well. I'll keep doing this kind of row on Intensity day I think. Once I reach the plate limit for my 18" dumbbell handles, I'll start upping the reps a la Kroc Rows. In general, I think I've found a good mix of rows for each of the three kinds of workout--Volume (Pendlay Row), Stamina (Cable Row), and Intensity (1DM Row). So a good workout. I'm settling into a nice, slow but steady rate of progress. Six lifts, three parameters, it's working. A good template for long-term gains, but enough flexibility built in to keep things interesting and adjust to time, energy, and motivation fluctuations. Saturday - 03.21 ---------------Week 4: Cycle II--------------- 15.03.22--03.28 Template for Week 4: Sunday - 03.22 Noon Running 1.8 miles, Hendon Hill up-and-over x 6, 32F/21F windchill. Felt OK, about the same as last Thursday. I'll try for 8 up-n-overs on Tuesday, or four "laps." Monday - 03.23 PM Lifting -- 5RM Squat: 4 x 5 x 200 TK OH Press: 4 x 5 x 125 Deadlift: 4/5 x 250 Bench Press: 2 x 5 x 190 Pulldown: 3 x 5 x 180 Pendlay Row: 3 x 5 x 145 Good, workaday workout, managed to do it almost exactly as written. Both Squat and Press were hard, but I can probably raise both by five pounds next week, depending on whether the rest of this week goes well. On the fourth rep of the first set of Deadlifts, my right glute felt just a little tight, so I put the bar down and stretched out a bit more. On the second set everything felt fluid. Another little confidence boost. On the Bench Press, I continued working on my technique, this time paying particular attention to getting the wrist and forearm more directly under the bar. This made the lift feel a little harder, but many people have recommended this, to reduce moment arm and stress on the wrist. This might be something that only pays off when I'm doing greater loads. Pendlay Row felt fine at 10 pounds heavier. I need to look at some of the videos again double check my technique though. I don't know if I'm retracting my scapulae enough at the top of the movement. Tuesday - 03.24 PM Running 1.8 miles, Hendon Hill up-and-over x 6, 40F/32F windchill. Sunday night's snow had mostly melted off the sidewalk. It felt a little bit easier than on Sunday, and the pace may have been a little bit faster, but I decided to keep it at three "laps." On my last descent, I felt my left calf and knee getting a little tight, and I didn't want to do anything that might compromise my squats the next day. Wednesday - 03.25 PM Lifting - 8RM SQ: 3 x 8 x 175 TK OHP: 8 x 115/110/105 DL: 5/8 x 220 BP: 2 x 8 x 175 CG PD: 6 x 160/150/150 C RW: 3 x 8 x 150 There was no reason to do descending sets on the squat, but it worked well for the Tall Kneeling Overhead Press. It kept me right at the same Rate of Perceived Effort @ 9. On the Deadlift, I once again scared myself and quit after five reps on the first set. I felt fine, but I wanted to see how it felt afterwards. Everything felt fine while recovering, so I went ahead and did the prescribed eight reps on the second set, and gained a little more confidence once again. Hopefully another few weeks of this and my deadlift anxiety will have completely disappeared. On the Bench Press, my mild version of the powerlifter positioning felt really solid, but then on the second set my left glute started to cramp up. I've been stretching out my glutes really well leading up to the deadlifts, starting with the squats, but I guess I need to continue the stretching until I get to the Bench Press now that I'm tucking my feet under my legs and getting a greater back bridge. I should probably practice bridging on my off-days. The Close Grip Neutral Pulldown handle is about ten pounds harder than my normal Neutral Grip handle, so I took off ten pounds for the second and third set, but still only managed six reps before my form began to degrade. I kept the Cable Rows at 150 and did them with super strict form. Felt good. Overall, I liked doing most of the lifts straight sets across. Makes things simpler and I doubt there's any less benefit from doing the 10/8/7 scheme I had been doing, although the latter might still be good for the squats, and somehow better than drop sets at the same rep-count. Thursday - 03.26 PM Running 1.8 miles, Hendon Hill up-and-over x 6, 35F/23F windchill. Everything felt fine, but I decided to put off adding another over-n-back until Saturday. Sometimes the 'gradual, cautious' approach can become an excuse to be lazy, but there might be some merit in putting off increases until one or two times past being ready. It's definitely starting to feel easier, in any case, and I'm not as sore the next day (Friday morning). Post-run toe tenderness seems better too. Friday - 03.27 PM Lifting - Intensity Day (1-3RM) SQ: 3 x 3 x 215 TK OHP: 3 x 3 x 130 For the Squat, I couldn't be bothered with messing with all the plates to get 210, so I just put on two 45s. So next week's increase has already taken place, and I'm wondering if I should add five more pounds, or adhere strictly to my rule of never increasing more than five pounds per week. The Overhead Press felt good. Probably should try an increase on that one too. Might have to hunt around for those 1.25-pound plates. I ran out of time for the rest. Will try to make them up on Saturday if I can have my wife distract the kids when I get home. Saturday - 03.28 PM Lifting BP: 5 x 5 x 175, 2 x 5 x 205 1DB Row: 5 x 90 I didn't have much time before we had to head out to the circus, and I wasn't really feeling like a hard workout anyway. So I thought the time would be best spent messing with my bench press technique. I stayed at 175 for multiple sets, and even asked my wife to see if my forearms remained vertical throughout the movement. I'm able to hold my entire boding in a tight, isometric hold pretty well now, and my set-up is close to automatic. The one thing I can't decide on is wrist angle. Many people say to keep the wrists perfectly straight, but when I do, I feel like my shoulder rotates internally into a somewhat more 'impinging' position. With slightly bent wrists, however, it's easier to get the 'breaking the bar' feeling right, and the arms come down in nice 45-degree angles to the body. So I dunno. I might just stick with slight wrist bend, since I'll never do really heavy weights on the bench press anyway. I figure I'll eventually top out at around 300 or so. After the bench press experimentation, I got a quick set of one-hand dumbbell rows in at reduced weight, since I had lost my warm-up from the bench while cleaning out the fish tank. A little frustrating that the week ended on a whimper, but I got the idea of using fractional plates solidified, so that's a kind of progress. I ordered some on Saturday and am planning on a protocol that has me increasing the weight on all the performance lifts every week, across all three rep-counts, even if it's just 1/4 pound. Now I need to set up an Abide-like graph to mark the rate of progress. ---------------Week 5: Cycle II--------------- 15.03.29--04.04 Template for this week: Sunday - 03.29 Mid-morning Running 1.8 miles, Hendon Hill, 37F/29F windchill, wet surfaces from early morning rain. Yep, rain, not snow. Monday - 03.30 PM Lifting -- 5RM Squat: 2 x 5 x 205 TK OH Press: 5 x 130/125 Deadlift: 2 x 5 x 255 Bench Press: 2 x 5 x 125 N Pulldown: 2 x 5 x 180 Pendlay Row: 2 x 5 x 145 I slept nine hours the night before, and although I didn't feel tired, I didn't feel rested either. I'm probably fighting a low-level bug of some kind. I decided to just do two sets of everything and call it a day. On top of that, my lower back felt sore for some reason, but it didn't interfere with the Squats or Deadlifts. Then, when laying down for the Bench Press, I discovered why my back felt sore. It was from all the Bench Press reps I did on Saturday while tucking my legs underneath and arching my back. Even though my arch is minimal, the isometric tensing and leg drive must have been enough to tax the lower back muscles, because I could barely arch my back on Monday. I don't think I hurt anything because I was able to do the Squats and Deadlifts just fine. So it's probably just a matter of those muscles adapting to the new stimulus. Respect to those powerlifters who are able to attain extreme arches. But I wonder if they do any damage to their backs? In any case, I kept the weight to 125 and did the sets with a flat back and no leg drive. On the Tall Kneeling Overhead Press, I managed a set of five reps at 130, but knew immediately that I wouldn't be able to get in another complete set, so I dropped back down to 125, but even then it was challenging to finish the set. Looks like the fractional plates will be delivered on Wednesday. Rogue Fitness's shipping is almost as fast as Amazon Prime. I'll probably try 126 or 127.5 next week. The Deadlifts felt super solid, no issues whatsoever in the glute/hip area. I would say I'm officially healed, but I will remain cautious as I begin to add more weight and approach 300 on the triples. Still no intention of doing singles or doubles for quite some time to come. Pulldowns felt good, and the Pendlay Row technique is really starting to feel solid. I'll probably be able to bump up the weight in a week or two when my form is automatic. Even cutting out two sets for both the Squats and Overhead Press, and one set each for the upper body pulls, the workout took one hour. I was very lethargic. Tuesday - 03.31 PM Running 1.6 mi, Bourne Hill, close to 60F. I decided to switch from Hendon Hill to Bourne Hill, which is closer to home. Bourne is steeper, but not as long, about .2 mi up and over instead of .3 mi for Hendon. I did four 'laps.' I think I prefer this hill, because even though it's harder, the mental effort to reach the top is a little less. The last third is always when I want to stop. It's also nice because the other side is shallow and short, good for picking up the pace. I think last time I did this in 2013, I even sprinted on the short, shallow side. Wednesday - 04.01 PM Lifting - 8RM SQ: 3 x 8 x 182 TK OHP: 3 x 8 x 111 DL: 5/8 x 227 BP: 2 x 8 x 167 CG PD: 8/8/7 x 150 C RW: 3 x 8 x 160 OK, first day of using the fractional plates. Since I'm just adjusting within five pounds, once the conventional plates are loaded to the nearest five-pound increment, it's pretty easy to figure out, and not much of a distraction. 1 lbs = 2 x 0.5-pound plate 2 lbs = 2 x 1-pound plate 3 lbs = 2 x 1.25-pound plate + 0.25-pound plate, or 2 x 1-pound plate +0.5-pound plate 4 lbs = 2 x 1.25-pound plate + 0.75-pound plate, or 2 x 1-pound plate +0.75-pound plate + 0.25 plate I have to find a good way to hang them off my power rack though. The workout was smooth, and the loads felt pretty good, although the Bench Press is always going to feel too easy until I put another 10-15 pounds on the OH Press and allow the Bench Press to rise accordingly. So summer sometime. I chickened out of the Deadlift on the first set, but the second set felt good and solid. Maybe I should do more warm-up so I'm more confident when I hit the first set? My lower back wasn't sore any longer for the Bench Press, but I felt a little soreness still in my outer hamstring while tucking my feet under, so I kept them out and didn't arch my back as much as I have been doing. Hopefully by Friday I'll be able to use the full powerlifting technique again. The Close-Grip Pulldown was great again, hard, but working the outer upper back in a unique way, and then I really felt the whole back get a good pump when I added ten pounds and did the Cable Rows. So, yeah, a fullbody eight-rep workout does give me a bit of that bodybuilder pump I guess. Felt good, but I'm also looking forward to "Low-rep Friday." Also, it was pretty cool entering the workout into my Excel log. All I had to do was correct for the missed reps. My workouts have been generated for the rest of the year. Here's what the template for the last week of 2015 looks like: All I have to do is make adjustments to the hidden formulas if my rate of progress slows or speeds up, or if I miss reps or sets. Thursday - 04.02 PM Running 2 mi, Bourne Hill, mid 60s and lots of wind. Added a lap, felt good. Also, picked up the pace a bit, both ways. Friday - 04.03 PM Lifting - 1-3RM SQ: 3 x 3 x 218 TK OHP: 3 x 3 x 133 DL: 3/3/2 x 272 BP: 3 x 3 x 200 S PD: 3 x 3 x 190 1DB Row: 3 x 3 x 120 I felt a little tight on the second set of Deadlifts, thought about skipping the third set, but decided to go for it. I had been stretching out the hip/glute area throughout the workout and so I stretched it out some more. On the second rep I felt the glute area starting to tighten up again, so I skipped the last rep. So now I wonder if my injury was a repetition thing. As I progress through the set, the muscles seem to tighten up sometimes. If so, should be easy to prevent the muscle pull or sacroiliac strain from happening again, as I have been doing, which is to stop and stretch if I feel it tighten, and stop all together if I can't stretch it out. Some days, however, I feel nice and loose. So the secret is probably just stretching more throughout the day and making sure to warm-up properly. If I'm feeling good next Friday, maybe I'll go for a 305lbs single to test the theory out. Otherwise, a nice, solid workout, almost felt too easy. I wonder if my work capacity is increasing now that I've been pretty consistent for many weeks. I got the wrist wraps in the mail right before the workout. I didn't use them on the TK OH Press because the weight was challenging and I didn't want to introduce any uncertainty, but they felt great on the Bench Press. Somehow, I think they really improved my bar path and overall form. Hard to explain why, but I think it's because they force my hand into a better grip, but it might just be a confidence thing. The extra support adds confidence, even though the weight wasn't really challenging. So now I wonder if using a belt and wraps will become a crutch. Maybe I should go completely "Raw" at least one workout per week, but I think I'll keep using the wraps for every workout until the feeling of support they provide becomes ingrained in my wrist position. It was very nice not to have to write the sets and reps down. I just printed out this week from my Excel log and followed the prescriptions derived from the formulas. For the missed deadlift rep, I just had to cross out the '3' and write a '2' beside it. So it saves some time and effort to have every workout programmed and printed, and then just make little adjustments as the actual workout unfolds. I guess I don't need my little log book anymore. Saturday - 04.04 ---------------Week 6: Cycle II--------------- 15.04.05--04.11 Here's the template for this week: Sunday - 04.05 AM Running 3.6 miles, Franklin-Marshall bridge circuit. Cool, but since the Winter Challenge is over, I didn't bother to get the exact temp, but my feet numbed up some. I managed to run four, approximately 1/2-mile sections, so about two miles total running. I kept waiting for something to start hurting, but my legs and feet felt fine. It was my cardio capacity that made me stop. Still, I got stronger on the third section and picked up the pace a bit. Overall, a great confidence booster. I can run normally on my left big toe, and my running fitness is actually a bit better than it was when I first stubbed my toe, thanks to the recent hill work. I'll probably continue with hills work during the week and then try another aerobic run next weekend. Once I can run this circuit continuously, I'll either start pushing the pace, the distance, or both. I could see this circuit becoming my tempo run route, and the longer bridge circuit to the south, about six miles, becoming my base aerobic run route, for a Hills/Tempo/LSD weekly running routine. Monday - 04.06 PM Lifting -- 5RM Squat: 4 x 5 x 207 TK OH Press: 4 x 5 x 127 Deadlift: 2 x 5 x 259 Bench Press: 2 x 5 x 190 N Pulldown: 3 x 5 x 180 Pendlay Row: 5 x 152/145/135 Squat felt a little light, and maybe the TK OH Press as well. Which is good. In keeping with a sort of "Easy Strength" approach, I would like the rate of weight increase to err a little on the slow side. I think I would even consider adding sets rather than change the rate if it starts to become noticeably easier. Greg Nuckols has really helped convince me that volume is key, and I think I'm starting to see results, and my work capacity seems to be increasing, as the workouts aren't as draining as they used to be a few weeks ago. It's also nice to start a workout knowing that every lift and load is going to be challenging yet doable, and the micro-loading approach gives me that confidence. On the Pendlay Row, 152 felt too heavy to maintain strict form, so I brought it down to 145, last week's load, and that still felt a little heavy, so I brought it down to 135 for the last set, and that felt a little light, but my form was quite good. 152lbs is 80% of my current bench. Thibaudeau recommends 70% for the Chest-supported Bentover Row, which should be easier than the Pendlay Row. I think I'll go with that from now on, a load that's a little too easy, and concentrate on maintaining good form as the weight increases slowly. So next week, according to the formulas, I'll reset at 134. Once again, the Easy Strength/Fractional Loading approach prevails. Gotta keep one's eyes on the prize, and that's eventually rowing over 200 lbs with good form. Tried the wrist wraps on the last set of OH Presses. Didn't feel right, but they felt good on the Bench Press. I'll have to try them again on the OHP on Wednesday. Tuesday - 04.07 PM Running 2.4 miles, Bourne Hill, 6 laps, light drizzle, high around 40F. I'm a little proud I made myself do a sixth lap, that was the money shot. I could feel afterwards that I didn't have a whole lot left in me afterwards. Hopefully I can add two more laps within a few weeks to bring it up to 8 total, then start working on pushing the pace a bit. I also began running downhill instead of walking. Did it on several laps. Eventually I could eliminate all walking. Left big toe met head continues to feel fine, so perhaps I'll test it again with a river run tomorrow (Thursday). Wednesday - 04.08 PM Lifting - 8RM SQ: 3 x 8 x 183 TK OHP: 3 x 8 x 112 DL: 2 x 8 x 229 BP: 2 x 8 x 168 CG PD: 3 x 8 x 150 Everything felt good. I used my new wrist wraps on both presses, and it felt a lot more natural on the OH Press than it did on Monday. If nothing else, it's training me to maintain a somewhat more vertical grip. I also became a little more conscious of trying to maintain a fast bar speed on all the lifts, to make the 8RM sort of my Dynamic Effort day. It also helps get through the seemingly endless reps when you do things as quick as possible, but doing the deadlifts fast had me huffing and puffing pretty bad afterwards. Unfortunately, I started getting hungry during the squats. I hadn't had time to get in my pre-workout snack. So I ate a protein bar and a banana over the first 15 minutes of the workout. I never quite restored my energy levels though, so the workout was a bit of a slog and I took longer-than-usual rest intervals. I'm also starting to drink water during the workouts, now that I'm breaking a sweat again. Then just before I was set to do my Cable Rows, my wife and kids came home as I finished my last rep on the Close-grip Neutral Pulldown. My wife went up to make dinner and the kids, having seen me kneeling on the floor hanging from the pulldown bar, insisted on playing with the Close-Grip Neutral Pulldown handle. So I took off most of the weight and watched them bounce up and down with loads just under their bodyweights. They took turns for something like 15-20 minutes. Then I played catch with a mini football with my son while my daughter began her math homework. All I wanted was a shower and a beer, but it was fun to hang out in the home gym with them. Next day, I feel surprisingly sore. It's funny how the higher rep workout beats you up in such a different way. Thursday - 04.09 PM Running 3.6 miles, Franklin-Marshall Bridges, 37F, windy and raining. I didn't even try to run barefoot, and put on my Sockwa G4s right at the start. I decided to start implementing a "Hills on Tuesday, Tempo on Thursday, LSD on Saturday or Sunday" schedule, even though I can't run Tempo or LSD yet. My hills work this last Tuesday had gone pretty well, so it's time to start pushing it more there. But if I'm going to start pushing myself more on the hills, I don't think I want to do that to myself more than once a week. It takes a lot of mental effort. So, my strategy to build up to a proper Tempo run on Thursdays will be to run at a tempo pace for as long as I can and then take walking breaks when I get pooped. I will make the Franklin-Marshall bridge circuit my tempo route for the time being, and then for my LSD, I will start with either the Ford Parkway-Marshall bridge circuit, which is about six miles around the next section of the Mississippi south of the Franklin-Marshall section, or my Home-Como Lake out-n-back, which is about 7.4 miles and was a popular route choice for me when I was first starting to build up distance a few years ago. Actually, I really miss it now that I think about it. That's a good route on weekends when I wake up before the family. By the time I come back, shower, and make bacon, eggs, and pancakes for everyone, the kids have woken up. There are also a lot of alternative routes heading east from my house, up to half-marathon distance, and most involve passing Como Lake at some point. So it would be good to start working that area of town again in anticipation of getting my LSD groove back sometime later this year. Anyway, on Thursday the actual running didn't go that well. I had to stop a lot and walk. I don't know if it was the rain, eating a protein shake right before heading out, or just one of those days, but my legs didn't feel as good as they did on Sunday's run. But of course, I was glad I ran afterwards, and it felt good to have entered a new phase of running rehab. My left big toe met head felt just a little tender afterwards, but I didn't feel it at all while running, and so could run with a normal gait and landing. Friday - 04.10 PM Lifting - 1-3RM SQ: 3 x 3 x 220 TK OHP: 3 x 3 x 134 DL: 1/2/3 x 305/290/275 BP: 4/5 x 224 S PD: 3 x 3 x 190 1DB Row: 3 x 3 x 120 Both the Squat and TK OH Press felt very comfortable, maybe too comfortable. I decided to test my projected 1RM Deadlift, and 305 went up fine. So I've crossed the 300-pound threshold, hopefully the last mental hurdle in my rehab. Maybe now I'll believe that I'm fully healed and can stop filling myself with doubt each workout. On the Bench Press I loaded the prescribed 224. I thought a little bit about how ridiculous it is, and why I shouldn't just make it an even 225, since this was still well below my training max. But I reminded myself that it's all about being patient and thinking about long term gains. But once I was under the bar, I thought, screw it, and went for reps. I managed four easy reps on the first set and then five on the second. So I dunno. Maybe it's silly to be holding myself back so much on the Bench Press. It's supposed to be 150% of the OH Press, but maybe I could raise it to 170%? I could still count on greater volume for the OH Press to help it catch up, but I don't know if holding myself back on the Bench Press is helping to divert more adaptive resources to the OH Press. Who knows, maybe greater effort on the Bench Press would elicit greater carryover benefit to the OH Press? I'll have to think about this a bit before Monday's workout. The upper body pulls went fine. Overall a good workout but I felt like I left a little too much in the tank. Saturday - 04.11 Lots of barefoot walking in Willow River State Park in Wisconsin. Maybe two miles total, including about a mile of gravel and a very steep paved path pushing the kids up in our otherwise little-used tandem stroller. My wife couldn't keep up walking unloaded, so maybe she believes that I'm getting back in shape these days despite the continued belly flab. The hills work paid off in any case. ---------------Week 7: Cycle II--------------- 15.04.12--04.18 Here's the template for this week: Note at the bottom of the chart, how the reps and loads add up to a medium volume/medium intensity day on Monday, a high volume/low intensity day on Wednesday, and a low volume/high intensity day on Friday. This becomes more pronounced if we double the 1DB Row load, since unilateral lifts are essentially dividing the rep in two. Thus the intensity on Monday is an average of 181lbs per rep, 167lbs per rep on Wednesday, and 210lbs per rep on Friday, with respective volumes of 90 reps, 128 reps, and 57 reps. Here's a graphic representation for BA (Volume = Blue, Intensity = Red): If we make all the lifts of equal volume, instead of emphasizing the Squat and OH Press and de-emphasizing the Deadlift and Bench on Monday and Wednesday, the difference in workouts becomes even easier to see: Also, I went ahead and bumped up the Bench Press 1RM by 33 pounds, from 224 to 257, decoupling it from the OH Press at a 3:2 ratio, and bringing it more in line with my projected 1RM, based on last Friday's sets. On Friday I did four and five reps at 224, which projects to a little over 260, something like 263-64 pounds (five reps = 85%1RM) Another change is that I think I'm going to do descending sets of 1/2/3 reps on Friday's intensity day, whenever the upper body presses reach an increment of five, and every time the lower body lifts reach an increment of ten, to test my 1RMs. So, since I'm adding one pound to the upper body lifts every week, and two pounds to the squat every week, those three lifts' 1RMs will be tested once every five weeks. The Deadlift will be tested every four weeks, because it's tied to the Squat increases at a 5/4 ratio, or 2.5 pounds per week. For the presses, this will represent a new 1RM PR every five weeks. For the lower body lifts, I won't be hitting 1RM PRs until late July for the Squat and early September for the Deadlift, at the present rate of increase. This week the OH Press is at 150, so I'll test the 1RM by doing sets of 1/2/3/3/3 reps, or maybe 1/1/2/2/3/3, on Friday. Next week I'll reach 310 on the Deadlift, and test that as well next Friday. Since the OH Press is at 150 this week, I started this week's Bench Press at 257 instead of an even 260 so that I wouldn't be testing 1RMs for both the presses in the same week. This way the OH Press and Bench Press 1RM PRs will always be separated by 2-3 weeks. So in three weeks' time I'll reach 260 on the Bench Press. If my Bench Press projection is accurate, and 260 is doable for me, this will be a new PR by fifteen pounds. I'm already a little nervous, but the intervening weeks doing sets of five, eight, and three reps at heavier loads should give me a good indication if this is realistic. Right now I'm just going off of Friday's sets of 4 and 5 reps at 224, which was right around my five-rep limit. This week's five-rep sets will be 218. It's probably good to start off a little on the light side of things. My new powerlifting technique for the Bench Press felt pretty solid on Friday's workout, so no real need to continue honing it at the reduced weights I was doing. But it still might be a bit of a shock on my shoulders to be doing these heavier loads all of a sudden. I don't want to provoke my left shoulder issue again, so if it starts to feel sore, I'll reduce everything by 10-20 pounds and build up from there, perhaps at a slightly greater rate of increase. Sunday - 04.12 PM Running 3.6 mi, Franklin-Marshall bridge circuit, close to 70F! The first half I ran really slow in order to keep to a strictly aerobic pace. It paid off, as I was able to do it with just one short walking break in the middle, then the second half of the run I got impatient with the slow pace and began to pick it up and take more walking breaks. So perhaps some improvement over last Sunday's outing, and definitely a lot better than Thursday's. It feels like continuous running isn't too far off now. After the run my left big toe met head felt only slightly tender, so that was a good result as well. Monday - 04.13 PM Lifting -- 5RM Squat: 4 x 5 x 209 TK OH Press: 4 x 5 x 128 Deadlift: 2 x 5 x 261 Bench Press: 2 x 5 x 218 N Pulldown: 3 x 5 x 180 Pendlay Row: 3 x 5 x 142 The loading felt pretty good all around--the lifts were challenging but very makeable. In other words, right at about 90% effort level. It felt good to do a heavier Bench Press, and the Deadlift is at a good weight now too. One thing: I took the Pendlay Row down ten pounds from last week, and it almost felt too easy. So I dunno. The rows are based on percentages of the Bench Press right now, so I could manipulate that a little, or maybe just delink all the lifts and let them progress at their own rate. Maybe the Pendlay Row will just take some time to settle, since I haven't done it regularly before. Ha, so even when everything is feeling pretty good and workaday, I still find something to obsess about. Tuesday - 04.14 PM Running 2 or 2.4 miles, Bourne Hill, about 70 and lovely. I really didn't feel like doing hills, but I reminded myself how much better I would sleep that night, and also how nice it would be to have less belly. My blood pressure check is coming up soon too. I thought about quitting after three laps, but managed to get in a fourth and a fifth and maybe a sixth, I can't remember now. I just know on the last lap I stopped fifty feet shy of the summit, and knew I was done for the day. I walked up to the top, then down the short, shallow side, sprinted, or at least ran fast, for me, back up the other side, and then jogged down the long, steep side back to my car. Wednesday - 04.15 PM Lifting - 8RM SQ: 3 x 8 x 185 TK OHP: 3 x 8 x 113 DL: 2 x 8 x 231 BP: 2 x 8 x 193 CG N PD: 8/8/6 x 150 I started a half hour late. As I was shutting down my computer, I had another look at my Run/Lift Log spreadsheet, and thought of a few more tweaks I could make. So I got caught up in that. Pretty dumb to sacrifice workout time to work on workout documentation. So anyway, everything went smooth, but I didn't have enough time to recover for the third set of Close-grip Neutral Pulldowns, and only managed six reps. Then I had to skip the Cable Rows for the second week in a row, as time ran out, which is really too bad because the higher-rep workout was really giving me a good hypertrophic pump, and it would've been nice to finish things off with some Cable Rows for a maximal pump. I ended up picking up the second kid with seven minutes to spare. In general, I'm coming to appreciate the higher-rep workout more and more. It's definitely a different sort of muscle activation, and gives me a little bit of that bodybuilder feel. I'm glad I only have to do it once a week though. Once I'm over five reps, it takes a certain amount of mental fortitude to keep going up to eight, even though the loads are all very manageable. I'm especially enjoying doing the higher-rep Bench Press and Deadlift with more challenging weights now. Thursday - 04.16 PM My wife and I took our daughter to the orthodontist to have her teeth photographed. Looks like she inherited some dental crowding from my side of the family. Since she's a girl, it might be worth it to get some braces. My wife has perfect teeth. Too bad our daughter didn't pick that side of the family for her teeth. Afterwards, they wanted to pick up our son as a family. When I mentioned I would like to get my run in, they said they'd all come with. So I gave up on the idea and suggested we go to Menards to get lumbar for the monkey bar project that weekend. Oh well, I'd been pretty consistent over the last month up to that point, I guess no harm done in missing a day. But then I woke up after three hours that night. I simply don't sleep well without my daily exercise. Friday - 04.17 PM Lifting - 1-3RM SQ: 3 x 3 x 221 TK OHP: 1 x 150/160/155/150, 3 x 145/145/140 DL: 2 x 175 BP: 3 x 3 x 231 S PD: 3 x 3 x 190 1DB Row: 2 x 3 x 120 I felt like crap, had only slept three hours or so, was pretty tired, and got off to a late start, but it was time to test my 1RM on the OHP, and I was curious to see how I would do. After a fairly effortless session of squat triples, I put on my wrist wraps and did three quick OHP warm-up sets--bar, 85, 125. Mentally, I wasn't too nervous about approaching the 150 1RM because I had done it a month before, albeit shakily. However, I was a little surprised by how easily 150 went up this time around. I then knew I had 155, but decided to try for 160 on the next set. That went up too, a new PR, but it was challenging. Working now without this week's percentages, I decided to just come down in five-pound increments and see where the doubles and triples might lie. 155 was a little shaky, as I lost balance a little bit and started to drift backwards till my hammies and glutes corrected for it. 150 was once again easy and I would've gone for reps at this point except my eccentric phase came down too fast and I got out of position. So at 145 I finally went for reps, and did three. I did three more then reduced by five pounds one final time for three reps at 140. So 145 is probably close to my training 3RM, once the extra effort on the higher singles has been accounted for. It felt good to push beyond what I expected, but it's kind of confusing too. I will have to either rethink my percentages for the higher rep-counts, the 5RMs and the 8RMs, or try to do them heavier. I know now I can do 3 x 3 x 145 next week, which is 90% of next week's newly projected 161 1RM--just right--but will I really be able to jump from 128 to 137 for my 5RM sets on Monday? This is what it will be if I keep the 5RM constant at 85% (of 161). And will I be able to do 121 for next week's 8RM, up from 113 this week, if I keep it at 75%? Bringing the percentages down next week to 81-82% for the 5RM and 71-72% for the 8RM would create more continuity with this week's loads at those rep-counts. They've felt a little easy, but not that easy. I guess I'll just have to experiment a bit to see how much the 5RM and 8RMs can go up comfortably. So much for the mindless weekly microloading. After just a few weeks of fractional loading, adjustments must be made already. I want to keep everything quite makeable, but don't want things to dip too much below 90% effort level either. Nonetheless, the percentage-based loading felt pretty good on the other lifts, although the squats were maybe a little bit too easy. 231 was right at my limit for triples on the Bench Press. It will be interesting to see if the percentages still project well for a 260 1RM in a few weeks, or if, similar to its younger brother the OH Press, my 1RM on the Bench Press is stronger than its projection too from higher rep-counts. On the deadlift, I felt a little niggle in the problem area on one of the warm-ups sets. I hadn't stretched out that day, and didn't run the day before, so I think it was a little tight. Or I might have aggravated the area a bit while doing the OH Press, getting a little off-balance and having to correct with my glutes and hammies. It's too bad, this week I had been deadlifting at full confidence, completely oblivious to the past injury for the first time. I don't think it's anything, but I'll have to go back to being a little vigilant next time I lift. The family once again came home just as I was getting to my rows. I managed to get in two sets of 1DB Rows and then called it a day, showered up, and grilled some nice Ribeyes. I wanted to mention to my family that I had achieved a new PR, but I know it wouldn't mean anything to them. Until I lose the belly and get more defined, I don't think they'll notice I'm getting stronger. Meanwhile, I daydreamed about reaching 200 on the OH Press by the end of the year in between sips of red wine. Saturday - 04.18 ---------------Week 8: Cycle II--------------- 15.04.19--04.25 Template for this week: I've boosted the Squat up four pounds instead of two, in order to test the 1RM at the end of this cycle instead of the beginning of the next. If all goes well, I'll boost it up to 255 next week, then 257, and then 260 for another 1RM in four week's time instead of seven. I've felt that the squat has been a little too easy of late, although I might be overestimating my ability to cut out three weeks, or six pounds, of microloading and building up more slowly to 260. I've also delinked the deadlift from the squat. I'll try reducing the weekly increases to two pounds instead of two and a half. I feel like the deadlift is the least important lift to increase. It already offers enough resistance for a good, complete workout with the other lifts, and I want to make sure I build up my base slowly for the deadlift so that, eventually, I can go further with it. So the 400-pound 1RM might not happen until next year. On the other hand, maybe after a few months of solid deadlifting I'll decide I can start pushing it again sometime this summer. My 1RM is up over 300 now though, so I want to err on the side of caution. In fact, the 1RM was supposed to be 310 this week, but since I'm testing the Squat 1RM this week, I think I'll put off testing the Deadlift 1RM until next week. Also, the advantage of having the Deadlift progress with the same load increments as the squat is that now I can stagger the 1RM tests precisely, since each lift will be tested once every five weeks. The presses, which increase one pound per week, will be tested at five-pound increments, and the lower body lifts, which increase two pounds per week, will be tested at ten-pound increments. So in a five-week period, in every week except one there will be a 1RM test, beginning when I get the squat up to 260 in four weeks. The next week will be the OH press at 165, then the Deadlift at 320, then the Bench Press at 265. That is, I'll be testing them in their workout order: SQ > OHP > DL > BP. Then there's a week with no 1RM > descending sets testing, just triples all around. Here are the projections for the rest of the year: Of course, chances are this scheme will be adjusted many times before 2016 rolls around, but it's nice to look at things long term once in a while. Sunday - 04.19 Monday - 04.20 AM Running 1-mile walk-run commute. It was in the 30s and windy, I should've gone back for my hat. I ran about half of the distance, or was it more like a third. Felt good to walk first thing, but it's still not the most pleasant route, as the second half is along a busy road and through a busy intersection, that's when I started running. When I get a early start around 3-4am, no one is around, but by 5:30 or 6am there's lots of truck traffic. I wonder what the truckers think seeing a middle-aged guy running barefoot through a semi-industrial zone. PM Just walked back, should've tried running a bit but I want all my energy for what I anticipated would be a challenging workout. Lifting -- 5RM Squat: 4 x 5 x 211 TK OH Press: 4 x 5 x 136 Deadlift: 2 x 5 x 265 Bench Press: 2 x 5 x 219 N Pulldown: 5 x 157.5/182.5/182.5 Pendlay Row: 2 x 5 x 145 1DB Row: 2 x 5 x 105 Since jumping ten pounds and hitting a new OH Press PR on Friday, I had been a little confused about what to do this week. I really doubted I'd be able to jump 85% of 10 pounds, or about eight pounds up from last week, on the five-rep sets. I thought about meeting it halfway, at 132, or four pounds more than last week's 128-pound 5RM, but in the end, I decided before the workout to set the 1RM at last Friday's 160 PR, and go with what the percentages dictated, which is a 5RM of 136 at 85% of 160, and see if I could manage it. 136 did indeed go up five times, but I really doubted I'd be able to complete a second set. I considered reducing the weight four pounds, to 132, but decided to give 136 another try first. That also went up five times, as did the third. The fourth set's fifth rep threatened to stall a bit, but it also went up. So now, looking back at when I tried 4 x 5 130 a month or so ago but gave up on it for the second set, and went back down to 125, I think I have to place more trust in the percentages. If they say I can do it, based on my 1RM, then I probably can. It was probably a good thing I didn't stick with 130 a month ago though, as this false inability led me to fractional loading. Even if the fractional loading will never be as precise as I thought it might be, it's still a good idea I think. I'll simply load a pound a week to the presses, and two pounds per week to the squat and deadlift, and then test the 1RM for each lift once every four weeks. If there's a big discrepancy between what I should be able to do and what I can do, I'll adjust the 1RM up or down, and recalibrate the loads across all the rep-counts. Anyway, everything else in the workout went fine. Over the weekend I toyed with the idea of bumping up the Squat a bit prematurely, but in the end, I decided that, even if I can do more, it's good to proceed slowly and make sure I don't get greedy and start to cheat depth. That's a potential problem that the fractional loading helps solve. When you make the bigger increment jumps, there's a tendency for technique to degrade a bit as you adjust to the heavier loads. With fractional loading, the increases are imperceptible, and so the technique should remain pretty solid and unchanged. The Deadlift felt super solid, so any worries about my niggle returning were unfounded. I made sure to stretch really well beforehand, and the walking/running during the day probably helped keep things loose too. I forgot to reload one of the 25-pound plates after my kids had screwed around with the cables on Friday, so the first set of pulldowns was lopsided. I decided to go with fractional loading on the pulldowns and rows too. I got some 1.25-pounds standard plates coming. In the meantime I'm using my 1.25-pound Olympic plates. The Pendlay Row + 1DB Row combo worked really well. I think this is the way to go. I could even see doing each row three sets instead of two sets each. Just a great way to end a workout. So, in sum, faith has been restored in my fractional loading/percentages scheme. It really seems to be working, and I'm getting great results. Of course, the progress might just be due to the fact that I've been working out very consistently for most of this cycle, unlike the prior two cycles and a half, when I spent a good part of the time rehabbing. It will be interesting to see how long I can sustain this rate of progress. I can't really imagine adding a pound a week to the OH Press for much longer, but you never know . . . Tuesday - 04.21 PM Running 3.6 miles, Franklin-Marshal Bridge circuit, 37F/22F windchill. I was a little sick of hills, so I decided to run down by the river after missing my last two runs. Just as I hit the asphalt path, it began to snow! I hadn't brought any back-up footwear, but it was above freezing, so I decided to keep going. I figured I would know within a mile or so if my feet were numbing down too quickly, and then I could head back to the car before any real risk was involved. As it turned out, the snow was an excellent motivator to keep running and not take any walking breaks, as I had been doing. I got all the way to Franklin Bridge and then my wife called just as it stopped snowing. There wasn't any accumulation, but the melted snow on the asphalt coated it with a thin layer of cold moisture. I told my wife I couldn't stop to walk for very long, and that I'd call as soon as I finished my run. Once I crossed the summit of the bridge's mild arch, I began running again. As soon as I began heading down the other side, the headwind I had been facing turned into a nice tailwind, and by the time I reached Marshall Bridge, a little sunshine was peaking through. It felt like a 15-20 degree difference from the start of the run to the end. Anyway, I walked across Marshall bridge and back to my car. So I ran about 90% of the distance, and everything felt fine. No niggles, no strain, and my left big toe met head showed no sign of tenderness. So this was a tremendous confidence booster. It's so hard to keep trying to get back into running shape, but I feel like I'm back on the verge again, and, baring any mishaps this time around, I should be able to run halfway decently by summer sometime. So, in addition to the OH Press PR, this cycle is ending on another high note. Wednesday - 04.22 PM Lifting - 8RM SQ: 3 x 8 x 186 TK OHP: 3 x 8 x 120 DL: 2 x 8 x 233 CG N PD: 6/8/8 x 150 P-Row: 2 x 8 x 128 My wife burst into the garage with good news, and I was already running late, so I didn't get in a full workout. I had to cut out the Bench Press and the Cable Rows. I figured the Bench Press would be the best to sacrifice of the four performance lifts, since I'll be going for a PR on Friday and a little rest might help. On the other hand, it might've been good to prime it two days before. In any case, my main concern, the OHP, which I had bumped up from 113 last week to 120 this week, in accordance with the bump up to a 160 1RM last Friday, went well. It was challenging, but at no time did I doubt my ability to make the last reps of each sets. It wasn't easy though. I had to make sure to maintain a good rhythm and keep the form spot-on. One bad rep and the rest could be ruined. The Pendlay Row felt OK at higher reps, so that's probably a keeper. It's too bad I didn't have time to do them together with the Cable Rows, but I'm pretty sure that's going to be a good combo. I had felt tired all day, and hadn't fueled very well. In fact about an hour before the workout I got a little hypoglycemic and had to scramble for some quick energy. I ended up eating two protein bars and three bananas. Thursday - 04.23 PM One and a half miles? My daughter had her first day of Running Club at her school, and parents were invited to participate. So of course I couldn't pass up an opportunity to encourage my daughter to run, hoping that in the future we could run together, and also do a little publicity for Barefoot Running targeting all the young feet and their parental units. Leaving my office, I discovered I had left my headlights on and the battery was dead, so I ran to the school about a mile away. When we programmed a spare remote, we screwed up somehow and now the door beeps whenever it's open, so there's no warning if the headlights have been left on. I guess the dawn light or the parking lot lights early in the morning were enough for me not to see that they were on when I parked. Anyway, the first part of Running Club was everyone dancing in the gym. I guess this is the modern calisthenics. Once we were outside, my daughter was mostly interesting in walking and talking to a friend, and ignored me for the most part as they ran for a bit, then walked, then ran a bit more, sometimes trying to outrun me. I had planned on doing some hills afterwards, but I had to go ask my dad to give me a jump. By the time I was home, it was almost time to pick up the kids, so no time for hills. Oh well. Friday - 04.24 PM Lifting - 1-3RM SQ: 2 x 1 x 248, 2 x 2 x 236, 2 x 3 x 223 TK OHP: 1 x 160, 2 x 152, 2 x 3 x 144 DL: 1 x 310, 2 x 295, 2 x 279 BP: 1 x 258, 2 x 245, 2 x 3 x 232 Once again, I was running a little bit late, and I had screwed up my fueling so I got hungry on my first squat single. I ate two bananas and a protein bar. Wrapping up this cycle, I had decided to test the idea of doing descending sets of 1/2/3 for each performance lift each Friday, instead of just one of them each Friday. I had read up on things a little more and had decided my weekly wave could probably tolerate a little more volume and a little more intensity. I ended up getting through the singles, doubles, and triples just fine for all four performance lifts. The squats I did a full 1/1/2/2/3/3 but the other lifts I just did 1/2/3/3 to play it conservative and see how well I tolerated intensities greater than my usual 3x3 Friday protocol. Plus I wanted to make sure I had enough in the tank to attempt a new PR on the bench. Once again, I was able to hoist 160 for the OHP, but it was challenging. On the Deadlift, I hadn't stretched or warm-up before the workout, and I felt one lower back muscle, on the right side but above my problem area, tighten on the triple's first rep, then get tighter on the second, so I shut it down. I thought about stretching it out and trying another triple, but it was getting close to my cut-off time and I still had the Bench Press anyway. On the Bench, 258 was a bit of a grind to lock out, but it went up, so that's a new PR. My percentages projection predicted the PR load perfectly. I really couldn't have done much more, probably 265 tops. I didn't have time for any of the upper body pulls, but the singles, doubles, and triples hadn't taken that much out of me, so I could've definitely done them had I had more time. In general, the intensity workout is less taxing than the volume workouts, but it beats you up the next day in a different way. Saturday morning I have a little left shoulder soreness too, so I will have to monitor the extra benching I've been doing lately a little bit, maybe cut back if the soreness becomes chronic again. Saturday - 04.25 PM Sod and small stump removal to clear the way for my wife's garden. Also, made frame with treated 2x4s. ------------------------------------------------ Assessment of Cycle II In this Cycle, there were many tweaks to my evolving routine: 1.) I solidified my use and understanding of rep-count variation, or DUP as some call it. I prefer to call it simply the Weekly Wave. The cycle is the week. Everything that’s going to happen happens within a week. Monday is five-rep day, Wednesday is eight-rep day, and Friday is one-to-three-rep day. 2.) I discovered the joys of microloading after feeling like a more uniform increase in volume and intensity would be better than five- or ten-pound jumps, which prevailed until the middle of the cycle. 3.) After struggling to fit it in, I’ve sort of let go of the idea of assistance lifts for the time being. Nonetheless, my thinking about what constitutes an accessory lift, a variation, and a substitute has clarified somewhat. 4.) After getting the squat-to-deadlift and OHP-to-BP ratios about right, I delinked them. Now the first two add 2 pounds per week to the 1RM (less for the percentage-based 2/3/5/8RM loads), and the latter two add 1 pound per week. So the rate of progress in the Squat and OH Press should be greater than in the Deadlift and Bench Press. The Squat and OH Press were originally prioritized because they were the weakest lifts. Now I'm reconceptualizing them as the 'drivers' of progress. So they will still be given greater emphasis and will hopefully continue to progress faster than the Deadlift and Bench, which are probably a little closer to my potential. At current rates, I won't reach the Iron Ratios of 2:3:4:5 until sometime next year. 5.) After the week is finished I assess how it went and decide whether to stand pat, continue to increase the weight at steady one- or two-pound increments, depending on the lift, or reduce the weekly increase for one or all of the lifts. With the microloading, there shouldn't be any missing reps, sets, or lifting with less-than optimal form. 6.) I added a set to both the Squat and OHP, and took away a set from the Deadlift and Bench. Initially the greater volume for the former two was a challenge, but I found as time went on it got easier. Now I'm thinking about adding even more sets in Cycle III. 7.) I adopted more of a powerlifting style bench press. This has worked out great. 8.) I started using wrist wraps for the presses. 9.) I began to incorporate two different kinds of rows in each workout, and different kind of grips for the pulldowns in each workout. 10.) I no longer refer to the three weekly workouts as Volume, Density, and Intensity. Now they go strictly by rep-counts--5RM, 8RM, and 1-3RM. The general difficulty is about the same for each workout, but in different ways. Monday is probably the hardest, and Friday is the easiest, energy-wise. Wednesday requires the most stamina. Wednesday has become the high-rep day. After some experimenting with 10 reps, and descending rep counts of 10/8/7, I settled on 8 reps sets across for Wednesday's workout. This is supposedly the upper reach of the strength stimulus, but also decent for hypertrophy. Monday is about medium volume, medium intensity, Wednesday is high volume, low intensity, and Friday is low volume, high intensity. Volume feeds intensity, and intensity feeds volume. Intensity recruits the most muscle fiber, volume conditions that fiber and makes it grow. So I've sort of refined my adaptation of the Texas Method. Now instead of wondering what to do with Wednesday’s workout, which the Texas Method says should be a recovery day, and which I thought about making an assistance or dynamic day, I’ve simply made it a different kind of volume/intensity combo. 11.) Each rep-count also entails a slightly different bar speed. On Wednesday’s eight-rep sets, I try to move the bar as quick as I can while still maintaining good form. On Friday I sometimes have to grind a bit. 12.) My left big toe's met head no longer feels tender after a run. I started running hills while I was waiting for it to heal. Now I'm on the cusp of rudimentary running fitness. 13.) My spreadsheet now tracks more variables and aggregates, and, taking a cue from BA and Abide, I use charts, like this one: Overall Gains: Deadlift: 35lbs Squat: 28lbs Bench Press: 18lbs OH Press: 15lbS ===================================================================== Welcome to Cycle III! All are welcome to join, either in logging their strength training workouts, or in contributing to discussions. -------------------------------------------------------- This Cycle, I will continue with the basic plan developed in Cycle II. In that plan, Monday is Medium Volume & Intensity, Wednesday is High Volume/Low Intensity, and Friday is Low Volume/High Intensity: This creates a nice weekly wave of varying volumes and intensities. Each workout's volume is calculated by dividing the workout's repetitions by the total weekly repetitions and then normalizing it as a percentage. Each workout's intensity is calculated by dividing the workout's average intensity by the total weekly average intensity and then normalizing it as a percentage. Average Intensity is measured by dividing total weight lifted by repetitions. I will also try to add a set to most of the lifts. If this is too much, I will either fall back on the volume level of Cycle II, or reduce the weight of the performance lifts, either across all rep counts or just the five and eight rep-counts, to accommodate the greater volume. I may just increase the squat sets to five on Monday and Wednesday, and then hold the three other performance lifts and the pulldowns to three sets a piece, and the two different kinds of rows to two or three sets a piece. The OH Press has very nearly caught up to the Bench Press, so perhaps just slowing the increase of the Bench Press, rather than maintaining greater volume for the OH Press, will be enough to bring them in line by the end of the year. I've also reset the 1RMs a little so that three of the lifts start out nice and even. The Squat is the normal increase to 250. The OH Press stays at 160, and the Bench Press goes up a pound more than it should to 260. The Deadlift, however, will increase 2.5 pounds to 312.5. Initially I will add 2.5 pounds to the Deadlift each week, two pounds to the Squat, one pound to the OH Press, and a half pound to the Bench Press (but with a one-pound increase in weeks 4 and 8). This projects to the following strength gains in Cycle III: Deadlift: 20lbs Squat: 16lbs Bench Press: 5lbs OH Press: 8lbs Here are the projections in chart form for Cycle III: As can be seen, in this cycle the Squat load will catch up to the Bench Press load. Here are projections of strength gains for 2015 and 2016. The second table for each year is for ratios. Holding the OH Press at a constant value of 2, I use the ratios to manipulate the rate of load increase so that, by the end of the year, the OH Press to Bench Press ratio would attain the idealized 2:3 ratio, since the OH Press's rate of increase is greater. Once this ratio is attained, I will relink Bench Press load increases to OH Press load increases so that any increase in the OH Press would automatically trigger an increase in the Bench Press at a 2:3 ratio. Meanwhile, the Squat and Deadlift are also increasing more rapidly than either of the presses. Then, somewhat implausibly, I continue the manipulation until the Iron Ratio of 2:3:4:5 has been attained for all four performance lifts by the end of 2016. All this is a way of saying that, in general, I'm feeling pretty good about the presses. So now I would like to work a bit harder on the Squat and Deadlift. The Deadlift has felt pretty good the last two weeks of Cycle II, so I think I can push it a bit more. I feel more confident that I'll be able to catch any sort of issue or niggle one or two reps before it becomes a problem, so I'm more willing to up the deadlift intensity more than I have since my injury in December and January. In other words, I'm more or less declaring myself healed until my body tells me otherwise. Still, I will count on greater volume in the Squat to help drive gains in the Deadlift. The Deadlift will not receive greater volume than the other lifts. If I'm not able to sustain a good rate of increase in the Deadlift, that will be fine too. I don't want to increase its volume so I will reduce the rate of increase if I have to. In any case, these are just projections that help guide weekly and cyclical planning. Adjustments can and will be made at any time, if I get feedback telling me to. Running-wise, the goal will be to continue to improve my aerobic fitness, and gradually integrate some variety in my weekly running. Ideally, I will end up with a schedule of Tuesday=Hills, Thursday=Tempo, Saturday=Long Run. ---------------Week 1: Cycle III--------------- Template for this week: Sunday - 04.26 More helping my wife and daughter set up their garden, and then stump removal so I can finish putting up the monkey bars. This project is taking way too long. Monday - - 04.27 Feel very sore from the yard work and stump removal on Sunday. I good reminder about the specificity of training. During the yardwork, I felt it most in my lower back, but today it's mostly in my upper back. PM Lifting - 5RM Squat: 5 x 5 x 213 TK OH Press: 3 x 5 x 136 Deadlift: 3 x 5 x 266 B Press: 3 x 5 221 N Pulldown: 3 x 5 x 182.5 P Row: 3 x 5 x 145 1DB Row: 2 x 5 x 105 This might have been my hardest workout yet, mentally, so I'm proud I got through it. I think I was dehydrated from the yardwork and mild sunburn, then my upper back was really starting to hurt, especially the left shoulder blade. Pretty much after each set until I got to the Bench Press, I was thinking about quitting. Even the first squat warm-up with an empty bar was hard. I really should've stretched out during and after the yardwork. I think the digging and whacking the stumps really took it's toll, but a little stretching Sunday night probably would've taken care of things. Anyway, after the second squat workset, things started to loosen up a bit. I got through all five sets OK. The first one felt as heavy as a single though. The OH Press was the same weight as last week. It was challenging but definitely doable, maybe a little easier than last week, so hopefully my one-pound per week increases will prove too conservative after another few weeks. I expected my sore shoulder blades to interfere with this lift, but it didn't seem to have any influence at all. Strange. I thought on the Deadlift, surely the sore upper back would make it impossible, but I got through the warm-ups fine, and I felt super confident on the worksets. The loads are heavy enough now that I have to pay more attention to technique. On one rep I felt a little strain in my lower back when I got sloppy. On the Bench, it was once again pretty close to my limits. Hopefully it will get easier with the half-pound increases. My powerlifting technique feels pretty automatic now. Everything else finished up OK, but it took me 90 minutes to get through the workout. I took really long rest intervals and had to refuel three times, and drink about a half gallon of water. Overall, I think this is a pretty good workout routine--five squat sets, but then everything else pretty much three sets a piece. More than a volume approach, it's a squat-centric approach. I'll do the same on Wednesday. I guess my conversion to the Rippetoe/Bill Starr Squataholic school of lifting is complete. Tuesday - - 04.28 AM I could barely sleep, the pain in my left shoulder was really bad and I couldn't find the handheld vibrating massager. PM Running – Wednesday - - 04.29 Late morning 3 miles, to Franklin Bridge and back, about a mile run? I thought a little postural exercise my help loosen up my stiff and painful left shoulder blade. Not really, but hopefully this outing will prime me for something better on Thursday. PM Man, the left shoulder blade is getting worse. I gave in to painkillers, scheduled an appointment with a Shiatsu massage therapist friend. I might see the Chiro again too. Really mystifying how a non-acute, post-use soreness could get like this. I think I'll treat this set-back like the sacro-iliac issue, which led me to microloading and a few other tweaks that were useful. This time around, I'll interpret the time I need to take off as a sign to back-off a bit and give the greater volume idea a good try. I think it's also a sign I need a little bit more variety in my exercise selection. It's hard to imagine this happening if, for example, I had been doing my dips and Landmine Twists. Maybe I also need a little more plyo/conditioning work. So I'm back to thinking about making Wednesday a more diversified workout, and leaving Monday and Friday the same. Thursday - - 04.30 AM Saw both a Chiro at my neighborhood clinic, and a Shiatsu/Reiki massage therapist. The Chiro couldn't do much for me, but the massage really helped. He found tons of painful knots. I'm going back on Friday for another 20-minute session. I'm sleeping a little better, but still pretty much immobilized, as I can't bend my back without pain. I'm taking Ibuprofen. I might start stretching on the weekend, but for the moment, I'm trying to give the muscles complete rest for a few days, to see if they can heal themselves more. Very frustrating, but I know it's actually a very minor thing and I should be good to go by next week sometime. Might have to skip weights for another week though, so I could see myself trying the daily running for a week to try to push past the initial sucky threshold of regaining running fitness. Man, this is turning into a saga. It's not supposed to be this hard, right? Giving more thought to making Wednesday an assistance/variation day. Would two days a week for the main lifts be enough for continued progress? Friday - 05.01 Saturday - 05.02 AM I noticed a red rash and welts on my chest and arm pit Friday. Went to Urgent Care when I saw my blood pressure was 170/110. Mystery solved: I have shingles. ---------------Week 2: Cycle III--------------- Sunday - 05.03 Monday - 05.04 Tuesday - 05.05 Started to feel a little bit better. Wednesday - 05.06 Energy seems to be returning. First day with no nap since Saturday. All of the blisters seem to have popped, and the rash feels like a sunburn. I think I've escaped the worst symptoms. Must have a mild version. My body is craving a workout of some kind, but I think it's best to wait until I'm 100%. Shingles can have longterm effects if not treated right. Thursday - 05.07 Friday - 05.08 PM Lifting - 8RM Squat: 125 x 5/5 1DB Press: 25 x 8, 30 x 8 Dips: BW-blue band x 5/5/5 Pullover: 55 x 8/8 Curls: 55 x 8/8 Back Extension: 1/2BW x 8/8 Last day taking antiviral, decided to do some light weights to see how the body reacts. If it reacts fine, then it's a way of priming the body to begin fuller workouts next week. Squats felt awkward with the bar across the crusting sores, but it felt good to squat again. After the last set, I could feel my hammies cramp up a bit, like elastic recoil. Then, since I just wanted to do light lifts, I decided to experiment a bit with some of the proposed lift variations for Wednesday's 8RM Day, most of which are inherently lighter lifts. The 1DB Press felt like a nice variation of the press. I thought about trying the Arnold Press, but it seems if I'm going to institute Wednesdays as variation day, then some unilateral variation is a good thing to add to the mix, along with different ROMs. The blue band assistance on the Dips was perfect. It's the least resistant band I have, but it's just enough to allow me to ease into doing full dips again without putting stress on the shoulder. Focused on technique and not letting the shoulder come forward at the bottom of the movement. Felt good to be doing Pullovers too, curls, not so much. But they use the same EZBar and load, so it's convenient to do them together. I finished cutting a hole in my back extension bench pad, to make room for my 'junk' as the kids say nowadays. That worked pretty well. The extensions are a lot more comfortable now. I'll try to finish the monkey bar project this weekend, and, if the body still feels OK, try to get back into my normal st routine on Monday. I still have a fair amount of residual pain, but it doesn't seem to affect muscle function, and the fatigue is lifting, so it should probably be OK. Saturday - 05.09 Started to feel burning itching. A new shingles phase. Blisters mostly healed though, and fatigue is lifting. ---------------Week 3: Cycle III--------------- Sunday - 05.10 Burning itchy is almost unbearable at times. Monday - 05.11 Woke up at 2:30am from itching. Start using Calomine spray with topical analgesic in the morning. Seems to help a bit. Thought about lifting, because my energy levels seem to have returned to about normal, but just didn't feel like it with all the discomfort. Tuesday - 05.12 Had a pretty good day, but then at night I woke up to the burning itching again. This thing is hard to figure out. I guess because it's a virus of the nerves, it doesn't follow the usual recovery pattern. I hope I'm not one of those unlucky bastards who has this neuralgia drag on for weeks or months. There are almost no traces of rash on my arm and back now, just my chest and armpit. You'd think the pain would have the courtesy to wrap things up too. In the afternoon I was a race monitor for my daughter's school one-mile fun run. 240 participants! All top 15 boys ran between 6 and 7mm, and I think the top 15 girls were all below 8mm, and a few below 7mm. So there's the sad truth: I'm slower than elementary school kids. Wednesday - 05.13 PM Lifting - 5RM Squat: 3 x 5 x 175 TK OHP: 2 x 3 x 125 Deadlift: 2 x 5 x 225 B Press: 2 x 5 x 175 Had really bad painful itching throughout the day. I tried a skin oitment that almost made it worse. But I felt good otherwise, so I decided it was time to start getting back at the ST. I just did light loads. Everything felt heavy, nonetheless, but no niggles, so I'll push it a little more on Friday. Maybe continue building up through next week? I think I will target next Friday as my return to full loads and sets. The sweat on the bench press dripping onto my upper back felt quite painfully. Stung by my own sweat. Evening: about a mile barefoot walk to and from park. Thursday - 05.14 Evening: about a mile barefoot walk to and from park. Friday - 05.15 PM Lifting - 5RM SQ: 215 x 5/5/5 TK OHP: 125 x 5/5/4/5 DL: 265 x 2/2/3 BP: 215 x 3/3 I was going to work up to close to my 5RM of a few weeks ago in ascending sets of five reps, starting with the loads I used on Wednesday, but I felt strong despite only sleeping four hours (I woke up from the burning itching), so I went straight to the 5RM loads after warming up. I got a call from the dentist during the third set of my Overhead Press, so I did another set. Both the Squat and the Press felt pretty good, so I'll go back to my idea of using them to drive the other loads. Next week will therefore be spent trying to get the Squat and OH Press back to where they were, and, if I have enough energy and motivation left over, get the other lifts up at the same time. If it feels like too much, I'll just focus on the Squat and Press and give the other lifts another week or so to catch up. I'll use the time off from shingles as an excuse to give a slightly greater volume approach a try too. I may try five sets of Squats and Four sets of presses on Monday, then keep everything else at about three sets. Belt was about an inch tighter. My wife has commented that I've lost some weight from shingles. I just haven't had much of an appetite. I think I may try keeping the calories somewhat reduced as I begin to train again. Maybe I've been exaggerating the whole "ya gotta eat if you want to make gains" idea. Saturday - 05.16 Late AM Running 3.6 miles, Franklin-Marshall Bridge Circuit. I ran about 2/3 of the way, at an ultra pace, the rest I walked. Better than I expected considering it's been 3-4 weeks off. I think I'll stick to a pure aerobic pace until I can run 4-6 miles continuously, then work the hills and tempo runs in? After 18 months of sporadic running, I think my aerobic base is pretty much depleted. Evening: about a mile barefoot walk to and from park. ---------------Week 4: Cycle III--------------- Here's the template for this week: I'm boosting the volume for squats, not sure about OH Press. I'm lowering the 1RM by ten pounds for both the Deadlift and Bench in order to accommodate the greater volume. I'm also going to try making Wednesday's 8RM Day more of an assistance/variation day. So these will be the two experiments of Cycle III. Sunday - 05.17 Monday - 05.18 PM Lifting - 5RM SQ: 5 x 215/221/221/221/221 TK OHP: 3 x 136, 5 x 125/125/125 Forgot to add the extra six pounds to the squats to bring them back to where they were three weeks ago. Sets 2-5 went fine, but I felt fatigued afterwards. I may have overestimated my recovery rate from the shingles. The OH Press felt pretty heavy at 136, which was my last 5RM load before the shingles onset. I only did three reps then brought the load down to 125. Crap. I didn't feel like doing any more lifting after that. Hard to say if it was the shingles or the fact that I only slept four hours due to the shingles pain. This is getting old. On a positive note, it was good to see I hadn't lost anything off the squats. Not sure now what to do on Wednesday . . . Edit: I just realized I had set my Squat 1RM for 260 instead of 250, so 215 for 5RM was close to the prescribed 213 (@85%). I guess this means I'm ready for 260. I always suspected that the squats were too light, now it's confirmed. Tuesday - 05.19 PM Running – Just didn't feel like it. Wednesday - 05.20 PM Lifting - 8RM SQ: 3 x 8 x 195 TK OHP: 5 x 120; 8 x 115 Just didn't feel like doing more. Almost no will power. I wonder if the pain from the shingles is wearing down my CNS. I felt good--well fueled and rested--but just didn't have the mental fortitude to continue. Thursday - 05.21 Friday - 05.22 PM Lifting - 1-3RM SQ: 1 x 265/275/265, 2 x 252, 3 x 245/245 TK OHP: 1 x 160/152, 3 x 140/144 DL: 2/3/3 x 265 BP: 3/3 x 215 N PD: 3/3/3 150 P Row: 3/3/3 x 125 Since my OH Press had gone poorly this week, I decided to test the 1RM to see where it was at. Since Squats come first, I decided to test that 1RM too. After warming up, I went for 265, a nice even two 45s and one 25 plate on each side. That went up easy, so I tacked on another ten pounds, bringing it up to my old PR of last year. That PR was probably a technical fail, because it went up pretty wobbly. This time 275 felt very solid, and I achieved good depth. So that was very encouraging after a lousy week. My true 1RM is starting to approach 300. Next came the Press. I managed 160, which was my pre-shingles PR at the end of last cycle, but it was a grind. I couldn't do the prescribed double at 252, but I managed the prescribed triple on the second set of those. So, hopefully, I just need a week or two more of full workouts to get the OH Press back up to speed and then I can start adding a pound a week again. The Deadlift and Bench Press I just did to prime them for next week, since I hadn't done them at all this week. I did them at slightly lower weights than I had the triples at the end of last cycle. Now with the Squat up to 275, I'll have to start making more of a push on the deadlift. All of a sudden it's weaker than my squat! I've been holding the deadlifts back too much I guess, but it was good to give them plenty of time to rehab from the Sacroiliac injury. I've re-established my Squat PR, and have achieved new PRs in both presses, so now it's time to build back up to my old Deadlift PR of 255/265. Once that's established, I'll be PR-ing in all four performance lifts most weeks. In the meantime, I'll soon be PR-ing in three of them every week. It's a bit silly, but it's good motivation to get those micro-PR pats on the back. That's not really the point of micro-loading, but it's an added perk--weekly PRs. After the Bench Press, I then did the upper body pulls, also light, just to prime them for next week. With the Squats doing well, I need to make sure I have enough time and energy at the end of workouts to put in a good effort on the pulldowns and rows. With the shingles pain, it was hard to motivate, but I found once I got warmed up, the exercise seemed to alleviate the pain a bit. So no more excuses, got to get back to full workouts. PM Running 0.6 mile. Ran down to the park with my son, both of us barefoot. Then when he was done playing, we ran back. It's about a third of a mile each way. He only stopped at the stop signs to look both ways. Wow, I may have a running partner soon. Saturday - 05.23 Late AM Running 3.6 miles, Franklin-Marshal bridge circuit. I kept to the ultra-slow pace of last week, and made it three miles without stopping. Opps, I forgot I stopped after about two miles to stretch out the ITB, which had begun to feel tight. So anyway, that felt very good; the running is coming back much quicker this time than at other times I've tried to get back into shape. Strange. And, like the weights on Friday, I didn't feel the shingles pains at all while running. So no excuse not to push the exercise while I'm waiting for the shingles to heal up. ---------------Week 5: Cycle III--------------- Sunday - 05.24 Template for this week: I brought the Bench Press 1RM down to 250 just to make sure I have plenty of energy to continue pushing the first three lifts. I've also reduced the squat sets to three on Monday and Wednesday, down from five, now that the squat is more advanced (according to the Iron Ratios) than the deadlift. I'll keep the OH Press sets at four on Monday and Wednesday at least until it's back to where it was at the end of last cycle, but maybe longer, since it's the lift that seems to benefit most from extra volume. This is a good basic template and workout order, so hopefully I can coast a bit now and just tweak volume and rates of increase as certain lifts become weaker or stronger. For the time being, I'll keep the sets as they are, and increase the lifts as follows: Deadlift +3 pounds per week Squat +2 pounds per week Presses +1 pound per week According to current projects, after a while, the Presses's rate of increase will slow to +0.5 pound per week, until, by the end of the year, they are at a 3:2 ratio, Bench Press to OH Press, after which the Bench Press increases will be tied to the OH Press increases at this ratio. The OH Press's rate of increase will continue at +0.5 pounds per week. Meanwhile the Deadlift and Squat will continue to increase at three and two pounds per week, respectively, until sometime next summer (2016) when they should align with the presses in the Iron Ratio. After that, all increases will be tied to increases in the OH Press at those ratios (2:3:4:5). Of course, the rates of increase may slow or speed up, and eventually I will plateau, but working off projections like this is a good guide for planning my weekly workout loads and percentages across all the lifts. Monday - 05.25 PM Lifting - 5RM Memorial Day nixed the workout. Tuesday - 05.26 Wednesday - 05.27 Thursday - 05.28 Friday - 05.29 Saturday - 05.30 Started taking Gabapentin for pain-management again mid-week, and this made me woozy and completely unmotivated to train. Helps me sleep though. ---------------Week 6: Cycle III--------------- Template for this week: I've decided to go with 80% and 70% for Monday and Wednesday's workouts, instead of 85% and 75%, respectively, for the performance lifts. I'll go back to doing just an extra set for the Squat and Overhead Press. That will be the extent of my volume approach. On Friday, I'll keep the 1, 2, and 3-rep sets at 100%, 95%, and 90% of training max. The idea is that I may have been doing this anyway, since I've often been surprised at how my 1RM is greater than its projection based on the 5RM. The 5RM is probably lower when done for multiple sets. It would also be nice if Monday and Wednesday's workouts were slightly easier, especially after all the time I've taken off due to the shingles. Sunday - 05.31 Mid-AM Running – Aerobic 6 miles, Ford Parkway-Marshall Bridge Circuit. Only about a mile and a half running. Beautiful weather, I found myself at the tail end of a marathon on the West Bank. Some poor bastards were running as slow as I was. Glad I didn't have to worry about sweepers like they did. I might make this my regular route, and slowly bring up the running portion until I can run the whole thing continuously, and then work on pace. Getting tired of the 3.5-mile, Franklin-Marshall bridge circuit just north of it in any case. I was pretty high from the Gabapentin, which made this a particularly pleasant mid-morning outing. This was the last day, I decided, to take full doses of Gabapentin during the day. Supposedly, you can build up a tolerance to it, but this hasn't happened to me. This week I'll try to either do without it during the day, or reduce the dosage. I have no idea how much longer the shingles' post-herpetic neuralgia is going to last, but I can't afford to spend much more time knocked out from pain killers. Monday - 06.01 PM Lifting - 5RM SQ: 3 x 5 x 220 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 128 DL: 3 x 5 x 248 I only ended up doing three sets a piece for the squat and overhead press instead of the prescribed four. Just didn't have much energy with the Gabapentin. I tried doing without it for a few hours in the morning, because the weekend had gone fairly well, but the stabbing pain returned. It's localized now in my left armpit and the underside of my upper left arm, so that's a sign of progress. Plus the skin isn't nearly as sensitive to touch as it was. So it's healing. Hopefully I'll be close to normal in another week or two. Anyway, all the lifts felt good and solid. It felt especially good to feel the squat movement again. I didn't have the energy or motivation to complete the workout however. I felt strong, but the stamina wasn't there. The Gabapentin makes you content and lazy. The Inzer belt performed great. After the first few squat sets, I took it in one more set of holes, and that felt perfect. I like how I can unlatch the lever in between sets to loosen it without the belt coming off. Overall, it's the best belt I've tried by far. 10mm is thick, but I didn't notice it digging in, even on the deadlifts. The purple gave me a feeling of strength somewhere between petite Prince and the mighty Vikings. Tuesday - 06.02 Noon Running – Aerobic 3.6 miles, Franklin-Marshall bridge circuit, about 2/3 running, beautiful day. Legs still felt a little tight from Sunday's run so I stopped to walk the rest of the way, but mentally, I felt like I could've run a lot longer. There was no urge to stop. So, just gotta keep pluging away and get a little better each time out. Shingles pain is mostly a dull ache today, which is totally putupable. The sharp, shooting pain is greatly diminished, almost nonexistant. So I stopped the Gabapentin and am just taking Ibuprofen. I feel a lot better this way, almost normal again. Wednesday - 06.03 PM Lifting - 8RM SQ: 8/8/8 x 193 TK OHP: 8/7/6 x 112 DL: 6/6/6 x 217 BP: 4/8 x 182 Man, I still don't have any stamina. I was gassed by the time I got to the Bench Press. I guess illness eats into work capacity much more than time off due to injury. Not sure how to proceed, but restoring a good work capacity would seem to be the priority. My strength levels aren't too bad. Hopefully I'll be back to where I was by the end of this cycle. Bringing up the running should help too. I still don't have much of an appetite, but I was pretty well-fueled for this workout--that wasn't the problem. Maybe I'll give myself two hours to complete Friday's workout, try to jump start things with a full and intense workout. After my squats and press, I tightened the Inzer lever belt one more set of holes, making it super tight, tighter than was possible with the buckle or velcro belts. During the deadlifts, I could really feel my ab muscles contracting against it, making me feel super supported, but I'll have to look into how tight you can go without causing problems. When I unlatched the belt in between sets, it's just loose enough not to squeeze at all, but still in continuous contact around my belly and back. Thursday - 06.04 PM Running – Aerobic 3.6 miles, Franklin-Marshal bridge circuit, beautiful summery conditions, worked up a sweat. My knees felt a little niggling at times, so I walked some, maybe a third of the way total. I guess it's time to get back into my pre-/post-running stretching and massaging routine. Funny how none of that is necessary when I'm just lifting. Anyway, it's encouraging each outing feels a little bit better. The sole sensitivity I developed on Sunday's run is all but gone. Looking forward to building my callus back up to respectable leatheriness. Friday - 06.05 Woke up at three with a stabbing pain in my armpit. Took more Gabapentin, but when I woke up again later, I felt high. This lasted throughout the day, evolving into a feeling of relaxation and laziness. I thought if I tried to lift, I might hurt myself in this state of relaxation and apathy, so I skipped the workout. Besides, I was a little concerned about the niggles I felt in my knees during Thursday's run, so a day off might not be a bad idea. Saturday - 06.06 AM Lifting - 1-3RM SQ: 1 x 275, 2 x 260, 2 x 3 x 247 TK OHP: 1 x 160/155/135, 3 x 5 x 128 DL: 1 x 310, 2 x 295, 2 x 3 x 279 I couldn't find my weekly workout printout, so I guessed at some of the percentages. The Squat continued to feel solid at 275 1RM, so next week I'll start increasing the 1RM by two pounds per week. I loosened the Inzer belt by one set of holes. The extra tightening I did last workout was a little extreme, and probably counterproductive if it limited the abs' ability to fully contract against the belt. One notch looser feels just right. The belt kinda dug into my sides, above the bone, so I used the Spud nylon belt after I finished my squats. I will take some time to break in the 10mm-thick leather, but overall, I'm extremely pleased with the Inzer Forever Lever Belt. I really like how easy it is to loosen the belt in between sets without having to take it off. The Overhead Press was a disaster. 160 and 155 felt super heavy. They weren't even grindable. I dropped 20 pounds but even 135 felt heavy as a single. So I brought it down to 128 for sets of five across, which I knew I could do because I did that on Monday. I should probably spend a week or two just doing sets of five, to build my work capacity up again. It's hard to figure out how the shingles could've caused a drop of at least ten pounds off my 1RM, but not have affected my squat and deadlift, unless the nerve damage in my upper left torso and upper arm is more than superficial. Maybe it's just a matter of the healing in that area interfering with my CNS's ability to fully activate the muscles. I think next week I may try a first set a bit heavier, to activate the muscle fibers, and then lower it for 2-3 more worksets, to build capacity. I'll maintain the fiction for the rest of this cycle that my 1RM is 160, and if it doesn't come up by the end of the cycle, I'll reduce it to a more realistic 150 to begin Cycle IV. The deadlift felt relatively easy and niggleless. So that's a relief, both my squat and deadlift are solid and ready to resume a weekly progressive overload via microloading. Those two lifts' improvement is the most important to me at this point, since the presses are still relatively stronger according the Iron Ratio. No harm done spending a few weeks recovering the presses while I make a push for new PRs on the lower body lifts. I'll get a new PR on the Squat next week, and then on the Deadlift sometime in September. I could push the Deadift harder, but I like the idea of building up a decent amount of volume before I start going for PRs. I'm still leery of hurting myself. ---------------Week 7: Cycle III--------------- Template for this week: I think on Monday and Wednesday, I'll do the first set of the performance lifts at 85% and 75%, respectively, and then the ensuing sets at 80% and 70%. I need to find some way to continue building volume in the main lifts without sacrificing the upper body pulls at the end of the workout. With the shingles, it's been hard to complete more than half of each prescribed workout, so it's kind of a Catch-22: I don't have the work capacity to build the work capacity I need in order to finish my workouts. Sunday - 06.07 Mid-AM Running – Aerobic 6 miles, Ford Parkway-Marshall Bridge Circuit. My left calf felt tight, probably from the prior day's deadlifts, so I began walking. But the calf never loosened up. And the lower hammie began to tighten as well. I stopped to stretch several times but the relief was brief. By the time I realized it was going to keep getting tighter and tighter, I was already to the halfway point, Ford Parkway Bridge. I tried to run some, but after a half mile I saw that I was just accelerating the cramping/tightening, so I went back to walking. By the time I got back to my car, I was limping a bit. I could feel the tightness all the way up to my right glute. It felt similar to the hammie strain I experienced last fall. I'm pretty sure the deadlifts provoked it. I have been pretty sporadic about doing them heavy. I'll avoid them during Monday's workout, stretch out a bunch, and see if the hammies, glutes, and calf muscles loosen up by Tuesday's run. Monday - 06.08 PM Lifting - 5RM BP: 2/3/4/5/ x 215 TK OHP: 5 x 125/130/130/125 With my right leg feeling strained/stiff, I decided just to do upper body stuff, but then my dad needed a ride to the eye doctor, so I just got in the presses. Need to recover my bench press and continue getting my OHP back up to speed. I guess that will be the mission until my right leg feels loose enough to do squats and deadlifts again. Tuesday - 06.09 PM Lifting N PD: 5 x 150/150/150/150 P Row: 5 x 125/125/135/135 It felt a little premature to run on my strained right hammie/calf, so I got in some upper body pulls. I haven't done these for a while, so I went light just to prime things. It's interesting lifting two days in a row, but I don't really like it. Wednesday - 06.10 PM Lifting - 8RM BP: 8 x 196/183/183 TK OHP: 2 x 121, 5/2 x 113 SQ: 5 x 85 DL: 5 x 175 CG N PD: 3 x 5 x 150 P Row: 2 x 8 x 130 Tried the Bench Press at 75% then 70%, felt pretty good to have the second and third set be lighter. I was going to do the same thing on the OH Press, but it just wasn't there. I think I was still tired from the previous day's pulls. I then did light squats and deadlifts just to see how my tight right knee and hammie area would respond. Seemed OK, might try for more on Friday. The pulls were a little hard doing them again without a day for recovery, but I got a little pump, the first pump I've felt in a long time, so that was nice. Hopefully now I'm primed, or nearly primed, for fuller workouts on Friday or beginning next week. Thursday - 06.11 PM Walking 3.6 miles, Franklin-Marshall bridge circuit, light rain. My right knee felt really stiff, so I only attempted to run a few steps. I was able to go the whole day without painkillers, so that was good, but then I succumbed in the evening when the neuralgia bounced back post-run. It was then that I noticed my right knee was swollen. I've read that Ibuprofen can lead to joint swelling, so maybe that's the cause. I'll continue avoiding Ibuprofen for a few days and see if that helps bring down the swelling. Friday - 06.12 PM Lifting - 1-3RM Stabbing pain throughout the day, no painkillers. I'm starting to wonder if the swelling in my right knee is caused by the Gabapentin, for which edema in the limbs is a known side effect. So off both Gabapentin at night and Ibuprofen during the day to see if that helps reduce the swelling. Meanwhile, the shooting pain has returned, so Friday was a bad day. I laid down for some bench pressing, but just didn't have the motivation to get past warm-ups sets. Saturday - 06.13 AM Running 3.6 miles, Franklin-Marshall bridge circuit, all walking. The knee is a little less stiff perhaps, but the second half was still a little gimpy, and it's hard to descend stairs. OH well, need some exercise to help me sleep through the night. ---------------Week 8: Cycle III--------------- Sunday - 06.14 Woke up at 2:30am, a lot of stabbing pain. I managed to get back to sleep for a few hours, then I was busy setting everything up and overseeing my daughter's birthday party, so I didn't notice the pain that much until I had a chance to sit down after it was all done. Monday - 06.15 Bad day, a lot of stabbing pain. Tuesday - 06.16 Woke up at 2am. Saw a doctor. He pooh-poohed the idea that the swelling in my right knee could be caused by either Gabapentin or Ibuprofen. He also didn't think it would be a problem for my kidneys or liver to take Ibuprofen for another month or so. So I guess I'll start taking them again, avoid squats and deadlifts and running until next week, and see if the swelling increases or continues to dissipate. The knee is feeling better everyday, and I can almost descend stairs completely normally now. PM 3.6 miles, Franklin-Marshall bridge circuit, all walking. Knee started to feel a little gimpy after a half mile, but I continued anyway. Wednesday - 06.17 Thursday - 06.18 Friday - 06.19 Saturday - 06.20 __________________________________ Cycle III Results: Somehow, my squat went up without despite the Shingles, but then I wasn't able to maintain it because my right knee started swelling. The swelling has mostly disappeared at the end of this cycle, but the knee is still painful. So I started the cycle with shingles, and ended it with a bum knee. The only good news is that I've lost a little weight from the prolonged recovery from Shingles. ===================================================================== Welcome to Cycle IV! As always, everyone is welcome to join in with reports or logs or discussions about their approach to running and lifting concurrently. ___________________________ Goals for Cycle IV: 1) Re-establish a decent lifting routine after my bout with shingles; 2) Re-establish a decent running routine after more than 18 months of sporadic running and declining running fitness. Both goals are contingent on how quickly I can rehab my mysterious right knee stiffness/soreness. Once it's 100%, I will continue with the same basic lifting scheme I used in Cycle II, which produced good results, but start at 90% of my 1RMs at the end of that cycle when calculating the different rep-count percentages, to account for the degradation in my strength and work capacity over the course of Cycle III. I will also try to end each workout with some accessory work. Running-wise, I will at least attempt a mile per day 5-6 times a week once my right knee is runnable, then either build up the distance uniformly, or EOD, on a Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday schedule. ---------------Week 1: Cycle IV--------------- Sunday - 06.21 Monday - 06.22 Tuesday - 06.23 Wednesday - 06.24 PM Lifting - 5R BP: 2 x 5 x 125, 2 x 5 x 175 OHP: 3 x 5 x 85 N PD: 3 x 5 x 150 Right knee is still painful, so no squats or deadlifts. I'll see an Orthopedist on Thursday. Just did upper body and everything light, in preparation to building things back up. Thursday - 06.25 Friday - 06.26 PM Lifting - BP: 215 x 2/2/3/4/5 Well, seems like there hasn't been too much drop-off on my Bench, so far. It took a few sets to activate the muscles, but by the fourth and fifth sets things were feeling close to normal. Felt too lethargic to do anything else though. It's just hard to get motivated for a workout without any squats or deadlifts. Saturday - 06.27 PM Lifting N PD: 150 x 5/5/5 S PD: 150 x 5/5 A little priming in anticipation of doing fuller upper body workouts next week. ---------------Week 2: Cycle IV--------------- Sunday - 06.28 Monday - 06.29 PM Lifting - 5RM BP: 3 x 5 x 215 N PD: 3 x 5 x 170 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 125 P Row: 3 x 5 x 125 Was mainly concerned with established a full, upper body workout and figuring out what my baseline percentages should be for the Bench Press and OH Press. Both 215 and 125, respectively, felt about right. Screwed up the Pendlay Row. It was supposed to be 145, but I forgot to add the 10-pound plates. Overall, I felt really de-conditioned, but it was good to be back at it. I think the shingles has stopped sucking up all my energy and motivation. Tuesday - 06.30 Wednesday - 07.01 PM Lifting - 8RM BP: 3 x 8 x 190 CG PD: 3 x 8 x 150 TK OHP: gave up after warm-up sets, just didn't feel like it. Thursday - 07.02 Friday - 07.03 PM Lifting - 5RM Seated OHP: 125 x 3/3/4/4 S PD: 170 x 5/5/5 BP: 215 x 3/3/4 SLDL: 125 x 5/5/5 P Row: 145 x 5/5/5 B Ext: BW x 10/10 Everything felt heavy, but it was good to get in something resembling a full workout. I tried the Stiff-legged Deadlifts for the first time. Felt pretty good actually. Right knee felt a little funny on the second set of Back Extensions, so called it a day. Saturday - 07.04 Walked in our neighborhood's 4th or July parade, and then was on my feet a fair amount the rest of the day, and the knee held up pretty well, so definitely on the mend. ---------------Week 3: Cycle IV--------------- Sunday - 07.05 Monday - 07.06 PM Lifting - 5RM BP: 215 x 5/4/5 N PD: 190 x 3, 180 x 5/5 RDL: 175 x 5/5/5 S OHP: 105 x 5/5/5 P Row: 146 x 5/5/5 Bench Press felt a little better than on Friday, but the OHP still feels heavy, so I took it down to where it was easy. I guess I lose a lot seated, compared to the tall kneeling position. I was also under-fueled. I started out too heavy on the Neutral Pulldown before I realized one of the kids must have put extra plates on. I tried the Romanian Deadlift (RDL) for the first time. Felt OK, but I think I prefer the Stiff-legged Deadlift (SLDL). Rippetoe thinks the RDL is a superior exercise, because it works the hamstrings' stretch reflex, but I like starting from the floor and resetting after each lift. I think either one of these deadlift variations, coupled with rack pulls, will give me the same benefit as conventional deadlifts, as long as I can also squat to get the hip extension. I'm not going to try squatting, however, until I consult with the second ortho. Rip says lots of people squat with meniscus tears, and he continues to squat even though he's missing one of his ACLs. I think I can live with giving up running, although it's still a bit mind-numbing to contemplate, but giving up both running and squatting is just a little too much. At least I know I got some form of deadlifting in the bag. The Pendlay Row felt pretty good. I've started microloading it, getting back in the weekly groove. As soon as my presses stabilize, I'll start the weekly microloading on those too. Overall, I think I'm seeing I won't have to modify my regimen that much to accommodate the knee issue, although my mental approach seems to be shifting a bit from what Rippetoe calls "training" to "exercising." My goals are becoming more ones of general fitness, rather than load PRs in lifting, or distance and/or time PRs in running. Kinda sucks, but fitness is actually more important, and without the burden of constantly increasing my loads, I can scale back the eating a bit and focus more on losing weight. I need to get better at lifting in a semi-fasted state, in other words, at the end of the afternoon, even if that means lifting a little less, or improving a little more slowly. Right knee feels close to 100% just walking around. It's great not to limp anymore. Shingles are still there, but the pain is very minor now and easy to ignore most of the time. No more Gabapentin and minimal Ibuprofen and I'm sleeping very well these days. Tuesday - 07.07 Wednesday - 07.08 PM Lifting - 8RM S OHP: 3 x 8 x 105 SLDL: 3 x 8 x 175 BP: 3 x 8 x 175 CG N PD: 3 x 6 x 150 P Row: 3 x 5 x 130 Rack Pull: 5 x 175, 2 x 5 x 215 Felt mildly nauseous throughout the workout for some reason. Nonetheless, the workouts continue to improve in terms of energy and motivation. Used knee wraps on the SLDL, felt pretty good and was surprisingly easy to get a good wrap without much effort. I'll probably use them on squats too if and when I'm able to do those again. Close-grip Neutral Pulldown felt heavy, so just did six reps each set. Pendlay Row, just did sets of five for some reason. I dunno, sometimes I wonder if I should just do sets of five all the time. Make things real simple. Rack Pull didn't feel right. I'll give it a little more time to solidify, but perhaps I'd be better off doing high pulls? In any case, it felt good to end with more of a back complex. Maybe I'll put 2-3 accessory back exercises at the end of Monday and Friday's workout, and do accessory 'front' on Wednesday . . . I used my stiff lever belt on the OHP and SLDL, but then the 3-ply nylon belt for bench press and rack pulls. I like the latter for the bench because I can tighten it after I've laid down and my belly drops in a bit. Overall, a good workout. Just have to work out a few tweaks and I think I'll have a good modification of what I was doing in Cycle II. Once I can do squats again, it will feel like a good full workout, but with a little more emphasize on back development, a little less on legs. Thursday - 07.09 PM Rowing 7:40 minutes, did it very gently to see how the knee reacts. Friday - 07.10 AM Weighed myself for the first time in months. I've lost ten pounds since I got shingles, down from 256 to 246. PM Lifting - 1-3RM S OHP: 1 x 150, 3 x 3 x 126 SLDL: 3 x 3 x 215 BP: 1 x 253, 2 x 240 S PD: 3 x 3 x 190 P Row: 3 x 3 x 158 The OHP single was a disaster, but I had set it ten pounds too heavy. I was thinking the bar plus two wheels was 115 instead of 125. Then for the triples I noticed that my elbows were out. After I brought them in a bit, it felt easier. I guess I've been letting them out too much since switching to the Seated OHP. Still, there seems to be a significant drop in load going from tall-kneeling to seated overhead presses. Stiff-legged Deadlift felt pretty good at 3 x 3 x 215. I might start increasing the 1RM by 5 or 10 pounds a week until I find my limit. Bench Press single also went badly, but it was mostly a lack of concentration. I hurt my left thumb a bit while bringing the failed lift down to the safety pins. My wrist sleeves were tight and too high I think, putting pressure on the thumb. Pulldowns and P Row felt good. The workout felt top heavy without the squats though. Both presses went badly for singles, and it felt kind of dumb to even be attempting them. I guess I'll stick to triples on Fridays until the singles mojo returns. I think I will favor density and volume for a while. With the knee issue, losing more weight will probably be the most immediately beneficial. Saturday - 07.11 ---------------Week 4: Cycle IV--------------- Template for this week: I'm keeping the presses steady until they start to feel easier. I'll continue raising the SLDL by 5-to-10-pound increments until it feels a little harder. The P Row will continue microloading two pounds per week. Hopefully, by the end of this cycle, all the main lifts will have solidified and be back on the microloading protocol and I can look forward to steady, relatively effortless progressive overload once again. Additionally, this week I'll do my best to incorporate two assistance complexes into my routines. On Monday and Friday I'll do a back complex, and on Wednesday a front complex. These are marked off between dotted lines. Then, at the end of the workouts, I'll try to finish with two ab or core exercises. Getting through everything is predicated on the main lifts going fairly quickly and smoothly, which hasn't been possible so far due the experimentation and finding my loads again after the long shingles layoff from harder workouts. Squats are cued but I probably won't do them unless I get cleared by the orthopedist on Thursday. Sunday - 07.12 Monday - 07.13 PM Lifting - 5RM SQ: 5 x 125 S OHP: 3 x 5 x 119 SLDL: : 3 x 5 x 215 BP: 3 x 5 x 213 N PD: 3 x 5 x 180 P Row: : 3 x 5 x 151 Well, I couldn't resist, I tried an easy set of five squat reps. Felt fine, although the knee did click once in a while. I put on the knee wraps and kept them on for the whole workout. S OHP and BP were just manageable, so I think I've found the new percentages. Next week I'll start microloading both by a pound per week. I also found a good way to brace my legs while doing the seated overhead press. I think the shingles took ten pounds off of both my presses, and then doing the overhead press seated instead of kneeling takes another ten pounds off. The Stiff-legged Deadlift felt very natural. It's already become the way I deadlift. I didn't even have to think about not crouching down more for a conventional deadlift. The weight is beginning to feel challenging, but I think I will go ahead and raise the load by five pounds for at least another week before I begin to microload it. I didn't do the assistance stuff even though I had some time left over. I guess it was enough to get in something resembling a full body workout and have all the loads feel challenging but doable. I'm hitting the training sweet spot again. In the evening I ran 50 feet on the way down to the park with my son. Tuesday - 07.14 Wednesday - 07.15 PM Lifting - 8RM SQ: 2 x 5 x 125 S OHP: 3 x 8 x 105 SLDL: : 3 x 8 x 195 BP: 4/6/8 x 188 CG N PD: 3 x 8 x 150 P Row: : 3 x 8 x 134 B Ext: 10 Added another set to the squats, once again everything felt fine. I'll add one more set on Friday, and then begin adding weight next week. I focused a little more on maintaining my knee absolutely in line with the rest of the leg, pulling it in just a bit. This seemed to help. I also checked the verticality of my shin and whether or not the knee is going past the toes. Everything seemed OK. I really like starting the workouts with squats. They get everything else warmed up and primed. So even if I can never squat heavy again, I would still like to start each session with light squats just to warm up and get a good stretch. The Seated Overhead Press is starting to feel better. The SLDL feels great. On the Bench, my left thumb is still a little sore, but I don't think the lift aggravates it. It just hurts a bit from the pressure. A thumbless grip would probably be the way to go, but way too risky. P Rows are really coming along, and the Close-grip Neutral Pulldown continues to be great for working the edges of the upper back. I still didn't get in much assistance though, just a set of ten Back Extensions. The workout fell full enough as it is, and today (Thursday morning) I feel nice and sore. I'm also wondering if I should even do Landmine Twists, since they torque the knees a bit. Maybe a more realistic approach to assistance would be to limit them to two each workout, like 1DB Rows and Back Extensions on Monday and Friday, and Dips and Pullovers on Wednesday . . . Thursday - 07.16 Friday - 07.17 Saturday - 07.18 PM Lifting - 3RM SQ: 3 x 3 x 175 S OHP: 3 x 3 x 126 SLDL: : 3 x 3 x 228 BP: 3 x 3 x 225 S PD: 3 x 3 x 190 P Row: : 3 x 3 x 160 Pretty good workout. I raised the squats more than I had planned, emboldened by the second Orthopedist's recommendation to continue squatting. I wore my new Rehband knee sleeve then put the wraps over it. My knee felt super secure. I ordered one knee sleeve L and another XL. The Large fits well, so I'll return the Extra-large an get another Large for the other knee. I took off the wraps after the squats, but kept the sleeve on for the whole workout, to keep the knee nice and warm. Everything else felt pretty good. The SLDLs could probably be a little heavier, and I'll continue increasing the squats until I get back to where I was, but everything else seems about right loading-wise. Definitely feeling like I'm back in the game. ---------------Week 5: Cycle IV--------------- Template for this week. I'll continue to bring up the Squat and SLDL in bigger jumps, but everything else is coming up just two pounds, except the pulldowns, which I'm leaving constant until they start to feel a little easier. Sunday - 07.19 AM Aerobic - Cycling Two miles commuting, just to see how the knees react. PM About a mile walking around on sand and pebbles down by the river with the family. Felt good to walk on the rocks and get a little plantar stimulation. Monday - 07.20 PM Aerobic - Cycling 6.2 miles picking up the kids from day care and discovery club. Woke up at 2am, stomach a little queezy later, so I blew off the pm ST and decided to ramp up the post-running routine a bit. Knees felt fine, but I'm a little sore from my hard seat. Need to build up the butt calluses again I guess. Tuesday - 07.21 PM Lifting - 3 x 5 SQ: 3 x 5 x 200 S OHP: 3 x 5 x 125 SLDL: : 5 x 225/225/265 BP: 3 x 5 x 215 P Row: : 3 x 5 x 153 N PD: 3 x 5 x 180 Took up all the performance lifts a little to a lot heavier than I was planning. Wait a minute, I'm not sure I'm still going with the performance lifts concept. Even though they're harder to judge for technical fail, I would like to work equally hard on getting my pulldowns and rows up. Anyway, took the squat up to 200, which projects to a 1RM of 235, just 40 pounds off where I was before the meniscus tissue issue. Felt hard, but solid. I'm still not trusting the knee 100%, but I think I can continue increasing in 5 or 10-pound weekly jumps until I get back to my 1RM PR of 275, then continue to build to up over 300, unless surgery intervenes. I put the knee sleeve on for the whole workout, but used the knee wraps on top of it only for the squat. I took the OHP up just four pounds, to a nice even 125, which is one wheel on either side with my 35-pound bar. Just didn't want to deal with all the little plates, but it turned out to be about right. Now I'm just 13 pounds off my old 1RM of 160. Ten pounds is probably due to the seated position, so I'm not far off from where I was. I'm working a little bit on finding a better seated position, better bracing for the spine, butt, and legs. The SLDL felt too easy at 225, so I put on two 25-pound plates for the third set and brought it up to 265, which projects to a 1RM of 312. Nice. Maybe I can get to 400 lbs this way. The BP I took up just a few pounds, once again to get a nice even two plates on each side. My left thumb still bothers me on the presses, but it's getting better. My family came home right when I was finishing up with the Bench Press. I considered blowing off the upper body pulls, but since I'm starting to give them equal importance, I tried my best to get through them with my son hanging around. Unlike some of the other lifts, it's not dangerous to have him close by. The P Rows continue to feel really good, and the pulldowns are almost back to where they were. I would really like to focus on getting a strong back, so the upper body pulls are just as important as the upper body presses now. Overall, a very good workout. PM walk down to the park Wednesday - 07.22 Was going to pick up the kids with my bike again, but I felt pretty sore from Monday's ride and Tuesday's lifting. Still looking for my cycling shorts . . . PM walk down to the park Thursday - 07.23 Still a bit sore, getting a lot of work done, and I know how hard it is to lift on the weekends with the kids around, so I decided to blow off the planned Thursday/Saturday lifting sessions and just get in one more on Friday. It's funny, but if I don't get in that initial Monday workout, the whole week gets out of kilter. PM walk down to the park Friday - 07.24 PM Lifting - 3 x 3 SQ: 2 x 3 x 216 S OHP: 3 x 3 x 132 SLDL: : 3 x 3 x 282 BP: 3 x 3 x 228 CG N PD: 3 x 3 x 190 P Row: : 3 x 3 x 162 Had both of the Rehband knee sleeves on for the whole workout, and wraps for the squats. After the second set of squats, my left knee felt a little sore, so I stopped. Perhaps I've jumped up in weight too soon? I'll see how it feels on Monday, and if it still feels a little too much for the knees, bring it down some. I'm still struggling with Seated OH Presses, trying to find a way to brace my legs better to provide greater stability. I think I might take the load down a little until it feels super solid. I wore my new Rehband wrist supporst for the first time--much better than wrist wraps, but it's harder to loosen them in between sets. The SLDLs went really well. Really felt my whole body involved, and had total confidence in my back holding up. But I'll start microloading it from now on, to protect myself from my own exuberance. The wrist supports irritated my mildly sprained left thumb on the BP, so I took them off. Like the SLDL, the BP now feels close to max weight, but still very solid and comfortable. Sometime it seems like upper body pulls, and perhaps all the lifts, could be done simply five reps across every workout, a la Bill Starr. Maybe I'll try that next week and see how it feels. That would simplify things even further. Then I could really microload stuff, increasing just a half pound or a pound from workout to workout. Saturday - 07.25 2 miles walk commute 15 minutes easy row. ---------------Week 6: Cycle IV--------------- Template for this week: I took the OHP down a few pounds, but everything else has been microloaded up either one or two pounds from week five. Toyed with the idea of just doing 3 x 5 each workout, but for time being, I'm sticking with the 5-8-3 weekly wave. Sunday - 07.26 Monday - 07.27 AM/PM Two miles bicycle commute. PM Lifting - 3 x 5 SQ: 3 x 5 x 206 S OHP: 3 x 5 x 125 SLDL: : 3 x 5 x 267 BP: 3 x 5 x 215 N PD: 3 x 5 x 180 P Row: : 3 x 5 x 155 I misprinted my Excel sheet so I was a little off on some of the loads. I remembered the squat load, and they felt fine, almost too easy. Seated OH Press felt too hard still, but it was two pounds too heavy. Perhaps I should add another set in again. A little extra volume might help. That is, now that my loads are stabilizing, I'm starting to think again about weak versus strong lifts, and structural balance. Seems like my press, even seated, is weak compared to the other lifts. SLDL was awesome, it's getting to be my favorite exercise. Probably just the novelty of it, but by taking the knees out of the equation, everything else ends up doing more work it seems. BP was one pound too light. But it's in the right range now, feel just about right. On the Pulldowns I went back to kneeling on the floor, which feels a lot better. I figure with 180 pounds pulling me up, there's little actual load on the knees. I'm halfway tempted to try Tall Kneeling Presses again too, but not worth the meniscus risk. The seated presses just never feel that stable. Good for the core I guess. I tried 175 for the P Rows, just to see what it felt like, and it felt way too heavy, even as an 1RM. I think 3RMs are the lowest I can go with P Rows. Anyway, I guessed at the proper 5RM weight, and ended up getting it right at 155. I knew the 5RM was right around there. I was deluding myself into thinking the P Rows were probably too light, but actually the loading is just about right. So I'll continue with the one-pound-per-week microloading. Afterwards I felt really spent. The SLDLs right in the middle of the workout are killer, and overall, the six lifts give me a very complete workout. No assistance really required, but it would be good to work different angles/ROMs once in a while. Wondering if I'm 30 pounds overweight, does that mean I could add 30 pounds to the bar when I squat if I lost 30 pounds? Also wondering about how much friction is introduced on pulldowns, and how much weight does that translate into? Also, on pullups, one is lifting the weight above one's elbows, but on pulldowns, one is lifting the entire weight of the loaded plates, plus whatever friction is there. So perhaps I can already pull up over 200 pounds. I really need to start testing pullups again, but it's a little humiliating, even with these qualifiers. PM One mile barefoot walking to get daughter from Discovery Club and walk to store to buy present for friend's birthday party this Saturday. Store let me in barefoot, no problem. Tuesday - 07.28 PM 35 minutes easy rowing, very boring, but rowing is definitely a good full-body aerobic workout. The knees handled it fine, so I'll try to gradually increase the intensity. I'm thinking cycling one day and rowing the next might be a good aerobic routine. In the evening walked barefoot down to the park with the kids. Wednesday - 07.29 AM/PM Two miles bike commute. PM Lifting - 3 x 8 SQ: 3 x 8 x 182 S OHP: 1 x 5 x 110 TK OHP: 2 x 8 x 110 SLDL: : 3 x 5 x 236 CG N PD: 3 x 8 x 150 P Row: : 3 x 8 x 137 I started to feel nauseous sometime doing the OH Press, missed reps on the SLDL and cut out the BP. I got frustrated with the Seated OH Press and switched to the Tall Kneeling OH Press for the second and third sets. That felt a lot better and more natural. I've read the people who have to do a lot of kneeling for a living, like floorers, have a much greater incidence of meniscus issues, but with my knee sleeves and yoga mat folded twice, it felt like I had enough padding and the knees didn't feel anything wrong at all. Today, no soreness either, so I guess I'm back to doing Tall Kneeling Overhead Presses and Pulldowns kneeling on the floor. Maybe I'll give Abide suggestion of trying the Savickas Press a try, if I can do it facing out from my power rack. By the time I got to my upper body pulls I was feeling kind of sick in the heat. I ate a lot of vegetables just an hour before the workout, so that was probably the cause. Nonetheless, I started to get a real good pump on the Close-grip Neutral Pulldown. The cumulative consistency is starting to work its magic again. Thursday - 07.30 Friday - 07.31 AM Two miles bicycle commute. Saturday - 08.01 AM Two miles bicycle commute. ---------------Week 7: Cycle IV--------------- Sunday - 08.02 House and yard work. Monday - 08.03 AM Two miles bicycle commute. PM 6.3 miles bicycle, picking up the kids. My dry, hacking cough became a deeper, more productive cough last week, and I'm feeling very fatigued, so no heart for lifting, and I felt a bit queasy again as well. I'm sick of being sick. Tuesday - 08.04 AM/PM Two miles bicycle commute. PM 30 minutes rowing. Thinking alternating rowing with biking might work. Something like 30 minutes' rowing on lifting days, then 30-60 minutes biking on non-lifting days, plus almost everyday two-mile bike commutes. Then in the winter, maybe sub swimming for biking, but keep the rowing? Wednesday - 08.05 AM/PM Two miles walk-commute. Felt some instability in the left knee. Next Monday when I see the super doc, I'll probably ask to have an MRI done on that knee too, to see what's going on. PM Lifting - 2 x 5 SQ: 2 x 5 x 183 TK OHP: 2 x 8 x 111 SLDL: : 3/5 x 237 BP: 5 x 191, 5 x 125 c/ Fat Gripz CG N PD: 2 x 5 x 150 P Row: : 2 x 5 x 138 After a week off, I decided to do my 75% loads just five reps instead of eight, and just do two sets instead of three, since I was a little pressed for time and still recovering from my low-level virus. It only took about 30 minutes to get through. It might actually be good to have an easier day like this mid-week all the time. And it would be a little closer to the Texas Method programming that way. There's at least a half-dozen minor modifications that could be done to my routine and still yield the same results, probably. Once again, the squats seemed to have a therapeutic effect on my brittle knees--next day they feel fine. My right knee seemed to drift a bit out of alignment though, could my form degrade after skipping just two workouts? Tall Kneeling OH Press still feels OK on the knees. Felt a little tightness on the right hammie where it attaches to the knee, so just did three reps for the first set, but then five reps on the second set felt OK. The Bench Press continues to bother my sprained left thumb. So for the second set I took the weight down and tried my new Fat Gripz for the first time. Seemed like they helped. Next time, if I have more time, I'll experiment a bit more. This might be the way to go until my thumb is all healed up--lighter loads with the fat grip. This way I can continue to practice the movement while at the same time improve my grip strength and hone my overall technique. By the time I got to the upper body pulls, I realized I had enough time for three sets apiece, and was back in the groove enough to do a full eight reps, but I kept them at 2 x 5 and called it a day. This workout was more a priming session for Friday's workout, where I'll hopefully be back up to full strength and energy levels. Still, I have a slight urge to experiment with a few protocol changes as we finish out this cycle. I think I want the workouts, or at least the weekly workout rhythm to be a little be easier, but still intense enough to make steady progress. At the very least, I might seriously consider throwing out the higher rep day on Wednesday and do the same loads at five reps only, or maybe adopt a 5/5/5+ protocol, just blasting on the last set. Thursday - 08.06 AM/PM Two miles bicycle commute. PM 11.35 miles biking down by the river, from my office, between the Franklin and Ford Parkway bridges. Started out in a refreshing drizzle, then it cleared. Only one big hill, coming back, so a good route while I'm still getting back into shape. Nonetheless, my butt's a little sore from the hard seat. I really have to find my old cycling shorts with the Chamois, or just get a new pair. Another cool thing about cycling, versus running, besides the fact that you can cover a lot more ground, and can coast once in a while for a break, is that it should be a lot easier to get back in shape, since it's mostly muscle conditioning, unlike running, where you have to wait for the bones, ligaments, and tendons to toughen up too. It took me exactly one hour to cover the distance, so I guess the immediate goal would be to work on speed, then when the overall time comes down 10-15 minutes, maybe add distance. Friday - 08.07 PM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 208 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 126 SLDL: : 3 x 5 x 269 It did indeed feel good just to do more 3 x 5 sets. I felt fatigued and a little queasy again so I cut out the second half of the workout. Saturday - 08.08 AM 5.3 miles bike commute (forgot keys and had to return home, then picked up some stuff at the local mom and pop store). ---------------Week 8: Cycle IV--------------- Sunday - 08.09 Monday - 08.10 PM Lifting - 3 x 5 SQ: 3 x 5 x 209 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 127 SLDL: : 3 x 5 x 270 BP: 5 x 125 c/ Fat Gripz, 5 x 175 normal N PD: 3 x 5 x 180 P Row: : 3 x 5 x 158 Everything felt pretty solid. I got a little queasy again though, not sure why. On the Bench Press I tried the Fat Gripz again, but this time it didn't really feel like they helped at all. Then when I took them off for 175, my wrists almost buckled forward. Scary. I think while my left thumb is still sore, I may try lower weights, like 175-200lbs, and work on bar speed, or dynamic effort training. Could be a good excuse to see what that's like. Tuesday - 08.11 AM 1-mile bike commute. PM 13.5 miles bike ride, down to Ford Parkway Bridge then up to U 0f M Minneapolis campus to home. New bike shorts felt great. Wednesday - 08.12 PM Lifting - 3 x 5 SQ: 3 x 5 x 210 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 127.5 SLDL: : 3/4/3 x 271 BP: 2/3/2 x 218 CG N PD: 3 x 5 x 153 P Row: : 3 x 5 x 158.5 Squats felt a little easy. I think I had been overcorrecting for knee alignment. So I just did what comes naturally, looked down, and I think the knee still tracks pretty well over the foot. The squats went back to feeling super solid once I did this, and the load felt easier. So I may boost it 5-10 pounds next time. The Tall Kneeling OH Press is feeling pretty good. The SLDLs felt a little too hard, but it was mainly me being nervous about straining my lower back, glutes, and hammies. I think I can actually handle the load just fine, but I'm a bit jittery about injuries, so maybe I'll take the load down a bit and build back up. I would also like all the lifts to involve about the same effort level, although the SLDL has become more of a centerpiece to my routine. On the Bench Press, I think I finally found a good workaround for this nagging thumb sprain. It's about on the third rep that I start to feel it, so maybe I'll adopt a 5 x 2 protocol at my normal five-rep weight while I'm waiting for it to heal up completely. Once it's good to go, I'll start adding reps, but at least I'll be practicing the movement at decent loads in the meantime. The Fat Gripz didn't really offer a viable alternative, and I don't really want to get caught up in dynamic effort just yet, although eventually that might be a good midweek protocol. The upper body pulls continue to be awesome, and I get something of a pump when they follow the SLDL. So yeah, very satisfying workout, and the cumulative consistency is once again working its magic just doing the same damn lifts every time. Thursday - 08.13 AM 1-mile bike commute. PM 16 miles bike ride, down to Highway 5 bridge where the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers meet and back up the Minneapolis side through the U 0f M Minneapolis campus to home. Wow, I'm really liking how easy it is to get into cycling. After just a week or two, I can ride over an hour no problem, with little soreness. Friday - 08.14 Lifting Took a nap instead Saturday - 08.15 Short workout while the friend who used to own a serious bodybuilding/powerlifting/pro-wrestler (ok not that serious) gym came by to critique my form. All of the loads were less than I normally do for five-reps, I mostly did 2-5 reps at a time while my friend looked things over. He said: 1) Since I have long limbs and a long torso, the bar on my low-bar squats could come down even more, if it felt comfortable. It didn't, but I might give it another try when I have more time to experiment. He also said I should keep my chest up, or look up at a 45-degree angle, to help keep my torso more vertical. That cue seemed to work well. 2.) He said the same thing about looking up more on the SLDLs. 3) He said my bar path on the bench press was too vertical, and that I should try more of a "j"-shaped path. I tried it, but it didn't feel good. He said everything else looked pretty good, including my arch and elbow/forearm position. So that's nice. 4) He said my Pendlay Rows looked really good. 5) We also discussed One-hand Dumbbell Rows, and he like my full ROM and said doing them cheating style, to bring in the Obliques while rotating the torso, was fine. 6) He also said for older lifters, higher rep sets were the way to go, and liked my idea of doing everything five reps. He also suggested adding in some higher rep assistance at the end of each workout. He said getting a "pump," besides being nice way to end a workout, might also help with recovery by getting the blood pumping through all the muscles worked in the worksets. This jibes with my idea of adding in some quick sets of my favorite assistance exercises at the end of workouts. Just have to increase my work capacity a bit more to be able to handle it. I still want to keep everything to an hour max. ------------------------ So that's it for Cycle IV. Basically, not much was achieved, but I feel like I'm back on track after dealing with the meniscus tear, and lingering post-shingles fatigue. I'm also liking the idea, which came to me in the last week or two of this cycle, of simplifying things further by making each workout 3 x 5. ===================================================================== Welcome to Cycle V! -------------------------------------------- Last Cycle was mostly spent rehabbing my right knee and then making adjustments to the new reality of having a degenerative meniscus and the beginnings of osteoarthritis, diagnosed in my right knee with an MRI, but almost certainly at play in my left knee as well. I found out in Week Eight that I won't need surgery for the time being, so I'm free to focus on making consistent gains for the first time since Cycle II. Anaerobic My lifting goals for this cycle are very simple: 1.) I will do the six main lifts 3 x 5 every workout. 2.) I will add one pound each workout to the lower body lifts--squats and SLDLs. 3.) I will add a half pound each workout to the upper body lifts, OH Press, Bench Press, Pulldowns, and Pendlay Row. 4.) Each Monday will repeat Friday's load, except for the Squats, which will continue to add one pound each and every workout until my old PR of 275 is reached, after which it too will repeat Friday's load on the following Monday. So the basic scheme is: Monday = 3 x 5 x prior Friday's poundage Wednesday = 3 x 5 x Monday's poundage + 1 lbs / 0.5 lbs Friday = 3 x 5 x Wednesday's poundage + 1 lbs / 0.5 lbs 5.) I still have a mildly sprained left thumb that bothers me if I go beyond two reps on the Bench Press. So I will do the Bench Press at 3 x 2 until my thumb is healed. I will start at 225 lbs, then load one pound per workout, including Monday, as with the Squat, until: (a), it projects, at 95%, to a 260-pound 1RM, which is my old PR, by the end of the cycle. Hopefully my thumb will be healed by this time, and I can revert to a 3x5 protocol; (b), the higher loads begin to bother my thumb, at which point I will keep the loads constant until my thumb is healed; or (c), my thumb heals up before the end of the cycle, or before reaching a projected 260-pound 1RM, at which point I will revert to a 3 x 5 protocol. Aerobic My running days are probably over, although I may attempt a short run once in a while to see how it goes. It would be nice to maintain some plantar stimulation. Otherwise, my aerobic exercise will be some combination of cycling, rowing, and street striding. I don't have any set goals other than improving overall cardio-vascular fitness, getting my blood pressure down, and dropping some weight. ---------------Week 1: Cycle V--------------- Sunday - 08.16 PM Yardwork Monday - 08.17 AM/PM Bike commuting. Two miles . PM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 215 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 128 SLDL: 2/3/2 x 265 BP: 2 x 227, 2 x 2 x 215 N PD: 3 x 5 x 181 P RW: 3 x 5 x 158 Squat felt a little easy last week, so I bumped it up to 215, which still felt a little easy. I guess I'm recovering my squat strength, and getting back up close to my (projected) PR of 275. Should be able to get it by the end of this cycle. I tried to think a little more about my friend's critique of my squat technique (detailed at end of last cycle's log), mostly in terms of looking up at a 45% angle, to prevent me from leaning forward as much, but also in terms of getting the bar even lower. I didn't have much time to experiment, but I think if I can scrunch up my shoulders even more, I should be able to lower the bar a bit and still have it be secure. When I tried to lower the bar with my hands in their normal spot, it didn't feel quite secure enough. Unfortunately, the bolts I use to rack the bar are already a bit in the way, so if I move my hands inward, it will have to be by several inches to clear the bolts. A good test of shoulder mobility I guess. I'll try to leave time to experiment on Wednesday. The overhead press is feeling pretty good and could probably be a little heavier, but I'm liking it somewhat easy. I'm really trying to get all six lifts to be about the same effort level, which is just moderate intensity, and let the high-frequency, full-body approach work its magic through simple consistency. My lower back was a little stiff from all the weed-wacking, hedge-trimming, pool-maintenance, and so on, I did on Sunday. The yard had become a mess because I never seemed to have the time or energy to get to it since the shingles outbreak. Over the last several days, however, my energy levels finally seem to be returning to normal, and the hacking cough is finally dissipating, I think. So it felt good to get some stuff done. But with the back stiffness, I didn't want to risk anything, so I kept the SLDL load to 265, and only did 2-3 reps each set. After the sacroiliac issue last winter, I'm super paranoid about deadlift injuries, and with the simplified 3x5 plan, I no longer feel any pressure to accomplish anything on any given workout for any particular lift. The important thing is just to get something in, and then wait to push it when everything--muscles, motivation, energy--is 100%. I probably should've just done 225-245 at five reps--would've been more productive and less risky. The Bench Press plan is to just do sets of two reps until my sprained thumb feels better, but it strained a bit with a load of 227, so I brought it down to 215, and that felt a lot better. Maybe I should bring it down even further and try to get in five reps, like everything else? The upper body pulls felt pretty good. I've begun to micro-load the pulldown now too. Tuesday - 08.18 AM Bike commuting. One mile. PM Cycling 11 miles, slight drizzle, to Marshall Bridge, over, to Franklin Bridge, then cut to UofM bus route home. My legs felt pretty good, and I was able to push the pace a bit throughout the ride. Nice. No niggles whatsoever from the knees. Wednesday - 08.19 AM/PM Bike commuting. Two miles. PM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 220 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 128.5 SLDL: 3 x 5 x 266 BP: 5 x 195, 2 x 5 x 205 CG N PD: 3 x 5 x 165 P RW: 2 x 5 x 158.5, 5 x 145 I bumped up the squat five pounds, and that felt pretty close to my limits. I could probably go 5-10 pounds heavier, but I think it will be better to build up to it in microloading increments. I experimented with hand position, and moved my hands in about 5-6 inches, to really scrunch up my traps. My hands were just inside the powerlifting knurling marks, with the pinky almost on them, like this still (also around minute 7 or so): Whereas before my hands were just outside of the marks, with the thumb almost on them. The bar did indeed feel more secure this way, although I wasn't able to lower it anymore without leaving the crease of the traps and delts. The bar felt a little bit more difficult to balance horizontally with a narrower grip, but I think it should be alright. So a good indication of improved shoulder mobility. I remember when I first got the shorty bars it was hard just to get the hands inside the sleeves. Now each hand is a good 6-7 inches inside of them. I wonder if this greater mobility has helped alleviate the shoulder issue I used to have with the bench press too. The press continues to feel pretty solid with the return to a Tall Kneeling stance, but I'm in no hurry to raise the weight. Still, getting the Squat and Press loads up continues to be my primary lifting goal. My glutes still felt a little tight on the SLDL, probably from the cycling, so I sat on a baseball for a bit to massage the piriformis and whatever else needed loosening. I brought the weight down 7-8 pounds, back down to 265, in order to make the lift a little less taxing and more in line with the effort level on the other lifts. I sometimes wonder if I should try conventional deadlifts to see how my knees handle them, but I'm still taking a no-risk approach for the time being. I'm also being super careful to maintain neutral spine. With SLDL, it seems like it's easier to round if you're not careful. Since it's hard to do max loads on the SLDL anyway, it's more of an assistance exercise, so best to keep the loads nice and doable with impeccable form. I brought the bench press up to 205, which projects to a 1RM of 241, just twenty pounds lower than my true 1RM, and my sprained left thumb seemed OK with it. I concentrated on getting the bar to sit on the outside of my palms, away from the thumb area, with meant bringing my elbows out a bit, towards more of a bodybuilding placement, but my shoulders seemed OK with it. I'll try to maintain this grip until my thumb is fully healed. I think I've irritated the old repaired tendon that controls the thumb's distal phalange, which was cut clean in half when a plate of glass fell on top of me 30 years ago. So that, together with my age, may make the sprain take a while to heal up fully. I bumped up the weight on the Close-grip Neutral Pulldowns, now that I'm doing them five reps instead of eight. That felt awesome. The P Rows also felt great but I couldn't get the last rep of the second set all the way up without cheating, so I reduced the weight on the last set in order to maintain good form. I don't know if it's because I've become more meticulous about form and breathing, but this workout really knocked me out. Really at the limits of my work capacity. I also took longer-than-normal breaks, so that I could really focus on perfect form, and perhaps this also made the lifts more difficult, as the only the targeted muscles were worked. Maybe it's the fact that the squat and bench are back close to full force. I dunno, but this program (3 x 5 x 6 lifts) is really working for me. Thursday - 08.20 AM/PM Two miles bike commute. I dunno why, but I blew off my bike ride. The weather was perfect, and my legs felt good. Friday - 08.21 AM/PM Bike commuting. Two miles. PM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 221 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 129 SLDL: 3 x 5 x 266 BP: 5 x 195, 2 x 5 x 193.5 N PD: 3 x 5 x 181 P RW: 5 x 159, 2 x 5 x 145 I decided that, at least while I'm waiting for my left thumb to fully heal, I mis' well go back to the Iron Ratios idea of having the Bench Press equal one and a half times my Overhead Press, so I brought it down to 193.5. Besides, it's nice having one easier lift. The first three in particular really kick my butt. I also had to bring the P Row down, as my upper back was too taxed by the end of the workout to do more than one set with good form. I think next week I'll make it 149, and the Pulldowns 179, so that the Press, Row, and Pulldown all use the same set of micro plates. I'm liking the Easy Strength/Wendler idea of not being afraid to make things easier if need be. Instead of viewing the workout as a series of six lifts, I'm trying more to see it as a complete workout, and finding loads that make the whole workout flow and doable. Although, of course, I still give priority to the first three lifts--Squat, Press, Deadlift. The Bench, Pulldown, and Row are somewhat secondary for me. I'm also toying with the idea of adding one set apiece to the Squat and Overhead Press, to increase their volume and make them the primary drivers of progress, as I did in Cycle II. But for the moment, I really like the simplicity of doing everything 3 x 5. Still, based on current projections and rates of increase, I'll break my Squat and Press PRs towards the end of this cycle, whereas I won't reach new PRs on the Bench Press and Deadlift until the beginning of next year (the lifts are in the order of Deadlift, Squat, Bench Press, Overhead Press, Pulldown, Row): Saturday - 08.22 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Late AM-Noon 25.5 miles bike ride, quite windy and cloudy, Minnehaha Creek to Bryant Ave to Midtown Greenway to UofM Bus route. I got lost and added some miles, then didn't realize the bike path around Lake Harriet is a one-way, so I aborted and just rode up Bryant Ave, which is bike-friendly, then got on the Greenway, which is a beautiful rail-to-trail path set below street-level cutting East-West right through Minneapolis. My knees held up well, although I had to put the saddle a little higher when my knee caps started to feel sore towards the end. Lots of traveling flashbacks, and a feeling of bliss to cover so much distance so easily. The section along Minnehaha Creek was particularly nice. I tried out my Nashbar Sandals for the first time, and they seemed good, but I don't know why they had to make the soles so thick. Still, felt good to have the air flow over my feet. So, I'm back on the aerobic train. Feels great! I think I'll try to do one hour twice during the week and two to three hours on the weekend. This is the first time I've gone for more than 30-40 aerobic minutes, besides some longer walks, for almost two years, since the end of November 2013. Such a different high from lifting. And I just love how easy cycling is compared to running. It took me a year to build up to a two-hour run. After just a few weeks, I can cycle two hours quite easily. Plus, there's no weight/conditioning Catch 22 with cycling. You can still get in some quality work while overweight. Hopefully the pounds will start to melt off now. I guess I'm shooting for 215 as the immediate goal. That's about 30 pounds to lose. If I hadn't blown off Thursday's ride, I'd be 6 for 6 on the weekly workouts, the first time that's happened in a long time. Next week. One thing: my Garmin Forerunner 205's battery seems to have developed a memory after sitting in disuse for almost two years. After two hours it indicated that the battery was low, even though I had charged it right before the ride. The battery held for the last 3-4 miles however. It's nice to have a GPS device for new routes. I wonder if it's worth investing in the Garmin Edge 200. ---------------Week 2: Cycle V--------------- Template for this week: I'm getting bolder with the "easy strength" approach. I've taken the SLDL and Rows down a bit, and the Bench way down, but that's mostly due to my sore thumb. I want the workouts to be mentally easy, to approach the bar with a workaday attitude, knowing everything is doable at a moderate intensity level. Then just let sheer consistency perform its magic on the high frequency, full-body workouts. Sunday - 08.23 AM/Noon. Bike commuting. Two miles. Put on my Merrell Bare Access shoes again. I liked the thinner soles a lot compared to the thick soles of the Nashbar sandals. The latter might be my first miss as I update my cycling gear. PM More yardwork, finishing the yard restoration after three months of blowing things off due to shingles, meniscus tissue issues, a prolonged hacking cough and general fatigue. Feels good to be back in the game, and feels even better to be done with the accumulated tasks. I have to admit though, I do like weed-wacking the overgrown underbrush. Monday - 08.24 AM/PM Bike commuting. Two miles. Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 222 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 129 SLDL: 3 x 5 x 125 BP: 5 x 175 Physically, I felt fine, although my right hammie and lower back were still a little tight from the cycling and yardwork over the weekend. I really need to re-establish my stretching/massaging routine. Mentally, I just wasn't into it. My mind was already on the next day's bike ride and all the gear updates I've been going through. So I just made sure to get in my two 'essential' lifts, the Squat and the Press. I did light SLDLs just to prime the sore hamstring and lower back for Wednesday's workout. Maybe with the 3x5 plan there will always be about one workout per week where I want to go easy, I dunno, but it's probably just a transitional problem as I re-establish the aerobic portion of my routine. In any case, squats and press both felt good, even though I wasn't into it. After the workout I went to REI and got a bike gps, the Garmin Edge 200. The battery on my old Garmin Forerunner 205 only seems to last two hours or so. I also got turn signals for my bike, and a handle bar mirror. My new split-crotch saddle should be showing up at my LBS later this week, and I'm getting some higher quality bike shorts too. Tuesday - 08.25 AM Bike commuting. One mile. PM Cycling 7.95 miles. Office to home to bike shop to pick up new saddle, to son's day care, to daughter's school, and home again. New saddle felt worse with just normal shorts on, but there was less pressure on the privates with the split-crotch design. Wednesday - 08.26 AM Bike commuting. One mile. New saddle felt pretty good with bike shorts on. I think I need to tilt it a little forward though. 1.6 miles bringing shoes to daughter's school. PM Bike commuting. One mile. Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 223 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 129.5 SLDL: 3 x 5 x 246 CG N PD: 3 x 5 x 164 P RW: 5 x 159, 2 x 5 x 146 Squat and Overhead Press continue to feel easier, but instead of bumping up the weight, I might try adding an extra set. I'm liking the idea of lighter weights and more volume, then building up from there. I've had this idea for a cycle or two, ever since reading Nuckols' advocacy of more of a volume approach, or building greater work capacity. Or maybe I first got the idea from Powerlifting to Win. In any case, that might be this cycle's experiment, in addition to reducing all sets to five reps, no more or less. I tried conventional deadlifts, but they almost felt weird, so I went back to SLDLs. I had reduced the load, to 1.1 times my squat load, and that felt good. Less taxing, and I was able to do them touch-n-go instead of longer pauses to reset. So more of an assistance approach. In fact, all my lifts following the squat and overhead press are sort of becoming assistance. Just a week ago I was adamant about making all the lifts about equal intensity, but I find myself naturally gravitating towards making the first two lifts harder, and the following lifts easier. It's just really hard to give each lift its due, day in and day out. I also reduced the P Row weight, so that I could do them with good form, no matter how tired or demotivated I am at the end of the workout. Thursday - 08.27 AM Bike commuting. One mile. PM Cycling 7.5 miles. Office to home to son's day care to daughter's school, and home again. I had a nice 15-mile ride planned out, but then I got obsessed with something at the end of the workday, and the day prior my son expressed disappointment when I picked him up by car, instead of by bicycle as I had on Tuesday, so I just did that again. The new saddle felt pretty good, but I will still experiment a bit with the angle. We passed by the State Fair on the way to my daughter's school. All my son talks about is the boat ride there. I ordered a "Trail-Gator" (http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B0016QT0OE?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00) so that I can park my daughter's bike down by her school before getting my son. Then when I return to pick her up, she can ride home on her bike while my son remains in the child seat on my back rack. Friday - 08.28 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Two miles. PM One mile. Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 225 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 130 SLDL: 3 x 5 x 247 S PD: 3 x 5 x 180 P RW: 3 x 5 x 150 CG BP: 3 x 3 x 195 Everything felt pretty solid and I was able to reduce the rest intervals a bit. I was rushed for time, but seems like a good thing to do most days, if possible. I was going to blow off the Bench Press, but I finished more quickly than anticipated, so I gave them a try. I felt a little strain in my sore left thumb on the first set, so I stopped it at three reps then brought my hands in for the second set, about halfway between the powerlifting knurl marks and the unknurled center. I reasoned that the more I could angle my hands inward, the more the weight would load on the outside of my palms. The second set felt better, so I brought my hands in even more for the third set, with my thumbs right at the unknurled center. That felt great. So I guess I'll be doing Close-grip Bench Press for a while. I'm surprised I haven't thought of this before. It really takes all the pressure off the thumb area. And now the reduced bench press loads, pegged to the overhead press loads at 3:2, don't feel so ridiculously easy either, since the Close-grip Bench Press is supposed to be 90% of the conventional Bench Press anyway (https://www.t-nation.com/training/know-your-ratios-destroy-weaknesses). Funny, now the Bench Press to OH Press relationship parallels the relationship of the SLDL to the Squat more, as the former become more like assistance lifts. Saturday - 08.29 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Mid-AM Cycling 25.9 miles, beautiful, somewhat overcast weather turning to sunny. A huge loop from my office to River to Midtown Greenway to Cedar Lake Trail, turnaround at 169, to downtown Mpls to U of M bus route home. Wow, I love these rails to trails. I was able to ride on a dedicated bike path almost the whole way, across Minneapolis and through one first-tier suburb to the border of another, and back again, just stopping once in a while for cross traffic. Knees held up well and I didn't begin to feel tired until around 22 miles. I was even able to keep pace with a bunch of racers for a while. It's always fun to frustrate them with a clunky mountain bike with hideous reflective tape stripes all over it. I tried out my new minimalist padding Louis Garneau shorts and they worked fine, and my new split-crotch Romin Expert Gel saddle looks like a keeper. Almost no pressure on the privates. Next time out though, I'll try angling the saddle a bit. I'll also try the Pearl Izumi shorts with greater padding to see how they compare to the newer Garneaus on the new saddle. I also enjoyed my new Garmin Edge 200, especially the altitude reading, which showed me gaining elevation almost the whole way, despite going in a loop. Interesting. Afterwards I took the kids to the State Fair while my wife worked. I did the whole thing barefoot except the two bathrooms stops, spilled food and all. Felt good, but afterwards my right knee swelled up a bit and the next day (Sunday morning) it's a bit stiff. Crap. I think it's from the slow shuffling pushing our tandem stroller over four hours' time, but it's hard to be sure it wasn't the cycling too. Have to monitor it this week, but it would be hard to deal with a set-back at this point when everything is going so well again and I feel like I'm starting to harvest the seeds of consistency once more. ---------------Week 3: Cycle V--------------- Template for this week: Sunday - 08.30 Monday - 08.31 PM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 226 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 130 SLDL: 3 x 5 x 249 N PD: 3 x 5 x 180 CG BP: 3/4/5 x 195 P RW: 3 x 5 x 150 Great workout. Everything felt solid, not too easy, not too hard. I was a little worried at the outset, because my right knee was still a little stiff and swollen from Saturday's outing, but it wasn't painful and it seemed fine on the Squats and Deadlifts. On the Deadlifts, I tried lifting slightly bow-legged to relieve any pressure on the medial meniscus, and this seemed to help. The Close-grip Bench Press still feels a little awkward at first, balance-wise but I'm starting to trust it more and more, and I don't feel any strain at all in my left thumb. In some ways, this is a more natural bench press, since any athletic push movement would have the hands placed at about shoulder-width. In fact, now five of my lifts have the same hand placement at about 17-19 inches wide (between thumbs). I may just keep doing bench presses this way even after my left thumb has healed, and just test 1RMs with a wider grip once in a while, same as I might test conventional deadlift singles once in a while, just to see where I'm at on the powerlifting meter. In some ways, subbing the SLDL and CG BP for conventional Deadlifts and Bench Press moves my routine into more of a pure strength routine, and less of a powerlifting, maximize-the-load approach. I also experimented with the order a bit, moving the Bench Press to after the Pulldowns instead of before. This gives my upper back a little time to recover after the Pulldowns before I hit the P Rows, so I can give the latter a better effort. Now all the lifts are ordered more or less according to importance, Starting with a low and a high push, then a low and a high pull, then middle push and pull. Anyway, really loving the ultra simple programming these days. Tuesday - 09.01 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Cycling 10.5 miles, Franklin to Stone Arch Bridge to UM bus route. I tried a shorter, cautious distance to test out my somewhat swollen right knee. It held up fine, in fact, the ride felt somewhat therapeutic, which lends support to the idea that the swelling is more due to being on my feet all afternoon at the State Fair last Saturday than the nearly 26-mile bike ride earlier that morning. This would be a better route except they're still repairing the mudslide that happened early summer 2014, which covered part of the River Road, so you have to leave the river and use a bike lane on a busy road up above to avoid that section. Once it's fixed, this part of the river bike path system north of Franklin will be a regular route staple. The part of the river that serves as a border for Minneapolis and St. Paul has lots of bluffs. Further south, you're mostly up on the bluff, but on this part, you get to come down to close to the river's banks. Ordered the Ergon PC2 barefoot pedals. I'm getting the urge to try barefoot cycling. Tried the Sugoi cycling shorts but it felt like I had taken a crap in my pants. Way too much padding. So I guess there's no use running from it: I'm a minimalist in almost every facet of fitness. Wednesday - 09.02 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. PM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 227 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 130.5 SLDL: 5 x 175, 1 x 215 CG N PD: 3 x 5 x 165 CG BP: 3 x 5 x 196 P RW: 3 x 5 x 150.5 My right butt cheek felt a little niggle right where I had the sacro-illiac issue last winter, so bailed on the SLDLs at 215. Besides, my right medial meniscus was a little painful on the SLDLs too, and the right knee in general is still a bit swollen and stiff. I think the hierarchy of exercises that irritate my knee, from most to least, is running>walking>deadlifts>cycling>squats>rowing>swimming. I've given up running and don't like walking for exercise unless it's hiking in the woods, so the next thing to give up would be deadlifts if I can't manage this swelling. It would be terrible if I had to move further left into cycling or squats. Otherwise, good workout. Didn't really feel like it at the start, but I felt great by the end. Really felt it in my upper back, and it's great to be benching in earnest these days. It was tempting to do a little pump work at the end with some assistance exercises, but nah, I hit the shower. Thursday - 09.03 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Cycling 13.21 miles, office to Ford Parkway bridge to Franklin bridge, up East River Road to UofM bus/bike route home. Got in a little more hill work at the end. Knees felt fine until a few hours afterwards, when the right knee stiffened up a bit. No pain though, so I'll keep doing this to see if the knee adapts eventually. Tried angling the saddle down, felt even better, no pressure whatsoever on the privates, but I did slip forward once in a while. So I'll try a compromise next outing, between this angle and completely flat. Friday - 09.04 Late AM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 228 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 131 SLDL: 3 x 5 x 251 S PD: 3 x 5 x 181 CG BP: 3 x 5 x 196.5 P RW: 3 x 5 x 151 Really didn't feel like it, and didn't even feel that good after I had finished, but I'm glad I got the workout in. Pretty solid. On the Squats, I think I might start adding two pounds a week instead of three. They still feel very doable, but it might be a good idea to slow down the microloading a bit just to make sure I'm not overdoing it, and stick to the "Easy Strength" approach. It just means I'll get to my old PR a week or so later, but still within this cycle. The Press felt very solid. It's getting easier, which is a good thing. I'll stick with the pound-per-week loading for a while yet. On the Deadlifts, I found myself going conventional. I looked down and saw how much my knees were bent, then I checked my back, and realized it was in a conventional deadlift position. So I went with it. I don't know if I was instinctively protecting my knee or my lower back or my hammies, but everything felt fine while doing the deadlift sets, so perhaps I'll go back to conventional, at least for a while? It would be nice if I could chase PRs again, especially with me closing in on my old Squat and Press PRs this cycle. I may begin bringing up the Deadlift to Squat ratio then, from 1.1 times the Squat, to 1.25 times the Squat, or the 5:4 Iron Ratio. If I add .01 percent per week, then it will take 15 weeks to restore that ratio. On the Close-grip Bench Press, I took my hands out an inch on either side, to about 19 inches width. This seemed to help the stability without irritating my thumb. So I don't know if this is really a close-grip bench press. Maybe it's just closer-gripped version of a medium-grip bench press. Cycling. 1.55 miles with my bored daughter looking for a playmate. The Ergon pedals came. Look promising. Saturday - 09.05 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Cycling. 11.04 miles, Office to Ford Parkway Bridge to Franklin to UofM bus route home. The new Ergon PC-2 pedals were very comfortable. It felt great to be barefoot and feel the breeze cool my feet. I really hate having hot feet, which is the main reason I've been a casual barefooter most of my adult life. Got some looks at my feet. I kinda missed that. PM My four-and-a-half-year-old son and I rode our bikes barefoot for almost a mile in the afternoon. He still has a little trouble steering, but otherwise, he's good-to-go without training wheels. Then his sister, almost four years older, asked to have her training wheels removed. So hopefully today we can get her going. She can already ride, she just needs that initial confidence. And so the romance of cycling is reborn, while the running dies a quiet death. ---------------Week 4: Cycle V--------------- Template for this week: I've started making the Monday squat load the same as the prior Friday's, just like the other lifts, so from now on, the squat load will be increasing at two pounds per week instead of three. I've also begun increasing the deadlift to squat ratio, .01 every week, from 1.1 to 1.11 this week. Eventually, a little before the year is over, it will be 1.25, or 5:4 deadlift to squat, if my knees can take it. The Bench Press to Overhead Press ratio remains steady at 3:2, with the OHP adding one pound per week. The upper body pulls will also begin adding one pound per week, but aren't pegged to any specific ratios. Sunday - 09.06 PM A few miles riding around barefoot with my son. The kid can even go up hills now. Monday - 09.07 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Late AM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 228 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 131 DL: 3 x 5 x 251 CG BP: 3 x 5 x 196.5 N PD: 3 x 5 x 181 P RW: 3 x 5 x 151 Solid workout, some lifts are starting to feel easier, so perhaps the strength gains are beginning to outpace the microloading, which is a good thing, I think. I found myself doing Stiff-legged Deadlifts during one of the warm-up sets. But then did conventional deadlifts the rest of the sets. Hmnn, maybe I'll just switch back and forth as the mood hits me? I moved my hands out an inch on either side on the presses, to the same spot I grip on the Close-grip Bench Press. I think this may have felt better, and perhaps affords slightly better leverages. PM Lots of barefoot walking at the State Fair, pushing a tandem stroller. The right knee swelled up a bit, but no pain. Tuesday - 09.08 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Right knee is quite stiff from State Fair shuffling. Might have to bail on the ride later . . . Wednesday - 09.09 PM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 229 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 131.5 SLDL: 3 x 5 x 254 CG N PD: 3 x 5 x 166 CG BP: 3 x 5 x 197.5 P RW: 3 x 5 x 151.5 My right knee was still a little stiff and sore from Monday's State Fair shuffle, but felt a lot better than on Tuesday. I thought about just doing upper body stuff, but gave the squat a try and the knee loosened up after a few warm-up sets, and the worksets felt fine, although I don't know if I always achieved sufficient depth. I'm thinking I may have to do four squat sets, and just do three reps on the first set, as it still feels like I'm warming up on the first workset sometimes. I found myself doing the Stiff-legged Deadlift instead of Conventional. I'm back to thinking that the Conventional Deadlift places more stress on the knee. So I dunno. Maybe I'll just keep switching between the two randomly, based on feel. Or maybe I'll schedule in Conventional Deadlifts for one day a week. My belt felt a little loose so I brought it in a notch. The belly appears to be reducing, but I haven't seen any weight loss on the scale, so the weight is being redistributed, hopefully from fat to muscle . . . Thursday - 09.10 AM Bike Commuting One mile. Cycling 11.1 miles, Office to Ford Parkway Bridge to Franklin Bridge to UofM bus route home. Knee felt fine during the ride, but stiffened up a bit afterwards. Nonetheless, I feel like I managed the state fair flare-up pretty well, which gives me more confidence going forward. I think I can learn to manage this thing and still get in a fair amount of aerobic and anaerobic activity. Hopefully it feels good enough on Saturday for a two-hour ride. I really like those little adventures, and I have a couple of nice ones mapped out in St. Paul. Friday - 09.11 AM/PM Bike Commuting Two miles. PM Lifting SQ: 3/5/5/2 x 230 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 132 SLDL: 5 x 215/253 CG BP: 5 x 198 S PD: 4/4/4 x 182 Crappy workout. Felt fine, well-fueled and rested, but for some reason I lost motivation after the Presses, and my lower back felt a little funny, so I didn't push the Deadlifts and blew off the Rows. Still, glad I got something in. But maybe it's time to think about programming in one easier day per week? I'll see how the next week or two go, see if I'm reaching a saturation point. I tried to implement my idea of doing squats 3/5/5/5, but on the last set I completely lost concentration and just did two reps. I'll try it again next week and see how it goes. One tweak I discovered is to keep the bar a little closer to my face, almost hitting it, on the ascent of the overhead press. I think this reduced the moment arm, and seemed to give me slightly better leverage. Belt felt a little tight. I guess my wife was right, but I'll try it again on Monday before I revert to the old notch position. Saturday - 09.12 PM Maybe a few miles biking around with my son. Right knee felt a little sore from cleaning and organizing earlier in the day. ---------------Week 5: Cycle V--------------- Template for this week: I'll try to implement the 3/5/5/5 scheme for Squats, and do SLDLs on Monday and Friday, but conventional DLs on Wednesdays. The SLDL will continue to be pegged to the Squat at an 1.1:1 ratio, but the conventional Deadlift will increase its percentage of the Squat by .01 percent each week, until it's 1.25 times the Squat by middle of December. This week it's 1.12:1. Otherwise, everything stays the same with only the microloads increasing little by little. Sunday - 09.13 AM Bike commuting One mile. Cycling 13.19 miles, office to Ford Parkway bridge to Franklin bridge, up East River Road to UofM bus/bike route home. Knees felt a little stiff afterwards, but overall, they're feeling better every day. The feel almost normal now, so I think I've successfully managed the state fair flare-up. If this keeps up, I'll probably go for a longer ride this Saturday. Monday - 09.14 AM Bike commuting Two miles. Noon Lifting SQ: 3/5/5/5 x 230 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 132 SLDL: 3 x 5 x 253 CG BP: 3 x 5 x 198 N PD: 3 x 5 x 182 P RW: 3 x 5 x 152 Great workout, every thing felt solid and I ended with a good pump. Felt especially strong on the pulldowns for some reason. Belt didn't feel too tight again. I'm allowing my knees to go a bit wider on the squats and this seems to help them. Actually, my right knee is feeling close to normal for the first time in over three months. Every day it's a little bit better. I'm also doing some of the squat sets a little more explosively as I gain more confidence in the knee. Later I walked to pick up my daughter with my son riding his bike. Less than a mile, but my knee felt ok with it, so wondering if I'll be able to run on it a bit at some point. Maybe just a mile down on the junior high school's sandy gravel track for some plantar stimulation. Tuesday - 09.15 AM Bike commuting One mile. PM Cycling. 22.38 miles, Office to Summit to Shepard Road to Crosby Lake Regional Trail to W River Road to UofM bus route home. It was a beautiful summer day, so I thought I should take advantage of it and go for a two-hour ride instead of one. Plus my knee had been feeling pretty good so I wanted to test its recovery ability after a longer ride, to see if it still stiffened up like it had been in August. After getting down to the river, I rode up Summit Avenue, a big boulevard with regal houses on it, connecting the river to the capital four miles away. It had bike lanes but I still felt a little unsafe off my usual bike paths. After the long ascent, I then descended to riverside, and followed the Mississippi upriver along Shepard Road and then the Crosby Lake regional trail. This trail takes you into a wooded flood plain for many miles. The asphalt trail is pretty worn in some spots. I remember running on it two years ago and it was a challenge. Then I ascended up to the river road again, now up on a bluff, at the Hidden Falls Park entrance/exit. The road up is quite steep here, and for some reason I couldn't shift down into my granny gear until I had stopped. I could've powered up in my middle gear, but I didn't want to put that much pressure on my knee(s), so I walked the last 200 feet or so. Once I re-emerged on the river road, I followed my customary route of crossing over to the West Bank at Ford Parkway Bridge, and then back again on Franklin Bridge to connect with the UofM bus route on home. This is a pretty good route, and should become a standard two-hour option. Afterwards my knees felt pretty good, no post-ride soreness, so that was a further confidence-builder. Now I'm really entertaining the possibility of running once in a while, but I'm going to wait until my right knee feels completely normal. In the evening I rode another two and a half miles or so with my kids down at the park. Sure enough, my daughter proved to me that she could ride without training wheels, and she rode well. I guess it took her younger brother showing her up for her to motivate. So having to switch from running to cycling has brought the unexpected windfall of allowing my to recreate more with my kids. It probably would've been several more years before we could run together, but we can cycle together right now. Wednesday - 09.16 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. PM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 231 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 132.5 DL: 3 x 5 x 259 CG BP: 3 x 5 x 199 CG N PD: 3 x 5 x 167 P RW: 3 x 5 x 152.5 Good workout. My right knee felt a little sore after my second set of Conventional or Olympic Deadlifts, but it didn't last. I took off the belt for my third set of deadlifts, and I felt like some of my stabilizer muscles had atrophied, so I dunno, maybe I'll stop using a belt on deadlifts at least. The belt also gets a pinched a bit in the initial position of the Olympic Deadlift. Thursday - 09.17 AM Bike commuting. One mile. PM Cycling. 11.13 miles, Office to Ford Parkway Bridge to Franklin Bridge to UofM bus route home. It will be nice when they finish repairing the mud slide damage so that I can extend this route a little further up the West Bank. Then it will be a very good weekday, one-hour ride. Steady rain for the first 30-40 minutes then it cleared up for the home stretch. It felt good to cycle in the rain and I didn't have any trouble maintaining traction between my feet and the Ergon PC-2 pedals. So much better to be barefoot in the rain than in soggy shoes. My knee had stiffened up a bit during the day, without pain, apparently from the Olympic Deadlifts the day prior, so I may have to rule out Olympic Deadlifts afterall. I'll give them a another try next Wednesday, after my right knee has had a whole week to continue getting better while doing the activities that seem to have proven kosher, and if it acts up again then, I'll know that my threshold is between Deadlifts and Cycling on the degenerative meniscus tissue issue cline of inflammation: Running>Walking>Standing>Deadlifts>Cycling>Squats>Rowing>Swimming. Friday - 09.18 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Thinking a little bit about taking the Iron Ratio seriously again. I've already pegged the Bench Press to the OH Press at a 3:2 ratio. I think I might try to accelerate the rate of increase for the Squat so that it can align more quickly with the Press at its prescribed 2:1 ratio. I may go back to adding a pound to the squat's five-rep load each workout. Meanwhile, I may reduce the Press's rate of increase to a half pound per week. This would make the Iron Ratio achievable by the end of the year, provided I could maintain the Squat pace of increase. Don't know what to do about Deadlifts though. If my knees can take them, they will fall into the Iron Ratio at the same time as the Squats do, provided I can slowly bring them in line with Squats at a 5:4 ratio in the meantime. If the knees can't take it, I will have to be content with SLDLs, and an truncated Iron Ratio of 2:3:4, without the 5. In any case, the move would be towards an even more Squat-centric approach, probably with four sets to start each workout, and effectively rendering the other five lifts secondary or assistance. In essence, I'm placing my faith in Rippetoe and others' conclusion that bringing the squat up will bring up the other lifts more than vice versa. The carryover is asymmetrical, in other words, and should be reflected in my programming. Once the Iron Ratio is achieved, however, I would then peg everything to the OH Press, and work to bring that up at a greater rate of increase, if possible. The goal would be to achieve 1RMs of 200, 300, and 400 for the Press, Bench, and Squat, respectively, sometime next year. Noon 1.32 miles, dropping some forms off at my daughter's school on the way home. PM Lifting SQ: 3 x 5 x 234 TK OHP: 3 x 5 x 132.5 DL: 3 x 5 x 257 S PD: 3 x 5 x 183 MG BP: 3 x 5 x 199 P RW: 3 x 5 x 153 Well, I went ahead an increased the Squat by three pounds to bring it up to a projected 1RM of 275, my old PR. I didn't bother to test the single, but I feel pretty confident I could do it, maybe even 300 if my life depended on it, because the five-rep sets were hard but very doable. From now on, I'll increase the 5RM Squat load by one pound per workout until I can no long maintain the pace. It would be great if I could keep it up through the rest of the year, then my 5RM will be 280 by the end of the year, and the Press 140, or exactly half, which is the prescribed Iron Ratio. My knees felt fine for the SLDL, but I'll still give the Olympic Deadlift one or two more chances before I bail on them. I'm pretty sure they irritated my right knee after Wednesday's workout though. Mentally, the workout flowed well thinking that the Squat sets were the priority, and everything else was frosting on the cake. With a slower rate of increase for the Presses, I'll be able to focus a little more on the upper body pulls and all of the non-Squat lifts should feel easier over time. I don't know how long I'll stick with this, but for now, I like having one lift be the focus. Really hit the Squats hard and then coast a bit through the rest of the workout. It's just hard to give every lift equal attention and effort, although once I hit the Iron Ratio, that's what I'll probably go back to. Still not sure if I will do the Squats three or four sets though. I think four would be ideal if I can muster the mental energy and maintain focus. Since the SLDLs are pegged to the Squat load, they will be going up at a pretty good clip too. And I'll continue increasing the upper body pulls one pound a week for as long as I'm able. Meanwhile, the Press will only increase at a half pound a week, with the Bench tied to that at a 3:2 ratio, so by the end of the year I should have more structural balance, with a much stronger back. Saturday - 09.19 AM Bike Commuting Three miles, forgot my phone at home. Cycling 24.25 miles. I rode the beautiful trail following Minnehaha Creek again, from Minnehaha Falls Park by the river west to the Minneapolis lake chain, then north along the lakes--Harriet, Calhoun, Lake of the Isles--then connected to the Cedar Trail to downtown Minneapolis, across the river on the Stone Arch Bridge, and then home along the UofM bus route. There was a Gophers game going on so lots of college kids getting drunk as I passed behind the Stadium. There was a possible 8-mile extension going further north past the lake chain, still on dedicated bike paths, but I decided to play it safe and keep the ride to around two hours. Cycling is interesting in that you pass through smaller fitness worlds of walkers and runners while making your larger circuit. The trick is to string these worlds together in the most bike-friendly fashion. Luckily, city planners have already done a lot of the work for me. Just wish they mark some of the trails a little better. Once again, I made a wrong turn and had to double back a quarter mile at one point. Later my knee felt fine, just slightly stiffer, so that was a confidence-builder. And when I first got home I didn't feel tired at all, but my upper back muscles, shoulder and triceps still get fatigued from longer rides. Hard to believe I used to do this eight hours a day when I was traveling. This week, because I rode last Sunday instead of last Saturday, I logged 86 miles, which is still less than my average daily total when I was traveling. Still, felt like an accomplishment. I got my first barefoot cycling comments, nothing unusual though. First was "aren't your feet cold?" as I waited for a light as the Minnehaha Creek trail crossed a street, then "nice shoes," as a dozen middle-aged guys in full racing gear passed me on the Cedar Trail. I then followed the group at their pace for a mile or two, just for fun, before I dropped back to my pace. As I gain confidence in my knee, and it continues to get better, almost normal now, I might start pushing the pace on some of the shorter rides, or for some sections, just to build up stamina. Still on the fence about whether I like the less padded tri shorts, or the regular cycling shorts. I like the tri shorts because they have less padding and thus put almost no pressure on the sensitive areas, but it would be nice if they had a little more padding for the 'sit bones.' With the cycling shorts, the padding for the sit bones is perfect, but the extra padding under the sensitive areas does put a little pressure there. Ideally, I could buy shorts that mix the two styles of padding, but I may try simply removing the padding under the sensitive areas in my cycling shorts. So anyway, it feels great that I'm learning how to manage this knee issue. I just have to figure out the deadlifts and whether or not I can do Olympic Deadlifts once in a while, and then I think I'll be all set. I may try running a bit, but at this point, I don't want to mess with success. I know that running will aggravate the knees more, and I don't know if I see anything to be gained from running sporadically. Maybe I could do sprints or hills though. Later I changed tires on my son's bike. I bought a repair rack that I can attach to my power rack so I can work on bicycles in my garage gym. It was hard to get the small 12.5 inche tire off and on the rim. ---------------Week 6: Cycle V--------------- Template for this week: I'm going to go ahead with the Squatcentration. Squats will go up a pound per workout for as long as I'm able. The Presses will only go up a half pound per week until the Squat catches up to the Press at a 2:1 ratio. The Bench Press continues to tied to the Press at a 3:2 ratio. The upper body pulls will continue to go up a pound a week, and slightly more emphasis will be given to getting my pulldown closer to my body weight so that I can finally do proper pullups. The SLDL continues to be tied to the Squat load a 1.1:1, and I will attempt to do the Olympic Deadlift on Wednesday once again and see if it aggravates my right knee, which is feeling 95% these days. If my knees can tolerate Olympic Deadlifts, then I will continue to increase the ratio of Oly DLs to Squat until it's 5:4 by the end of the year. If it aggravates my knee or if the knee feels stiffer than usual after the workout, I will abandon Oly DLs and stick with SLDLs, still pegged to the Squat increases. It's still tempting to add assistance, or some variation, especially to the Presses, now that they will be progressing at an artificially slow rate. It might be nice, for example, to sub in dumbbell presses on Wednesday. But I think I will finish out this Cycle with the simple 3 x 5 x 6 lift protocol before I make any changes. I'm beginning to realize that for me, there may be no set program, even for an eight-week cycle. It seems like it's more a process of continuous tweaks based on daily or weekly feedback and/or learning new concepts. But reading about proper programming has served as a valuable guide in making my more subjective tweaks. On Friday's workout, I did two warm-up reps at 215, instead of doing my last warm-up reps at 175 as I usually do. This helped me get in five reps on the first workset at 234. So the problem was not doing warm-up reps close enough to the target load. Hopefully, now it will be easier to hit five reps on the first workset every time. Maybe the idea is to do the last warm-up reps at about 90% of the workset load. I've never been systematic about warm-up reps though. I usually just do a few reps at each major plate increment going up. Sunday - 09.20 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Monday - 09.21 AM/PM Bike commuting. Two miles. Lifting. PM SQ: 4 x 5 x 235 N PD: 4 x 5 x 183 DL: 3 x 5 x 259 P RW: 5 x 153 Felt like crap and only had 40 minutes, so I dropped the Presses. Felt pretty good afterwards, though, as usual. It's not very satisfying, but I broke through a new (projected) 1RM PR on the Squat--276. It was tempting to test my real 1RM, but I think I'll wait until the end of the cycle. Nonetheless, I put in the safety bolts because I was feeling pretty fatigued by the fourth or fifth rep of each set. Felt like it was possible for my energy to fail me. Indeed, the sets felt pretty hard, really took a fair amount of concentration, so I'm leaving the 'easy strength' approach behind temporarily. I seriously doubt I'll be able to add one pound to each workout for the rest of the year, but I'll give it a go. I think I decided to also boost the Pulldowns from three to four sets, and try to get to bodyweight pullups by the end of the year. A lot of that goal will depend on my ability to lose some weight. The SLDLs felt pretty good, but by the time I got to my Rows, I felt a little nauseous, so I quit after one set. So it's kind of like the Squat, Pulldown, and SLDL are my three main lifts now, and Presses and Rows are assistance, until I reach the Iron Ratio. I did miss the presses after the workout though, felt like something was missing in my post-workout recovery. Funny, the tendons in the top of my right foot felt a little sore while I was squatting. I've never felt stress there before. I guess squats work the lower leg pretty well too, just never noticed it before. Tuesday - 09.22 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Cycling. 16.43 miles. Office to River to Highway 5 Bridge, Fort Snelling trail to Minnehaha Falls to Franklin Bridge to UofM bus route home. Tried listening to music with my phone, but had to stop several times to mess with it. I wonder if I should get a handbar mount. Knees continue to tolerate cycling better and better. Barefoot cycling feels very natural now. Cycling shorts with more padding seem to be winning out over Tri shorts with less padding. Wednesday - 09.23 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Lifting. PM SQ: 3 x 5 x 236 Spent too much time mounting a Loud Bicycle horn on my bike (http://www.loudbicycle.com). It has anti-theft bolts that, together with the tight space, made it take way too long to affix to the frame. But the thing really works; it's really loud. Next time someone cuts me off . . . I also mounted a bluetooth speaker (http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B008VMT2HQ?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00) on my handlebar bag. Wow, really great sound from such a small box. Plus it's supposed to be weather proof. I'll find out for sure today because I'm going to pedal 17-18 miles in drizzle to a bike shop that has straightened out the bent crank gear of the knock-off Street Strider. The Chinese company I bought it from has completely blown me off about replacing the damaged gear, but after hunting around a bit, I found a place that could straighten it. Anyway, with the monkeying around, I didn't have much time for my workout, so I just got in the squats, and only three sets. Still, felt pretty solid, and lighter than on Monday, which is a good sign. It sucks to miss another full workout while I'm on this good roll. Hopefully I can blast it on Friday. I got an immediate pump as soon as my warm-up sets had decent resistance. Seems like my body is primed for some sweet gainz, as the kids say nowadays. Thursday - 09.24 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Cycling. 19 miles to the Bike King in Inner Groove Heights, then 16.4 miles home. So a little more than 35 miles total. On Tuesday I found someone in Inner Groove Heights who services Street Striders, on recommendation from Erik's Bike, the LBS I usually go to in Roseville, the first-tier suburb north of my neighborhood. On Wednesday I drove there to drop off the bent crank sprocket. The owner, Kip, called later and said the replacement would be $40 but that he could bend it back to true. Hmmn, the guy at Erik's said it's no use trying to bend it back when I asked them about it. Of course, if I were in the middle of Africa with this problem, I would've tried to bend it back myself since that would've been the only option. I guess I still had the mentality that the guys I bought it from should replace it, so I was thinking about replacements, not simply bending it back. So anyway, Kip bent it back using a tandem bike to mount it in and then pounded it with a rubber mallet using some gizmo to help guide him. It's only a 25-minute drive, maybe less, but since Thursday is my cycling day, I decided to bike there to pick it up. It would be about three hours round-trip, but minus the round-trip car time, it would only be a little over two extra hours travel time, and I wanted to bike an hour anyway, so I just swapped the weekend's two-hour ride for one of my weekday one-hour rides and every thing came out even--practically speaking, it wouldn't take any extra time to bike instead of drive. And I had an excuse for a new adventure. I was also a little anxious to see how my fully set-up bike, with turn signals, a horn, and speakers, would operate. It was drizzling on and off as I set off with some dancehall reggae blasting. I started off by riding down the Mississippi River Road on my usual path. After a few miles, however, my Garmin started going batty, losing the satellite then adding 10 miles when it reconnected, so my average speed was over 30mph. Crap, I wonder if I should return it, or if this area is kind of a blind spot for GPS. Anyway, from the East River Road, I crossed over to the Fort Snelling area, then crossed another bridge almost a mile long over the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, and found myself in unfamiliar territory south of the Mississippi. There's really never been any reason to come down this way, even though it's not that far away. From there I continued on a nice bike path, got expansive views of the Minnesota River Valley, but then missed my turnoff by a half-mile and so had to double back to the point from which the bike shop was a straight shot east along a county road. So I rode that for about six miles. At least half of it didn't have a bike lane, but there was a 3-4 foot asphalt shoulder marked off with a solid white line before the gravel shoulder and the traffic was sparse and courteous. It was a hilly ride, up and down. Probably the most taxing cycling I've done so far since getting back into it this summer. It's amazing how quickly the Cities become semi-rural. At the Bike King bike shop, Kip told me one of his employees would've been happy to see me cycling barefoot, as he's a barefooter himself. I told him how I used to be a barefoot runner, etc. Before leaving the area I stopped by a Chinese restaurant for some refueling. Doh, they don't take credit cards and I only had five dollars in cash on me. I promised I would send him another five when I got home. Then I took a different route home, a little shorter but through Downtown St. Paul. I descended east down to the flood plain and then followed a bike path built on top of a levee protecting South St. Paul's stockyards from flooding. There my speakers started going batty, fading in and out every measure or so. I tried to disconnect the Bluetooth connection and replace it with a 1/4-ince cord, but that didn't work for some reason. So I rode the last ten miles without sound. Too bad, that TDK box really kicks out great sound, and it's much more enjoyable riding with speakers than earbuds. After 5-6 miles I left the bike path for a busy street, but got a decent bike lane. Lots of trucks in this area, but before I knew it I was ascending towards downtown and crossing the Mississippi again. This was the first time I had really mixed it up with traffic, and I had forgotten my helmet. I made it through downtown without having to use my horn, and kept pace with the cars, and made all but the last lights before crossing the freeway. From there it was smooth sailing all the way home on Como Avenue, which has a pretty good bike lane. Once home, I felt tired but not too bad, and my knees held up great, so I celebrated with an IPA, even though it was only two in the afternoon, and set to mounting the crank sprocket on the Street Strider and finishing the set-up. Didn't quite finish though, as I had to run a few errands before picking up the kids. Should be fun on the weekend for everyone to test it out finally. Anyway, it was a great outing and I spent the rest of the day experiencing traveling flashbacks. Cycling is amazing. Little by little, you can even cross continents. Today, my city got a little smaller. And I got some ideas for some new routes next time I'm out for a longer ride. Friday - 09.25 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Lifting. PM SQ: 3 x 5 x 237 TK OHP: 2/3/5 x 132.5 DL: 5 x 267 MG BP: 3/5/5 x 199 S PD: 3 x 5 x 184 P RW: 3 x 5 x 154 Once again, a little short on time, and I really didn't feel like it. But on the last Squat warm-up set, at 215, I felt everything start to prime, and I ended up wishing I had a little more time to work out. It was one of those days when you should push it a bit and make use of the extra energy. The Squat worksets felt really solid, almost easy, and that was a relief. I was wondering if my body could adapt to the greater rate of incremental increase, but it seems to be keeping pace just fine. So a pound per workout is a good dosage for the time being. Now there's a bit of suspense as to when it will get to be too much. Next week? Two months? Next year sometime? It's fun to make up these little training games. Lifting is inherently boring in a lot of ways, so it helps to keep things interesting. I guess as long as the Squats are feeling solid, there's no need to add a fourth set, but it might be a good idea from time to time anyway, in keeping with the Rippetoean idea that Squats drive gains in all the main lifts. The Overhead Press felt a little heavy after a week off, and I could feel my shoulders weren't primed enough on the first set, so I decided to just make this workout's presses a primer for next week's, and so just built up to one complete workset on the third set. Should be good to go on Monday. I felt a little soreness in both knees on my last Oly DL warm-up set at 215. I considered reverting to SLDLs, but went ahead with the 267 workset anyway, not wanting to disappoint Abide. The workset felt fine. I decided to quit while I was ahead, however, because I was still a little sore from Thursday's long bike ride, and I was running out of time and wanted to make sure I got in a complete set of Bench Press sets at least once this week. Then it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to try doing one set of Oly DLs and then two sets of SLDLs at reduced weight. Might be a good mix and would limit the stress to my knees to one set each workout. Didn't try it due to time limitations, but I might try that on Monday. The Bench Press also needed one lower-rep set at full load to properly prime the beef, but then the next two worksets were solid. The Pulldowns are starting to get harder, so I might have to slow the rate of increase in a week or two. The Rows felt solid. Then just as I was putting away the last plates, my wife said she could pick up the kids. I thought about going back and doing the two sets of SLDLs, and maybe some assistance, but decided to call it a day and get going on the steaks. We have a ritual of eating steaks every Friday, going strong now for almost 11 years. Earlier in the day I looked into cyclometers. I wasn't happy with the way my Garmin Edge 200 went batty on Thursday's ride, and Kip at Bike King had suggested just getting a stand-alone cyclometer when I mentioned the problem to him. I used a cyclometer when I was traveling by bike more than 20 years ago. Back then, of course, satellites weren't yet available for private use. Funny this hadn't occurred to me. I just assumed GPS was the way to go, but that was probably just a carryover of habit from my running days, where GPS is really the only way to go. So I looked into it a bit and after about 15 minutes ordered a Ciclosport CM 4.41 A Computer. This was a relatively quick consumer decision for me, but I was doing it from my cellphone and I hate the tiny screen and keyboard for doing this kind of stuff. The CM 4.41 A has way more features than I'll need, but it's still a lot cheaper than the Garmin Edge 200, so I'll still save some money by making the swap. I won't have to worry about losing a satellite connection again, and it will be cool from time to time to look in on things like altitude gain and gradient. Especially if we ever make our move to the mountains. REI has a good return policy, and the Garmin is genuinely defective, so it should be easy to unload it. Edit: Oh crap, looking into things on my computer, looks like Ciclocomputer isn't a very reliable company. Oh well, the people I bought it from, chainreactioncycles, have a good return policy. Saturday - 09.26 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. ---------------Week 7: Cycle V--------------- Template for this week: I'm going to try doing Oly DLs for my first deadlift set, and then two sets of SLDLs after that. Otherwise, nothing has changed. The Presses are a half-pound heavier, the Squat will continue to increase a pound per workout, and the Deadlifts are pegged to the Squat at 1.14 for the Oly DL and 1.1 for the SLDL. The Oly DL:Squat ratio will continue to increase .01% per week until it's 1.25:1, but the SLDL to Squat ratio will remain constant at 1.1:1. Overall, the Squat, Deadlift and to a lesser extent Pulldowns are the points of emphasis, the Presses will be de-emphasized until the lower body lifts catch up, according to the Iron Ratio, and the Rows should continue to come up as the Deadlift and Pulldowns get stronger. Sunday - 09.27 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Cycling. 11.13 miles, Office to Ford Parkway Bridge to Franklin Bridge to UofM bus route home. A couple of middle-aged cyclists in full racing gear passed me up, but then couldn't maintain the pace so I tried to put some distance between us so I we wouldn't be playing that game repeatedly, and found myself pedaling at a tempo pace most of the way. Felt good. Will have to do this at least once a week. Might have to get some proper road tires for my mountain bike if I develop an interest in speed. Monday - 09.28 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. PM Lifting. SQ: 5/5/5/5 x 238 TK OHP: 2/5/5 x 133 Oly DL: 2 x 271 SLDL: 4/5/5 x 262 MG BP: 2 x 200 CG BP 4?/5/5 x 200 N PD: 5/5/5 x 184 P RW: 5/5/5 x 154 Really didn't feel like it, but the squat was very solid and I was able to do them with slightly greater velocity and yet still maintain good form. Really felt pretty good coming out of the hole most reps. New projected 1RM of 280. A hollow victory though, without actually completing the single. I balked on the first set of OHPs, but then the second two sets went up with fast, powerful reps. On the Oly DLs, my right medial meniscus complained, so I switched to SLDLs without completing the set. Maybe Oly DLs will be a day-to-day decision, but the SLDLs always feel good. I tried a slightly wider grip on the Bench Press, maybe 23-24 inches wide, but my left thumb let me know it wasn't quite ready to resume all its duties, so I went back to a Close-grip Bench, index fingers right on the beginning of the knurling, about 17 inches apart, and that felt good. The pulldowns felt really good again, and I could feel my whole body tighten up well from the tall kneeling position. I might be ready to try a few pullups soon, I'm almost pulling myself up on the last rep or two. The P Rows, as always, were a great finisher. I considered throwing in a set of knee tucks and back extensions too, but my lower back felt a little fatigued still from the combination of getting back into cycling and the squatcentration. But I think it will be a good idea at some point, to do a little more 'core' work, in order to make sure the power transmission during the squats is efficient and also, of course, to prevent injury. Tuesday - 09.29 AM Bike commuting. One mile. I put on new road tires Monday night, the Specialized Nimbus Armadillo, which I bought from my LBS earlier in the day. Opps, forgot to reattach my brake cables! Musta been distracted by my son. I didn't realize it until I was coming down a small hill. Had to put my right foot down. My sole got hot, but no abrasive damage. I guess I still have some plantar toughness from my running days. So the worst case scenario for barefoot cycling that a few people have warned me about--having my brakes go out and having to use my feet too brake--turned out to be easily surmounted. And in less stupid circumstances, the chances of having both brake cables break or malfunction are practically zero. I've only had a brake cable break once before, coming down a long descent in Turkey. I managed to continue safely with one cable until I could repair the other at night, camping out on a gas station's lawn. Cycling. 15.32 miles. Office to East River Road to Ford Parkway to West River Road to Stone Arch Bridge to UofM bus route home. This distance is getting easier, feels like my 11-mile route used to. So the cycling is settling in. I might make this my standard weekday route and then work on getting the speed up once in a while on the relatively uninterrupted sections. It will be even nicer once they repair the mudslide and open up a closed section of the river road. As it is, I have to ride in the bike lane of a busy road for a half mile or so before descending back down to the river. I was looking for an opportunity to use my horn, but everyone behaved themselves. I could feel a lot less rolling resistance with the new road tires, but the ride was also very stiff and jarring at times. Somehow my rear derailleur developed a squeak on the last two sprockets while changing the tires. My speaker's bass also rattled from time to time while I cranked my Missy Elliot Pandora station. Otherwise, beautiful sunny fall day. Wednesday - 09.30 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Lifting. SQ: 5/5/5/5 x 239 TK OHP: 3/3/5 x 133 SLDL: 3/5/5 x 265 CG BP: 3 x 175 CG PD: 5/5/5 x 170 Squats felt solid, I can really feel the form these days. I did them semi-paused. I think I can feel myself getting stronger than the microloading pace, but even if so, it's probably best to take it slow. A pound per workout will get me to where I want to be soon enough. Still balking a bit on the Press. Maybe with the static loads and super small increases I'm losing motivation? I still think it's best to see if I can get my squats to "catch up" before the end of the year though. At a ratio of 1:2, if my Press 5RM is 133, then my Squat 5RM should be 266. So still a twenty-seven-pound difference between where they are now--239--and where they should be. Nine more weeks if I hold the Press static, another month or so on top of that if I allow half/pound per week increases, which I kinda need to do in order to maintain my perhaps antiquated, 20th-century faith in progress. On the SLDLs, I felt a little niggle in my right lower back, but I felt it on the eccentric portion, so I went ahead and did three worksets anyway. I usually do these paused but this time I did them touch-n-go. It's kind of nice to vary the tempo a bit on the big lifts, I'm finding. The SLDLs are becoming an essential assistance lift to the squat; you could get pretty strong just doing Squats and SLDLs. If I'm pressed for time, I should just get those two in. If I have time for one more lift, it's a toss up between the Press and Pulldown. On the Bench Press warm-up sets, I felt a sort of muffled creakiness in my shoulders. I probably could've done the worksets OK, but since the BP is pretty static as well, I bailed. It would be pretty hard for me to fall behind on the Bench Press. It's still by far my strongest lift according to the Iron Ratio. If the creakiness continues, I might have to consider only benching twice a week. On the Close-grip Pulldowns I felt something in the erector spinae. Strange, I've never had any issues with pulldowns. I finished the worksets but then skipped the rows. I finally installed an extra pulley on my pulldown post, so that the cable is straight up and down. It had been pulling the load up at a slight angle, creating friction on the post, because I removed the pulley that suspends between the high and low cables, and halves the load. I've been meaning to do this for a long time. Had to grind out a bit more hole on the top post. Overall, just wasn't a good workout, my body felt wooden once I finished the squats. I probably needed to warm-up more. Oh well, I got the squats in, that's the main thing. Thursday - 10.01 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Getting colder, second morning I've put on my Icebreaker jacket. Cycling. 15.32 miles. Office to East River Road to Ford Parkway to West River Road to Stone Arch Bridge to UofM bus route home. Didn't use my Garmin, just copied the distance from Tuesday. Today I'm going to mount a Bontrager cycling computer, the kind that uses the wheel instead of GPS to calculate speed and distance, and then compare it with the Garmin on tomorrow's ride. I like the Bontrager because it has an altimeter too. Kind of useless here in the relatively flat Twin Cities, but could be fun when I start going on longer rides. It also has a cadence sensor and a heart rate monitor, which I doubt I'll use, unless I have a change of heart about data-driven workouts. If I like the Bontrager, I'll return the Garmin. I was really disappointed that it fizzled in the drizzle last week. Friday - 10.02 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Put on my sweat pants for the first time. Feets felt a little chilly. Thought about a winter challenge for BFC, but it doesn't really make sense. Lifting. SQ: 5/5/5/5 x 240 TK OHP: 2/3/4/5 x 120 SLDL: 5/5/5 x 265 CG BP: 5/5/5 x 180 S PD: 5/5/5 x 185 P RW: 5/5/5 x 155 Well, thought I'd try out the Iron Ratio prematurely. I noticed that the Squat 5RM had reached the nice round number of 240. Instead of waiting for my Squat to catch up to my Press, I brought my Press 5RM down to my current Squat level, which made it a nice round 120. And then the Bench Press sits in between at 180. It seem to make sense during this phase of squatcentration, to put full energy into the Squats, and make the Presses a little easier, so that I can get through the workouts in one piece. I've been feeling a little sluggish lately, and the Deadlifts also take a lot out of me. This way I may also be able to devote a little more attention to the Pulldowns, hopefully transitioning to Pullups in the not-too-distant future. Still, the OH Press felt surprisingly heavy, despite taking it down 13 pounds. Hopefully it's just a one-off occurrence. I'll give this a try all next week to see how it goes, and if it feels right, this will probably be the plan for Cycle VI. Keep working on the Squat, adding one pound per workout to it, while the OH Press and Bench Press come up at 2 and 3 ratios to the Squat's 4. When I get back close to this week's programmed OH Press load--133, or a 265-270 Squat--I'll probably upend the driver and make it the Press instead of the Squat, adding one pound a week to the Press, one and half pounds to the Bench, and two pounds to Squat. When I can no longer add one pound a week to the Press, I'll slow the rate of increase, but maintain the Iron Ratio. I think the Press will be the hardest lift to improve on once I'm back close to my old 1RM PR of 160, so it will make sense to peg everything to that once I achieve the Iron Ratio. Am I taking the numbers too seriously? Probably, but based on my intuitions and experience, I think the "structural balance" dictated by the Iron Ratio will work well for me. It means getting my posterior chain strong first, through squats and deadlifts, then using that as a base or platform for my upper body lifts. Saturday - 10.03 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Cycling. 30.21 miles. Tried the route I came up with after my trip last week to the bike shop. I had noticed a regional trail going back towards downtown St. Paul on the other side of the river after I had crossed over the mile-long Mendota Bridge. So I thought it would be neat to connect that to the other parts of the river bike paths I had already pedaled. Sure enough, it was a beautiful trip, the new section was mostly forested and about a third overall passed through forest along the flood plain. There were also multiple fantastic views of the two downtowns along the river from different vantage points. Very pleasant for an urban trail. I will probably do this again next weekend when the fall colors are peaking. I biked it late morning, when it was still a bit chilly out, in t-shirt, cycling shorts and bare feet. One attractive female cyclist asked me if I wasn't freezing. I said "no, just a hot-blooded Swede I guess." She then exclaimed the obligatory "you're crazy" as I followed her round butt slowly pulling away in full racing gear. Congratulations city planners, you've really done a good job along the river. ---------------Week 8: Cycle V--------------- Template for this week: Well, slight change in plans. I think I'm going to jump right in and peg the Iron Ratio to the OH Press, and add one pound a week to it, one and a half pounds to the Bench Press, and two pounds a week to the Squat. After hitting a 5RM Squat of 240, it might be good to slow progress a little bit. Nonetheless, I'm going to start off at a 5RM OHP of 122, which means a 5RM Squat of 244, so that I can finish the year with a Squat 1RM of 315, if I can maintain the pace. This way, I won't hit my Bench Press 1RM PR again until sometime next spring, but I think getting strong on the Squats first, then OH Press, is the right thing to do. Sunday - 10.04 1 mile or so--cycled up to the grocery store with my son. Monday - 10.05 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Lifting. SQ: 5/5/5 x 244 TK OHP: 5/5/5 x 122 SLDL: 5/5/5 x 268 S PD: 4/5/4 x 185 P RW: 5/5/5 x 155 CG BP: 5/5/5 x 183 I was a little worried about bumping up the Squat load by four pounds, but they felt solid, my form close to automatic. I only did three sets because I'm wondering if the four sets isn't sometimes a little too much for my knees, although they haven't felt really aggravated by the Squats yet. Just try to keep everything manageable. Weeks of consistent lifting now and I don't want to blow it. TK OH Press once again felt surprisingly heavy, the same as 133 a week ago. The SLDLs are getting more automatic, form-wise, but I sometimes wonder if I should bring the load down to a one-to-one correspondence with the Squat, instead of 1.1 to 1. Just a little worried about the strain on my back, although everything has felt fine. Definitely the hardest part of the workout now, after the SLDLs I start to relax a bit. Nonetheless, the Pulldown loads are starting to make it hard to finish the sets. I'll either have to slow the rate of increase, or do drop sets or slow, eccentric pullups or maybe something else to spur greater progress. Maybe even move them to the front of the workout when I'm freshest? Rows felt fine and Bench Press too. I'm making use of the lower Bench load to really try to hone my form and grip. Felt good to do the Bench at the end of the workout for some reason. Mentally, I really like the idea that the main lifts are now more or less in structural balance, load-wise, and everything can now come up together at the same rate. Conceptually very satisfying and I think also from a physical viewpoint it makes the workouts flow well and demands just the right amount of energy and motivation. Should be able to continue like this for a while, although at some point I'll probably have to either revert to my 5-8-3 scheme or try a full-body split like Abide's, because the total energy output will keep rising with heavier and heavier loads, and I'll probably start to need longer rest intervals and recovery time. Plus, I'm kind of itching to lift heavier three-rep sets once in a while. On the Squats, it would be nice to feel an even heavier load on my shoulders, I think. It would be good prep for the day my projected 1RM hits 300, because I'm almost certain to test it with a single. And for the Presses, it would probably be good to feel a heavier load once in a while so I don't become too complacent while I wait for the Squat to catch up to them. Still wondering what to do about deadlifts. Maybe just try a single once in a while, and just do SLDLs for the regular sets? I also wonder if one of the reasons that the Press is feeling heavy these days is the lack of rep variety, including the higher rep 8RM day. I think I may end this week with an 8-rep day and a 3-rep day to see how they feel, in preparation for making a plan for Cycle VI next week. Might be time to dust off ye ol' 5-8-3. Tuesday - 10.06 AM Bike commuting. One mile. Cycling. 11.2 miles, Office to Ford Parkway Bridge to Franklin Bridge to UofM bus route home. Beautiful fall morning, some trees already turning color down by the river banks. Wednesday - 10.07 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Lifting. Lifted a two-section, L-shaped desk up two half-flights of narrow stairs divided by a landing. I appreciated being in relatively good shape. The other person (whose name will not be named), pulled a muscle and was huffing and puffing for minutes after we got each section up. My heart rate quickly recovered and the load didn't feel that bad. So there's some practical utility in all this picking up and setting down barbells. Thursday - 10.08 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Slow leak after putting on new tires 10 days ago. Crips, I never get flats. One mile walking barefoot to and from my daughter's school picnic. Felt nice. Friday - 10.09 AM Bike commuting Two miles. Lifting SQ: 2/2/2/1 x 258 TK OHP: 3/3/3 x 130 SLDL: 1/1/3 x 284 S PD 3/3/3 x 190 Well, I decided to finish up this cycle's lifting by experimenting with triples. I hadn't worked out in two days, so I was a little cold. On the Squat 258 felt heavy so I decided to just do two reps instead of three, to prime my back and knees for next cycle, when hopefully I'll be doing triples every Friday. My knees felt a little strain I think, so I may have to rethink doing triples, but I think it was mostly because I hadn't lifted or cycled for two days, and so was a little tight. Plus I had been on my feet more than usual, helping my dad move his office and sorting through and getting rid of a ton of crap. I've found just being on my feet for a while can be more strain on my meniscus than cycling or squatting. It's the ongoing load-bearing I guess. Anyway, if my back and knees can handle it, I think it will be nice doing these heavier loads once a week. I also like how it's easier to recover from triples than quintuples, even though the load is 5%1RM higher. Those last two reps seem to really suck up the glycogen. The Press went up pretty easy, which seems to confirm my suspicion that I've been overtraining a bit, because Monday's lighter load felt heavier. I think taking Wednesday off helped, which supports the idea of making Wednesday more of an lighter, higher-rep assistance day like I have planned for Cycle VI. The SLDL felt really heavy, but I think the problem was not doing enough warm-up reps, because the third set felt OK. No, actually it felt awesome to lift that heavy weight. Still, I wonder if I should make the SLDLs the same load as Squats. As Dan John said (https://www.t-nation.com/training/10-secrets-to-building-mass) for his mass building program, SLDLs should work as a 'tonic' for Squats, so perhaps they shouldn't require equal effort. Then again, if they're my substitute for Olympic DLs, perhaps keeping them relatively heavy is a good thing. It certainly feels good to lift that much weight off the ground. It's empowering to feel powerful. The Supine Pulldowns felt great. And I got a good pump. In general, I've been getting more pumped the last few workouts, which indicates either that I've worked my way up to a good level now, or that I'm on the verge of overdoing it, and need to move into more of an intermediate program, because the constant 3x5 was getting to be too much. In any case, I've already decided to switch to more an intermediate program next cycle. I'll see if it needs further tweaks to avoid overtraining. Some people pooh pooh the idea of overtraining, but I think for older liftings with slower recovery, it might be a real risk. I might only have two intense workouts per week in me, now that the loads are getting up there. So I'm ending the cycle on a good note. Made some good gains in the Squat and got it up high enough that I can align the OHP and BP loads with it according to the Iron Ratio without feeling too guilty about doing OHP and BP loads that are below my true capacity. Now I can bring everything up together, no matter how slowly. And even if my knees won't allow me to go much further with the Squat, I feel like I'm already at a good level, and could probably progress just by consistently lifting loads in the mid-200s. And if my squat really stalls or my knees can't take higher loads, I'll abandon the Iron Ratio and push the upper body stuff more. But for the moment, I have to say, I do feel more balance, so I'll be happy to let everything progress slowly if it means maintaining this balance. The only thing that really needs to come up now are the Pulldowns/Pullups, which will be my point of emphasis next cycle. Saturday - 10.10 AM Bike Commuting Two miles. Wanted to get in the same 30-mile ride I did last weekend, but there are some pressing family matters, so I'll try it tomorrow to start off Cycle VI. ===================================================================== Welcome to Cycle VI! This will be our last eight-week cycle, followed by a shortened four-week cycle to finish up the year. As always, everyone is welcome to participate, either by entering their logs or commenting as topics come up. The only criterion for entering a log is that it should document both an aerobic and anaerobic component, done concurrently, usually within the same training week. Note: Although I can no longer run, I have kept the title unchanged, for continuity. But perhaps it would be more accurate to call this thread "Concurrent Strength & Aerobic Training . . . " ? ----------------------------------------------------------------- ---------------Assessment of Cycle V--------------- Last cycle was very successful for me. The biggest achievement was being able to train consistently without any rehab or illness issues. Aerobic I was able to establish cycling as a good substitute for running, after I found out in the previous cycle that I have degenerative meniscus cartilage. So far, my knees have been tolerating cycling very well, and I’ve ridden up to 30 miles without any problem. Anaerobic Emphasis. Lifting-wise, bringing up my squat was my main focus. I was able to go from a 215-pound 5RM to a 245-pound 5RM, a gain of 30 pounds, which projects to going from a 253-pound 1RM to a 287-pound 1RM, a gain of 34 pounds. I think I have another 30-50 pounds of fairly easy, consistency-based Squat gains in me. Experiments. I experimented with maintaining a strict 3x5 set-rep scheme every workout, which ended up working well for me. Mentally, it’s nice not having to think too much about varying lifts or reps/loads. The workouts become fairly mindless and Zen-like. Physically, I think it was easier for my body to adapt via microloading when the stressors were held nearly constant. Nonetheless, towards the end of the cycle, I did feel possible effects of overtraining, as the second or third weekly workout often felt a little sluggish. It can also get a little boring doing exactly the same thing every workout. Loading. Microloading the Squat 5RM 2-3 pounds per week, or about one pound per workout, I was able to surpass my 5RM PR towards the end of the cycle. Soon after, I decided to align the Presses with the Squat using the Iron Ratio, which meant bringing the Overhead and Bench Press loads down. Finally, I experimented a little with Olympic or conventional Deadlifts, but on the whole, I’ve found Stiff-legged Deadlifts are the easiest on my knees. ---------------Programming for Cycle VI--------------- Aerobic The nature of urban cycling makes it difficult to set specific training goals. I will simply continue to improve my aerobic capacity and perhaps work in a few sprints or tempo rides occasionally, and perhaps try longer-than-30-mile rides once in a while. As it gets colder, there’s a 50-50 chance I’ll make good my threat to start swimming regularly. If I do, then I will probably develop some goals for the following cycles. This will be easy, since I’ll be starting at virtually zero swimming ability. Anaerobic Experiment. I will continue to use the Iron Ratio (OHP : BP : SQ : DL = 2:3:4:5) to guide my loading. But in contrast to last cycle, where I kept the set-rep scheme nearly constant at 3 x 5 for every workout, in this cycle I will return to my 3 x 5/8/3 rep scheme. Taking up Abide’s suggestion to use each training cycle as an opportunity to experiment with and/or tweak our plans, I want to see how reinserting rep-count variation will feel after following a unchanging rep-count plan. Plus, towards the end of Cycle V, once I surpassed my old 1RM PR (as projected from the 5RM), and the 5RM loads began to feel relatively heavy while de-racking, I became curious to test my single, and also handle heavier loads more frequently. So having a 3RM day may satisfy these needs, or at the very least better prepare me to test a single, or a single at the 2RM load, within a few weeks. I lift without a spotter, and I’m still a little unsure about what my knees’ limits are, so I don’t know if it’s a good idea to test singles once I’m over 300 pounds. Triples might be a good proxy. It will also be nice to work in heavier loads for the Presses once a week while I’m waiting for the Squat to catch up to them, Iron Ratio-wise. Loading. Also in contrast to last cycle, where I microloaded my 5RM, and projected the 1RM using that, I will return to microloading my 1RM, as I had done in previous cycles, and then take percentages of that to determine loads for each rep count. For Monday’s five-rep sets, I will use 85% of the 1RM. For Wednesday’s eight-rep sets, I will use 75%, and for Friday’s three-rep sets, I will use 90%. Emphasis. What’s more, and once again in contrast to last cycle, where I focused on building up my Squat, in this cycle I will focus on building up my Pullup. I would like to include it in the Iron Ratio at a 1:1 correspondence with the Bench Press. To that end I will begin each workout with Pulldowns, and may try drop sets on the third set (fairly easy to do with my cable pulldown loader), and then between other lifts, work in either assisted Pullups or slow eccentrics or both. Back to Loading. So, initially, using the Iron Ratio, I will try adding one pound per week to my Pullup/Pulldown 1RM, two thirds of a pound to my Press, a pound to my Bench Press, and a pound and a third to my Squat. Theoretically, I will also add one and two thirds pounds a week to my Deadlift, but I don’t know how much I may actually test it in practice. The net effect of focusing on getting my Pullups stronger will be to slow the rate of weekly load increase. Whereas last cycle I was adding one pound per week to the OHP 5RM, for example, in this cycle I will be adding just 85% of 2/3 of a pound. The idea is to incorporate Dan John’s concept of “easy strength,” along with Jim Wendler’s recommendation of slow, gradual progress, while pursuing Poliquin’s ideal of “structural balance” (https://www.t-nation.com/training/achieving-structural-balance). Hopefully, building a balanced base more slowly over time will allow me to go further in the end. Every workout should be about moderate intensity, and load increases will be contingent on making progress in the Pulldown/Pullup. One More Experiment. Finally, in this cycle I think I will try to work in more assistance stuff in earnest. If the workouts do in fact become easier, then this should be possible, in terms of time, if not necessarily in terms of motivation. I will also try to make Wednesday’s 8-rep day more of a lift variation/ROM day, subbing in things like Overhead Squat for the Back Squat, and Dumbbell Presses for Barbell Presses. So the basic scheme is as follows (essential lifts in boldface): Monday – 3 x 5 Neutral-grip Pulldowns (N PD) Back Squat (SQ) Pullups (PU) – one set assisted or slow eccentrics Tall Kneeling Overhead Press (TK OHP) Pullups – one set assisted or slow eccentrics Stiff-legged Deadlift (SLDL) Pullups – one set assisted or slow eccentrics Bench Press (BP) Pendlay Row (P RW) 2x8 1DB Row Back Extensions Landmine Twist Wednesday – 3 x 8 Close-grip Pulldowns (CG PD) Overhead Squat (OH SQ) Pullups – one set assisted or slow eccentrics One-hand Dumbbell Press (1DB OHP) Pullups – one set assisted or slow eccentrics Stiff-legged Deadlift Pullups – one set assisted or slow eccentrics Two-hand Dumbbell Bench Press (2DB BP) Pendlay Row 2x8 Dips Pullovers One-hand External Rotation Friday – 3 x 3 Supine-grip Pulldowns (S PD) Back Squat Pullups – one set assisted or slow eccentrics Tall Kneeling Overhead Press Pullups – one set assisted or slow eccentrics Stiff-legged Deadlift Pullups – one set assisted or slow eccentrics Bench Press P Row 2x8 1DB Row Back Extensions Landmine Twist Of course, all this could change after the first week. As Mike Tyson said, "Everyone has a plan, until they get hit." Overall, I think I've found three different set-rep schemes that work reasonably for me, in terms of results and motivation. First, there's the full-body split, which alternates deadlifts and squats along with two of the four main upper body lifts (OHP, BP, RW, and PU/PD). I did these 3x1, 3x3, & 2x5 for each of the three lifts in a workout. Second, there's the full-body, six lifts 3 x 5/8/3 scheme I'll be trying a second time this cycle. Finally, there's the ultra simple full-body, six lifts 3 x 5 scheme I did last cycle. Hard to say if any one of these is superior. Perhaps the best way to go would be to do a different one each cycle? ---------------Week 1: Cycle VI--------------- Template for this week: Note: the numbers for the OH Squat, DB Press, and DB Bench Press and some of the assistance lfits are first-approximations. I'll find out Wednesday how close they are to my actual capacity. Sunday - 10.11 AM Bike Commuting. One mile. Cycling. 29.5 miles, same route as last long ride, along both banks of the river. This time, however, I didn't go down onto the trails along the river banks, but rather stayed up on the bluffs when given the option. My family was anxious to go on a picnic this last summery day of the season, so I tried to be quick about it. Nonetheless, I was stopped after crossing over the bridge from downtown St. Paul to South St. Paul by a photographer of bicycles. He asked if he could snap a few photos of my bike and we chatted a bit about bike paths and our respective knee issues. He used to race road motorcycles and screwed up an ACL, had to graft some cartilage to fix it, but it's still weak. Here's one of the photos he took. You can see my horn, pump, and the blinkers mounted on my front fender and a little of the one mounted on the back: I'll take a photo of the handlebar do-dads one of these days. Monday - 10.12 My son's daycare took a day off for professional development, forcing many of us parents to take a day off as well. So I stayed home with my son. I got in two miles or so of barefoot walking around the neighborhood. Later, I tried to squeeze in my first workout, but I was dehydrated and my son distracting. N PD: 5/5/5 x 185, 5 x 180/175/170 SQ: 2/1 x 247 The pulldown drop-sets went well. I remember doing this at the University of Chicago gym with the lat pulldown's stack and pin set-up. Felt a little strange to start the workout with pulldowns instead of squats though. Might have to rethink that. On the second rep of squats I felt a head rush coming on. My head felt like it was swelling up like a hot air balloon, so I racked the bar. I felt OK after a bit however, so I tried another set, but the same thing happened on my first rep, so I called it a day. I think being dehydrated two days in a row may have increased my blood pressure or something. Just as well, my son was getting antsy to go pick up his sister at her school, so I wasn't likely to get through the whole workout anyway. Now I have to decided what to do Tuesday or Wednesday. Go through with the eight-rep day, or try this workout again. That's the nice thing about the unchanging 3x5 daily plan. If you skip a workout, you just do it next time. With weekly plans, you need some kind of flow chart to deal with contingencies. I may try to do this workout again today (Tuesday) and then try the lighter assistance stuff tomorrow. Not a good start to the cycle . . . Tuesday - 10.13 AM Bike commuting. One mile. PM 2.6 miles Thought about not cycling and doing Monday's missed lifting, then thought about not doing Monday's lifting and cycling to pick up the kids, then ended up doing nothing when I had to pick up my daughter a bit early and then she wanted to come along and pick up her brother (cycling to pick up the kids only works if I pick up my son first). OK, in order to avoid this indecisiveness and intrusion, the flow chart for the 5-8-3 plan has to be 5-8-3 > 5-3 > 5. This can also be thought of as a Medium-Light-Heavy sequence, sort of, so M-L-H > M-H > M Or Medium Intensity/Medium Volume -- Low Intensity/High Volume -- High Intensity/Low Volume > Medium Intensity/Medium Volume -- High Intensity/Low Volume > Medium Intensity/Medium Volume If I miss a workout, I do the five-rep and three-rep workouts on the two remaining, normally scheduled lifting days. The eight-rep workout is the first to go, in keeping with the Texas Method idea that the five-rep workout is the cornerstone of the workout week, and intensity day, on Friday, is used to test any strength gained on Monday. TM's Wednesday workout is supposed to be an easy or light day, but I've given it a twist by making it more of a higher rep and assistance/ROM variation day. I've also subbed in three-rep sets for TM's intensity day, at a percentage of 1RM that assumes a similar effort level as on Monday, but at a higher load. So I keep TM's variations in intensities, but keep the overall effort level about the same workout to workout. Anyway, following the same logic, if I miss two workouts, I should still do the five-rep workout on the one day remaining, since it's the most important rep-count of the week, the one that combines volume (higher reps) and intensity (higher loads) into a happy medium. So, basically, if I miss Monday, I do five reps on Wednesday and three reps on Friday. If I miss both Monday and Wednesday, I do five reps on Friday. It screws things up if I try to switch aerobic and lifting days around. Best to keep the M-W-F = lifting, T-Th-Sa/S = aerobic schedule intact. This way, if I miss a workout, it effects the next equivalent workout, not the next workout day. And I think if I miss more than one lifting workout, then I should probably not microload the next week, but rather repeat the same loads. OK, got that straight . . . simple, but important. Besides regular, feasible scheduling and a willingness to work out even when you don't feel like it, another key to consistency is having a back-up plan. And consistency is the only parameter that really counts. The various configurations of intensity, frequency, volume, selection, and order mean nothing without it. Anyway, looks like this week I'm doing everything five-reps on Wednesday. Wednesday - 10.14 AM Bike Commuting. Two miles. I have been thinking about taking the SLDLs down a bit, because they seem to take more out of my lower back than Squats. Reading around a bit, a lot of people put the SLDL to DL ratio at 80%. Mine has been closer to 90%, because I had the SLDL pegged to the Squat at 1.1:1, and the Deadlift pegged to the Squat at 1.25:1. I think I'll try the more common 80% as an convenient and perhaps valid excuse to bring the SLDLs down. So now the Squat and SLDL loads will be the same, both 80% of the conventional Deadlifts. More Iron Ratio tweaking . . . Press x 1.5 = Bench, Pullup/Pulldown Press x 2 = Squat, SLDL Press x 2.5 = Deadlift Just have to figure out where Rows fit in. Right now they're somewhere between the Press and Bench Press/Pullup. PM Lifting. SQ: 3/5/2 x 248, 2 x 218 CG PD: 5/5/5 x 170, 5 x 160/155/150 SLDL: 3/5/5 x 248 PU, slow eccentrics: 5 PU, assisted (Green Band=50lbs): 5 TK OHP: 2/4/5 x 124 P RW: 5/5/5 x 157 MG BP: 3/5/5 x 185 Did Monday's workout, five-rep sets, except I put the Squats back in the beginning, because the multiple warm-up sets required and the Squat's full-body nature make for a much better warm-up than Pulldowns. My right kneecap felt a little pressure however, so I cut two of the sets short. I tried the eight-rep load to see if that felt better, but the patella still wasn't happy, so I called it a day. Strength-wise, the squats felt fine, and I didn't have any head-rush issues like I did on Monday, despite being a bit sleep-deprived. I was thinking I may be reaching my squat limit, but Monday was just a bad day, probably just dehydration. The drop-sets on the Pulldowns continue to feel very good, even though I screwed up the loading a bit, and did the first drop-set ten pounds lighter rather than five. But the idea of doing slow eccentrics or assisted Pullups in between the following lifts probably isn't going to work. It's just too much, and I'm already at my limits energy-wise with a six-lift, full-body workout. Maybe at the end of the workout I can do something like that, but I might just rely on the drop-sets to bring my Pulldowns/Pullups up for a while, see how that goes. It felt good to have lowered the SLDL load to match that of the Squat, plus it makes it simple to think about the load. The exact plates are already out and for some reason it's somehow satisfying to do the same load two different ways. It felt a little weird to do my Presses after the Deadlift, since I have been doing the SQ-OHP-DL order for so long, but I still had enough juice to get through them no problem. The Rows and Bench Press were relatively easy, although the first set of Bench Press was a little cranky in the left shoulder due to having missed the movement for over a week. I think the emphasis on Pulldowns may already be having some carryover to the Rows. With a limited ability to do conventional Deadlifts, I may have to think about making Rows my next lift of emphasis. Maybe next cycle . . . OK, just noticed that the Rows are pretty much exactly between the OH Press load and the BP load, so the Iron Ratio is complete: Press x 1.25 = Pendlay Row Press x 1.5 = Bench, Pullup/Pulldown Press x 2 = Squat, SLDL Press x 2.5 = Deadlift Or 2:2½:3:4:5 For the formalist mind, this is extremely satisfying. It inspires this diagram, a sideways Iron Cross: Kind of like an Orthodox Christian cross from Ethiopia: Instead of training, I'm crusading. Overall, despite bailing on the Squat sets, the workout felt pretty balanced and the effort-level about the same for all the lifts. I think structural balance has been achieved, and I really don't mind doing the presses at lower loads while I wait for the Squat and Pulldown/Pullup to catch up. I think it's the right thing to do and I will probably achieve better results this way in the long run. I may just repeat this week's loads next week, to solidify the new plan, depending on how Friday's workout goes. At night I slept like a baby as I felt my whole body engage in protein synthesis. BTW, got this http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00JYNJBS6?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=od_aui_detailpages00 in anticipation of learning how to swim better this winter. It's great because you can control the buoyancy, so as I get better, I can decrease it, eventually swimming without the vest, but in the beginning, it will be nice to have some extra buoyancy so I can relax and concentrate on technique. Kind of like microloading the buoyancy. I thought of this because I actually first learned how to swim snorkeling in the Caribbean when I was 24. The extra buoyancy of sea water gave me the confidence to go out a little farther each day while I stayed with my grandfather's cousin in his tropical paradise on St. Vincent Island. Thursday - 10.15 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Had a nice route planned out, but I decided to spend the time getting other stuff done. Plus my knee felt a little sore, so I thought I'd save it for the Squat and SLDL triples on Friday. Friday - 10.16 AM Bike commuting. Two miles. Toes felt a little nippy, about time for some kind of footwear it appears. PM Lifting SQ: 3/3/3 x 261 S PD: 3/3/3 x 196, 3 x 191/186/181 SLDL: 3/3/3 x 261 TK OHP: 3/3/3 x 131 P RW: 3/3/3 x 167 MG BP: 3/3/3 x 196 Everything felt smooth and solid, not too easy, not too hard. A good ending to the first week. Saturday - 10.17 Four hours barefoot in the woods, 40s. ---------------Week 2: Cycle VI--------------- Template for this week: I got rid of the assisted Pullup sets in between lifts, but may try them after doing all six of the main lifts. This week I'll also try to do dumbbell OHP and BP on Wednesday and see if they're worth doing, for greater ROM, or if it's best just to keep honing my technique on the barbell presses. After that, the plan for the cycle should be set--pure microloading the six lifts, following the Iron Ratio, with the Pulldown load as the base unit. Sunday - 10.18 Nap with the kids after I got back from my retreat. Monday - 10.19 PM Lifting SQ: 5/5/5 x 248 N PD: 5/5/5 x 186, 5 x 181/176/171 My daughter was home with the stomach flu and my body started feeling a little achy towards the end of the afternoon. So it was a relief when my wife and son came home and interrupted my workout just as I was doing a 175 warm-up set of SLDLs. My left hip area didn't feel right, so I was OK with calling it a day, although it would've been nice to get in the presses and row. I got in the two essential lifts, that should enough to set up Wednesday and Friday's workouts. Tuesday - 10.20 AM Bike Commuting. Two miles. Starting to really miss my longer rides . . . Wednesday - 10.21 PM Lifting SQ: 219 x 7/7/8 CG PD: 5 x 171/171/171/166/166/161 SLDL: 219 x 7/8/8 2DB S OHP: 25 x 8/8, 30 x 8, 40 x 5 P RW: 137 x 8/8/8 2DB N BP: 40 x 8/8/8 Back Ext: 8 x BW, 8 x BW+25 Felt good to do Squats and SLDLs at higher reps, although mentally the last rep was hard to complete. With the lighter load, I could really concentrate on form and doing the reps with a steady rhythm. If I had a higher ceiling, I might swap the Squats for OH Squats but maybe I should still do a set of them with just the bar after completing the low-bar sets. It felt good to do both the OHP and BP with dumbbells; I liked the fuller ROM and slightly different leverages. I did relatively easy weights to get a feel for where I'm at. Next week I'll try to get it up to optimal resistance, but I may sub Dips in for the BP Dumbbell Press. Seems like a similar ROM, but I think I would get more benefit from Dips. I think I should probably do dumbbell rows on Wednesday too, because it seems a little pointless to do Pendlay Rows at lighter loads. So it could be considered a kind of a hybrid higher rep day for the lower body lifts and dumbbell substitution day for two or three of the upper body lifts. This brings it more in line with the Texas Method's "light" day in the middle of the week, and it felt good to have a relatively easy day. Should set me up nicely for Friday's heavy day. I've been feeling for the last month or two that three full workouts per weeks is a bit much. Two and a half, effort-wise, might be better. I guess with the dumbbells though, I'm getting away from Rippetoe's idea that you only need barbells to build basic strength. I think the dumbbell variations will contribute directly to my development, and I've always been mystified that he doesn't place more emphasis on chin-ups and rows. Seems like they really help drive gains in the presses, but who am I to argue with 30 years' experience? Just feels right for me. Got in some Back Extensions assistance finally. Feels like I should be doing some 'core' stuff more regularly. As my Squat and SLDL loads move up, I want to make sure my lower back and stomach are plenty strong for efficient power transmission. Next time I'll try some hanging knee tucks too. And if I can incorporate Dips and DB Rows into my regular six lifts order, then maybe I can manage doing just two assistance lifts after each workout, like Back Extensions and LM Twists on M-F, and Pullovers and Upright Rows on W. All Abide's talk about his traps has me wanting to target them a bit more too. Upright Rows are supposed to be bad for the shoulders, but I don't know. If I feel something, I'll switch to shrugs, but I used to like Upright Rows quite a bit as a finishing exercise. Thursday - 10.22 AM Bike Commuting Two miles. PM Cycling 30.93 miles. I did the reverse of the route I did on the first Sunday of this cycle. I missed the peak colors, but the route was still pretty beautiful, and I came down off the bluff to the river banks whenever I could. This led to a few nice, short climbs in my little-used granny gear. Despite not cycling much for 10 days, my legs felt fine. Once again, it's more my upper back that gets fatigued. I went out in my Sugoi tri-shorts and missed the padding of my regular cycling shorts. I only slept three hours the night before, so I cycled about as much as I slept. This helped me sleep like a baby the next night. Friday - 10.23 PM Lifting SQ: 3/3/3 x 263 S PD: 3 x 197/197/197/192/187, 5 x 182 SLDL: 3/3/3 x 263 TK OHP: 3/3/3 x 131 P RW: 3/3/3 x 165 MG BP: 3/3/3 x 197 This is getting to be my favorite workout of the week. Heavy loads but not too fatiguing. It's pretty gratifying that my Squat triple is approaching my old 1RM PR. I thought about trying some conventional Deadlifts and seeing how much above 300 I could go, but I'm enjoying the relative ease of SLDL loads matching my Squat loads, and treating them like a Squat 'tonic' as Dan John calls them. The presses felt a little cranky. I've been taking them for granted, but I guess I need to practice the movements regularly or else it takes my shoulders a workset or two to lube up, even though the loads for both the OHP and BP are still below my capacity. My knees are coming up off the floor on the Supine Pulldowns. The time to begin proper Chin-ups/Pull-ups is drawing near. Triples are supposed to be 90% of a 1RM, and my 3RM chin-up is now close to 200 pounds, so I should be able to do one Pullup at a BW of about 220. I'm still over 245 however, but it might be worth giving it a try, even if I fail. And Supine Pulldowns seem to engage the biceps more than proper Chin-ups, so perhaps my back muscles, if fully engaged, could already be ready. Saturday - 10.24 ---------------Week 3: Cycle VI--------------- Template for this week: I think I may have finalized Wednesday's variation/higher rep/ROM/light workout. Moving Dips and 1DB Rows into the main lifts allows me to program just two optional assistance lifts for all three workouts, so hopefully I'll be better able to get around to the latter a bit more often. Otherwise, more of the same on Monday and Friday: relentless microloading. Sunday - 10.25 Getting my daughter's new room ready. Monday - 10.26 PM Lifting SQ: 3/5/3 x 249 N PD: 5/5/5 x 187, 5 x 182/177/172 RDL: 2/5/5 x 249 TK OHP: 3/5/5 x 125 P RW: 5/5/5 x 157 MG BP: 3/3/3 x 187 My right kneecap felt a little something on the Squats, but the actual load felt fine. I'm getting more comfortable with the feel of these heavier loads. I tried a slightly wider stance on the last set, and this seemed to help relief pressure on my kneecap. So perhaps I need to experiment a little with stance once again. Then I got interrupted for 30 minutes, and really didn't feel like lifting again after I lost my warm-up, but I also didn't want another half-workout to start out the week as in Weeks One and Two. So I got through everything and of course was glad I did afterwards. I considered blowing off the presses, but I think with the full-body concept, everything contributes to everything else, a sort of multiple, intertwining carryover, so I shouldn't be so dismissive of the presses even though the loads are below my capacity. They are still contributing to overall development, and need to be done together with the other lifts for optimal effect, I think. Plus, the microloading approach relies on consistent frequency to get results. Otherwise, if I miss lifts or workouts, it would probably be better to go to more of a full-body split, higher intensity workout. Still didn't get in my assistance or core work. Oh well, some day . . . Wondering if I should just focus on Supine Pulldowns (Chin-downs?) while I make this push. Neutral Pulldowns are harder. Might be best just to try to get better at one technique first, then add variation in grips, I dunno. Tuesday - 10.27 AM Bike Commuting. One mile. Crap another slow leak in my new Schwalbe tubes. Must be a spoke or something poking through. The rip on my second flat tube was just a confounding factor. It felt good to get back on the bike after many days off. Looks like they're just about done restructuring the road I go on every day. Just have to do the final surfacing looks like. They've been at it for months, but they've always found a way for pedestrians and cyclists to work their way through the construction, so it's been nice cycling half the route without any traffic. PM Cycling 11.2 miles, Office to Ford Parkway to Franklin to UM bus route home. I didn't have time to repair my new slow leak in my rear tire, so I hoofed it throughout the ride, stopping three times to reinflate the tire as the rolling resistance became too much. Felt good to cycle at a tempo pace. I had already thought about this, but I think this may be the way to go for my weekday rides, but without the leak. I went from a 10-12 mph average to more like a 13-15mph average. Knees handled it well and it was less fatiguing for my upper back. ------------------------------------ Thinking once again about scheduling some kind of mini session in my office Tu-Th-Sa/Su, maybe shift the Pullups, Dips, Back Extensions, and Ab stuff out of M-W-F so that I actually do them, together with some kind of mobility work and perhaps HIIT on the rower. Perhaps an everyday frequency would work to keep me more limber, and doing Pull-downs one day and Chin-ups the next would help grease the groove as I push to make progress on those. So, Mon Squat: 3 x 5 Neutral-grip Pull-downs: 3 x 5; 3 x 5 dropsets Romanian Deadlift: 3 x 5 Tall-kneeling Overhead Press: 3 x 5 Pendlay Row: 3 x 5 Medium-grip Bench Press: 3 x 5 (Assistance) Landmine Twist: 3 x 5 Tues Mobility: 10 mins Chin-ups: 5 mins Dips/Plyometrics: 5 mins Back Extensions: 5 mins Hang Tuck/Crunches: 5 mins Rowing HIIT/Short Bike Ride: 30-40 mins Wed Squat: 3 x 8 Close-grip Pull-downs: 3 x 5; 3 x 5 dropsets Romanian Deadlift: 3 x 8 Two-hand Dumbbell Press: 3 x 5 One-hand Dumbbell Row: 3 x 5 Pullovers: 3 x 5 (Assistance) Two-hand Dumbbell Shrug 3 x 5 Thurs Mobility: 10 mins Chin-ups: 5 mins Dips/Plyometrics: 5 mins Back Extensions: 5 mins Ab Wheel/Crunches: 5 mins Rowing HIIT/Hill Running: 30-40 mins Fri Squat: 3 x 3 Supine-grip Pulldowns: 3 x 3; 3 x 3 dropsets Olympic Deadlift: Singles or Doubles Tall-kneeling Overhead Press: 3 x 3 Pendlay Row: 3 x 3 Medium-grip Bench Press: 3 x 3 (Assistance) Landmine Twist: 3 x 5 Sat/Sun Mobility: 10 mins Long Bike Ride/Swim: 1-3 hours This would work especially well in the Winter, when I won't feel like riding my bike three times a week, and I'm doubting already whether I'll feel like dealing with the rigmarole of swimming more than once a week. Wednesday - 10.28 PM Lifting SQ: 220 x 8/8/8 CG PD: 5 x 172/172/172/167/162/157 RDL: 220 x 8/8/8 2DB S OHP: 35 x 5, 40 x 5/5 1DB RW: 105 x 5/5/5/5 (one set = one hand) Pullover: 45 x 5, 65 x 8 Squats felt easier, with no knee issues. The slightly wider-than-shoulder-width stance seems to be an improvement. Even if my knees won't permit me to go much heavier, it's reassuring to know I can probably do loads in this range without any issue. It's probably enough for general fitness. Getting over 300 will just be frosting on the cake. I did all of the warm-up sets unbelted, did the Squat worksets belted, and then took off the belt for the rest of the workout. I'm thinking Wednesday's workout should probably be unbelted throughout. The Two-hand Dumbbell Presses felt great. Not sure if I should try to make these 8 reps too. It felt really good to do the One-hand Dumbbell Rows again after many months, as well as Pullovers. These could also be done 8 reps, to satisfy my formalist mind and have the whole Wednesday workout be eight reps again. Plus it's probably good for a little hypertrophy. My family came home just as I was about to do the third Pullover set, and everyone wanted Daddy's attention. I tried to finish the workout 20 minutes later, but the motivation had left. I also wanted to try the Dumbbell Upright Rows/High Pulls, sort of a reverse Dip, as assistance. Oh well. Overall, I was quite pleased with this workout. It was definitely time to work in more exercise and ROM variation. Thursday - 10.29 PM--throughout Pullups, Green Band Assisted: 2/2/2/2/4.5 Back Extension: 28 lbs weighted vest x 8 The grease the groove pullups worked well. I tried to do a set every 30-60 minutes. At first I just did two, but on the last set I almost did five, so I guess four reps x five sets will be the initial volume. It would be interesting to know how much weight I'm actually pulling up at the bottom. I'd guess at least 190, but I could be way off. I did some back extensions too, but I woke up at 2:30 am and I felt like crap, so I blew off the rest of the extensions and the other stuffed I had planned. Oh well, the good news is that I think some version of this non-lifting day workout is going to work. Friday - 10.30 Sore throat and body aches, weird dreams and lethargy. Saturday - 10.31 Flu, but managed to get through trick or treating. ---------------Week 4: Cycle VI--------------- Sunday – 11.01 Flu Monday – 11.02 Starting to feel better. Tuesday - 11.03 Flu symptoms gone, just sore throat, some congestion, and fatigue. Knees feel great from inactivity. PM One mile walk commute. Wednesday - 11.04 Thursday - 11.05 Friday - 11.06 Saturday - 11.07 Could've worked out Friday or Saturday. I could feel my muscles getting primed again, but stuff came up, and it was easy to blow it off. I'm reaching the dangerous point now where the urge to work out can be overtaken by the dread of getting back to it. ---------------Week 5: Cycle VI--------------- Template for this week: I'll just be repeating what I planned to do for Week Four. Actually, given that it took several weeks for this cycle's plan to solidify, I could almost consider this Week One in Cycle VII and take it to the end of the year. Sunday – 11.08 AM Walk commuting. One mile walk commute, 38F/32F Windchill. Felt good to get the feets a little numb. I walked because my bike was still in my office, checking to see if the air pressure would hold over night so I can get in a bike ride. Noon Cycling 10.1 miles, Office-Ford Parkway-Marshall-Home. I noticed a little bulge in my sidewall while stretching out on Ford Parkway Bridge's handrails. I had a hell of a time getting my tire off and damaged the rim and tire a bit. I let out a little air, tried to tuck the wire bead back in, and made my way home nervously, cutting my route short. Crap, now I've got something else to trouble-shoot. No more slow leak at least. Monday – 11.09 AM Bike-commuting Two miles. PM Lifting SQ: 1/2 x 250 After more than a week off due to my mild flu bug, I was going to ease into the five-rep squats by going 1/2/3/4/5 x 250, but my right hamstring felt a little tight and then stretched on the second set. I did another rep, but it still felt sore, so I called it a day. I know from past experience that getting back into it after some time off is when I'm most vulnerable to injury. So I'll spend some time stretching it out before trying it again. The load didn't feel too bad though. I thought it would feel too heavy, but it was manageable. Tuesday - 11.10 AM Bike commuting. One mile bike commute. PM Cycling. 11.2 miles. Office to Ford Parkway to Franklin to UofM bus route home. I pushed the pace a bit throughout, sort of a tempo pace, and that continues to feel like the best way to approach these shorter fitness rides. Had to pick-up my daughter at the end of the ride and then walk .4 miles home barefoot. The fall textures felt great. Wednesday - 11.11 AM 242 pounds. Alright, the weight is starting to come off. I was starting to get frustrated when a few months of cycling weren't having any effect, and hadn't stepped on the scale for at least a month. This good news may also explain why going from 240-pound to 250-pound 5RM squats hasn't felt too hard. It's because I'm simply adding weight to the bar that's been lost around the belly. My belt has also begun to feel looser. Hopefully I can bring it in another notch before this cycle's over. Good lord, do I still have a chance of getting down to 210 again? It would be nice to see more of the muscle I've been building under the skin fat. PM Squat: 2/3/4/3/3 x 250 N Pulldown 5/5/5 x 180 I guess this will count as a priming session. The squat load felt fine, but I didn't have the stamina or mental fortitude to complete a five-rep set. So try again on Friday. At least I got in my 15 reps total. On the Pulldowns, I just did 180 lbs to prime the upper body muscles for Friday. After that I was starting to run out of time anyway, so I called it a day, but I could've gotten in the RDL and OHP if I had really wanted to. Slacker. Thursday - 11.12 AM Bike Commuting One mile, light rain, colder. PM Felt pretty sore from Wednesday's squats, so I blew off the afternoon's bike ride, but then regretted it as I biked to pick up my daughter on my way home. Legs felt fine for cycling and its more limited ROM. Oh well. So PM about one mile bike commuting and .4 miles walking barefoot probably Winter Challenge eligible but I forgot to check the temp. Friday - 11.13 PM Lifting SQ: 5/5/5 x 250 N PD: 5/5/5 x 188, 5 x 183/178/173 RDL: 3/3/5 x 250 Squats felt a lot better after Wednesday's priming and I got through the sets no problem. Definitely ready to start the microloading again. The Pulldowns felt a lot easier than on Wednesday too, but on the last set my right shoulder felt a little sore. I was cautious on the Romanian Deadlifts, viewing the sets more as primers for next week than proper worksets, but I got in full reps on the last set. When I warmed up with the bar for the Tall kneeling Overhead Press, my right shoulder still felt a little sore, so I called it a day. Hopefully a weekend of rest will take care of it. I think it's just rust. Saturday - 11.14 AM Bike Commuting Two miles ---------------Week 6: Cycle VI--------------- Template for this week: I've gone ahead and microloaded the Pulldowns by one pound, which automatically raises everything else according to the Iron Ratio. So I effectively only lost a week's progress due to my flu bug, even though I didn't get much done the week (Week 5) after I had recovered from it. I probably have at least a few pounds reserve on all the lifts. Having lost a week, I will not hit a 1RM of 300 for the Squat until the first week of Cycle 7, instead of the last week of Cycle 6. I doubt I'll test the single anyway so who cares . . . just feels good to be progressing in this fundamental lift. Still hoping for unassisted pullups by the end of the year. Sunday – 11.15 AM Bike commuting One mile Noon Cycling 11.2 miles. Office to Ford Parkway to Franklin to UofM bus route home. Very pleasant late fall day. I changed my rear tire because the Specialized tire had a damaged sidewall from taking it on and off so many times with the slow leak problem. Those tires are really tight on the rim and hard to get off. The damaged spot bulges when the psi is over 60, and I like to ride close to max psi, which is 80 for those tires. I replaced the Specialized tire with a Schwalbe (http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B004T86UXU?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o08_s00). It went on a lot easier, and it's slight larger (26 x 1.75 versus 26 x 1.5) so the max psi is 70 but it feels smoother with about the same rolling resistance as the Specialized. The two studded tires I got for winter are also Schwalbes. Hard to say after just one ride, but Schwalbe could become my go-to tire brand. A good combination of fast and comfortable. In the afternoon, maybe a couple of miles riding and walking barefoot with my son and daughter. We were supposed to work on my son's room, but the weather was just too beautiful to be inside. There will soon be plenty of winter weather for inside projects, got to enjoy this amazing November while we can. Monday – 11.16 PM Lifting SQ: 5 x 252 Was just getting started when something came up. Oh well. Another day of rest for my right shoulder I guess. Tuesday - 11.17 PM Lifting SQ: 5/5 x 252 N PD: 5/5/5/5 x 150 It was raining steady all day, but I would've rode anyway, I think, except I remembered that on Sunday's ride my rear derailleur wasn't working properly. I musta been bumped it while changing the tire. So I rode Sunday with just the three gear changes available on the crank derailleur and the rear sprockets in the lowest (smallest) gear. Kinda like we talked about earlier, you can get by with fewer gears. Basically I had an uphill/headwind gear, and middle gear for cruising, and a downhill/tailwind gear. Nontheless, those two factors--rain and limited gearing--were enough to dissuade me from riding so I just primed the lifting more with two sets of squats and then a bunch of pulldowns at reduced weight. My right shoulder felt OK so I should be good to go for Wednesday's session. The squats felt easier, maybe there is something to be said for squatting everyday. So I think my extended contingency plan now is: 1) Miss one workout in a week, then skip the 8-rep workout and just the 5- and 3-rep workouts 2) Miss two workouts in a week, then skip both the 8- and 3-rep workouts and just do the 5-rep workout. 3) Miss a whole week, then the next Monday start with 5 reps but at 75% instead of 85%, to prime, then 5 reps and 3 reps at normal percentages on Wed and Fri. 4) Miss two weeks, then on the Mon and Wed workouts do five reps at 50%, five reps at 75%, to prime, then five reps at a normal 85% on Friday. Also, it just doesn't work to lift on the weekends, with the family around, so if I miss a lifting workout, the next day do the normally planned aerobic workout, instead of trying to slide everything one day over. That rarely works. So today I should've gone ahead with the aerobic workout and then done the five-rep workout on Wednesday, which is what I may end up doing anyway. Wednesday - 11.18 AM/PM Bike commuting Two miles. I went to adjust my rear derailleur, but quickly found out it was a mini shock cord caught up in the gears that was causing the trouble. Once removed, everything worked again just fine. It must have got knocked off my rear turn signals when I removed the wheel to change tires. Lifting RDL: 5/5/5 x 252 2DB OHP: 5/8/8/5? x 40-40 1DB RW: 5-5/5-5/5-5 x 105 Pullover: 5/8/8 x 65 2DB Upright Row/Shrug: 5/5/5 x 40-40 CG PD: 2 x 180, 5 x 170/170 5-5 = five reps for both hands 40-40 = forty-pound dumbbell in each hand I decided to continue Tuesday's workout, so I started off with the RDL. Sometimes I wonder if pegging them to the Squats at a 1:1 ratio is the right thing to do. They could definitely be heavier. The Two-hand Dumbbell Overhead Press went well, a nice variation from the barbell OHP, with apologies to Mr. Rippetoe. I ended up doing most of the rest of the workout as my 8-rep/ROM/variation workout as scheduled for Wednesday. It had been a while since I first tried it, and I wanted to see how it felt again. Felt pretty good. On the Two-hand Dumbbell Upright Row, I raised my hands along my sides, up to a little below nipple height. Then for the last two sets, I continued by straightening out my arms and doing shrugs for five more reps. Felt like a nice combo and it didn't really add any time. This is definitely a good finisher mini-complex, and I got a little bit of a pump. I had a little extra time, having skipped the Squats and Pulldowns, so I did a few Close-grip pulldowns to test out the shoulder. It felt OK, although I flubbed the load on the first set. I think what happened last week is I used too much arm and didn't retract my lats enough, and this put pressure on my shoulder somehow. Anyway, felt great to get in a semi-complete workout. I'm back in the game. Thursday - 11.19 AM Bike commuting Two miles. 32F/14F WC. Winter is coming. Time to figure out my winter cycling gear. Rowing. 27 minutes, moderate intensity? Had to bring some books to my wife that she forgot, so cycled home, drove to her college, then felt too complacent to go back and get the bike, so rowed in my office instead of going out and biking. Just as well, a cold Arctic wind is blowing today with up to 50 mph gusts. Ordered some Pearl Izumi amfib tights for winter cycling. Still, rowing isn't a bad alternative. The first few minutes I hated it, then I got into the movement and put on some music and time passed quickly. Also 3 sets of five-rep assisted pullups. Felt good. Groove greased. Friday - 11.20 PM Lifting SQ: 3/3/3 x 266 S PD: 3/3/3 x 200, 3 x 195/190/185 RDL 3/2 x 266 Interrupted once again. Man, it's been happening a lot lately. I was really looking forward to the barbell presses and getting in the Landmine Twist. Oh well, maybe Saturday afternoon if my son allows it. Anyway, Squats felt fine, Supine Pulldown a little hard, and RDLs fine, with no real temptation this time to increase the weight. The Pulldowns are getting close to my limit, so it will be interesting to see if they start to stall or if the grease-the-groove assisted pullups on my off-days are enough to maintain progress. If not, I may have to consider decoupling pullups/pulldowns from the Iron Ratio. I don't want to slow Squat progress down too much. It's been feeling like I could be pushing them a bit more. Saturday - 11.21 AM/PM Bike Commuting Two Miles. Tested out my new Pearl Izumi winter tights. Pretty good, but I don't think they'll be warm enough when it gets cold in serious. I'll first try putting long underwear underneath, and if that's still not enough to keep the wind out, then I'll get some snow pants or something like that. I also got some snow goggles and really warm gloves on the way, and those shoe covers Abide recommended. I think for the moment I'm planning on getting through the winter with a combination of cycling and rowing. Swimming seems like too much rigamarole right now, and I'm sort of looking forward to the adventure of winter cycling. It's always good to embrace the elements, and it's the only way to get through the winter without cabin fever. PM BP: 2/2/2 x 200 TK OHP: 2 x 125, 2/2 x 130 Had a few minutes in the afternoon kidfree so I thought it would be good to prime the presses, since I hadn't really done them since getting the flu bug a few weeks ago. This coming week I'd really like to get in complete workouts so once again I deployed the "priming" concept, and I think there's something to it. After a week or more off, I think the attachments stiffen up, especially as we get older, so it's worthwhile to spend a workout or two priming the various movements at reduced loads to make sure everything is stretched, lubed, and ready to go for normal loads in another workout or two. I noticed I'm much more injury-prone when I've had time off, hence the importance of priming, for me at least. Now everything should be ready to go for a couple of hard, solid weeks to finish out what has been a mediocre cycle for me. ---------------Week 7: Cycle VI--------------- Template for this week: More of the same; relentless microloading. I'm thinking of starting out some of the lifts' worksets with a heavy single or double at 95% to 100% 1RM. But I may quickly bail on the idea. It gets back to the idea I had in my old 1/3/5 routine, where the heavier lift primes the neural drive and recruits maximal muscle fiber, which sets one up for more intense 3- or 5- rep worksets. I dunno, worth trying again after more than a year's training has passed. Maybe get a new perspective on it. Not sure, if I go through with it, whether I'll do two or three worksets after the heavy single or double. I like the safety of 3/5/8-rep sets, but sometimes I miss the intensity of singles and doubles. So maybe singles at a double load (95%)? Sunday – 11.22 AM/PM Bike Commuting Two miles, wearing shoes and warm gloves now. PM Rowing 33 minutes. Listening to tunes in the dark. Very relaxing actually, but I need to do higher intensity once in a while. Monday – 11.23 PM Lifting SQ: 5/5/5 x 253 N PD: 3/3/3/3/3 x 190, 5 x 185/180/175 RDL: 2/3/5 x 253, 1 x 305, 1 x 345, 1 x 325 TK OHP: 1/2/3/4/5 x 126 P RW: 5/5/5 x 158 BP: 1/3/5 x 190 Best workout in a while. Squats felt really solid and I was able to achieve pretty good depth on all the reps, even pausing a bit in the hole once in a while to get a good stretch, and then coming out nice and monophasic except on the fifth rep a couple of times, where I leaned just a bit forward at the sticking point. Pulldowns felt heavy, and I didn't want to re-strain my right shoulder, so I just did three reps at top weight, before fatigue could set in. On the dropsets I did five reps though. This 3>5 shift might be a good way to go in general. It ensures all the reps at top weight are quality reps, and it doesn't take extra time to do five sets instead of three, because my rest intervals are shorter when I just do three reps at a time. Kind of like Abide's doubles @ EMOM protocol. Still, I'm getting the feeling that progress on the pulldowns is going to start slowing down a lot pretty soon, so I might have to decouple them from the Iron Ratio, or maybe change them to 90% of Bench Press instead of 1:1, but I'll keep at it for another week or two and give the dropsets and nonlifting day assisted pullups a chance to accelerate progress, see if they can keep up with the other lifts, especially the squats. The RDLs felt a little too easy after I got good and warmed up, so I thought I'd see what it felt like with three wheels on. Felt good. I'm not sure how much more I bent my knees, but I don't think I got down into a true deadlift stance, but it probably didn't qualify as a proper RDL either, by any definition. I then added 40 pounds and although I could feel I had it, I dropped it back down after raising it an inch or so. I reminded myself not to let my exuberance get the better of me. There would be plenty of time to get my deadlift up if that's the direction I wanted to go. For today, best just to test things out and get a feel for where things are while avoiding any injury risk. So I reduced by 20 pounds, to 325, and that went up nice and solid. I was going to do a few more one-rep sets at 325, but I thought it best to see how the knees felt afterwards and the next day. (Next day: knees feel fine). It felt really good to handle a plus-300 load. And with deadlifts, there's little risk involved lifting without spotters, so perhaps instead of testing singles on Squats once in a while, I'll just do it on Deadlifts. I'll still get the benefits of maximal metabolic stress and muscle recruitment on one lift in a workout, which is probably enough. So Squats and Deadlifts could be complimentary to each other, with the right programming. Squats functioning as a warm-up, primer, driver, and mobility lift with more volume, and Deadlifts being more of a test of total strength (120-125% of the Squat load) but with reduced volume. So anyway, that little experiment was cool, and it really set up my back for a nice finish to the workout as I went through my presses and Pendlay Row. Conventional, or close-to-conventional, Deadlifts hit the upper back much more than RDLs. My shoulders were still a little stiff from Saturday's press-priming session, so I laddered up to five reps on both the OHP and BP, but everything felt OK by the last, full set. I sometimes take the presses for granted, but I have to keep after them, and the workout felt much more satisfying and complete with them back in. Got to get in all six force/direction pairings for an optimal strength stimulus. Hopefully by the end of the week any lingering soreness with have worked itself out. So, the first full workout in a while, and I felt fantastic afterwards. I might be due for a period of greater gains now. Just have to figure out how to work in the conventional deadlifts without risking aggravating my meniscus. The knees have felt so good lately, I don't want to do anything to screw things up. Maybe something like this: Squats could continue on the M: 3 x 5, W: 3 x 8, F: 3 x 3 schedule, but Deadlifts could be M: RDL 3 x 5, W: RDL 3 x 8, then F: DL 3-5 sets x 1-2 reps, at around my projected triple (90%) load, based on the 5:4 ratio of DL to SQ. That puts my 1RM DL at a little over 370, and my 3RM at 335. With a few weeks to build up to it, should be possible to so several sets of singles or doubles at my triple weight. Then with microloading, wow, a 400-pound DL might be in the cards after all, maybe by the end of next year. I will also have to evaluate the pulldowns protocol by the end of the cycle, try to decide whether or not to continue as I have been, or let the other lifts race ahead. Right now my gut tells me to reduce the weekly increases to a half-pound instead of a pound, but we'll see. Tuesday - 11.24 AM/PM Bike Commuting Two miles I dunno, somehow talked myself out of a nice afternoon ride. Wednesday - 11.25 Finally, a statement about TUT that makes sense to me: https://www.t-nation.com/training/new-science-of-time-under-tension OK, knowing it might be possible to do conventional deadlifts again, and get the back benefit from that as well, and being a little suspicious that my dropset + grease the groove pulldown/pullup program isn't going to be enough to keep up with the other lifts, and having read this article (http://www.strengthvillain.com/bringing-up-the-back-part-one/) and been reminded of the 2:1 pulling : pushing ratio that a lot of people recommend, I think I will try to add more back exercise volume, although as it is, I'm already taking close to an hour to get through my routine. But if I can add in two more back exercises, like DB Rows or Face Pulls, every workout, perhaps I could make quicker progress. I may also relax the 1:1 ratio of Pullup to Bench Press that Bruno recommends, and try the easier Pullup = 90% of Bench Press ratio that Thibaudieu suggests. The latter is more realistic anyway. I may therefore switch to adding just a half-pound to the pulldowns each week, since they are now at 100% of Bench Press. After many months, as the Bench Press increases at 1.5 pounds per week, the 9:10 ratio will eventually be reached. PM Lifting SQ: 2/4/3 x 224 CG PD: 3/3/3/3/3 x 174, 5 x 169/164/159 RDL 8/7/7 x 224 2DB OHP: 5/5/5 x 40 HS BO RW (Head-supported Bent-over Row): 5/5/5 x 125 Pullover: 5/5/5 x 65 My right meniscus felt slightly aggravated by the squats, so I cut them short. I did three-rep sets on the Close-grip Pulldowns like I did on Monday's Neutral-grip Pulldowns, as my right shoulder is still just a little bit sore. The RDLs felt fine, but mentally, I hate doing that last, eighth rep. I think I change things to a 5/7/3 weekly wave. Odd numbers look more badass anyway. Hopefully my program will get confused with Wendlers 5/3/1 program sometimes, and I'll make a million. Still liking the dumbbell press and pullover substitutes for the barbell presses. I tried Abide's idea of head-supported bent-over rows. I kept it fairly light to see how my neck would react. If I keep this as part of my Wednesday workout, I will gradually add 5 or 10 pounds each week until I reach a comfortable resistance. Not sure if there's any real advantage over the Pendlay Row, but worth experimenting with to find out. So, really liking this lighter/variation/ROM day. It fits in well between the heavier, more purely barbell workouts on Monday and Friday. Almost like Wendler's bodybuilder day. I should probably keep the weights the same for a while and work on getting everything up to seven reps per set. Thursday - 11.26 AM Bike Commute One mile. AM Cycling 11.2 miles Nice ride in flurries, got to test out my clear goggles. Worked really well. Also got to test out my new gloves, which worked pretty well too. I didn't use my new cycling tights because I'm thinking of returning them and using the same Pearl Izumi model with a bib and padding built in. Toes got a little numb in my Sockwa G4s and thin thermal socks. Friday - 11.27 Lazy family day. Saturday - 11.28 AM Bike Commuting Two miles PM Lifting SQ: 2/3/3/3 @ 268 S PD: 3/3/3 @ 181 DL: 1/1/1 @ 309 TK OHP: 1/3/3 @ 134 P RW: 3/3/3 @ 167 BP: 1/2/3 @ 202 Hips and right shoulder felt a little cranky, so my sets were a mess, but I got through everything and it should work as a good primer for Week 8. Squats continue pretty automatic, despite the increasing loads. The pulldowns, now at 90% of BP, were too light, but perhaps with greater volume they will feel more satisfying. In any case, it was nice to have plenty of gas for the rest of the workout. I gained a little more confidence on the Deadlift. My right knee felt a little sore during and after Wednesday's session, but everything felt fine this time around, so just continue to monitor things I guess. Hopefully next week I can do doubles, but I'm coming around to Abide's idea of EMOM. I was kind of doing that with the singles. It might take me a while to gain enough confidence to do triples. Right now I'm kind of waiting for feedback after each rep, but everything seems to be handling the greater load OK. Anterior shoulder still felt a little something on the OHP, so even though the load felt manageable, I just did a single on the first workset to make sure everything was in order. Maybe I should add a warm-up set in between my 85-pound warm-up set and my 5- and 3-rep worksets, like 105? Bench Press likewise, I laddered up to the last workset. Actually, doing the first set as a single isn't a bad idea with these heavier weights, but it was mostly because everything felt cranky. Maybe I was dehydrated? ---------------Week 8: Cycle VI--------------- Thinking more about symmetric strength or structural balance. Also, thinking about the old 2:1 ratio of Pull to Push in terms of volume. One thing, Bruno's recommendation of a 1:1 ratio between the Bench and Pullup is an outlier. Most people seem to be close to 1:.9, or 10:9. With this adjustment, I'll bring my pulldowns/pullups down, which is convenient, since I feel like I'm nearing the upper limit of my pulldowns already, even though my Bench Press is still a good 35 pounds below where it could be if I ignored the ratios. So, bringing down the pulldown artificially may give it a chance to (1) catch up using more volume, and (2) allow for strength gains in the other lifts to transfer, over time, to the pulldowns/pullups, provided that the theory of structural balance/carryover is correct. So a bit of a long-term experiment if I stick with it, but in the short term, it allows me to progress on the other lifts at a more natural pace of strength increase. Basically, it's the Squat again now that's holding everything back, and I've felt for the last few weeks that it could be increasing faster, if it weren't all pegged to the (unrealistic) Pullup ratio. Blah, blah, blah. So, anyway, for the time being, using a combination of sources (Poliquin [https://www.t-nation.com/training/achieving-structural-balance], Thibaudieu [https://www.t-nation.com/training/know-your-ratios-destroy-weaknesses], and Symmetric Strength), I'm fixing the Iron Ratios at OHP = 1 P Row = 1.25 Pullup = 1.35 BP = 1.5 SQ: 2 DL: 2.3 The basic 1:1.5:2 or 2:3:4 ratios for the Presses and Squat remain intact. Symmetric Strength and the actual totals that raw power lifters achieve (according to Thibaudieu) has allowed me to bring the DL to Squat ratio down from 2.5 to 2.3, for an Iron Ratio of 2:3:4:4.6 instead of 2:3:4:5. Then it's just a matter or tweaking the upper body pulls. Pendlay Rows are about 83% of BP, and Pullups are 90% of BP. Others besides Bruno have suggested that both Rows and Pullups should be 100% of BP, but I think lower percentages + higher volume (of pulling to pressing) will work better for me. Using these ratios, the weakest lift will always provide the base unit. Right now, the Squat is my weakest lift, so I use that as the base unit, halve it to get the OHP 1RM, and then multiply that by the various numbers to get the other 1RMs. The assistance lifts are also based on ratios, but they aren't as fixed and are probably more arbitrary. The Pulldowns right now are closer to 1.45 times OHP, so I'll bring it down gradually to 1.35, by sometime in March, as my gains on the other lifts increase. If I were to bring it down to 1.35 immediately, I'd lose close to 20 pounds of sweet gainz. The idea is that strengthening the other lifts will have some carryover to my pulldowns, and everything will even out eventually and it will be easier for the pulldowns to keep pace with the other lifts. Or not. Given all this, the tweaked template for this, the last week of Cycle VI is: I've doubled the "Pull" volume so that the Pull-to-Push volume is now 2:1, although in a actual workout the extra pulling exercises will be the first to go if I'm pressed for time. I've tried to keep the assistance lifts on the lighter side to increase the likelihood that I may actually do them. Since the Squat is weakest, I'll also added a set to accelerate its ability to 'catch up' to the other lifts. Perhaps I should also take a set away from the strongest lifts, like the Bench Press, I dunno, but it never feels right to do less than three worksets on a lift it takes several sets just to warm-up to. I've also reincorporated the conventional or Olympic Deadlift, I'll either do them once a week and do RDLs Monday and Wednesday, or do a set of conventional DLs after the RDLs on Monday and Friday. This conforms with everyone's warning not to do DLs too much, but also jibes with Dan John's idea of using RDLs or SLDLs as a tonic to the Squat, my lift of emphasis, as well as Thrall's ideas about the relation between DLs and RDLs: Basically, Thrall argues that practicing RDLs teaches you how to fully engage the glutes and hamstrings on Olympic Deadlifts. So, given the fact that I probably shouldn't be doing Oly DLs as often as the other main lifts anyway, as a general rule, and probably shouldn't be doing them as much given my knee issues either, it makes sense to do more RDLs than Oly DLs. Oh, also this week, I hit a projected 300 1RM Squat. A hallow victory without testing it out for real. But it will be cool in a few more weeks when I hit a 3RM of 275, which is my old (tested) 1RM PR. I'm pretty sure now I will be able to hit a Squat 1RM of 350, which might be a nice end-goal, although a 400-pound Squat and 450-pound Deadlift would really be the nun's tits. Adding two pounds a week to the Squat for another year and using the Iron Ratios gets me to a pretty ideal 467 DL, 406 SQ, 305 BP, and 203 OHP by December next year. It will be interesting to see how long I can maintain this rate before I have to slow down. Everything else, in terms of program, feels pretty set, besides a few tweaks here and there along the way. In any case, I really like the idea of bring up everything together from now on. Sunday – 11.29 Noon Rowing 35 minutes. Boring, but felt almost therapeutic after Saturday's heavy day. Monday – 11.30 PM Lifting SQ: 2/4/4/4 @ 255 N PD: 5/5/5 @ 185 S PD 3/3/3 @ 185 RDL: 2/3 @ 255 TK OHP: 1/3/4/5 @ 128 P RW: 5/5/5 @ 159 BP: 2/5/5 @ 191 For some reason, just couldn't motivate for the last rep of the Squat sets, although the load felt fine and I got good depth on every rep. Thrall makes a good case for going as low as possible: I dunno what's happening with the pulldowns, I seem to be getting weaker. Overtraining? Not likely. Maybe I should just limit myself to three quality reps and do more sets. Volume over intensity, as Abide has suggested I think, for the upper body pulls. On the RDL, my left hip and glute area felt funny. Not really tight or sore, but it seemed liked it needed to be stretched out, but stretching it out didn't help either. So I gave up. It was about a year ago now that I had the sacro-illiac/glute pull injury, and I don't want to do anything to risk that happening again. Too bad, I was looking forward to trying a heavier set of DLs afterwards. The presses are starting to come, but still a little cranky in the shoulders. Hopefully another week and they'll be back to normal. The OHP load is starting to get up there again, so gotta have everything going smooth within a few weeks or I'll have to stall the increases while I wait for things to clear up. It would be cool to maintain the present rate of increase (two pounds per week for the Squat 1RM = one pound per week for the OHP 1RM), but if I slow down that's fine too. My wife and son came home just as I was getting to my two assistance exercises, the 1DB Row and Face Pulls. OH well. Tuesday - 12.01 Wednesday - 12.02 PM Lifting SQ: 6/5/5 @ 225 CG PD: 3/3/3/3 @ 180 S PD: 3 @ 180, N PD: 3 @ 180, S PD: 3 @ 180, N PD: 3 @ 180, RDL: 5/5 @ 240 DL: 5 @ 276 2DB OHP: 5 @ 40, 4/5/2 @ 45, 5 @ 40 Pullover: 5 @ 65 Man, I dunno, I just don't have the mental fortitude for higher rep sets. I was going to do five-rep Squat sets at 240 after I avoided the last rep of the first set, but then I just did them at 225. In the Texas Method, Wednesday is supposed to be easy day, so I guess that justifies it. I tried all three grips on the Pulldowns, and that seemed OK. Maybe that's the way to go? But it does seem like 190-200 pounds is a sort of natural limit for the Pulldowns. Something about the kneeling position or the cables feels like it's a threshold, above which I really need to be doing pullups/chinups. Or maybe I need to weigh myself down or affix a bar across my thighs. For a couple of years now, I seem stuck at about this level. So I dunno, maybe just stick to the volume approach on lifting days while I wean myself off assisted pullups during my non-lifting days. But if Pulldowns become more of an assistance lift (again), there's really no need to put them towards the beginning of the workout when I have the most energy stores. Might have to put the OHP back in second place, after the Squats, and place Pulldowns more at the end. Maybe adopt a Rippetoe/Wendler approach and view Squats, Deadlifts, and the Presses as the main lifts, and everything else as assistance, so just put together some blocks of assistance lifts after the four main lifts. Might try that during our upcoming mini cycle. I still felt a little something in the outer right glute while lowering the bar on the RDLs and DLs, but I went through with the sets anyway and nothing bad happened. I'm liking the mix of starting out with lighter RDL sets and then doing one heavier DL sets at the same rep percentage. And my knees seem to be tolerating it well as well. The Two-hand Dumbbell Presses felt good. I like the way they attack the shoulders and back differently than the barbell press. I'm almost ready to graduate to 45s, but they felt a little heavy. It didn't help that the family came home just as I was finishing my Deadlifts. I need a fair amount of concentration to maintain balance while seated on my bench. Should almost get a supported bench just for these, or rig something up. Might also be useful for the Barbell Presses and would save some wear and tear on my knees a bit. I got through one set of Pullovers and, after two weeks of priming the lift, was ready to up it to 85 pounds, but my daughter, who had been behaving herself and even asked me to help her do pushups, suddenly when ballistic about going over to a friend's even though it was dinner hour and the friend's mom hadn't answered my text message. After I finally calmed her down, my motivation had dropped and my body cooled, so I called it a day. My wife has clinicals so I've been dropping off the kids in the morning. Which means my day starts later so I've been trying to work out later, but this doesn't work very well because by then everyone is home, and the kids love to hang out with me while I'm working out, which never works out. So I'm not sure what to do. Only one more week of clinicals until next semester, so I guess for the time being I'll just put up with it or else come home during the day for my lifting workout. Thursday - 12.03 Friday - 12.04 PM Lifting SQ: 2/3/3 @ 270 TK OHP: 3/3/3 @ 135 RDL: 3/3 x 270 DL: 2/3 @ 311 BP: 3/3/3 @ 203 P RW: 3/3/5 @ 169 CG PD: 3/3 @ 185 N PD: 3/3 @ 185 S PD: 3/3 @ 185 1DB RW: 5(x2) @ 95 POV: 5 @ 65 LM TW: 5 @ 75 Wow, a great lifting workout to end the cycle. No crankiness in my right shoulder, no weird tightness in my left hip, and everything felt smooth and solid. The new order (SQ>OHP>DL>BP>RW>PD>assistance) flowed really well too. Feels very natural and logical to do it this way, and most of the online trainers I like the most seem to think that the Squat, Press, Deadlift, and Bench Press are the most important anyway. The upper body pulls in particular felt better towards the end of the workout. Especially the Pulldowns, which seem to work better when the whole body has been thoroughly warmed up. I guess this is because of the greater stretch involved in Pulldowns or Pullups, but it also gives a better pump this way. And doing quick, three-rep sets felt pretty good as well. I was planning on only doing singles, maybe doubles on the conventional DL, but the first set felt good so I did doubles, then on the second set the triples went up just fine too. I was going to do one more set of triples, but I reminded myself to keep everything gradual. I've only been doing conventional DLs for a short while. So next week, I think, I'll assume everything has been primed and try to do full sets each workout. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to think my knees may allow me to do conventional DLs at heavier loads again. It's just a tremendous feeling to lift that heavy bar off the floor, and the workouts feel more complete now. I really think 400 pounds might be possible sometime next year. I also managed to get in the proposed assistance lifts for Cycle VII, even though my family had come home by then. I think I will also add Dips to the assistance lift cluster at the end. I found these online: http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00IZJIV68?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00. I think I can mount the brackets on my power rack, so it will be relatively easy to set up. The key to getting through the assistance lifts at the end is to do them one after another with minimal set-up and rest intervals. So anyway, feeling pretty good after having given Cycle VII's proposed routine a test drive. It makes sense to put all four of the performance lifts first, and I think I've found a feasible way to get in all my favorite assistance lifts--the One-hand Dumbbell Row, the Pullover, the Landmine Twist, and Dips--along with the dumbbell variations of the Overhead Press and Bench Press, which will go on Wednesday's seven-rep/easy day. If everything goes well in Cycle VII, I doubt I'll change much as we enter Cycle I of the new year. Saturday - 12.05 AM/PM Bike Commuting Two and a half miles. ------------------------------------------------ Cycle VI Results: Lifting-wise, I essentially lost two weeks of gains due to the flu bug, but otherwise, with the microloading and Iron Ratio, the gains I did make were fairly boring and predictable: DL: 362.5>347 = -15.5 lbs Squat: 290>302 = +12 lbs BP: 218 >227 = +9 lbs OHP: 145>151 = +6 lbs P RW: 182>189 = +7 lbs PD: 118>119 = +1 lb The DL came down mainly because I changed the ratio of Squat to Deadlift, and then actually tested it with loads over 300 pounds. Cycling-wise, I probably lost some fitness after the flu bug when my riding became more sporadic. ===================================================================== Welcome to Cycle VII! This cycle will be truncated to four weeks, to finish out the year. ---------------Assessment of Cycle VI--------------- Aerobic My cycling was kind of spotty towards the end, but I did get in some rowing. I think the lack of conditioning began to affect my ability to do higher rep sets on Wednesday's lifting sessions. My knees seemed to feel better with less cycling though, as well as with cycling at a faster pace, so perhaps I should limit cycling to once or twice a week at tempo pace and cross-train the other days. Anaerobic Emphasis. Lifting-wise, bringing up my squat continued to be my main focus, but I also wanted to bring up my Pulldown/Pullup, so I put the latter first in the workout order. This didn't last long though. Squats are really the perfect lift to start with. For one, they require a longer warm-up anyway--up to five warm-up sets (empty bar>85>125>175>215). Two, they have a big ROM and utilize virtually every muscle in the body. And three, they get the mobility in my shoulders and hips nice and lubed up as well. After the Squat worksets my whole body is pretty well warmed-up. The whole process takes about 15 minutes, then the other lifts take 5-10 minutes each, including warm-up sets. When I began workouts with Pulldowns, my body still felt cold both during and after. Pulldowns seem best towards the end of the workout when everything is already warmed up, probably because of the greater stretch involved. It was hard to judge this last cycle's programming success because in the middle of the cycle I got slowed down by a flu bug. Overall, I think the basic "weekly wave" of 5-8-3 or 5-7-3 rep-counts was good and there's no real reason to change much, except I may make the seven-rep day a five-rep day at lighter loads if the higher rep sets cause too much mental anguish. I increased my Squat by 12 pounds over the cycle, and this would've been more like 16 pounds without the flu bug, and possibly my idea of pegging Squat increases to Pulldown increases slowed the Squat down a bit as well. Pulldowns seemed to stall a bit at 190 pounds for five-rep Neutral Pulldowns, and 200 for three-rep Supine Pulldowns, but given the spotty nature of the workouts, it's hard to tell for sure if this is a natural threshold or not. I suspect as I begin to approach Bodyweight loads, doing Pulldowns in a kneeling position will prevent me from adding much more weight. My knees start to come up off the floor and I enter into a fetal position. With a flexed spine like this, I probably lose leverage. In Cycle VII, I'm bringing the Pulldown loads down to slowly realign them within the Iron Ratios from a 1:1 correspondence to the Bench Press, to a 9:10 ratio. This translates into bringing them down from 1.5 times the OHP, to 1.35 x OHP. Right now, they're set at 1.45. Every two weeks, I will bring them down .01, so that the new Iron Ratio is achieved at the beginning of Cycle III of next year. Hopefully by then the other lifts will be strong enough to produce enough carryover so that the Pulldowns/Pullups can then begin to increase loading at the same rate as everything else, after this long phase of relative deloading. Experiments. I experimented with making Wednesdays more of an assistance or variation or lighter day, instead of a strict higher-rep day for the six basic lifts, and I liked this. It seemed to cure me of some of the overtrained feeling I was getting at the end of Cycle V, where each workout was at the same intensity. I also experimented with a grease-the-groove protocol on my nonlifting days, by doing assisted pullups. I didn't get very far with this however as the flu bug then work-obsession interfered. Finally, I re-introduced conventional DLs towards the end of the cycle, and was surprised by how well my knees tolerated the plus 300-pound loads. Loading. At first I microloaded the Pulldown's 1RM one pound a week, and then based all the other loads on that, using the Iron Ratio. Then I switched to microloading the Squat's 1RM by 2 pounds per week, and based everything on that. I liked that better. I think I should be able to maintain this rate of increase for at least one or two more cycles. I reached a projected 1RM PR of 300 pounds for the Squat during Week Eight of Cycle VI. A few weeks into Cycle VII and my 3RM load will equal my previous, tested (not projected) 1RM PR of 275. So a faint feeling of progress has been restored during an otherwise trying year of injury and illness set-backs. My deadlift is still below what it was more than a year ago however. ---------------Programming for Cycle VII--------------- Aerobic For the moment, I've shelved my idea of integrating swimming into my weekly aerobic routine during the winter. I'm just not up for the extra rigamarole. I'll continue with cycling and occasional rowing and maybe even some hill running. I've got the gear I need now for winter cycling, but it hasn't gotten that cold yet. My knees have been feeling pretty good lately, so perhaps a little running won't hurt either. Rowing is real boring but it's a pretty good compliment to lifting, probably better than cycling or running actually, because it's full-body--the entire posterior chain flexes with each rep--and it's pretty easy on the knees. Anaerobic Experiment. I will continue the experiment of making Wednesday more of a assistance/variation/lighter day, subbing in dumbbell versions of the Overhead Press and Bench Press for the main lifts. And although I will continue to program the Squats and Deadlifts for seven reps per set on Wednesday, I may just make them five reps, but at seven-rep loads, for an easier day. I'm going to try to do two sets of each Pulldown variation (Close Neutral-grip, Neutral-grip, and Supine-grip) each workout, at the same load. I will try doing two sets of RDLs and 1-2 sets of conventional DLs every workout. If my knees can take it, I would really like to make conventional DLs a central part of my workouts again. I may not do the DL sets at full reps however, and may try something like Abide's EMOM approach instead. So, for example, instead of 2 x 3, I could do 3 sets of doubles or even 5-6 sets of singles at the same triple load (90% of 1RM) but with much less time to rest in between sets. I will put the four main barbell lifts first: Squat>OHP>RDL/DL> BP, then do Rows and Pulldowns. I really want to focus on getting the barbell lifts up and not worry too much about the upper body pulls. The latter will become a little more like assistance, with greater volume and less intensity. Ideally the upper body pull-to-press ratio will approach 2:1, volume-wise. I will continue to try to grease the groove with assisted pullups on my nonlifting days whenever I can, along with back extensions and a few other things. I will once again try to make mobility exercises a more central part of my routine. Finally, I'll try once again to finish each workout with some assistance exercises as well. I'll try to do one or two sets of DB Rows (left & right), Pullovers, Landmine Twists, and Dips, at fairly easy loads, for as many reps (5+) as I feel like. I'll program these same four exercises after each workout. I'm going to try to make the assistance portion of the workout as short, simple, and easy as possible so that I may actually be able to get it in. Loading. I will continue to microload my Squat 1RM by two pounds per week, and base all the other loads and lifts on that using the Iron Ratio. The Iron Ratio was revised a little in Cycle VI. Instead of 2:3:4:5 for the OHP, BP, SQ, and DL, it's now OHP = 2 P Row = 2.5 Pulldown = 2.7 BP = 3 SQ/RDL = 4 DL = 4.6 or, in terms of weekly microloading in pounds OHP = one pound per week P Row = one and a quarter pounds per week Pulldown = one and thirty five hundredths of a pound per week BP = one and a half pound per week SQ/RDL = two pounds per week DL = two and thirty hundredths of a pound per week or, simply writing the Iron Ratio based on the OHP OHP = 1 P Row = 1.25 Pulldown = 1.35 BP = 1.5 SQ/RDL = 2 DL = 2.3 More abstractly, (1) the base unit is pegged to the OHP, the lightest lift, (2) each lift adds its derivation of the base unit each week, and (3) the base unit is currently set at one pound. Emphasis. Since the Squat remains weaker than my presses, according to the Iron Ratio and past PRs in the OHP and BP, I will continue focusing on building it up, although I don't think I will do anything special for it besides making it the first lift of the workout. It would also be nice to get my Deadlifts up to full loads. If one lift or another becomes noticeably weaker than the others, I may add extra sets for it, to bring it up with volume, but the Squat is only 10 weeks away from catching up to my old OHP PR, based on the Iron Ratio (OHP 1RM PR = 160 lbs, so 320 lbs for the Squat 1RM PR at a 1:2 ratio), so I don't anticipate any deviations from the plan. The Iron Ratio and concomitant structural balance seem to be allowing the lifts to progress evenly and at the same rate, after initially lowering the loads for the presses. The real test will be when everything is in line with my old BP 1RM PR of 260 (OHP = 173, Squat = 346), hopefully some time in May. If everything continues to feel equal then, I'll be golden, and making micro PRs on all the main lifts each week. I would think at this point if not sooner, the rate of increase will reduce, however, to something like a half pound a week for the base unit. So the basic scheme is as follows: Monday – 3 x 5 (85% 1RM) Back Squat (SQ) Tall Kneeling Overhead Press (TK OHP) Romanian Deadlift (RDL) [2 sets], conventional Deadlift (DL) [1-2 sets] Bench Press (BP) Pendlay Row (P RW) Close Neutral-grip, Neutral-grip, Supine-grip Pulldowns (CN PD, N PD, S PD) 1-2 x 5+ (one or two sets of five or more reps) One-hand Dumbbell Row (1DB RW) Pullover (POV) Landmine Twist (LM TW) Dips (DP) Wednesday – 3 x 5-7 (75% 1RM) SQ Two-hand Dumbbell Overhead Press (2DB OHP) RDL, DL Two-hand Dumbbell Bench Press (2DB BP) P RW CN PD, N PD, S PD 1-2 x 5+ 1DB RW POV LM TW DP Friday – 3 x 3 (90% 1RM) SQ TK OHP RDL, DL BP P RW CN PD, N PD, S PD 1-2 x 5+ 1DB RW POV LM TW DP ---------------Week 1: Cycle VII--------------- Template for this week: I gave the new lifting plan a test run on the last Friday of Cycle VI, and it flowed pretty well. My body liked the order of Squat>OHP>DL>BP quite a lot, and getting in the assistance at the end gave me a nice pump. One change already is that I will probably try to include Dips in the assistance cluster as well, or else do them 3x5-7 on Wednesdays instead of the Two-hand Dumbbell Bench Press, which serves as a variation/sub for the barbell Bench Press. Sunday – 12.06 AM Bike Commuting One mile. Cycling 11 miles. I'm definitely losing conditioning from my recent sporadic cycling. I'll try to get back on track this week. Tested out my Pearl Izumi bib tights and my Sockwa Hi Gs with sheepskin insole inserts. High around 39 F degrees. When it gets really cold, I will need long underwear under or snow pants over the tights, and smart wool socks and neoprene covers for the Sockwas, but I think the set-up will work. Monday - 12.07 PM Lifting SQ: 5/5/5 @ 257 TK OHP: 5/5/5 @ 128 RDL: 3/4 @ 257 DL: 3/3/2 @ 295 BP: 3/5/5 @ 193 P RW: 5/5/5 @ 160 N PD: 3/3 @ 186 S PD: 3/3 @ 186 Spent too much time monkeying around with the dipgrips so shorted myself of time again, but I was still able to get in a close-to-full workout. I was surprised by how easy the Squats felt. I'm becoming more convinced that my rate of increase is a little lower than my rate of adaptability, but no matter, I'm really liking how calm I feel while working out, just punching the clock and making gradual gains. Plus, I'm consistently achieving good depth on every squat rep this way. No more barely breaking parallel to test the waters on the first rep or set. I am still a little hesitant on the conventional Deadlifts however. The loads feel comfortable, but I still have to gain a little more confidence that my lower back is OK with these heavier loads. It seems like it is, but I'll probably spend another week or two holding back a bit. Funny, an hour or so after the workout my right quads felt a little sore or almost like a pull. Never felt that before. So perhaps I'm justified in being cautious while re-integrating the conventional deadlifts. Everything else went well, the presses have definitely recovered. I didn't have enough time for my assistance stuff and I cut out the Close-grip Pulldowns too. Recognizing that I'll probably only be able to get to my assistance stuff once or twice a week, I think I will probably move Dips out of assistance and just do them on Wednesdays as my Bench Press substitute instead of Two-hand Dumbbell Bench Presses, which I've never liked anyway. Tuesday - 12.08 Worked late Wednesday - 12.09 PM Lifting SQ: 5/5/5 @ 227 2DB OHP: 7/7/7 @ 40(x2) RDL: 7/7/7 @ 227 BP: 3 @ 175 P RW: 7/7/7 @ 142 CN PD: 3/3 @ 186 Took my daughter to the dentist during my normal workout time, so tried to work out during dinner hour. My right meniscus acted up a bit on the Squats, so I limited the reps to five, but it didn't bother me for the rest of the workout. Still wondering if I shouldn't be doing Overhead Squats on Wednesdays, but I'm a bit lazy to learn a new skill right now. It also seems a little foolish to do higher rep deadlifts. The RDLs work much better as a higher rep lift, with a touch-n-go protocol. So I'll probably just skip the conventional Deadlifts on Wednesdays, and/or find a substitute for them, like Good Mornings or Lunges or something. The Two-hand Dumbbell Press is starting to come into its own. A little tweak I learned is to lead a bit with my weak hand. That way, the weights go up more or less evenly. I'm also getting better at adopting a stable sitting posture on the bench. Right now, 40-pound dumbbells are a good weight for seven-rep sets. No microloading available with my rubberized dumbbells, so I'll have to wait a bit before I'm ready for the 45s. My family was being pretty good about letting me work out while they ate dinner, but motivation started to dissipate, so I just did a few reps on the Bench Press, just to prime it for Friday. The Rows felt great but then I was finally interrupted by the family, and when I got back to it, I really didn't have my heart into finishing out the workout, and my body had gotten cold, so I just did a few Close Neutral-grip Pulldowns and called it a day. Overall, I'm pleased with the way the Wednesday higher rep/variation workout is evolving. And for some reason, it's a lot less mental effort to do seven-rep sets instead of eight. I bought a 4 x 4 x 8' board at Menards, cut it in half, and did my squats with them standing where I would use them as posts, at the end of my base. My arms brushed against them a bit, however, so I took my squat grip in even more, to around where I grip the bar for the presses, just into the knurling from the unknurled center. Surprisingly, I had the shoulder mobility to do this just fine. This narrower grip was enough to prevent my upper arm from brushing against the vertical 4x4 posts, but just barely, and I don't know if I like having to think about something like that. One the other hand, it might be good practice to enforce immaculately smooth and balanced form on every rep. If I'm a little off, I'll brush or hit the posts. Still, not something I'll want to worry about, I think, if I test heavy singles, which is the whole point of having the posts in the first place. And with the narrow space, I'll have to attach the dipgrip brackets in such a way that they can be removed when doing my squats, otherwise my arms will hit those as well. I think the solution is to have the posts interchangeable, so that during the squats the brackets are on the outside of the posts, but during dips they're on the inside. Either that, or I simply make the brackets removable with some machine screws and wingnuts. And then I'm wondering if it's worth all the hassle. The set-up was fine before . . . Thursday - 12.10 Worked on my safety bar/dip set-up instead of going for a bike ride. It works, but needs a few tweaks. Before I do that, however, I'll give it a test run on Friday's workout, to see if there's anything else that could be improved. Friday - 12.11 PM Lifting SQ: 1/2/3/3 x 272 TK OHP: 1/2/3 x 136 Body felt out of sorts, and I was continually interrupted, up to 20-30 minutes after my Press. Everything felt heavy, but it was mostly low body + mental rhythm. After the last interruption my body had cooled down and I had lost motivation, especially for a heavy deadlift, the next lift on the list. So I just called it day. The good news is that it was pretty easy to squat inside the new safety bars' 4x4 posts without hitting them, and the safety bars allowed me to go down to my absolute squat depth with a heavy load without worrying about whether I'd be able to make it back up. So workouts will be even more relaxing and unstressed now. I had my doubts about whether it would be a worthwhile project, or just busywork, but I think I will keep the posts and bars in place all the time, even when I'm not attempting heavier loads. And as a bonus, thanks to dipgrips, the new set-up also provides an improved option for dips. So after bailing on the workout I used the extra time to finish my safety bar/dip station project. I decided to standardize the measurements after my initial attempt, when I just eye-balled everything with a level. So I had to turn the 4x4 wood posts upside down and redrill the holes on the other ends with a drill press, for improved accuracy. Then I cut off a bit of the 12" plumbing pipe nipple that I'm using to cover the threaded bar that connects the rack's steel posts to the 4x4 wood posts at the bench press safety bar level. I can adjust the perpendicularity of the posts by screwing in the other end of the pipe into the 4x4 posts' wood, but the end that abuts the rack's steel posts needed to be shortened by an inch--the length of the threaded tip. So it took just one prototype before I was able to come up with the finished product, with no materials wasted, and no major screw-ups except for a few unused holes towards the bottoms of the 4x4 posts. Not bad for a Lee project. I'll provide pics soon. Saturday - 12.12 AM/PM Bike Commuting Two miles. Was going to make up the rest of Friday's workout, hung out with the family instead. ---------------Week 2: Cycle VII--------------- Template for this week: I think I may take another stab at Overhead Squats on Wednesday. I'll also try subbing Dips in for the 2DB Bench Presse on Wednesdays, now that my new Dip station is ready, and possibly light Power Cleans will be subbed in for conventional Deadlifts. The other thing is that I've gone back to a stricter interpretation of the 5/7/3 weekly wave of rep-counts. Otherwise, more relentless microloading and hopefully a better effort at working in the aerobic and mobility stuff than I was able to put forth during the first week of this cycle. Sunday – 12.13 AM Bike Commuting Two miles. Monday - 12.14 Feeling a little run-down. Took a nap instead of lifting. Tuesday - 12.15 AM/PM Bike commuting. Two miles. Took a nap instead of cycling. Wednesday - 12.16 PM Lifting. SQ: 1/2/3/3-4 @ 258 TK OHP: 2/2/3 @ 129, 7-8/7-8 @ 85 RDL: 5/5 @ 215 Too much time off, so I was going to ladder up to a full set of Squats 1/2/3/4/5, which works out to the same reps as 5/5/5 as well. I had also woken up with a sore right knee for some reason, so it behooved me to work it up slowly. I was starting to finally get a little warmed-up and motivated when I hit the left vertical 4x4 post coming down on the third or fourth rep of my fourth set and the bar became unbalanced and before I knew it, the left side's plates were sliding off. I stood there like Wiley E Coyote, waiting for the inevitable as the plates fell off in rapid succession and then again as the bar tipped to the other side to let all the plates slide off to the right. Crap, first time that's happened, on Squats anyway. Since my right knee wasn't feeling 100% I decided to call it a day for the Squats, but maybe it was mostly to avoid bad luck. I guess I really have to concentrate to remain within the tight area of the new Safety Rack. Without proper concentration and form, the safety rack actually made today's workout less safe. Also, because I have my grip in so narrow now, it's hard to correct a balance issue. But I don't know if I could've corrected the rebound in time even with a wider grip. With 258 pounds coming down, the bar hit the post with a decent amount of force, throwing it off immediately. The Good news is I wasn't ever in danger of losing balance. I just had to stand there and watch the inevitable. I will try to find the best foot placement within the safety rack next workout, but if I continue to have problems, I may reserve its use for attempts at PRs only. On the OHP, my right shoulder felt cranky right from the start. Crap, I thought that had gotten better. So I decided to just prime it a bit. By then I had lost almost all motivation, so I just primed the RDL a bit and called it quits for good. This is what happens I think, when I string too many missed or partial workouts together in a row. It's been even longer since I got in a good week of decent aerobic work and that has kinda left my body cool, if that makes sense. Thursday - 12.17 PM Rowing 35 minutes. Was going to lift, then bike, then lift again, but finally decided just to row, in order to best prime myself for Friday's lifting session, which I hope goes well. I need at least one good workout this week. Friday - 12.18 AM/PM Bike Commuting Two miles, starting to get cold again. Mobility. Stretching contraption and a broom stick I picked up at Menards during my Safety/Dip station project shopping, for shoulder mobility and general stretching. Seem to help me lifting later. PM Lifting SQ: 3/3/3 @ 274 TK OHP: 2/3/3 @ 137 DL: 2/3/3 @ 315 BP: 2/2/3@ 205 P RW: 3/3/3 @ 171 CN PD: 2 @ 192, 3 @ 185 N PD: 3/3 @ 185 S PD: 3/3 @ 185 A close-to-full workout, and I really needed it to close out the week. I was starting to think I'd have to repeat this week, but I probably got enough in to justify increasing all the lifts according to their Iron Ratio derivations of the base unit--which is one pound. That's one good thing about going at a rate of load increase that's slower than the rate of strength gains. It accounts for those weeks when you're sick, or too busy, or just not up for it physically or mentally for some reason, and you miss workouts or have partial workouts. I think I really need three full-body workouts a week to progress, but with a slightly slower-than-natural rate of increase, I can get away with a bad week here or there. Only the flu bug I got 7-8 weeks ago made me repeat a whole week, because it took out almost two complete weeks. I think it's also been helpful to get in my squats no matter what. Even if I don't have time for the other lifts, if I got 15-20 minutes I can do my squats and that will tide me over a couple of bad, missed, or partial sessions. Anyway, I was still a little spooked by Wednesday's plateslide, but the Squats went fine. The triples felt hard, maybe a little harder than usual, but I never felt like I could miss a rep. And looking sideways as much as I could without throwing off my balance, I saw that my bar path seemed to be at least a couple of inches inside the 4x4 vertical posts. Before beginning the worksets, I thought about making the load an even 275, my old 1RM PR, but decided to stick to the somewhat ritualized discipline of microloading, which called for 274, a two-pound increase over the week prior. After the three mandatory worksets, I also thought about doing one more optional set, but I wanted to make sure I got in a full workout of mandatory lifts and sets this time, so I moved on to the next order of business. My right shoulder is still a little cranky and I thought about abandoning the Tall-Kneeling Overhead Press after the first set, but then on subsequent sets it felt better. The actually load intensity felt just right. I was going to do one or two sets of RDLs at my Squat load weight, then move on to the conventional DLs, but I dunno, doing heavy RDL triples seemed kind of dumb. Why not just head straight for even heavier DLs? Mood for the day I guess. So I got three wheels plus change on each end of the bar and once again, the load intensity felt just right--not too easy, not too hard. I'm really thinking structural balance has mostly been achieved. The lifts all feel about equal in intensity/effort. Just gotta get everything a little bit stronger in relation to the Bench Press and then I'll be all set. The Bench Press went well and my right shoulder didn't seem to mind it much but the 4x4 vertical posts annoyed me once I got up to my worksets. I kept worrying about bumping into the posts with my elbows or forearms. With my elbows 'tucked' just right, they were barely clearing the posts. When I tested my ability to bench press inside the posts last week, before going ahead with the project, I was using a lighter load, which made it possible to 'overtuck' subconsciously perhaps. With the workset load, it's harder to do without good technique. So anyway, I took the posts out. For both the Bench Press and Squat, it would be really nice if there were at least six more inches of space between the steel and wood posts, but ideally something more like 12-18 inches. It would complicate the design a bit, but I think I could make it work. Just going to be harder to find gate latches that long. The Pendley Rows are keeping up nicely as things get heavier. I'm a little concerned there might be a threshold over which they fall out of the Iron Ratio, but so far they've been conforming to the idea of structural balance and that everything has carryover to everything else once things are in balance, so everything should be able to go up equally and in proportion. Pulldowns, however felt a little heavy at 192, especially for the Close Neutral-grip Pulldown. Not sure what to think about that . . . Saturday - 12.19 AM/Noon Bike Commuting Two miles. It's a little cold, so I think I'll put off cycling till Sunday. I've been intending to row on my non-cycling weekend day, so I rowed. Rowing 28m 30s. Was going to do an hour, but right elbow started to feel tendinitis-y. I think this right side problem is related to me sitting at my desk sideways lately. Have to stop that. ---------------Week 3: Cycle VII--------------- Template for this week. I'm going to try going back to my idea of making each different pulldown grip type a different rep-count, with a corresponding difference in load percentage--7=75%, 5=85%, 3=90%. Otherwise, more relentless microloading. This week I reach 275 as my triple load, which is a mild milestone, because this used to be my 1RM PR load. Thinking a little more about the Safety/Dip Station. I think I will go ahead and extend the space between the steel posts of the power rack and the 4x4 vertical wood posts at least six inches. I found longer cane bolts (for the Squat safety bar) on Amazon. At Menards, the longest was 18". So I just need to extend the base out a bit, and get a longer threaded bar and plumbing pipe. Plus, if the posts are further behind me, I can probably keep the dip brackets on the inside of the posts permanently, so I wouldn't have to switch out posts; the wood posts could stay in place, just switching out bars and dip-grips. So this would be an improved design overall. Sunday – 12.20 AM/PM Bike Commuting Three miles. PM Cycling 11.2 miles. Allowed myself to listen to earbuds. The music took my mind off of any soreness in my butt or shoulders, or fatigue in my quads. Really made the ride more pleasant, and the hour or so passed by quickly. Temps close to 40F I think. Monday - 12.21 AM Bike Commuting Two miles. Looking at Rogue's site, I found out the name for my kind of safety bar is 'pin-n-pipe.' Rogue had pin-n-pipe sets for about the same price as it would cost me to order extra-long cane bolts from Amazon and then some plumbing pipe from Menards to cover them. I'll have to cut a little of the pipe off I think, but this way I'll get 23 inches of space in between my steel and wood posts instead of the current 11 inches--a big improvement. So I'll be able to set up the safety/dip station permanently I think, and probably be able to store my smaller plates on the sides, as per Abide's suggestions. PM Lifting SQ: 2/4/5/5 @ 260 RDL: 5 @ 260 DL: 2/3 @ 317 Was a little short of time, but more short of motivation. I don't know why. My body actually felt real primed and ready to go. After the Squats I let my lack of motivation be an excuse to give my right shoulder a few more days to feel better before I pressed again, even though it felt OK on Friday. It's getting better each day, but I probably could've done my presses no problem. Then on the RDLs I just wasn't up for a second set. So I decided to go heavy on the DL and do my triple load. I dunno, sometimes I think I should just do triples every workout and screw the rep-count variation. I like low-rep counts, get the sets over with quickly. So that might be the next experiment--stick to lower rep counts for a cycle. Or do some kind of ladder approach, like I did more than a year ago, something like 2/3/5/5 or 1/3/3/5. In fact, I might try something like that on Wednesday. . . . I often find myself laddering up on the first set or two anyway, so maybe I could ladder down as well. Tuesday - 12.22 AM/Noon Bike commuting. Two miles. A frosting of snow on the ground. Almost time to put on the studded tires. Late AM Rowing. 40 mins. My mom lost a tooth so I had to cancel my planned bike ride in the afternoon to take her to the dentist. Got in a quick 40 minutes of rowing before I had to pick her up. Wednesday - 12.23 Xmas busy-ness Thursday - 12.24 Xmas Friday - 12.25 Was going to work out after assembling all the various toy presents that needed assembling, but worked on my new Safety/Dip station instead. The 23-inch Rogue pin-n-pipe set came on Wednesday. All I had to do was cut some new wood pieces for a longer base, and cut longer threaded bar for the Bench Press safety bar. Almost finished before my family caught up to me and the drill battery need recharging anyway. Saturday - 12.26 PM Lifting SQ: 3-4 @ 175 Was going to work out, but decided to finish the Safety/Dip Station project. After I finished the basic set-up, I decided to put in bolts for small plate storage on the sides of the 4x4 posts, in order to get them off the power rack's steel posts, where they tended to get in the way. That took longer than I thought it would and then it was dinner time but my wife and son were taking a long holiday nap and my daughter was at a friend's, so I was still going to try to get in a light workout to prime everything for Monday. After the Squat warm-up set at 175, however, my son and wife popped in and that was that. Oh well, at least the set-up is done and ready for Monday. It felt pretty spacious during my brief squatting warm-up so I think the project revamp was worthwhile. ---------------Week 4: Cycle VII--------------- Template for this week: I'm going to try some version of a 2/3/5/7+ pyramiding sets-reps protocol on Monday and Friday, and then a 7-rep protocol on Wednesdays. On Wednesdays I'll also sub in dumbbell presses for the barbell presses, but otherwise, all the lifts will remain the same, just the rep-count changes. For the Deadlift, I'll probably switch to RDLs once I hit five or seven reps on Monday and Friday and for the seven-rep sets on Wednesday. On Friday I add one pound to the Squat 1RM and recalculate all the other lifts's loads using the Iron Ratio. Then add another pound to begin the next week, so still a two-pound-per-week increase overall. I've also lowered the rounding function in my Excel sheet to half a pound instead of one pound, to ensure micro increases between Monday and Friday for all the main lifts. So, with the 2/3/5/7+ protocol, there will be a lot more monkeying around with plates and looking at the Excel sheet in between sets. If I end up liking this scheme, I will probably continue with it into 2016's first cycle. I should probably deload by 6-8 pounds for the Squat 1RM, since last week's workouts were almost non-existence and also because I should probably ease into this more intense scheme, but I'll start with a Squat 1RM of 308 and see how it goes. There's a good chance I'll make the double a single at the double percentage of 95% of 1RM. If I can get used to these heavier loads, I may then start to test my true 1RM more frequently. I kept Wednesday a lower weight/higher rep day just to make sure I give my joints a break from Monday and Friday's intensity. It kind of sucked using up two workouts to work on the Safety/Dip station, but it will be nice to have a good safety system as I move into a heavier routine. I think the biggest benefit is just knowing that the safeties are there so I'm not tempted to cheat squat depth on the bigger loads. It will also be nice not having to worry about setting the bar in a specific spot if I fail a bench press rep. Sunday – 12.27 AM Bike commuting One mile. Cycling 10 miles. Put on my studded snow tires for the first time. Hard to tell if they make a difference, as I rode cautiously anyway over the patches of ice and compacted snow. And most of the roads and bike paths were dry asphalt. 5-10 inches coming tonight, so perhaps a better test on Thursday. Tuesday I'll probably row while I wait for everything to be plowed. Monday - 12.28 Tuesday - 12.29 AM/PM Bike Commuting Two miles in fresh snow. It was a good core workout trying to maintain balance. Then sledding with kids later, or a good prowler workout. Wednesday - 12.30 PM Lifting SQ: 1 @ 265/275/285, 2 @ 293, 3 @ 277, 3/2 @ 262 TK OHP: 2/4/5 @ 131 DL: 3/5 @ 265 BP: 2/4/5 @ 175 Finally got a workout in. My initial goal for the squat was simply to find out where I was at, but as I went up testing my singles, I found 285 to feel pretty solid, so I decided to test the 2/3/5/7+ protocol I had intended to start last week. This meant adding 8 more pounds and doing a double, although I thought I'd probably only be capable of a single, given the 10 days I had taken off. But no, the double came up just fine, hard but doable, with maybe just a little cheating of depth on the second rep. So that was a relief. I was thinking the excessive time off I've taken twice this mini-cycle would necessitate deloading 5-10 pounds and building back up, but the squat still feels pretty strong. And if the Squat is good, then, given that it's still my weakest lift, the other lifts should be recoverable fairly quickly. So I continued down to my triple percentage, then the quintuple, but for some reason at this point my body started to feel out of sorts. I hadn't been sleeping much for a few days and perhaps it was catching up to me, or maybe it was just a lack of conditioning due to taking too much time off. Anyway, shorted the reps and called it a day. Still, I felt very good about being able to do a double at close to 300 pounds. I know now for sure I can 1RM PR over 300, and I may actually try that next week after I have a few full workouts behind me. I was expecting the Overhead Press to be rusty too, and I can still feel a little soreness in my right anterior delt, although the time off has really helped the soreness in my right shoulder and elbow to dissipate quite a bit--it's about 95% OK now. However, my 5RM weight of 131 felt OK. I laddered up to a full rep count nonetheless, to make sure my right shoulder was OK with it. Around this point I decided the workout would just be a priming day, although I did want to get in a few Deadlift reps over 300. I was warming up at 265 when my wife and son came home, and then I knew for sure that all I would be able to do was prime things a bit for Friday's hopefully fuller workout. After helping put groceries away and a few other tasks, I went back and benched 175 for a few sets just to prime the pecs a bit. The weight felt easy but the muscles and tendons were definitely cranky and needing some loosening up. This was my first workout in the extended Safety/Dip station, and that part of it went great. I really like how the Squat safety bars allow me to achieve proper depth on pretty much every rep, even on heavy doubles. And now I have enough room that I can squat unselfconsciously and just focus on maintaining intrinsically good form instead of worrying about extrinsic constraints on form. And that Seedman article gave me a greater appreciation for what the intrinsic factors are. It's always cool to both feel and think something. The Bench Press safety bars are just wide enough but sometimes I brush up against one or the other lightly. I never brush up against both of them however so I don't think they are artificially altering my form and making me over-tuck the elbows. Right now it seems like the brushing is just an indication that I'm a little off center. So no more extrinsic constraints there either, now with the extended posts. So it was good to end the year with a half-decent workout, and this sets me up nicely for a solid workout on Friday to start the new year. Thursday - 12.31 Noon Rowing 46 minutes. That's it for 2015's exercising. Can't say I'm a whole lot better off than I was a year ago, but at least my Squat and OHP are up. Friday - 01.01 PM Lifting SQ: email@example.com | 3@278 | firstname.lastname@example.org | 7@232 TK OHP: 3@139 | email@example.com | 7@116 DL: 1/2@320 BP: 3-4@175, firstname.lastname@example.org My wife had the morning shift so I waited until she called to tell us she was on her way home at 2:00pm before beginning my workout. I had been with the kids all day and knew I wouldn't be able to work out unless my wife could look after them. But she ended up catching up with a coworker after work, so the kids were still in the garage after I had finished my squat warm-up sets. Oh well, I just told them to stay at the other end of the garage while I was lifting. I was happy to find my double load of 293.5 lbs, just a half pound heavier than Wednesday's double load, felt just as doable. And it feels great to a be able to squat a load that's hard just to walk out. It kind of takes a leap of faith that you'll be able to do it, and the safety bars help give me that faith. Nonetheless, as I was re-racking the bar, I got distracted and failed to rack the right side. I thought I felt it land, but with such a heavy load, I guess I was hunched over a bit more than usual, or hadn't straightened up all the way. Luckily, the left side was secured on its bolt so when all the plates on the right side slide off, I was able to place the bar up on the right bolt and secure it there with a hand as a counterweight as I stepped back from my predicament to take measure of it. While grasping the bar with my left hand, I reached down with my right for a fallen 45-pound grip plate, gripped it, and then hoisted it up over and onto the top of the bar. By this time my son had come to see what had happened, his view having been obstructed by the hot tub. Jeesuz! He was standing close to under the right-hand side's plates! I yelled for him to get away, and then worked to slide the 45 I had hoisted up along the top of the bar to the end of it until the center hole was at the end of the bar and then looped it down onto the bar's sleeve. Once I got that on, it was enough to counter and hold the other side's 129.25 pounds in place, so I went over and began to deload that side. My son was crying in the closet that adjoins the garage, so I had to go over and reassure him that I was only yelling at him to get him out of danger, not because I was mad at him. That took at a while. Back at it, I really liked how each load felt progressively lighter, and the five- and seven-rep counts no longer felt so arduous. Overall I would say pyramiding like this requires less mental effort than straight sets across, although monkeying with the plates in between each set is kind of a drag. I usually hate seven-rep sets, but knowing I only had to do that one higher-rep set made it bearable, and I could see going for extended reps next time around. Another good thing is that it's easy to improvise a bit when you have all the loads laid out for you. On the Tall Kneeling Overhead Press, for example, I skipped the doubles because I'm still building back into the presses and also because I strained my right front deltoid a bit while hoisting up the 45 after the squat mishap. On another day I could do an extra set of triples or whatever I happen to be feeling that day, but I still have enough structure to make sure I'm progressing in a logical fashion. In any case, I was happy to find that the OHP triple was still there, and once again, it felt really damn good and natural to descend in weight while I increased the reps. I was going to try to do three sets of triples for the deadlift, but after I did a warm-up single, I felt a twinge in my right elbow on the second rep of the first work-set, so I put the bar down. I guess I still have a little tendinitis there, perhaps aggravated by the squat mishap's hoisting. Meanwhile the kids were still interrupting things a lot even after my wife had come home and they all had adjourned to the living room. I was warming up on the bench press, just finishing a warm-up single at triple weight, when I got called one more time. Whatever it was took some time and by the time I came back to the bench I had lost my warm-up and motivation. So I called it a day. Not a full workout, but I continued to prime things well, having recovered my OHP fully. I think I'll be able to get everything back on Monday, so overall, a good lifting workout to end the cycle and also a good confirmation that the 2/3/5/7+ protocol will be worth experimenting with in the next cycle. It's hard to say if it's just as effective as straight sets across with a weekly wave of rep counts, but it might be more motivating and enjoyable, which is most important. After several years now of fairly consistent lifting, I gotta keep things from getting too boring. Saturday - 01.02 AM/PM Bike Commuting Two miles. PM Rowing 36 minutes. ---------------------------------------------------- 1RM Gains for Cycle VII: DL: 347>357 = +10 lbs Squat: 302>310 = +8 lbs BP: 227>233 = +6 lbs OHP: 151>155 = +4 lbs P RW: 189>194 = +5 lbs PD: 119>222 = +3 lb Assessment of Cycle VII: Well, I was able to continue my Squat progress and add eight pounds to my projected 1RM over the last four weeks of the year. Everything else seems in line with these gains or close to recoverable, despite some illness and multiple interruptions. So an OK cycle. Perhaps more importantly, once I got up around 300 1RM, I developed an urge to test some heavier loads, so in the last week I tested a 2/3/5/7+ protocol somewhat, and I liked it enough to make it the basis for next cycle’s lifting program. My aerobic fitness degraded a fare bit from the interruptions and inconsistency. ===================================================================== Assessment of 2015: Set-backs: 1.) Re-injured my sacro-illiac joint or pulled the same muscle in my glute/hip, choose your diagnosis, in January. Re-habbed it through February I think. 2.) Got Shingles in May. Since August symptoms linger but are manageable, more annoying than painful. 3.) In June, I developed crippling pain in my right knee while running/walking and found out I have degenerative menisci. Rehabbed through August and September I think. 4.) Developed a hacking cough while recovering from Shingles that lasted about six weeks. Programming: 1.) Experimented with the weekly wave rep counts of 5/8/3 and also straight sets across with five reps. 2.) Discovered mircoloading and fractional plates, and learned how to incorporate them into a percentage-based approach to rep-count loading. 3.) Began programming according to the Iron Ratio and tweaked it several times to reflect better my abilities, goals, and weakest lifts. Strength Gains: 1.) Gained 35 pounds over my previous Squat 1RM PR despite the setbacks. 2.) Set new PRs of 160 and 260 in the OHP and Bench Press, respectively, and will soon be surpassing those in 2016. Aerobic gains: 1.) No gains to speak off, but didn’t lose much either because my aerobic conditioning was already in a woeful state at the beginning of 2015. Can’t run consistently anymore, but cycling and rowing seem to be adequate replacements.