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: firstname.lastname@example.org | 3@278 | email@example.com | 7@232 TK OHP: 3@139 | firstname.lastname@example.org | 7@116 DL: 1/2@320 BP: 3-4@175, email@example.com 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 last cycle: 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.