Thursday, February 2, 2017

Smallest Positive Steps

So, it's been a few years since I posted here. Just trying to get things going. A lot has happened in the last 5 years. I got married, had kids, took a mental health break from the training thing, ended up not going back. Lately I've been tossing around a few ideas for potential training programs and/or gadgets. And now I'm blogging again. I also started keeping a training log again, I hadn't done that since my last competition. I've suffered a few back injuries recently weightlifting, so I'm taking a little break from the quick lifts and focusing on basic strength for a while. I'm basically doing Starting Strength, but with 1 work set of 5 reps of snatch pulls instead of power cleans.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Progress Update

My last two posts covered my progress so far, and current training program. I just finished the first 3 week cycle with pretty good results.

Today I'll just be posting measurements and a summary of my lifting progress. I'll have more pictures in 3 weeks.

I'll start by listing my measurements from 3 weeks ago, which I forgot to do last time, and what they were this morning:

Shoulders:            46.5" | 47"
Chest:                40.25" | 40.75"
Waist:                  31.5" | 31.25"
Hips:                  38.25" | 37.75"
Thighs:                    22" | 22.5"
Calves:                    14" | 14"
Arms (R/L): 14.25"/14" | 14.625"/14.25"
Forearms (R/L): 11.75" | 11.75"/11.625"

Weight's up to 75.3 kg from 74.5, A little short of my goal. Body fat % went from 9.44 to 9.75, some of that may be measurement error, using the calipers is a new thing for me. my girth measurements would suggest that BF% went down.

Lifting has been going well for the most part. Last week I hit a 20 pound PR on the bench (235 lbs from 215). I got my full squats back up to my PRs from the winter (275 lbs back and 245 front). I maxed out on the trap-bar deadlift for the first time and hit 425 (attempted 445, it didn't budge, then I missed 435 as well). O-lifts had not so great results. Snatch was okay. Hit 150 lbs (155 lbs PR). Clean was bad, hit 195 (215 PR). My pull felt strong, I just couldn't hold it in the catch. Power Jerk I maxed for the first time last Saturday. Hit 185, missed 195 and 190. My form's getting better with the snatch, I'm getting under it much better than before. The power jerk was better in my last session as well. I usually have problems locking out my right arm (flexibility/mobility issues) but I added some dynamic stretches in between and was a lot better.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Powerbuilder/Superhero/Awesome/I don't have a fancy name for it Training Program

Catchy title, eh?

I covered the basic principles for my training and nutrition earlier today. Now I'll get into the actual training program:

Tuesday AM (Upper Body Pressing and Biceps):
Quick dynamic warm-up:
YTIW raises x 8
Push-up plus x 8
Press & shrug x 8
1. Plyo push-ups on a bench - 5 x 5
2. Bench Press - 5/3/1 (Test max on 1 week)
3a. Press - 3/4/5 x 10
3b. Preacher curl - 4 x 6-10
4a. Hammer curl with pause - 4 x 6-10
4b. Incline DB Fly-aways - 3 x 6

Tuesday PM (Legs):
Dynamic warm-up:
Knee side-to-side (hip rotation) mobilization x 8 each side
T-spine extension on a foam roller x 3 breaths per position
Pullover lying on a foam roller x 10
Press lying on a foam roller x 10
Squat to stand stretch x 6
Overhead Squat x 6
5 position Snatch (scarecrow on toes, straight arm on toes, hips, knees, "floor") x 3 with broom stick
4 position Snatch (same as above minus the scarecrow) x 3 with a bar
1. Clean - 5/6/8 x 3/2/1
2. 10-minute max pull-ups (alternate between pronated grip and neutral week-to-week)
3. Full back squat (work up to a heavy (not max) single, then one all-out set of 5/3/1 reps)
4a. RDL - 3/4/6 x 8/6/4
4b. Full-contact twist - 3/4/6 x 4/3/2 each side

Thursday AM (Upper Body Pulling and Triceps)
Same warm-up as Tuesday AM
1. Pullover machine - 6 x 6-10
2a. Pulldown - 4 x 6-10
2b. Straight-arm pulldown - 4 x 6-10
2c. Triceps pressdown - 4 x 6-10
3a. Low-cable row - 4 x 6-10
3b. Facepull - 4 x 15
4a. Machine Reverse Flye - 3 x 8-12
4b. Overhead triceps extensions with cable (rope attachment) - 3 x 8-12

Thursday PM (Legs):
Same warm-up as Tuesday PM
1. Snatch  - 5/6/8 x 3/2/1
2. Bench Press - 3/5/8 x 5/3/1 at Tuesdays top weight
3. Full front squat (work up to a heavy (not quite max) single, then one all-out set of 5/3/1 reps)
4a. Barbell (on back) Rear foot elevated split squat: 3/4/6 x 8/6/4
4b. TRX fallout: 3/4/6 x 8/6/4

Saturday AM (Legs):

Same warm-up as Tuesday PM
1. Power Jerk from blocks - 5/6/8 x 3/2/1
2. Weighted Pull ups 4 x 6-10/4-8/2-4 (different grip from previous Tuesday)
3. Trap-bar deadlifts (work up to a heavy (not quite max) single, then one all-out set of 5/3/1 reps)
4a. Single leg RDL: 3/4/6 x 8/6/4
4b. TRX fallout: 3/4/6 x 8/6/4

Saturday PM (Upper Body Pressing & Arms):
Same upper-body warm-up
1. Press (5/3/1)
2a. Bench Press - 3/4/5 x 10
2b. TRX Curl - 4 x 10
3a. Overhead triceps extension with cable (rope attachment) - 4 x 6-10
4a. Hammer curl with a pause - 4 x 6-10

So, 3 days, six training sessions with the goal of getting big, strong and powerful. Medium-Long Term (in the next year or 2) that means an elite raw powerlifting total, and qualifying for weightlifting nationals. Short term I want to bench 2 plates and deadlift 4. I should be able to hit these in week 3. A 315 deep back squat, and 275 front squat should happen soon as well, maybe in a month and a half or 2. In terms of mass, I'm looking to gain 1 pound per week for as long as I can without getting sloppy.

I'm using a 3-week cycle. The set, rep ranges with slashes in between indicate progressions. 5/3/1 for bench and overhead presses is Jim Wendler's 5/3/1, with de-loads taken as necessary, not scheduled for every 4 weeks. 3/4/5 x 10 is 3 sets of 10 reps in week 1, 4 sets in week 2, 5 sets in week 3. 5/6/8 x 3/2/1 is 5 sets of 3 in week 1, 6 x 2 in week 2, 8 x 1 in week 3.

I'd like to get some exercise descriptions and/or videos up soon, if you have a question, leave a comment, and I'll get something for you ASAP (at least a link)

I'll stick to this plan as long as my shoulders feel good (not sure how much the barbell pressing volume will disagree with baseball this summer). We have a 10-event combine at FITS  before Luke leaves at the end of June, so I'm going to have to taper and start training specifically for the jumping and sprinting. But until then, this is the program, I'll have progress updates every 3 weeks.

My Progress So Far

I was always a skinny kid. I graduated high school I weighed about 130 pounds at 5'8". It got up to about 140 in the 2 years after high school without much attention paid to weight training or eating. It wasn't until 3 years later, in 2008, that I started to lift consistently, starting with the home exercise machine at my parents' place. January 2009 I got a gym membership at Ryerson University, just doing routines out of the free magazines from the GNC. I started to use Bodyspace in March that year. I weighed 150 pounds. I think I mainly used a push/pull/leg split at first, then moved on to some body-part splitting with some crazy volume, then on to HIT. My weight hit 164 at its highest in late November. I was definitely hooked on training at that point, I was starting to read T-Nation at that point and got more interested in getting strong.

July 2007 (~140 lbs)
With the focus more on performance than mass, my weight stayed around 160 for a while. In the fall of 2010 I decided to start training for a raw powerlifting meet at the end of January 2011. I got my weight up to 170 in the three months of training and competed at 165 (Not really a cut, I got sick the day before the weigh in, and woke up at just above 165). My training maxes at 2 months out were 250 squat, 190 bench and 340 deadlift. I finished training with 300, 200, 360. In the competition I made 9 of 9 lifts and finished with 142.5 kg (314.2 lbs), 97.5 (215), and 175 (385.8). Sorry for the unit flipping, competitions are all in kilos, but all the gyms I've trained in have pound plates.

The flu that I caught right around the competition totally kicked my ass for the next 3 weeks, and I ended up dropping to just above 150 lbs. Once I got over that I started training with Thibaudeau's high performance mass program, and got my weight back to the mid 160's. In the summer I started playing baseball again, so I decided to drop the barbell in favour of the kettlebell to save my shoulders. I also decided I wanted to get ripped. I started on the Anabolic Diet. You can read a good T-nation article on it here. Essentially, on weekdays it's next to no carb during the week, and weekends are high-carb. I got lean, but I couldn't eat enough during the week to keep my weight up, and dropped to around 150.

In October, I started my internship at FITS Toronto, and started training for a weightlifting competition in early February. I started at about 155 lbs, with a 125 lb snatch and 165 lb clean and jerk. I finished training with lifts of 155 and 195, and in competition made 67 kg (147.4 lbs) and 92 kg (202.4 lb) at 74.79 kg (164.538) bodyweight. I got my 75 kg snatch attempt up, but was red-lighted for a press out.

At FITS, vertical jump is king, as well it should be, because it's a great measure of maximal power and hugely important for athletic performance. I started at FITS with a vertical jump of 26.2 inches. During the first 2 months of weightlifting training I got that up to 29.3, which is pretty impressive because I didn't really jump much during that time, and I also gained 10 pounds. I dropped off a bit in the last month because I was getting a little beat up from the weightlifting training. After the competition, I shifted my training focus to improving my vert. My lower body training was: Day 1: reactive jumps, Day 2: box jumps (counter-movement and approach) Day 3: Strength. I took my vert from mid-28's to 30.8 in a couple months on this program.

The last month or so I've started moving back to a more Strength/Strength-speed emphasis in my programming. I've added weightlifting lifts and squats/pulls back in 3 days a week, and also started doing some single leg, hamstring and trunk stability work. I've gotten my weight up from about 160 to 164 while leaning out.

That takes us to where I am today, here are some progress pics. From 162 and ~15% body fat in November 2009 to 164 and 9.5% body fat this morning. Here are the pics:

While the scale weight hasn't changed a whole lot. I have gained a bit over 10 pounds of lean mass in two years, after my initial 25 pounds of newb gains. My goal for now is to gain a kilogram every 2 weeks (that's how my WiiFit works, it's the best scale I have at home, it works out to about 1 lb./week), without getting too fat, while improving my strength. I'll get into specific performance goals and my training and nutrition in a post later today.

Principles and Habits for Effective Physical Fitness Training

Before I get into the meat of this post I'm going to start by mentioning that I've been reading a lot of stuff from Precision Nutrition, and have liked it a lot. I had read John Berardi's T-Nation article on Intermittent Fasting a while ago, and had started to implement the fasts here and there, usually doing the 16 hour fasts on my non-training days. I dropped IF when I started my polyphasic sleep experiment. I had read that it can be too much stress when you're not getting enough sleep. So, I started to eat more regular meals with some carb cycling. I've since dropped polyphasic sleep, and have been looking ahead to my next training block.

Yesterday, while digging through my inbox, I found an e-mail from Nate Green promoting the latest edition of the Scrawny to Brawny coaching program. I had just gotten through PN's IF e-book, and loved it, so I dove right into the Scrawny to Brawny readings. I ended up signing up for the 5-day e-mail course, and just tore through day 1. The main thing that I took away from both the IF e-book and the Scrawny to Brawny readings is that the programs are principle and habit based. There are no quick fixes, it's about building good, sustainable habits and adhering to principles that work. This fits in to my current personal development path quite nicely. I've been reading (and re-reading, and going through the workbook for) the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for the past couple of months now, and it's changed the way I look at things, and increased my effectiveness quite a bit.

One thing that really stood out for my from the IF guide, and something that I feel will help me take my effectiveness to the next level in terms of long-term goals, is JB's process of "outcome-based decision making":

  1. Try something that makes sense, is simple, and that you can do every day.
  2. Commit to doing this one action every day for a reasonable period of time, usually a few weeks.
  3. Measure the things that’ll give you objective feedback on how it’s going.
  4. Stick with the intervention until your pre-determined time is up, even if your measures go up and down.
  5. Assess the success of your actions based on the overall measures – the general trend over time.
  6. At the end of the predetermined period, if the intervention’s working, keep doing it.
  7. If it’s not working, or stops working, make a small change, one you’re confident you can do.
  8. Keep repeating until you reach your goal.
(You can find this list with JB's commentary on the topic in PN's IF guide, page 44)

For my diet, I'm going to do a once-per-week 24 hour fast. The other days I'm going to try and eat as much as possible, mostly whole food, with a few basic rules:

  1. Training days will be high-carb
  2. Non-training days will be low-carb (only breakfast will contain starch and/or fruit, the rest of the day will be meat and green veggies only)
Now, for me, eat as much as possible is a good guideline because my goal is to gain muscle, and I tend to under-eat. If you've been overweight in the past and you're trying to lose or maintain weight, this would be a terrible idea. You need to tailor your rules to your own needs, goals, and tendencies.

My basic rules for training are:
  1. Focus on the big basics - compound movements
  2. Training all muscles in one day, 3 days/week resistance training
  3. 2x per day resistance training (upper/lower split)
  4. Daily mobility/flexibility and soft tissue work
  5. 30-60 minutes of aerobic work 3x per week on non resistance training days
Now, this may seem like a lot. But number 1 I've been doing for years. For number 2, I've dabbled with body-training splits, but I've been training full body almost exclusively for the past year and a half or so. I've also been doing 2-a-days for the past 2 months (number 3). So numbers 4 and 5 are the only new things. In keeping with the outcome-based decision making plan I'll start with number 4, and start 5 in 3 weeks, which fits well with my periodization plan for my resistance training. On a side note: numbers 1 and 2 are a good idea for pretty much everyone, especially people new to resistance training. You can check out my principles for newbie training here, and I'll publish a full program with mobility and stability work, progressions and regressions in the near future. In terms of nutrition, the numbers one and two I've been doing for a while now, the 24-hour fast is the new thing which I'll do for 3 weeks.

I'm also going to start using a training log and food journal again, which I haven't done in about a year, and closer to a year and a half respectively. This will be a big part in helping me to apply the outcome-based decision making model effectively.

In my next post, I'll talk about my progress since the beginning of my training journey.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Polyphasic Sleep Update II

So, after 4 weeks of 2-nap, everyman polyphasic sleep, I've decided to call it quits for the time being. I'm a finicky sleeper and I found I just wasn't able to get to sleep when it was time to take a nap. I've had periods of good productivity, but a lot of the time I found myself staying up for the sake of staying up, expending a lot of effort just fighting sleep instead of getting work done.

So, for now. I'm just going to try and go to bed at a consistent time, and get 6 hours, napping as necessary. 8 hours doesn't work for me. I wake up groggy and don't get to sleep easily at the end of the day, so it just ends up being a vicious cycle of poor sleep. This is probably the last time I'll write about sleep for the time being, unless something awesome, or catastrophic happens.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Polyphasic Sleep Update

Right now I'm two weeks into my experiment with Polyphasic Sleep. So far so...-so, haha. It's been up and down. Before I get into the details of what I've been doing and how it's affected me, I'm going to give some background information on what polyphasic sleep is.

I suppose the best way to start is by defining monophasic (1 phase) sleep, which is what most people do. You sleep 8 hours (more or less) at night (usually). Polyphasic (multiple phase) sleep, on the other hand, involves sleeping more than once a day. The thinking behind it is that by sleeping more often, you can lower your daily sleep requirement and therefore have more hours in the day to get things done.

There are a few different variations of polyphasic sleep. They basically fall into two different categories: Uberman and Everyman. Uberman involves only taking 20 minute naps. Six per day, every four hours. This requires a lot of flexibility in one's schedule, I currently don't have enough to pull this one off. Everyman involves taking one core block of sleep at night, with naps taken throughout the day. There are a few different variations, you can read about them here.

I first heard about polyphasic sleep from a friend who mentioned that Matt Mullenweg, founder of Automattic, and creator of WordPress. It interested me because I never got good quality, restful sleep out of 8 hour per night, monophasic sleep.

I've chosen to take the two-nap approach. I've been sleeping for 4 hours per night (I looked over some articles today, and realized I should have been taking 4.5). Then I take a nap around 2 and another one around 9, give or take up to 2 hours. Looking back at my sleep journal, I was pretty good at going to bed at 3 and getting up and out of bed at 7...for the first 4 days. My problem is that I generally don't fall asleep quickly. With monophasic sleep, this would lead to me either sleeping in or - on days where I could't sleep in - feeling like crap and pounding coffee to get through the day. With polyphasic, I'm getting to sleep for my core sleep quickly and doing so consistently, but my success with the naps has been spotty at best.

I've been trying to really control my nap times and keep them in a small range, but I've been inconsistent with how I take them. Sometimes I set a 30 minute timer, sometimes 20 minutes. Sometimes I get up even if I haven't slept, sometimes I give myself a second timer.

I've generally had pretty good energy levels on this plan so far. However, my ability to focus hasn't been what I would have like it to be. I'm working on a new organization and planning system adapted from reading the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. As I get it more ingrained into my daily routine, things should go more smoothly.

In the next two weeks I'm going to make a few tweaks. First, I'm going to go from 4 to 4.5 hours per night (which I should have been doing all along really). Second, I'm only going to nap when I'm tired, and only on a 30 minute timer. This should help me adjust more quickly and thoroughly. The Everyman schedules are supposed to have a couple of hours of flexibility when it comes to timing naps, so it's not something to be too scared of. I'm just going to track it in my sleep journal and analyze the data over the next few weeks. I'm also going to cut out caffeine completely.

Hopefully with these adjustments I'll be able to make a much better adjustment to this new sleep schedule. I look forward to sharing my experience with you soon!