Forced Rest Day

Well, I spoke recently about how a random case of neck pain, caused by sleeping in the wrong position, had miraculously disappeared following some full body stretching. Well, it has returned with a vengeance! I faired well in the gym on Monday and Tuesday; but Tuesday night I was in pain. I could barely turn my head and getting out of the bed was a struggle. Luckily, the pain wasn’t near my lower back; it sits in my traps and at the base of my neck. Nothing helps ease the pain, either. I’m using Tiger Balm, heat therapy, and Advil; but nothing is working.
To deter any further damage, I decided to take a day off from training. This decision prompted me to ponder how many people experience pain, but still go to the gym.  I’m not hard headed enough to continue training with symptoms of an obvious injury, but know people who are.  They feel that if they miss any time from the gym, all of their hard work will be for nothing.  Well, friends, taking a forced rest day due to an injury only makes sense.  Can you drive a car that is overheating?  Maybe for a while, but eventually that car will break down.  Same goes for the body.  Keep benching with that elbow pain and see how far you get.  You’ll eventually have to take a lot more time off versus what you would have if you had simply taken it easy in the beginning.  Not to mention, you may even damage yourself to the extent that you can never return to the gym.

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Miraculous Monday

This morning’s workout was pretty darn good, I must say.  I thought it was going to be a bust and that I’d be primarily spotting my workout partner, at first, because all weekend I have been in pain.  I slept in the wrong position on Friday night; experiencing some serious pain in my neck and mid back all weekend.  By the grace of God, it disappeared during my warm-up session, this morning.  I would’ve been seriously bummed out had I not started feeling better because this week starts a new set of exercises.  We’re cutting back on all of the light weight/volume stuff and attacking our bodies with some intensity.  After a full body warm-up and 10 minutes on the elliptical, we performed the following:

Exercise: weight x reps x sets

Low bar back squat:

Bar x 8 x 2, 135 x 5 x 1, 185 x 4 x 1, 225 x 3 x 1, 275 x 2 x 1 (Warm-up)

308 x 2 x 1, 330 x 2 x 1 @ 8.5, 358 x 1 x 1 @ 10

Note:  My squat has been slow to progress, but I feel will be my second strongest lift come meet time in October.

Hack Squat: 90 x 12 x 2, 90 x AMRAP x 1

Note:  Had a serious case of the noodle legs after performing AMRAP on the last set!

Leg extensions: 40 x 15 x 2, 35 x 15 x 2

Note:  I turned my toes in for two sets and out for two sets.  This method hits the quads at different angles; motivating gains!

After this workout, I was very happy.  I hit some decent numbers and my back pain miraculously disappeared.  Tomorrow, we hit the chest region!

The Only Supplements I Take

Lately,  I’ve been asked a lot about what supplements I take or what I recommend.  Now, some people spend WAY too much money on supplements.  A lot of the supplements they buy are unnecessary and some are flat out dangerous.  I won’t go into those; but if they are not on my list, then they’re possibly on the worthless list.  I’m a big fan of herbal supplements, though I don’t take any, because they are natural.  The reason I don’t take any, however, is because I feel they should be taken on a “by case” basis and that there aren’t any that fit in with my current goals.  So, without further adieu, here is what I take:

Whey Protein

Whey protein is quit possibly the most important supplement, next to a good multivitamin, that I take.  Most of my protein intake comes from protein shakes.  It would be virtually impossible for me to take in over 200 grams of protein through solid food, everyday.  I’m a working man and have a life; plus I do not have a personal chef to prepare my meals, everyday.  Granted, I do try to eat as much protein from solid foods as I can.  I try to find a good protein blend that contains both whey protein isolate and concentrate.  I also try to find a whey protein with a little casein protein included, since it burns slower than whey.  I currently use a whey blend that does not include casein, so I add milk in my evening shake to get it in.  Whey proteins almost always include all of the supposed “necessary” BCAAs, too.  That’ll cut out the need for buying BCAAs separately, though I don’t believe BCAAs do much for you.  Whey is a very crucial supplement for anyone trying to put on muscle, however.  Forget the beef, soy, and whatever other kinds of protein supplements that are out there.  If you disagree, please do your research.

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Multi-Vitamin

I shouldn’t need to go into much detail on why I take this one.  None of us get all the vitamins we need, through food, everyday.  It’s simply not possible; so we must supplement it.  I take Centrum Men’s formula.  On days I forget to take a multi-vitamin, I definitely notice it by feeling like poop.

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Creatine Monohydrate

I just started using this one, again, after years of not taking it and have noticed a huge difference in my overall performance in the gym.  I take 5 grams of the powdered form with my morning protein shake.  You want to take this right before you workout on the days you exercise.  On the days you don’t exercise, take it in the morning with any beverage or meal.  I recommend this supplement for any kind of athlete, not just weightlifters.  You will notice a positive difference in your performance within weeks.  Forget all that loading talk, too.  You’ll do nothing except upset your stomach.  Simply start by taking 5 grams a day and just continue with that amount.

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Omega 3 Fish Oils

This is a key supplement I recommend for everyone, even non-athletes, because of it’s many benefits.  It’s absolutely fantastic for your heart, joints, brain, vision, and fertility.  Just do a quick search on Omega 3 Fish Oils and see for yourself.  Note: All of this is great, unless your allergic to fish!  Then, I’m pretty sure this supplement may kill you.

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Pre-Workout

This is the supplement that I use sparingly and with caution.  There are TONS of very dangerous pre-workout supplements on the market, so please read some reviews before deciding to purchase one.  I take a very mild one that my gym sells called Speed Shot, manufactured by ABB.  It’s not too much and does just what I need it to when I am in the gym at 5:15 AM.  I never feel jittery and have never had a bad experience with it.  Other’s I have tried make my anxiety hit level 9000 or my heart feel like it’s going to explode.  Be very careful with pre-workouts, friends.

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That’s it, guys and gals.  Less than you thought?  I have over twenty years of experience and knowledge with supplements, so I have had a chance to weed them out.  With that being said, these are the only ones I have ever had a good experience with and will continue to take in the long term.

If you have any questions, please fell free to ask.  Knowledge just may save you a ton of money!

Upper Body Friday

Ended the week with arms, as usual.  Spent a good bit of time working on my bench technique since I am about to begin lifting a lot heavier.  My bench has always been wizzy weak, but it does deter my motivation.  After a full-body warm-up, my gym partner and I hit the following:

Exercise: weight x reps x sets

Bench press: bar x 20 x 1, 95 x 10 x 1, 135 x 10 x 2, 185 x 3 x 1, 225 x 3 x 2 @8, 185 x 5 x 1

45 Degree chest press: 45 x 12 x 1, 70 x 8 x 1, 70 x 10 x 1, 45 x AMRAP

Superset –

  • Wide machine rows: 50 x 12 x 1, 70 x 10 x 1, 80 x 8 x 1
  • Wide lat pulldown: 80 x 10 x 2, 100 x 8 x 1

Superset –

  • Lateral raises: 25 x 10 x 3
  • Reverse cable shoulder flyes: 30 x 12 x 1, 30 x 8 x 1, 30 x 10 x 8

Superset –

  • Hammer curls: 35 x 10 x 1, 35 x 8 x 2
  • Dips: bdywght x 12 x 3

Started using my new Gorilla Pod, this morning, to make a video of some of the workout.  Check it out below!

Deadlifts and Noodle Legs

Today was deadlift day; one of my most favorite days of the week.  After a fully body warm-up and 10 minutes on the elliptical machine, I hit the following:

Exercise: weight x reps x sets

Sumo Deadlifts: 135 x 6 x 1, 185 x 4 x 1, 225 x 3 x 1, 275 x 2 x 1 @ 7, 315 x 2 x 2 @ 8, 315 x 1 @ 9

Note: I started playing with fatigue percentages, for the first time, in this workout.  I’ll go more into fatigue percentages in a future blog.  I have to learn how to use them before educating others.  Wasn’t really feeling the intensity, today. I normally lift way more than this, and I can only conclude that the volume deadlifts from earlier in the week are to blame.

ATG low bar squats: 135 x 7 x 1, 135 x 10 x 4

Note: These felt great!  I never thought I’d say it, but I really like doing squats for reps.  I went as low as possible, too.  Really liked these!

 

Lying machine leg curls: 50 x 12 x 2, 60 x 10 x 2

Note: These served as a great finisher.  Felt a good pump in my legs as I was walking out of the gym, but taking the stairs at work were a nightmare!

After today’s performance, and observing the way my lifts have been progressing, I think I’m going to hit the big lifts only once a week from here on out.  I have devised a pretty cool program that I am going to try using until time to peak for the meet in October.

Tomorrow is the last workout of the week, upper body, and I’m looking forward to filming some of the action with the new Gorilla Pod my wife just got me!

AM Upper Body Session

This morning my energy levels were a bit wacky, but I still managed to get a great upper body workout in.  Also, I didn’t perform as many super-sets as I normally do since I was having a hard time gauging my energy levels.  This approach is known as instinctive training!

After a full body warm-up, I performed the following:

Exercise: weight x reps x sets

Bb shoulder press: Bar x 20 x 1, 115 x 5 x 5

Note:  Since including these into my routine, both my shoulders and upper chest have made gains.

Incline db press: 50 x 12 x 1, 55 x 10 x 1, 60 x 8 x 1, 65 x 6 x 1

Note:  Slowly lowered weights on each rep.  Not necessarily considered negatives because my spotter did not assist in the concentric portion of the lift.

One arm db row: 60 x 12 x 1, 65 x 12 x 2

Note:  These almost made me puke.

Close grip lat pull-down: 90 x 12 x 3

Note: Squeezed the lats at the bottom of the movement.

Lateral to front db shoulder raise: 15 x 12 x 12

Note: This movement consists of combining a lateral and front raise to serve as 1 rep.

Tri-Set –

  • Close preacher curl machine: 50 x 12 x 3
  • Wide preacher curl machine: 40 x 10 x 1, 30 x 7 x 1, 30 x 6 x 1
  • Triceps cable pushdown: 35 x 12 x 3

Sitting calf raise machine: 70 x 12 x 1, 80 x 12 x 3

Note: Made sure to squeeze the calves at the top of the movement.

Throughout the day, my energy levels stayed pretty low.  With that said, I’m glad I exerted the most output in my AM workout.  I’m not too worried about why I had a day like this because I understand that days like this eventually come around for everybody.  When a day like this hits you, don’t skip the gym.  Go in and do SOMETHING.  It may not be the workout you had planned for the day, but at least it won’t be a missed one!

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What the heck is RPE?!

In a recent post, I spoke of RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion).  It’s basically a method to help you gauge how intense your workout is or should be.  It assists the lifter by helping him/her determine what weight or degree of intensity should be attempted in a given workout; much like a percentage based program.  This method of gauging a workout is far different from a typical percentage based program, though.  To understand how it differs, one must know exactly what a percentage based program is and how it differs from using RPE to gauge your training intensity.

Your typical percentage based program can be found anywhere on the web.  The web is chock full of them.  Simply go to Google and type in “powerlifting peaking spreadsheet”.  The results will return a mind numbing amount of programs that will supposedly increase whatever lift you are focusing on as long as you stick to the prescribed amount of weight that fills in the spreadsheet rows.  What makes it percentage based is the fact that they use percentages of your 1 RM for a given lift. Well, I’m here to tell you that most of those programs are a waste of time.  Every time that I have attempted a percentage based program, I get injured.  Now, I know of guys that have yielded great results from a percentage based program, but I am not one of those guys.  Most people get injured or excel in their training only to bomb out at the meet.  The reasoning behind this is because these programs are written and tweaked for one particular individual.  Most of these particular individuals will get popular in the sport of powerlifting and then someone will post their routine online, hoping to make a buck.  After that, numerous people attempt the routine.  Some actually succeed with the routine, mostly geared individuals, but the majority fail.  A successful routine or peaking cycle must revolve around the athlete, not the assumption that they will be able to lift with the intensity level of the elite lifter in which the percentage program was originally designed for.  I have used a percentage based program, with great success, but it was provided by a professional lifting coach and was tweaked as we went along.

So, how is a person supposed to be 100% sure they are training with enough intensity if not chained down by a percentage based program?  The answer is insanely simple.  Train instinctively by listening to your body.  Since I have started training this way, I have been injury free and the gains are steady.  Slow, but steady.  To gauge the intensity of my workouts, I use RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion).  RPE can be applied to all types of exercise, but I use it for my powerlifting movements (squat, bench press, & deadlift).  With all of my other exercises, I use different methods to gauge my intensity. Below are some charts that describe exactly what a RPE chart looks like for general fitness and weightlifting:

        GENERAL FITNESS                                                                WEIGHTLIFTING

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After viewing these two charts, I hope you see what I mean by gauging intensity.  RPE can be used with cardio, weightlifting, powerlifting, or whatever!  To get to a point in which you are using an RPE scale to gauge your workouts, you have to start keeping a log; if you don’t already. If you don’t have a log, even without using RPE, you will not progress much in your training.  When I first began recording RPEs, I wrote down the applicable number from the weightlifting chart above after my last set of a lift.  For example, I did squats with 315 lbs. for 3 reps on my last set.  I wrote “@9” next to that entry in my workout log.  This meant that I had one more rep left in the tank.  Had I not had one rep left, I would’ve written “@10” next to the entry.  Make sense?  I sure hope so because this is extremely straightforward compared to most of the other articles you will read on the internet that concern this topic.  Most of the articles require the reader to have a Masters in Science in order to understand all of the material contained in the article. There is no reason a simple explanation can’t be give, and a quick one at that!

To learn more, check out the RTS method of training.  RPE is just a small part of this awesome method; a method I feel everyone can benefit and see steady gains from.