Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas in England

Flew to England Friday night with my wife. This flight is always guaranteed to be "fun." Crying kids and coughing passengers do not for much sleep make. I didn't train this day because I knew I'd miss a night's worth of sleep. Nor did I train Saturday. Did join the local health club I used to frequent when I was a kid. Talk about going backwards in order to modernize. The old weight room was maybe 500 sq.ft but had everything I ever needed, including bumper plates. (They even had 2 x50kg plates!) But there was a fire in 2004 and they rebuilt the place. The new weight room is very technologically advanced--tons of cardio equipment, tons of Hammer Strength selectorized machines, a Smith machine, one Olympic bar, and a bench press. I kid you not. The good news is that they had the Olympic bar, a place to perform pull-ups, and 45 degree hyper bench. (I love these--they really make my hamstrings work.)

On Sunday, when I went to train, I asked the girl at the desk if she minded me "free" squatting near the bench press. She told me they had a "V-Squat." Nope, just "free" squat. "A Smith machine?" Nope--just a "free" squat next to the bench press. She didn't have a problem but didn't understand why I didn't want to use these new technological marvels.

My brain was still a little fuzzy from 2 hours of sleep on Friday night and 13 hours of sleep on Saturday night. Jetlag from the flight always kills me.

Sunday, 12.24.06

A. Power Snatch from below knee: 55%/2 x12 sets; 45s rest
This was supposed to be 70kg. But, like I said, my brain was a little fuzzy. I kept wondering why the weight felt so heavy and slow for only 70kg. (It wasn't that slow and that heavy--just comparatively.) Turns out I misloaded the bar with 80kg.

One kid came up and asked me what I was doing.
"Power Snatch."
"That looks hard," he replied.
"Only when you're tired."
He then went back to his 27th set of chest, all 6'0" and 145lbs of him. At least he's trying I guess.

B. Front Squat: 100kg/5x5; 2 minutes rest
No squat rack, I just needed something light. So, a power clean followed by 5 reps felt like just the ticket.

C1. 45 degree hypers w/ 20kg 4x6
C2. Chins 4x6, bodyweight; 60s rest.

Showered, went home ate.

CHRIST-Mass Day, 12.25.06

Got my Dad Enter the Kettlebell and a 12kg kettlebell and my Mom, Z-Health's "R-Phase." They both seemed to genuinely like their presents and my wife and I will be taking them thru R-Phase later this week. Then I'll be taking both of them thru the basic KB drills. 12kg is definitely the right weight for my dad. He was surprised at how heavy it felt. My mom walked right over and picked the bell up and said, "Oh, that's not that heavy--I can use that." Go Mom. It's good to see both my parents interested in their health and in exercise as they approach the Golden Years.

After an early Christmas dinner of Aberdeen Angus (yum!), Scottish black potatoes, and broccoli, I grabbed a quick GPP workout with my old DP plastic weight set out in the front yard. That's always fun at 32 degrees Farenheit. However, I didn't sleep last night, so 60kg felt heavier than it should:

A. 3 rounds of 5-6 reps each:

High Pull
Power Clean from above knee

This sucks the air right out of your lungs when it's cold out. So 3 rounds was enough.

B. Pistols, bodyweight only. L+R: 5+5, rest as needed.
These were great as I'd recently lost the ability to do these on the right side. Back now though.

C. Underhand barbell rows: 4x10, 60s rest
Used the same 60kg.

D. Pistols, again, right leg only: 2x5, rest as needed. Just wanted to do these again since it felt so good the first time. I just wanted to hit the right side again because this was the weaker, smaller leg with the really bad knee. Felt great.

I've had to do a lot of Z the past 3 days. My right hip started acting up just before we left. All the sitting we've been doing hasn't helped either. It'll be interesting to see if it cools off. I also wonder if another compensation pattern is rearing its ugly head. Man, I've got a lot of these things. No wonder my progress stalled. My body was doing the best it could to keep me from ripping it apart!

Off to my parents' friends' house for some Christmas cheer.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Suck it Up, Buttercup!

Sometimes, life doesn't always work out the way you'd like it. Forget all the positive self-talk, mental projection, reticular activating system stuff. Let's face it, sometimes you have to deal with pain, grief, anger, whatever. Many times, these things stand in the way of what you really want. Last night was one of these times for me. I had every excuse in the world not to train and I almost didn't. But, I did. Afterwards, I felt much better, not in particular because I was closer to achieving my weightlifting goals.

Tuesday, 12.20.06

A. Power Clean from below the knee: 65%/2 x10 sets; 60s rest
107kg/2 x10 sets;
These took a little while to get into, but I finished very strong. A lot of mind wrestling going on.

B. Back Squat: Series (135kg/3, 145kg/3, 155/3) x2; 3 minutes rest.
These felt very good--lighter than Sunday's session, even though I was 5kg heavier on each set. Roared out of the bottom position.

*Side note: It's easy to get lost in the past instead of enjoying the moment. The "pre-Z me" would have lamented about only squatting 155kg for 2 triples based on past performances--performances from almost a decade ago. The new me is just enjoying be able to do something I love again.

C. Presses: Snatch grip, behind the neck: 45kg/4 x 4 sets; rest, as needed.
These were just designed to be light--just a pressing movement. Should be a nice pump primer for the next training session which includes heavy presses.

My squatting is going surprisingly well. This cycle is going to be an interim cycle: pre- and intra- England--two weeks of taking it easy after the last high volume cycle. It's quite possible that in about another 4-6 weeks, I'll squat 200kg again, based on current numbers and RPEs. Then it'll be time to push the front squat up to 200kg.

The Snatch and Clean are also going very well. I'm training from different starting positions that I couldn't get into before. This makes training fun. In the new year, I'm going to start getting under the bar more. I need to still work more on the left arm: hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder.

Off to England tomorrow night to visit my parents for Christmas. The gym there has a full set of bumpers (2x50kg!). I just hope there open on Sunday so I can train. No worries, there's always pistols and the old plastic DP set in the attic I got as a kid.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Whoa, Pardner--Turn Down the Volume!

I tried to do it again--sneak one past my body. I tried taking my cycle 3 weeks. I tried an introductory week and then tried to get 2 hard weeks under my belt. Didn't work. I definitely am good for 2 weeks cycles only--1 easy/medium week and 1 hard week followed by a back down or change of pace.

Thursday's training session had 110 working reps. I was supposed to lift heavy on Saturday and I would've too, if I hadn't had something that took almost all my emotional energy. (See my post on Vorobyev and RPEs.) I may as well have trained that day, cause I was wiped by that evening. Sunday morning I woke up and felt hit by a truck. Went back to sleep for another couple of hours. Tried to eat lots of carbs to aid in recovery.

Large volumes of work plus my right fibular head locking down again required a change in training directions and loads. I called Dr. Cobb and he gave me a cool exercise to unlock the fibular head but also pointed out that I'm still missing some ROM in my left elbow and that's affecting my squat, particularly my overhead squat. That in turn is producing a weight shift to the right side overloading the right hamstring and locking down that fibular head. So, backing off the overhead squats for about 4 weeks and just working the back squats--then I'll put the front squats and overheads back in.

Sunday, 12.17.06; trained with training partner

A. Power Snatch from below the knee: 65%/2 x10 sets
rested as needed
85kg/2 x10sets

B. Back Squat: 3's, rest 3 minutes
Series: (130kg/3, 140/3, 150/3) x2
Just the right weights for the squats. Bar speed was good as was positioning.

C. Press: 4's, rest 3 minutes
70kg/4 x2; 75/4 x2

56 total reps today--almost exactly half that of Thursday's 110.

Needed to keep it light and faster during this session. Still felt tired afterward. No pizza this weekend--therefore, no large induction of carbs and calories into the system.

Monday, 12.18.06

A. RDLs: 3's; rest 3 minutes
Series: (150kg/3; 160/3; 170/3) x2

170kg was probably a little heavy for this on this particular session. Still feeling tired. Rounded the lower back on my 2nd set of 170kg. Other than that, they all felt good.

B1. Weighted Chins: 3's: 16kg/3 x5sets
B2. Back Squat: 3's: 110kg/3 x 5sets;
No rest between B1 & B2; 3 mins. after B2.

Pinched for time plus left shoulder was bothering me from Sunday's snatch session. Not only that, I think I needed to train supination and extension with extra load.

This training session was perfect though. I left feeling invigorated.

I'm going to England on Friday to visit my parents for Christmas. So, this next 2 week cycle will be more strength driven with longer rest periods. I don't need to induce more stress by compressing my rest periods. The emphasis will be pushing up the back squats: 2 heavy days, each followed by a light day. Heavy days will be "series" using triples.

The big take away again for me over the last 3 weeks is that I must stick with short, 2 week cycles. There's just no way around it.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Stirring the Pot, Part 3 of ?

Flexion v. Extension

Part of rehabbing my knees, especially my right one, is creating a balance within my body between flexion and extension--particularly in my hands and wrists. Because I have spent the last 18 years grabbing and holding hard onto things, I need to train my body away from these patterns. Too much flexion is a sign of the Startle Reflex (SR from here on out--too lazy to type Startle Reflex...), which in and of itself is vitally (meaning necessary for living) important. SR is characterized by flexion and adduction. Too much flexion in a relaxed situation equals SR overload, for lack of a better description. The SR is hardwired into our CNS to protect us. It is a survival mechanism to protect all the vital organs in the body. Survival is the exact opposite of performance (flight v. fight). So, it seems intuitive then that prolonged exposure to the SR would inhibit performance.

The SR also manifests itself when we feel pain--both physical and emotional. Therefore, training in and through pain can inhibit performance. (Ask me how I know that...) This explains, at least in my mind, why many athletes, let alone Regular Joe's never feel quite right after rehabbing an injury, especially one that requires surgery. It's from living in and through pain. The body compensates on a broken platform. The pain plus the compensations only promote SR. I remember squatting just before my hip injuries thinking to myself, "How long until I get back to where I was?" The reality was, the knees were becoming more of an issue every day. If they're painful without load, loading them is only going to increase the pain. (The good news is I can recognize what the SR looks like when someone's squatting now.) No wonder the numbers wouldn't go up.

Side note: I think powerlifters who use gear (not slang for steroids) are less prone to experiencing this CNS shutdown--inhibition due to SR. The gear, apparently, according to Mark Riefkind, SrRKC, acts as extra connective tissue. So you can work a lot longer in and through pain using gear than you can raw. Again, it's just my take.

So, back to the flexion v. extension idea: How's this manifest itself in training?

My theory, well, my understanding of Dr. Cobb's theory or understanding of neuroscience, is that because there are so many joints in the hands, and therefore so many mechanoreceptors, (see yesterday's post) that performing DJM for them increases proprioception and therefore enhances the body's ability to...well, I don't know really. Bummer. Like I said, I'm still working through all this. I think the increased proprioception allows the body to balance itself between survival mode and performance mode. I don't fully know the mechanism yet--all I know is that is works. It's working with/in me and with/in our/my clients. Too much gripping is a bad thing. It can actually pull the whole body into flexion and adduction. You know that forward head carriage? Startle Reflex. How 'bout those rounded shoulders? Startle Reflex. How 'bout Upper Cross Syndrome? SR. Perform a lot of gripping, and you'll actually start to look a lot like that.

So, how am I applying this to my training?

I now perform all my DJM with my wrists in extension, my hands supinated, and my fingers fully extended, to the best of their (my) ability. Plus, I perform a lot of hand work: figure 8s, both index and pinky led; wrist with fingers in extension; and lots of finger and thumb circles. If my CNS is tired, these are "killer," especially when performed with the shoulder in extension. And, I have a GPP day where I place my hands, wrists, and arms in these positions, which counter the positions they're in when performing my weightlifting and kettlebell exercises. It's fascinating.

Today's training:

A. Power Clean, from below knee: 60%/2 x10 sets; 45s rest
70/3, 85/2
100/2 x 10; Easy. Good positioning. Aware of long spine.

B. Overhead Squat: 7-5x5; 90s rest
60kg/5, 65/5, 70/5, 75/5, 80/5 x2 sets
These also felt good. I suck for 5s, especially for little rest, so it'll be interesting to see what happens when I cut the reps and increase the rest...really interesting...

C1. Medium-grip behind neck press 4-6x6
C2. Medium-grip supinated bent over rows: 4-6x6
Rest 60s after C2.
Used 50kg for both--just going light. 5 sets of each--60 reps total.

Yep, definitely tired, but not as much as Tuesday. Looking forward to that unload week next week.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stirring the Pot, Part 2 of ?

Lifting in Long Spine--Always?

One of the mechanisms (I'm not sure mechanism is the right word, but the "right" word elludes me right now) in the Z-Health Performance Solutions System is the concept of axial lengthening/extension, or "long spine." This isn't a new concept for some but for others it may be. Long spine is simply focusing your intention on lengthening your spine from the crown of your head to your coccyx. The neat thing about axial lengthening is it actually makes you stronger. You are stronger in this position in all movement patterns, especially once you train that way. I'm not sure if I fully understand the mechanism for the increased strength, but I will try to explain it the best I can.

The point of dynamic joint mobility work is to, well, increase joint mobility. Pretty straight forward. But why does it work? Why is it different than stretching, regardless of the type? Surrounding a joint is a capsule. The largest number and largest type of proprioceptors reside there. They are called mechanoreceptors. If you want to increase someone's proprioception, you don't have them stand on a wobble board; instead, you move his joint through a full range of motion--a circle. This increases the body's ability to recruit the muscles that cross that joint. Therefore, DJM makes you stronger, if you apply it correctly.

Axial lengthening is a form of DJM for the spine. Since there are at least 24 joints from the occiput to the sacrum, there is a lot of potential for increased proprioceptive feedback and increased muscular strength resulting in mobilization of that area. Long Spine fully engages the appropriate musculature, in fact, all the musculature in the body, because it actually allows the body to stack it's joints on top of each other, effectively allowing for "full" proprioception, if there is such a thing. This is a very weird feeling when first practicing it. But like anything else, one gets better at it over time.

So why lift in long spine?
  1. Increase body's proprioception--answer it's question, "where am I really?"
  2. Recruit the proper musculature at the proper time.
  3. Correct muscular imbalances from too much "locking down" or "zipping up."
  4. Get stronger, faster: more of the right muscles working to perform movements, less of the wrong ones. At first, you have to reduce the load on grind type lifts until the body learns the right pattern. Ballistics you see immediate increases in performance.
Admittedly, I don't have all this down. I'm still playing with it. And it's still very weird; but my intuition tells me it's right. So, since I'm a weightlifter by sport, I lift in long spine for all my movements. I have to move from taught to relaxed to taught again to get under the bar and recover the lift. I can't lock stuff down. I've tried in the past and it slows me down. The weightlifting movements are just too fast. There's no grinding. However, moving very large loads, like powerlifters do, I'm not sure that I wouldn't try both long spine and locking down.

This is my best current explanation of long spine. I'm sure the more I study it and play with it I'll change my explanation/definition.

Training is going well this week, but I'm tired. I feel a back off week coming next week. Drop the volume, increase the rest periods, and increase the load slightly.

Monday's Training (12.11.06):

A. Power Snatch from below the knee: 60%/2 x10; 45s rest
80kg/2 x10 sets
I'm really enjoying this position; probably because pre-Z-Health I always had a hard time getting there. Feel much more in control of my body and the bar. Very cool.

B. Pressing Snatch Balance: 5's; 90s rest
60kg/5 x2, 65/5 x2, 70/5 x3, 75/5
These felt really good. Groove was right on. Spent some extra time here.

C. Snatch Pulls from above knee, medium grip: 6's; 90s rest
60kg/6, 70/6, 80/6, 90/6; done. Tired.

Tuesday's Training (12.12.06)

A. Front Squat 10 sets of 3; 70s rest
70/3, 100/3,
120/3 x10 sets

B. RDLs: 5's
120kg/5, 130/5, 140/5, 150/5 x3 sets;
The last set was really tough. I really had to focus on long spine.

C. Press: 6's; 60s rest
50kg/6, 55/6, 60/6, 65/6, 70/6

Felt very tired after this session.

Today's training (12.13.06): GPP/rehab focus

Circuit: 5x with 60s rest between circuits

A1. Very strict chins, bodyweight x6
A2. The Pump x10
A3. Reverse Lunges with shoulders in extension, wrists in extension, hands supinated, and fingers in extension: R+L: 10+10

Felt good to break a sweat and stretch out the hands, forearms, and legs. The goal here is decrease rest by 10s each session.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Importance of Kettlebells and Developing Work Capacity

Some people in the fitness industry discount the importance and impact kettlebells have and have had on people interested in fitness and athletes.

They're just a tool, these people say. I agree.

But the point my colleagues are missing is that this tool is more appropriate and its use is more prudent than many of the tools they are now using. Therefore I can only conclude that they recognize it as a tool, but don't know how to use it correctly.

When I was little my dad had this really cool screwdriver. It's handle contained many different screw head tips and it had its own ratcheting technology. I'm not a tool guy, so forgive the poor description, but as you pushed the screwdriver into the screw, it actually turned the screw for you. You could back out a screw the same way. You could also lock the mechanism in place when more torque was needed, like a regular screwdriver. Sure, you could have a whole set of screwdrivers, Phillip's heads, and flat heads, large and small--but why? Why when you can use just this screwdriver. Oh, sure, it didn't have any really large heads, but it all the normal size heads in the handle.

The kettlebell is to fitness what my dad's screwdriver was to tools.

Here's why I point this out: I was training with my lifting partner today. I used to be stronger and heavier than him. Now, we weigh the same--within a kilo of each other, and he's much stronger than I am. Today, he said he was going to follow me thru my training session, do exactly what I did. Well, he kept up, but barely. My jerks weren't quite as solid as they could've been, but that's just rust. His last 4 sets were shaky because he lacked stamina. Sure we did different training sessions yesterday, but I outpaced him today and out-lifted him on our last exercise. I'm not boasting--just pointing out the difference. This guy is one strong dude and very good lifter. I've only been training for the O-lifts for the last 6 weeks. He's never stopped training. There have been two major differences in our training for the last 2 years or so: Kettlebells and Z-Health. Z has only been the last 10 months, so I'll put more weight on the KBs.

I had more stamina today because of all the KB work that I've done--particularly the higher rep ballistics. I no longer experience any lower back fatigue while lifting. I'm able to maintain my position and reset myself with no trouble on the higher rep sets. I recover more quickly between sets (lower rep ones especially).

So how do you build work capacity with kettlebells? Two ways:
  1. High rep ballistics
  2. Complexes with KBs instead of barbells
1. High rep ballistics: Just use a lighter KB and perform 20+ reps per set. Use multiple sets. Don't over-think it. If you or your athlete are sucking wind, you're doing it right.

2. Complexes with KBs instead of barbells: Fatter handles + 2 independent moving objects + larger stroke = more work performed.
  • Fatter handles are more taxing on the grip than the standard Olympic barbell grip
  • 2 independently moving objects require more stability which is more taxing on the body's musculature
  • Larger stroke throwing the KBs between the legs and to the shoulder than from above the knee to the shoulders
  • Bonus: Many trainees, can perform a rock-bottom front squat with KBs but not with the barbell, for various reasons that I won't go into here...So, more work on the legs because of a larger ROM on the squat
For example, I can perform the following complex quite easily with 60kg:
High Pull from knee x5
Hang Power Clean + Press x5+5
Front Squat x5
RDL x5
Row x5
But using 2x32kg KBs absolutely floors me. (I know, it's the whole extra 4kg--I know, I know 4x30 reps = an extra 120kg...just humor me here...)

I know what some may say, a study of one does not a conclusion make. I agree. But, I am also very accomplished using the Olympic lifts and KBs. So if it's this way for me, a seasoned lifter, how much more so for a non-seasoned one? Plus, I'm basing this conclusion not just off my own experience with my own training, but also on my career in the industry.

So, being the good on-again-off-again-routinely-injured-but-not-anymore training partner, I suggested to my training partner he buy a 32kg KB and just do swings on his non-platform days to boost his GPP. We'll see if takes my advice. But for me, I'm going to figure out a way to get my ballistics back in combined with my hand/wrist supination/extension exercises. Because, admittedly, I was sucking wind and almost threw-up after my last set of deadlifts today, even though I'd rate it an 8 as far as load/effort goes on the RPE scale.

Here was the training session:

A. Power Jerks: 80% x 8-10x2; 60-90s rest--"You go, I go."
70kg/5, 90/3, 110/2, 130kg/2 x9 sets
Felt easy but awkward. Can tell the jerk is rusty.

B. Back Squat, 4-6x4-6;
70kg/6, 100/6, 130/6 x4 sets; Had to work hard on positioning, especially after the 3rd rep of each set.

C. Snatch Deadlift, narrow grip, index finger on ring, 4-6x6
110kg/6, 130/6, 140/6, 150/6, 160/6
6 reps just taxes my CV system. The weight felt very manageable, RPE of 8 or so, maybe a little less, but once I put it down, I started sucking wind bad. I may top out between 180-200kg/6 on this exercise, this cycle. We'll see.

Tomorrow's off--just Z and maybe some GPP.
Vorobyev, Progressive Overload, and RPEs

I first heard it from my weightlifting coach. Then I read it in Supertraining. Then I read it in some of Pavel's works. Vorobyev stated that some of the best results in strength gains are made with sharp changes in workloads/training intensities, for example: 70%-85%-75%-90%...Louis Simmons makes the argument that the traditional Progressive Overload system is dead and the Conjugate Method is superior for making progress in strength results. Yet guys like "Capt. Kirk" Karwoski squated over 1000lbs in the 275lbs. class on Progressive Overload training. The RPE scale, or Rate of Perceived Exertion, is a method of rating the effort of a lift, whether quantity known or unknown. How does it apply when your supposed to be training with 80% of your max? On the surface, none of this seems to tie together. But I think they're all related.

I have a friend who trains for strongman. He is clean. He gets very frustrated about his perceived lack of progress because guys younger than him lift more than him, but have "assistance" that he has chosen not to use. He has tried a conjugate approach, but routinely gets injured following it--too much neurological and subsequently, endocrine stress. I suggested a more traditional approach, using the Progressive Overload Method. He is in the fitness industry and also just opened a new facility. So he has things like marketing, training clients, employees, etc., to worry about, which apparently, the younger guys he's competing against, do not. I got this idea after reading an e-mail of his: His training with stones with an RPE of 7-8. He did not mention the if the weight of the stones was changing.

The key to the puzzle is simply stress, or rather, how the body responds to it. Training is stress. It is always "bad" stress (distress) because it tears the body down. Then it grows back again, stronger. And on goes the training cycle and the training process. But what happens when you get in a fight with your wife or you feel pressure from late bills or you have to fire an employee or that big promotion you were hoping for is given to Johnson down the hall or your child is admitted to the ER? You experience more stress, possibly too much stress. So as a result your 80% squat which is supposed to correlate to an RPE of 8 (100% = an RPE of 10) feels like a ton on your back. You grind out your reps, cut 1 or 2 short, rack it, and rate it a 9 on the RPE scale--if you're measuring. Or what happens when on the flip side, you get the promotion, you make passionate love to your bride, you sell your house for 100K more than you bought it for, and your kid gets into that exclusive private school? Again, you experience more stress, but this time it's "good" stress (eustress) and go to the gym for your training session. You pick up 85% on your deadlift for the prescribed number of reps and rate it a 7 on the RPE scale. It feels light, really light. Do you keep to the protocol, or do you max out cause you haven't felt this good since that meet in 2003? Or how about those days when everything feels "fine" but the weights don't move--You know, this classic paradox: You feel amped and get to the gym only to feel slow and weak; and you drag your sorry tired butt to the gym, take forever to warm-up, stall by talking to your buddy or some guy you don't know but have a fantastic training session and hit a PR. Where do those come from? I think this is where Vorobyev for Normal Joes comes in.

Physically, the loads are relatively smooth, but emotionally, they can be a roller coaster. So what looks on paper as traditional Progressive Overload training can actually become almost close to Max Effort Method training, which of course is a huge part of the Westside's Conjugate Method of training. Here's what I mean: you're on a traditonal PO cycle that looks like the this: 70%-75%-80%. It should have an RPE correlation of 7-7.5-8. But it probably doesn't--Life interrupted. It probably looked more like this on the RPE: 7-8-8.5. For many, 85% is a 5 or 6RM, which, interestingly, is where Louie recommends a beginner start a Max Effort cycle--3 weeks: 5RM, 3RM, 1RM, then change the exercise.

So, why does the Conjugate Method work for some, but not for others and the Progressive Overload Method work for some but not for others? Some may argue application--the trainee just doesn't know how to use a system. Absolutely. But assuming someone "fails" with one method but not the other, what's the problem? I think Vorobyev is the problem. If someone has a highly emotionally stressful job, the Progressive Overload method will probably work better for them. The rapid changes in training load won't necessarily be the weight on the bar, but the RPE of a particular exercise or training session. If someone has an emotionally stable job, the Conjugate Method would be a good idea for them. They'll get the sharp contrast between loads based on daily loading. This is the best explanation I can offer.

So, what do I use? I use a variation of all of them: I set up my program the following way: L-H-L-H. My light days are focused on speed and technical execution of my lifts. I allow for some volume, but don't let my RPEs get over an 8, or a 7 if I'm feeling tired (Truthfully, I'll keep them anywhere between a 6 and an 8.). On my heavy days, I pick an exercise that will fortify a weakness in my classic lifts. Right now, I'm not using the Max Effort method, because I have a new body from Z and I'm trying to feel/work my way around inside it--to learn how to use it. So, I'm keeping my RPEs between an 8 and a 9 on these days. I am guessing on the loads based off my last training cycle. So far, I feel good. I know guys like Alwyn Cosgrove believe you can't train yourself (I think he just blogged about that), but at this point, I can't not train myself. I'm trying to figure out, for the first time in my life, what my body is telling me with regards to training. And the Z is helping me do it. I am very happy with my progress so far. I know it's only 6 weeks since I've been back on the platform, but I can't remember when I felt this good about my training.

Training for Friday, 12.8.06--Light Day

A. Power Clean, from below knee: 55% x2x12; 90kg/2 x12 sets, 45s rest
These felt fast and light--the easiest this position has ever felt. Hook grip felt very strong.

B. Overhead Squat: 7-5x5; 60kg/5, 65kg/5, 70kg/5 x3; 75/5; 90s rest
Kept these light--just working on position as I have a volume-heavy back squat planned for the next session.

C. Behind the neck press, narrow snatch-grip: 4-6x4-6; 42.5kg/6 x4, 60s rest
Shoulders were sore and tired from the Presses on Wednesday. Have heavy jerks planned for the next training session.

This session felt great. I felt particularly good about the positioning of the clean and the overhead squat. I like the way everything is starting to feel.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Back In the Saddle

Been sick the past two or so days...some kind of stomach bug. It's running around here like crazy. Everyone's getting it. Here's the interesting thing: I drink at least one bottle of Kefir a day. It's chock full of probiotics: 10 different kinds of healthy bacteria. It must be working because some of my issues, especially digestive ones, have disappeared.

Anyway, finishing R-Phase was interesting. (That's such a third grade book report word--gotta find a better one than that.) I'll probably get to "Stirring the Pot, Part 2" this weekend. Here are some things I'd like to discuss:
  • Flexion v. extension
  • Lifting in long spine--always?
  • The role of a tight lumbar arch and neck extension while lifting
  • And anything else that stuck out to me
Back to business...

I just have to publicly confess: I'm lazy. I hate volume-based training programs. I like intensity-based programs. Bottom line is that it's less work. Right now, I'm ramping up the volume for two reasons:
  1. Increase Special Physical Preparedness (SPP)
  2. Stimulate hypertrophy
1. SPP: Although I have a good GPP base, it seems like I have no SPP. Sure, I can do tons of KB C+P, Snatches, and/or Swings all day, and it's helped my overall endurance to be sure, but I was sucking wind on my squats last week. Sets of 6 with only 120kg. S-U-C-K-I-N-G W-I-N-D. Same thing with the high pulls. So, up goes the volume of squats and pulls. The good thing is though, between all the Z and the KB work, I can hold my positions better than ever before, especially pulling from below the knee.

2. Stimulate hypertrophy: My old weightlifting coach, Alfonso Duran, told me I wouldn't lift up to my potential unless I weighed 110kg+. Right now I'm approximately 96kg. I've got a lot of eating and lifting to do.

I like some of Chad Waterbury's stuff, so I'm using a mixture of that and good ol' strength/hypertrophy zone: 3-6x4-6 reps. The exception is Waterbury's 10x3 protocol for strength and mass: 10x3 reps with 80%+, 70s rest. However, I'm predominantly type 2B fiber, so I have to start at 70% or so. I'm amazed when I see people/programs calling for 6-8 reps at 80%. I can never do that. Even 5 reps is a stretch sometimes.

Here's today's training session:

A. Front Squat: 110kg/3 x10 sets; 70s rest
B. RDLs: 110kg/5; 130kg/5; 140kg/5 x4; 90s rest
C. Press: 60kg/6 x6; 60s rest

Front Squats felt great today. Lots of room left here. I may be able to take this cycle up to 140kg. I need to get to 180kg/3 x10. That'll give me plenty of leg strength for the big clean. Anyway, opened this cycle with the right weight. I was tempted to hit the ol' 8-5x5, but I'm terrible for anything over 3 in this lift. To be honest, 3 is actually endurance work in the Front Squat. However, I may have gone too heavy on the 140kg RDLs. 130kg just felt too easy though. I strove to make every rep feel the same, which they did not. The last set was probably the best set.

I'll hit some light GPP tomorrow, focusing on exercises that promote hand/wrist supination and extension, maybe some lunging to loosen up the legs, and lift again on Friday and Saturday.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Sometimes Things Spill Over When You Stir the Pot...(Part 1)

Alright, for those who know me, I've drunk the Kool-Aid with regards to Z-Health. But, I must also mention that I've also drunk the Kool-Aid with regard to the RKC. Both have made a huge impact on the way I train. For example, I never knew how to, let alone that I should, press with my lats before I met Pavel. I tend to be an all or nothing guy and have tended in the past to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. I think age has mellowed me out at least a little. At least now I see the baby in the bathwater!

So what I hope to accomplish in this post is to reconcile some ideas I've had in the past with what I currently believe and perform.

Here's a typical excerpt from my training log from almost three years ago when I read and practiced a lot of the Paul Chek/NASM methodologies. At this point, both knees were chronically painful and I diagnosed myself with weak hamstrings:

Tuesday, 4.27.04
Warm-Up: Foam roller + Active Stretching including hip flexors and hip rotators (left chronically tight)

Core: Reverse Hypers, sets of 8 to 8RM: 200/8, 250/8, 300/8, 350/8, 400/8, 450/8

Single-leg squat, back leg hanging off back of box, 2x8: 12" box 8+8, 18" box 8+8

Strength: Snatch-grip DL to TM___: then back down to 80% and perform 10 sets of 2, with
60s rest for hypertrophy
TM=180kg, then 145kg/2 x10sets
Medium grip Behind Neck Press to 3RM: 80kg

Cooldown: Stretching of legs, back and shoulders

Comments looking back: I made relatively good progress on this type of program. It was a speed day/strength day template. I never got rid of all my knee pain, but most of it. Still had some in the right. But I noticed that over time, it took me longer and longer to "warm-up." More foam roller in the beginning and more stretching of the hip flexors and rotators. This type of training is now the accepted method being espoused by many "performance coaches." Like I said, it worked for awhile. The problem was, the more you lift, the more pre-hab and recovery work you have to do, until you spend more time than you have available to train. Life gets in the way.

Eventually, I cut back on my lifting for that summer and ramped back up in the fall. January of 2005 was when I hurt my right hip.

I've talked enough about how Z was the ONLY thing that helped my hip. So I'll skip on a bit.

Here's an e-mail I got yesterday from Randy Hauer, an accomplished Master's class athlete and fellow RKC. I'll insert my answers after his questions.

Hi Geoff,

In response to your Z-stirring the pot on your blog. I received my R-Phase kit last week and frankly I'm a little disappointed...I don't mean to be negative...but after reading the material and practicing the movements Z so far strikes me as simply a diluted if somewhat more structured Amasov/Super Joints mobility routine. Frankly, I don't get it.

Randy, I know EXACTLY how you feel. I felt the same way when I first saw the manual and DVD. In fact, I discounted it for almost 2 years until I needed it. Here is the major difference between Z and Amosov: Intent. Z's purpose and intent is to stimulate the CNS. Other DJM systems are for joint health. Any are good. Z is better because it does both. DJM is not flexibilty work like some are mistaking it (performing mobility drills that are really flexibility drills). Pavel makes the distinction in SuperJoints.

I know you are very enthusiastic about it and I am willing to give it time and practice, but I am definitely missing something. What improvements am I supposed to notice? I keep seeing Z related posts on DD that pain gets reduced on a 1-10 scale...no claims or how-tos like that in my R-Phase materials. Another bothersome point, Cobb claims this is scientific but offers no scientific explanations, for example, as to the significance of the cuboid as a stretch focus. Or any other stretch foci for that matter. Someone, (Frankie??) posted awhile back on DD that someone's shoulder pain was reduced from 8 to 3 to 0 through, I think he said, medial toe pulls. Really? How does that work? Scientifically, I mean. Interested in your comments and suggestions.If you recommend I stick with it I will.

Best regards, Randy

Here's the major problem with Z: Content. How do you distill the science down to a 100 page manual and a DVD? It's similar to Pavel's books where he makes reference to science but doesn't go into long boring detail. The R-Phase is so intensive that your head swims after the 2nd day, and you still have one day to go on the first part. Then two months later after you've digested and applied the content, you finish the cert in two more days. However, even that's not enough: Starting next year, R-Phase is going to be 6 days. Quite frankly, it needs to be.

I love anecdotes, so here goes a "Z is like..." analogy. The current systems being promoted, apart from Pavel's and the RKC are like protein. Everyone's discovered that they finally need it, because the old stuff, high carbs, just didn't deliver what was promised. DJM systems like Warrior Wellness and Steve Maxwell's Recharge are like beef, ground beef. Z is like Filet Mignon. (Pavel's stuff is like filet that's been made into ground beef.) Get it? Try explaining Filet to someone who's never even had hamburger and only just stumbled on the need for protein. They won't understand. As far as the cuboid and shoulder, etc, you learn all that once you take the R-Phase cert. Let me just put it this way: we have clients who PTs can't fix (OK, nothing big there, many PTs suck and my wife who's a PT will tell you that.) and using Z we'll fix them in one or two sessions. Or rather, we teach the body to fix itself in one or two sessions.

Part 2 later...probably after R-Phase this weekend...