Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Off To I-Phase...

...tomorrow. (My wife, the smart-one, is going too.) Finally going to suck it up and get it done. Time is right.

I'll be staying with a friend of mine in the biz out there.

I'll probably be offline until next Wednesday. Probably...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Great Question From Guarden:

Why only increase work capacity in your assistance exercises?

This is a great question.

Actually, I am trying to increase my work capacity through, not necessarily in, my assistance exercises.

In all sports, technique is skill. The same is true in weightlifting--the snatch and the clean and jerk; and powerlifting with the squat, bench, and deadlift. These want to be practiced while you're as fresh as possible creating as little fatigue as possible. Why? The secret to great strength according to Zatsiorsky is to train as often as possible, as fresh as possible, creating as little fatigue as possible.

How do you do that if you're not Bulgarian and training five times per day with a nap between each session?

Since your strength is a skill, if you practice your events under fatigue, you will destroy the motor pattern due to systemic fatigue, local muscular fatigue, and stabilizer fatigue. This is why bodybuilders, generally speaking, have large legs, but cannot squat the nearly the same amount as their powerlifter cousins. Since your strength levels are limited by accumulated systemic (read: neural) fatigue, the only way to build strength reserves is through non-CNS intensive exercises and training protocols. This is where assistance work comes in. (This, by the way, as the name suggests, is why it is called "assistance work." It "assists" in the development of the main sporting skill. Not trying to be sarcastic here, just stating a fact.) So, for weightlifters, exercises that are similar to, but not identical to the classic lifts are used: pulls, jumps, back extension exercises, etc. Powerlifters, especially those who subscribe to the "Westside Philosophy" of conjugate loading, use variations of the powerlifts. Some IPF lifters from Russia do increase the total volume of the classical lifts. I don't know enough about the older/experienced lifters training protocols to speak on there training. Weightlifters use the squat as a general strengthening exercise for the snatch and the clean and jerk. And not only that, earlier in a weightlifter's career, both the volume and intensity are increased, according to Medvedyev. As he ages and attains sport mastery, the volume remains relatively constant and the loading is intensified. (I think I'm digressing--it's late...)

So again, the point of building work capacity through assistance work is to spare the CNS from too much fatigue and to preserve the sporting skill, in this case, the lifting of a barbell.

It is also interesting to note that what may be a sporting skill for one sport may be used as an assistance exercise for another sport. For example, powerlifters compete in the squat, but the squat is traditionally used in the US strength and conditioning profession to develop overall strength, but not necessarily limit strength.

So for me personally, because I have so many years under the iron, my body is very efficient at the pulling and squatting motor patterns. They don't need a volume based approach. In fact, from my experience, I can't recover from a volume-based approach. But in order to keep my "wind" or ability to do the work I need to do to progress by using an intensity-based approach, I need to find similar exercises that strengthen the muscles I am using for my sporting events without trashing my CNS and destroying my lifting "groove." That's where kettlebells come in.

Hopefully, that makes sense.

Friday, July 20, 2007

First Week of "New" Old Training Done.

When I was in college, I ate as much as I could, lifted as much as I could, and rested as much as I could. It seems I didn't know any better. In four years, all it got me was the following:
  • a 90lbs increase in bodyweight--165lbs to 252lbs (OK, that's only 87lbs--I lied.)
  • 225lbs x5x5 Seated Military Press
  • 390lbs bench press in competition
  • 225lbs x 25+ reps on the bench after a bench workout
  • Shrugs with 1000lbs.
  • 500lbs stiff leg deadlift off a 5 inch block (405/5 x5 off same block)
  • 315lbs Hang Clean for 5, 4, 4
  • 545lbs Deadlift my junior year (stopped most of my deadlifting after that...)
  • 315lbs Bent over rows off a 5 inch block touching the floor between each rep with the weight for a 5x5
  • Parallel Dips + 100lbs for reps of 8-10
...and those are just the things I can remember off the top of my head without digging out the training log.

Why do I bring that up? Because now that I'm so smart, I'm 35lbs lighter, who knows how much weaker, and have been hamstrung by injuries over the last 5 years. Good thing I know what I'm doing!

But seriously, I've been all around the world it seems as far as strength training goes in the last 12 years or so. Pick a coach and a methodology and I've studied the material. Applied that material. Moved on.

Now, approaching 35, it seems I've returned to where I started over half a lifetime ago: heavy weights, long rest periods, simple, yet effective cycles. And, a return to powerlifting. What sidelined me in '93-94 was a good ol' case of bilateral patella alta, a condition so painful, climbing the stairs to get to class or my apartment became excrutiating and leaning on the handrail was the only way to get where I was going. Brought on by squatting incorrectly--lack of development of the VMOs--the medial knee stabilizers to counteract all the work the VLs were doing. Then, I got into Olympic lifting. Fun but frustrating years.

So now, I return to where I left off some 12+ years ago. Sometimes I wonder if they were wasted years. I don't think so. I've learned a lot about what to do and what not to do--probably more the latter if the truth be told.

After all these travels, here's what I've learned about strength and the acquisition thereof:
  1. Lift heavy.
  2. Rest a lot, especially between sets.
  3. Build work capacity with assistance lifts ONLY.
  4. Eat.
That's practically about it.

I think I'll write an article on this and elaborate more, but for now, that's it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Change of Direction

I've been consulting a couple of men I'm privileged to call friends. They are all involved in Powerlifting. They've all encouraged me to get involved. I think I will. Tomorrow, I will call the gentleman running the USAPL NC State Championships on August 12th and see if I need to qualify to register. If I don't, I'm going to compete.

I will undoubtedly stink up the place as I am weak as a kitten from minimal heavy lifting over the span of the last 2 and-a-half years. But that's not the point. The point is to show up and compete against myself. The last "competition" I was involved in was the Beast Challenge last September. It was fun. (Sounds like a third grade book report, huh?)

I was going to quit all strength "stuff" for lack of a better word. But I just like it. I think that's the way God made me. I've always been fascinated with it since I was a little guy. I got sidetracked with the stuff for awhile and derived my self-worth from my strength and speed. But I'm over that now--glory be to God. Now, I just want to see what my body can do. How strong can I make it without breaking it. Not only that, Z is part of the equation now. So part of me wants to see the efficacy of Z with regards to force and power development.

I'm disappointed that I can't keep moving forward with weightlifting, but the cost is just too high. If I have kids, I want to be able to run around with them. I can still keep the power production up with KBs.

One of the areas I want to explore in the realm of Powerlifting is the application of Z-Health's 4 Elements of Efficiency, particularly the balance of tension and relaxation under heavy loads. How much tension will I need to complete a slow lift versus a fast one like a snatch? I don't know. I want to find out.

This should be the start of a fun journey.

So after consulting my friends, I came up with the following template:

Squat: Sa/M/W
DL: Sa/W
BP: M/W(?)
KBs: "Fast 10s" Su/Tu/Th(?)--to put on some meat and keep up my conditioning

All SQ/BP/DL will be 2-5 reps for the immediate future, plus maybe some singles to peak for this meet. My plans are to compete raw and attempt Raw Elite which is 1551 at 220lbs. I've got my work cut out for me that's for sure.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Messing Around With Progressive Overload

Just been playing with PO over the last couple of days. I'm trying to find loads and rep schemes that allow me to focus on practicing bone rhythm work.

Here's what I came up with:

Sat/Tues: Squat and Bench
Sun/Wed: Bench and Deadlift
Mon/Thurs?: KB Snatch/other

Here's how I've broken down the numbers (I'm not posting any actual weights in order not to embarrass myself...):

Wk 1) 50%/10 x5, 60%/6 x5-6; ~3 minutes rest
Wk 2) 55/8 x5, 65/5 x5;
Wk 3) 60/? and 70/?--have to see how I feel once I get there.

Wk 1) 50/10 x5; 60/6 x5; 55/8 x5; 65/5 x5; ~ 3 minutes rest
Wk2) 55/65/60/70
Wk 3) 60/70/65/75

Deadlift, same as Squat.

Last night's Squat actually hurt a lot on the warm-up--BRs were obviously off. Stepped out from under the bar, hit some I-Phase hip work, then some bodyweight BR squats and Presto! no pain. I have to film these things though because I literally am still feeling my way through each rep. Perhaps I may have to stay light for longer than I would care to do until I've created the new groove.

One thing's for sure, I'm not used to the reps, which of course is why I'm doing them. The weights are light enough for me to focus on technique without the form breaking down. But I am tapping into some fibers that haven't been used in awhile--I'm getting a little sore.

The Bone Rhythm work sure is fun: When the form is correct, the weight just floats up with very little effort (maybe its just with the light weight--nah, some of the heavier stuff in the past has floated up too...).

It'll be very interesting to see the changes in my body after just 3 weeks of this stuff. After not even completing a week my muscularity has increased. Plus, I just feel stronger without being on the platform--must be all mental.

More later...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

MRI Results Back: Lots Of Thinking To Do

Went to the Ortho yesterday. She's nice. She doesn't tell me what to do.

However, I've got some decisions to make based on what she did tell me.

Here's the good news: The medial and lateral meniscii are in great shape. My ACL & PCL are both nice and thick--thicker than "normal." The femoral and tibial heads are in great shape. I love seeing pics of my parts and watching the Ortho's reaction: She's always somewhat surprised--she expects my joints and my bones to be trashed from all the heavy loading. The reality is it's exactly the opposite. My pics prove what we know but most of the medical field still hasn't accepted: Heavy loading is actually good for the musculo-skeletal system when performed correctly.

Here's the not-so-good news: The fat pad that sits laterally under the patella is being pinched by the patella. She can operate and fix that if I want her to. My quad tendon is about three times thicker than my patellar tendon--again, from heavy loading (Yes!). About 10% of it is torn. Not too bad there. Doesn't require surgery. Even if it did, it wouldn't be "that bad."

Here's the bad news: The cartilage damage I do have couldn't be in a worse place. It's a hole in the cartilage with a "sliver," kind of like a piece about to peel up, just off the center of the patella. All my femoral cartilage is fine. This hole is like a pothole in the road. It gets bigger and bigger as trucks run over the hole, especially the faster the trucks go. More damage can be done to the cartilage at about 45 degrees of knee flexion--think catching a Power Clean or Power Snatch. Or, a Jerk. Or even pulling emphasizing the second pull--just above the knee. This kind of limits what I can do safely. From what I understand, heavy controlled squatting seems to be OK.

Here's the really fun part: Insurance companies do not cover replacing or repairing this cartilage for some strange reason. Out of pocket, it costs 50K. This really makes me consider what I want to do. And the best part, if/when this cartilage does wear out, I won't be able to bend my knee. Cool. That means a knee replacement. More cool.

So what am I going to do?

I don't know.

My Ortho suggested that I could continue to try Olympic lifting. At this point, it seems like a lesson in futility to me. It's kind of like Russian Roulette: There's a bullet in one of the six chambers. You only get lucky five times...

I love me some iron so I may take up--and I can't believe I'm about to say this--Powerlifting. It's the only way I know of to keep on tasting the heavy stuff, which is what I love. I understand you need a 1551 total to be Raw Elite in the 220lbs weight class...Food for thought.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence Day: From a Fitness Perspective

First, I am thankful that I live in the United States. Having lived in foreign countries and traveled all through Europe, I believe it's the greatest country in the world, despite the best efforts of our current crop of politicians (To Hell with the limited powers of the three branches of government as set forth by our Founders in the Constitution--they should be able to do what they please!). It's still a unique experiment and I am thankful to my Creator that I have the good fortune of living here.

Second, thinking about independence and freedom makes me think about feeling "young" again, or pain-free and able to move any way I want. Nothing reinforces this point than watching my friend's 28 month-old run around his house. Two years ago, I viewed myself as an athlete, but I didn't move like one. I was very stiff and immobile. Years of chronic loaded tension induced from heavy weight training and heavy weight training in pain hindered me more than helped. Sure, I got strong, but failed to realize how weak I was getting. As I type this, a copy of Pavel's, Super Joints, lays on my desk. I wonder what would've happened if I had actually practiced the information that was in there when I first got it five years ago. The old truism never rang truer: Youth is wasted on the young.

So, evaluating the "new" freedom I have, I have to conclude that although I'm not as strong--maximally speaking--as I used to be, I am optimally stronger than I have been in almost 10+ years. I move with more fluidity in my movement, I have better flexibility (without stretching I might add), I am faster, I am more agile, I am more coordinated, my eyesight is better than it was in 2000 when I qualified for Nationals, and I'm sure if I thought about it, the list would be longer. This is what "Fitness" is all about. It's been a long, frustrating, painful road. But I'm glad I walked it and continue to walk it. My life is immeasurably better now than it ever has been.

I like Freedom.

Today's training:

A. Back Squat: 130kg: 5x1 with 30s rest. 3 sets, 3 minutes rest between sets. 15 reps total.
This felt better and easier than 120kg did on Monday.

B. Military Press: 82.5/1 x5 with 30s rest. Then 3 minute rest. Then 87.5kg/1 x5 with 30s rest.
Misloaded bar--both sets should've been 87.5kg. No sweat more pressing tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Kool-Aid Update and Intuitive Training

Some of my very good friends have gently suggested that I might be drinking too heavily of the Kool-Aid as of late, speaking metaphorically of my posts/rants on Z with regards to clients, other systems, etc, etc.

All I can say is, I can't help it: Z excites me.

I realize there may be some other systems out there that have very similar principles to Z. I understand. If they're working for you, keep using them. If they're not, you may want to try Z. Either way, I respect you. But as I said to one of my very good friends, some of these other systems may think exactly the same as Z--meaning almost identical principles. The ones I studied, to the best of my knowledge, did not. As I told him, I never claimed to be the sharpest tool in the shed.

I'm excited about Z because it changed my life and it changed the way I train, both personally and professionally, in a very good and productive way.

So, on to the training.

Since I've been back on the platform, indeed, since I've recovered from my last knee incident in March, I've been more accutely aware of what I need to train and when. Bodybuilders call this "intuitive training." I believe Dave Tate has written about it before, saying that the athlete needs to listen to his body identifying weakness and strengths and then to train accordingly. Unfortunately, this can be very hard to do, especially if you are accustomed to "working hard" by getting all the reps in, irregardless of the long term cost.

The hard part about this is you have to be your own coach and your training, your workouts, are in a constant state of flux. What you think you may do, you may not. You may do more, or you may do less, based on the performance of the machine on any one particular training session. I've been told this is a very advanced way to train. It is also a very big pain in the butt because nothing is ever written in stone.

Sunday: Platform

Back to below the knees (bar started at the patellar tendon/ligament)

I haven't trained this position since February and before that, never. I never had the mobility for this particular position. As a result, it's very uncomfortable. It requires a very short 1st pull followed immediately by the 2nd pull. The timing just feels off. I didn't know where I would finish. I knew after last week's session feeling so good, I needed to unload this week and work my way back up. Training now is not so much about how much I lift each session, but how I lift it. That determines how much I eventually lift. It's all about cementing quality and correct movement patterns for the lift.

A. Power Snatch below knee: 50kg/2, 55/2, 60/2, 65/2, 75/2 x2, 80/2, 85/2 x2
I had only planned on going to 80kg here--taking it really light because of the new position. Worked up to 85kg because it felt "right."

B. Power Clean from below knee: 75kg/2, 85/2, 90/2, 100/2, 105/2, 110/2, 100/2, 105/2, 110/2
Performed 2 series with 100-110kg. Felt very fast, very good--it's all about walking away with that feeling. 120-130kg was in the bag for sure. I'll pull them out in the upcoming weeks. Maybe even 140kg.


A. Back Squats, bone rhythm focus
Rest-Pause training here: 5x1 with 30s rest between reps. Three sets, with 3 minutes between sets. Total reps = 15 w/ 120kg.
Felt pretty good. Some knee soreness, but no pain.

B. Military Press, same protocol as squats, but only 2 sets, 10 reps total. 85kg.


Back to the Complexes. Same as last week, but using a 32kg instead of 24kg. Dropped the sets by half to three, doubled the rest to 2 minutes between complexes.

Snatch x5
Clean + Press x5+5
Contralateral Rack Position Lunge x5
Row x5

These were pretty challenging. The goal will to be to get to 5 or 6 rounds here.

Overall, I'm feeling very good. Sleep has been excellent the last two nights, with last night being the best--lots of dreaming. I've been taking a combo of ZMA, GABA, and Melatonin. Good stuff. In fact, it was very hard to get out of bed this morning.

Thoughts on Squatting...

I think I'll continue on the R-P for the next 4 workouts, and then switch to 10 singles per training session. If it all works out according to plan, I should be up around 185kg nine sessions from now. I think these are really making a difference to the platform work. Some would say, "Duh!--Oly's are supposed to squat a lot to make their lifts go up." True--However, there are some who think the squats are irrelevant and all the strength should come from the classic lifts. Anyway, it's nice to actually feel the correlation. In fact, it's nice to actually be able to feel the body be able to move again.