Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Have A Plan

I remember 15 1/2 years ago I decided to get into shape. I started going to the gym and running 2 miles as a warm-up. I would then do light resistance training on machines. Doing that, along with watching my diet, I was able to get into really good shape.

The biggest problem I had? I had no plan. I would go to the gym, walk the track for two laps to warm up, run 28 laps (which equaled two miles) and then walk two more laps to cool down. Then I would hit the electronic machines randomly. I didn't have goals. I didn't have any overriding thing I was trying to accomplish.

Granted I did see changes, and people complimented me on conditioning, but I couldn't lift any more weight than I ever had. My stamina increased in playing pick-up sports, but really I was just flailing along without any real clear path to where I wanted to be.

I don't even remember when or why I stopped. It just kind of happened. And there is no surprise to that since I wasn't even consistent in the nights of the week I worked out!

That is what I love about the Strong Lifts 5x5 program. It gives you plan. Mehdi encourages you to have goals. The overall thing you are trying to accomplish is to become stronger. It is 3 days a week (NEVER two days in a row), an hour to an hour and a half each time. And the plan is so simple. Squats, bench press, barbell rows one workout. Squats, overhead press, deadlifts the next. And continue to rotate those. Adding 5 pounds to each lift each time you do it.

I still watch, while I rest between sets, other lifters at the gym wandering around aimlessly. Doing dumbbell curls for a random number of reps, at a randomly grabbed weight, and then floundering on to their next exercise. No plan. And therefore no consistency.

That will never be me. Ever again.

Start Of Week 12

Yesterday was Memorial Day, and we had plans for the holiday. So I got up and ate breakfast and headed to the gym. I needed to get my workout in before the plans for the day got started.

I did my 195 lb squats. These continue to be challenging, and I give myself a good 3-4 minutes of rest between sets now. But I never was in danger of not completing them. I am anxious to move to the mentally rewarding 200 lb level! My warm-up sets now consist of 135 lbs, and 155 lbs. Going back and looking at my blog posting about my first workout on Strong Lifts 5x5, I wrote:
So week 1, day 1. I enter Powerhouse Gym and it is slightly before the after work rush. I go to the squat rack where a huge man is squatting 135lbs. Turns out that is his warm-up. After he does a set I remove the weights and do my first set of 5 with the just the bar. I then help him load the bar back up to 165 lbs, and watch him do another set.
I remember telling that guy that I would be at his level one day. Well, here it is 11 weeks later and I am past that level! It feels great.

I was also able to complete all 5 sets of 5 on the 105 lb overhead presses. It was tough, but it felt good knowing that just two weeks ago I failed twice to complete 5x5 at 100 lbs, and deloaded down to 90 lbs. We'll see how 110 lbs goes on Friday. I still may take another Strong Lifts 5x5 user's advice and get 1.25 lb plates to take with me to the gym. Going to smaller increments on overhead and bench presses helped him get through plateaus on those lifts.

Speaking of plateaus, its official. I have plateau'd on deadlifts. After last week failing to complete even one rep at 240 lbs, I was able to pull that weight twice yesterday. But that is still a stall, and two in a row. I will stick to the program and deload down to 205 lbs on the deadlifts. Hopefully that will help me bust through this current plateau. If I have to eventually deload again on deadlifts then I will deload and switch to adding only 5 lbs each time I do them. Currently the program calls for 10 lbs increments. But you can't cut reps anymore at 1x5.

Nutritionally I have busted through another plateau. I had settled in at 179 lbs and couldn't seem to make any more progress. However, I bought a 12 lb bag of Optimum Nutrition's Serious Mass, and that has enabled me to add a quick 700 calories and 30 grams of protein daily to my diet. I am now at 182 lbs and my 34 inch waist pants still fit with room to spare! Also, this is only at a half serving of this stuff, so I have room to expand that consumption if need be.

Tomorrow, 200 lb squats, 125 lb bench presses, and 130 lb barbell rows!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mehdi's Blog Posting Today

This was too good not to post here.

Click here for blog: Should You Pay Attention?

I love what Mehdi says in this posting.

Rarely will they remind you of a simple fact – the top 3 causes of death in the US according to Wikipedia remain smoking, obesity and alcohol. Is it surprising that more people die each year from smoking tobacco than from eating tuna cans? It shouldn’t, yet a lot of guys waste their time worrying about the details instead of staying focussed on the big picture…

The fact that they leave out the truth about smoking, being overweight and drinking alcohol shows they have an agenda.

While I am at it, here is another great posting by Mehdi:

Click here for blog: Are You a Freak?

The coworkers, always commenting on the home made meals you eat behind your desk. Meanwhile, they go to Toxic Hell every noon because they’re too lazy to cook and bring food to work, to then feel depressed after seeing themselves in the bathroom mirror after lunch. They wished they had more time and more motivation to train 3x/week like you do, while trying to lure you to happy hour.

Sounds familiar?

Well said!

Follow Up To My Last Post

Ever notice how some days you feel stronger than others? I was talking to a buddy of mine that works out and he was commenting on that topic. He works out with a couple of other guys I know, and we were comparing notes.

"Ever notice how some days you can lift so much more than others?" I wasn't doing much in the way of weight yet so I listened eagerly. "It seems that some days I can lift weight for reps I didn't think was possible, but other days I can't lift lesser weight."

Of course, now I've noticed this. Take the deadlifts I failed on. When I did the 1x5 at 230lbs, I felt as if I had room for more weight. Yet the other night I couldn't budge 240lbs.

I think this is where the wisdom of Mehdi comes in. When you fail to complete a 5x5 set, he has you remain at that weight for the next time you do the same lift. I've seen this with my squats. Stalling at various weights one time, and then completing the same weight the next time without any problem! And then going up in weight the next time without stalling.

I was talking to another buddy, one that came and worked out with me early on in my Strong Lifts program. I was telling him how I was up to 185 lbs squats, weight I never, ever would have thought I could have done 5 sets of 5 at. I told him I remember hitting 75 lb and getting worried about heavier weights. "So have you done 75 lbs since to see how it is?" I told him that my first warm-up set of 5 is now at 95 lbs, and it feel like the bar is empty.

This makes me believe even more in Mehdi's program. Adding the 5 lbs each time really stretches you. Makes you stronger, not necessarily bigger. And that is fine with me.

190 lbs squats tonight. 120 lb bench presses. 125 lb barbell rows. Can't wait to hit the gym tonight!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Failed On Deadlifts

Well, it was bound to happen. After stalling at least once on every lift, last night it happened on my deadlifts.

Friday I did 1x5 deadlifts at 230lb. While tough I was able to muscle through it without ever a threat of not completing the 1x5. However, last night was I was unable to complete even one rep at 240lb. I deloaded to 230lb and could only do 2 reps.

Weird.

I have a theory though. We have a Sleep number bed. For some reason the thing doesn't seem to always maintain the number you have it set to. The last few days I've had some lower back pain. Well last night I checked and in fact the bed had deflated down to 5 (maybe lower as that is as low as the reading goes). I pumped it back up to my normal 30 and woke up this morning with no lower back pain at all!

So I think this lower back pain weakened me. I will try next Monday again at 240 lb, and I think I'll be okay. As long as I keep checking my sleep number.

I completed the 185lb squats and the 100lb overhead presses. I stalled twice on the presses before. So now on to 105lb there.

I got my new mass gain powder last night. I will try a serving of it tonight. Hopefully it will help with the bulking up.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Week 11, Workout 1

Hard to believe that I am into week 11 already! And hard to believe it has been a week since my last log entry. So here is what happened.

On Wednesday I stalled on squats at 175. I went 5,5,5,5,3. However, I have continued to progress on every other lift after deloading on the overhead presses and barbell rows. I worked out Saturday morning (couldn't on Friday night), and completed the 175 lb squats no problem. And deadlifted 230 lbs! Overhead presses are back up to 95 lbs, and I completed them. Of course 100 lbs is where I stalled twice on overhead presses.

Yesterday I did 180lb squats, and 120 lb barbell rows, completed all 5 sets of 5. On the bench press, my first stall. At 120 lb I went 5,5,5,5,4. Just couldn't complete that last rep. I am looking forward to tomorrows workout to see how I do on the deadlifts at 240 lbs. Deadlifting is definitely becoming challenging. My goals are to squat 200 lbs or more, and deadlift 300 lbs or more by July.

I was right, I stayed at 179 lbs (actually down a lb from the week before), and 15% body fat. I do have another weight gain powder coming, having completed the meal replacement stuff I was using. There just wasn't enough calories in the meal replacement. We'll see how the next couple of weeks go once I get the powder. Other than that I have been doing well on the whole foods, and have stuck to it pretty strictly.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Week 9 Done, Week 10 Started

Okay, first let me say that I made a couple of decisions. First, I went down to 90 lbs on my overhead press after failing to complete 5x5 twice in a row. I went 5-5-5-4-5 at 100 lbs, then I went 5-5-5-4-0. I deloaded down to 90 lbs, and did 5x5 yesterday. (It was the first workout since I deloaded on the overhead.)

Second, after trying 130 lb barbell rows on Saturday (I'll get into that later) I realized that while I completed the 3 sets of 5, my form was terrible. I was really lifting my upper-body to complete the rows. I stopped and decided that I would deload on those, back down to 115 lb, and see if that will get me through the 130 lb barrier on the rows.

A word on motivation. Friday I couldn't workout. I had a wedding rehearsal for a wedding I was in about an hour from home (and my gym). Right after work. So I couldn't workout on my usual Friday. I got up early Saturday to be at the gym and get my final week 9 workout in prior to the wedding. There was temptation to skip entirely but I fought it.

Then last night I was really hungry (I missed my 4pm sweet potato feeding) so I went home to eat dinner first. Because it was a long weekend I was extra tired last night. I laid down for a few minutes and that almost prevented me from doing my week 10 first exercise. However, I was able to get my butt up and get into the gym for Week 10's first workout. I did 170 lb squats, 90 lb overhead presses, and 220 lb deadlifts, completing all of the requisite sets (5x5 on first 2, 1x5 on deadlifts).

As far as the nutrition goes, that has been a struggle. I just haven't been as hungry recently. I think this might be the first week I actually go down in weight, Week 8 I was at 180 lb, I think at most I will stay the same weight for week 10s weigh in.

Also, the deadlifts are becoming tough. I am at 220 lbs, I was hoping to hit 300 lbs without stalling/deloading, but we'll have to see how that goes.

Also I am worried about 115 lb bench presses. At 110 I began to struggle to complete the last couple of sets. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Update: Couple more stalls

As I reported, I was unable to complete the 150 lb squats last week on Monday, going 5-5-5-4-5. Wednesday I stayed at 150 lb and completed the 5 sets without a problem.

Then on Friday I stalled not only on the 155 lb squats (again going 5-5-5-4-5) but also the 100 lb overhead presses (also 5-5-5-4-5).

Yesterday I completed the 155 lb squats, and had no issues on bench presses (105 lb) nor on barbell rows (125 lb). So tomorrow I will be attempting 160lb squats, 100 lbs overhead presses, and 210 lb deadlifts.

Calorie intake continues to be an issue. I am just not very hungry most of the time. I am now at 180 lbs and 14.9% body fat. But my increases and gains have stalled somewhat. I have considered upping my milk intake, but we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Well It Happened

Monday the inevitable happened. I failed to complete the 5 sets of 5 on the 150 lb squats. I went: 5-5-5-4-5. So I stay at 150 lb for my squats today. I was never in danger of not completing the 5x5 at 145 lb, but Monday I just wasn't feeling that great. In fact, I took yesterday off of work because I was still under the weather.

So I am chalking it up to being weakened by whatever my body was fighting. I fully expect to complete the full set of 5 tonight.

The 95 lb overhead presses were challenging, but I was able to complete them without issue. And the 190 lb dead lifts were challenging as well, but completed.

I was hoping to get over 200 lb before failing on squats. Oh well.

Tonight 150 lb squats, 100 lb bench presses, and 120 lb barbell rows. I will report back tomorrow.