Monday, March 30, 2015

Farewell powerlifts, hello shot

So after in my last powerlifting related post I announced I would finally not compete in this years’ Spanish Open I’m closing my last strength focused macrocycle and I will not be even testing for new 1RM in any of the lifts, as I do not think I could show any progress at all in them. Not that the three months since the beginning of the year have been a total waste of time, training wise, as I have learned a number of valuable things, that I’m going to share with my ample readership right away (truth be told, I’m going to write them down so I do not forget and can apply the lesson in my next powerlifting block, which should start six months from now). I’m grouping the lessons for each lift, and then I’ll close with general ones:

·         What I’ve learned about the squat:

o   Consistency trumps volume (or total weekly volume is by far more important than the volume reached in any single session). By the end of last year I was doing religiously three sessions per week (heavyish Low Bar Back Squat, mediumish High Bar Back squat and Lightish Front Squat) and I reached my fake meet in top form, whilst this year I was barely training a couple days a week (any imaginable combination, although I was going heavier in the LBBS session, the next heavy session would be almost two weeks afterwards… too much time to catch the supercompensation wave) and I did nothing but regress

o   To improve I really seem to need at least three days a week, every week. The moment the frequency goes down, the bar starts feeling heavy and setting new reps PR (reaching a new 1RM equivalent applying the old conversion formula) gets more and more out of reach

o   To get those three days a week I need to judiciously dose the days in which I go heavy (anything above 85% -150 kg for a 1RM of 170, as is my current case- can be considered heavy), as I end up dreading the squat day more and more, and finding any imaginable excuse not to go to the gym (well, at some point I have to accept that having to work late is not an excuse, but the friggin’ truth)

o   However, not going too heavy too frequently does not exclude doing some sensible over warm-up… those seem to activate the motor patterns and, if I don’t go bananas with them (again, 85% max load seems a reasonable compromise) they make the volume sets feel lighter

o   Paused squats and reverse squats (started from the safeties, so it has no eccentric portion to pre-load the glutes and hammies, which have to start contracting from a dead stop) seem to have tremendous potential to bust plateaus and eliminate weak points (the reverse squat really seems to make you stronger out of the hole), but I have to program them more consistently for longer periods to calibrate results

·         The bench press and me:

o   Although it is the lift that I (and probably anybody) recover more easily from, training it a couple days a week seems to be enough. And one of them doesn’t even need to be with the competition move (weighted dips have worked great)

o   I have to pay more attention to stretching before the lift gets heavy (had some bad experiences with strained front delt and pec insertion in humerus, typically the left arm). Just 15-20 shoulder dislocates with a broomstick seem to be enough

o   Going heavy (even above 95% of 1RM) in this lift doesn’t seem to impact negatively the performance afterwards, or to cause a gross degradation of my ability to adhere to the program

o   Again, reverse presses (from safeties at mid height) and paused presses seem to hold great promise (as do overloaded presses, not going all the way down), but have to program them more consistently to really be able to tell

·         Deadlifting for happiness:

o   I fell a bit in the trap of trying to improve the DL without DL’ing that much, as I threw in partial DL’s from the knee, deficit DL’s with less weight and sumo DL’s also with less weight, and kept the number of reps of full competition DL to a minimum (although almost every DL session I went quite heavy, above 90% again)

o   I think my DL capability didn’t degrade as much as the squatting, but for some weakening of the grip… I think if I had paid more attention to specific grip training (some of the most boring and uncertain areas of our discipline) I may have improved marginally my DL without much in the form of real DL’ing

o   However, the low volume makes it easier for the technique to get a bit off… towards the end of this cycle I noticed I was starting the pull with the hip too high and the shoulders too much in front of the bar. I think just puffing the chest more noticeably automatically corrected both defects, but have to keep paying attention to that

·         Generic stuff:

o   Variation may have some merit, but it makes programming much more difficult. Just to avoid going to squat and feeling like shit about it I started adding variations (reverse squats, partial squats, ampler rep ranges), and even think I should add a few more (box squats and banded squats seem pretty appealing), but I still have to get more proficient with them to find out the load and rep and set schema that works for me… they will probably have to wait until my next powerlifting cycle, as it sounds like I’m getting ready to gravitate towards a conjugate style system

o   As Greg Nuckols has said a million times, the way to keep improving is to do more. Just more means more weight moved in the same time. In the last 2-3 months I was moving infinitesimally more weight in each microcycle, but in longer and longer time spans, so I didn’t progress that much (or at all).

o   I’ll probably need to be more realistic about time availability when programming. Until my dissertation is fully written, it’s better to recognize I just won’t be able to go the gym (and train) more than two, at tops three days per week (specially if I want to keep my job and be a good father and husband)

So all in all I think I have a good bunch of valuable lessons to mull and consider, and if I can apply them to my next cycles I have no doubt they will serve me well. With that I close the book on powerlifting, and start to gear back towards shot putting. I’ll develop a bit more how my training is going to look like in a next post, but I’m thinking in 2 days/ week in the gym, and 1 or 2/ days week in the park, putting, jumping and sprinting. I’ll need to build back some aerobic capacity, as after only training in short rep ranges I get winded very fast. As for the gym, right now there are too many moves I think I have to put in there (bench press both wide grip and close grip, push presses, snatches and cleans and jerks, and tons upon tons of squatting), so I need to rationalize a bit, and decide on some set and rep scheme and some progression method that allow me to get in and out in less than an hour, as I don’t see the next months being any less busy than the last ones…

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