Friday, September 4, 2015

The dreaded return from holidays (to lifting, of course, who cares ‘bout work anyway?)

Crunch time for the Vintage Rocker, decided to finish his dissertation (having it “ready for review”) by September the 15th come hell or high water, and seriously reducing any activity different from checking quotations, getting missing page numbers or tightening arguments that after being read in retrospect look too shabby or out of the blue (surprisingly few of those, however, I’ve turned out to be a pretty consistent writer after all of these years). So most of my life has been put in the back burner for some weeks, and that includes lifting, throwing, sprinting, and being physically awesome in general (well, I’m humble like this, when you have awesomeness to spare like I do you can allow to let it drop without much care). But that doesn’t mean I’ve completely forsaken any physical activity, as to write forcefully (and to appear full of confidence and pizzazz at work, which is a substantial part of any executive’s job description) you need to maintain a core of bodily well-being that deteriorates quickly if you just sit all day for too long. Those serotonin and dopamine generators start sputtering and atrophying if you don’t jolt them with bouts of activity every now and then, and it is not just any activity (a walk in the park at a leisurely pace won’t do it, or at least it doesn’t cut it for me), but some seriously strenuous, forceful, willpower depleting set of movements that will do the trick.

So although when I laid down my plan for the year I envisioned at this point transitioning from a weightlifting centered routine to a powerlifting oriented one, I’ll probably delay that at least until November (in a couple weeks I’ll have the dissertation review-ready, but then I have to send it to my counselor, add his comments, prepare another couple of articles for publication, and hopefully keep my day job!). Until then, I plan to stay in “park bench mode”, just gaining overall strength through the accumulation of compound movements that give me a maximum bang for my buck whilst not being technically too demanding or requiring a great flexibility I have no time at this point to maintain (that means squats, presses, power cleans, chin ups and deadlifts). I’ll stick with the strategy of progressing through achieving more density (move the same total volume –same number of sets and reps with the same weight- in less time), and only when I master a combination of exercises completing them below certain threshold time will I rise the volume (either adding reps or a bit of weight). Given the constraints I have I’ll aim at three workouts per week, all of which should last less than 40 minutes, divided in 4 blocks of 10 minutes. In each block I’ll have to complete 4-8 sets of a single exercise or a couple of supersetted exercises (involving agonistic muscle groups), and change plates to leave everything ready for the next block. Finally, in order to strengthen some links I feel have grown weaker, I intend to squat every session ,bench press every session, chin every session and put the bar overhead every session (so 3 of the 4 available blocks are already filled, as the chins and OH presses can be fitted in a single block). I also have greatly enjoyed doing some sprinting and throwing outdoors, which I think is unbeatable to stay fast and mobile, so I’ll add a fourth, optional workout to do those things.
This is then how a typical week will look like, training wise, for the next two months:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4 (optional)
Low Bar Back Squats
4 x 8 @ 65%
Jump Squats
5 x 3 w 50 kg
Front Squats
4 x 8 @ 65%
Standing shot put
A few
Bench Press (comp. stance)
4 x 8 @ 65%
Speed BP
8 x 2 @ 70%
Paused BP (3 secs)
4 x 5 @ 65%
Gliding shot put
A few
Farmer’s walks
6-8 x 20 yds w 70 kg/hand
Power Clean
8 x 2 @ 80%
3 x 6 @ 75%
Hill sprints
4-6 x 20 yds
BTN SG Push Press
4 x 6 @ 70%
Supersetted w chin-ups
4 x 5-7
Savickas Press
4 x 6 @ 70%
Supersetted w pull-ups
4 x 4-6
Push Press
4 x 6 @ 70%
Supersetted w chin-ups
4 x 5-7
Bounded jumps
A bunch

I’m aiming at a total volume above 30 tons, and the following weights in each exercise:

·         LBBS: 100 kg (100% would be 154 kg)
·         BP: 85kg (100% would be 130 kg)
·         BTN SG Push Press: 75 kg (100% would be 107 kg)
·         Power Clean: 95 kg (100% would be 119 kg)
·         FS: 80 kg (100% would be 123 kg)
·         DL: 150 kg (100% would be 200 kg)
·         Push Press: 75 kg (100% would be 107 kg)

Which seems about right, a bit light for lower body (my best lifts in the squat and the deadlift are 170 kg and 220 kg respectively, so although I’ve neglected them for some time now I may be underchallenging myself in those) and a bit heavy for the upper body ones (my best lifts are below the projected 100% in all of them, but as those moves involve less total muscular mass they allow for a higher volume at a higher intensity). However, those are not weights I can strive for right away, after an almost total layoff for three weeks (again, sweet holidays away from the gym), which is when the title of this post becomes relevant. As this week I started with this schema, to calibrate it and check if it was feasible (I was specially interested in confirming the time it took both to change plates and set the bar) I ended the first WO absolutely crushed (and above 50’), had tremendously sore muscles for the whole week and felt overall miserable and weak.

It is well known that the nervous system remembers the ability to move certain weights far longer than the muscles ability to contract against the resistance those weights provide endures. That means that when we come back from an extended resting period (and three weeks is just time enough to get somewhat deconditioned) our brain can push our bodies to do things  that “feel” doable, but that have the potential to wreak a much bigger havoc than what we expected. What in peak condition was a 60% effort may have become a 70% or even an 80% of the maximum we can do if detraining has been significant enough, and having that amount of effort done for big muscle groups for a high number of reps is a) great for quickly recovering the previous level of fitness b) dangerous if there was any previous unbalance, as it will get much exaggerated and c) prone to cause considerable discomfort (according to the oft quoted in this pages Mark Rippetoe, it is apt to cause “one of the most exquisite levels of soreness a human being can experience”). I wouldn’t say I’ve gone through such level of soreness, but it has been an interesting week nonetheless…

However, after going through a full cycle and having started the second one with much milder symptoms, I am pretty confident that this routine is going to serve me very well. All the main areas (“slow” strength, power, speed, even some endurance) are addressed, weaknesses are thoroughly dealt with, and even with the relatively low intensity I’m betting the higher volume and consistency will leave me in a couple months with a better base of strength than I had eight months ago. I’ll most likely do a fast peaking phase to prime the CNS for substantially heavier weights and then taper and take maxes again, and adjust accordingly, given how the rest of my life is going. 

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