Friday, March 4, 2016

Lower body’ing

My schedule for the next month is more or less coalescing, and I don’t see when I may be able to go to the operating room to have my left biceps distal tendon reattached. That means that until mid-April I will have to survive without it, and unless I want to loose every last shred of strength, I’ll have to get serious about creating and sticking to a program that allows me to progress in the lower body moves, without entirely neglecting the upper body. Since my injury I’ve been experimenting with what moves I can and can not do with an acceptable risk, and these are the findings so far:

·         Squat is OK, no biceps at all used for that, although when the bar gets heavy the inner elbow hurts a bit (as any proficient squatter knows, heavy ones involve up to the levator palpebrae (that’s the muscle that opens the eyelid for you)

·         Deadlift, surprisingly enough, is OK as long as I use double overhand grip (I probably could use a mixed grip as long as the left hand is pronated, and it is the right one which I supinated) and are strict enough in a) keeping arms straight and b) do not “whiplash” the back to complete the lockout in lifts when I’m tired… that accelerates the bar and puts extra pressure in the elbow joint which is… a bit uncomfortable

·         Bench Press is OK at quite low weights, after some learning curve to ensure I keep the biceps relaxed all the way down (when I started testing it hurt a lot, probably because the biceps being the agonist of the triceps, it also contracted when decelerating the bar, causing quite some pain)

·         Press is OK, applying the same caution (its somewhat more painful when I try to stabilize the bar in the upper delts, so I can only do multi reps with low weights that do not require full reset between reps)

·         Klokov presses hurt like hell… but I’ve not fully given up on them, I think the education of the arm to keep the biceps relaxed while the triceps contract is all that is needed to do it pain-free. I’ll keep trying judiciously and report back in a few weeks

·         Oly lifting is a mixed bag. Cleans seem to be mostly OK with very low weights, after really getting serious about not bending the arms prematurely (something I never really tried hard to correct until now). I’ve got to some almost pain free jerks, but the lockout is trickier than usual (and I have to rely more on leg drive and getting fast and aggressively under the bar) and I can not do more than one safely, as if I try to decelerate the bar to catch it in the delts it hurts like hell again, so I have to drop it to the floor after each rep (which make sets w very low weights a real chore). Snatches, so far, are out of the question (after the pain in the Klokov press I don’t see myself trying to adopt a similar position by getting viciously under a loaded bar, honestly)

And of course I have to take into account that in 5-6 weeks time I should be undergoing surgery and I will probably be at least a couple weeks entirely off training, and then probably 4-6 weeks more until I can apply some force to a bar through the hands (be it for pushing or for pulling).

So the training plan for the next month almost writes itself down: focus on the wheels, high volume and low intensity. Try to keep as much back and grip as possible, given the condition that I can not supinated the left hand, or do any kind of chin-up or pull-up. Push moderately, both on the vertical and the horizontal plane, with some minimal overhead movements. Use the chance to polish the C&J technique performing lots and lots of repetitions with low weight, videotaping as many of them as possible, and analyzing form defects exhaustively. Also use the time freed by all the moves I can not do (hmmm… that’s only snatches) to try to recover some flexibility in left knee (surgically reconstructed many, many years ago, I have left it become much more rigid than what should be allowable in a weightlifter) and even improve explosiveness.

Taking all of that into account, it looks like this this should be done weekly, in practice and in the light of all the travelling I foresee, each microcycle will likely take 10 days):

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Front Squats
About 40 reps trying to get to 70 kg
About 40 reps (and at least one set of 10 reps) getting close to 140 kg (it’s double overhand, dammit!)
Run and sprint for about 40 min
Low Bar Back Squat
About 60 reps, trying to get to 90 kg
Hang Power Clean
30 reps trying to get to 50 kg
30 reps at 60 kg
Some shot putting when it’s not so goddamn cold that putting the shot in the carotid threatens to freeze your fuckin’ blood supply to the brain
Clean & Jerk
As many doubles as doable w good form w 60 kg (all dropped), EMOTM up to 20 quality reps
Closed Grip Bench Press (paused)
60 reps at 50 kg
Plyo combo (jump squats w 60 kg and bounded jumps), EMOTM, as many as possible while it feels afst & powerful

Closed Grip Bench Press (paused)
40 reps at 60-70 kg

As many as possible without pain, closing in around 40 total reps w 40-50 kg (at some point they’ll become push presses, and that’s alrighty

Really, the leg part is intended to be the challenging one (and much higher number of reps, with much less intensity, than what I’ve grown accustomed to). All the upper body training is optional and to be modulated and titrated according to how the broken elbow feels. After each session, I’ll be doing some medieval torture, sorry, I meant some mobility work on the left knee(which frankly, guys, hurts a damn lot, but it is what it is) until I can touch again my butt with my left heel (I’m still like four agonizing inches away, so I still have a long way to go).

I won’t be getting back to “eat as a damn horse” mode yet, but I will try to overeat a bit more consistently, specially on training days, as I’ve dropped quite a lot of weight, and I should gain a bit of mass (mostly muscle, but you know how this works, some fat is unavoidably part of the deal).

Technique wise, this is my current baseline:

These hang cleans w 40 kg were my first ones w a loaded bar since december last year (when I tore the tendon), so although the weight is puny they felt quite satisfying. The reason they are in the program is to "keep the groove greased", and stimulate the fast twitch fibers with low weights (thus, creating an acceptably low risk)

This Clean & Jerk combo was the first time I put a loaded bar overhead after the injury (after seeing that I could lift the empty bar, with very wobbly arms... they are somewhat stiffer here, but still a long way to go)

Key points are:

a) I still start the 2nd pull somewhat inconsistent (sometimes a bit higher, sometimes a bit lower, sometimes w legs too straightened, sometimes about right). Starting point (where the bar touches the thighs), degree of forward leaning and foot position have to be absolutely spot on, 100% of the times

b) the bar goes too far forward in that 2nd pull. I have to keep it closer to the chest

c) I lean much, much too much forward when catching the bar in the bottom of the clean. The main culprit is the lack of flexibility of the left knee, which forces the butt too far back, and the chest too advanced (and inclined) to compensate. Also feet have to transition more consistently to a slightly wider stance

d) the lockout of the jerk has to be more vicious and stable, arms have to be more tense and “active” tearing the bar apart   

From a speed/ explosiveness standpoint, this is how things look like:

It’s funny how different things feel “from the inside” from what they look like when you record them and watch them. While I do this I feel fast and “springy”. When I actually see it I rather consider myself a lumbering, slow lump of flesh that spends too much time on the floor between the first and the second jumps, and which barely separates feet from floor when jumping.

So lots of space to improve, we’ll see how it looks like a few weeks from now! 

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