Thursday, January 31, 2013

Musings About Fasted Cardio

A lot of people swear by fasted cardio for fat loss. I've traditionally done the opposite. But I've been starting to question my stance on this lately.

So, here's the common argument for fasted cardio:

When you are fasted, your blood sugar levels at the lowest they'll normally be throughout the day. If you then do some exercise in this state, then your body can't rely on sugars for energy, so it'll have to resort to burning fat instead.

And here are the main points I've used to refute this argument:

1. A calorie is a calorie. If you're going to eat 2,000kcal in the day regardless, and you're going to burn 300kcal through cardio regardless, then your weight will change by the same amount whether some of those 2,000kcal are consumed before training or after training. The total calorie consumption and expenditure is the same either way, so it wouldn't matter when you do the cardio.

2. Just because the body doesn't have much sugar to work with, doesn't mean it will use fat instead. It could just use up what little sugar is there, and then you'll topple over experiencing the joys of hypoglycaemia. This actually reflects my experience with fasted cardio.

My experience and my understanding of thermodynamics appears to mute out the arguments in favour of fasted cardio. So why am I starting to consider the possibility that I might be wrong to dismiss fasted cardio?

The main reason is because I've always been one of those guys who thinks that low intensity steady state (LISS) cardio is a waste of time. 'Cus, you know, higher intensities burn more calories per minute and condition your heart and lungs to higher levels of exertion. However, I've more recently come to acknowledge the therapeutic effects of LISS, and the fact that any activity (so long as it isn't harmful) is better than no activity. This has opened my mind up to the totally insane possibility that doing something as simple as going for a leisurely walk might actually be good for you.

By opening my mind to the idea that LISS isn't inherently stupid or pointless, I've also been able to take a step back and consider energy pathways. As a general rule, the lower the intensity of physical work, the higher the percentage of fat is used to fuel the activty, and the the higher the intensity, the higher the percentage of sugar is used as fuel. Traditionally, I've always trained at intensities that use too much sugar to enable safe fasted training. So, instead of my body using extra fat stores to prevent hypoglycaemia, it'll use up the small amount of sugar available and then crash and burn when that sugar is no longer sufficient. Fun times.

On the other hand, if you do some light activity, then perhaps the mobilisation of fat for energy will occur at a more rapid rate than the depletion of blood glucose -- enough to keep it safe while increasing the amount of body fat used before breaking your fast.

The implications of this could be that you lose weight at the same rate as if you'd done the same amount of cardio later in the day, but you lose fat at a greater rate.

Alas, I can't prove whether or not there's merit to fasted cardio, this is just me thinking. Regardless, I think I'm gonna go for a walk now.

Training -- Wed 31/01/2013

Front Squats



3x10x105kg -- Not the most fun I've ever had.

GHR/Trap Bar Shrug


Calf Raise/Leg Raise/Band Pull Apart


In the afternoon, a couple hours after training, I brought one of my friends to the gym to teach him barbell squats, deadlifts, bench press, and cable rows. He just used the empty barbell for squats and bench press, 25kg (the bar plus the lightest 45cm plates in the gym) for deadlifts, and what I assume is 20kg (2 plates) on the cable row. Squats, bench press and rows were all fairly good, especially for the first time doing them. First set of deadlifts started out looking pretty good, but form degenerated towards the end of the set and remained that way in the next set. Too much bending over, not enough hinging.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

T-NATION: The Truth About Bulking

I think this is worth sharing. It's an old article from T-Nation, but one that's still worth reading. Granted, there are some points throughout it that I don't entirely agree with, but for the most part I think more people in the lifting community should be paying attention to this advice.

T-NATION: The Truth About Bulking


- Too often, people on the internet dole out the recommendation to new lifters that they should be eating to excess, trying to push the scale weight up as high as possible (as a personal anecdote, earlier today I saw someone on the forums telling a new lifter that he isn't eating enough, because the new lifter had "only" gone from 128lb to 135lb in 8 weeks; that's 7lb in 8 weeks, and in reality you really don't want to be gaining much more weight than that, if you'd even benefit from gaining weight that rapidly in the first place).
- The above point is proof that said internet people shouldn't be giving advice.
- You can only gain so much muscle mass per week, and the amount you can gain in that time frame really isn't very high. Once you start eating beyond that amount, you aren't gaining more muscle, just more fat.
- The more fat you gain while bulking, the longer you'll have to cut for. If you spend 6 months bulking and then 6 months cutting (and you will probably need to cut for at least 6 months if you follow a lot of the dietary advice given to people who want to bulk), you'll have only spent half of the year building muscle. The remainder of the year will be spent trying to maintain the muscle mass you've gained -- and you may not even succeed to do that. If, however, you bulk at a slower rate so as to minimise the amount of fat gained, you may only need to cut for 1-2 months after 6 months of bulking. You'll have gained the same amount of muscle in that time, you'll spend less time cutting, and you'll be able to get back into building more muscle sooner. That might give you 10ish months of solid building in a year, as oppose to just 6 months, and less time risking muscle loss.
- There are other seriously good reasons mentioned not to "fulk" (fat-bulk) as some call it, you can find them in the link.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Training -- Mon 28/01/2013

It's the Australia Day public holiday today (even though Australia Day was actually on Saturday), so gym wasn't open until 2pm. South-east Queensland discovered that cyclones and whirlwinds can happen here, too, over the weekend, and so the power was out at the gym...and at many of the street lights between my home and the gym. Fun driving.

Bench Press

8x62.5kg -- Should've rested longer, methinks.


3x10x42.5kg -- First two sets felt very awkward. Don't know why.

Pull Ups


Seated Row


Barbell Curl


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Excerpt from Timothy Keller's "The Prodigal God"

I'm going to make a post now that has nothing to do with my physical training and everything to do with my spirituality.

In The Prodigal God, Tim Keller analyses and discusses the famous parable of The Prodigal Son. In movies like The Wolfman, this parable is used to condemn the father's wayward son. For most Christians, this parable is used to warm hearts as we look at the father's love and grace for his wayward son. Tim Keller points out that if we leave it at that, we're actually missing the entire second half of the story. Ironically, the second half of the story, dealing not with the wayward son come home, but with the obediant older son, appears to be the point Jesus was working towards when he told the parable, as the issues pertaining to the older son address the issues of the crowd he was confronting. Tim Keller suggests that Christians should take a bit more notice of the second half (without forgetting the first half), because we have a tendency to become just like the older brother, who is a personification of the Pharisees that Jesus was busy rebuking.

Cliff's notes of the parable of the prodigal son:

- There is a wealthy man with two sons.
- The younger son requests his share of his father's estate while the father is still living. Surprisingly the father agrees. He divides his estate and gives the younger son his portion.
- The younger son goes far away and squanders his money on reckless living (the word "prodigal" means "recklessly spendthrift"). When he runs out of money he decides to go back home and try to negotiate paying off his debt to his father.
- When the younger son approaches home, the father runs out to greet him, ignores his request to work off his debt, and gives him all-out VIP treatment. The son that was dead to him and his community is back, and he joyfully forgives all debt and hosts a party to celebrate. This is where most people get up to, ignoring the rest of the story.
- The older son refuses to join the party, which is a public protest against his father welcoming back the other son.
- Just as the father came out running to see the younger son, the father comes out to ask the older son to come into the party.
- The older son refuses to come to the party, because he's done everything the father ever asked of him and never got a party, but this other son (who he won't even acknowledge as a brother anymore) gets the finest treatment. Basically, "Boo you, this isn't fair."
- The parable ends inconclusively with the father pleading with the older son to come back.

The following excerpt really stood out to me, and it fleshes out the characteristics of both the older and younger brother.


The elder brother in the parable illustrates the way of moral conformity. The Pharisee's of Jesus's day believed that, while they were a people chosen by God, they could only maintain their place in his blessing and receive final salvation through strict obediance to the Bible. There are innumerable varieties of this paradigm, but they all believe in putting the will of God and the standards of the community ahead of individual fulfillment. In this view, we only attain happiness and a world made right by achieving moral rectitude. We may fall at times, of course, but then we will be judged by how abject and intense our regret is. In this view, even in our failures we must always measure up.

The younger brother in the parable illustrates the way of self-discovery. In ancient patriarchal cultures some took this route, but there are far more who do so today. This paradigm holds that individuals must be free to pursue their own goals and self-actualization regardless of custom and convention. In this view, the world would be a far better place if tradition, prejudice, hierarchical authority, and other barriers to personal freedom were weakened or removed.

These two ways of life (and their inevitable clash) are vividly depicted in the classic movie Witness. In that story, the young Amish widow Rachel falls in love with the decidely non-Amish policeman, John Book. Her father-in-law, Eli, warns her that it is forbidden to do so and the elders could have her punished. He adds that she is acting like a child. "I will be the judge of that," she retorts. "No, they will be the judge of that. And so will I . . . if you shame me," he says, fierce as a prophet. "You shame yourself," Rachel replies, shaken but proud, and turns away from him.

Here we have a precise portrayal of the two ways. The person in the way of moral conformity says: "I'm not going to do what I want, but what tradition and the community wants me to do." The person choosing the way of self-discovery says: "I'm the only one who can decide what is right or wrong for me. I'm going to live as I want to live and find my true self and happiness that way."

Our Western society is so deeply divided by the two approaches that hardly anyone can conceive of any other way to live. If you criticize or distance yourself from one, everyone assumes you have chosen to follow the other, because each of these approaches tends to divide the whole world into two basic groups. The moral conformists say: "The immoral people -- the people who 'do their own thing' -- are the problem with the world, and moral people are the solution." The advocates of self-discovery say: "The bigoted people -- the people who say, 'We have the Truth' -- are the problem with the world, and progressive people are the solution." Each side says: "Our way is the way the world will be put to rights, and if you are not with us, you are against us."

Are we to conclude that everyone falls into one or the other of these two categories? Yes and no. A great number of people have temperaments that predispose them to either a life of moral conformity or of self-discovery. Some, however, go back and forth, trying first one strategy and then the other in different seasons of their lives. Many have tried the moral conformity paradigm, found it crushed them, and in a dramatic turn moved into a life of self-discovery. Others are on the opposite trajectory.

Some people combine both approaches under the roof of the same personality. There are some traditional-looking elder brothers that, as a release valve, maintain a secret life of younger-brother behavior. Police sting operations, designed to catch Internet secual predators who seek out young teens, regularly catch highly religious people in their nets, including many clergy. Then again, there are many people, very liberated and irreligious in their views and lifestyle, who regard religious conservatives with all the self-righteousness and condescension of the worst Pharisee.

Despite these variations, these are still only two primary approaches to living. The message of Jesus's parable is that both of these approaches are wrong. His parable illustrates a radical alternative.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Training -- Sat 26/01/2013


5x102.5 -- That's a strange way to spell "3x10." I think one of my major errors here was a lack of solid breakfast before training. I had a liquid breakfast, and when I got under the bar the belt felt looser than usual. On that note, I also probably should have taken to it with a screwdriver and tightened it up. I suspect that my liquid breakfast meant not a lot of space being filled up in my abdomen, which would thus lead to the belt feeling looser and not a lot of intra-abdominal pressure because of it. At least, that sounds like a logical enough explanation as to why my squats were none too brilliant today.

Speed Pull


DB Lunges

2x10x15kg -- For a few weeks now I'd been contemplating having Bulgarian split squats somewhere in my program. I hate them far less than I hate lunges, at least based on what I can recall. It occurred to me today that I know a very sensible place where I can put them. It was raining today, so I opted not to go outside and do tyre flips.

Calf Raise/Leg Raise/Side Bridge


Friday, January 25, 2013

Training -- 25/01/2013

Somehow I've managed to be offline for the last 48 hours. Some of that time has been spent watching "Supernatural: The Anime Series" (based on the orginal live action series of Supernatural); some of it has been spent watching Herschel Po'er (AKA Harry Potter), thus making up for the part of my youth that I've missed out on all these years; some of it has been spent doing some fictional writing with ye olde pen and paper; some of it has been spent being a d20-based nerd; a tiny bit of it has been spent doing today's training session and providing this entry with content.

Incline Bench Press




Pull Ups


Fat Gripz Row


Curl Tri-set/Triceps Tri-set


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Training -- Wed 23/01/2013

Front Squats

3x8x55kg -- I spent the first half of the first set having an interesting wrestling match with the bar. For some reason, the right side of the bar decided to spin backwards, and the left side decided to spin forwards. This made for somewhat of an awkward dynamic.


3x10x100kg -- I don't know how I got the motivation and energy to do this, because by the time the first set came, I felt like lying down and moping around. This was at about 11:00 this morning, and the feeling didn't leave until about 6:00pm tonight. Now that I'm reminding myself about it, I'm feeling a bit mopey again. Oh crepe.



Tyre Flip


Calf Raise/Leg Raise


Band Pull Apart


Monday, January 21, 2013

Healthy Eating Part 2

Solid Protein

Here we have meat, eggs and nuts.

Egg yolks are full of vitamins and minerals, egg whites have some protein. Since I was about 12, I've been aware of a trend (and I've been increasingly aware of it as an adult) in which people will have 1 egg + 6 egg whites in a meal. They throw away the yolks, usually, because the yolks contain fat and cholesterol, and not as much protein as the whites. When you consider that egg yolks contain the kind of fat and cholesterol you want in your body, and that they're almost like swallowing a mutli-vitamin capsule (perhaps even better, if we're to assume that vitamins work best in their natural state), you'll probably recognise this habit of ditching the yolks as madness...or at least the product of misinformation. Most of us would benefit from having an egg or two each day, and so long as it fits your macros/daily calories, I can't think of any reason for a healthy person to put a limit on how many eggs they should eat.

Nuts, like eggs, are a mix of fat and protein. Most nuts I've eaten have been more fat than protein. This isn't a bad thing, although I personally prefer my ratios of fat and protein to be tipped in the other direction. I can't think of much that nuts offer in the way of micro-nutrients. That doesn't mean that nuts aren't nutritious, it means that I've been lazy at studying. To me, most nuts are filling and bland, so I'm not at a high risk of blowing my macros on them. I've found them to be a good balance to the fruit that I eat -- fruit provides nutrients but does nothing for my satiety; I don't know of any micro-nutrients provided by nuts but they fill me up easily. However, I know other people who can eat raw nuts as if they were candy. If that's you, be sensible. Often, nuts will be salted. Salty food tends to rev up your appetite, so if you need to restrict your calories, you're probably better off with unsalted nuts.

Meat includes the muscle mass of all animals that walk on land, fly in the sky and swim in the sea. Every time someone distinguishes between "meat" and "fish" or "poultry," I get an itch in the back of my brain that really wants to tell them that fish and poultry are meat. Anyway, meat is pretty much the best natural source of protein. The redder the meat, usually the more iron is in it, or so I've been lead to believe. Women need a boat load of iron, because every month they relieve themselves of a boat load of iron. Apparently long distance runners need a boat load of iron, too. So, if you're a female cardio bunny, you should probably be eating steak 24/7, give or take (not an actual prescription).

Om nom nom.

If you're reading this blog, then you probably have an interest in fitness, in particular strength, since that's where most of my attention has been spent so far. That being the case, it's worth knowing about macro-nutrient needs.

Sedentary people don't need much of any macro-nutrients. They aren't using their bodies, so they don't need a lot of carbohydrates for energy. They aren't putting wear and tear on their muscles, either, so they don't need a lot of protein. Sedentary people can often get away with consuming only 1g protein per kilogram of bodyweight. However, if you do train, and you train hard, you'll generally be wise to consume twice that much protein. That's 2g/kg/day. Sounds like meat's gonna be on the menu, in that case. 2-3 total serves of solid protein per day? Not a chance. Let's bump that up to the same standard we hold vegetables to: 3-5 servings, and possibly more. There also appear to be benefits to consuming 1g fat/kg/day. That's a bit more than "use sparingly," and a bit less than "pile it on in!" The rest of your macro-nutrients should probably be carbohydrates, and outside of the carbs found in fruit and vegetables, should generally be the kind that your taste buds don't recognise as sugar (although, at a chemical level, all carbohydrates are some combination of sugars). That brings us to...


Grains are, by and large, the most overrated item in the food pyramid. 6-11 servings? Seriously? Here's what grains provide: carbohydrates, more carbohydrates, satiety, and a poor source of protein. They don't provide much in the way of micro-nutrients, they just provide energy for doing stuff. Now, if you happen to have a physical job, then yeah, go ahead and eat 6-11 servings of grains a day. Are you a professional athlete? Go stuff your face with this stuff. Have as much as you need. Are you a white-collar professional who spends most of their time seated? Then put the sandwich down. Put the lasagne back in the freezer. Leave the rice alone. If you're trying to lose weight, you should probably be limiting yourself to 4 servings a day. Maintaining weight? 4-6. Gaining weight? 6+. That's right, I'm branding the prescription from the food pyramid that I was brought up on as weight gain territory for people who spend most of their time seated. And remember that I'm including sugars and high-carb vegetables in this category, too. So if you're mostly sedentary (except for when you hit the gym), trying to lose weight, and drinking a lot of coke and eating a lot of cake, guess what? You just wrote off your right to enjoy the satiation and more sustained energy release of more complex carbs. Good job.

Now, of course, these amounts need to be scaled based on the individual. Remember that grains are basically just filling in what's left of your macro-nutrients after you've had all your protein, fat, dairy, fruit and vegetables. Based on your current size and weight, your level of activity and your goals, how much carbohydrate your body needs will vary. In fact, this is probably the most variable part of a good eating plan, because it is the filler part.


I mentioned above that 1g fat/kg/day seems to work well. The fat you should be eating is generally the fat thatt's intuitively obvious where it came from. The fat on your meat is okay (but be sensible with how much of it you consume), the fat in your nuts and eggs is okay, olive oil is okay, the factory-made trans fats in more processed foods than you'd like to know about is probably not okay. There's been a lot of hating on saturated fats for as long as I've been alive, and an equal praise of unsaturated fats for a long time, too. The information I'm working with now seems to suggest that unsaturated (especially polyunsaturated) fats aren't all they've been cracked up to be, and saturated fats aren't as bad as they've been made out. Most sources I've dealt with regard factory-made trans fats to be poison.

The end bit

All in all, these are my thoughts. There is some study and experience behind this, but if you look you will find nutritionists, dieticians, personal trainers, and plenty of authors telling you otherwise. Take it or leave it. I feel that this covers the way most of us should be eating, but it's up to you to agree or disagree with me, and then to act on that sentiment.

Heatlhy Eating Part 1

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before on this blog, but I've definitely ranted and raved about this all over the internet away from this blog. The Food Pyramid. O how I loathe thee.

There are a few different versions of the food pyramid out there. I'm yet to encounter a broadly accepted version that doesn't injure my soul slightly when I look at it. Now, there are some good things about the food pyramids I see, but there are some issues with under-prescribing some foods and over-prescirbing others. In general, the food pyramids that I see have the following good points:

- They want us to eat fruit.
- The want us to eat vegetables.
- They prescribe a low amount of obviously sugary processed foods.

The food pyramid I grew up with looked something like this:

That's a minimalistic approach to fats, oils and sweets; 2-3 serves of dairy; 2-3 serves of solid protein; 3-5 serves of vegetables; 2-4 serves of fruit; and a whopping 6-11 serves of grains.

Now, the conclusion I've come to at this point in my life is that the food groups in the 2nd and 3rd layers of the pyramid are the ones that matter most for providing our nutritional requirements. The top layer needs to be broken apart into a group for fats and a group for sweets, and the sweets section is somewhat (although not entirely) interchangeable with the grains section, so I'll be treating sweets and grains as the one food group later on.

Let's start with the nutritious stuff in the middle: dairy, solid protein, fruit and vegetables.


From a fitness-oriented point of view, dairy is beneficial for providing liquid protein, some good fats, and (although this is largely reduced thanks to pasteurisation and homogenisation) some vitamins. For everyone, it's beneficial for providing calcium, which is important for both bone health and training (the small amount of calcium in your body that isn't in your bones is used to enable muscle contractions). About 1L of milk provides the daily requirement of calcium. This is 4 standard servings; a little bit more than what's recommended in the pyramid.

The calories in dairy can become problematic for some people who are trying to get rid of excess fat, and they can be a God-send to others who are trying to build lean mass. If you're in the former category, a brand of milk such as PhysiCal, which has added calcium, may be worth trying.

The more calcium you consume in one go, the more your body sucks at absorbing it, or at least so I've been taught (and I do recall reading a sciency-looking studyish thing once upon a time that reflected this), so if you're going for 1L of milk per day, split it up into 3-4 separate servings. Also, if possible, drink your milk at a time close to when you're exposed to direct sunlight. Vitamin D, and whatnot.

Milk products should be included here as well. Yoghurt is probably the best milk product for providing milk-like nutrition, and it has good bacteria in it. Different cheeses have different nutritional allotments, so read the label. If you remember Jarod from Subway, part of his diet was that he didn't have cheese on any of his subs. For a long time this villified cheese in my mind, but there are plenty of cheeses that have a decent nutritional profile. Ice cream is technically a dairy product, but cream whipped up with a great big pile of sugar and frozen like that hardly constitutes something of nutritional value. No, you can't count your bowl of ice cream as a serving of dairy.

If you're lactose-intolerant, you may be benefit from taking lactase, or from taking a calcium supplement 3 times a day in place of dairy.

Not a single serving of dairy was given that day.


Most fruit is sugary, and has little fat or protein to provide. The total calories provided by a serving of fruit are usually fairly low, but being sugar they aren't very filling, either. Still, fruit provides various nutrients. There's a simple rule of thumb with both fruit and vegetables for getting a wide variety of nutrients: the more colours you consume, the better. There's another simple rule to put on top of that for getting a high density of nutrients: the deeper/darker the colour, the better.

There's fibre in fruit. Most of it is in the skin, or so I've heard. Since I don't eat the skin on my bananas or oranges, this doesn't bode well for me, although I do eat the skin on most other fruits that I consume. I've heard that fibre is beneficial to the body, however fibre can't be digested. It's main benefit, I believe, is making waste come out of our posteriors. According to packets of Metamucil, it's also good for heart health.

I'm happy to stick with 2-4 servings of fruit per day, as per the pyramid, as a general guideline. If you're not eating some fruit each day, you should probably start. Since there is sugar in fruit, and not much else in terms of macros, be weary of consuming more than you need if you're aiming to lose weight, and if you have any metabolic disorders (such as diabetes), there may be some complications there.


However many of these you're consuming each day, you should probably be consuming more. Most (although not all) vegetables are low in calories from any source (low carbohydrates, low fat, low protein), although if you're going to get much of any macro-nutrient from them, carbohydrates are the most likely. This is especially true of potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, etc.

Just like with fruit, the more colours, and the deeper the colours, the more nutrients are likely to be in your vegetables. Most of us should treat the 3-5 servings in the food pyramid as a minimum, and include high carb vegetables such as potatoes as both vegetables and grains (so, 1 serve of potato should be counted as both 1 serve of vegetable and 1 serve of grain).

Training -- Mon 21/01/2013

It's bench day, bench day, gotta get down on bench day.

Bench Press

3x10x60kg -- So far so good on this program. About a month ago I struggled to do 3x8 at 60kg.


3x10x40kg -- Surprisingly, this is getting easier.

Pull Ups


Seated Row


Farmer's Walk


DB Curl Triset/DB Triceps Triset


Just as I'm now doing incline curl/hammer curl/supine curl, I decided to make a triset for triceps, consisting of incline skullcrushers, flat skullcrushers and standing overhead triceps extension.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Training -- Sat 19/01/2013

Strength Sports Gym, where I train, is a little warehouse/dungeon. As the main entrance is a roller door that's open so long as the gym's open, there is no air conditioning, although there are some fans. Here in Australia, it's the middle of summer. The days are either dry or humid, but they're invariably hot. When I left home at about 10:00 this morning, the temperature in my garage was about 32C. I don't know how hot it was by the time I finished up at the gym, but suffice it to say, it was definitely hotter than at 10am.

You might think I'd be tempted to go train in an air conditioned building. It would be a sensible thing to think. But you'd be wrong to think that. In an air conditioned building, I'll find that I'm the strongest squatter and deadlifter in the gym, or at least close to it. It's nice for the ego, but terrible for motivation when you're a 140kg squatter like me. Batman needs his Joker, Superman needs his Lex Luther, Ash needs his Gary, Goku needed his Piccolo (but then he got a Vegeta, and Piccolo became obsolete). And it turns out that I'm benefitting greatly from having other members in the gym to rival. There's something to be said about having someone there, constantly 1-upping you. To many people, this may seem like something demotivating, but I'm finding that being surrounded by guys who squat 150-250kg gives me something to reach for, and it shows me that such strength is really possible, in a way that e-stats can't replicate.

Is that worth missing out on air conditioning for a couple hours each day? You betcha.


3x10x100kg -- This is a volume PR; the last time I did 10x100kg, it was only for 1 set. Over the next 6ish weeks I'll be working to secure a 150kg 1RM...then Nick's got a 6-wk Soviet peaking program planned for me to do after that 150kg 1RM is secured, to push my 1RM up to a number nearer 155-160kg. I approve.

Speed Pull


Tyre Flip

15x140kg -- I was going to try the technique that all the online guides give, which is to get the feet back and drive your chest into the tyre. Turns out that our tyres are a bit too thin to do this, and instead of finding myself in a mechanically advantageous position, I found myself unable to support my own weight. So I reverted straight back to sumo deadlifting the tyre.

Calf Raise/Leg Raise/Side Bridge

Friday, January 18, 2013

Training -- Fri 18/01/2013

Incline Bench Press




Pull Ups


Tyre Flip

2x270kg -- I attempted a 3rd flip. I had it at the halfway point for what felt like a very long time before I concluded I couldn't get it. So I rested a few minutes before trying again. I came in not sure I could flip it even once.

I think this was the final flip.

Fat Gripz Row


DB Curl Triset/Overhead Tri-Ext


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Training -- Wed 16/01/2013

Front Squats

3x10x50kg -- Form not so tidy at the end of each set.


3x10x90kg -- High rep multi-set deadlifts. I never thought this would be okay, but here I am.

Trap Bar Shrug/GHR


Calf Raise/Leg Raise


Monday, January 14, 2013

Basic Novice Program 2.0

Earlier in the month I wrote up A Basic Novice Program for Strength and Muscle

As a brief recap, the program consisted of squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press, pull downs and rows, for 2x10 each, with about 1min rest between sets, all performed in one workout, three days a week.

Now, let's say you've been doing this routine for a few months now. You're a bit stronger and you're either bigger or leaner or both. Congratulations. If the program's still working for you, keep on doing what you're doing. However, sooner or later you'll need to change your program to keep driving progress. Sooner or later, you'll also have more specific goals. So, here's are a couple split programs, building on the program above. The first is for someone whose goals are mostly to do with their muscles/what they see in the mirror, and the second is for someone whose goals are mostly to do with the amount of weight they can move. In both programs, you will be performing a 2-day split. The split will still be full-body in each session, and you'll still be training 2-4 days per week, with 3/wk being about ideal. Refer back to the Basic Novice Program for Strength and Muscle for more details on the weekly schedule. The only difference is that now you're performing two alternating workouts (workout A and workout B), and alternating which one you do every time you enter the gym (so if you did workout A last time you trained, you'll be doing workout B today).

Basic Novice Program 2.0 for Muscle

Workout A

Squats 4x8-12
Bench Press 4x8-12
Pull Ups or Lat Pull Down 4x8-12
Calf Raise 3x15-20
Abs 3x15-20

Workout B

Press 4x8-12
Row 4x8-12
Deadlifts 4x8-12
Bicep Curl 3x15-20
Triceps Extension 3x15-20

For each compound exercise, do a couple warm up sets, then choose your working weight and do your first set of 12. Rest 1min and do another set. Aim to get 12 reps again in each working set, but if fatigue causes you to stop before you reach 12 reps, that's okay. As the sets go on, it's expected that the number of reps you can do will decrease -- if it doesn't, then you probably chose a weight that's too light. So long as you hit all 12 reps on the first set, and the 4th set is 8 reps or higher, increase the weight slightly next time. However, if you don't make it to 12 reps on the first set, or if you don't get at least 8 reps on the final set, keep the same weight next time.

For each isolation exercise, use the same method, but with the corresponding range of 3x15-20 instead of 4x8-12.

Basic Novice Program 2.0 for Strength

Workout A

Squats 3 sets
Bench Press 3 sets
Pull Ups 3x5-10
Calf Raise 2x15-20
Abs 2x15-20

Workout B

Press 3 sets
Row 3x10-15
Deadlift 3 sets
Bicep Curl 2x15-20
Triceps Extension 2x15-20

Where the rep range is stated above, perform 3 sets across for the lowest number in the rep range. If you get all the reps, then add 1 rep per set next time. So, if you got 3x5 pull ups last time, next time you'll be targeting 3x6. Once you get to the top end of the rep range, add about 10% to the weight being used and repeat the process.

Where no rep range is stated, you will be performing a basic periodisation designed to get you overall stronger and drive up your top-end lifts. For four weeks, you will be doing sets of 10. For the next four weeks, sets of 8. For the next four weeks, sets of 5. Then test your 1RM, or keep progressing at 3x5 if you feel you've got it in you.

That's 12 weeks, as follows:

1-4: 3x10
5-8: 3x8
9-12: 3x5

Begin in week 1 with weights that seem a bit too light, and attempt to add weight to each lift in every session (you'll have more success at consistently adding weight with the squat and deadlift than with the press and bench press, unless you can micro-load and increase in increments that are less than 2.5kg, but try anyway). If you miss any reps, use the same weight again next time.

Warm up thoroughly for each exercise, and rest as long as you need to between sets. It normally takes roughly 3-5 min to recover enough to do the next set once the working weights get heavy (relative to the number of reps being performed), and towards the end of the 12 week cycle you might need even longer than that, especially on squats and deadlifts. Long rest periods allow you to get the most performance out of each set, which will help you drive up your strength as the weeks go by.

Training in different rep ranges provides different stimuli. 3x5 seems to be a good balance of volume and intensity for improving 1RMs, with the intenstiy being close enough to your 1RM to help prepare you directly for it, but far enough away from your 1RM to allow you to get in a lot of practice. Meanwhile, the high rep ranges help to lock in form and build up the muscles, giving a greater base on which to use the low rep training. That's all part of the beauty of periodisation.

Training -- Mon 14/01/2013

Bench Press

3x10x55kg -- First set was the hardest. No wonder, I wasn't driving with my legs during it. I remembered leg drive on my second and third set, and then magic happened.


3x10x37.5kg -- This went better than last week. Still slaughtered my triceps, as one would expect. Still resulted in me feeling very emasculated when I did overhead triceps extensions later.

Pull Ups


Fat Gripz Rows


DB Curls

2x30x5kg -- First set was my usual standing DB curls, rotating from hammer grip to supine throughout the movement. Second set, at Coach's recommendation, was 10 incline curls, 10 standing hammer curls and 10 standing supine curls without rest between. Fun little tri-set, and it definitely pumped up my arms.

Incline curls. These are good for getting a greater stretch on your biceps.
I've heard stretching and contracting is good.
Hammer curls. I don't smile much while I'm curling, although I might grimmace.
I was probably using about as much weight as this model is using. Sadface.
Regular supine curls. Supination is one of the big things that the biceps do,
so these (and straight bar curls) are good for getting a solid contraction at the top.

Standing Tri-Ext

5x5kg -- Devastating

Band Pull Apart


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Women Doing Pull Ups

Well, that was entertaining.

So, a group of women did biceps and lats exercises for 3 months, and at the end of that time they'd decreased their bodyfat%, increased back strength, and for the most part still couldn't do a single pull up.

What went wrong?

Honestly, I don't know. I didn't conduct the study, and the link doesn't tell us specifically what they did, other than that it involved their lats and biceps but no pull ups. So, how can we improve on this? No idea, since there's no clear baseline to improve upon.

But, if you're a woman (or man, for that matter) working up to your first pull up, here's what I recommend:

Lat pull downs and rows. Do these for highish reps at least once a week, and lowish reps at least once a week. The first time you do a pull up, it's going to be about a 1RM, so get used to doing the movement with as much effort as you can (whilst keeping solid technique, of course).

I think I see 3 plates being pulled there. In case you're wondering,
on the heavy day I expect better from you. That's your warmup set.

Look closely at the colour of this dumbbell. See how it isn't pink?
I'm hoping you'll learn something right now.

Pull ups variations. These include, but are not limited to, scapular pull ups (hanging at the bottom of the pull up and just trying to squeeze your shoulders down, without bending your arms), partial pull ups (just doing the top part of the pull up or the bottom part, maybe alternate between the two every time you go to the gym), slow negatives (use a box or step to get up to the top position of the pull up, then very slowly lower yourself to the bottom position; aim for a longer descent rather than more reps), and assisted pull ups (using either a band, machine or partner to help you up). Just like lat pull downs, some of these should be done for more volume, while others should just be done as heavy as you can without form breaking down. The volume helps to ingrain the movement and teach you to keep keep tension on the muscles used (as well as building grip strength), while the heavier movements bring you closer to the amount of effort required for your first pull up.

Address any issues that may be preventing you from doing full pull ups. These may be postural issues, muscle imbalances, issues with your muscles firing properly, technique issues, equipment issues (a pull up on a bar is generally easier than a pull up from rings or on a tree, for example), mental issues or something else entirely. Sort yourself out.

HARDEN UP. The most common excuse given for why a woman can't do a pull up is that women have less muscle than men. Well guess what? Once upon a time, I had less muscle than the average woman, and I was regularly doing more pull ups than I could count on one hand. Lack of muscle mass isn't a good excuse to not do pull ups. In fact, the more you weigh, the harder pull ups become, so if you're a woman with a healthy bodyweight, I'm under the impression that you probably just need to try harder. This is especially true if you can do chin ups but can't do any pull ups. Refer back to the first point. The first pull up you do will probably be about a 1RM. And 1RM's require a tremendous amount of effort. So harden up and pull with everything you've got. If you can honestly say "I'm givin' it all I've got, Captain!" and you still can't grind out a single pull up, I'll be nicer to you from now on.

One last note. The linked article definitely does not excuse women from doing pull ups. If you don't want to do pull ups, you don't have to, but the research does not prove even for a second that women can't or shouldn't do pull ups. Of 17 women, 4 of them were able to do pull ups at the end. The rest just need more work to get there, and so do you.


Training -- Sat 12/01/2013


3x10x95kg -- The last time I did 3x10x95kg, I needed a spot for motivation. This time I didn't. Good things are happening.

Speed Pull


Assistance Work

DB Lunges/Calf Raise

2x8x15kg/15x300lb -- That's 2x8 lunges on each leg, BTW. 300lb calf raises are a new weight. Yay.

Hanging Leg Raise

3x5 -- Last set didn't feel quite right. Probably wasn't using the right muscles to get my legs up.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Should I use the exercise/equipment that uses more core?

"Pull ups are better than lat pull downs, because pull ups make you use your core more."

"Dumbbells are better than barbells are better than machines because they use your abs/stabilisers more."

"Fitballs are great for abs."

If you've been around gyms and fitness communities long enough, you've heard the above statements (or words to that effect) before. Everything is better if it involves your core more. Although for some reason everyone draws a line somewhere when they make these claims. For one person, dumbbells are great because they use the core more, but one-armed/one-legged exercises (which use the core even more) are just silly fluff. For another person, that line is drawn with fitballs and bosus. For another person, they'll be doing cartwheels and triple jumps on fitballs while pressing a kettlbell overhead with one arm before they'll even consider that they might not be doing the best thing possible.

There are a lot of things to consider before deciding whether an exercise is brilliant or stpid or something in between, but the main question is: "To what end am I doing this?"

If you're doing an exercise that's just for fun, and has no major purpose beyond that, then so long as you don't hurt yourself (or, at the very least, so long as I'm not liable to be sued if you do hurt yourself), who am I to say that it's not a good exercise, or that there are better exercises for you to be doing?

Of course, if you're doing an exercise to achieve a specific result -- and any exercises you do that go under the "serious training" aspect of your routine had better be there for a good reason -- then it's simply a matter of whether or not you're doing the best exercise for the result you're after. So, when someone says you should do pull ups instead of lat pull downs because pull ups use your abs more (which may not be correct in the first place), if the reason for doing that movement is to strengthen your lats, lower traps and rear delts, then increased core activation in one exercise over another is a minor selling point at best, if not irrelevant. More over, if the selling point is that exercise A uses your core/stabilisers/whatevers more than exercise B, but exercise A doesn't achieve the results that exercise B was chosen for, then exercise B is superior.

Continuing with the example of pull ups vs lat pull downs, I've noticed that -- especially to beginners at strength training -- it's typically easier to pull with your back when doing lat pull downs than when doing pull ups, simply because your body isn't moving around much and you can use a light load to focus on technique, rather than heaving with everything you've got just to get out 1 or 2 reps. Using myself as an example, it's literally taken me years to learn to pull with my back for pull ups, whereas lat pull downs didn't take very long at all to figure out once I put my ego aside and stopped trying to move as much weight as possible. So, if I were doing a vertical pull for my back muscles, for a large portion of my lifting history I would have been better off using lat pull downs than pull ups, regardless of what core activation may have occurred one way or the other.

So again, what is the reason why you're doing the exercise in the first place?

Of course, if you have two exercises to choose from, and both do the intended job just as effectively as each other, but one has additional benefits, then it may be wise to choose the one with more benefits, provided it doesn't somehow interfere with the rest of the program or unbalance an otherwise balanced routine. But when an exercise takes you away from the purpose of that part of your program for some other benefit (especially if it's a benefit that's being dealt with elsewhere), then the other benefit may not be worth it.

Training -- Fri 11/01/2013

Bench press assistance day.

Incline Bench Press




Pull Ups


Fat Gripz Row


DB Curl/Standing Triceps Extension


We had a talk in the gym at the end of my session about the use of bands for training. Obviously, I like band pull aparts, and I think they definitely have their place, although our focus was more on the use of bands on the competition lifts. I think there's definitely a valid reason for various lifters to be using bands on their squats, bench press and deadlifts, but I know that right now they'd do me (personally) more harm than good, because I have enough trouble getting technique right without them, and I'm fairly confident that my technique would go awol if I were to incorporate them into my main lifts at this point in time (once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, a CAPO powerlifter got me to try out the bench press with bands on the bar, and my bar control went out the window, so I'm not just pulling this hypothesis out of a crevice of my being so seldom seen that even the denizens of the nine hells themselves wouldn't touch it with a 20' rusty halberd). As it stands, I don't think anyone in the gym uses bands on their main lifts, not even our 300kg deadlifter (we've "only" got 1 deadlift at 300kg up on the board as of yet, with most of the competitive powerlifters here being in the mid-200's). As an aside, I'm a long way off, but I hope to some day deadlift 300kg.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Training -- Wed 09/01/2013

Front Squats




Assistance Work

Glute Ham Raise/Trap Bar Shrug

Calf Raise/Leg Raise/Side Bend
6x220lb drop set on calf raise

Monday, January 7, 2013

Training -- Mon 07/01/2013

Grip strength, grip strength, where art thou, grip strength?

Bench Press

3x10x50kg -- As is usually the case with me on high rep bench press (if you need two hands to count it, it's high rep), it was my support muscles that made this hard, not my actual pushing muscles. Same goes for CGBP.

Close Grip Bench Press

3x10x35kg -- Very last two reps weren't very good. My ego's not feeling very good right now.

Fat Gripz Row


Pull Ups


DB Curl/Standing Triceps Extension
12x10kg/5x10kg -- Turns out my grip was a bit fried by now, and not good for much.

I wrote a romantic ballad

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Strengthcamp: "Beat Genetics - Maximize Potential"

This video by Elliot Hulse (Strengthcamp) helped me to clarify something just now that's blipped around the back of my mind here and there for the last several months.

People train to get something out of it. To look good. To be stronger. To be tougher. To be better at sport. To compete. They train as a means to an end.

I'm not one of those people.

I've decided to compete in powerlifting this year, and yes, my training is designed to get me stronger for it. But I'm not training so that I can powerlift. I'm getting into powerlifting to give me direction, so that I can train. Powerlifting is not the end, powerlifting is the means, training is the end.

I love training.

Training -- Sat 05/01/2013


3x10x90kg -- This felt kinda hard, but mostly because I was lacking in psychetude. No physical reason why I shouldn't be able to do more weight next week.

Speed Deadlift


Assistance Work

DB Lunges/Calf Raise

2x8x12.5kg/18x280lb -- Second set of calf raises felt light. I was worried that someone had changed the weight while I wasn't looking. But it was indeed 280lb.

Hanging Leg Raise/Band Pull Apart

The Secret to Change is Change

In other words, "If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got." (Doctor Phil)

In other other words, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results." (Albert Einstein)

When people decide that they're going to lose weight or get big and strong or become some other physical version of themselves, one of two things happens:

1. They go on a short-term change in behaviours, looking forward to the day their diet/program is up and they can revert to their pre-diet/pre-program behaviours. This is the methodology used when people Diet with a capital D. But short-term changes in behaviours make short-term changes in the body. When you return to your old habits, you will return to your old body.

2. They are reborn. They change from the inside out. Their attitude towards diet and exercise changes. They don't see this as a quick fix but as a longterm solution that will require longterm work. They know that if you want to get married, you don't date someone for three months and then return to living the single life. They know that if you want to build a career you don't work for three months and then revert to playing video games all day long. They know that if you want to own a home you don't sign a mortgage and then neglect to pay off the debt. They know that if you want to raise your kids you actually have to be there with your kids. And they apply this same longterm attitude towards their dietary and exercise habits. These are the people who stand a chance at getting results and keeping them.

In other words, if you don't change, you won't change.

In other words, "The secret to change is change." (Ryan Ferguson. Yes, I just quoted myself.)

Friday, January 4, 2013

A quick tip on back tightness while squatting

One of the new members at Strength Sports Gym was squatting today, as you do. He wasn't gripping the bar very effectively (he had it in his fingers rather than his palms) and his elbows were staying completely vertical through the full range of motion, rather than remaining in line with the body. This contributed to a general lack of tightness through the upper body, and lack of tightness makes it harder to transfer force from the legs to the bar, while also increasing the potential risk of injury.

The coach gave him the following instruction:

- Get the bar in the plams when you set up and keep it there as you pull yourself under the bar before unracking.

Without wanting to steal the coach's thunder, I mentioned to the coach a cue I use, which is to do a pull up with the bar when squatting (ie use your lats and arms to squeeze your elbows into your side and the bar into your back, all while keeping your chest up). The coach forwarded this cue right away to the new member, along with a second cue to try touching his elbows together behind his back.

Some combination of these cues and instructions worked, and the next couple sets were some beautiful, tight squats.

Different cues work for different people, but if you're having trouble keeping your back tight while squatting, give these a try and see how they effect your technique and your workout.

Training -- Fri 04/01/2013

First upper body-only session I've done in over a year. 'Twas a strange feeling.

Incline Bench Press

3x8x40kg -- I assumed I'd be good for 3x10 here, but the last couple reps of each set were actually really hard. This made it all the more puzzling when I racked the weight at the end of each set and immediately felt like I hadn't done anything.


2x12x20kg -- High rep presses? NUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!

Pull Ups

3x6x5kg -- Haven't done weighted pull ups in ages. I've noticed lately that I'm actually feeling pull ups in my know, where you're supposed to feel them. Once upon a time it was all biceps.

Fat Gripz Rows

4x15x35kg -- Feel the burn right in the forearms.

DB Curls/Standing Triceps/Band Pull Aparts

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Basic Novice Program for Strength and Muscle

There are a million programs out there. Some are decent, others are not, none are appropriate for everyone. This program is designed for beginners, so if you're not a beginner, there are probably better programs for you (if you are a beginner, don't make the mistake of thinking that more advanced programs are better; advanced programs are usually only better for advanced lifters). Even if you are a beginner, this program may not be you, based on a variety of health issues, or simply the program being inappopriate for your goals. If you have health issues that need to be taken care of, take care of them first, and then consider using a program like this only if it's now safe to do so.

When it comes to designing programs, there are 6 basic movements that I want people to work with:

1. Squats/deep knee bends
2. Hinges/picking something up off the floor
3. Horizontal pushes/pushing something away from you
4. Vertical pushes/lifting something overhead
5. Vertical pulls/pulling yourself up
6. Horizontal pulls/pulling something towards you

These movements, put together, will train most muscles of the body, and they'll do so in a way that tends to have carry-over to activities outside of the gym. This is good for building muscle while in a calorie surplus, or for maintaining muscle while in a calorie deficit, and of course you're going to aim to progressively increase the loads used in each exercise, resulting in (and, at the same time, caused by) increased strength. With that in mind, here is my Basic Novice Program for Strength and Muscle.

The Workout

1. Squats
2. Deadlifts
3. Bench Press
4. Overhead Press
5. Lat Pull Down
6. Row
7. Optional: Calf Raise
8. Optional: An abs exercise of your choosing

You will warm up for the 1st, 3rd and 5th exercise with light sets. The 2nd, 4th and 6th exercise will each be warmed up by the previous lift, however you may use some light warm up sets for these, too, if you feel it necessary. Warm up sets should be performed for 1-10 reps. I'd start with 10 reps at the lightest weight possible, then add some weight and do 5 reps, then add some more weight and do 2-3 reps, then add some more weight and do 1 rep, then continue up in singles until you reach your working weight. That's a fairly extensive amount of warm up sets, and early on you may only need 1 or 2 warm up sets -- as the working weights get heavier over the weeks, more warm up sets may be required.

For your working sets, you will complete 2x10 on each exercise. That means 2 sets, and 10 reps in each set. You'll then rest for 1-2 min between sets, which will keep the session fairly fast-paced and keep your heart rate up. It'll also allow you to complete this session in about an hour, maybe less. If you opt to include calf raises or direct ab-work, then you may use a higher rep range.

You'll complete this workout 2-3 times per week (3 is preferred), with as much rest between training days as is possible. On a 2/wk rotation, that would normally mean having 2-3 days between sessions (eg training Monday and Thursday, which is 2 days between Monday and Thursday, and then 3 days between Thursday and Monday). On a 3/wk rotation, that would normally mean training Monday, Wednedsay and Friday, or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, or some such arrangement. The only cirumcstance in which you would train 4 days in a week is if you simply train every other day, resulting in 7 sessions per fortnight (3 sessions one week and 4 the next).

If you get all your target reps with good form on both working sets and without too long a rest between sets, it'll be time to add weight next session. Add the smallest amount of weight possible, which, if using barbells, will normally be 2.5kg (1.25kg onto each end of the bar), although smaller loads may be available. If you get all 10 reps on the first set, but miss a few on your second set, that's fine. Repeat the same weight next time, and keep trying to build up that second set. If you miss reps on your first set, it may be a fluke. Try again next session, and see what happens. If you continue to miss reps on the first set for a week in a row, reduce the weight by at least 10% (more if needed) so that the weight feels light, and start working back up.

Because you're only resting 1-2 min between sets, you won't be fully recovered by the time you perform your second set, so once the weights get heavy, it'll be normal to get 10 reps on your first set and only 6-9 reps on your second set. So long as you're getting the first set, just keep on keeping on until you get that second set up to 10 reps.

When you start the program, begin with weights that are lighter than you think you should be using. As a novice, your technique probably isn't very good, and the challenge in each session for the first few weeks shouldn't be in lifting a heavy load, but in lifting with consistent precision. A set of 10, even at a light weight, becomes really hard when you're focusing on technique and driving with the right muscles. Don't worry that you're not pushing your muscles to failure. You're doing something, which is more than the nothing you were doing before, and so you will get stronger and start improving your physique. All these reps with high quality technique in accumulation (60 working reps per week, plus warm up reps) will also help to establish strong motor engrams, which will allow you to keep good form for longer as the weights get more challenging, and thus allow you to progress further. It's said that it takes 300-500 repetitions to cement a motor engram, so you don't want to be training so heavy that the temptation to break form kicks in before you've neurologically mapped out your movement patterns. If in doubt, start out with an empty barbell, and even light dumbbells if necessary -- the worst that'll happen from starting too light is that it'll take you a couple extra weeks to get to where you're going, while the best that'll happen from starting too light is that you'll be better prepared for it when the heavy weights come, and you'll be able to continue progressing instead of failing due to technique problems.

Exactly What Is Each Exercise?

The Squat is a barbell back squat, performed through a full range of motion (breaking parallel at the bottom and standing up straight at the top). You may use either high bar (barbell on upper traps) or low bar (barbell on rear delts and middle traps) position. The low bar position allows you to use a little more of your posterior chain in the lift and to potentially lift more weight, and so it may be better for a lot of lifters, although the bar placement can be rather uncomfortable on the shoulders. Whichever variation you use will involve a lot of quadricep and glute work to move the bar, and trunk work to stabilise the torso and transfer force from your legs to the bar.

Me performing high bar squats with 100kg.

The Deadlift is a conventional barbell deadlift, beginning with the barbell lying still on the floor. The bar is then dragged up the shins and pulled back into the body while the hips are driven forwards until standing up straight. The hips are the prime movers of the deadlift, so the glutes and hamstrings get a lot of work from it, however the lower back, upper back, abs, lats, grip muscles and quadriceps all get some quality work from the movement, too. If you're familiar with programs like Starting Strength and StrongLifts 5x5, you may think that 2x10 deadlifts 3 times a week is too much. However, when you're only squatting 20kg and deadlifting 25kg, I'm fairly confident that you'll be alright. If and when you progress to a point at which this becomes too much volume and/or frequency, then it's time change programs.

My current Deadlift PB of 160kg.

The Bench Press is a fairly universal measurement of strength. Lie down on a bench, lift your chest, plant your heels into the floor and hug the bench with your shoulders. Grip the barbell with your hands an even distance apart onthe bar (use the knurling to figure this out), and pull the bar out with straight arms. Pull the bar apart and squeeze your elbows in as you lower the bench to your chest, then, when the bar touches your chest, drive up until you reach lockout. The bench press uses your pecs, triceps, anterior deltoids and even lats to move the weight, as well as your posterior deltoids, trapezius, trunk, biceps and legs to stabilise. It's more than just a chest exercise.

The Overhead Press is a standing barbell press, from the shoulders to overhead. The legs and trunk should be tight throughout the lift. The torso should be tilted back slightly at the bottom with the face pulled back so that you can drive the bar straight up, and then you should lean forwards slightly once the bar has passed your forehead so that you can lock out. The overhead press uses the anterior deltoids, triceps, upper pecs and upper traps to drive the weight overhead.

The Lat Pull Down is a machine exercise.* Your gym probably has multiple of these. I'd prefer that you use a cable lat pull down as your machine of choice. The lat pull down mimics the pull up in the basic action of pulling something down to your chest (when you perform pull ups, you should be attempting the pull the bar that you're hanging from down to your chest, rather than focusing on pulling yourself up to the bar), and it uses the lats, rear deltoids, lower trapezius and biceps to move the weight, along with grip muscles and core muscles for support. Once you can perform lat pull downs with a load equal to your body weight, consider learning pull ups.

The Row is a machine exercise.* Just like lat pull downs, your gym probably has a few different machines for these. I want you to start out using a seated cable row for at least the first 3-6 weeks. After that, you have my permission to start experimenting with other machines, or with freeweight rowing variations (DB or BB rows). The row works your middle and lower traps, rear deltoids, lats, biceps and grip muscles. The row is also very valuable for balancing out the shoulders after all the pressing earlier in the program, so that you can avoid shoulder injuries.

*Machine exercises can be problematic when it comes to adding weight. Most lat pull down and seated row machines I've encountered have 10kg main plates, with 3x2.5kg small plates that can be slide onto a seperate part of the weight stack. If your set up is like this, then you can progress on these exercises in the same way you would the barbell exercises in this program. However, your set up may be 10kg plates without any smaller weights, or some other add loading pattern that makes small progressions of weight difficult. If this is the case, then instead of doing 2x10 and adding weight when you get all your reps with good form, perform 2x8-12, starting at 2x8 and adding reps until you get 2x12. When you get 2x12, add weight and return to 2x8, then repeat the process.

Exercise Variations and Alternatives

You may not be able to perform the exercises as described above, or a variation may be more appropriate for your goals (for example, if muscle mass is more important to you than absolute strength, you may choose to do dumbbell bench presses instead of barbell bench presses, as it's often easier to make a mind-muscle connection with the pecs when using dumbbells). If so, here are some appropriate alternatives. Try not to stray from the original exercises if you don't have to. Every time you change an exercise, you have to take a couple steps back, so don't change something unless you have good reason to believe that you'll get more forward steps from it than backwards steps.

Squat Variations

- Bodyweight Squats
- Goblet Squats
- Front Squats
- Bulgarian Split Squats
- Leg Press (performed with your feet in the same stance you would use for the barbell squat if it's safe to do so)

Deadlift Variations

- Romanian Deadlift
- Goodmorning
- Weighted Hyperextensions
- Sumo Deadlift
- Deficit Deadlift
- Rack Pull

Bench Press Variations

- Dumbbell Bench Press
- Incline Bench Press
- Dips
- Weighted Push Ups (use resistance bands wrapped around your upper back)

Overhead Press Variations

- Dumbbell Overhead Press
- Push Press
- Incline Bench Press (not to be used if this is also your bench press variation)

Lat Pull Down Variations

- One-arm Lat Pull Down
- Pull Ups
- Chin Ups

Row Variations

- Chest Supported Row
- Barbell Row
- T-Bar Row
- One-arm Dumbbell Row
- Face Pull

How Long Should I Do This Program For?

I'd aim to do this for at least 6 weeks, however if it's consistent with your goals and you can keep progressing on it, then run it until it stops working. This could take several months. If you're truly strength oriented, then you'll get to a point where you have to extend your rest periods to make each set as productive as possible, and you'll have to start working in lower rep ranges, but running this program for at least 6 weeks will help you to work on form and acquire some conditioning to be able to handle a program more suited to maximal strength. If you're truly hypertrophy oriented, then you'll get to a point where you have to increase volume and include more exercises. By all means, when something else becomes more appropriate to your goals, change over to it, but if this remains good for your goals, keep at it. This is not a powerlifting program, nor is it a bodybuilding program, but this program will teach you how to do the basic exercises used in both disciplines, and it will make a beginner stronger and better looking, as it's conducive to both building muscle and burning fat, provided you've got your nutrition sorted out for the desired goal.

A Rough Breakdown of the New Program

So, I've been training full-body for a long time, usually 3 das a week, although occasionally doing a 4th day, such as when I tried Smolov Jr. The program template I've been given for the time being is more or less an upper/lower split, with 4 sessions a week (2 upper, 2 lower).

Here's the rough layout:


Bench Press
Close Grip Bench Press
Heavy Row
Light Pull Ups
Arms and accessory work


Front Squat
Glute Ham Raise
Abs and calves


Incline Bench Press
Overhead Press
Weighted Pull Ups
Light Rows
Arms and accessory work


Light Deadlift variation (I've been given RDLs as the recommendation, but I think I'll do speed pulls instead, since they don't make my shins bleed)
Accessory work (I think more calves and abs, and I might do some DB lunges, too)

This layout has me practicing the competition lifts once a week, and a lighter variation of those lifts once a week. The bench press gets special treatment, I guess, since there's 4 pressing variations throughout the week rather than just 2. My bench press needs a lot of work, though, so this probably isn't a bad thing.

For the main lifts, I'll be doing sets of 10, then eventually sets of 8, and finally sets of 5, before peaking for competition, which we're expecting to be in April. For most of the assistance exercises, it'll be higher reps (8-15), although weighted pull ups will be more like 3-8 reps for me, and if I go with speed pulls, they'll also be low reps.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Training -- Wed 02/01/2013

First training session of the year, and I let the coach write me up a rough template of a program to follow. He hasn't been too strict on exactly what weights to start with or exactly how many sets and reps, but has recommended that I do high rep work for now (10ish reps on the main lifts, and even higher on some assistance and accessory work), and gradually taper down into lower rep ranges as I approach time to put my strength to the test. Nothing new or groundbreaking there. Basic linear periodisation, with some room for autoregulation. Exactly what I would have done over a several month plan anyway. However, he's added a few different exercises into the mix, and split it up over 4 days, into what roughly equates to an upper/lower split. Nothing groundbreaking, once again, but also something I haven't done in a long time.

Front Squats

3x10x40kg -- High rep front squats are not easy. Hands become problematic throughout the set.


3x10x70kg -- Hamstrings were feeling that. I've never been a fan of high rep deadlifts. Oh well.

Assistance Work

Band Pull Aparts



2x8, 1x5 with red band.

Trap Bar Shrugs

15x24kg -- Who makes a 24kg bar? Numbers that lack roundness break my brain.

Calf Raise



Don't ask. Seizures were seen by all.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

RIP 2012

While many around the world welcome in the new year, I'd like to take a moment of silence to mourn the death of 2012. 2012 is dead and gone. The past is over, frozen, graven in stone, immovable. Goodbye, 2012.