I turned 44 on Thursday. Halfway to my favorite kettlebell No biggie, I already accepted the fact that I was middle-aged when I turned 40. Had a great birthday as a matter of fact. My wife went to the Johnston and Murphy outlet in Wrentham and bought me 4 pairs of shoes. Buy 3 pair get another free. They are the only shoes I’ll wear. I used to own Bostonians, but as someone told me, “put your foot in this and you’ll know where the extra $25 per shoe went.” Great point and they last. I received a Cross pen from my boys and on Thursday we ate Chinese food and I indulged in a couple of drinks. Have to treat yourself wrong once in a while.
Wednesday was bench day for 5/3/1 and I had to do 5 at 85%, 3 at 90% and 1+ at 95%. So after warmup it was 5 x 165, 3 x 170 and then I did 8 with 180 lbs. That’s a personal record. Friday I woke up early enough to go to the gym Felt a little after effect of the Johnnie Walker Red and MSG from the Chinese food when I walked into the gym yesterday. After warming up consisting of jumping rope, stretching and foam roller, it was standing military press time. My sets were 5 x 115, 3 x 120 and then I got 5 x 130. 95% of 135 is 128, but we don’t truncate here in the Blackstone Valley. We add another wheel to the bar and round-up. 5 x 130 on a barbell is a personal record. I’ve pressed 5 x 140 with two 70 lb kettlebells, but never with a barbell. Different lift. I use a thumbless and narrow grip. The width is basically the smooth part of the center of the bar. I do not use a staggered stance. Pullups were done in between sets as always.
After pressing, I did the deadlift. I warmed up with 5 x 135, 5 x 185 and then 5 x 225 to warmup. Then I did 5 x 265 with an overhand grip. 3 x 280 with an alternate grip. Finally, I went to the locker room to chalk my hands (Workout World has a ban on chalk, but I sneak it in any way) and did 295 for 6. That’s a personal record. I then decided to see what I could do for singles. Racked the barbell and threw 3 45lb wheels on each end, collared them and pulled 315 for 1. Another PR, I’ve never tried it before. It went up pretty easy to tell you the truth. My weight was 192 the morning before so that’s a dead lift of over 1.5 body weight. My goal is to get it to 2 times body weight. I think I’m pretty close. Then, I threw 25′s on each side to see if I could get 365. Failed the attempt, it didn’t move and I could feel fatigue setting in my lower back. Oh well. I’ve only been deadlifting for about 3 months so, the progress has been excellent. I rewarded myself by blowing off the treadmill sprints
Next week is a de-load week, which for me means kettlebells. I’ve been thinking of experimenting with a thumbless grip doing military presses with kettlebells. I did a couple of reps today after going for a hard 3 mile run this morning with a 45. One of Jim Wendler’s recommendations to improving the press is to use a thumbless grip. I’m going to try it just to see. I’ve never heard it mentioned with kettlebells, so I figure why not be a guinea pig?
While driving to Providence yesterday, I was reflecting on all the things I did wrong in my training before I started doing kettlebells almost 4 years ago. Here is what I came up with:
1. Training in running shoes. You should not squat, deadlift or do military presses in running shoes. Your feet are not flat and they are cushioned. Think of doing squats on your mattress. It’s just not a stable surface. Use flat soled shoes. Chuck Taylor’s or Adidas shell toes. When I’m home its bare foot city.
2. Using straps for pulling movements. Lose them. Lower the weight and train your grip. If you can’t hold a weight with your natural grip, it’s too heavy. Leave your ego in the locker room.
3. Doing upright rows. They put your shoulders in a terrible position for injury. You want big traps? Deadlift, shrug and do farmer walks. 10 sets of 10 double swings with 70 lb. kettlebells will do the trick.
4. The importance of your lat muscles when pressing. Flexing your lats packs your shoulders and protects them by keeping them in your sockets. The stronger your lats are, the stronger your press.
5. Training your lats. I used to hate training back. HATED IT. I’d do the bullshit lat pulldowns, seated cable rows with straps and assisted pullup machines thinking I was hitting them. It was not until I discovered how sore the next day my lats and abs were by doing REAL PULLUPS that I started to take it seriously.
6. Training your lats Part II. Greasing the Groove to get volume. Most people are horrible at pullups. My max set is about 10 and believe me, when I was in high school, I could maybe do 3. That doesn’t mean you can’t get better at them. Think about it this way. 3 sets of 10 =30. So does 10 sets of 3. You’re better off doing 10 GREAT sets of 3 working on your form than you are doing 3 lousy sets of 10, than 7 than 5. Just pick a volume number and get there. Every time you get a drink between sets of squats, do a set of 3 pullups. I’m up to 120-125 a week. and I do them with a neutral grip, palms facing one another. It’s easier on my shoulders which get achy when I do wide grip. Another great way to get better at pullups, lose weight.
7. Tension. You don’t want to be loosey goosey. Crush grip the bar, flex those lasts, squeeze you ass hard. push those feet through the floor. The tighter you are, the stronger you will be, as well as less chance to get injured.
8. Form means everything. I used to do deadlifts every once in a while. It’s a miracle I didn’t end up in traction. I would do sets of 10 with 225 and say to the resident body builder at the gym, my friend, Ernie “it’s a good day to grow.” My back would kill the next day. Why? Because I was doing too much volume and not using my hips and hamstrings. I was using my back. Yesterday was the first day I have felt my back doing deadlifts the last 3 months. Another example is squatting. By dropping the hips back back back you can get below parallel. And you won’t feel it in your knees. Bench Press, those idiots with the feet in the air, plant them and see how strong you get. It’s a total body movement.
9. Doing a program, and sticking with it for at least a month. How can you measure progress if you have fitness ADD?
10. Keep a journal of your workouts. You balance your checkbook, you account for your business, how do you know if you are progressing?
11. Long sessions of cardio. It’s all about the hormones. You’re better off fast and furious for 15 minutes than an hour on the treadmill. Sprints, Jump Rope, Tabata Protocol, Kettlebell Complexes, Circuit Training hack off fat and build muscle. An hour on the elliptical or stairmaster or an 8 mile run don’t.
12. Lift fast and explosively. The less time under tension the easier it is to lift. Not that there isn’t a place for negatives. There absolutely is, but lift like an athlete, explode.
13. Simple is good. Stick with the basics. Bench, Military Press, Squats, Deadlifts, Dips, Rows and Pullups. What else do you need? What about curls? Rows and pullups hit your biceps quite nicely. What about tri-extensions? Presses and dips build your triceps.
14. Rest. I used to worry about taking days off and gaining weight. Simple, learn how to control your diet and you will see how strong you get by resting.
15. 85% of the people don’t know what the heck they are doing. I didn’t. I was in shape, but was I improving? No. Planet Fitness has a judgement free zone and that preys on the people who don’t know what they’re doing. Look, if you are taking the steps to go to the gym and invest in your health, ask how to do things the right way and don’t be intimidated. Woody Allen said success is 80% showing up. Not learning is like getting in your car, filling it with gas and driving aimlessly. Yes, you’ll get someplace, but is it where you want to be? Set a goal, a destination. Set the date you want to achieve it. Ask for direction in how to get there. FOLLOW THROUGH.
I’m sure more will come to mind, but this was my list of 15 fitness fuckups.