Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Potent Recovery Aid

60 minutes of exercise just accelerated my recovery from the deadlift PRs by at least a day.  A mere hour doing mobility work and myofascial release has me feeling like a full day of rest has passed.  All I did:

Series of hip, thigh, and calf stretches
Use a foam roller perpendicular and parallel to my upper back
Use a fitball to work on my hips and lower back
Series of upper back, shoulder, and neck stretches

I highly urge anyone that does not perform recovery workouts to give them a try.  These simple movements are the most powerful supplements I have ever used.

Upper Downer

This evening's workout was destined to be an exercise in going through the motions.  I hit significant PRs on both Saturday and Monday, juggled kettlebells on Sunday, and only slept 5 hours each of the last 2 nights.  It was time to take a down workout.  I almost skipped it, but decided to go out in the gym to warm up and see how things felt.  I did:

12k Kettlebell Warm Up
16k Kettlebell: Swings, Snatches, Presses
20k Kettlebell: Swings, Snatches, Presses
Partial Chins: 2 3 rep sets, 2 jump assisted chins
Curls: 12k kettlebell, 16k kettlebell
Push Ups: 2x5
Grippers: 5/5xT, 5/5x#1, 5/5xBBSA, 5/3xBBSA
Levering: Worked way down 6lb sledge, to several full singles with each hand

The snatches woke me up and gave the energy needed to do a lazy workout.  Knowing I am so close the doing a full chin gave me the incentive to try those.  It was clear I am tired, but I went through the motions.  I added a little direct bicep work, since I haven't done any in years.  I lost the chin at the top, where my arms are almost fully flexed.  While my biceps are strong with a straight arm, they almost never get worked in the fully flexed position.  I think there is some "easy" strength available to me here.

My shoulder didn't feel great on the presses today.  I was doing normal presses, focusing on sucking my shoulder in and pushing with the elbow.  It did not stop the shoulder from clicking as I transitioned from the rack to the press.  I would like to resolve this, but am not sure if it is possible to do so without resolving the imbalance in my hips.  If I have not worked the hip issue out by sometime next year, I will put all training on hold to attack it full bore, just like I did with my shoulder.  Hopefully it doesn't come to that.

I discovered a secret on the levering.  It is incredibly obvious and I feel dumb for missing it for so long.  For years I have had hammers, but failed to progress on them.  Any serious training with the actual hammers results in a shooting pain through the nerve between my thumb and pointer finger.  I would tough it out, but still struggled with the 6lber.  I even had Chris Rice build me a special tool to train around it, but still I struggled to lever the 6lber.

Today I really thought about what was happening.  I looked at the shape of the hammer handle, and summoned my deepest problem solving skills.  Gradually, it occurred to me that handle was oval, shaped like this: ().  In other words, the handle comes to a relatively sharp edge.  That edge is what presses into my nerve.  Self, I thought, what if the handle was shaped like this: 0.  Then I got my file out and went to work.  Sure enough, by taking one edge of the oval down to a quarter inch flat strip, I eliminated the pain.  I was able to lever my 6lber without any problems.  Given how tired I was, this was very pleasing.  It made the entire workout worthwhile.

I will stretch tonight, before bed.

Monday, May 28, 2007


Due to lack of sleep, today's workout got shifted to the late afternoon.  I had to spend the prime of the day shopping for dress clothes, as my shirts are too loose to look decent for an upcoming client visit.  I hate to drop money on clothes, but it had to be done.  At least Old Navy was having a sale.  I got 3 shirts for $60.

By the time my workout rolled along, I wasn't feeling up for the normal routine.  I rarely pull from the floor, so I decided to treat myself to full deadlifts.  I did:

Deadlifts: 3x135, 135, 155, 175, 1x205, 255 (PR), 275 (PR), 3x205, 205; 5x135 (sumo)
Front Squats: 5x45; 2x5x95;
Power Clean and Push Press: 135lbs
Assisted Pistols: 5/5
Turkish Get Ups 3/3x16k
Overhead Squats with Hollow Bar: 5
Double Underhand Bend Hard Timber Tie

My lovely wife got the deadlift PRs on video for me.  They are here: Video

What  jumps out at me is that my right hip is externally rotated further than my left one.  I appear to favor my left leg as a result.  The right leg is weaker on the assisted pistols, and the knee clicks during squats.  I think this is all related to the difference in external rotation of the hips.  Solving this problem would put me within striking distance of 3 big wheels on the deadlift.  It may also explain why I am such a bad squatter.  Any insight would be appreciated.

The turkish get ups made it clear that sets across are a poor way of testing for goals.  They are boring to do and difficult to video.  I am going to revise my goal list to replace the sets across with simple rep based sets.  For testing purposes, they will be sufficient

I am closer to the 3/4 bodyweight clean and press than I expected to be.  Cleaning the 135 was actually pretty easy.  I think by the end of the summer that goal will fall, which surprises me a little.  Of course, I never expected to be thinking about hitting a 315 deadlift either.  This cycle is going amazingly well.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

GripFAQ.com Update

GripFAQ.com has been neglected as of late.  I got side tracked from content updates by the .NET conversion, then that got tabled with the move to the new house.  The end result is the site has stagnated.  Tonight I finally started to do something about it.  Rather than toy with the technology, I opted to do a few content updates:

Vertical Bar

Vertical Bar Lift
Skin Toughness

Not much, but a few updates every month add up to a full site.  Hopefully I can get things back on track now that my life has settled into a routine at the new house.  I have a solid plan for growth, but it is worthless without execution. 

Yesterday I finally got around to updating the Grip section of the DMOZ.  I got accepted as editor for it several months ago, but have yet to see the entries propagate to sites that leverage the directory.  Hopefully when the do propagate, yesterday's updates are included.  The directory in the DMOZ can be found here:

DMOZ Grip Directory

Most sites linked to via the DMOZ end up with a Google page rank of at least 4, so I hope long term this increases the exposure of grip, including my FAQ site.

Hand to Hand

It's been another lazy weekend.  I had my drink and stretched last night.  Today we finally got around to setting up the Wii.  It's a very cool toy.  I dragged the TV into the basement, and we spent more time in there today than we have since moving in.  As the evening rolled around, I really felt like trying my hand at the kettlebell juggling.  About 8pm I took my 16k outside and did:

One Hand Swings
Two Hand Swings
Bodyweight Squats
Swing Hand to Hand (DARC swings?)
Two Hand Swing, Release and Catch
One Hand Swing, Release and Catch
Two Hand Flips
One Hand Flips
Pass Around Body
Figure 8's under legs
One Hand Clean to Palm, Catch and Swing down
Bottoms up Clean, Toss to Opposite Palm, and back
Clean to Palm, Squat, Press and Stand, Catch and Swing down
Renegade Rows with other 16k
Double 16k Cleans
Double 16k Presses

Basically, I screwed around for a long time and had a lot of fun doing it.  The divots in my lawn stand as a testament to my poor coordination, but the conditioning work was great.  The Powerblocks sold for $175 on ebay today.  I may treat myself to a new toy once the winner pays.

I got the things I ordered last week.  The Stretch to Win DVD is very good.  There are aspects of the book I missed that it clarifies.  The Iromind order was a mixed bag.  The bodyweight exercise book is pretty far beyond my current abilities.  I am enjoying the sequel to Ironmind.  I have really liked the H2H DVDs, but I would have been ok just to get the first one.  TONS of things to try there.

Based upon my troubles with taming the arc of the kettlebell, I am reconsidering Brett Jones's DVD.  It is very expensive, but so is wasting months doing my kettlebell exercises with poor form.  I need to get paid for the Powerblocks first though.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Fly Away

The issue at work has been resolved.  After a few days of rest, my body weight came it at 206 this morning.  My 32k kettlebell actually weighs 69lbs, so I decided today would be a test day.  After some foam rolling, fitball work, and a good warm up, I went for the following:

1/3 BW Kettlebell Clean: Video
1/3 BW Kettlebell Push Press: Video
1/3 BW Kettlebell Snatch: Video
Chin: Video
60 Second Front Bridge: Video

4 out of 5 isn't bad.  Some lifts were closer to my limits than others.  Needless to say, I will be doing quite a bit of work on taming the arc of my kettlebell.  I also plan to leave my 32k kettlebell below my head for at least several weeks.  Plenty of improvement to be had with the lighter kettlebells.  I followed the kettlebell stuff with a bit of bending, nothing worth writing about.

The best part of this test day was a huge thunderstorm moved in while I was lifting.  You can hear the thunder during the bridge video.  I had the garage door open and it made for a really cool workout.  I'll stretch later tonight, and maybe have a celebratory drink or two.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Despite getting ready for bed at 7:30 last night, I was not ready to lift weights this morning.  My workouts on Monday and Tuesday were good ones.  To top that off, an issue at work has been making it difficult for me to fall asleep at night.  The problem has been building for a long time and has started coming to a head this week.  I expect it to be resolved tomorrow, but until then, my recovery is impaired.

Rather than push on and burn myself out, I opted to stretch this morning.  I spent about 45 minutes working through the kinks in my various muscle groups.  Tomorrow morning will be similar, but with a more intense focus on soft tissue work.  Then on Saturday I can have a full bore kettlebell and grip fest.  Monday I'll return to the normal schedule.

I think in the end this will turn out to be beneficial to my training cycle.  A few days of rest is good.  A few days of recovery is even better.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Steel for Dinner

Just grip yesterday evening.  Unfortunately between last Saturday's workout and this morning's kettlebell workout, my hands were pretty far off from top form.  I did:

Unbraced Bending: 3xEasy Timber Tie, 1x7" 1/4 round, Fail on 7" 1/4 round
Braced Bending: Fail to Finish kinked 10" 5/16 round, Bend 12" 5/16 round
Blobs to Bench: 2x5/5x27.5
One Handed 2" Axle Lift: 3x1/1x73lbs
2.5" Dumbell Deadlift: 1x55lbs, 75, Fail on 95, 75, 55

That's it.  After the bending revealed my strength levels, I just screwed around, looking for something I felt strong at.  I expect Saturday's workout will be a good one.

Interestingly, my right lower trap is pretty sore this morning.  I think it is from the snatches.  Cool.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Iron for Breakfast

This morning I was so excited for the workout, I woke up at 5:15.  Stupid sun.  I wasn't going to get any more sleep before 6, so I threw on a couple layers of clothes and sat at the computer while I woke up.  I was in the gym by 6, but had a really hard time starting this morning.  I did:

Warm Up - 12k cleans, snatches, presses, halos; empty barbell deadlifts, cleans, presses; bodyweight squats
Snatches: 5/5x16k, 4/4x24k, 2x5/5x24k
Bottoms Up Presses: 4/4x16k, 3x3/3x20k, 5/5x16k
Renegade Rows: 5/5x16k, 4/4x20k, 5/5x16k
Push Ups: 10xBW
Jump Rope: 46 consecutive jumps

I had to do a lot of work to warm up.  I wasn't even totally warm when I started the 24k snatches, I should have done a set with the 20k.  It's funny to think that two weeks ago my PR with the 24k was 1 snatch.  Amazing what a difference good form makes.  I could feel my mid and lower traps contracting really hard as I did these reps.  This is a great exercise.

The bottoms up presses have a bit of lean on them.  I cannot do straight kettlebell presses without my right shoulder cracking and popping, and I didn't feel like the barbell today.  These were pretty tough.

The renegade rows are a great movement for my shoulders.  I actually fell over on the first set, because I failed to stabilize.  The balancing and protraction the shoulder supporting me on the bottom kettlebell has to do is probably even better for me than the actual rowing.  Another great one.

I am shocked to be able to do 10 push ups again.  When I started with my shoulder rehab, I struggled to get 10 push ups on my knees.  My program is working.

Overall, I pretty good workout.  I was surprised to be so tired at the start, but I am learning how to deal with it.  I could force myself to just man up and do it anyway, but building my focus up through a series of lighter movements is probably much more favorable for my long term compliance.

I ended the workout with a 2 mile walk with my wife.  I also did some mobility work last night.  Grip work this evening.

Monday, May 21, 2007

It's My First Day

First day at the new office.  This also means first workout in the home gym on a schedule.  Today was a lower workout, so I did:

Warm Up - Use the computer in warm clothes and a fleece for 45 minutes, 12k kettlebell swings
Goblet Squats - 5x12k, 5x16k, 5x24k
Double KB Front Squats - 5x5xDouble 16k's
Romanian Deadlifts - 5x95, 5x145, 4x5x175lbs
Assisted Pistols - 2x5/5
Side Bridges - 2x30s/30s

Took about 45 minutes.  Stretching has to move to the evenings, due to the time it takes me to cool down and relax enough to stretch.  As it stands now, my cool down will be showering.  I did do about 45 minutes of mobility work last night.  Wearing the fleece this morning helped to fix a problem I was having getting the motivation to go lift so early.  I was just cold.

Pretty good workout for my first day.  I walked in the office at 8:57, so I can get up 3 minutes later tomorrow.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Shopping Spree

I just ordered a lot of cool stuff.  I'm getting:

1. All 3 H2H DVDs ($80): http://www.tacticalathlete.com/specials.htm
2. Stretch to Win DVD ($25): http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000JCDTZC/002-2461471-9890450
3. Led Zeppelin Guitar Tab Book ($17): http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0769205607/002-2461471-9890450
4. The Sequel to Ironmind ($15): http://www6.mailordercentral.com/ironmind/prodinfo.asp?number=1288
5. Brad Johnson's Bodyweight Exercises Book ($14): http://www6.mailordercentral.com/ironmind/prodinfo.asp?number=1396

There are a number of other items I considered, but for the time being I have the tools needed to perform my workouts.  These purchases are not needed but will definitely add to the entertainment value of my variety days.  Items on the list that were also considered include:

- Kettlebell Basics for Strength Coaches and Personal Trainers DVD
- 12k, 20k, 24k, 36k Kettlebells
- Art of Strength Kettlebell DVDs
- In person kettlebell instruction
- Plyo Box
- FBBC Pinch Bar
- FBBC 117lb Inch, whenever they come out
- Steel to progress spike bending
- 45lb plates
- Pair of 100lb plates
- Pair of 50lb Scale Weights
- Farmers Bars
- Trap Bar

Who knows what else will end up on the list.  I've learned by now to only buy equipment that immediately supports my current training cycle.  I'll be watching for the mail.

Target: Larkin's Gym

Michigan Grip Champs 5 is on Saturday, July 28th.  That gives me 10 weeks to prepare.  After careful consideration, I've decided that I will not try to peak my strength for the contest.  The best thing for me to do with my training at this time is continue with a workout pattern that will serve me best long term.  I had originally considered maintaining, or even gaining weight in the period leading up to the contest.  I have decided I will not do this.  I am doing well enough strength wise that I do not feel it is necessary, and I think it would be likely to derail my progress towards other goals.  Leading up to the contest now, I will be doing the following:

Monday - Lower in the Morning
Tuesday - Upper in the Morning, Optional Grip / Variety workout in the evening (may push to Wednesday)
Wednesday - Rest
Thursday - Lower in the Morning
Friday - Upper in the Morning
Saturday - Optional Grip Variety workout, may push to Sunday
Sunday - Rest

The lower and upper workouts will stay very similar to what I've been doing.  It is working.  The variety workouts will end up similar to the one I did today.  If I am feeling drained, they are not my core focus, and they will be dropped.  Obviously if I do no grip training, I will do poorly at the contest, so I will find a way to make them happen.  Most days I will also end up doing some sort of mobility work, as well as walking 1.5 to 3 miles.  Round trip my commute to work is a 1.5 mile walk.  My wife and I often walk 1-2 miles during the evenings.

Nutrition is going to become a key factor for me now.  This past week I have allowed my eating to become lax.  Initially I was trying to ride the fine line between peaking strength for my test day and hitting the desired body weight.  Once it was clear I was not going to do the test day yet, I chose to relax what I was eating for a few days.  With work now at the new office, I am setting the dietary patterns for years to come.  I want to be in the habit of eating flax cereal for breakfast, bringing the right quantity of quality food for the day, and eating a solid dinner.  I am looking to continue dropping around a pound a week.  The pace just works well for me.

On the equipment front, I've been fortunate in that my landlord returned the full $680 security deposit I made.  I made the deposit almost 4 years ago, so it feels like found money.  I'm also going to be selling my powerblocks and think I can get another $200 for them.  So I've got a decent slush fund to get some new toys.  I probably won't use all of it on weights, but I am likely to buy another 20k kettlebell and a few DVDs in the near future, maybe tonight.  On the variety day I would like to start learning to juggle the kettlebells.

Well that's pretty much it.  10 weeks from now I'll be under 200lbs, swimming in the hotel pool, and basking in the glow of having bent a Grade 5 bolt earlier that day in contest conditions.  I'm looking forward to it.

Doing Stuff

That's really the best description for this workout.  I've decided I want to keep my core workouts in the mornings during the work week, so today was really just a chance to get out in the garage and play.  I didn't want to go crazy, since I have a lower workout Monday, but I did have a lot of fun.  I did:

Warm up - Clean Up Garage

Unbraced Bending: 3 easy timber ties, 3 hard timber ties
Braced Bending: Finish 12"x5/16 CRS, 12"x5/16 CRS, Kink 10"x5/16" CRS, Fail on 12" x 3/8 spike
Easy Deck of Cards - messy, messy, prolonged struggle to tear them in half.

The braced bending took a really long time.  I like it, but I don't know how to get leverage yet.  A 12" spike would make a great trophy for my office, I'd like to get one down at some point.  I am pretty far away.  However, I think this type of bending may get easier as I get leaner.  Even with a towel, it's hard to get decent leverage off of my thigh. 

The deck of cards I think I have a technique problem on as well.  I always get the initial crack in the deck no problems, than have to fight for the rest.  I'm not sure what to do about it, but I'd love to be able to halve these decks in a few seconds.  I have about 70 of them.

This didn't happen today, but yesterday while the office was moving there were 10 old phone books to throw away.  I happily volunteered to "deal" with them.  I then proceeded to rip though 8 of them, one by one.  It was pretty awesome.  The 2 Chicago phone books stopped me, but at almost 3" thick, I don't mind too much.  I really enjoyed the visual nature of the feat, and it renewed my interest in the card tearing and spike bending.

Kettlebells and Other Full Body Work
Try to juggle 12k
Renegade rows with 16k's and 20k with 16k as base arm
Turkish Get Ups - 3/3x12k
60lb Dumbell: Clean and Push Press, Snatch, one of each per arm
24k Kettlebell: Snatch -3/3, Clean and Push Press
Double 16k Cleans
40 Consecutive Jumps with my Jump Rope
5 Push ups
5/5 Assisted Pistols

I think that's about it.  The push ups are a major milestone for me.  My shoulder continues to get stronger as time goes on.  I think the 25 consecutive push ups on my goal list will turn out to be easier than I expected.  I was surprised that my foot had no problems with the jump roping.  I may work some sort of jump roping in on to my goal list, but I'm not sure how to do it to avoid a REALLY boring video.

That's it, I'll probably stretch later tonight.  I also need to write up my plan now that my company is in the new office.  It's time to return to an aggressive training program.  I could not ask for more ideal circumstances to progress under.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Everything Overhead!

No test day today, BW is coming in at 210 for some reason.  Go figure.  Last night I did 45 minutes of mobility and soft tissue work before bed, then slept in until 7 today.  As a result, I opted to make this morning's workout shorter, with an overhead focus.  If I picked a weight up, sooner or later it ended up over my head.  I did:

Warmup with 12k Kettlebell
16k KB: 5/5 One Arm Swings; 5/5 Snatches
20k KB: 5/5 One Arm Swings; 2x5/5, 1x3/3 Snatches
24k KB: 5/5 Snatches (Ties PR)
28k KB: 2/2 Snatches (PR)
32k KB: 1/1 Snatch (PR, ugly as possible, even lost it once), 1/1 Clean and Push Press (Ties PR)
Barbell Overhead Press: 5x45lbs, 5x65lbs; 3x5x85lbs;
Overhead Holds of 20k KB: 20s/20s, 20s/20s
Overhead Holds of 20k KB, on one foot: 10s/10s, 20s/20s

Well, I snatched the 32k for the first time.  It was sloppy, but that certainly demystifies the weight.  However, between the snatch and the push press, I can honestly say I have no business putting the 32k KB overhead with one arm.  My shoulders are not stable enough for it to be safe.  I am going to practice overhead holds with my kettlebells until I feel like the 32k belongs up there.  Only then will I test for my snatch and push press goals.  I'll also be working on building up the snatches with the 28k, as that KB was stable.

I think I have learned how to harness the strength of my posterior chain to move the weight.  My anterior chain lags behind and is now the weak link.  I started back on the barbell overhead presses today in hopes of correcting that.  Once my overhead strength and stability improves, I will be in a solid position to build on to my other goals.

I'll probably stretch later today, it's time to eat.  I am very interested to see what ends up sore from today's workout.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Grippin Around

Lazy day today.  After the abbreviated workout and 8 hours working from home, I really had nothing to do.  It's raining and 68 degrees outside, so perfect weather for a prolonged session of gripping in the garage.  I did:

Grippers up to BBM
Bending up to 7"x1/4 round
Blobs up to 32.5lbs
Wrist Extension Reps on a Wrist Roller with a towel on it, up to 85lbs
1 hand pinch 4 10s with a bar through them a couple times
1 hand pinch 3 10s with a towel over them
2 hand pinch 4 10s with a towel over them
2 hand pinch 2 25s with a towel over it
V-bar up to 50lbs with a towel over it.

Basically I screwed around for an hour and a half.  I did a ton of sets and avoided max efforts.  There were a few interesting items to note:

1. My gripper strength is pretty low right now, down where it was almost 2 years ago

2. Despite hitting the 7" x 1/4 round while bending, I had no chance on the "Easy" 60d nails I've been failing on.  I am really surprised how much these have turned out to vary.  On the bright side it looks like my hard timber ties, grade 2 bolts, and 7" x 1/4 round stock are open to me reverse style, so I'm set for bending stock for awhile.

3. I gave a towel over my grip tools a chance today, wanting to save my skin for kettlebells tomorrow.  That turned my wrist roller from a callous eating piece of junk into a great tool.  Knurling on a wrist roller is just dumb, I don't know why anyone sells knurled wrist rollers.  The towel worked great on v-bar and pinching as well.  Weights drop a whole bunch, so it probably isn't an every day training option for these lifts, but it met my needs today.

That's about it.  I already ate dinner and am home alone for the evening.  Guess I'll stretch out and play guitar.  Maybe I'll have time to dig into my new book, Alpha Project Managers.

Short and Sweet

Hard time getting up for the workout this morning.  I left the house at 7:15 AM yesterday and got home at 9:15 PM.  I got to see the new TMNT movie and go out for pizza, but that left me exhausted today.  It took 45 minutes for me to make it from my bed into the garage.  I opted to make this one short and sweet:

Warm Up with 12k Kettlebell
Romanian Deads: 5x45,95,135,155;3x5x185
Goblet Squats: 5xBW, 12k, 16k, 24k
Double KB Front Squats: 3x5x16k's (PR)

That's it.  My motivation just wasn't there, so I went inside.  The RDL's are approaching PR territory.  The double KB front squats are going pretty well.  I think they are both going to get added to my goals list.  I'll throw a goblet squat and double front squat on each of the goal lists.  Double front squats with 1/2 BW KB's will definitely be a reaching goal.

Later today I hope to stretch and possibly do grip.  BW was 209 this morning after 2 days with no workouts and a lot of salty food last night.  I'm debating on whether or not to manipulate my food today to hit 207 tomorrow and take a test day.  We'll see what happens.  Once I hit my test day, I'm going to have to stop thinking about BW so much for awhile.  My next test weight is 189 (3x63lb KB ), and I probably won't be there until the end of summer.

Monday, May 14, 2007

An Evening of Mobility

The original plan for today was to spend the full day commuting downtown for work and coming home.  Luckily, due to circumstances beyond my control, I ended up working from home today.  Yesterday's PR kettlebell workout, coupled with the Mother's day induced lack of stretching, left me sore to say the least.

I spent about 45 minutes doing mobility work.  Since I've got a little time, I thought I'd write out what all I did.  Keep in mind it is about 80 degrees in my house, so I was already warm.  The workout started with soft tissue work:

Foam Roller Thoracic Spine
7" Fitball on Hips, focused on the spot where all the muscles come together on either side
5" Fitball on Hips, same focus
5" Fitball on Ribs, where my internal shoulder rotators all come together

These are several of my most tender areas.  The fitball work is still new and really burns.  This is the first time I rolled my internal rotators, and it hurt a lot.  The physical therapist was manually releasing trigger points in this area when I would go to see him, and it's the exact same type of pain.  Back then it hurt so bad I had to laugh so I wouldn't cry.  This feels about the same.

After the soft tissue work I moved on to stretching.  I don't know the names of all these exercises, so I'll give my best guesses:

Lying / Twisting Low Back + Glute Stretch
Lunge Stretch for Hip Flexors
Move into a glute Stretch, kinda a half front split
Standing Quad Stretch
One Legged Calf Stretch on Stairs
Seated Hamstring Stretch
Seated Lat Stretch / Hip Capsule Stretch
Neck Stretch with Stretching Strap
Upper Trap Stretch
Dislocates with Stretching Strap
Posterior Shoulder Capsule Stretch
Standing Lat / Tricep Stretch
Dexterity Balls
Stress Ball
Finger Extensions

I think that's about it.  Lots of tension releasing today, to no suprise.  Part of what I was trying to do is heavily stretch the areas I did soft tissue work on.  Otherwise I was just moving through whatever was tight.  My foot had started to get a little tender after yesterday, so I spent almost 10 minutes on the calf stretches and left out the footsie roller today.

I probably would have benefited from another cycle through all the stretches, but I get bored.  I am paying the price for my PRs and lack of appropriate cool down yesterday.  At least I have an idea as how to pay my dues and relieve some of the post workout pain now.  There are two areas I would like to have worked better but couldn't figure out how to:

1. My left upper trap is very tender.  It feels like some good work on the foam roller or fit ball would make it feel better, but I'm not sure how to get it into position.

2. As always it feels like there is still something tight deep in the right side of my hip.  I have this sense that whatever is causing that imbalance is directly tied to the instability in my right knee and the problems I have with my right shoulder.  Up until a few weeks ago I wasn't very aware of this issue, but it is definitely present.  If it doesn't get worked out over the next few months, I may make a trip back to the physical therapist in an effort to understand it better.  I think there is a good chance my right hip holds the key to bringing my entire body into balance.

As Mike said, there is no rest, only recovery.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Week in Review

There are certain times when everything just comes together even better than planned.  This was one of those weeks for me.  My food is falling in line and my workouts are going great.  Items of note this week:

1. Bodyweight hit 208lbs, 1lb shy of my test weight
2. Due to form tweaks, my snatch PR has jumped from 3/3x20k to 5/5x24k
3. The Fitballs have worked their way into my mobility tool kit and do a great job
4. I've got an MP3 player on the way for music in my garage gym
5. My workout pattern has been tweaked with a cool down walk so that I can really relax when stretching

On top of all of this, my foot and shoulder are doing tremendous.  My foot just doesn't hurt anymore.  I am cautious not to push it too far, but even with all the intense kettlebell work, I have no foot pain.  It is reliable and pain free. 

My shoulder has gotten to a point now where I was actually able to play guitar for an hour last night with no pain.  I had to stop playing regularly a few years ago because even 15 minutes of strumming would make my shoulder ache.  I'm a bad guitar player, but I have fun doing it.  I am really excited to be able to pick the instrument up again, especially with the extra free time I now have.

To recap, I'm eliminating pain, setting PRs, and dropping weight, all at the same time.  This is awesome.


This was the perfect morning for lifting weights.  Leading into yesterday I had about 9 hours sleep, got in a one hour nap, another two hour nap, and a full 7 hours that night.  I'm pretty well caught up on the sleep debt from moving now.  Feeling particularly enthused, I even brought the computer downstairs to listen to Rhapsody while I worked out.  I did:

Warm Up with 12k
One Arm Swings + High Pulls: 5/5+5/5x12k, 16k, 20k, 24k, 28k, 3/3+3/3x32k
Snatches: 5/5x20k; 5/5x24k (PR)
Bottoms Up Presses: 5/5x12k; 2x5/5x16k; 3/3x20k; 2/2x20k;
Renegade Rows: 3x3/3x16k
Walk 60ft with Kettlebell Overhead: 1/1x20k
Side Bridges: 2x30s/30sxBW

High pulls are the secret for bringing my snatch form together.  I am getting so much more power that the snatches with the 20k feel easy.  I know enough to take my PRs a small jump at a time, but I could have done more with the 24k.  The stabilizing muscles in my upper back and shoulders were completely fried by this workout.

No stretching this morning.  I needed to use that time to get ready for Mother's day.  Maybe I'll do some this afternoon.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Lower and Grip

Hit lower and grip this morning.  The last two days have been spent just resting.  I got at least 9 hours of sleep last night.  Needless to say, I was feeling stronger this morning than I have in some time.  For lower I did:

Kettlebell Warmup
Front Squats: 5x45lbs; 5x65; 5x85; 2x5x95 (too much back)
Romanian Deadlifts: 2x5x95; 3x5x175 (felt strong)
Step Ups: 3x5xBW
Assisted Pistols: 5/5; 3/3; 1/1;

Then I lowered myself to the ground a few times with just one leg.  I'm halfway there!  I don't think the current girth of my waist and legs puts my center of gravity in a position where I can hold the bottom position of a pistol, let alone stand up unassisted.  At least I don't fear the way down.

I worked grip in between my sets, starting with the step ups.  I did:

Grippers: reps through the super advanced
Blobs to Bench: 2x5x27.5lbs; severalx32.5lbs
Bending: Timber Tie, Easy 60d, Cheat kink several pieces and finish them
Dexterity Balls

I've identified one issue with my bending.  The 60d's I am using vary dramatically.  The first one I did melted easily.  The next one I had to cheat kink to 90 degrees and used my legs to help finish the crush down.  It was at least as hard as a piece of 6"x1/4 round steel.  The solution is I have to get stronger, but I also need to spend more time working with the easier timber ties I have, possibly even buying more if I run out.

Finished the workout off with a walk around the block, stretching, and soft tissue work.  Tension was releasing all over the place on almost every stretch.  I think that is the result of the intense kettlebell workout on Wednesday, coupled with the lack of stretching on Thursday and Friday.  All I did those days was go for a 2 mile walk on Friday.  I feel great now though.  I think I might go try the whirlpool feature of my bathtub for the first time

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Kettlebell Epiphany

Plenty of sleep last night.  By the end of the day yesterday I was exhausted.  I must still be working on the sleep debt from last week, because I had to crawl up to bed at 8pm.  When I woke at 5:45 this morning, I still felt tired.  However, I have a commitment this evening that will prevent me from working out then, so I made the long trek to my gym.

This workout was planned to be a combination of kettlebells and bending.  My hands are not ready to bend again, so I just did the following:

Warm Up with 12k
Warm Up with 16k (found out here that cleans were out, my forearms are tender!)
One Arm Swings: 5/5x16k; 2x5/5x20k;
High Pulls: 5/5x12k; 5/5x16k; 2x5/5x20k
Snatches: 5/5x20k (PR); 5/5x20k (PR); 2/2x24k (PR); 1/1x28k (Ties PR) I might be on to something...
High Pulls: 3/3x32k
Bottoms Up Press: 2x5/5x16k; 3/3x20k
Press: 1x20k (stopped, shoulder didn't like these today)
Renegade Rows: 2x5/5x16k (sloppy)
Finishers: 1/1x50ft walk with 20k overhead; 100ft walk with double 16k's racked

Cooled down with a walk around the block, then did mobility work.  Doing the mobility work after a cool down with no music playing made a HUGE difference in my ability to relax and release the stretches in sync with my breathing.  Several new areas on my legs were tight from the assisted pistols yesterday, the standing quad stretch really got those areas to let go.

So on the snatches - I've been doing them wrong.  Simple as that.  There are two problems I have:

1. On the way down, I have not been twisting my hand to properly "hike" the kettlebell behind me.  Pavel talks about this in Enter the Kettlebell, but I sort of disregarded it.  Well today my shoulder was popping on every rep during my one arm swings.  The hike movement internally rotates the shoulder at the bottom of the swing and makes it much easier to catch the weight.  It stopped my shoulder from popping, so I carried it through to the high pulls and snatches.

2. I have not been doing a high pull, then punching through at the top.  A kettlebell snatch is different than a dumbell snatch, simple as that.  The bulk of the weight on the kettlebell just does not need to be pulled as high as it does when pulling the same weight with a dumbell.  Previously I was pulling the kettlebell up as hard as I could, letting it flip over my hand, and catching it on my forearm.  That's why my forearms are still tender from Saturday's workout.

Today I practiced the high pulls first.  Then when I did my snatches, I just tried to do the high pull movement to start the snatch off.  All of the sudden I wasn't banging my wrist anymore, and the weights felt easy.  After the high pull it felt like the kettlebell just rolled over my forearm as I finished extending my hand overhead.  My previous snatch PR with the 20k was 3/3.  It was hard.  Today I got 2x5/5.  Not only that, I held back because it was a new way of doing things.  I could have done more.

This marks a turning point in the kettlebell snatches for me, I think.  It finally makes sense to me how guys on the Dragon Door forums are able to snatch a heavier kettlebell than they can push press.  I am excited to see where this goes.

On a different vein of thought, my back has been a little tender since last Saturday's workout, where I went all out with the kettlebells.  I was thinking about this during today's workout, after my finishers.  My back started to feel tender in the same way after the rack walks.  I think this points to an issue Steve Cotter vaguely referenced when he split from Dragon Door.  He mentioned that he's spent quite a bit of time fixing bad postural habits learned while working with the kettlebells using the Dragon Door methods.  I also noticed when looking at pictures of a lot of kettlebell guys that it looks like their upper back is rounded forward to far, or they have an overly kyphotic posture.

Today it started to click.  Most of the kettlebell exercises, due to the offset nature of the weight, hold the spine in a state of exaggerated lordosis.  The body compensates for this lordosis by increasing the curve in the upper back, causing the kyphotic posture I observed in pictures of the kettlebell guys.  I think I felt pain in the rack walks because the entire walk my back was in a state of exaggerated lordosis, which is hard on it, especially at the end of a long workout.

I am not sure what implication this has for my workouts.  I do know that encouraging rounding in my upper back is the last thing I want to do, given my shoulder problem and the fact that I sit at a computer all day.  The entire reason I foam roller my thoracic spine is to fight against the rounding that sitting at a computer all day promotes.  At the very least I think this means I will be doing my finishers with kettlebells overhead or in a farmers walk position.  It also means I need to balance swings and cleans with rows and presses.  I think the snatch takes care of itself.

Great workout this morning, I am definitely setting the stage for some excellent progress this summer.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Lower and Grip

All my workouts these days are going to be in the garage.  Having a garage gym rules.  I rolled out of bed at 5:45, by 6:15 I was lifting hard.  I went to bed at 10 last night, so I'm doubtful that my sleep requirements will change.  By the end of the work day yesterday I was exhausted.  Thinking hard all day is apparently harder on me than working hard all day??? Weird.  Anyway, I did:

Kettlebell warm up
Romanian Deadlifts up to 3x5x165
Goblet squats: up to 3x5x28k
Step ups: 4x5 with bodyweight
Assisted pistols: 4 sets
Side Bridges: 45s/45s; 15s/15s

The Romanian deadlifts weren't too hard, but I really need a mirror setup to see whether or not my right shoulder is rolling forward.  It's on my to buy list and I can spend up to $100, I just need to find one.  Maybe I'll just make one that stands, I have a spare mirror in my closet.  We'll see.

The goblet squats were kinda tough, but don't really feel like they hit the front of my legs.  As a result I worked in the step ups.  After finishing those, the assisted pistols occurred to me.  Now that my rack is out in the open, I can put a barbell at shoulder height and hang on to it as I go up and down in a pistol.  I'm assisting a lot with my upper body at this point, but a strength difference between my left and right legs has been highlighted.  I will continue with these.  Ultimately I'd like to replace the step ups with walking lunges.

Side bridges felt good, really nailed the lower trap area like they should.  These were a great segue into my mobility work.  I spent about 30 minutes stretching out while I watched a DVD of Bush in concert at Woodstock.  With the garage door open and the warm summer breeze, it was very relaxing.

In between my sets I snuck in some grip work.  This will probably be my new approach to grip, since I now have the option.  I just did grippers and block weights.  The block weights were very slippery in the humid morning air.  I had to drop down to my 25lb hex block to accommodate.  Even then, by the end of a set of 5 loads to the bench the block was slipping.  Hard work though.  While typing this workout up I also did some finger extensions.

Tomorrow I'll hit an upper body work primarily based upon kettlebells.  I tried to do some bending at the very end of today's workout, but my hands were shot.  I will try tomorrow during or after the kettlebells.  I guess this means I'm back on to working an upper / lower split, even if the intensity is reduced a little.  That's just what feels good to me in the mornings.  The thought of working my entire body at 6am is too daunting.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Grip and Mobility in the Garage

Today marks the return to my normal day to day obligations.  Finding time for this workout was easy, I just went until I got tired.  Sleep is still lacking, but too much napping today would leave me unable to get to bed tonight.  Instead I opted for a long session of grip and mobility work.

During the kettlebell warm up I played around with high pulls a little bit.  I have always blown these off and think practicing them may lead me to a more powerful snatch.  I only went up to the 16k bell today, but they will get some serious attention in the coming weeks.

Grip work included the following:

Bottoms up presses of 16k kettlebell
Block weight swings, snatches, and loads to my bench
V-bar up to 125lbs
High rep sets on my Trainer, a couple singles of the #1
Bend 2 Easy 60d's (reverse style) and a Timber Tie (double underhand)
Finger Extensions
Dexterity Balls

The exercise choices were somewhat random.  I'd say the common theme was trying to get my skin to tighten so that it was tough enough to do well on v-bar and bending.  The v-bar didn't have much success, but bending went better than I'd hoped.  Ever since last December when I went all out and failed on a hard 60d, I've been unable to bend these easy 60d's.  Leading up to that max attempt, I'd been doing up to 8 easy 60d's in a single session, all done double underhand style.  Reverse style they had gotten to the point of being a warm up nail.

So, now I begin the road back.  I know better than to go all out again, but my hands have lost a lot of toughness.  The strength is still there, but my flesh is soft and tender.  With practice it will harden and I may be able to take another shot at the hard 60d sometime this summer.

After grip I hit my mobility work.  I spent close to 45 minutes stretching and doing soft tissue release.  My fitballs finally came, along with the DVD I ordered.  The DVD is lame, but the fitballs work.  I could only tolerate a few minutes of work on my hips, but it is clear loads of tension reside in them.  Hopefully over the next two weeks I can build up to the point of being able to foam roller that area.  Currently I can barely stand the 7" fitball, the 5" fitball stares menacingly at me from the corner.  It will be awhile before I use it.

More and more I'm convinced the strength training program one uses has very little to do with the effectiveness of a workout program.  Sleeping well, eating right, and paying attention to injury prevention is serving me better than a laser like focus on sets, reps, and exercise selection ever did.  Too bad that doesn't sell well.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

One Back, Two Forward

With completion of the internet install today, setup of the new house is essentially finished.  The long days carrying boxes and climbing stairs have created the following problems:

1. My peak strength is gone
2. My body is the tightest it has been in months
3. I have severe sleep debt

Essentially there is no hope of continuing my old cycle.  It would be foolish to try.  I have 2 weeks before my office moves that will require me to make a 1.5-2 hour commute into and out of the city twice a week.  Those days will be shot for training and will likely interfere with exercise the following day.  Rather than enter into a new cycle now, I'm going to do random full body kettlebell workouts 2-3x a week, filling in the gaps with a heavy focus on mobility work and soft tissue therapy.

In the back of my head I am thinking about my test day at 207lbs.  Bodyweight hit 211 this morning.  I think there is a good chance that between the change in exercise stimulus and the new environment, another 4lbs will drop off over the next two weeks.  If I spend that time practicing kettlebell work, I will be in a great position to knock off a number of the 1/3 BW KB goals on my test day.

I should be in an excellent position to initiate a new cycle after my test day.  As much as I enjoy just doing the kettlebell stuff, I need to pick up a heavy barbell once in awhile to maintain strength as I drop weight.  It is quite possible I will return to a program very similar to the one I was using at World Gym.  It fits my schedule well, works, and I enjoy it.  What more could I ask for?

I certainly have the tools to succeed.  Here is the photo tour of the gym:


I've since topped the table with a TV connected to a PS2 and my old MP3 player.  I've got DVDs, music, and DDR.  Friday night a chair was added.  In two weeks I'll go pick up another stall matt and expand the matted area from 4'x6' to 6'x8'.  That will be perfect for barbell work from the floor, as well as some of the more dynamic kettlebell movements.  Things are coming together.

Kettlebells in the Garage

I finally had time to get a workout in today, while waiting for Comcast to fix the internet.  Moving has positively drained me.  I've been putting in 16 hour days setting up the house, running on 5 hours of sleep a night.  My weight is down, the peak strength from my previous cycle is gone.  There's no stretching it out at this point.  As a result, I opted for kettlebells.  Luckily I had the frustration of spending 3 hours to get a modem switched to use as fuel.  I did the following exercises:

Snatches, including 1/1x28k, which ties my PR
Presses through the 24k
Bottoms up Presses through the 20k, including a doubles of the 16k's
Turkish Get Ups with the 12k
Goblet squats up through the 20k
Renegade rows with the 16k's
Step ups to my bench with just BW
Overhead squat attempts with a hollow bar

There may have been others.  3 hours is a long time to be in the gym.  I ended the workout with the following finisher, working through 12k, 16k, 20k, 24k 16k doubles, in one long set

Clean the KB from the matt
Carry it out of the garage
Jerk the KB
Carry it overhead past the sidewalk
Set it down and turn around
Snatch the KB
Carry it overhead back to the garage
Rack it and carry back to the matt
Repeat for the other arm

The idea here was to work stability / mobility in my shoulders and feet with an off center load over an extended period of time.  It worked quite well, and made me wish for the partner for my 20k bell.  After all of this I went for a walk and had some dinner.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Lower in the Garage

I rolled out of bed at 5:30, feeling refreshed on 6.5 hours sleep and excited for my first workout in the new garage gym.  After 15 minutes or so to wake, I was ready to go warm up.  The morning air was a little cool, but felt good while I was working hard.  I did:

Warm Up - Deadlift / Swing / Snatch / Squat series with 12k kettlebell
Squats - Goblet squats up to 24k kettlebell, double front squats with the pair of 16k's
Romanian Deadlifts - Reps on Axle with 165lbs
Side Bends - Reps with 65lbs
Kettlebell Farmers Walk - Walk down drive way with double 16's racked, back with them overhead, 2 times

Then I stretched.  Weights were down a little bit, but that's to be expected given the prior week and change of venue.  I took a number of points away from this workout:

1. The kettlebell front squats are tough, if I pair up my 20k bell, I'm set for some time

2. The kettlebell goblet squats are tough, if I get a 36k bell, I'm set for some time

3. I cannot do my Romanian deadlifts on the Axle, my grip fails before my back and that rolls my shoulder forward

4. I need a full length mirror on wheels; I was letting my shoulder roll forward on the deadlifts

5. I need a better stretching matt, the one I have has no padding in it

6. Lifting right after I wake up means I don't need to eat before going into the gym.  This was a major concern for me, since I can't lift weights for about an hour after eating.  It turns out if I start the workout half asleep, I don't mind doing it on an empty stomach.  That will be a major time saver in the morning before work.

7. I have to choose between having the garage door open or listening to music.  The highway is loud enough that if I turn my music up to be heard over it, the house shakes and my wife wakes up.  Luckily we're on vacation this week.  I didn't think the music was that loud, so the freight trains at the old apartment must have been REALLY loud.  No wonder I'm sleeping better.

This is all very promising.  I’ll have a photo tour of the new gym up once the internet is working properly.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Move Recap

Sunday the movers arrived to haul our remaining belongings from the apartment to the new house.  Hiring them was a smart decision, well worth the $600 it cost.  3 guys took 5 hours to pack everything up, load it into the truck, drive to the new place, and unload the truck into the house.  These guys worked hard, much harder than I was capable of when moving things with my wife the prior two weekends.  The work capacity they have built up by moving people every day was really impressive.  I finished the evening tired from stress, but pain free.

Between a thunderstorm, the cats howling, and a power outage Sunday night, Monday saw me running on about 4 hours of sleep.  I spent most of the day carrying boxes around the house and setting up various rooms.  This was my second day of eating nothing but take out, since the kitchen was still packed.  Definitely no weight training, I was exhausted.  I did find out napping with a window open to the forest preserve is like camping without all the bugs, rocks, and sunburn.

Tuesday the place began to feel like home.  We got groceries delivered for the first time, and Comcast made the first of what I have discovered will be several visits to setup internet access.  Most of the day was spent moving boxes around, but I did start getting the gym setup.  After a short walk with my wife, I emptied the last of the boxes and straightened out the final pieces of weight equipment.  Still exhausted, I had no business working out, but the kitchen finally got put together right before bed.  This was my last day of eating only take out.  I actually had a little free time to read in the evening before bed.

Wednesday has been my first real day of vacation.  I finished the last of the gym setup, including connecting speakers for music from either my mp3 player or laptop.  Nothing is left in the garage that does not belong.  Given the stresses incurred over the past week, I opted to push off intense exercise for another day.  Instead I spent around 45 minutes doing various types of mobility work, and then captured a photo tour of the gym.  I didn't eat a single bit of take out today, instead I had:

Meal 1: Flax Cereal, Skim Milk, Banana
Meal 2: Amy's Brown Rice and Veggie Bowl, Chocolate Almond Clusters
Meal 3: Lettuce, Carrots, Ranch Dressing, Strawberries, Bagel, 2 Slices Cheese, Griller, Tofurkey, Iced Tea
Meal 4: Amy's Spicy Chili, Cheese, 2 Slices Bread, Skim Milk

This evening I went for a forty minute walk with my wife, the sunset was gorgeous.  I feel energized and am looking forward to lifting weights tomorrow morning. It was pointless to debate over whether or not I'd take a period of rest during the first half of this week.  I really had no choice; the energy just wasn't available to exercise.  I am finally settling in now though, and I am very happy with the new setup.  My quality of sleep has definitely approved, and my stress levels have plummeted.  I am very interested to see how much sleep I need once work starts.  Today I did well with just 5 hours.