Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Grip Contest Notes

On the train ride home, I wrote down what I wanted to remember from the contest.  I finally typed it up.  Here it is for anyone who cares to read:

0. Bob and Ryan did an excellent job putting on a top tier grip contest.  Events were well chosen, the venue rules, the keep the contest accessible to all strength levels, and everything is tuned to run smoothly.  Thanks to their hard work, the cash prize on bending was just one of many high points during the day.

1. I spent $652 to attend the contest.  $170 of that was to stay in town an extra day and have some fun in Three Rivers with my wife.  It was worth it. My biggest expenses were cabs, hotel, and food.

2. Random luck of the draw put me immediately after Ryan in the lifting sequence.  That was humbling.  Outside of winning the contest and nearly taking the bending, he beat my v-bar total with one arm.  His one handed deadlift was higher than my two handed deadlift max.  Just crazy.

3. I should have trained thin pinch.  I bombed on it because I did not train it.

4. I bombed on every single fourth attempt I took.  I bombed on all but one of my third attempts.  I was also able to predict the weights I peaked at one each event with excellent accuracy.

5. Next contest, I will open each event with what I think is the weight I can hit.  After that, I will make the smallest possible increments on each following attempt, passing once I fail an event.  I think this would have resulted in a superior performance for me on several of the events.

6. The extra day in town did not improve how well rested I was for the contest.  Excitement means the night before I just won't sleep much.  There's nothing I can do about it.

7. Aaron is the first person I've seen in action whose intensity matches what I saw from Don during my first visit to his gym.  The guy goes from reserved to an insane focus in about 5 seconds.

8. I have a long way to go in developing my ability to generate the intensity needed for a true maximum effort lift.  Compared to Aaron, it was like I wasn't even trying.

9. Most, if not all, of the guys placing in the top half of the contest lost blood on at least one lift.  All kept competing. 

10. Overall body strength really is the primary factor in developing great grip strength.  Almost without exception, rankings aligned with overall body strength.

11. Jeff recently hit a strict press PR of 255lbs.  Until seeing him in person, I didn't appreciate just how big pressing that type of weight makes your shoulders.  I need more overhead work!

12. Having finally seen double wraps and crush pads in action with double overhand bending, I don't like them.  I realize they are within the rules and the biggest benders are the biggest benders, but it is comparable to heavy gear in powerlifting.  I felt one double wrapped pad that was on the floor with no steel in it.  It was rock hard and seemed like a pipe to me.  I don't think anyone will approach the top benders without double wrapping and using crush pads.  The gear does develop great bending strength.  Aaron taking down Don's hard 80d double overhand is a testament to that.  It was J shaped and 1-2 inches off center.

13. At the contest I received a gripper similar to the Ivanko Super Gripper but with knurled handles.  It is awesome.  While I never liked the Ivanko Super Gripper and ultimately sold mine, I will train with this thing.

14. People have and will call Aaron a freak of strength based on his performances, but there is a lot more going on there than good genetics.  He had a special plastic bar for stretching out in the DO bending position, a machined gripper designed to allow for bending practice, extensions to let him work bolts at various lengths and kink them, crush pads, and who knows what else.  It is obvious to me that a large part of his success is because he really thinks about what he is doing.  If the equipment is any indication, I bet his training is also well thought out and executed.

15. The more time I spend around the top grip guys, the more convinced I am that hard work, consistency and focus are the real determinants of success with the weights.  Everyone there was running on a lot more than natural talent.

16. I appreciate where I live much more now.  Everyone in Three Rivers told me the great thing about Chicago is the food.  I love to eat and have always taken it for granted that I can go out to eat and have dozens of places to choose from.  That's not an option in small towns.

17. The rooms in the Three Rivers Super 8 aren't that nice and made my nose stuffy.  I'm going to try Bob's hotel next year.

18. Stew is pretty awesome at flipping the kettlebells.  Don has this old kettlebell with a long, tiny handle.  Stew was flipping it with no problems.  It seemed to stop everyone else.

19. The last two contests I was barely edged into last place by a 15 year old who lifts at Don's gym.  This year, he's 16, and just blew me away.  The progress Matt has made in the last year is very impressive.  By the time he's 18, he will be a monster.

20. Don's friends Keith and Michelle were really nice to us.  We had dinner with them Friday night, had met only once previously (which I forgot!), and they were 100% ready to go out of their way to help Rachel and I out.  It was refreshing to spend time with people like that.

21. Bob's son is on track to be a great bender.  He's already got the visualization and focus nailed.

22. Bob's wife really does a great job helping to keep the contest running smoothly.  Her score keeping and organization kept the competition moving.

23. I specialized on V-bar for the month before the contest, warming up and lifting 5 sub-max singles 4 times a week.  Outside of my v-bar PR, I think this played a significant role in toughening my skin and preventing any blood loss during the contest.

24. Don didn't like the double wraps on bending either.

25. I've spent the last few months doing mobility work, foam rolling, and stretching on a regular basis.  As a result, the hard hotel bed was much, much more comfortable than last year.

26. Attending these contests is great for me as a person.  Outside of being forced to step out of my introverted nature, it is very humbling to try my hardest and get beaten at just about everything.  I cannot think of a better motivator or reminder of how far I have to go.  My enthusiasm to train has been rekindled.

27. Jedd looks like a professional wrestler.  He made an excellent showing at the contest and was pushing Ryan until the very end. It really could have gone either way.

27. Dave has tremendous composure under pressure.  Unless he actually misses an attempt, it's impossible to tell how much he has left in the tank.  The weights just go up.

28. I watched Josh very closely on the events.  The whole contest he was doing things I'd never seen before.  The time he has spent perfecting the details shows.

29. Ben did an excellent job for someone who was "just bending double underhand" the past few months.  If not for the injured shoulder, I think he would have been in the running for first.

30. John Eaton has massive wrist strength. Watching him twist the 20lb sledge was unreal.

31. Brian and Tim worked as loaders for the entire contest.  They did a great job keeping things moving.

32. George judged the full contest.  He was unbiased and took the role seriously.  Giving his time and energy to keep things moving was generous.

33. Jeri took a number of pictures I can't wait to see.  Her enthusiasm is catching.

34. It's a treat to spend time with Don.  He's seen more in the iron game than I every will and is happy to share.  I am glad someone was able to bend one of his 80d's, that money was burning a hole in his pocket!

35. Steve should've placed higher than me in the bending.  Someone talked him into taking his 3rd attempt on a 5" grade 5 bolt.  He gave that bolt everything he had with some of the ugliest double overhand form I've ever seen.  That same effort probably would have destroyed a 6" grade 5.  A little form coaching and I bet he takes down a grade 8 or some 1/4" square

36. I need to talk Bill out of training for the next year, so I have a chance of catching up with him.  On the events I haven't practiced, it was obvious his raw strength is much greater than mine.

37. Each attempt in each event was tracked on a large poster, one poster per event.  There was also an overall score poster.  This made following the contest very easy and is something I would like to see again.  Hopefully if Bob doesn't have time to write up all the attempts, someone can post pictures of the posters.

38. Contesting both hands in v-bar takes a very long time.  I would not miss the event if next year's contest did not have it.

Grip Workout

I left work on time this evening and was feeling pretty good, so I went into the garage for some grip work.  I spent about an hour trying various spike bending approaches, finishing 2 12"x5/16" pieces of CRS in the process.  I also used a piece of 10" x 1/4" HRS to see if I could get the feel of sweeping a bar that is posted on the inner thigh and chest.  I think I get it now, but my efforts on a pre-kinked piece of the 12" x 5/16" CRS went nowhere.  I hope I was just too tired.

After that I played with my new toy, the Vice Gripper.  It is pretty sweet.  I had and sold an Ivanko Super Gripper, this thing is much, much better.  You won't learn all the tricks needed to do well on a torsion spring gripper, but you can definitely use it to develop a strong crushing grip.

Some light pinch work, then I went inside and reviewed my videos.  I have some ideas for next time and hope to hit the 12" x 5/16" CRS on video again on Saturday, using the new approach Jeff showed me at the contest.

Grip Contest Results

This past Saturday I went to Michigan to compete in the Michigan Grip Champs 5.  It was a great time and I will write up my lessons learned at a later point.  I want to capture my results and experience on the events here.  There were 14 lifters and the contest went down like this:

Warm Up - I did some light snatches with a dumbbell and bodyweight squats to get my temperature up.

Grippers - I hit the HG200 and HG250 in attempts 1 and 2.  Attempts 3 and 4 I failed on the #2 that stopped me last year.  I was actually closer than last year, which was unexpected.  I have not seriously trained grippers in at least a year.  I hit my expected performance on this lift.  I was tied with several others for second to last on this lift.

3/4" Thin Pinch - I hit 70lbs on my first attempt, bombed on 90 on my second attempt.  The next lowest lift at that point was 100 or 110, so I just passed on my last two attempts.  There was no sense in making everyone weight to change weights for me on a lift I hadn't even trained for.  My expectation that other pinch work would carry over to this lift was completely incorrect.  It was all about finger strength.  I took last on this lift.

V-bar - I hit a PR weight of 183lbs with each hand on my first attempt.  From there I failed on 203lbs, 193lbs, and 188lbs.  No complaints on a strong start, the jump to 203 was my attempt to hit a bodyweight v-bar lift.  No luck, but I still exceeded my expected performance on this lift.  I tied for last on this lift with one other.

One Handed Deadlift - I hit 135 easily on my first attempt, so I bumped the weight to 165 for attempt 2.  I got that, which was my expected weight.  I then went for 185, but missed it on my 3rd attempt.  Everyone else was well ahead of me by attempt 4, and I had met my goal, so I passed.  I took last on this lift.

Unbraced Bending - I opened with 6" x 1/4 Round FBBC, which tied my PR.  My 2nd attempt on a 6" Grade 5 bolt was a total failure, I didn't even kink it a little.  All that was left was shorter stock, so on attempt 3 I took down a 5.5" x 1/4 Round FBBC, setting an unexpected PR.  Attempt 4 I put a slight kink in a 5" piece of the same steel, but didn't have what it took to finish it.  I took third to last on this lift.

At the end, I was 14th place.  13th place was only 2 points ahead of me, but there really is no way I would have made up those 2 points.  Everyone in the contest was significantly stronger than me.  The only reason I came as close as I did to others is that I have specialized on grippers, bending, and v-bar.

However, I am pleased with my performance.  I showed up at the contest at 200lbs, which is about 45lbs lighter than I was last year.  Despite the drop in weight, I set unexpected PRs on two events, and tied my PRs on the other 3 events.  Doing that all in one day makes me very happy.  I did exactly what I set out to do, and even got an unexpected award (Vice Gripper!) for my efforts.

Visiting Don's gym is a treat, and the promoters put on an excellent contest.  I will be back for the next one.

Upper Conditioning

Running low on sleep this morning.  We had a push to Production at work last night, which had me busy until 10pm.  Try as I might, I could not fall asleep until 11.  Despite disabling my alarm and every intention to sleep as long as I wanted, I woke up at 5:40 in the morning.  I'm not one to fight to sleep, so I got up and got ready to train.  I did the following:

12k Kettlebell Warm Up
KB Snatches: 12/12 x 16k, 20k, 20k, 20k
One Arm KB Presses: 5/5x 12k, 16k; 4/4x20k; 3/3 x 20k, 20k
Renegade Rows: 5/5 x 16k, 20k, 20k
2 minutes Kettlebell Juggling + 5 Hanging Knee Raises
100ft. Walk with 20k KB Overhead + 5 Overhead Squats w/ Hollow Bar
8/8 One Arm Med Ball Toss and Catches + 5 Overhead Squats w/ Hollow Bar

That's it. I feel shaky and tired, always a good sign.  The kettlebell snatches were rough, my forearm pumps like crazy and then I have a hard time holding the kettlebell on the downswing.  I played around with a corkscrew style decent.  It makes dropping the kettlebell easier, but the return snatch harder.  On all the sets, I could've snatched at least once more, but I really didn't want to.

One arm presses with the 20k make it difficult to keep my right shoulder in a good groove.  I have no problems with the 16k, so I guess I just need to keep practicing with the 20k.  The renegade rows are a similar story.  I alternate hands each rep.  My focus is really on that transition between the reps and keep my shoulders in a good groove.  Great stabilization work.

The finishers at the end were tough, but I'm still working these out.  I cannot do my hip flexors any justice with the hanging work, since my shoulders are my weak point there.  Without warming up with squats earlier in the workout, the overhead squats are pretty rough.  I doubt they have any value like that.  This part of my workout will have to evolve with time.  I bet a sandbag or a sled would make a great solution for what I am doing at the end of the workouts.  I have very little money to spend on weight training right now, but a sled sounds tempting.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Lower Conditioning

We got home from the grip contest yesterday about 1pm.  I'll write that up later today.  The rest of Sunday was devoted to eating, getting groceries, and getting to bed.  I got to sleep by 9pm and woke up at 5:15am this morning.  It appears I acclimated to the eastern time zone rather quickly.  In any case, I used the internet and went for my workout.  I did:

12k Kettlebell Warm Up
Two Handed Swings: 15 x 20k, 28k, 28k, 28k, 28k
KB Squats: 5x BW, 16k, 24k, 16k's, 16k's, 16k's
TGU: 4x1/1x16k
20 Medicine Ball Tosses + 5 Overhead Squats w/ Hollow Bar
120ft. 16k's Rack Walk + 5 Overhead Squats w/ Hollow Bar
10/10 Alternating Lunges + 5 Overhead Squats w/ Hollow Bar
Walk around block to cool down

At the start of the workout I felt as though I was intentionally holding back.  That left me with just enough gas to finish.  I am starting to pay more attention to what may tweak my knees during the conditioning workouts.  They were hurting when I left Thursday, but felt pain free by the time I was home on Sunday.  I've got a few culprits in mind and am adjusting accordingly.  Number one on the list is jumping rope on the hard pavement, so I left that out this workout.


Quite honestly, even while doing the workout I was thinking about quitting and going back inside.  I am hoping this is simple burn out from the travel and hard work leading up to traveling.  July ends Tuesday, at which point I am going to be done with overtime at work.  I will also make a point to scale back on the internet for awhile, probably playing some video games during that time instead.  When my head starts to get goofy like this, it's usually a sign that I am letting myself get too involved in something.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Complex 101

With the grip contest in two days, this morning's workout was a chance to try something new and take it easy.  I had grand visions of doing barbell complexes with 95lbs.  What I actually did:

Barbell Complex: 5x45lbs, 5x65lbs, 5x85lbs, 5x85lbs
Romanian Deadlift
Hang Clean
Front Squat
Push Press

That was it.  I even had to rest a little between the sets on the last complex.  These are hard!  One tweak I made is to do all the reps for one exercise before moving on to the next.  Constantly changing positions on each rep was too hard on my wrists.  Never before has 85lbs felt so heavy.

I think these will be the corner stone of my Saturday workouts.  My conditioning cycle will conclude when I am doing the above complex for 5x5x95lbs at 189lbs body weight.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Upper Conditioning

Even though work had me gone from 8am to 8pm yesterday, I still managed to eat well and get to bed on time.  This morning, that attention to recovery paid off.  I felt strong and did:

12k Kettlebell Warm Up
KB Snatches: 12/12 x 16k, 20k, 20k; 8/8x24k
KB Press: 5/5 x 12k, 16k; 3/3x20k; 5/5x16k
Renegade Rows: 5/5 x 16k, 20k, 20k
Kettlebell Juggling 60 sec. + 60 Reps Jump Rope
Kettlebell Juggling 60 sec. + 10 Medicine Ball Toss and Catches
5 min walk to cool down

The snatches were very hard for me.  The last set I switched to the 24k, not because I was feeling strong, but because I couldn't stand the thought of another 12 rep set with the 20k.  Kettlebell presses are still a matter of staying in the proper groove for my shoulder.  I could force more reps or a heavier weight.  Same story with the renegade rows.

The kettlebell juggling and jump rope / medicine ball super sets are more conditioning work.  My workouts have begun to take a shape I think will work well.  The format will be:

Warm Up
High Rep Ballistics for my Strengths (Snatches or Swings)
Low Rep Grinds for my Weak Points (TGU's, Presses, Squats, Rows, Chins, Pistols, Push Ups)
Duration Based Conditioning Intervals (KB Juggling, Medicine ball, Jump Rope, Weighted Walks)
Grip Work or Walking Cool Down

The plan is to do this on MTuThF, with a barbell complex or free day workout on Saturday.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Short One

I was dragging this morning.  While I finished the weekend with a good recovery session and had a great workout on Saturday, I did not attend to the basics.  Friday night my sleep was poor to say the best.  The rest of the weekend I ate mostly junk food.  Since my goal is to not drop anymore weight before the contest, I seem to have used it as an excuse to eat whatever I want.  Ironically, I'd probably be doing better if I just treated the contest as another weekend free day.  Ah well.  This morning I did:

Farmers Walk with 16k Kettlebells (200ft)
12k Kettlebell Warm Up
Turkish Get Ups: 3/3x12k; 3x1/1x16k
Kettlebell Squats: 10xBW, 12k, 16k

That was where I cut it off.  Each set of the squats was a battle of will power.  I was standing in my gym with my 24k bell in my hands and just couldn't bring myself to squat down.  Rather than beat my head against the wall, I went inside.

On the positive, I did start the workout with Turkish Get Ups, which I think is a good place for them.  At first they were hard to start, but then I got into a groove.  Between those and the farmers walk, I did warm up quite well.  My drive was just missing.  Today I will focus on eating clean and make sure I am in bed on time.  Tomorrow's workout will be better.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Free Day

The original plan for today was to lift heavy.  Much to my surprise, after a week of conditioning work, my body wasn't prepared to lift heavy.  I improvised:

12k Kettlebell Warm Up
Kettlebell Sumo Deadlifts: 5x20k, 24k, 28k, 32k
Deadlifts: 3x135, 165, 185, 205, 225; Failx245, 225 (felt weak, so I stopped)
Cleans: 1x135, 135, 135, 135, 135
Chin: 1xBW, BW, BW
Braced Bending (6063 Aluminum): 12" x 1/2", Kink 11.5" x 1/2"
Kettlebell Snatch (form work): 5/5x20k, 20k, 20k; 3/3x28k; 4/4x28k

Overall it was a decent workout that really beat up my hands.  I stopped on the deadlifts when my form felt off with the heavier weights.  I just did not feel like pressing or squatting heavy, probably because I am bad at those exercises. 

The braced bending was fun, but really nothing new.  I did get video of both bars:

12" Full Bend - http://www.gripfaq.com/videos/20070721FullBracedBend.wmv
11.5" Kink - http://www.gripfaq.com/videos/20070721AttemptBracedBend.wmv

For some reason all my bends get stuck as seen in this picture, I made a post on the Gripboard asking for help:


I put a good bit of effort into improving my snatch form with the kettlebells.  Now that I better understand the idea of keeping my arms connected to my torso and using my hips to drive the weight up, I focused on keeping the arc of the kettlebell close to my body.  At first, with the 20k I couldn't do it at all.  By the 3rd set, I was doing ok and felt ready to try more weight.  Moving up to the 28k bell caused me to revert to my old form completely.  I just need to keep practicing.  I did get video of all the sets:


As I was doing my sets, I took the video, watched my form on the camera, then attempted to make corrections.  I think the approach is working.  My confidence with the heavier kettlebells is increasing a lot.  I do not fear putting the 28k bell overhead anymore, or more importantly, throwing it back down.  That makes a big difference.

After actually going through this workout, I think trying to lift heavy once a week while I am focused on conditioning is a mistake.  I cannot get better at everything at once.  I will try light barbell complexes on my next free day instead.  As I sit here today, my plan is to train for the grip contest up through next weekend, then to take the next 6 weeks focused on nothing but conditioning work.  I will ramp volume up as I drop my weight down to 189.  By the end of 6 weeks my resting heart rate will be in the mid-50's, and several more goals will be knocked off my list.

This takes me through to the September Chicago grip together.  At that point I will see how my grip strength is doing, and then make a firm decision on BBB3.  If I plan to attend, I may need to return my training to a strength focus for the month leading up to the contest.  If I choose not to, it is likely I will continue with the conditioning work until mid-November, then do a quick peaking cycle for Gripmas in December.  Gripmas is high on my priority list, since I would enjoy spending some more time with the OH guys and want to finally meet Mike in person.

From there, who knows.  I may have to retreat into the basement and wait for winter to pass.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Upper Conditioning

Work is cresting again and I hard a hard time falling or staying asleep last night.  At least I've taken some steps that should eliminate the overtime at the end of the month.  Regardless, I got up this morning and put in my time.  I did:

12k Kettlebell Warm Up
KB Snatches: 10/10x16k, 20k, 20k, 20k
Turkish Get Ups: 3/3x12k; 3x1/1x16k
Overhead Press: 6/6x16k, 16k, 16k
Bottoms Up Overhead Press: 5/5x16k, 16k, 16k
V-bar (between sets): 1/1x90, 115, 140, 140, 140, 140, 140, 160, 135
Braced Bend: Isos in various positions

This time I decided to do the most demanding work first.  I also pushed the snatches.  By the time I got to my presses, I was tired.  At that point my v-bar was tempting me away from the conditioning workout.  With the grip contest next Saturday, I let it.  How often do I actually WANT to do v-bar?  Sets across on the presses and lots of v-bar finished the workout, along with a little braced bending.

Tomorrow is going to be my free day.  I have planned lots of sets of triples in the deadlift, clean, pushpress, and front squat.  After all this high rep work, it will be fun.  I think a heavy workout once a week will keep my strength up as I work on my conditioning.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Lower Conditioning

These conditioning workouts are exactly what my body needs.  I cannot believe how hard they are for me.  40 minutes with plenty of rest breaks, and I am exhausted.  I did:

Swings and Squats Super Sets
One Arm Swings: 10/10x12k, 16k, 20k
Two Arms Swings: 15x28k, 28k
Goblet Squats: 10xBW, 12k, 16k, 20k; 5x28k, 28k

Jump Rope and Overhead Squats Super Sets:
Jump Rope: 60x, 60x, 60x
Overhead Squats: 10xTube, 10xTube, 10xTube

That's it.  Written out it looks like next to nothing.  Done it feels like a truck ran me over.  My endurance is terrible.  At least getting better will be easy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Upper Conditioning

My sleep last night was just excellent.  There is a project at work that has been ongoing for several months without a clear definition of what is to be done.  My wife and I are heavily involved in the project, responsible for hitting deliverables, but not in control of scheduling or planning for the project.  Yesterday that changed.  

My wife and I are now responsible for defining what is left to be done, then planning the deliverable dates and timeliness with the rest of the team.  I'll also be doing much more of the actual work coordinating our development staff and deploying aspects of the system on the project.  I will have to work hard, but when it is at something I am good at and confident in, the effort is low stress.  There is no thinking and rethinking what is going on, I just have to act.  With my performance review in 6 weeks, this is the perfect position to be in.

With that said, I had a good workout this morning.  I weighed in under 200 again, so it was not a fluke.  I did the following:

12k Kettlebell Warm Up
KB Snatches: 8/8x12k, 16k, 20k, 20k, 20k
KB Presses: 8/8x12k; 5/5x16k, 16k, 16k
Renegade Rows: 5/5x16k, 16k, 16k
Bottoms Up Presses: 5/5x16k, 16k, 16k
V-bar: 1/1x90, 110, 135, 135, 135, 135, 135, 140
Overhead Kettlebell Walk: 2x125ft/125ftx16k
Braced Bending: 12" x 5/16" CRS (PR)

Rest between sets was short.  I kept my breathing heavy the entire workout.  Snatches felt good, the movement is becoming easier every workout.  I am still working on the presses to keep my shoulder in a strong position.  The bottoms up presses are actually easier for me.  Renegade rows were tough since I was gassed.  V-bar is tough on my shoulders.  I will stop training it soon, either once the contest passes next weekend, or once I get my bodyweight V-bar goal.  I am only 25lbs off of it, which is not much on this lift.

I am very pleased with the braced bending.  Now that I know where to put the bar in my hands, I was able to transition into the sweep much earlier in the bend.  This was still hard, but I got it done.  I need to work on staying with the bar once it starts moving.  I have a tendency to get an inch, and then back off in my excitement.  I even got the crush between the legs to work for part of this.  The path to a real spike seems open now.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Lower Conditiong

Today is the start of a new approach to my training.  I was going to wait until after the grip contest, but I think the past weekend was an appropriate peak.  In addition to hitting several strength based goals on Friday evening, Sunday morning I weight in just under 200lbs.  I'm going to call it an even 200.  That's a good breaking point.  It is time for me to give the heavy weights a rest and focus on a higher rep conditioning based program.

For now, I will stick with the upper/lower split that has me resting on Wednesdays and Sundays.  I will not include cardio, since I made it clear over the past two weeks that I can drop weight without it.  I will continue to keep my diet tight, as most of my goals are now dependent upon me being light enough for my strength levels.

This morning I did:

2 Hand Swings: 10x12k, 16k, 20k, 24k, 28k, 32k
Squats: 10xBW, BW, 12k; 5x16k;
Assisted Pistols: 5/5, 3/3
Jump Rope: 3x60 seconds (between sets)
Turkish Get Ups: 1/1x16k

It doesn't look like much written out, but my rest times were relatively short.  The jump rope takes a lot out of me right now.  My legs were wobbly on the way to work.  Moving forward I will get much better at this approach and do significantly more volume.  Compared to raw strength work, I this type of training comes much more easily to me.  I'd like to get to a point where I don't get winded taking stairs two at a time or walking really fast while talking.  Running a mile pretty quick at some point would be nice too, but I don't want to run a ton.  While I enjoy the feeling of a long run, I don't want the strength levels of an endurance athlete.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Chicago Grip Association July Meet Up

We had the July meet up of the Chicago Grip Association yesterday.  The weather was perfect, and a great group of guys showed up.  Paul, Rick, and Neil were able to make it out.  We gripped from 1pm to past 5:30.  It was awesome.  They day went like this for me:

2" V-bar: Singles up to 125lbs
1" V-bar: Singles up to 166lbs lefty (PR), 176lbs righty (PR)
Rolling Thunder: Singles up to 90lbs, fail on some heavier weights
Unbraced Bending: Easy Timber Tie, Hard 60d Double Overhand (probably a PR bend for me, this was intense)
Braced Bending: Finish 10"x5/16" HRS, Finish 12"x5/16" CRS, 14"x5/16" CRS
Softball Lift: Singles up through 70lbs

It doesn't sound like much, but I was trashed by the end of the day.  Probably all the standing

Neil talked me into working up to a v-bar max and PR.  He has skin like leather and with 2 sessions on the v-bar has blasted though to a PR of 251.  I, on the other hand, have been hitting the event 4 times a week for the past month, and am still reaching to hit 200.  The weights I hit yesterday did beat my old PR on the bar by 20lbs lefty, 30lbs righty.  I pulled 165 at Michigan last summer, but that was on a different bar under contest conditions.

The bending was max intensity for me.  Thanks to Rick, I think I finally understand how to place my hands to transition a longer bar from the kink to the crush.  He was pushing through some serious swelling between his knuckles from the braced bending.  By pointing out the area in his hand, he was able to show me exactly where I should be placing the bar in my anchor hand.  Between that and watching how he gets position for the sweep, something clicked.  I was able to finish two bars that have had me stumped for awhile.

The 60d is probaby the hardest short bend I've ever done.  It was a nail Paul brought over and had an extremely hard crush down.  Paul and Rick coached me through the Double Overhand form, including Paul wrapping the nail for me in his wraps.  This was near the end of the day.  It made a big difference, because at the start of the day I failed on the same nail reverse style with my wraps.  Proper DO is much harder on the pointer fingers than I'd thought.

The other events were fun to do, but I tanked out on them pretty quickly.  There is definitely room for improvement.  Paul has a frame and hands that are my size, is walking around significantly lighter than me, and blew me away on every lift.  He's obviously been working when I've been slacking.  If I am ever going to keep pace with him, I have work hard and stay on task.

Overall it was a great time.  I am seriously looking forward to doing this again.  My grip training is doing very well, and I think it is the result of knowing that in a month's time I will be accountable to show progress to these guys.  Accountability is a great motivator for me, and the hard work pays off.

We were able to get a number of videos this time.  I got a 2gig memory card and tripod for my wife's camera.  It makes filming lifts and certs easy.  The only hard part is making time to convert all the videos.  I need to figure out a more efficient approach, but I did get through the ones we took last night.  I believe Neil and Paul both did lifts that will move them up on the FBBC v-bar list.  Rick did 8 different cert bends for FBBC.  Doing one of them on a day would be impressive, hitting 8, that's just sick.  Here are the videos:





Friday, July 13, 2007

Rest is Good

After the false start this morning, I made a point to eat extra food all day.  When it was time to come home and lift, I simply left the work behind.  It has interfered with my life enough this week.  Once home, I felt good enough to make today a test day.  I did the following:

Walk Home from Work
Cleans: 3x95, 1x115, 1x135, 1x155 (ties PR, hits goal for 3/4 BW Clean)
Chin: 1 rep (hits goal for BW Chin)
Front Squats: 2x95, 1x115, 1x135 (ties PR), 1x155 (PR, hits goal for 3/4 BW Front Squat)
Turkish Get Ups: 3x5/5x12k (hits goal for 3x5/5x12k TGU's)

I got all the goals on video, as well as a number of the other lifts.  Items of note:

1. Even though I know I pull my cleans with my arms, I obviously don't know how to stop from doing it.
2. My pressing is weak compared to my pulling, as seen with the failed push press after the clean
3. Flexing my abs helps me finish a chin up
4. I compensate for my weakness in my front squats with strength from my posterior chain.  I don't know what is weak, but something definitely is.
5. Turkish Get Ups seem to hit that weak spot
6. 5/5 reps on turkish get ups results in two and a half to three minute sets.  They are not fun.
7. 3 sets of 5/5 turkish get ups make for an incredible boring video and a lame goal.  I'll finish what I started and hit the other two goals on my list for the TGU's, but after that, I'm sticking to one set of 3/3.

Enough of that, here's the videos.  Anyone watching the full turkish get up video has more patience than me:

Power Clean Warm Up
Power Clean PR
Chin Up
Front Squat Warm Up
Front Squat PR
Turkish Get Ups

I will make a point to stretch and sleep a lot this weekend.  If I play my cards right, I should be able to reap the benefits of three more heavy upper and lower workouts before the grip contest.

False Start

Last night I got plenty of sleep, but this morning I just wasn't feeling it.  I woke up early, went into the garage, and started to warm up.  I did:

12k Kettlebell Warm Up
16k Snatches: 5/5, 8/8
Goblet Squats: 5x BW, 16k

At this point my hips felt creaky, I was negotiating an alternate workout with myself that would let me skip my upper workout tomorrow, and I was dreading the heavier weights.  Rather than beat my head against the wall, I went inside.

I weighed in at 201, so I think part of my problem may be insufficient food for the workload I put in earlier this week.  I am going to eat a little extra through the course of the day today.  My hope is I will feel up to coming home and testing at some of my goals.  I have 1/2lb plates and can load my bar to 151.  If I can knock out my 3/4 body weight clean and front squat goals, that would be sweet.  Maybe the chin as well.  We'll see how the day goes.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Extra Rest

Yesterday was a rough one.  The project for work had me up until 1:30am Tuesday night, then I still woke up at my normal 6am on Wednesday morning.  I couldn't fall back asleep, I was sore from lifting, and I had to be at work early for a client demo anyway, so I decided to run on 4.5 hours of sleep.  By the time 5pm rolled around, I was goofy from sleep deprivation.  I went home, ate dinner, took a hot bath, and crashed by 8pm.

This morning, after 10 hours of sleep last night, I am feeling much better.  I need to write Wednesday off as a lost day.  I am going to push my lower workout back a day, using today as my mid-week rest.  I've already stretched, and I will likely do so again tonight.  My plan is to leave work on time today, eat a good dinner, and go for a walk with my wife.  Friday morning I'll hit the lower workout, then Saturday it's an upper workout and my grip together.

Bodyweight hit 202 this morning.  I am very close to my target for the grip contest.  It is likely that next Saturday I wlll be testing strength goals from my list at 200lbs.  Following that, I'll use the last week of July to finish my contest prep.  Then it's time for a change of routine.  I am the strongest I have ever been, the weights are beating me up, and I am becoming impatient with my stalled progress on the goals list.  Rather than fall off my peak, I will climb down and attack the goals from another angle.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Oh Snap!

Due to construction at the office, I ended up working from home today.  Halfway through what I needed to get done for the day, I broke for my workout.  I did the following:

12k Kettlebell Warm Up
Kettlebell Snatches: 5/5x 12k, 16k, 20k, 24k, 24k, 24k, 24k; 3/3x28k
Overhead Press: 5x45, 65, 85, 95; 3x95, 95, 95, 95
V-bar (between sets): 1/1x90, 100, 110, 120, 130; 5x1/1x135
Renegade Rows: 5/5x16k, 20k, 20k, 20k, 20k
Overhead Box Squats: 5xHollow Tube, 5xEmpty Bar

Hip snap works!  By the 4th set with the 24k, I felt as though more of a challenge was in order.  Upping the weight to 28k reveals my supporting structures in the upper body are lacking, but getting the weight up was no problem.  Between throwing the weight down and snapping my hips, I finally understand where the RKC snatch test numbers come from.  If someone is doing the hip snap properly, the numbers aren't that big of a deal.

With the overhead presses I am just trying to add volume.  Next time I'll go up to sets of 4 reps with 95lbs.  Pressing is definitely my weak point. 

V-bar was strong today.  My v-bar has finally started holding chalk and I've finally got 3 45s on the bar.  I am being careful to avoid skin tears, but happy to see this going up.

I was exhausted by the time I hit the Renegade Rows, but did them anyway.  The garage was extremely hot and I barely got through the sets.  The overhead squats were a nice diversion, I definitely have a ways to go before I can hit my goal of 3x5xEmpty Bar.

Time for dinner and then back to work.  If last night is anything to go by, I will have no problems staying awake to finish.  Between the workout and caffeine yesterday, I couldn't fall asleep until midnight.  At least I got a full session of stretching and soft tissue work in.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Feeling Strong

This morning I rolled out of bed on time and walked into the gym as scheduled, but I just couldn't do it.  I had a hard time falling asleep last night due to anxiety over the upcoming work week.  There is a problem at work that was rolling around in my head and just wouldn't let me relax.

Rather than push myself when I didn't feel ready, I went into work and got started on my overtime early instead of lifting.  Channeling the remaining anxiety into my work was enough to make a big difference.  By the end of the day I'd resolved most of my outstanding issues and a solution to my biggest problem at work was clear.  Now it's a matter of acting on it, but with a plan, that's the easy part.

About 4pm I caffinated myself up in preparation for a lower workout when I got home.  By 6:45 I was in the gym and wired to go.  Between the thunderstorm, my insight over the issue at work, and the caffeine, I felt unstoppable.  I did the following:

Kettlebell Squats: 5xBW, 12k, 16k, 24k, 16k's, 20k's, 20k's, 20k's, 16k's
Romanian Deadlifts: 5x95, 135, 185, 205, 205, 205, 185
V-bar (between sets): 1/1x90, 100, 115 (stopped here, too humid, not worth a skin tear)
Turkish Get Ups: 2x3/3x12k
Bending: Easy Timber Tie, FailxGrade 5 Bolt, Failx7" x 1/4 hex, 2x7" x 1/4 round
Titan's Telegraph: Worked up to sets of 5 with 25lbs two handed
Grippers: some sets of 3 with the #1 and BBSA

That's it.  I felt like I could do more on the squats and deads, but opted to leave some in the tank for next time.  V-bar had no hope of happening today.  It was 100% humidity with the rain.  My t-shirt was soaked by the time I got inside.  Bending is doing ok, I'm not feeling confident on the Grade 5 bolt at Michigan.  Today was the first time I tried one.  No kink at all.

The remainder of this week I will follow this schedule.  I need to learn how to relax fully when lifting hard this close to bed, but I think I can get the same amount of work done in fewer hours this way.  My body is prepared to push hard physically at 7am, so blowing through my work is easy.  It also seems mental exhaustion when I get home does not preclude a good workout.  Not only that, since I wasn't physically exhausted when eating breakfast and making my lunch, I ended up with better food choices through the whole course of the day.

Regarding exercise progression, I do not plan to go heavier than the 20k's on my kettlebell squats or 205 on the Romanian deadlifts for some time.  At a minimum, I'm going to wait until I hit a bodyweight of 189, which is my next big milestone weight after 200.  I'm also going to define some criteria around the turkish getups and overhead pressing that will be met first.   I need to improve the stability and strength in my shoulders before holding even more weight during my lower workouts.

Overall, I am happy with the end result of today.  Time to stretch and then it's off to bed.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Weekend Refresher

I have a full week ahead, so today was scheduled as a chance to catch up on loose ends, enjoy the time off, and prepare for the week ahead.  This morning at 6:30 my wife and I left the house in a cab to go to a waterfall 5 miles away.  Our goal was to see the waterfall and walk home through the forest preserve.  What I'd anticipated to be a 2 hour 4 mile walk turned out to be a 4 hour 7 mile walk, complete with a trip to the gas station at mile 5 to get more water.  I returned home hot and tired.  The forest preserve is beautiful, but I've had enough of being outside to last me for the next week.

That's a good thing, because it looks like I will be doing heavy overtime next week.  I'm anticipating a 55-60 hour week.  All I will have time to do is work, eat, sleep, and train.  The bright side is I managed to keep the past two weeks down to normal hours, and I do get paid for the extra time this week.  It does mean, however, that today is the last free time I will have until next Sunday.

I've used it well.  After the walk, I finally got part of gripfaq.com to compile in C#, though it is not yet ready to go live.  I finally weighed in at 203.  I took a nap.  I washed my laundry.  I made time to read, pay bills, and review my budget.  The budget was frustrating.

It turns out I've been spending more than planned since moving in.  While I'm still living below my means (thanks to the overtime), it's not by the amount I had planned.  Some of the expenditures were related to moving in and are acceptable.  However, my credit card also shows $100 a week on my gym, and another $75 a week on eating out.  That is excessive and has to stop.

I'm going to back off by instituting a limit on the eating out and gym spending.  Outside of the Michigan trip, gym spending for this month is frozen.  Eating out will be reduced to a max of twice a week.  From 8/1 on, I'll budget $100 a pay period and 1/2 of any net overtime pay to eating out and lifting expenditures.  I will pay this house off in 7 years, and I need to save aggressively to do it.

Time to cook, hang laundry, stretch, eat dinner, and get to bed on time.  I have a great workout to look forward to tomorrow.  Three weeks until Michigan.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Session with RKC

Today was my session with RKC Dave Kallas.  He showed up about 9am and we spent an hour going through various drills.  This is what I picked up:

1. My strength endurance sucks.  I was sweating bullets and exhausted 40 minutes into the session.  I normally stay with reps of 5 or less per set.  I normally rest a minute or two between sets.  Both of these showed when doing higher reps and more sets in order to practice form tweaks.

2. I'm not using hip snap as the primary force to move the kettlebell.  Most of my power is coming from my legs and back.  While not necessarily wrong, it is probably limiting my endurance and possibly limiting my max strength.

3. I can improve the ability to use my hips by keeping my legs straighter and focusing on bending down and sticking my hips behind me.  A good way to practice this is by doing a dead clean with the kettlebell positioned just behind my feet.

4. When driving with the hips, my arm should not leave my torso until I really pop at the top of the movement.

5. When coming back down, I should be driving the kettlebell down, not just dropping it.

6. If I put change in my pocket, I should be able to hear the hip snap.

7.  When doing a snatch, I typically swing the kettlebell waaay out in front of me, then pull it in.  The more efficient way to do it is to keep the kettlebell close to my body as I bring it up.  A good way to practice this is to hang a towel from my rack and gradually move closer to it.  I can also do dead snatches with the kettlebell just behind my feet.

I think that's about it.  By the end of the hour, I was gassed.  Interestingly, a muscle on the right side of my butt was tight that normally is not.  I assume it is from practicing the hip snap.  I wonder if that could be related to the issue I have with imbalanced external rotation on my hips.  My bad shoulder was beat up, I think it's a combination of catching the cleans and the spike bending I tried last night.

I'm definitely going to keep practicing to learn the hip snap.  I'm also going to try to learn to tame the arc of the cleans and snatches with the dead snatch and clean work.  I am not sure that I will change the way I actually do the exercises during my training, that decision will come once I learn the movements properly.  I did have one dead snatch where I pulled the kettlebell so hard it almost got away from me.  On the other hand, my shoulder feels pretty beat up right now, and it usually feels great after the kettlebell work.

That's about it.  I ended up forgoing any significant grip work or additional upper body work today.  I was just too tired.  Yesterday I did put some energy into trying to bend a spike, but got stuck at 45 degrees.  I stretched and foam rollered both last night and this morning.  I'll probably try to stretch later tonight as well.  My wife and I have a 4-5 mile walk planned, so I'll need to loosen up after.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Bed Sounds Good

Yesterday was a day of rest for me.  After the grip workout, I spent the rest of the day lounging around, stretching and resting.  I went to bed on time and woke up today ready to go.  I did the following:

Kettlebell Squats: 5xBW, 16k, 24k, 16k's, 20k's, 20k's, 16k's
Romanian Deadlifts: 5x45, 95, 135, 185, 205, 205, 185
Walking Lunges (dumbbell overhead): 5/5xBW, 12lbs, 12lbs, 15lbs, 15lbs
V-bar (between sets) 1/1x90, 100, 110; 5x1/1x125; 1/1x135

After all that, I'm tired.  If I could do anything I wanted right now, I'd go back to bed for a few hours.  This was a significant increase in workload.  Now comes the hard part, resting enough to adapt.  At least I sit at a desk all day.

I am not sure what will  happen with tomorrow's workout.  I've got my session with the RKC on Saturday morning, so I don't want a repeat of the hand issue I had on Wednesday morning.  I may either skip snatches or just push my upper workout to Saturday.  Nothing is going on then, so I could spend a lot of time in the garage.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Morning Wake Up

Normally Wednesday is a rest day for me, but with nothing planned for the day, I figured it was a good morning for kettlebell juggling and grip work.  I did the following:

Kettlebell Juggling with 16k
Rack walks to my juggling spot, about 500ft
Two Handed Swings
Two Handed Catch and Release
Two Handed Flips
Bodyweight Squats
Figure 8's
Under the Leg
Around the Body
One Handed Swings
One Handed Catch and Release
One Handed Flips

I had to stop with the one handed flips.  I tried catching a flip lefty that  had some lateral rotation on it.  My thumb and pointer finger were jerked pretty hard, making holding the kettlebell with my left hand painful.  I think it is actually cumulative stress from the snatches yesterday resulting in most of the pain, but I decided that was the time to end it.  Then I walked the kettlebell home and did grip:

Grip Work
Grippers: Reps through the BBSA, Singles and Holds with the BBM
Unbraced Double Underhand Bending: 2xEasy Timber Ties, 1xHard Timber Ties;
Unbraced Reverse Bending: 2xHard Timber Ties
Titan's Telegraph: Two handed reps 5 or higher up through sets with 25lbs
Braced Bending: Failx15" x 3/8 CRS, 20" x 3/8" CRS, 45 degree kink in 18" x 3/8" CRS

Grippers were weak, which is to be expected.  For the purposes of the contest, it doesn't really matter.  There is an HG250 that I can dominate.  The next gripper up is a beastly #2 I have no shot at.  I just want to make sure I don't fail on the HG250.

The unbraced bending went better than expected.  My double underhand is much stronger than I thought, I assume as a result of the braced bending I've been trying to do.  The reverse bends were to finish off the timber ties I'd grabbed.  Hard, but not too bad.

I finally have the garage setup so I can work the Titan's Telegraph hard.  Turns out the garbage can makes a great platform for it.  My thumbs got some much needed work.

I gave the braced bending another shot with longer steel.  I need to practice succeeding at it instead of continually failing on pieces that are just out of my reach.  Unfortunately, the CRS I got from McMaster is much tougher than the steel I'd previously purchased from a hardware store.  The hardware store stuff must have been HRS, because the CRS is extremely springy.  I need to get some 5/16" to be able to practice the braced bending at the lengths I want.

That's it.  I will to do some hand health and stretching later today.  Plenty of time.  Now for breakfast.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Goblet Squats

Dan John has a video floating around the internet that teaches the value of goblet squats in learning the bottom position of the squat.  Squatting is something I've struggled with for years, so I took the message to heart.  For the past 6 months, I've been doing goblet squats as a regular part of my lower workout, typically twice a week.  One of my goals was to comfortably do them with my 32k kettlebell.  I have finally reached that point:


Have they helped?  Definitely.  I comfortably hit 165 a few days ago.  It doesn't sound like much, but it was a huge victory for me.  Here's me struggling with 95lbs about a year ago (note the depth):


I even had problems with the empty bar:


Progress is good.

This is Working

I woke up this morning at 5:30, well rested.  Last night I got home about 6:15, stretched, and was in bed by 9:30.  Feeling pretty good this morning, I did the following:

12k Kettlebell Warm Up
KB Snatches: 5/5x16k, 20k, 24k, 24k, 24k; 8/8x20k
Overhead Press: 5x45, 65, 85, 95; 3x3x95
V-bar (between sets): 1/1x90, 100, 110; 5x1/1x125
Renegade Rows: 5/5x16k, 20k, 20k; 8/8x20k
Turkish Get Ups: 3x1/1x16k; 1/1x12k Bottoms Up

Snatches were feeling strong, added a set with the 24k.  Did more work on overhead presses with the heavier weight, focused on squeezing it up.  V-bar was feeling weak at first, then I realized I'd been wrapping my palm under my finger tips to pull the skin tight.  I went back to doing it, it helps. 

By renegade rows I felt like quitting.  I did the TGU's because I know I need to.  I also saw a video of someone doing a bottoms up TGU with the 16k, and I wasn't that impressed.  I thought I'd try it with the 12k.  I am now much more impressed.

That's it.  Back to doing the big things exceptionally well (breakfast!).  I am liking this approach.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Garage Gym V2.0

Yesterday I had the great fortune of shopping at Farm and Fleet.  I got my second stall matt, some easy 12 and 10 inch spikes, a couple horse shoes, and a thing to properly reel up the hose.  Then I spent part of the day re-organizing the garage.  I moved a lot of things to the basement, including a shelf of stuff, the powerblocks, and my wife's hyperextension.

The garage gym is much nicer now.  Far more space and two stations for heavy weights.  This means my v-bar can stay setup on a matt.  I made it to the mirror store on Saturday.  Installing a 4'x6' mirror is going to be $300.  Given that I can already video tape myself, I am not going to do it.  No mirror for me.

All this coupled with the FBBC order earlier in the week means it is time to update my wishlist.  I will be out of things to buy for the gym very soon.  There go all my excuses!


I went into this workout with one goal, to lift heavier weights.  Then I did it:

Kettlebell Squats: 5xBW, 12k, 16k, 24k, 16k's, 20k's (PR), 16k's
Romanian Deadlifts: 5x45, 95, 135, 185, 205 (PR), 185
Lunges: 8/8xBW, 2x5/5x12k (rack position);
Overhead Lunges: 2x5/5x8lbs (one arm overhead)
V-bar (between sets): 1/1x90, 100, 110, 120, 120, 120, 120, 120

Short and sweet.  I just finished Strossen's Winning Ways and one of the big themes is focus on the right things.  He tells the story of two guys.  The first guys does all the little things right, and makes ok progress.  The second guy doesn't even know about the little things, but he does the big things exceptionally well.  He makes exceptional progress.

This is basically the 80/20 rule, one which I apply with much success to my career.  I view a career as a necessary evil.  As a result, I try to get the most I can out of it with limited effort.  I do very well.  Ironically, with the weights, I am the exact opposite.  I try to put everything I can into continuous learning and doing things right, because I really want to succeed.  I do not do nearly as well.

So, I figure I'm going to start working the weights like I do my career.  My next big increase in strength is going to be here when I'm doing 5x5x20k's in the kettlebell squats and 5x5x205 in the Romanian deadlifts.  That is what I'm focused on in the lower workouts, trying to get it done this month.  Until I'm doing that all my "continuing education" time with the weights is going to be centered on eating right and recovering.  Here's to success.