Getting the press back up

I’ve recently found a great and simple way to build up my press. However simple it may sound, it’s been very effective for me and I recently managed to hit 4 solid reps at 95kg/210lbs.

While the number one fix to all pressing movements is simply to gain weight, that’s not practical for most people. Either because they’re happy with their weight or because they’d rather stay somewhat in shape than add bodyweight.

Background:

I’ve always enjoyed overhead pressing more than benchpressing and my press is pretty decent (at least compared to my miserable bench press). It’s also been a priority of mine for several years to get the press up.

Realizing my benchpress was shit I decided to give a little more attention after the danish powerlifting championships this year. What I discovered has changed my entire training philosophy.

The fix that unstuck my stubborn press:

I currently train a pressing movement three times each week. Whereas before I’d probably overhead press twice or alternate the movements, I’m now benchpressing twice a week and overhead pressing once.

What I’ve found is that benchpress variations effectively build upper body pressing strength (duh) which has a good carry-over to the press. The press itself obviously has great carry-over to the press, however it’s such a stubborn lift to build, that building overall pressing strength has a better return on time invested (for me at least).

I’ve also changed the way I look at progression entirely. I don’t use any kind of set progression and I’ll often do the exact same workout for several weeks in a row. More weight is not the only kind of progression. Increase quality and speed of reps is even more important.

Finally I’m doing way more reps per set than what I used to do and keeping it way easier. It doesn’t mean I half-ass my training, as I still put maximum force into each and every rep. However I’ll usually finish a set with a good couple of reps in the tank.

Three quick tips:

  1. A ratio of 2:1 benchpress to press ratio seems to be the sweet spot for me. For support I’ll do inclines and shoulder presses with dumbbells and dips. This builds both presses.
  2. Don’t just pile the weights on mindlessly. A GREAT set of 5 reps is better than a sloppy set of 7 at the same weight. At least for long-term strength building.
  3. For both presses (bench and standing) I like to keep the vast majority of my work in the 5-8 rep range at 70-80% intensity. More reps also have the added benefit of making you more swollerestest. Yay.

Get that press up!!

Back on the platform

After a disastrous Danish Championship in 2012 I had to rethink quite a few thinks. I changed my approach to training and powerlifting in particular. Yesterday I did my first three lift meet since then. Here’s how it went down:

I slept like shit. Woke up several times feeling nauseous. Almost threw up at breakfast, but couldn’t mange to get anything in me. I managed to get in a nap before heading out to the venue. By the time I got there, I’d already take four dumps this morning and hadn’t really managed to get any food in me. A bit of oatmeal and an apple. Fuck that. I’m gonna lift anyways. I’d taken my precautions and packed babywipes and spare underwear – just in case.

Weighed in at a feather light 97,85kg and stuck to my planned openers – 170/120/210. All lifts I’d doubled or more in training. Conservative numbers.

Warming up I was very relaxed. Not really in the zone or anything. Wasn’t feeling it. Missed the first lift on depth and got PISSED. First time I’ve ever had a squat red-lighted and on an opener? Fuck that!

Killed 170 on second attempt and got 180 in the third. Not impressive considering my best is 197,5, but it was what I had in me.

Bench is always a weird one as you can’t really get super pissed at the weight and power it up. The lift that requires the least aggression for me. Opened with a solid 120, followed up with another solid lift and almost went for 132.5 in the third, but stuck to the plan. Perfect weight for me as I juuuust managed to get it up. Yay. Time for pulls!

As usual, pretty much any deadlift over 150 feels heavy and at the end of a meet you’re always gonna be a bit worn down.

Absolutely crushed my opener, went for 230 and got it convincingly. Solid and in good form. Went to 245 – a weight I’d missed about a year ago and had had my eye on since. I went totally apeshit.

The lift was a true last deadlift and it wasn’t pretty. I got it though and held it for a good bit at the top. Top end strength and grip is never an issue.

Total: 555 @97,85 which puts me pretty much at the same wilks score as my last meet. A nice place to build from. I think I took 7th place.

Returning to the platform was good fun and I managed to rub elbows with so many good guys. It’s also good to know that I can still get up on the platform and perform maximally, even on a shitty day.

In short: Except for the missed squat, all my lifts were planned ahead of the meet. I hit all the numbers I wanted. Happy with how it went down.

Also our host ER Equipment did a terrific job as did all the officials present. All those guys helped set the scene for a very smooth and well run meet.

Three weeks out

After realizing it’d probably be a good idea to prepare a bit for my upcoming meet, this past week has been dedicated to the three powerlifts. My current structure looks like this:

Day 1: work up to three heavy singles then do backoff. All three lifts. A bit of rows and pullups for support.

Day 2: 5-10 sets of 1-3 reps – this is a light day. Focus on speed.

Day 3: 10 singles. This is a medium day

So all in all what I’m doing is getting in a ton of quality work to work on the setup and moving the bar with good speed. Unlike what I usually do, I’ll be having my last heavy session Monday before lifting on Sunday – I’m pressed for time because I’ve been caught up doing other things.

foto(6)

This week I’ll most likely only train twice as I’m going to the TFW instructors cert 2 at the weekend. I’ll cut out the lightest day and might even go a bit heavier than “medium” on the “medium” day. Since I coach myself (I know, it’s idiotic, but I enjoy playing with my program) I have the option of adjusting on the go.

Weight has stabilized now and I’m focused on maintaining. Great.

One final thing – I’m sorry I don’t update as frequently right now, but I’m at the finishing stage of my Master’s thesis and trying to focus on that as much as possible. I promise I’ll post more regularly in just a couple of weeks.

Have a great week people.

 

Wendler 531 Cycle three week two wrap-up

It’s on now. This week is the last hard push towards TSK Cup.

Press: 5 reps at 82,5kg – this is good. Really happy.Followed up with benchpress and figure-8 benches. Did batwings and chins for support.

Closed level 4 pushups and pullups which means I get to do full pushups and pullups now. Yay. Also got 4 sets of uneven hangs as well as some crow stands and extra ab stuff. A very good training day.

Cardio: 686kcals burned in an hour doing light sprints and BW exercises. Managed a 5 s hang in the diagonal split clutch hold and put in some very asexual work on pullups, pushups and squats. All in all a good little session, though it’s a bit annoying that it wasn’t dark outside at 7am. I prefer doing my morning sessions in pitch black darkness.

Squat: Horrible horrible workout. Got 3@155 and then went on to fail at 170 lol. Oh well, rather have an embarrassing fail at the gym than on the platform. Support included 12x120kg RDL, some PSQ, GHR and abs. Went home to get a nap and some (alot of) food. I’m pissed now.

And that workout right there made me do something I should’ve done at least 5-7 weeks out – end this cycle.

However, I was having a ton of fun so I stuck with it and figured I’d see how I felt on meet day. Now I’ve got less than three weeks to fix this trainwreck. Shit just got interesting. 🙂

Wendler 531 Cycle three week one wrap-up

Deload done. My deloads need to be shorter – had ~10 days which is way too much.

Press: 6@77,5kg – this is bad. Bench was fine, though I managed to fail a rep in the pinky grip figure-8. Roll of shame. Duh.

Did backwork as a triset batwings->chins->BOR which was ok. As soon as I get my lower back 100% I need to do some heavy backwork instead of all this dicking around though.

Managed to close the level 3 progression from CC on pullups and pushups, as well as level 2 on squats. Still on level 1 for HSPU (headstands) and level 2 for bridges. This is fine though as the book actually suggest you wait with these two. Headstands are tough when you try to support as little as possible with the hands.

Squat: Wasn’t really expecting to move mountains, as my SI-joint is still off. Getting it fixed before DL-day though. 5@145kg with relative ease. 3×5@110kg paused as backoff.

Managed to close level 2 bridging, level 3 HLR and level 1 grip. Yay.

Cardio: Saturday morning hill sprints and bodyweight stuff. Got in some quality work on clutch holds and my squat progression. Did short sprints, sprints with flying start and played around with changing direction too. Worked up a good sweat. 🙂

Bench: kept bench at just an easy 5@100 and went a bit heavier on the figure-8s instead. Up to 5@117,5kg. Did batwings and weighted chins as support as well as some easy easy work on the BW progressions. Finally managed to crack 120s headstand, so that’s good.

Finished off with neck, gut and grip.

Deadlift: 5@167,5kg was easy. Ready to push it now. Support was really good as well.

I’ve reached the first “real” bridging” exercise, and it feels fantastic. So excited. Finished up with some abs and grip. 🙂

Bodyweight bonanza!

Recently I’ve been adding more bodyweight exercises to my training. I used to do quite a bit of BW-stuff, and I’d forgotten why. I hope I’ll keep the memory fresh this time around. I’ve also pulled up my old copy of this book:

I think it’s a really great book that’s easy to read, practically oriented and informative. It has 60 different progressions split into 6 exercise categories plus tons of other great information. With BW-training – inspiration for exercises is key as minor changes in leverages can make a movement a lot harder/easier and help you progress. I’ve also ordered a couple of other books as well as bought a couple of apps (I’ve provided links to these at the bottom).

What’s so good about bodyweight training, you might ask?

  1. Controlling your body is essential in pretty much any sport and in life. Weight training should always begin with a decent foundation of calisthenics.
  2. Bodyweight training will build strength and muscle, just like weight training. There’s nothing inherently muscle-building about lifting weights. Muscles respond to stimuli, not specific equipment. If you’re able to do ten push ups today and two months from now can do ten perfect 1-arm push ups on each arm, all of your beach muscles will be bigger and stronger.
  3. Bodyweight training is not about endurance!!!! I can’t stress this enough. For the uninformed it might be, but if you know exercises progressions, you can stay right in the 5-15 rep zone.
  4. Most bodyweight exercises have a balance/stability component, which makes them more difficult. This is good and bad. Bad for absolute strength/mass, good for longevity.

Depending on your goals (obviously) bodyweight training isn’t going to be the optimal training form, so don’t sell your Eleiko bar just yet. It does however provide a valuable tool in the toolbox and can be used (especially for athletes and older/banged-up lifters) be a great way to get some more work done, without loading up your spine.

smuknumse

Personally, I used bodyweight exercises to accomplish three things:

  1. Get me warm. This is an absolute must for everybody. I go through a list of about ten exercises I find invaluable. I also use calisthenics in my extended warmup. Though unintentional, this fits perfectly into Rooney’s hierarchy of training: 1. Feel good. 2. Relative strength.
  2. Feel good. There’s something almost magical about calisthenics that makes you feel better. They also usually force you to stabilize most of your body, which is a great way to strengthen yourself from feet to forehead.
  3. Cardio. A handful of rounds of something as simple as push ups, squats and sit ups will make you sweat and breathe hard. Just don’t go full retard and do insanely high reps – even though you’re just using BW, you can still get (very) sore. This is particularly true for lunges.

How does it fit in a “regular” training program?

  • As your first or second supportive exercise after the main lifts
  • Instead of everything but the main lift when deloading
  • On a separate weekly training day at home
  • As a short cardio piece at the end of a session

I don’t think anyone should go 100% BW, but I do think it’s a great supplemental way to train. It also has the added benefit of being pretty much the only kind of training where you get stronger as you lose weight, which is great motivation when you’re recomping.

Recommended books/apps:
You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises

Gorilla Workout app – great inspiration for short BW circuits. I use these for cardio and extra abz.

Sworkit – another great little tool. I particularly like the 5 minute stretch. Yay wellness.

Rooney’s Pushup Warrior – has a billion different pushup variations

Wendler 531 Cycle two week three wrap-up

Final week of the six-week cycle.

Press: only got 4 at 85kg, which is ass. Got the fifth halfway up. Bench was decent considering I’d just burned out on the press, and I got five solid singles at 115kg and three singles with the figure-8 at 125kg.

Kept support to exercises that spares the lower back, so got in a huge amount of batwings. Yay batwings!

Squat: Took a few days off because of a sore throat – no point in risking anything, thinking long term. Hit a triple @ 157,5 in the squat, which is pretty sad, but my lower back didn’t feel fantastic. Only did two sets of paused squats, before deciding this wasn’t the day. Did some GHDs, BSS’, hack squats and bearhug carries. All in all a decent day, where I managed to get a thorough warmup and a bit of squats in. Could’ve been worse.

Cardio: 15 hill sprints on a lovely sunday. Did 14 different warmup exercises in my livingroom (yay testing!) and then 5 warmup sprints, 5 technique sprints (at a decent speed) and 5 at full throttle. Woo hoo. Max HR 172, Avg HR 133 (including warmup) and 453 kcal burned. I aint complaining.

Bench press: 6@110kg and a single with stop at 120kg. Good good. Three triples up to 125 with purple band in figure 8 and pinky grip, also very good. Support work was fine, but still feel like I need to take it easy on the lower back. Will get physio on it ASAP.

Bench days are going really well recently and I’m feeling a better flow in the motion. Still have a bit of an issue with the right side, but it’s getting there.

Deadlift: had physio on my lower back the day before, so took it really easy. A single @182,5 and 5 singles @ 142,5 sumo from deficit. Finished up with SG block pulls, some quad, hammie and gutwork and finally some isolated jaw-training and a coffee. <3

This marks the end of the first 6 weeks of training (think it’s actually 8 weeks) and I’ll be deloading for 4 workouts now. Really please with the way everything is going – training is great and I’m feeling better than ever. Yay.