How big is your crack?

We all have cracks.

As soon as you step off the platform, it’s time to assess and identify your cracks. This is what “off-season” is all about.

Last Friday I trained with one of the guys from my gym and followed his program. It was painfully obvious I have a huge weakness. More on that later.

I spent Saturday on a squat, bench press and deadlift workshop with my good friend Jacob of Maxer.dk, where I primarily focussed on how Jacob teaches the lifts and how he interacts with people. But as usual – just being around Jacob sends my brain into overdrive, and I identified a couple of things I need to work on going forward.

Pretty much anyone who is serious about their training has a “B”. A list of goals they want to accomplish. A lot of people forget to establish the “A” (current level) first though. Without an A getting to B is almost impossible.

Using myself as an example, I want a bigger squat (who doesn’t). One of the things I realized on Friday is that I suck horribly at Bulgarian split squats. As I sat down and thought about it some more, I realized that my single leg strength is pretty poor. I like the big lifts. I like them a lot. I rarely (if ever) do isolation exercises and in general the smaller the exercises, the less likely I am to do it.

Anyways, increasing single leg strength is not the end all be all to improving your squat. But in my case it’s such a huge glaring weakness that I’ve  neglected for too long.

Bulgarian split squats are humbling and unpleasant, but it’s also a great way to bring up leg strength, while actively strengthening the hips through a full range of motion. It also stretches the hip flexors under load, which is tremendous.

The off-season is a time to take a step back, reevaluate your current position (and possibly method) and plan ahead.

What’s your crack?

 

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. 🙂

I got 99 problems!

In training, as well as in life, it’s all about finding the point of diminishing returns if you want to be efficient. I’m not talking about slacking or being lazy at all, just finding the sweet spot for effort in a given pursuit. Effort in this context can be your time, money, attention or any other limited asset.

In close relation to this, you’ve got to figure out where you’ll get most bang for your buck. Look at it this way – if you were an alien landing on earth – which languages would you focus on? If you don’t list English and Mandarin in your top 3, you’re doing it wrong. Those two languages will let you speak to about half of the world’s population. Work on mastering those two languages, and add a bit of Spanish and Arabic, and you’re getting close to full coverage. Hindustani deserves honorable mention as well, but due to the fact that a majority of the people that speak Hindustani also speak English – you’d be better off just getting better there.

How about this: Mandarin is the squat, English is the deadlift and Spanish the bench press. Mandarin is protein, English is fats and Spanish is carbs. Mandarin is injury prevention, English is strength and Mandarin is hypertrophy.

kiss

Way too many people major in the minors and focus all of their energy on some silly little language like Danish for example. While learning Danish is smart if you live in Denmark, it doesn’t really carry over very well to any other language (except Swedish and Norwegian at very high levels of proficiency). For overall usability, you’d be better off just sticking with English.

So what I’m trying to say here is actually really simple. So many people have 99 problems, and yet they’re trying to optimize the last piece of the puzzle – the one percent. The last percent is the meal timing, the fasted cardio, the fancy supplements, the antioxidants, the phytonutrients and all those other fancy words.

Master the basics and everything will follow. If you speak fluent Mandarin, English, Spanish and Arabic – you’re gonna be hard pressed to find a place where you can’t get by.Throw in a bit of Russian and Hindi and you’ve pretty much got the whole globe covered.

On the other hand, if you speak Finnish, Bulgarian, Basque and Xhosa (btw Xhosa is a really friggin awesome language with “clicks”) – you’re not gonna get very far.

If you master the squat, deadlift, benchpress and the bentover row, you’re going to be hard pressed to find a muscle that’s not big and strong. Throw in some weighted carries and a few other bits and bobs, and you’ve got the whole body covered.

See?

Now go learn Mandarin. <3

PS: Obviously just like there are other interesting and useful languages than the top 5, there are also interesting and useful exercises. Just keep the great picture in mind and remember that most of the time it’s better to work hard on the basics, than to add complexity.

Wendler 531 Cycle two week two wrap-up

Press: Got 8 reps at 80! Yay. One more than last time. Took everything I had. Made me hop around and scream like a gorilla. GORILLABUILDING! <3

Support was 8 sets of bench (3 with figure 8), 3 sets of light presses, 8 sets of batwings, 6 sets of BOR and 3 sets of WG pullups. Finished off with a few sets of crosswalk overhead carries.

Cardio: sunday morning hills. Ran 2-3k with wife and kid, then they dropped me off at the hill and I got in 10-12 sprints while they ran some more. Hit a max HR of 178 and burned 590 kcals. Good, good.

asjacykel

Squat: 8 reps @150 felt good. Yay. Paused squats took some manning up. Sheesh they kill me, but then I killed them. 5x4x117,5kg. I realized being really tight in the upper back is good (yea I know, duh!).

Went for a 4x20m (3 turns) walk with 100kg on the back, and finished up with light farmer’s walk, GHR, BSS and front bridges. Great session.

Deadlift: 8×172,5kg weren’t that hard, but immediately after setting the weight down, I felt something in my lower back. Stopped the workout after that.

Did 5x2x135 sumo from a deficit and 3 rounds of patterning as warmup. Wore my HR monitor and ended at 696kcal in 1hr05 from my doorstep.

 

Wendler 531 Cycle one week three wrap-up

Press: Got 5@82,5kg as planned. Not too hard. Backoff was 3x5x65, which was easy as well.

Support: Five singles at 112,5kg in the benchpress. Three triples with a purple band firgure-8 at the same weight. WG pullups with hold, forehead supported rows with hold.

Notes: Have implemented tons of holds and general tempo manipulation on back work, which is actually great as a bit of a change. Right now I’m just experimenting on pretty much everything, but after a cycle or two, I’ll mix it up a bit.

Squat: 5 reps @155kg as planned. Followed up with a quick single at 170kg. It wasn’t terribly good, but not exactly bad either.

5 sets of 3 reps at 122,5kg paused squats ranging from “decent” to “very good”. Yay.

Support was three sets of RDLs and three sets of BSSs – they’re always a pain. Finished up with sumo groin mob. Great day.

Benchpress: 8@107,5kg without pushing too hard. Decided not to stay with the 5 reps, since a) bench is set so low and b) upper body DOMS isn’t as bad as lower body DOMS (and you can’t really push yourself as far either). Three singles with a figure 8 band moving up to 127,5kg. Paused benches were 5 sets of 3 at 85kg. These were really good today, which is a good sign.

Did chins, DB rows and bat wings for the back. Gonna keep bat wings for some time and see where that takes me. Dan John sure loves them, so they gotta be good, eh?

Cardio: A 5k hill interval session with the lady and the kid. Good fun and a decent workout. Five really long hills pushing the kid.

bakker

Deadlift: 5@177,5kg – not hard and not easy, it just was. Worked up to a single at 220kg sumo deadlift, though I really shouldn’t have as I wasn’t having the best of days. Was a clean lift though and easy enough.

Support: This is where it got UGLY. Five sets of three block pulls with 3 second eccentric phase. Used a snatch grip this week as I was pulling from higher blocks. This murdered my back. Finished off with hack squats, abs and a 70-rep sets of leg extensions. Decent workout on an off-day. 🙂

Weekly round-up: this week was the last of the first three-week cycle. I’m moving straight on to another three-weeker, then deloading after six weeks total. The week was great in terms of training and life, and I’ve been adjusting my routine a bit throughout the first three weeks. I’ll keep tweaking here and there, but I feel I have a solid foundation with the main lifts+back off in place. Things are looking good. On a side note, I’ll be cleaning up the diet a bit after letting it slip for some time. Hoping to slowly crawl down towards the low 90ies and if all goes well, I could end up making a comeback in the sub-93 weightclass. Time will tell.

Wendler 531 Cycle one week two wrap-up

Another week in the books, here’s how it went down:

Press: Seven reps at 80kg wasn’t too bad (or good), but with massive DOMS from deadlifts (probably rack pulls, but who cares) the day before, I was ok with this. Real life forced me to train two days straight.

3 sets of 8 at 62,5kg as backoff. Good.

Bench was good and I also got to play around with a light band across the chest in a figure-8. Fun fun.

Back was fried, so the 6 sets of pendlay rows were shit. 5 sets of perfect WG pullups and some curls.

Standard thorough warmup with prehab, no mobility done.

Squat: Great session where I got to play with the joker sets a bit. Got the 8×145 in the program and went for a solid triple at 160. Felt great. Five sets of four reps of paused squat and RDLs, lunges and abs to end the session.

I’m really happy my squat is going well again, and my current programming seems pretty good. Yay. Only slight downside is that I’ve been getting massive three-day DOMS throughout this cycle. Oh well.

Bench: Easy 8×100 and decided to work up a bit 3x110kg and 3x120kg. Easy – technique was a bit off though. 5x4x77,5 paused bench was easy.

Support: A bit of pinkygrip bench with figure 8, strict paused pulldowns 5×10, strict BOR 5×10 and cheat T-bar rows 5×10, press 3×10 and tons of activation. Great fun.

Comment: program is obviously based on a low max which is fine. I need quality reps to improve technically..

Photo 30-08-13 15.45.15

Deadlift: Got the 8×167,5kg easily. Then switched to sumo and continued up to 3x190kg and 3x210kg. Fine. 🙂

Support: Rackpulls were easier than last week, and I decided to stick with fronts afterall. Three sets of ten. Finished up with some abs and sumo groin mob. Lovely.

Cardio: I haven’t been on my hill for ages, and what better cure than to do hill sprints on a sunday morning?  Cleared my mind and my lungs up. Great.

Getting out of the hole

Hanging out with MMA beast Philip Fortuna yesterday, made me realize something – I haven’t done a blog post on one of my favorite lifts. You could argue that it’s not really a lift but more of a variation – a tempo manipulation or whatever – I don’t really care.

gunshow

Dig yourself out of the hole!

This exercise will help you:

  • Build power out of the hole in squat.
  • Improve positioning and tightness in the hole
  • Build glutes of doom!

You’ve probably figured out by now – I’m talking about the paused squat. Done with a 1-3 second pause at the botttom, the squat becomes an entirely different animal. Obviously, they can be done with even longer pauses, but that’s incredibly nasty.

Back to yesterday’s session – Philip has recently started all over on his squatting, to get better depth. Because of this, he has some issues finding a good bottom position. While slower eccentrics would also help accomplish this, it’s my experience that they (especially for an athlete) cause way too much soreness compared to paused squats.

Sitting in the hole with a big weight on your shoulders is a humbling experience and you’ll notice that just a second will feel like a lifetime. I have a love/hate relationship with this exercise – simply because I love the results.

I’ve found it works great at pretty much any level, to enforce a good strong and tight bottom position and give some lighter form work. Doing them as back-off volume is what I’d recommend.

What you DO NOT want to do, is do all your squatting paused. You want to do some kind of squats where you don’t break up the movement. This is a supportive exercise, not a main lift – treat it as such.

Key form pointers:

  • Big breath of air – stay super tight while pausing.
  • Keep chest up and upper back tight.
  • Explode (try to) out of the bottom – lead with the chest – not the ass.
  • Drop down into your bottom position and stay TIGHT – don’t wobble around and don’t cut the lift short so you can get a bounce after the pause.

Go dig yourself out of that hole!

hole