The Gym

I have been fairly quiet the past few months, meaning anything you have seen online from me is tied to the ever evolving life I am building AROUND my training, not letting my entire existence be defined by my training.

But what that has done, is prevent me from sharing ideas that I haven’t tested. I have been doing the work. I train every single day, many workouts have made little to no sense on paper, but they feel like they have been the best in reality. I have been delving into my past and contacting old training partners, and having them rehash some old stories with me. I believe that I have trained with some very incredible people, many that preceded the Internet in there lifting greatness.

There were several gyms that we came to know as “THE GYM” in my town. you had Sipple’s in the early to mid 80’s, then Total Fitness, then Powerhouse, then Total Fitness, then Richmond Athletic Center, then Total Fitness. The gym may have changed over and over, but in this small town of 10,000-15,000 (thats a stretch) people you could walk into these gyms and see routinely 400, and 500 lbs bench presses, 400, 500, and 600 pound squats for reps, buried ass to grass, wearing a Wal-Mart lifting belt, deadlifts for 500, 600, for reps, and the occassional 700 lbs single.

How did this happen? Most of this was done, prior to the internet explosion, prior to anyone knowing what the hell “pelvic tilt” was, and most of these guys looked like in shape bodybuilders. Well, as one guy put it “we were too stupid not to get better.” These guys didn’t have a million resources to pull from, and they most certainly didnt have the latest and greatest training knowledge. Sound familiar? I quit listening to all that was being put out and just reinvented my relationship with the iron. I stopped allowing myself to see myself as an “expert” and started back doing what built my desire in the first place. I worked hard, and i built progression into each workout from the last. Simple. What they had, that I proudly tout as my own gifts, was heart, drive, and pride.

I remember on numerous occassions seeing a training partner of mine bench 315 for 25 reps on say a Tuesday, someone would come in running their mouth about how they could beat it, and he’d lay down cold and do his best, and my partner would also lay down cold and rep out 27, or 28.

I remember one time our workout was “Hack Squats for an hour”. We just hammered rep after body and mind numbing rep for an hour. Does this fit into any book of methods? Or reason? No. But, you know what it does accomplish? One, I think it built a tremendous base of muscle and strength in my body. Two, it removes your “quit button”. You know the guy you see in the gym that has some reason to quit during workouts? EVERYTIME? I wouldn’t have been allowed back in the gym had I quit.

So what the hell happened? My gym experience mirrors life. Kids now are increasingly disconnected from physical effort. I watched two of the best state football teams last fall, and aside from a couple of standouts, the rest looked they don’t know Muscle or efforts address. The majority of young lifters that I talk to online want huge results with minimal effort. Parents have allowed their kids to be weak, and they expect them to succeed in this life? Anyway without further rambling keep checking back, as I will be reviving my gym past through guys I used to train with, and I am sure some of the stories will inspire you, cause disbelief, and probably make you wish you had trained harder, but that’s the point.

Training Log: Part 9

10/22/17

Biceps

DB Curls

40 x 12 x 2

45 x 10 x 2

Standing Preacher Bar Curls

125 x 15 x 4

Seated Concentration Curls

45 x 12 x 4

Seated Incline Skullcrushers

125 x 15 x 5

Cable Pushdowns

100 reps

Single Arm DB Press

45 x Failure x 4 sets

Thats it for today. This was my second arm workout of the week. One is a bit heavier, and the other more for a pump.

10/23/17

Competition Bench

Warm Ups

315 x 6 x 4 sets

365 x 3

405 x 3 x 3 sets

415 x 3 x 2 sets

Close Grip

315 x 8

315 x 8

Tricep DB French Press

45 x 20 x 4 sets

Incline DB Press

120 x 15 x 4 sets

Tricep Pressdowns

100 reps

Lat Pulldowns

100 reps

For those of you wondering about my Knee Rehab there is nothing fancy to it. I warm up walking on the treadmill, or Eliptical this is usually 5-10 minutes to warm the joint. Stationary Bike x 15 minutes varying the seat height to change the movement of the knee, finishing work is on the rower.

10/24/17

Leg Press

2 Plates x 10

4 Plates x 10

5 Plates x 10

6 Plates x 8 x 6 sets

4 Plates x 20

Step Ups x 20 x 4 sets

Bodyweight Squats

20 x 4 sets

Forward Leans (Partial Lunge Movement) x 10 x 3

RDL’s x 10 x 4 sets

This accessory work is basically everyday. It has allowed me to work myself back to a “normal” existence, but I still have a very long way to go before I actually begin building my squat back to a respectable number. My legs feel strong, but the squat still has work.

Training Log: Part 8

Box Squats

135 x 12

225 x 6 x 4 sets

315 x 5 x 2 sets

405 x 3 x 2 sets

Pause Squats Free

315 x 2 x 3 sets

Lat Pulldowns

3 x 12

Lilly Shrugs

3 x 12

Leg Curls

4 x 20

Row 5000m in 24:48

This day was tough. Knee was ready for ice after but overall I’m very happy with the day and my progress.

Expand Your Mind, Narrow Your Grip

Like most people when I started working my way  from a casual gym-rat, to a competitive powerlifter I found a mass of information. I looked at all of these stories, and I looked at ideas that seemed to be repeated over, and over, and I found one of those “rules” was to bench with your hands as wide as legally (index finger covering the ring on the bar) possible to shorten the stroke, and maximize leverages. What if all that did was strain my pecs, make my shoulders ache, and actually make my leverage worse? Was I the only one that the “one size fits all model” didn’t apply to? I had to spin my wheels for years to find out.

I am the rare breed of lifter that is not really built to be great at any lift. I have short arms (typically good for benching), but from my shoulder to my elbow actually measures just slightly longer than from my elbow to my forearm. So, in a widened grip I had tremendous elbow flare, and had to touch extremely low to get any kind of stability. Guess what happened when I touched low? I had to unflare my arms, and I’d put tremendous stress on my upper pecs, suffering multiple micro tears over the years. I was always told “your pecs are just weak”. Well I managed to strength my pecs through loads of dumbbell work, but with a barbell near max weight it was always a gamble if they would hold up to the strain. I got tired of benching 500, getting hurt, falling back to 460, then building back up to only reinjur my pec. This cycle repeated itself until I looked back. I took notice of benchers in the 70’s and 80’s (specifically Doug Young), and I noticed that many had huge triceps, and fairly narrow grips with the forearms being at a 90 degree angle on the chest. For some reason the 90 degree rule just made sense for me, so I began trying it, and in no time I was hitting rep PR’s, and then ultimately maximum PR’s.

I learned to stop benching with just the pec muscles, and I actually began learning to lower the weight with my lats, and fire out of the bottom with my triceps, and finish at the top with my pecs, shoulders, and some triceps. I became obsessed with working my triceps, and pushing heavier weight, and the more strength I was able to build into my arms, the more I was able to drive into the bar. One other forgotten muscle group in the bench press is the bicep. Think about cushions the forearm as you lower the bar, bigger biceps give a bigger “cushion” which give you more to drive off of. So all this time I had been neglecting a very crucial muscle group for a big bench press. Show me a big bencher without massive arms, delts, and pecs…. I can’t think of too many. Just recently look at Eric Spoto, Scot Mendelson, Kyril Sarychev, Jeremy Hoornstra, and many others. They all carry the mass to move the weight. So I knew I had to get to work.

How could I set up my training to not only narrow my grip, but speed up my progress? Within the Cube Method rotation we dedicate our fourth day to overhead presses, but I needed to dedicate to close grip presses also, so what we did was on Wednesday our normal bench day, was to use our new “competition grip” (the 90 degree forearm position when the bar was on the chest), followed up by close grip work with higher reps (I take a thumb off the smooth position to save my wrists), and then on Sunday I would rotate my first movement as overheads, or heavy close grips. On weeks that I lead off with overheads, I would make my close grip work light and fast.

In the very first cycle we tried this rotation I saw my bench increase from a shaky 505 lbs. to 525 lbs. This was in 10 weeks. The next ten weeks I finalized with a competition and hit a pretty easy 540 lbs. Two more 10 week rounds, and two meets a week apart and I benched 565 lbs. and 573 lbs. in competition. So in 40 weeks of dedicated training I saw my bench dip below 500 lbs. for a bit, and then rise to 573 lbs. As I type this I have since hit weights ranging from 570 lbs. to 600 lbs. eleven times in competition. It’s easy to begin thinking there is only one “right” way to do things, realize the right way for others may spell disaster for you. Find what works for you, and commit to it. Believe in it. You may just surprise yourself with what happens.

10 Week Narrow Bench Cycle

Week 1

Squats

Bench- 90 Degree Position 75%- 5 x 5 sets, Close Grip 65% 2 sets x AMRAP (As many reps as possible)

Deadlifts

Accessory Day- Overheads 60% 3 x 8, Close Grip 55% 6 sets x 3 reps

Week 2

Squats

Bench- 90 Degree Position 85%- 4sets x 3 reps, Close Grip 70% 2 sets x Rest Pause 10 seconds rest w/2 rest sets

Deadlifts

Accessory Day- Close Grips 80% x 5 sets x 1, Overheads 60% x 4 x 10

Week 3

Squats

Bench- 90 Degree Position 65%- 10 x 2 sets, Close Grip 75% 2 sets x AMRAP (As many reps as possible)

Deadlifts

Accessory Day- Overheads 75% 3 x 5, Close Grip 65% 4 sets x 3 reps

Week 4

Squats

Bench- 90 Degree Position 90%- 1 x 5 sets, Close Grip 70% 3 sets x AMRAP (As many reps as possible)

Deadlifts

Accessory Day- Close Grips 70% x 3 x 5-6 reps, Overheads 70% 3 x 5-6 reps

Week 5

Squats

Bench- 90 Degree Position 75%- 6-8 x 5 sets, Close Grip 75% 3 sets x AMRAP (As many reps as possible)

Deadlifts

Accessory Day- Overheads 60% 3 x 8, Close Grip 55% 6 sets x 3 reps

Week 6

Squats

Bench- 90 Degree Position 70%- 3 x 8 sets, Close Grip 80% 2 sets x 5

Deadlifts

Accessory Day- Close Grips 80% 3 x 3 sets, Overheads 50% x 2 AMRAP

Week 7

Squats

Bench- 90 Degree Position 95%- 1-2 x 2 sets, Close Grip 85% 2 sets x 2-4 reps

Deadlifts

Accessory Day- Overheads 60% 3 x 8, Close Grip 55% 6 sets x 3 reps

Week 8

Squats

Bench- 90 Degree Position 75%- 5 x 5 sets, Incline Close Grip 65% 2 sets x AMRAP (As many reps as possible)

Deadlifts

Accessory Day- Overheads 90% 1 x 2-3 sets, Close Grip 60% 5 sets x 4-6 reps

Week 9

Squats

Bench- 90 Degree Position 65%- 3 x 6 sets, No Close Grip Work

Deadlifts

Accessory Day- This day is extremely light

Week 10

Meet

*Note- Every single day of the training cycle the lats are hit either with Dumbbell Rows, Barbell Rows, Lat Pulldowns, Chest Supported Rows, or Seated Cable Rows. I prefer all lat work done to be heavy, and in the 6-10 rep range. Maximize each rep by squeezing the lats hard, and learn how to activate them for the bench. Also I do at least one exercise for traps as well. I prefer dumbbell shrugs, but others like upright rows, etc.

 

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