Day 71 – 8 Week Results

The time has come for me to take a break from lifting. My body is in desperate need of some extensive healing and stretching. The timing couldn’t be more perfect though. Friday I’m on vacation, Monday I’m working from home and next Friday my gym will be closed for graduation. Trying to shove a lifting session in the middle of all of that is probably not worth the effort. So I will spend the next 11 days stretching, resting and doing a bit of cardio.

So now is the time to check the numbers and evaluate my progress.

Starting numbers as of April 1st. Three sets of five for all lifts (3 x 5)

  • Squat: 135
  • Bench: 160
  • Dead: 195
  • Press: 70

Latest numbers as of June 3rd.

  • Squat: 225 (+90) 67% increase
  • Bench: 205 (+45) 28% increase
  • Dead: 265 (+70) 36% increase
  • Press: 115 (+45)  64% increase

Looking at these numbers I have to say that I’m pretty impressed. I remember a time ten or twelve years ago when I was *about* this strong, but I wasn’t doing squats or deadlifts. So it might be valid to say that I’ve never been stronger! That’s amazing to me and something I wasn’t even expecting!

Obviously these types of gains cannot progress forever and I’m sure that I will eventually switch to a 3 day split. But for now I plan to continue the StrongLifts progression and finally add in the desperately needed barbell rows every other workout.

The common advice is to deload by 10% on all lifts after a week off, so this is where I will be starting on June 15th:

  • Squat: 200
  • Bench: 185
  • Rows: 155*
  • Dead: 240
  • Press: 95

Regarding rows, on my first day back to the gym I will increase the weight every set until  5 reps becomes difficult and that will be my work set weight for the next session.

Whew! That’s a lot of number crunching. And I haven’t even mentioned my diet yet!

It goes without saying that I’m hoping to stay on target with my macros during the week off from the gym. My new numbers (200/150/50) seem to be working well for me (so far at least). The next few days will be fraught with temptations – 3 birthday parties and a trip to Atlantic City – so I need to stay focused and plan around these calorie bombs!

I’m not sure how often I will post to this blog. 2 or 3 times at least just to keep myself accountable. Here’s to the next 8 weeks!!

Day 51, PRs keep coming!

As with Monday I slept in and didn’t get to the gym until lunchtime today. All the squat racks were engaged so I did bench first which ended up being pretty impressive:

190 x 5 x 2, 190 x 6 (I had a spotter for the last set and pushed really hard, but didn’t fail)

This is a new PR! I’m 10 pounds away from being able to bench my own weight!

2015-05-13 12.06.36-2After that was squats and although I hit a new PR for 215, I failed to get 5 reps on the first set. I’m not sure if it was just a break in concentration or if I just hadn’t fully warmed up yet, but the next set was better (after resting for 5 minutes) and the final set was the easiest of all (after resting for 3 mins). So it breaks down like this:

215 x 4, 215 x 5 x 2

Both the Stronglifts and Starting Strength programs have you repeat the same weight next workout if you fail to get all the reps so I will play along and do 215 again on Friday, which will push off my goal of 225 until at least Wednesday of next week. This doesn’t bother me at all.

2015-05-13 12.18.37I snapped a mirror shot after working out and I think I’m starting to show some improvement. Clearly muscle and strength is the key, but I’m really starting to believe that aggressive calorie cutting is going to help me blast through the first 5% of body fat. Most articles I’ve read warn that strength gains will decrease and muscle mass will be lost on an aggressive caloric deficit, but not necessarily people with a lot of body fat to lose.

I tried writing some new goals yesterday and here is the base I came up with:

By June 3rd (That’s 3 weeks from today):

  • Weight: 203 (-7)
  • Squat: 235 (+20)
  • Bench: 200 (+10)
  • Press: 115 (+10)
  • Dead: 275 (+20)

I think these are very achievable goals so long as I remain focused. Getting my weight down to 203 will probably be the hardest of all but I think that if I ignore all the temptations I might be able to do it.

Here are my macros from yesterday, not excited about the extra 100 calories, but I did go for a 30 minute walk so I suppose the difference is negligible:

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Day 46, Squat and Bench PRs!

While I didn’t blog yesterday, I was very focused on my goals. I mapped out the next 4 weeks of lifting, went for a run, read about the Greyskull LP program and watched a few videos of Mark Rippetoe explaining just about everything about everything.

After today, I have 11 more gym sessions before my next day off. If I continue to progress linearly without any stalling these are my projected stats:

  • Squat: 260
  • Press: 130
  • Bench: 210
  • Dead: 280

Looking at these numbers scares the shit out of me and I think setting these as my goals for the month is a bit too optimistic. Assuming I stall a few times, here’s where I think I will be:

  • Squat: 240
  • Press: 115
  • Bench: 195
  • Dead: 275

Still impressive stats for me. But I’m hesitant to set these as my goal stats. It’s hard to walk the line between difficult but reachable goals and setting expectations so high that failure is inevitable. On day one, my original weight lifting goal was 225 squat and I think it’s reasonable to reach this within the next 11 sessions.

Also notice that I haven’t mentioned barbell rows. I really haven’t been doing them and I thinking that I will continue to ignore them as opposed to dropping squats to 2x week. Since recovery doesn’t seem to be an issue yet, I would like to keep squatting 3x a week until I can no longer progress that quickly. So the only thing I’m still thinking about is whether or not to do deadlifts every session. I think the answer is “probably not” but I feel like I haven’t done enough on days when I only squat and bench. Time will tell… it always does!

2015-05-08 07.08.03So as for today, I was able to progress in both the squat (205 x 5 x 3) and bench (185 x 5 x 3). I found a spotter for the bench and I’m glad I did. With my shoulder still bugging out on me I wouldn’t have had enough confidence to push and get all the reps. The final set I did 6 reps with a little bit of help on the last one. The problem I have with getting a spotter is that my social anxiety kicks in (especially in a gym full of guys 20 years younger than me) and I feel guilty for bothering someone. Clearly I have to get over this though since I can’t really bench any more weight without help.

In other news, I started taking a thermogenic called Shred Jym. I’m pretty much a sucker for supplement marketing even though I know better. A very long time ago I had great success on a fat burner called “Phen Free”. It contained caffeine, L-Tyrosine, synephrine and cayenne pepper. Flash forward 15 years later, I found a thermogenic made by Jim Stoppani called Shred Jym. It has caffeine, L-Tyrosine, synephrine, cayenne pepper, Acetyl L-carnitine and Green tea. So I decided to give it a try. I took half the dose yesterday and didn’t notice much of a caffeine buzz so I think I should be able to tolerate the full dose right away.

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On workout days I will still take 1 scoop of my PWO and sip my iced coffee during the workout. Then I will take this supplement before lunch and again around 3pm. Taking the second dose later should be ok since I don’t have to get up as early on non-workout days. Then on days when I don’t go to the gym I’ll take the first dose before I wake up and the second before lunch. Supposedly there is an appetite suppressant in the formula so we’ll see if that happens today.

Will this help? I don’t really know, but I’m going to give it a solid effort for the next month and see…

*UPDATE*

Shred Jym might be worth my time. After taking a full dose I got a little nauseous (probably because I hadn’t eaten in 2.5 hours), but that quickly passed and I found myself enjoying a very steady and stable energy surge, not jittery at all. I am not a caffeine novice so 200 mg on top my morning coffee was ok for me. I also noticed that by the time I had walked to my lunch destination, I really wasn’t starving for a meal. So hopefully the appetite suppressant will be effective. I plan to take the next dose around 3:30 with my afternoon snack. We’ll see if anything changes…

Day 24, Finally figured out this Squat thing!

Great workout this morning despite my lingering shoulder injury.

Squats 165 x 5 x 3

My 3rd set was the best. Focus is the key. Bar position, feet position, head and chest position, bend at the hips, bounce at the bottom, power up with the hips and butt. 165 felt light when I did all these things!

Bench 175 x 5 x 3

This is where my shoulder started to hinder my progress, but i still managed to finish the work sets.

Deadlift 230 x 5 x 1

A new PR for me! Last rep of the work set felt a little unsteady but otherwise pretty strong.

Scale didn’t budge since last Friday, but that was expected. I don’t think I’ll see 205 by Monday but there’s always a chance.

Day 8, Back to the Gym

2015-03-30 05.03.56Home scale showing 207 this morning and 206 at the gym. I won’t believe it until next week but I’m hoping this means that I won’t see 210 ever again.

The students have returned to my gym. When I arrived at the lifting area all three squat racks and both benches were occupied. Luckily it didn’t last too long and I grabbed a squat rack after about 5 minutes.

First off, the workout I posted last night is totally wrong. It’s not an A/B workout. It’s a 3 day workout where the push exercise alternates between Bench Press and Overhead Press. Like this:

Monday

  • Squat 3×5
  • BP or OP 3×5
  • Chins

Wednesday

  • Squat 3×5
  • BP or OP 3×5
  • Deadlift 1×5

Friday

  • Squat 3×5
  • BP or OP 3×5
  • Pull ups

I approached my squats with a completely new eye. Some of the things I tried different since last week:

  • Lower rack position. As suggested so that I don’t go on my tip toes to unrack the bar
  • Safeties. As suggested so that I don’t injure myself
  • Low bar position on back: Based on my history, I was positioning the bar too high. My shins and calves are too tight to do a high bar squat
  • Hip Drive Focus: Consciously thinking about dropping the weight by bending at my hips first and then my knees
  • No bouncing at the top of the lift: As suggested which can cause injury
  • Lower weight, less volume: Because I’m focusing on form and knowing I will be doing squats 3x/week again I dropped the weight to 135 and did 3 worksets

2015-03-30 07.23.49With all this in mind the 135x5x3 was difficult, but not bad enough for me to sacrifice form (at least I don’t think so). Hopefully this becomes easier so I don’t have to think about it as much.

After that I did 160x5x3 on the bench and 3 sets of reverse grip cable pull downs. The programming for this exercise says “3 sets to failure, add weight reps go higher than 15”. I did 15 at 120 but then after adding another 20 couldn’t do more than 6. So I will stick with 140 for now.

The app I’m using is called Gym Buddy and although the interface is very outdated, the app is very functional. I have yet to find another app that handles weight lifting better. Unfortunately I don’t think the app is available anymore. So I’m happy to still have it.

Diet wise, I’m all set for the day. We’re having pizza tonight and I managed to fit 2 slices into my menu and still hit my macros.