Thursday, June 26, 2014
Here's my 395 lb deadift...my last lift of the day at the 25 Jun Powerlifting Competition where I totalled 1005 lbs.
Not bad for a 54 year old adult onset weightlifter!!
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
How do you communicate the sweet taste of victory in a blog?
Well, there's always a good meme out there;
Maybe a kitschy ad sporting a storm trooper;
Or you could just show a glass of beer;
Then again, you could write about it, describing the adventure, the drama, the struggle of man vs.......
OK, let me just get on with it
Today I lifted a combined 1005 lbs between squats, bench press, and deadlifts....a personal record, beating my previous score of 955 lbs set last February!!
Hmmm, where to begin....
Well I got there early to cheer on the women. They started an hour before the guys. There weren't too many familiar faces, most of the women I have competed with these past few times had stopped lifting for the summer, shredding down for bikini season. Knowing that, the sponsors of this event opened it up to many folks from the greater DC area. Some were first timers, others were experienced (One beast of a gal finished with a total score of 855! But the high drama was from a first-timer who eked out 525 total....she was focused, dedicated, and gave it her all!)
At first there were only 3 of us guys, then, right before starting time, 4 young Marines showed up.....strapping young lads in their 20s, they looked straight off of a superhero movie set....now we had a show!!
I had planned all my lifts, starting off with a weight that was challenging but that I knew I could get. For squats I started at 315. It was a piece of cake, so for my second squat I put 345 lbs on the bar. It was a good lift, not pretty, but I straightened back up.
I struck up a conversation with the lead Marine (He was warming up with the 315 I did for my first lift!) He was made of rock-solid granite, but as is usual with serious lifters, real easy to talk to and ask for advice and pointers. I noticed he and his buddies were wrapping their knees before squatting.
"So what's up with the wraps?"
"Oh these are real good for stability, they keep your knees tight. I can add 40-50 lbs to my squat with knee wraps"
"Really!?!? So, can you guys wrap me up for my next lift?"
"Sure, but we should only do it a minute or 2 before you lift, these things really block off your blood flow"
With that, I told them to add 10 more lbs to the bar for a 355 lb total.....and nailed it!! The judges said it was the best of my 3 squats today and that I could have done another 20 lbs easy!
Overall this was amazing, because I had been most concerned with my squats. I'd been working hard on them, but struggling with the depth....well smooth sailing from now on, so on to bench press!
Same deal, I started with a weight that was hard but that I knew I could get.....255 lbs. So I added 20 and went for 275 on my 2nd attempt....
....2d attempt failed! I got the bar 4-5 inches off my chest, then no mas. So by the rules of the competition, I had to do the same weight for my 3d attempt.
I chalked up, psyched up, got under that bar, and pushed.....and pushed.....and pushed, but I couldn't straighten my arms out! Arrghh
So overall I was at 610 lbs total (355 squat, 255 bench). Deadlifts were next, and I felt most confident with them, but I had to shake off the disappointing bench press episode.
Again, I started with a tough but achievable weight, which for me was 345 lbs. It was almost easy, so for my 2nd attempt, I added 20 again, for a 365 deadlift.
Almost easy, but not bad at all.
Now I had to do some math in public.
So far I had a total of 975 lbs (355 squat, 255 bench, 365 deads), 20 lbs better than my previous 955 in February (see blog bit.ly/1hpsk5A ). I was thinking I could safely add 10 lbs to the bar, then thought, "Nahhh, push the limits and add 20 lbs".....that would give me a new PR of 995 lbs....
....but seriously 995 lbs?!?!?!
Could I really get that close to 1000 and not go for it? I'd have to deadlift 395 lbs.....man, that's a lot of weight.....that's 40 more lbs than I have ever lifted before....but.....but...
"But WHAT!" I told myself!! I had already set a PR, the worse that could happen was that I lift the bar a few inches off the ground and drop it. Last February I was real concerned about my deadlifts, but these past few months I have been really focused on my form and proper lifting technique.
HELL YEAH I WAS GOING FOR IT!!!
I high-fived each of the Marines, had them each give me a big Hoo-Rah!, went over to the bar.....and pulled that bad boy straight off the ground letting out a victory cry as the bar passed over my knees!!!
10005 lbs of victory!!!!
Man, was I a happy camper!!
So here it is, 8 months after I set my goal to lift a combined 1000 lbs, I made my goal (see blog bit.ly/1iwR029 ). I wasn't expecting it.....I really figured it would take me till October to reach it.
I had already decided to ease off the lifting through the rest of June and July, focusing on kettlebell work. I've got some goals for the kettlebells. I'm taking my 35 lber on vacation with us this summer (we're going to Boston then over to Niagara Falls for about 2 weeks) After that life's a wide open book....I'm sure I'll figure out what to do next while blogging with all my Spark buds!
For the rest of tonight....all I want to do is eat, watch TV, and go to bed!
Have a great night Spark friends!!
Sunday, June 08, 2014
Many of my long-time Spark buds will know about my love-hate relationship with Stasi Guy, the sadistic trainer I worked out with for over 3 years when we lived in Florida (see one of my many previous blogs on the him at; bit.ly/1ka5u1V )
Stasi guy knew his stuff. He pushed me hard, helped me make incredible improvements, and to this day, I credit him with giving me the strength and confidence to lift heavy weights correctly and for teaching me the tools I needed to help design my own strength training program that helped me lift 955 lbs in my last Powerlifting meet (see blog bit.ly/1hpsk5A )
We parted ways last summer when I moved the family up to DC. I still lift heavy weights 3x/week and have now incorporated Kettlebells into my daily routine ( bit.ly/1kJ7CT7 ). Lifting heavy weights help me get stronger (what a great SparkPeople name, huh!) and kettlebells are a great overall conditioning tool. But something has been missing.
Flexibility.....stability.....range of motion.
Now I've never been a flexible fellow. Even though I know should stretch more, I hate doing it.
Well a few weeks ago, adversity met opportunity.
On Sundays, I go to a gym a few miles down the road from our house. It's pretty decent and they've got good equipment; 2 squat racks, 3 Concept2 Rowers, and a HUGE Kettlebell collection....all the way up to 100 lbs!
They've also got a bunch of trainers hanging out near the aerobic equipment.
For the last 8 months, I've watched them train their clients. Most of them have their people do all sorts of weirdo exercises and I'd just sigh under my breath as I remembered how hardcore Stasi Guy approached my training....he was pretty much like Burgess Meredith training Rocky Balboa
So a few weeks ago I approached one of the trainers who seemed to look like he knew what he was doing and asked him if he knew anything about kettlebells. He said yes, watched my technique on some Turkish Get-ups and Swings, then gave me a few pointers for free. I asked him about his rates and said I was interested in cleaning up my form with the Kettlebells and we agreed on an introductory couple of lessons.
I got a little busy and wasn't able to start with him right away, and in the meantime had taken an 8-hour Kettlebell clinic with some serious Russian style dudes and have felt real good about my kettlebell training since then, but I figured I'd train with this new guy for a few weeks anyway.
Well, before we start training, he gives me a head to toe fitness assessment. He took a 3-point body fat measure with calipers (18%, thank-you very much!), strength assessment (I crushed it!), aerobic capacity (Top 10% percentile), and.....flexibility.....
....I bottomed out! I'm probably in the top 10 percent of least flexible people in the world.
So then he launches into his spiel about the importance of flexibility and stability and how it's the core of any good fitness plan, blah-blah-blah.....I had to struggle to keep from rolling my eyes and felt exactly like my teenagers must have when I lectured them for the umpteenth-time about the importance of punctuality, cleanliness, not drinking and driving etc, etc. etc.
Once the droning stopped, I realized that he was telling me we had to start off with range of motion and functional movement training before we could start on anything else.
Wait a minute, who's hiring who here?!?! I thought I was in charge! I want to clean and snatch kettlbells, not sit on my ass all day bending and twisting into all sorts of uncomfortable positions. At least that's what I was thinking....in reality, I just nodded and said, "OK sure, let's do it!"
Somehow my deep unconscious has always helped me make good decisions even when my inner monologue wants to do nothing more than yell and scream when I don't get my way.
So on our first session, trainer guy (I don't have a nickname for him yet....granola-eater comes to mind, as does hipster-doofus, but that's just because....well just because he's both of those things), introduces me to Mr Lacrosse Ball and Mr Foam Roller
The goal for Mr Lacrosse Ball is to hit trigger points....those tight little knots of muscle wedged deep into your shoulders, back, hamstrings, quads, calves, etc. You roll the ball on to one of those tight knots....then push and pulse against it while trying to relax and breathe. The goal for Mr Foam Roller is for Myofascial release...separating those groups of muscles that are bundled together with that muscular sausage casing known as fascia. Same deal, except you start at the top of a joint and slowly roll down to the next joint (imagine starting at the top of your thigh and rolling down to the knee)
Well it seems like every point of my body that touches either of these evil little devices is chock full of painfully tight muscle. I'm balancing on my arms and legs, calibrating the pressure I put on that lacrosse ball, knowing that the slightest little slip and it'll slam into a tight spot and I'll start crying like a baby.
After an hour of this, I'm sweating like a race horse. Granola-eater then gives me some homework, telling me to do this every other day until our next session. I'm already hating him....he's making Stasi Guy come off like the Pope.
But today we finished up our third session. I went out to Dick's Sporting Goods and bought myself a few Lacrosse Balls and have been using them religiously every night, alternating between upper and lower body every other day.
I do this before going to bed for 30-45 minutes and have got to tell you....I have been sleeping the sleep of the dead every single night! I really had no idea how chronically tight and sore I was till I started doing this. After 3 weeks, I am just now starting to see how my range of motion is improving and how less sore I feel during the day. I've got a long way to go, but I'm pretty well sold so far.
Somehow, I've always hated stretching, mostly because I suck at it. The trigger point & foam rolling thing is more like a massage than stretching. Yeah, it can be painful, but I've found that I can adjust the pain by adjusting the pressure. And unlike going for a massage, I can hit the EXACT spore spot with Mr Lacrosse Ball, and let me tell you, that is how I now spell relief!
More to follow in the coming weeks. Ive got 5 more sessions paid up for with granola-eater, so we'll see how far this goes.
Have a great night Spark friends!
Friday, May 16, 2014
As a precocious 8th-grader, I remember spring semester art class when our teacher introduced us to clay. While my buddies were busy molding ashtrays and bookends, I sat down to sculpt a 1/10 scale model of Spiderman in an action pose as he swung from building to building
"This is cool!" I proclaimed, "I LOVE CLAY!!"
My art teacher peered disapprovingly over her rimless glasses (this was the mid 70s and she was a bit of a hippie chick...moccasin boots, maxi skirt, tie-dyed shirt, no bra, and a flower in her frazzled hair), "you cannot love an inanimate object!"
"Really? Why not?" I said, peering approvingly on Spidey's outstretched arms.
She started droning on about consciousness, expressive meaning, stimulus and response....and I focused back in on getting Spidey's legs just right as he shot some webbing out his wrist to the bridge span below him.
But for years that phrase, "you cannot love an inanimate object", has resonated with me. And I still ask, "Really? Why not?"
And today, 40+ years later, I can proudly proclaim, "I LOVE KETTLEBELLS!!"
Many of Spark buds have read about my fascination with these cast-iron beasts (see blogs bit.ly/1n5IZOO and bit.ly/1n2skjr ). I've got to tell you....I'm hooked!!
"The Kettlebell is an ancient Russian weapon against weakness" - Pavel Tsatsouline
For about 2 months, I've been doing sets of kettlebell swings and Turkish get-ups after each of my strength training sessions. I've even got SWMBO doing Turkish Get-ups with me (albeit, with no weight, but still...)
So last weekend, I took an 8-hour Kettlebell clinic with some certified SFG instructors (SFG stands for Strongfirst....a pretty amazing outfit that focuses on strength training with kettlebells, free weights, and body weight... www.strongfirst.com ). It was great! We went over swings, goblet squats, Turkish Get-ups, and overhead presses. The instructors watched & corrected our forms, then went on to give us pointers, techniques, and cues to think about during each phase of each exercise, as well as programming information on how to create a kettlebell training plan or to incorporate them into your existing plan
It has helped immensely!
Did I mention that I LOVE Kettlebells!
I think Kettlebell Swings and Turkish Get-ups are incredible. Swings seems deceptively simple, but when done right and done often, they work out every part of your body, especially your whole posterior chain (butt, hamstrings, lower back) as well as your core and cardio capacity. I really, really recommend a book called "Simple & Sinister" by Pavel Tsatsouline. It tells you everything you need to know about how to do them and how to develop a training plan to get fitter doing them.
I've noticed some incredible changes these past 2 months. My aerobic capacity has improved dramatically. And many basic and simple movements are now amazingly smooth and graceful. Just twisting to get out of the car, up out of a chair, even standing and walking seem totally different. I feel like every movement is getting initiated out of my core and that my sense of balance and posture is finally right after being wrong for years.
I do one-handed swings and Turkish Get-ups with a 35-lb KB, 2-handed swings with a 53-lb KB, and have just started doing 2-handed swings with a 70-lb KB on weekends at my Sunday gym.
I still have a goal of lifting a combined 1,000 lbs between squats, bench press, and deadlifts this year....my next Powerlifting meet is 26 June....I probably won't be ready to do it at that one, but by Oct, I should be able to nail it.
But I'm already thinking about afterwards. The more I read about kettlebells, the more convinced I am that they're all you need to stay very fit....at any age. You can vary the weight you lift, or the speed with which you move it, or the rest time between exercises....it really is amazingly versatile. We'll see....more to follow!
What inanimate objects do you LOVE??
Have a great night Spark friends!!
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Honestly, I have to admit, there have been times in my life when I felt like I knew it all.
This became extremely difficult when raising teenagers, because all of a sudden there were too many people in our household that knew it all....and the only thing we agreed on was that the others knew absolutely nothing at all.
I have since gained a certain amount of humility, enjoying the process and wonder of learning new things.
So these past few years, I've gained a lot of hard earned knowledge on health, fitness, and diet. I've spent a lot of time in the gym, doing hard cardio to burn calories and lifting heavy weights to get stronger.
But I never really knew about.....POWER!
When I started lifting weights 3 years ago, I wanted to do a full body workout to get stronger and build muscle. A great side benefit has been a total re-shaping of my body, losing inches in the waist and gaining inches in chest, shoulders, legs and back. And so I embarked on a journey to continuously improve my lifts and recently became very interested in competing in Powerlifting meets a couple of times a year. (See blog bit.ly/1hpsk5A )
In Powerlifting you do 3 main lifts (squats, deadlift, and bench press) to see how much weight you can do on each. I've been diligent in my training and have made great strides. But all this time I was focused on getting stronger (hence the SP name), not more powerful.
To be honest, I thought strength and power were synonymous and didn't really pay any attention to the nuanced difference.
But there's a big difference! Stay with me.....
A few weeks ago, I became interested in kettlebells.
I'd always thought they were a geeky fad...something that nutty crossfitters did when they ran out of ideas on how to hurt themselves
In any case, I decided to start using them to help aid me in some recovery that would take a couple of weeks.....and I am now hooked!
I watched a couple of youtube videos, read a bunch of on-line articles, grabbed a 35 lb kettlebell at my gym....and started swinging. I'm thinking, "35 lbs, should be pretty easy, let me start with that, then I'll grab those 54 lbers"
WOW, was I wrong.
The difference was between strength.....and power.
I'm pretty strong. I can deadlift and squat almost twice my bodyweight. What the hell can be so hard about swinging a 35 lb cannonball?
But swinging a weight requires power....it's about using your body (mostly hips, back and hamstrings....the Posterior Chain) to generate force to get that 35 lb kettlebell moving....and to keep it moving.
It's about moving heavy weights FAST....and that's a whole different level of conditioning.
I've been amazed that this never occurred to me before (remember when I said there have been times in my life when I felt like I knew it all). I always thought the choice was between strength training and cardio....do one or the other.
But kettlebells combine the 2....you have to have strength to generate the power to swing that ball....and your whole body is working incredibly hard to keep it moving for a set period of time.
So far I've been doing a variety of swing intervals....swing for 30 seconds & take a 60 sec break. My heart rate gets up to the 80% range during the swings and down to the 60% range on the break. I started doing alternating hand swings and have to admit....they're pretty darn cool. It adds a focused thinking element to the workout.....zone out for a second and that cannonball is smashing into the wall, the floor, or your foot!
I asked around our gym to see if there was anybody that had any training on kettlebells and the manager told me that he had a couple of guys on staff that would show me how to safely do a workout and would correct my form....SCORE!
So we'll see how this goes. I've been wanting to find something new anyway. This has been a great adjunct to my weight lifting. I do 20-30 minutes of kettlebell work after lifting and have found that it really loosens me up and it has really helped my posture, endurance, and flexibility.
Thanks for reading Spark friends...have a great night!
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