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jaja

Shaping the body; adjusting the mind

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Finally I've found the time to open a thread in this section! I'm experimenting quite a lot with my body and I think it'd be nice to share my training logs with you all.

So, what are my goals? I want to get strong, mobile and as supple as possible! The tools I'm using are weightlifting, Stretch Therapy / Physical Alchemy, yoga nidra, daoist's standing practices and meditation. Plus various experimentations during daily life.

 

Strength training

Right now I'm trying to build strength through a nice weightlifting program laid out by Martin Berkhan, with only some minor adjustments to make it a better fit for my needs. Since I wanna be proficient in performing the basic human patterns, I'm doing mostly compound movements, using a reverse piramide training style (with only a couple of exceptions). Here's the most recent article on RPT if you're not familiar with it: https://leangains.com/reverse-pyramid-training-guide/

My routine

A )

  • Low Bar Squat: 3x8
  • Weighted chin-ups: 3x8
  • Overhead Press: 3x8

 

B )

  • Bench: 3x8
  • Pendlay Row: 3x8
  • Lat machine: 3x8

 

C )

  • Deadlift: 2x8
  • Seal Row: 3x8
  • Abdomen (bodyline work)

 

From next week I want to add hip thrusts at the end of the second workout, plus some BW chin-ups + light OHP (non RPT) in the last one.

Here's my current level of strength (i weight 64kg):

  • Low Bar Squat: 98,5kg x 6 reps
  • Deadlift: 107,5kg x 6 reps
  • Seal Row: 50kg x 8 reps
  • Bench Press: 76kg x 6 reps
  • Chin-ups: BW + 2,5kg x 6 reps
  • Overhead Press: 36kg x 8 reps

Immediate goals:

  • Bench press: body weight x 1.2 (76,8kg)
  • Chin-ups or pull-ups: body weight x 1.2 (12,8kg)
  • Squat: body weight x 1.6 (102,5kg)
  • Deadlift: body weight x 2 (128kg)
  • Overhead Press: body weight x 0.4 (44,8kg)
  • Seal Row: body weight x 1.1 (70,4kg)

 

Since I train heavy and I'm on a bulking regine (not really counting calories, though), my bodyweight will likely keep increasing and thus pushing further away my strength goals. Since the beginning of the year I've gained 4kg or so — nearly all from muscle mass.

 

Random considerations:

  • Ankles are my n°1 limiting factor: I cannot squat without padding under my heels (dangerous, I know) and they sometimes cause troubles even for deadlifts
  • My grip sucks really hard. The main reason why my chin-ups numbers are so shitty is because of this.
  • As soon as i started training seriously, I realized I had a really poor lats activation, so I used the lat machine as a “repatterning tool” and I have to say it worked quite well. I'm still not able to do a full pull-up with proper form, but I'm not too far from it. I also worked at establishing a good form while performing chin-ups, paying close attention at scapulae depression.
  • I recently switched from high bar squatting to low bar squatting, since it requires less dorsiflexion and should be more mechanically efficient. As a result a had to de-load a little bit. Time will tell.

 

Stretching

Finding a partner is HARD. Even my gf isn't always available and gets bored really soon, so I'm not doing as much as I need to. Anyway I usually can get few decent stretches once a week. My routine varies according to the needs I have at the moment, anyway here's what I never skip:

  • Hip Flexors
  • Human Crossbow
  • Passive Backbend
  • Pec minor
  • Passive neck stretch with partner

If I cannot have a partner, I try my best to make use of single stretches — sometimes getting creative.

I also purchased Dave's last program and I look foreword to test it!

 

Relaxation & other stuff

I'd like to say I practice yoga nidra daily, but sadly it's not true. I still manage to lay down for 20 minutes minimum on most days, though! I've yet to reach the level of relaxation I experienced a couple of years back, but I think I'm on the right path.

There's another relaxation practice really similar to yoga nidra which now has my full dedication: this one. After my first sessions of 20 minutes I found I could breath a lot better (and deeper), I was more relaxed and my HF felt looser. Then I fucked up by over-stretching my right psoas and I regressed — story of my life. Still, this practice is mandatory for me: after 15 minutes I feel that not only my psoas, but also my jaw and neck are a lot more relaxed. I'm starting to think that most of my issues are related to excessive tension in my HF.

I'm also tinkering with a couple of standing practiced listed in Serge Auger's book. They seem effective for letting go bodily tension and relaxing the shoulders+lumbars; too bad I skipped a week of training. It's really challenging to find all the time I need.

My meditation practice is still going…but not strong. For the first time in my life I feel myself skipping a day every once in a while and limiting my sessions to only 20 minutes. Right now the technique I'm using the most is “watching the mind”.

 

As an introduction, this post is more than enough. There's probably more to say, but I'll have the chance to post in the upcoming days and weeks.

 

Any feedback, at any time, is of course appreciated and encouraged.

 

Cheers.

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Good stuff! Look forward to reading your log and watching your progress :D

8 hours ago, jaja said:

Ankles are my n°1 limiting factor: I cannot squat without padding under my heels (dangerous, I know) and they sometimes cause troubles even for deadlifts

I know you've gotten a lot of advice for this in other threads, but I'm not quite sure what you're doing for it. Dorsiflexion is a tough one for pretty much all of us that have lost it, and because of the nature of the calves and how we use them (constantly in a limited ROM), I think it's one body part that seems to be able to benefit from a lot of intensity in the stretch. You might want to try these out. I'm sure there are better videos, but that's just one of the first ones I found. Basically, just squat down and put a lot of weight on the knees. It's fine to use a prop under your heels to make the squat comfortable. The goal is not to do a beautiful squat; it is the weighted dorsiflexion. Start with a moderate weight and work up.

8 hours ago, jaja said:

My grip sucks really hard. The main reason why my chin-ups numbers are so shitty is because of this.

Luckily, this is very easy to improve. Hang frequently. Do you have a bar at home? Or anything to hang off of? Submaximal effort hangs frequently throughout the day will very quickly improve this. Other than that, simply hold on to the bar after you've finished your last set of deadlifts until your grip gives out. You can do the same after your last set of chins. You might want to start with one or the other for a week or two, but grip tends to recover very quickly. Focused grip work is good, but for general purposes this will likely be more than enough.

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On 25/4/2018 at 2:44 AM, Nathan said:

I know you've gotten a lot of advice for this in other threads, but I'm not quite sure what you're doing for it. Dorsiflexion is a tough one for pretty much all of us that have lost it, and because of the nature of the calves and how we use them (constantly in a limited ROM), I think it's one body part that seems to be able to benefit from a lot of intensity in the stretch. You might want to try these out. I'm sure there are better videos, but that's just one of the first ones I found. Basically, just squat down and put a lot of weight on the knees. It's fine to use a prop under your heels to make the squat comfortable. The goal is not to do a beautiful squat; it is the weighted dorsiflexion. Start with a moderate weight and work up.

I tried a couple of times something similar, but using a kettlebell (one leg at a time, obv). I ended up with a mild inflammation at “something” in my ankles — tendons, I believe. I'll keep experimenting with this, but I need to be careful. At the moment my main tool is a variation of the bent leg stretch showed by Kit in the “Master the Squat” series. Also this.

Interesting thing: my right tarsus tends to not “slide”, so that foot is extremely stiff. Hiking in Vibram Five Fingers healed that problem for a few days.

On 25/4/2018 at 2:44 AM, Nathan said:

Luckily, this is very easy to improve. Hang frequently. Do you have a bar at home? Or anything to hang off of? Submaximal effort hangs frequently throughout the day will very quickly improve this. Other than that, simply hold on to the bar after you've finished your last set of deadlifts until your grip gives out. You can do the same after your last set of chins. You might want to start with one or the other for a week or two, but grip tends to recover very quickly. Focused grip work is good, but for general purposes this will likely be more than enough.

Sadly I don't have a bar at home, but I try to find time to hang at my gym. I like passive hangs, but recently I started doing also active ones. Thanks for the suggestions!

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43 minutes ago, jaja said:

I'll keep experimenting with this, but I need to be careful.

Yeah, definitely. Always need to be extra mindful with higher intensities. Start with just enough weight to get some extra ROM, and keep holds moderate. Increase only once you're sure that it's not too much. Also good to be aware of angles, knee tracking, etc., but I'm sure you already pay attention to that. The slow and stead method would be to simply squat as much as possible in your daily life. I'm fairly certain my dorsiflexion has improved a good amount just from living in a floor-based culture for several years now.

48 minutes ago, jaja said:

Sadly I don't have a bar at home

If your doors have sturdy hinges, then open a door, drape a towel over the top (if it hurts your hands), and hang there. If you're worried about the pressure on the hinges, put a book or something under the outside edge. Or maybe there are other ledges in or around your house. There is almost always a place to hang. If the kettlebells you mentioned are ones that you own, then you could do farmer walks (or suitcase walks if only one) for time. That will build your grip and a lot more, too! ;)

52 minutes ago, jaja said:

Thanks for the suggestions!

You're welcome! Always happy to (try to) help!

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Today was…interesting. An odd pain in my right shoulder joint came out of nowhere, making me a little worried (my ligaments have always been really lax). I decided to go to the gym anyway and be especially mindful of my body.

The session was great! My B routine went flawless and I bench pressed like it was nothing! I even added a couple of hip thrusts sets (50kg); not bad!

The best part is my pain disappeared! Only problem is now I'm pumped as fuck, not even a 40 minutes yoga nidra session was able to calm me down!

One minor thing happened: the area around my eyes is full of little red marks: my capillaries busted while I was bench pressing. It's not a new thing: it happened also last time and it's something I always experience every time I vomit. Is there a way to strengthen them? Should I eat something or condition myself in some ways?

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4 hours ago, jaja said:

my capillaries busted while I was bench pressing.

Not really sure, but hopefully you're not holding your breath. It's possible you might be without even realizing it. Otherwise, try to make sure you're creating tension in the right places, but not where it's unneeded (from the neck up). I don't know if blood pressure has anything to do with it, but you might check if you don't know your BP.

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On 4/28/2018 at 6:54 AM, jaja said:

the area around my eyes is full of little red marks: my capillaries busted while I was bench pressing.

You (and everyone else) will be holding your breath during the maximum effort part of the BP; it's automatic (and called the Valsalva Manoevure, after the Italian anatomist who discovered it). The wiki entry is not great; all you need to know is the body will close all orifices and increase interabdominal pressure to momentarily strengthen itself; this is part of the kiai of Japanese partial arts, etc.

Same in the squat: your blood pressure will momentarily spike in the max. effort phase. Nothing you can do about this reaction (the burst capillaries) that I know of, but long experience suggests that the body will adapt, over time. This can happen to even very experienced lifters, occasionally, and no one seems to be able to predict when/if it will happen.

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Yeah, I know about the Valsalva Manoevure, but I thought it was also about letting the air out in a peculiar way. I just hold my breath and brace because otherwise I'm not stable enough to lift heavy. Deadlifting (or squatting) without holding my breath, for example, would be really dangerous for my spine. I've watched videos of mad people spilling blood out of their noses while lifting, so I'm not too concerned about few red “freckles”…but still it's good to hear others opinions!

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I've modified slightly my routine, just to experiment a little bit. Today I did:

  • Deadlift: 1x6x107,5kg + 1x7x97,5kg
  • Seal Row: 1x6x60kg + 1x7x55kg + 1x8x50kg
  • Overhead Press: 3x10x31kg
  • Chin-ups: 4 x as many reps as possible

 

Deadlifts went pretty smooth and with Ok technique (I guess), only minor complaint is about the hook grip: sometimes it hurts.

Since it's the first time I try this lineup of exercises and the deadlift is one of them, I should have expected to have some troubles. The heaviest set of Seal Rows went bad: half of my reps didn't touch the bench. Next week I'll try again.

The Overhead Press is a though one for me. Even though the weight was “light”, I could do only 8 reps per set. I believe it's just a matter of habits, though: next time I'll do better.

I'm shitty at chin-ups, that's why I added them here. I had energy only for 4-6 reps, let's see if the numbers will go up from now on.

Overall I'm feeling fine, for now: no pain, no discomforts, nothing. That probably means my form was good enough!

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Yesterday I had a productive stretching session, really focused on my hip flexors. Last time I stretched them properly was like a month ago, so they were moderately tight. Aside from the standard partner stretch, I used a variant where I twist my torso to the opposite side and hold onto my partner's arm. It felt reeeally good! I also tried the combo pec+hf with the stick, the one Kit and Olivia came up with only recently, but apparently something was off and I didn't get a lot out of it.

Passive back bend (with partner) went good as always, as it was the regular human crossbow. I threw in the mix also a partner calf stretch, but I have mixed feelings about it; probably weighted stretches are better for ankle mobility.

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Today's gym session was brutal, I'm drained. Even writing this requires a level of energy I'm not really sure I have. All this because of a mistake on my first squat set. But let's proceed in order.

While still in the locker room, the little finger of my right foot impacted violently with the shoe of a fellow gym goer. It was kinda painful, but not too much, so I went into the weight room. I'm writing this because, at some point during the training, my finger really came into awareness and I almost thought it was broken. In the past I would have totally noceboed myself and interrupt the training, but today I kept going and I'm glad I did! My finger is fine, although maybe tomorrow it'll be blue-ish.

This was the workout:

  • Squat: 1x6x98,5kg + 1x7x88,5kg + 1x8x78,5kg

  • Chin-ups: 1x6xBW+2,5 + 1x9xBW

  • Overhead Press: 1x8x36kg + 1x9x33,5kg + 1x10x31kg

The first squat set felt really heavy, so much I could only do a couple of reps before re-racking the weight. I paused for a minute or so, puzzled, did one more rep and then checked the weight. Apparently I miscounted and loaded the bar with an extra 10kg! I then attempted at lifting the correct amount and managed to complete all the sets, but those three initial reps really made my task a lot harder. Next week I'll keep the exact same setup, just to be sure I can lift comfortably that weight.

Chin-ups went really smooth!

OHP…sub-optimal, probably because I was really tired at that point. I completed the first set, so next time I'll increase the weight, but the last two I stopped one rep before the goal. Not good.

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4 hours ago, jaja said:

Apparently I miscounted and loaded the bar with an extra 10kg!

I've lost count of the number of times I've done this. Obviously just not great at counting :D

Depends on what % you were intending to use but sometimes it can be a nice push into a heavier zone. 

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Chest and lats day:

  • Bench: 1x8x76kg + 1x9x68,5kg + 1x10x61kg

  • Row: 1x6x52,5kg + 1x7x47,5kg + 1x8x45kg

  • Lat Machine: 1x6x55kg + 1x7x50kg + 1x8x45kg

  • Hip Thrust: 1x8x53,5kg + 1x9x48,5kg +1x10x48,5kg

Couldn't complete the last rep of my first bench press set, so no progress today. Everything else wen fine.

Aside from the usual bursting of my capillaries, after bench pressing I had an annoying pain which I get from time to time. This is the muscle, I don't understand how to stretch it.

5aec50db9698f_Schermata2018-05-04alle12_12_29.thumb.png.dfa94b20f3fd4ce6582a6f7ae83e80ad.png

 

Also: a random guy commented on my form saying I shouldn't use the full ROM while bench pressing (even if I was arching) because it's useless anche leads to injuries. Sounds bullshit, but what do you think?

 

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Today's workout:

  • Deadlift: 1x7x107,5kg + 1x8x97,5kg

  • Seal Row: 1x6x60kg + 1x7x55kg + 1x8x50kg

  • Overhead Press: 3x10x31kg

  • Chin-ups: 4xAMRAP

I was super cautious during the deadlift because of a mild lumbar pain that came out of nowhere. I completed all sets and felt great! Still the grip is a limiting factor, though.

Seal Row went ok, but was challenging.

OHP went great, aside from the last set, where I only did 9 reps.

Chin ups are improving, I did at least 6 rep at every set.

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The mild lombar pain was still present today, this time training made it worse.

  • Squat: 1x6x98,5kg + 1x7x88,5kg + 1x8x78,5kg

  • Chin-ups: 1x6xBW+3,75 + 1x7xBW

  • Overhead Press: 1x6x38,5kg + 1x7x36kg + 1x8x33,5kg

The first squat set felt really challenging, I don't know if the pain affected my performance or my form was simply a bit off. Second and third sets went smooth, though. Next time I'll try increasing the number of reps — if I die I die.

Chin-up were easy, which is good because it means I'm improving (I notoriously suck at them)

OHP was a failure, this time. I could do only 3 reps of the first set, so next week I'll have to start again from here. If it'll still be too challenging, I'll at least try to perform 4 reps and build my way up to 6. 2nd and 3rd sets went good.

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Two days ago I felt my body craving a yoga nidra session, so I went for it. No movement, no muscle contractions, just total stillness and some big breaths. It felt amazingly good.

Yesterday I skipped a proper yoga nidra exercise and did a psoas relaxation instead. After10 minutes or so I felt a freshness in my lower abdomen and a warmer sensation radiating from the hip flexors. My left one seems more tense, which somehow contradicts my experience: while i stretch the tightest side is always the right one.

Today's gym session:

  • Bench: 1x8x76kg + 1x9x68,5kg + 1x10x61kg

  • Row: 1x7x52,5kg + 1x8x47,5kg + 1x9x45kg

  • Lat Pulldown: 1x6x60kg + 1x7x55kg + 1x8x50

I was supposed to do also some hip thrusts, but was in a rush so I skipped them.

The spotter had to help me finishing the last rep of my first set, being the second week I'm struggling with the same setup, this probably means I'm plateauing. I'll try to increase the weight (at 6 reps) and see where it leads me.

Rows went ok, although they are becoming challenging.

Lat Pulldown…not ok. I did only 5 reps during the first set.

I felt again the same arm pain from last week, but today was shallow and right now it's gone. I think it happens because when I struggle during the bench I end up touching the chest too close to my neck.

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On 2018/5/4 at 9:25 PM, jaja said:

This is the muscle, I don't understand how to stretch it.

Not sure what muscle you're referring to. One seemed to be a slightly different color than the others in that picture. Is that the one? Either way, sometimes when it's hard to stretch a small muscle like that, getting in there with a ball and rolling it out to relieve excess tension can work really well!

On 2018/5/4 at 9:25 PM, jaja said:

Also: a random guy commented on my form saying I shouldn't use the full ROM while bench pressing (even if I was arching) because it's useless anche leads to injuries. Sounds bullshit, but what do you think?

Would need him to expand, but if ROM is usable, then you should probably be using it. If you're trying to use ROM that you don't really "own" (especially with weights to push you into that ROM), then sure, it can cause injury. I can't really speak with confidence about the conventional lifts, personally, but I trust this guy 100%: How to Bench: The Definitive Guide. That's a monster of a post, but I bet you can search around and find some helpful stuff. I noticed there's a small section on shoulder/elbow pain.

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1 hour ago, Nathan said:

Not sure what muscle you're referring to. One seemed to be a slightly different color than the others in that picture. Is that the one?

Yes!

1 hour ago, Nathan said:

Would need him to expand, but if ROM is usable, then you should probably be using it. If you're trying to use ROM that you don't really "own" (especially with weights to push you into that ROM), then sure, it can cause injury. I can't really speak with confidence about the conventional lifts, personally, but I trust this guy 100%: How to Bench: The Definitive Guide. That's a monster of a post, but I bet you can search around and find some helpful stuff. I noticed there's a small section on shoulder/elbow pain.

I've no problem with my current ROM, luckily, and the arch preserve my shoulders. Many thanks for the link! A lot of useful informations!

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57 minutes ago, jaja said:

Yes!

I'm not sure, but maybe medial head of the triceps? I'll defer to one of our resident anatomy experts, but I'd still suggest getting in there with a ball. It will probably be a lot easier to pinpoint the area you want and apply as much pressure as you need. Rolling the triceps is pretty intense, though, so start off easy ;)

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It's been an insanely shitty week and this really affected my training. Today for example I was poorly motivated, but decided to hit the gym anyway. It was the right decision: the barbell is quite good as an anti-depressant!

  • Deadlift: 1x8x107,5kg + 1x9x97,5kg

  • Seal Row: 1x7x60kg + 1x8x55kg + 1x9x50kg

  • Overhead Press: 3x10x31kg

  • Chin-ups: 4xAMRAP

With summer getting closer, my hands are sweaty and this affects badly my already shitty grip. I had to re-set my form after every single deadlift rep. Although my form was not bad, I can tell I had issues locking, I don't know if because of my grip (probably) or because my lats weren't engaged properly. Still, I completed the task and this means next week I'll hit 110kg!

Failed the last rep of my seal row, as you can see here:

Probably I need to rest a bit longer after the deadlift. We'll see next time.

I absolutely nailed the OHP! 10 reps felt almost easy and this means two things: 1) I'm getting stronger; 2) It's time to add more weight to the bar!

I saw improvements in my chinups also, which is good.

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11 hours ago, jaja said:

With summer getting closer, my hands are sweaty and this affects badly my already shitty grip.

Chalk! It's super cheap and works great. If your gym doesn't allow it, then I've heard the liquid chalk works pretty much just as well.

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On 14/5/2018 at 3:55 AM, Nathan said:

Chalk! It's super cheap and works great. If your gym doesn't allow it, then I've heard the liquid chalk works pretty much just as well.

Yeah, I know…I hate the feeling, but I think it's becoming necessary.

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Today's session was fantastic!

  • Squat: 1x7x98,5kg + 1x8x88,5kg + 1x9x78,5kg

  • Bench: AMSAPx5x78,5kg

  • Chin-ups: 1x7xBW+3,75 + 1x8xBW

  • Overhead Press: 1x6x38,5kg + 1x7x36kg + 1x8x33,5kg

  • Abdomen

  • Grip work

  • Ankle Mobility

I decided to add a bench press session (5 reps x as many sets as possible), in order to accumulating volume and overcoming my sticking point with the exercise. Since I'm not used to it I expected to have some troubles along the way, but overall the training sessione went very smooth.

Squats were almost easy! Granted, I'm still using a plates under my heels…but aside from that my form was perfect and I completed the task with no issues!

Bench press…I tested the weight I will be using for my next RPT session and could do just one set. If I'll decide to keep this routine, the AMSAP bench press session will require a lower weight, like 9RM…so…around 70kg, for now.

Chin-ups: I was expecting a fail because of bench press fatigue, but they were flawless.

OHP: here I had troubles and couldn't perform the last rep of the heaviest set. Next time I'll do better.

At this point I was quite tired, but i sneaked up some core training. Nothing special, just planks and hollows.

Grip work was pretty basic, just holding a loaded bar (58,5kg) for 30s, twice.

I didn't have a lot of time for a proper mobility routine, but I did my best. I anchored myself to a weight rack using a resistance band, in order to spend some quality time in a full squat position. After few bodyweight drills, I positioned a 12kg kettlebell over my knee to proper stretched the ankle. I did this one knee at a time for around 2 minutes each.

 

Overall it was a really productive session.

 

In the evening I did my usual psoas relaxation exercise for 30 minutes or so. I couldn't really let go much of the tension, apparently the efficacy pf this technique is at its best if i perform it after a classic yoga nidra practice.

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Yesterday I was feeling really bad: constricted breathing, mental fogginess, slight headache, etc. After a really long day, I finally laid on the ground and started a 30 minutes long yoga nidra practice. My face was holding a shitload of tension, it was basically all I could feel. After around 15 minutes it began to dissolve and felt rush of “freshness” going from the occipital lobe, down to my left forearm; it was niiiice. Then I did a psoas relaxation practice, for 20 minutes or so and got rid of even more tension — for some reason I fin psoas tightness directly related with jaw tension. After all of this, I was a brand new person.

The bad thing is: I CAN'T DO ALL THIS SHIT EVERYDAY!

Now, back to weight training:

  • Bench: 1x6x78,5kg + 1x7x71kg + 1x10x63,5kg

  • Pendlay Row: 1x8x52,5kg + 1x9x47,5kg + 1x10x45kg

  • Lat pulldown: 1x6x60kg + 1x7x55kg + 1x8x50

  • Grip training

  • Hip Thrust: 1x8x58,5kg + 1x9x58,5kg +1x10x53,5kg

 

Bench went good, I even performed the last two sets without a spotter! Minor complain: during my heaviest set the bar was wobbling too much at the top, I need to keep proper tension and stabilize myself more.

Rows…fuck. I failed the last rep of my heaviest set, so no improvement today.

Lat pulldown was decent, although I didn't always touched my chest. Still, I'm not able to perform a single proper bodyweight pull-up. It's frankly embarrassing.

Grip training…nothing fancy, no need to go into details. Hope it'll pay off.

HT: smooth!

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1 hour ago, jaja said:

Still, I'm not able to perform a single proper bodyweight pull-up. It's frankly embarrassing.

Honestly, lat pulldowns most likely won't get you there. If you want to do pull-ups, then the best thing to do is pull-ups, really. Start with proper chest-to-bar negatives, and I bet you'll get the full movement in no time!

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