Thursday, November 20, 2014

Honest Personal Assessment and My Current Training

For the last 3 months or so, my training has been dogshit. Not dogshit because of the training itself, but dogshit because of the way my body has felt. Starting 3 or so months ago, I've been getting some pretty serious pain in my left knee. Not pain like "oh boohoo my near is sore", but pain like "oh my knee hurts so bad that I can't sleep". There were many days that it hurt so much to walk that I couldn't even consider training lower body.

I did what I despise most, and resisted the urge to squat for several weeks (I honestly don't know how many: 4-5?) and did what I could. The days that my knee felt good I'd wrap it up super tight and do some power snatches and hang high pulls. I even relented and did some upper body Bro work a few times a week to keep myself sane. The weeks dragged by, and when my knee finally started to feel better I started getting back into power snatches and power clean and jerks. I was still not really squatting because I was just scared of my knee feeling like shit again.

Then, my knee started feeling really shitty again. And so did my wrist, for no apparent reason. So, that's super. Two of the joints that take the brunt of weightlifting hurt just to touch. I, again, waited this pain out for 2-3 weeks and I'm at the point where it's pretty much subsided. Truth be told, the days that I'm squatting and stuff I take 3 Aleve in the morning but oh well!

When my joints were finally on the mend, I had to take a pretty strong look at myself and my training. For the last 3-ish years I've been training exclusively as a weightlifter. I love the sport and I love the training. It's intense and takes concentration and it's a skill that I could work on, which gratified the athlete inside of me.

The honest truth, though, is that I'm a pretty shitty weightlifter. In all honesty, I'm just not a very strong ATHLETE in the first place. Here's a breakdown of my best lifts: 90kg competition snatch (I snatched 95kg once a year ago at Ivan Rojas's birthday, where we also had Cuban cigars and 19 pounds of lobster), 115kg competition clean and jerk (118kg one day at Rubber City Weightlifting), 465lb deadlift, 365lb squat, 315lb front squat and 275lb paused bench press. I've push pressed (behind the neck) 110kg, I think my best stone load (I don't know the load height) was 230 pounds and my best farmers walk (on handles) was 250 per hand for maybe 30-40 feet. At CrossFit Resilience I stood up a 900 pound Yoke and got absolutely crumpled when I tried to take a step. I've done 2 non-consecutive ring muscle-ups and can't do a HSPU. I've only ever had legit abs for about a year and usually maintain a fantastically pedestrian bodyfat of 15% or so. My best ever vertical jump was 33" and I've never dunked a basketball.

(No, that's not 465, but it was a PR at the time)

What's the point of all of this self-deprecating information that I just laid out there? It's that, despite my love of weightlifting, I'm not good enough at it to be committed to a type of training that is currently causing me some serious pain (note: I'm not saying that weightlifting is the cause of my pain, but the volume of squatting and holding a loaded bar overhead is certainly not making it easy on my joints). I decided that I needed to change up my training to something that would allow me to continue to train consistently and pain-free

Very recently I read a great article by Chad Wesley Smith that outlined the type of training he has done as a competitive thrower. I then sat down and read the e-book HVIII by Matt Vincent, another guy who was a competitive thrower in college and is now an international Highlands Games competitor. While the training style outlined in both texts is nothing new to me, the concept of the training immediately hit me in my happy place. Pretty simply, I wanna get stronger, more powerful, leaner, jump higher, get faster and pretty much just be a fucking savage. 

The ideas proposed are pretty simple. If you want to jump higher and move faster, you need to do that. If you want to get stronger, you have to move heavy weights quickly and do it consistently. If you want to get leaner you need to do some conditioning (gulp; working on that) and if you want to stay healthy you need to do targeted auxiliary work. Again, this is all information that I've known for a while, but reading these two texts from these two guys put things into a particular perspective that I needed right now. 

Rather than write a very specific and detailed program for myself, I've organized my training week into a template where I can pick and choose some stuff based on how I'm feeling. Here's an example of my week. 

Monday: Squat Emphasis
- Seated Box Jumps 5x5 / MB Rockback Shot Puts 5x3/
- Power Snatch + 2 Hang Power Snatch (worked up to 75kg for 3x1)
- Barbell Squat Jumps 5x3 (worked up to 90kg)
- EMOTM Squat singles for 10 minutes at 140kg
- RDL's 4x6 at 110/115kg

Tuesday: Lower Body Auxiliary 
- Sled Marches (light) 4x40yards / Hip Circle Walks 4x10yards (monster and lateral walks)
- Barbell Hip Thrust 4x8 at 110/120kg / RB Pull-Throughs 4x10
- GH Back Extensions 4x10 with 10kg / Seated RB Abductions 4x10 w/ 3-second pause

Wednesday: Upper Body Strength and Power
- Pushup Box Jump 4x5 / MB Partner Drop 4x5 / MB Slams 4x5
- 2 BTN Push Press + 1 BTN Jerk (worked up to 4x1 at 90kg)
- Speed Bench (vs micro mini) worked up to 4x3 at 75kg
- Bench press singles up to 110kg
- Close Grip Incline Press 3x8 at 65kg / TRX Y's 3x10

Thursday: Upper Body Auxiliary
- Chinups 4x5 / Dips 4x5 / Feet Elevated Blast Strap Pushups 4x8
- Cable Flys 4x10 / Cannonball Cable Curls 4x10 / Cable Face Pulls 4x10 / Lu Raises 4x10

Friday: Deadlift Emphasis
- RB Broad Jumps 4x5 / MB Keg Toss 4x5
- Hang Power Clean (worked up to 3x3 at 100kg)
- Speed Deadlift vs mini bands (worked up to 4x2 at 120kg)
- Deadlift singles EMOTM 5x1 at 180kg
- 6" elevated deadlifts 3x3 at 170kg
- Various loaded carries

Truth be told, I've only been following this template now for two weeks but I feel really good. I'm enjoying everything so far and like the freedom that I have to add/subtract things as I see fit. I'm taking it easy on the plyo's so far because I want to take some time to let my knee adjust and see how it handles the jumping. Over the next few weeks I intend to add a second set of plyometrics to the start of my three main lifts. The total volume of lifting that I'm doing feels good so far and having two days off from heavy stuff to focus on auxiliary work is going to make a big difference in the way I both feel and look in the long run. 

One of my goals over the next few months is to get my vertical jump and max touch up a few inches. About a month ago when we were testing our boys basketball team, I stepped in and tested my vertical at 31" and my max touch (with approach) at 10'6". Neither number is bad, but my max touch needs to get up. Kids who had verticals 4" lower than mine were max touching 3-4" higher than mine. Here's how the math works: my standing reach is 92" and my max touch was 126"; that's a 34" difference which means that there's only a 3" difference between my standing vertical jump and a jump with a full approach. This all means that my strength levels are fine but I need to get more reactive. This is the reason I want to include more plyometrics and will be doing a lot of weightlifting work from the hang position. 

My strength goals all, honestly, remain pretty vague: I haven't seen a PR in any main lift in about a year and I'd like to see some of those numbers get moved around a little bit. Squatting 183kg and deadlifting 226kg would awesome in 2015. I'm still hoping to compete at the Arnold this year (it was a fun experience) so I'd love to be able to get on the platform and make some competition PR's. 

That's where I've taken my training as of late and I'm pretty excited about it. Thanks for reading! Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

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