Workout 27/04/2016 – a mentally challenging arm day

This arm day was challenging, both physically and mentally. Mostly mentally. My PT got me doing some new arm-based exercises that, while I’ve done similar moves before, really pushed my comfort zone in terms of seeing what my dodgy shoulders are capable of. The only reason I completed the movements and allocated sets and reps is because I completely trust my PT in terms of what he knows my body is capable of and when it’s ready to have its limits pushed, and because I completely trust his spotting.

He got me doing bench pressing today, which I’ve definitely done before, but today we really worked on technique. Turns out I’ve been starting with my arms angled back (towards my face) and bringing the weights down on an angle (towards my face), so moving the weight towards my hips more was a big adjustment. He also reduced the weight I used for my second set of reps on the dumbbell bench press, so that I could work on the technique.

The horizontal flies were a super new thing for me, and very scary from a mental perspective. PT originally handed me 4 kg weights but we dropped them back to 3 kg – if I’d been doing less reps 4 kg might have been a go-er, but not doing 24 in a row! Ultimately I needed the 3 kg to push through my sticking point at the bottom of the movement, but could have gone up a few kg for the rest of the movement.

3 sets:

  • 6 x barbell overhead presses (20 kg)
  • 12 x dumbbell side raises (4 kg each hand)
  • 24 x dumbbell overhead presses (4 kg each hand)

2 sets:

  • 6 x barbell bench press (25 kg)
  • 10 x dumbbell bench press (8 kg , 7 kg each hand)
  • 24 x horizontal flies (3 kg each hand)
Advertisements

Workout 22/04/2016 – leg day and a new exercise. Safety squats!

On a day that I’m still very stiff and very sore from my last arm/back/shoulder day (damn those pull-up negatives!), I hit leg day with limited enthusiasm. Luckily I really enjoyed the session, with thanks to a new barbell – the safety squat barbell. As I’ve said before, I have issues with back squats. I can’t get my weight in the right spot, I lean way too far forward, and my depth is shocking. Experimenting with front squats has helped – with those I can squat deeper and with better technique, but I have to drop the weight. Fine for technique, not so great for my legs.

The safety squat bar sits on your back, but has handles across your shoulders that you hold at the front of the body. I knew straight away we were going to be friends. With this bar I could squat deeper, with better technique, and still maintain a decent weight. In fact, I ended the session feeling that if I did a few more sessions at that weight, I’d probably be able to increase the weight pretty soon. I even feel like I might be able to squat unsupervised with this bar.

safety squat bar

I know it’s not the solution to just stop back squats all together, but it’s nice to know that I can improve my depth, technique and weight in my squat.

3 sets:

  • 10 x safety squats (30-35 kg, 40 – 45 kg x 2 sets) – we weren’t sure how much the bar weighed!
  • 20 x walking 2 pulses lunges (no weight, 10 kg each hand x 2 sets)

1 set:

  • 25 x leg extensions (25 kg)
  • 25 x hack squats (raised heel squats)

Workout 17/03/2016 – squats and opera singing

Yesterday I compared doing squats with Opera singing. When I first finished high school, I jumped straight into a Bachelor of Classical Music (opera singing). Ultimately I never finished it, and this story probably indicates why.

I wasn’t (still aren’t) a fan of opera. I didn’t (still don’t!) know what good opera technique sounded like, and I certainly didn’t know what it felt like. When I was singing in a way that felt comfortable and ‘right’, I was told I was doing it wrong. When I sung in a way that felt physically odd and sounded (to me) bad, I was told I was doing it right. But only sometimes. I could feel odd and sound bad in many ways, and sometimes I was told I was wrong and others I was right – but I couldn’t tell the difference.

To me, squats provide a really similar experience. I’ll do 10 reps and none of them will ‘feel right’, but at the end of the set my PT will tell me that reps 6, 7 and 8 were good. But to me they all felt different, and certainly none of them felt right. I explained this to my PT yesterday (including the classical singing anecdote) and he looked at me kind of confused, but also like he kind of got it. We talked about my absolute discomfort with back squats, but how my (rarely practiced) front squats felt better. We did squats san-the barbell, which my arms in back and front squat position, and ascertained that even without the barbell I couldn’t do a squat with my arms in back squat position to a decent depth or with decent technique. Holding my arms in a front squat position was better though, so we went down some weight and played around with that.

My PT realised that if he verbally cues me at the right time I push my weight back where it needs to be, and I did some really decent low squatting reps like this. Unfortunately I couldn’t do very many, and (luckily my PT was spotting me closely!) I ultimately ended up losing power and falling over backwards. But that’s ok – I felt like it was my best squat session in a really long time. I had a technique breakthrough, and although I’m a long way off being able to confidently do them on my own with good technique, yesterday’s session took me a step forward.

2 sets:

  • 10 x back squats (40 kg, 50 kg)
  • 10 x high jump squats with arm thrust

1 set:

  • 9 x front squats (30 kg) – failure and rest at rep 5, failure and stop at rep 9
  • 10 x high jump squats with arm thrust

3 sets:

  • 10 x horizontal leg press (80kg) with wide-legged stance, and angled toes

Pull-ups and t-rex arms

t-rex

This is how I feel this morning. My arms are swollen from the top of the bicep to mid-forearm, and holding them in any position other than a weird kind of bent right-angle hurts. A lot. Straightening them out is pretty much a weird kind of hell, that results in my fingers going tingly. It started yesterday, the day after I did the most full-on pull-up training session I’ve done. I’ve set a goal with my trainer for 2015 that I want to be able to do one unassisted pull-up by the time the year is out, so the pull-up activity has been upped recently.

I most often do pull-ups on a machine, the kind that counterbalances your weight so you’re only pulling up with the weight you’re capable of. I also use the bands, but only when I’m working with my PT- even with the thickest band I still need help. Traditionally I’ll use the thickest band, and do 3-4 sets of 10 pull-ups. The first 5 are easy, the next 2-3 get harder, and I need assistance with the final 2. I’ve also done jumping pull-ups: jumping to the ‘up’ position, then focussing on a controlled ‘negative’: the decent.

On Monday we tried a whole new ballgame though- a very thin elastic that, while providing some resistance, seemed to go further in stabilising my movement that relieving weight from my arms. My trainer was lifting me when I needed the help (the whole time), then I was doing a controlled decent. Because this was pretty foreign to my body, we did 10 sets of 5 reps with a good minutes rest in between (minimum). I played with different techniques during the session and walked away feeling pretty positive- until I woke up Tuesday morning. The T-Rex arms had hit.

Since then, even the most basic tasks have brought tears to my eyes. Brushing my hair, opening a door, typing, holding a coffee, eating soup, holding a phone to my ears… they’ve all become very complicated tasks, given my very swollen and sore arms.

I consulted Dr Google (I know, I shouldn’t), pretty much to get an idea of whether I’m being a big baby or whether I should be thinking about heading to see a doc. My body’s experienced a lot of new and foreign things since I started training with a PT, and many of those things have been painful- but never in a way that made me think something was wrong. Only in a way that made me realise I’d worked my body hard, and it was repairing.

So Dr Google (and the gazillion Cross Fitters online) reckon that my symptoms add up to some kind of mild form of Rhabdomyolysis. The general consensus seems to be that it’s pretty normal when starting out on pull-ups or doing a lot of negatives. It can be super serious in that it can effect your kidney functioning, so I guess for now I just keep an eye out for other symptoms. Given that it’s day 3 post-workout, and my range of motion has definitely improved overnight (albeit mildly), I’m going to see what tomorrow brings. When I experience soreness post-workout it normally flares up on day 2, and by day 3 is starting to go away again, so this is an interesting exercise in pain threshold and sensibility. Stay tuned- I’ll keep you updated on the T-Rex arms in the next few days.