Let’s get brawny!

I have been doing Eric Cressey’s Maximum Strength program since June, and have made some good progress with my strength. I had almost completed Phase 4 when an exciting opportunity came up to take my training to the next level. I was able to sign up for Precision Nutrition’s Scrawny to Brawny program!

Now wait a minute; I thought you were fat! Well, I never was skinny, but I was always weak and almost always had a paunch growing up. Once I started lifting weights, I’ve gained some muscle, but never at a good rate, and almost always with more fat than I want (which is the reason why I had to drop the fat when I started this blog). This time, I’m putting my trust in the PN guys, that over the 12-month program they can teach me how to put muscle on the right way. The actual program started on November 12th, and so far, so good.

Let’s get brawny!

Day 1191: End of Mission 6

Day 1191

Today is the start of the one-week rest period at the end of my current program, which is the Huge in a Hurry “Get Big”  program.  I measured my weight this morning and got the following:

Date Body Mass (kg) Body Fat % Fat Mass (kg) Lean Mass
Start of Mission 5 2010-08-07 73.8 14.3 10.5 63.3
End of Mission 5 2011-04-09 67.0 8.4 5.6 61.4
End of Mission 6 2011-10-17 71.3 11.6 8.3 63.0

So it looks like I gained back most of the lean mass I had before I started my last leaning phase, but I also gained more than half of the fat back! I have to review what I did during this last program and determine what I need to adjust in order to gain muscle without gaining too much fat back.  I checked with the guru of fat loss himself, Tom Venuto, on building muscle without gaining fat.  I admit that I didn’t count calories during this phase and tried to play it by ear.  I think I may have gotten too aggressive with eating, so it’s either I try to cut back a little bit next time I go on a mass-building phase, or add some cardio to burn off the excess.

This rest period should allow me to plan my next attack!

Day 1112: My 32nd Birthday Update

Day 1112

I’m currently on Phase 2 of Chad Waterbury’s Huge in a Hurry “Get Big” program.  I like how the program’s focus on lifting fast and with whole-body coverage every workout.

I decided today, on my 32nd birthday, to just take a milestone, for tracking my year-to-year progress.  I admit, I haven’t been taking progress pics nor bodyfat measurements lately, since I have been trying to focus on gaining lean muscle mass.  Training is a blast, but my nutrition and supplementation could be improved.  Tight finances mean that I have not been able to but my regular protein powder for use after my training sessions.

Right now I am at around 70kg at a height of 1.68 metres.  I haven’t measured with my calipers yet.  I’ll reserve that for when I finish Phase 3.

Day 1112 - Front Day 1112 - Back Day 1112 - Side

Day 1043: Precision Nutrition Result and Plans for the Future

Day 1043

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been months since I updated my blog!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I participated in Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating Program.  The program uses it’s own web application where you are asked to log on every day.  In addition to the training plan for the day, on most days, there are lessons for you to read on nutrition, training, and building good habits to practice on the road to becoming self-sufficient.  The website also tracks your adherence to the training program and habits which you are asked to practice.  Since I was already logging my progress on the Lean Eating Program website, I felt that I didn’t need to do my own logging/blogging, which explains my extended absence.

When signing up for the Lean Eating Program, they ask you for a minimum commitment of 6 months, in order to give yourself time to build the habits that will get you on the right track for life.  I stayed with the program for a total of 96 weeks, and I had some pretty good results with it.  There were times when I had to take a break for travel, and times when I got sick, but I got back as soon as I was able.  When I get more time, on my next post I will post the results of my last training phase.

After I opted out of the Lean Eating Program, I began looking for my next one.  First on my trial list was Chad Waterbury’s Huge In a Hurry, which is one of several books that I have collected in my fitness library.  As preparation for the main part of the program, there is a four-week familiarization phase (“Get Ready”) in which one gets familiar with how the training program works.  Unfortunately, during the very first session, I aggravated a shoulder injury that I got during the end of my last program (while doing overhead squats with a little too much weight), which resulted in my having to totally lay off from training for two weeks in order for my shoulder to recover.

Since returning to training four weeks ago, I have been slowly building back the pain-free range of motion, continuing the “Get Ready” phase while watching out for pain in the shoulder.  However, on the next two weeks, I am going with my family to visit relatives on another island down south.  At the moment, I just finished packing my bags!  When I get back from travel I’ll be raching to go back into the gym to train again!

Day 759: Two weeks into a new program

Day 759

Sorry, I haven’t been posting for the past three weeks.  I’ve been busy catching up on things:  I finished my project in Peru, the flew home, arriving two weeks ago.   As soon as I arrived I started a new program, the Lean Eating program from Precision Nutrition.   The first two weeks are about building good habits and laying the foundation for later training sessions.  I’ll be writing more about it in the next few weeks.

Day 738: Weightless again after being in the clouds

Day 738

Yesterday, I arrived back in Lima after a few days of holiday in Cusco.  I was able to see the famed ruins of Machupicchu, which was fantastic!  It wasn’t all pleasure though.  The high altitude in Cusco (3310 meters) and surrounding sites (from 2200 meters up to 3800 meters) caused me some headaches and dizziness (classic symptoms of altitude sickness), but the effects were reduced toward the end of my 5-day stay there.  I also had a cold while I was there.  However, the scenery was worth it.

All that climbing up and down stairs and terraces at the many sites in the thin air were also workouts in themselves.

I was supposed to fly home today, but the client here asked me to stay for another week.  I had wanted to go to the gym, but couldn’t find the lock I use for the gym lockers among my newly-unpacked luggage, so I opted to do another bodyweight workout inside my hotel room.

  • Box jumps
  • Pistol squats
  • Jackknife pushups
  • Pushups
  • Russian twists
  • Planks

Day 731: Weightless

Day 731

It’s my penultimate day at the client’s office in Lima, and with it, a lot of work that still needs to be done.  The day after tomorrow, I am leaving with my colleague for five days in Cusco to see the pre-Columbian ruins in the area, including Machu Picchu.  We leave very early in the morning, so I decided not to go to the gym today and instead do my workout inside my hotel room so that I can sleep earlier and prepare for the week ahead.  Here are the exercises I did:

  • Squat jumps
  • Supine hip extensions (single-leg)
  • Horizontal pull-ups
  • Windshield wipers
  • Plank walk-ups

It’s supposed to be a “pull” type session today, but since I do not have a pullup bar in the room, nor anywhere to hang from vertically, I had to skip the vertical pull movement.  Luckily however, the overhang of the (inbuilt) bathroom sink did provide enough room for me to do the horizontal rows with head under the sink and my hands supinated.

Day 728: A good day of work at the gym

Day 728

I was (and still am) quite a bit sore before I went to the gym today, but decided to push through anyway, making sure to do a good dynamic warm-up routing.  I did my exercises a little out of the usual order, as the squat rack (and the space around it) was being used, and that is the only place I could do my explosive movement exercises.  It was not a problem, however, as the fellow using it was quite friendly and notified me as soon as the rack was free for me to use.

  • Reverse-grip bench press
  • Hang jump shrugs
  • Split squats
  • Dumbbell push presses
  • Corkscrews
  • Planks

I was able to push myself quite hard today, especially on the hang jump shrugs and split squats, where I was able to increase my loading by a significant amount.  I also noted some improvement in the reverse-grip bench press, and a little in the dumbbell push press.

Day 726: Sore but still pushing it

Day 726

Things have been busy, busy, busy at work.  It’s my last few days working on the project here in Lima, and there are still quite a few loose ends to tie.  Nevertheless, I made sure to get to the gym this evening, and do the following exercises.

  • Hang power cleans
  • Single-leg back extensions
  • Horizontal pullups
  • Side-to-side pullups
  • (Medicine ball) 1-2-3 throws
  • Dynamic planks

My legs and glutes were still sore from doing Bulgarian split squats two days ago, and I was thinking of not pushing myself too much.  However, my right wrist has sufficiently healed so I did not feel any pain when doing the catch portion of the power cleans.  I thought it was a good time to try to progress the loading on this exercise and set/rep combination (4X5), and I almost succeeded, just missing the very last rep.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to push myself as hard with side-to-side pullups.  Perhaps I used up my power on the power cleans, perhaps it was the different set of pullup bars.  I do know that pullups are much tougher when done toward the end of the session instead of the beginning!

There were no medicine balls at the gym I go to here in Lima, so instead of throwing a medicine ball, I substituted with a dumbbell instead.  I made sure to hold instead of throw it in the “throw” movement though!

Day 724: Turning Bulgarian

Day 724

  • Dumbbell snatches
  • Alternating sets of
    • Side-to-side pushups
    • Jackknife pushups
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Cable push-pull rotations
  • Planks

I was on my first set of split squats when I felt that the initial weight I put was too heavy.  I thought I was just having a bad day, so I decided not to increase the weight, but instead, decreased the weight a little in the third out of the four sets.  When I looked back on my training notebook, I realized I was doing Bulgarian split squats (with the rear foot raised on a bench) instead of split squats (with the rear foot on the floor).  Even with the reduced weight I was close to my best weight for 6 reps on this exercise, so it turned out ok.

Day 721: Chinups first

Day 721

Today’s routine went like this:

  • Chinups
  • Narrow grip hang snatches
  • Romanian deadlifts
  • Two-point Dumbbell rows + twist
  • Kneeling reverse woodchops
  • Two-point planks

I went to the gym after work, and as I finished my warmups, I found that the squat cage was being used, and so I couldn’t start my session with the usual explosive exercise (snatches, cleans, and their variations).  Today then I opted then to start with chinups.  I have noticed before that usually the vertical pull exercise (chinups or pullups) came in as fourth exercise, and usually by then my muscles were already quite fatigued from the earlier exercises.  Since I did chinups first today, I almost completed the prescribed 4 sets of 8 chinups (I just had to do last two reps on the fourth set as negatives).

Doing chinups first did have an effect on the explosive exercise (narrow-grip hang snatches) as I felt just a little bit less power, but I was able to complete the exercise to my target weight anyway.  What a good feeling that was!

Day 719: Blowing off some steam at the gym

Day 719

Today I did the following exercises after a hectic day at work.  I was glad to blow off some steam there!  I was able to beat my set targets on all the exercises except for the last one.  The last two exercises should have been swapped in position, but I had to put one before the other as the two flat benches were in use by the time I finished the second exercise.

  • Hang dumbbell cleans
  • Step-ups
  • Supported dumbbell one-arm  presses
  • Close-grip bench press

I intended to do two more exercises (for core stabilization and rotation), but had to postpone it until tomorrow as I had to rush back to my hotel to watch the replay of the world cup semifinals between Germany and Spain.  I already knew the result (I had the live commentary behind my work applications), but I wanted to see for myself.  Best wishes to Spain in the final, but I wasn’t convinced by their performances during the whole tournament and was supporting Germany to win that match.

Day 717: Keeping stable feet

Day 717

My exercises today, done after work, were the following:

  • Muscle snatches
  • Single-leg Romanian deadlifts
  • Cable face pulls
  • Single-arm pulldowns
  • Russian twists
  • Side planks + Reaches

Today, the most challenging exercise (besides the muscle snatches) were the single-leg Romanian deadlifts.  It was quite difficult to keep stability on one foot while wearing my running shoes.  Normally, I would simply remove my shoes and do this particular exercise in my socks, but the gym I go to won’t allow it.

    Day 713: Rest and then shifting gears

    Day 713

    I am returning from a one-week break from training, as I was at the midpoint of the training program that I have been following (the push-pull general fitness program from Men’s Health Power Training by Robert Dos Remedios).  I also felt that it was the perfect time to rest to allow my wrist to recover and strengthen itself.

    I am now in the third phase of the program, and this meant another change in the set/rep scheme for the exercises.  For the next twelve sessions (including this one), the first exercise (explosive exercise) will be 4X5 (it was 5X3 previously), the second to fourth exercises (lower-body hip/knee dominant, horizontal push/pull, and then vertical push/pull) are 4X8 (previous was 4X6), the 5th exercise (twist) is 4X10, and the 6th exercise (core stabilization) is 4 sets of 30 to 45 seconds.  These were the exercises I did today:

    • Clean pulls
    • Front squats
    • Dumbbell bench presses
    • Push presses
    • Woodchops
    • Planks

    I had some concerns with doing front squats as I normally do these with my palms extended in the “clean” position, but I found that I didn’t feel much pain once I did a few warmup sets.  What was more scary for me though was on my third set as I unracked the bar from the squatting cage and got into position, I felt dizzy for a few seconds and had to concentrate hard to make sure I re-racked the weight properly.  I think I may have forgotten to breath properly and deeply enough to recover from the previous set!  Good thing I always use clamps on the bars so I didn’t panic as I guided the bar back to position.

    Day 706: Wrist pain

    Day 706

    For the past three weeks, I have been doing a 10-minute HIIT running session twice a week on my non-lifting days (Tuesdays and Thursdays).  Today however, I did my third lifting session one day early, as I have an invitation to dinner tomorrow night (Friday).  Today’s routine consisted of the following exercises:

    • Hang power cleans
    • Seated good mornings
    • Horizontal side-to-side pullups
    • Lat pulldowns
    • Plank rows
    • Reverse woodchops

    I had a problem with the power cleans today as my right wrist feels a bit painful when I flex hand toward the back of my palm (like when doing a push up).  That meant I felt that I had to be very careful when doing the “catch” part of the movement and so my movements were less than perfect.  I hope the mini-break that I’ll be taking next week will help heal my wrist.