Weight on the Bar

Posted: September 28, 2014 by Savvy Saver in Uncategorized

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Hope everyone’s doing good. Updates have kinda dried up but I am still writing sporadically. I am still training 4 times a week with heavy weights and an iron will to be strong; the strongest I could be.

This happened recently when I was benching last week which apparently was deload week. The way deload works is, you train heavy for 3 weeks increasing the intensity (weights) and then take a light week. That’s how 5/3/1 works. So here I am benching 65 lbs on my first deload week set. And this big guy asks me, “When are you going to put some weight on the bar?” And that was the conception of this blog post.

Thinking back, I could have had a lot of witty responses for him like, “When are you going to start squatting deep like a real man?” or “When are you going to quit using your whole body kip to do pull ups?” However, without being impolite I told him that I was taking a deload week. He looked at me as if I had just committed a crime.

“So what was last week?” he asks.

“150 lbs” I reply.

“Is that your best?” he asks.

“No my best is 175 lbs” I say.

Here is the video of the 175 lbs bench.

See the guy spotting me? That’s the same guy.

Typically in gyms who would you go for advice? Definitely not the smallest guy right? You’d go to the biggest baddest dude you could set eyes on. And there is where you’d make the worst mistake of your life. Turns out, big isn’t necessarily strong. Granted this guy can put 405 on his back and do some sort of movement which I wouldn’t call a squat. However, if he does it correctly, I’d be willing to bet money that he wouldn’t be able to squat half that weight for more than 2 reps.

So does it really matter how much weight you put on the bar? Well it does matter, but what matters more is what are you doing with that weight. If your form is sub par and you’re just putting the weight on so that you can look cool in the gym, stop right there. Do yourself a favor and leave your ego out before entering the gym. This would benefit you twofold. One, it would make you a lot more humble and two, you wouldn’t ever hurt yourself while lifting. It’s called lifting hard but smart.

Another thing which a lot of people don’t give much importance to is tracking progress. Ask the lifter next to you how much he has achieved over the last year and you’d get blank faces. It is very important to make sure that your programming enables you to keep pushing your limits and making PR’s.

Over the two years that I have been lifting weights, I have noticed that a lot of people progress way faster than others. And that’s just another nuance of the nature of the human body. Everyone is different. I tried keeping up with Stronglifts 5X5 and was getting killed after a year on the program. So I decided to take it a little slow and agreed that I have not achieved a lot in the last year considering the big breaks I had to take from the gym. However, I am definitely stronger which I can gauge in various ways. For instance a year ago I couldn’t deadlift anything more than 225 lbs without reversing my grip. And just last week I did 270 lbs for 7 in which I got the first 4 reps without reversing my grip. I’d say that is a heck of an improvement in my book. My squats are stronger, my bench is stronger. The only place I am lagging behind considerably is my military press. It appears to have stalled out. However, through the intelligent programming of 5/3/1, I am sure I will break through this plateau soon. And to do just that I have decided to give bodyweight template of the 5/3/1 a chance. And we will see how it goes from there.

In other updates my squat has gone to a new PR of 215X6 which I am stoked about.

Signing off now. Will keep updating. Happy lifting!

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It has been a long time since I wrote something here. Well in my defense I have been busy and lazy. I got married to the love of my life about 4 months ago so I hope that makes it more understandable. 

I am bigger, stronger and hopefully a better person after all these days. And even if I am not a better person, my better half definitely covers that for the both of us <3. 

Anyway, say hello to the newest ACE (American Council on Exercise) certified Personal Trainer. That is correct, a couple weeks ago I successfully passed the test and am now certified to give training tips advice and more! I recently also tested my 1 RM on the squat which was a solid 235lbs. At that point I did have more in me I just didn’t want to go all out. 

The wife has been feeding me well and that is an understatement. This definitely has resulted in me gaining a ridiculous amount of weight. Yours truly is now a good 175lbs (80kg). I have never been this heavy and I can’t say with certainty that all of that is muscle mass. I am fairly certain that my body fat percent has shot up to about 20% easy. But you can judge that by looking at some of the progress pictures below. I must say I am pretty impressed with how my back is shaping up. No wonder 235lbs on the back didn’t feel like the max I could do. 

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I am still on the 5/3/1 Big but Boring training program and it has yielded good results for me in addition to allow me to take it slow and make modifications to the program as I deem fit. Although I never want to stop getting stronger so the quest for that continues and I am sure I would have to switch over to an advanced program a year from now.

Talking about goals; my goal this year is to have a 400lb deadlift at current bodyweight or less. a 275lb squat also sounds delicious and I think is quite achievable. As far as military press goes, I want to venture into the 135lb territory. And I don’t really care for the bench that much anyway. Another important goal is to train with the wife and make her strong(her). I did get a chance to train with her after the wedding and I must say that she is one of the feistiest people I have ever trained with. She just doesn’t give up and that can be good and bad. But I really like the attitude she has in the gym (and outside the gym 🙂 ) 

This brings me to the end of this post, I promise I will be more regular posting here and will post some videos of my lifts soon. Until then take care and lift heavy!

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It’s been a while since my last update. I have been on the 5/3/1 boring but big template for about 3 months now. And the good thing is that I am really getting big while getting stronger and leaner at the same time.

To put things in perspective, I have gained about 7-8 lbs in the last 2-3 months. So I am definitely getting bigger. As far as strength goes, I recently squatted 215 lbs for 4 reps which is a PR for both weight and reps. I also shoulder pressed 115 lbs for a single which is a PR again. In a couple weeks I plan to test my max on the deadlift and I hope it exceeds or at least equals my last PR. So I am definitely getting stronger. How do I say I am getting leaner at the same time? I look in the mirror everyday and the mirror doesn’t lie. Also none of my pants have gotten tighter even the slightest bit while I gained those 7-8 lbs so I can safely assume that I am maintaining my body fat percent if not getting leaner.

In the recent past, I wrote a post about fasting and how it helped me get leaner faster. And I am doing nothing different to be honest. My training routine (5/3/1 Boring but Big) has helped me gain size while getting stronger. At the same time Intermittent Fasting has enabled me to keep the fat away while gaining muscle. If there was truly a holy grail for being lean all year round and gain lean muscle and get stronger, you shouldn’t look any further than intermittent fasting.

If you don’t suffer from a sugar disease (diabetes) or a heart condition, and you’re not pregnant or nursing, you can safely follow intermittent fasting. I would recommend you read all the resources I mention at the bottom of this post before you start out. And always remember, there are really no shortcuts to anything. So if you are set out to achieve a certain physique, you will have to toil through a lot and face a lot of highs and lows.

I started training in September 2012. That was around the same time I started intermittent fasting. There have been really awesome days in the gym when I obliterated all previous personal records. And then there have been days where I questioned what I was doing and thought of giving up. But the key is to keep yourself motivated constantly and not look back. When you’re under the iron in the power cage, you get to know yourself better and it instills a new confidence. You develop new strengths and strengthen your character.

Even though intermittent fasting has worked for me, it might not work for you. Everyone is different and nothing comes in one size fits all. But if you think it might work for you, give it a shot and see how you feel. After 17 months of doing intermittent fasting, I feel great today. And when I look in the mirror, a sense of accomplishment hits me.

So yes, you can grow stronger, bigger and leaner at the same time. It just takes brutal determination, unbeatable consistency and a strong solid will.

Resources –

http://www.leangains.com/

http://www.eatstopeat.com/

Aside  —  Posted: January 11, 2014 by Savvy Saver in Uncategorized
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Recent Developments

Posted: December 7, 2013 by Savvy Saver in Uncategorized
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It’s been a while since I updated the blog. I have been lazy and worked up. However, I do have a lot to update in this post. 

I recently got the opportunity to attend Learn to Train 7 seminar organized by EliteFTS in Columbus, Ohio. I was very excited to attend the seminar and to meet the powerlifters whom I could just watch videos of or read about. Unfortunately there was no lifting on the first day. Matt Wenning was the first speaker. I remember him saying that he didn’t train the overhead barbell press because he benched 600 lbs. But when he did, he pressed 405 lbs overhead. I didn’t pay much attention toward the rest of the speakers. I was just looking at all the folks around and reflecting on how small I was. I think I was the smallest person in the entire seminar barring a few women maybe. 

The second day was training day. We were split into groups and were to squat, bench and deadlift to get our form checked. A few trainers were very helpful and enthusiastic but a few were not very helpful. They had opinions which were set in stone and didn’t want to accept anything else. This happened more on the squat. I usually follow what Rippetoe says for the squat because I think he makes sense. He advises to keep your elbows back instead of down which helps in keeping the hands to help you lift the weight. Keeping elbows back helps stabilize the weight on the back which is the only thing your hands should be doing in a squat. They asked me to do more back workouts to make my back stronger so I could squat like they wanted me to. I do think I have to work a little bit on my torso angle on the squat, but I think progress will come slowly and it is nothing which cannot be worked upon. I have already incorporated Good Mornings in my workouts.

Next was the bench and I think this is the session I got the most benefit from. Before the seminar, I had zero leg drive and I believe this was making my bench stall. They taught me how to use leg drive as an advantage and that totally changed the way I look at the bench. I think I am going to be a lot stronger on the bench post seminar.

The deadlift session was a good one too. This is my favorite lift and I don’t think I need much work on this. My previous max was 315 lbs and I managed to break that to lift 325 lbs. It didn’t really feel like a max because the weight went up pretty quick and easy. I proceeded to try 365 after much encouragement of the coaches and managed to lift it off the ground. However, I didn’t lock it out. I think I could have, but I had a flight to catch in 3 hours and I didn’t want to be miserable on the flight so I let go.

At this moment I am almost done with my first wave of 5/3/1 which I had to repeat because of the 2 weeks lapse in training. I will be starting the second wave soon and I am very excited about it because I am going to be squatting 215 lbs which is going to be the heaviest I have ever done. I will keep updating this page as I get the time.  

Initialization in the ways of the Iron

Posted: October 12, 2013 by tnt007tarun in Uncategorized

I am one of the author’s friends who is also a strength training buff, and I had actually used strength training + diet as a way to lose fat a couple of years ago.

This quote is what galvanized me to take action one fine New Year’s eve. I was overweight, bordering on the edge of obese. Unhealthy, lazy and stuck to the computer all day, I was whiling away my health and life. I’ve always wanted to look and feel good – who doesn’t? But I never took the steps to make it happen since I did not want to put in the work and more importantly was afraid of failing. Failing myself and failing those who would believe in me.

Things had gone too far though, and I was prepared to go through everything to at least start getting myself on the right path. This was December 31st 2009. I scoured the internet for information on how to start losing weight. I tried to lose weight before but never found any success – I tried doing cardio but my diet was not in control. This time I knew that my diet had to be in control first. And so, after reading up and reading the right things – I got my hands on a free e-book that expounded the virtues of compound exercises – the squat, bench press, deadlift, shoulder press. I only knew how to bench and was poor at it too. But I made it a point to learn research and apply. I started going to the gym in early January, and my first couple of months were spent learning how to do the exercises right. I was so unfit I couldn’t even squat parallel without losing balance.

Nevertheless, I kept on. People at my gym wondered why I was trying to learn an exercise (the squat) no one else bothered to do. I kept getting advice like “You can work out with me – chest on Monday, biceps on Wednesday and triceps on Friday”, and the like, but I was having none of it. I was finally able to squat properly with the bar in early March; I was so happy! Now I could start out on a proper training regimen. I bought Starting Strength and followed the program but without the extra calories and definitely without GOMAD (Gallon Of Milk A Day). I kept losing weight in the right areas and slowly started building muscle that totally changed the shape of my body! Everyone started commenting that I was looking great – what was I doing? What was the secret? I didn’t have the heart to tell them I spent two months learning an exercise and then training 3 days a week for the next 6 months.

I was around 230 pounds when I started out, and was able to drop down to 180, with all my compound lifts between the novice and intermediate weights for my weight class. I later had a bout of typhoid but was surprised to see that my strength was still mostly intact! A 50 pound fat loss coupled with increased lifts all round. All this showed me that I made the right decisions. Compound lifts. A program that worked. Bodyweight grams of protein. And a will to succeed – a most potent combination! Strength training builds character and a restlessness to always work hard if you want results.

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220 lb to 180 lb, strength training and calorie deficit

I’ve been away for quite sometime. The last time I wrote an update was when I was still having hip issues and I got them straightened out with the help of a chiropractor. I had given thought to switching my lifting routine from Stronglifts 5X5 to Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1. The idea behind this change was to increase recovery time and to be less beaten up (squatting 200lbs 3 times a week is no joke at my body weight). However, I stuck around with Stronglifts for the better part of last month.

It’s been a little more than a year that I have been on this program and saying that I am satisfied would be an understatement. The program is amazing for anyone who has never touched weights in their lives; split routine training doesn’t mean touching weights (no offence to the aesthetic chasers). If the program wasn’t as good as it is, I wouldn’t have been on it for a year. Mehdi has done a good job creating a routine which will work for anyone.

Now if you are subscribed to the Stronglifts newsletter which Mehdi sends out everyday, you should have a pretty good idea of what the title of the post means. There was a time when he used to post videos of himself lifting pretty heavy stuff, no more though. All that is left of Stronglifts is the Stronglifts inner circle. The bottom of every e-mail from Mehdi begs people to join his inner circle of members. He also gives freebies to people who join. However, I reckon that it is a little excessive on his part to write in every e-mail “Doors are closed now but you can go here and sign up for early bird registration for my Inner Circle.” Some way or the other he always manages to link his stories to the inner circle as if the inner circle is the solution to every problem.

When he posted his videos of him lifting in his home gym, that was inspirational stuff. When I saw him for the first time, I thought I wanted to be like him. I believe he made a big mistake in marketing himself by changing his focus from posting videos to sending crappy e-mails. To be honest, I am still subscribed to his newsletter because his e-mails make me chuckle first thing in the morning. He has also shown his complete rebuttal of steroids and steroid users. He has called them cheaters and has gone as far as to prove it by citing some research studies. He also says that, “If you’re using workout gloves and using a foam pad (for squats), you are not really doing stronglifts.” I think there is a better way to convince people not to use workout gloves or foam pads. I also think it is a personal preference and nobody gives a shit about you telling them that they’re not doing your program because you said so.

Coming to the program, I think it is a fairly balanced routine.

Day 1 – Squat, Bench, Pendlay Row

Day 2 – Squat, Overhead Press, Deadlift

Work out three times a week alternating between day 1 and day 2 workouts with 5 sets of 5 reps on each lift except the deadlift which is 1 set of 5 reps. There is push, pull movements for the shoulders – the bench and the pendlays. There is a push movement overhead but there isn’t a pull movement. I think if you’re doing stronglifts you should also do pull ups/ chin ups if you want to keep your shoulders balanced.

So much for the praise of the program. Even though the program is simple to follow, there is very little information about how to properly do the lifts without getting injured. Here is where the marketing gimmick called the Stronglifts Inner Circle comes into the picture. Mehdi says that if you join the Inner circle, you can post videos of your lifts and get instant feedback about your form from other members which will help you be injury free.

First of all Mehdi, there is only so much you can see in a video. Secondly, are those members of your inner circle all personal trainers? Are they certified to provide feedback? I don’t think providing feedback is wrong. But if you are selling the membership to your inner circle to people to help themselves, then you’re making money out of nothing. You have just created a forum for people to interact with each other. There are websites like Fitocracy which do the same thing and for free. One can also post videos on youtube and have someone on facebook look at them. Why would anyone in their right mind pay for membership of a forum in which you ask questions from people who aren’t even certified to answer them?

In any case, he has done a good job making the program from Bill Starr’s/ Reg Park’s 5X5 program. However, he has not marketed himself correctly. From a stronglifter he has become a gatekeeper who does nothing except opening and closing the gates of his Stronglifts Inner Circle. Good luck to you Mehdi. May you achieve what you set out to achieve.

As I have mentioned in one of my previous blog posts, the definition of fitness can be different for different people. Someone may want to be able to run faster, jump higher, run a marathon or lift heavy weights. My own definition of fitness keeps evolving overtime. Until now I was following Mehdi’s Stronglifts 5X5 program religiously. I like the lifts so much that I thought I could do it for life. But unless you’re a beginner starting out with light weights, squatting near maximal weights for 3 times a week doesn’t do much good. I used this website  to calculate my 1-rep maxes for the big lifts. And then I used this website to find where I stand.

Squat – Shy of Intermediate by 4lbs

Bench – Shy of Intermediate by 1lbs

Overhead Press – Shy of Intermediate by 6lbs

Deadlift – Between Intermediate and Advanced

This post is about my chronicles in the gym and some interesting conversations.

We all are familiar with the Bro’s of the gym. You can see one in the picture above. You’d find them benching 225 and then curling in the squat rack. But look at those fine legs. They are so fine, you can barely see them. I once saw such a guy in my college gym. All he got from us were bewildered looks and chuckles. Never do this to yourself, you wouldn’t look attractive. For more details refer to my post – Shut Up and Squat.

Talking of the squat, you’d see a lot of people who’d be in the squat rack. Heck my gym had 8 of them and they were all full in the peak hours. But many of these racks are occupied by people who will tell you “You’re going to bust your knees if you go deep.” And that is the point when I stop listening to them. There was this guy at the gym next to my rack who was squatting 300+lbs with depth less than a couple inches. I don’t even know what to call it as it was shallower than a quarter squat. He cranks up the weight to 500lbs (maybe he saw a girl in the crowd he wanted to impress). And proceeds to unrack the weight. He then tries to crank out a rep of his shallow 2 inch deep squat but fails. Fortunately he had the safety bars at about shoulder level which prevented the aftermath which wouldn’t have been pretty at all.

Strength and size are not necessarily the same thing. You can watch this video if you don’t believe me. So I was once deadlifting in the rack (I know it’s lame but I do it nevertheless). And there were a couple guys next to my rack deadlifting. They were twice my size if i was being conservative in describing them. If you saw them and if you saw me, you’d think I have never touched a weight in my life and they are professionals. My work set that day was to be 5 reps of 285lbs. I proceeded with my warm up sets and loaded my work weight on the bar. Just before I was about to start my work set, I turned to my right and saw that all of them were struggling with 225lbs. They couldn’t manage anything more than a couple reps with that weight. You cannot imagine the feeling of satisfaction I got. I did not feel jealous that they looked bigger than me. I was content that I was the stronger guy without having to look like the hulk.

The gym I used to go to recently had only 1 squat rack and 1 power rack. Thankfully the gym had more bro’s than folks who trained legitimately. So I’d have the squat rack all to myself pretty much all the time. There used to be this guy who used to box squat 300+ lbs. If you know the mechanics of the box squat, it is supposed to be performed with half of your max weight on the regular squat. So his max regular squat could have been anywhere from 500-600lbs. I was squatting a measly 185lbs one day with him doing his thing next to my rack. While resting between sets, he says “You’re the only one in this gym I’ve seen squat properly”. To that I said, “Well, I have the internet.” It’s true, you can find any resources on the internet these days if you want to train seriously. However, you want to make sure you’re not following people who just talk the talk and don’t walk the walk.

I like to do Kroc Rows at the end of my deadlift workout. I usually try and pick up a dumbbell heavier than 55lbs to do them. This particular day, I was to do Kroc rows with a 60lb dumbbell. In the middle of my set, a guy comes up to the dumbbell stand. He looks confused so I ask him if he needs help with something. He says he was looking for a 40lb dumbbell. I point it out to him. He picks it up and looks at the weight I am using. He puts it down, proceeds to pick up the second 60lb dumbbell and says “Let’s crank up the weight a little bit”. He then proceeds to struggle doing a couple of reps with that weight. Now just because I don’t look like I lift weights doesn’t mean I can’t does it? The best thing is the looks which I get when I load up the bar for a 100+kg deadlift. I love them deadlifts. It makes me feel powerful.

So I’ve decided to combine body weight training with my usual weightlifting which means the intensity has to go down. But then who doesn’t want to do one arm push ups, pull ups and one legged squats? 🙂