there is no substitute for experience

Dead-lifts and goals

I am training to be a kick-ass 90 year old man. I started about 7 years ago when I saw the frailty of my parents who were 80 and 85 at the time. They are still here and still inspiring me to develop more strength, flexibility, and endurance.

This week a neighbor walked by when I was grunting out a few double clean and presses in my driveway and said, “You are strong.” I think of myself as fit, but not strong, so I said, “Not really.” She said, “No. You are strong.” I replied, “A little.”

Actually, upon reflection, I am strong. I want to be stronger and wish I was progressing faster, but it is kind of amazing that I am the strongest I have ever been in my life at age 57. I am getting stronger every week and have a pretty good chance of continuing to get stronger every week for at least another 5 years.

Yeah. I am strong. Thanks for noticing!

I went to CrossFit North Fulton to figure out what kind of weight I might be able to dead-lift at the Tactical Strength Challenge coming up on 4 October. The last time I practiced the dead-lift was January 2013. I remember the date because I developed a hernia that required surgery and never got back to dead-lifting afterwards. My goal this time was to avoid hurting myself because that is what I have frequently done when returning to the gym after a long absence.

I warmed up with some goblet squats and halos like I always do. Then I started dead-lifting. One set of 5 reps with 135 pounds. One set of 5 reps with 185 pounds. One set of 5 reps with 225 pounds. Three sets of 3 with 225 pounds. I considered pulling 245 or even 275, but thought maybe I should not go too hard my first day back in the gym. As I recall, my max effort several years ago when I trained the dead-lift regularly was only 260 or 280. I am stronger now than I was 3 years ago, but I am not planning to risk a failed attempt until I have been training regularly for a few months.

I moved directly from deadlifts to pull-ups and achieved two on my first try. I failed with every attempt of a second pull-up several weeks ago. The success probably reflects that I normally train pulls-ups after get-ups, snatches, and between sets of swings. Amazingly, not being tired makes a difference! I did a second set of two after my first and came close to failure on the second pull-up. I finished off with a few more singles.

To round out the visit to the gym, I completed my normal get-up routine of 5 x 1 L/R with the 16 kg bell. Then I went out for a one mile run up and down the hilly sidewalks of the neighborhood. The hardest part of the day was the run! My calves did not like the effort.

Based upon how I am feeling today, I am thinking my performance as a Novice at the TSC event will include 275 in the dead-lift, 2 pull-ups, and 60 snatches with the 20-kg bell.

Listing out how I expect to perform in 2014 has me thinking about what I might achieve in 2015. Considering that I want to achieve certification as a StrongFirst Girya by age 60 ( next 3 years), here are my goals: 380 in the dead-lift (double my body weight); 5 dead hang pull-ups, 60 snatches in 5 minutes with the 24-kg bell. I have not yet snatched the 24-kg bell. I only started snatching the 20-kg bell a few weeks ago, so I am not “planning” to progress from 0 to 100 snatches in 5 minutes with the 24-kg bell in one year.


Get-ups and snatches and goblet squats

The weather was cool on Monday. I took advantage of being able to lie down on the horse stall pad in my driveway and did get-ups. I think I need get-ups to keep my shoulders healthy. The weather has cooperated so far this week, but I think I will do get-ups in the house if I can’t do them in my driveway going forward.

To compensate for the get-ups, I reduced my snatch volume from 60 to 40 reps, but am doing them every day. I did 60 per day every day last week and it was wearing. I need practice to improve technique. My right-side technique is much better than my left-side technique. Some of the difference may be strength, but I am much smoother and nimble on my right side. I keep hoping my left side can figure out how to snatch as easily as my right side does. I hope doing just 40 snatches per day will help.

I tried to do sets of two pull-ups last week and failed to get above the bar on the second try every time. I failed on four tries on Monday of that week. I usually feel stronger after a few singles, so on Tuesday I did a few singles before I tried a double. I failed again. After that, I decided to avoid failure. I began making sure I was in a good dead hang and then performed just one pull-up. I recall being able to do 5 pull-ups 2 years ago, at least on the bar in my kitchen where I had to curl my legs up to stay off the floor. I was never as strong on the real pull-up bar in my garage where I can hang without touching the floor, but it does appear that I lost a lot by stopping pull-up training in 2012.

I moved up to using the 20-kg kettlebell for goblet squats last week. I experimented with the 20 more than a month ago, but thought it was awkward to do curls with the 20. Somehow over the past few weeks, I got the hang of curling the heavier bell. The added weight focuses the work more intensely, but I think goblet squats remain easier now than they were when I started with the 16 kg bell  and the Simple and Sinister program in December of 2013.

I am pleased with the progress of my training and with my consistency. I will still enjoy participating in the 4 October Tactical Strength Challenge even if I can only get one pull-up.

My current training program (5 days per week)

Prying goblet squats
20 kg kettlebell – 3 x 5 = 15 reps, 660 pounds

Goblet squat curls
20 kg kettlebell –3 x 5 = 15 reps, 660 pounds

Halos: 12 kg kettlebell – 3 x 10 = 30 reps, 780 pounds

Get-ups
16 kg kettlebell – 5 x 1 L/R = 10 reps, 350 pounds

Snatches
20 kg kettlebell – 5 L/R x 4 = 40 reps, 1760 pounds

Two-handed swings
24 kg kettlebell – 10 x 10 = 100 reps, 5600 pounds

Pullup – 5 x 1 = 5 reps


Training for a Tactical Strength Challenge

There is a StrongFirst Tactical Strength Challenge in Marietta Square on 4 October and I have decided to compete as a Novice. The challenge includes a max dead lift, maximum number of snatches in 5 minutes, and maximum number of overhand grip pull-ups. I have not dead lifted since January of 2013, but  will get into a gym and figure out the neighborhood of my max before competition.

Committing to the competition has energized my training, but I am not allowing myself to train more than about 30 minutes per day. I like how long I have gone without an injury and don’t want to mess that up now.

At 57 years old, I could compete in the Masters Open Class, but that would require snatching the 24 kg kettlebell. I just moved up to the 20 kg kettlebell a few weeks ago and can’t risk snatching more than 3 days per week in practice with the 20 kg bell. This week I have settled into snatching on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and taking a break on Tuesday and Thursday by doing cleans and presses instead. So I will be a 57 year old novice at the competition.

I had stopped doing pull-ups to spare strain on my shoulders more than one year ago. I started a few weeks ago doing one pull-up with each workout and have moved up to doing one rep four times lately. Soon I will work on doubles, but didn’t try this week.

I can’t tell if the strain I am feeling in my chest/gut area is from snatches or pull-ups. The feeling is not painful, but noticeable enough that I am giving myself Tuesdays and Thursdays as a break from snatches. It is taking me about 5 minutes to complete 60 snatches.

My current training program (5 days per week)

Prying goblet squats
16 kg kettlebell – 3 x 5 = 15 reps, 525 pounds

Goblet squat curls
16 kg kettlebell –3 x 5 = 15 reps, 525 pounds

Halos: 12 kg kettlebell – 3 x 10 = 30 reps, 780 pounds

Snatches MWF
20 kg kettlebell – 5 L/R x 6 = 60 reps, 2640 pounds

Double clean and presses TTh
16 kg kettlebells – 1,2,3 ladders = 24 reps, 1680 pounds OR

Get-ups TTh
16 kg kettlebell – 5 x 1 L/R = 10 reps, 350 pounds

Two-handed swings
24 kg kettlebell – 10 x 10 = 100 reps, 5600 pounds

Pullup – 4 x 1 = 4 reps


Training through minor tweaks in legs and knees

My legs did not feel fully refreshed on Mondays the past few weeks and my right knee has been a little touchy during squats and swings. I am not suffering pain, but rather than going up with the weight that I use for squats or swings, I have stayed with the same weights I have been using for a while. I have however, made a significant move up to double clean and presses with 16 kg bells and have begun to do a few snatches with the 20 kg bell.

On days that are adequately cool, I do get-ups instead of clean and presses, but most days have been hot, so I have been doing clean and presses 3-4 days each week. I am doing ladders of 1,2,3, 3,2, 1 x 2 for a total of 24 reps. I am excited about the power I am generating. Rather than adding another rung to the ladder, I am adding more snatches. I recently tested doing snatches with the 20 kg bell and was surprised to find that I was okay with it, at least at relatively low reps. I have had a little trouble with tweaking my wrists during swings and clean and presses, so I am not doing many snatches. The most I have done with the 20 kg bell is 20 reps. I am more interested in establishing some consistency across the week than seeing how many reps I can get at this time.

I used to do pull-ups and chin-ups in every workout, but stopped nearly a year ago to avoid the shoulder problems I seemed to develop when I was doing 10 per day (or more). However, I am toying with the idea of going to a StrongFirst Tactical Strength Challenge in Marietta on 4 October where I would need to do pullups, deadlifts, and snatches with at least the 20 kg bell to compete as a Novice. So I have been doing 1 or 2 pullups most days for the past few days. So far, my shoulders feel fine. I would like to get back to where I can do 5 dead hang pullups before 4 October.

My current training program (5 days per week)

Prying goblet squats
16 kg kettlebell – 3 x 5 = 15 reps, 525 pounds

Goblet squat curls
16 kg kettlebell –3 x 5 = 15 reps, 525 pounds

Halos: 12 kg kettlebell – 3 x 10 = 30 reps, 780 pounds

Two-handed swings
24 kg kettlebell – 10 x 10 = 100 reps, 5600 pounds

Double clean and presses
16 kg kettlebells – 1,2,3 ladders = 24 reps, 1680 pounds OR

Get-ups
16 kg kettlebell – 5 x 1 L/R = 10 reps, 350 pounds

Snatches
20 kg kettlebell – 5 L/R = 10 reps, 440 pounds

Pullup – 1 rep

Hill Sprints – 3 x 70 yards = 210 yards


Steady training continues

My training has never been as steady as it has been this year. I am squatting, swinging, snatching, pressing, or getting up in my driveway every week day with few exceptions. The secret to my steadiness is training before lunch as a break during my workday and limiting my work load so that I feel strong at the end of workouts and not exhausted. I used to injure myself by using too much weight or indulging in too much volume at least once or twice per year, but not anymore. I am focused on steadiness and it feels good!

My routine of the past several weeks has developed a bit. I am performing get-ups only on the occasional day when it is cloudy. Most days I am doing a combination of snatches and military presses. I was doing 40 snatches, but dropped to 20 and started going over head with one-arm presses for 20 instead to keep from pinching the callouses on my hands so much. I guess I could get some chalk to take the pressure off my hands during snatches, but I like the presses and don’t want to add significantly more volume to my daily program.

My current training program (5 days per week)

Prying goblet squats
16 kg kettlebell – 3 x 5 = 15 reps, 525 pounds

Goblet squat curls
16 kg kettlebell –3 x 5 = 15 reps, 525 pounds

Halos: 12 kg kettlebell – 3 x 10 = 30 reps, 780 pounds

Two-handed swings
24 kg kettlebell – 10 x 10 = 100 reps, 5600 pounds

Snatches
16 kg kettlebell – 2 x 5 L/R = 20 reps, 700 pounds

Single-arm presses
16 kg kettlebell – 5 x 2 L/R  = 20 reps, 700 pounds

Hill Sprints – 3 x 70 yards = 210 yards

Total weight: 8830 pounds
Weekly total: 44,150

I may begin to experiment with using the 20 kg kettlebell for squats and curls. I have been completing sets with less rest than I did months ago, so I guess it is time to increase the challenge.


Steady training with a little variety

I have been in the groove training every week day for months now. My right shoulder is the best that it has been in more than a year – no pain, good range of motion. I attribute the improvement in my shoulder to giving up doing swings with the 32 and 24 kg kettlebells and staying with the 16 kg bell for several months. Lately I have begun to use the 20 kg bell for swings as much as three days per week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I feel enough strain from the heavier bell that I will continue to “rest” with the 16 kg bell on Tuesdays and Thursdays for now.

My basic program is closely modeled on the Simple and Sinister book by Pavel Tsatsouline. I train in my driveway on a horse stall pad. I don’t like lying down on the pad when it gets hot in the summer, so I substitute 40 snatches and 6 25-yard waiter carries for 10 get-ups. The snatches and waiter carries do not produce the same training effect as get-ups, but do seem to be good for my shoulders. Some weeks I don’t do any get-ups, but this week, for example, I completed get-ups every day except Monday. My technique and ability to do get-ups has remained good despite not training them every day, but I do notice a feeling of strain in my left arm that I did not notice 4 months ago when I was doing get-ups steadily.

I started adding hill sprints to my program to add some leg work on days I did not do get-ups. I like the sprints so much, however, that I have begun doing them every day whether I have done get-ups or snatches and waiter carries.

My current S&S program (5 days per week)

Prying goblet squats
16 kg kettlebell – 3 x 5 = 15 reps, 525 pounds

Goblet squat curls
16 kg kettlebell –3 x 5 = 15 reps, 525 pounds

Halos: 12 kg kettlebell – 3 x 10 = 30 reps, 780 pounds

One-handed swings
16 kg kettlebell – 5 x 10 L/R = 100 reps, 3500 pounds OR
20 kg kettlebell – 5 x 10 L/R = 100 reps, 4400 pounds

Get-ups
16 kg kettlebell – 5 x 1 L/R = 10 reps, 350 pounds OR

Snatches
16 kg kettlebell – 4 x 5 L/R = 40 reps, 1400 pounds AND

Waiter Carry
12 kg kettlebell – 3 x 25 yards L/R = 150 yards, 156 pounds

Hill Sprints – 3 x 70 yards = 210 yards

Total weight: 5680 pounds OR 7786
Typical weekly total: 34,718


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