March 4th was a heavy day – another university deadline missed (by them, not me), work to be done and heavy things to lift.

Today was the week two end of week session – 5×4, 3×1 and 8×1.

We’ve been experimenting recently with being anti-social at the gym. We’ve managed to create a very brief form of sign language where-by we can give technique calls, congratulate and communicate which weights to put on the bar. The reason for this is pretty simple – no one bothers speaking to you. When we’re in the gym, we’re there to train. We’re busy people and we’re there for a specific reason – all else is just a distraction. That’s not to say we’re a pair of arseholes, if you know us, feel free to come and say hello, trade greetings and have general chit-chat, but don’t expect a fifteen minute stand and chat when there’s things nearby that need lifting. Unless of course you’re needing a few pointers – we’re not evil.

Alas, with the sign language method, we’ve managed to cut down our gym-time by a good 20 minutes. Negligible you might think, but time is precious no matter how small the gain.

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We began today with the bench press – focusing on slowing down the eccentric (lowering) part of the movement before the big push. This focus meant the bar was more controlled and when we pushed, the bar moved in a more controlled fashion. It also meant that we weren’t taking advantage of the natural stretch reflex (when your muscle is stretched and has a bit of an “elastic” effect to it) and therefore gained more from the work-out, not using this natural “cheat”. Of course, in bench pressing, bouncing the bar off your chest is not using the stretch reflex, it’s just being a careless dick head.

Bent over rows were great news – grip strength was barely challenged and again, we made gains. Again, we focused on eccentrics and got a real feeling of control over the bar.

Friday squats – always a psyche up. Every time I squat, no matter what’s on the bar, it feels like an achievement. Today, however, I had to prove a point to myself. I feel that every squat session I work through challenges me at some point, in some way. The trick is being true to yourself, your principles and your gains. In the 3 rep set, I went as deep as I could have before erupting up on the first two reps. They felt solid, powerful, technically sound and highly taxing. However, on my last rep, I knew I’d sold myself short. I turned around and Ross gave me the feedback I’d been expecting – that last rep was an inch short of parallel and I hadn’t performed. So I sat down on our bench and took some deep breaths. I was one rep short of feeling like I’d put the work in…solution? Get that rep done.

Ross pushed the same set I did, two solid reps and one that left both of us feeling unhappy. So we stood under the bar one more time and executed as was planned. One, deep, technically sound, fully focussed repetition. We then finished the 8 set and finished with our squats – content the job had been done. Next time, I’m getting it on that last rep instead.

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Following squats, we decided to go and do some accessory work – some stretching and a pull-up finisher. Static stretching post-workout is pretty shite in my opinion – I tend to feel more beat up the next day and upon further research discovered that it’s because you’re stretching out a muscle that already has a shed load of micro-tears from training. However, post-work out is the best time to perform Isometric stretching techniques or “PNF” stretching. I’ll detail that in a later post – it’s what I worked on today.

Finisher had a nice twist – the usual 8, 7, 6…2,1 but this time when we were no longer able to reach the bar, we opted to perform “negative” reps – where the main focus of the lift is entirely eccentric. You basically get assistance for the concentric part (in pull ups, jumping to the top of the bar) and then VERY slowly lower yourself through the eccentric stage. A good way to gain strength when you can’t pull of concentric movements anymore. A real finisher.

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Today’s wisdom –

– Finish your workout on YOUR terms.
– Slow down the eccentrics and take CONTROL of your movements.
– Pretending you’re deaf makes people stare but not speak to you – time saver.

No time to spellcheck – I’ll edit this tomorrow!

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