Day 12 – In Honour of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

Posted: March 20, 2011 in Bill Starr 5x5 Intermediate Programme
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An apt Shogun tribute, in light of his loss last night:

The gym on a Saturday was odd purely because it was quiet and daylight streamed through the windows – not usually the case.

Today was the week’s end – 5×4, 3×1, 8×1.

We began with bench and the day’s successes were already apparent. Today, Ross finished his 3 set prepared for much more, while I finished my 3 set at 77.5kg and decided to see how far I was off the 5 rep…so I paused following the 4th rep for a few seconds and completed the 5th rep. That wasn’t possible on Monday, so there’s evidence of a real strength gain (as indicated in my last post). By monday, I’ll be able to complete the 5 reps with no pause at all.

The bent over rows were, as is always the case, successfully executed. I’m looking forward to the re-test for both of us.

Squats were an unfortunately divided exercise. I had a particularly good day yesterday and performed 3 reps that were particularly deep with a weight heavier than I’d repped before (as standard, persistent gains) whereas Ross had a bad day, performing one solid rep followed by 2 reps that just didn’t make the grade from a technical stand-point – a lack of depth. After a few moments he completed another rep that made the grade, but he did feel particularly let down by the day’s performance. I feel the reason for his performance today was quite blatant to both of us:

– He had barely eaten that morning
– He was already having some depth issues

I’d woken up this morning knowing I was a bit empty and as such made a strange concoction (so-called “Sean Rice”) – white rice with two handfuls of cheese and some piri piri sauce. I usually slam some milk in there, but we’re out. Alongside that I had a single egg. I had some coffee and took an energy drink to the gym, so generally my circulating blood sugar/glycogen stores were of an acceptable standard, come gym time. Ross had eaten 3 eggs and 2 wraps with melted cheese – he also didn’t have any sugary fluid with him at the gym. From all of this, you can surmise that he had low blood sugar and was dehydrated (furthermore by coffee). All together, the problems with his squat I wouldn’t put down to, on this day, a strength issue – though we’re aware that a problem exists. We’ve been remedying the issue as planned (focusing on depth as we warm up, PNF stretching) but the deficit will take time to disappear…but it will.

We finished with a light set of pull-up eccentrics (5,4,3,2,1) before some PNF stretching.


I’ve been experimenting with some plyometric warm ups (explosive movements with no added weight) and find that I’m much more comfortable lifting heavier weights. Between  sets, I’ll do two or three jumps as hard as possible for squats, or explosive press-ups for bench – go try it out…meanwhile, check out Christian Thibaudeau’s work on “Neural Charge” or as Ross and I like to call it, “Plyomeric Recovery”, because it’s less gimmicky.

Another two concepts I’ve been playing with recently are mental imagery and caffeine sensitivity.

I’ll eventually make a full post on psychological motivation (if I ever, ever find time), but just as a side, I’ve been doing the following recently. Now, call this fruity, but it’s helping me throw up numbers that are pretty hard. I walk from the squat rack to the door, hunched, all the while saying horribly negative crap about my performance (i.e. “you’re shit”, “you can lift this”, “it’s too heavy”, “you’re too weak”, “you’re pathetic”) and then touch the door, where I imagine watching that person leave. I then turn around, posture up, and walk back to the rack with a steady gaze, repeating encouragement to myself (“you’re going to love this”, “this pain is your pleasure”, “you can face this challenge”, “your technique is going to be flawless”) and find that when I return to the rack, I’m much more game than before. It’s working at the moment, may not forever, but it is for now. I feel it’s best to avoid thoughts like “this is going to be easy” or “this is really light”, because when you hit full depth on the squat (or full range of motion in whatever movement) and you notice the weight IS heavy, you may freak and perform poorly. This is all my own encouragement though, you may be motivated differently.

Caffeine sensitivity is just something from earlier this week that I’d have known if I’d thought about it, but regardless – you’re more sensitive to things you do less often. Therefore, I’m only drinking caffeine on training days. I’ll see how this helps as time progresses.

We’ve been training for a month now on the 5×5 interm plan and so far, we’ve shown the following:

– Technique is essential for real gains (as a standard you can compare performance with + injury prevention + gains at full ranges of motion)
– Consistency + Intelligent approach = Gains
– Deadlift (capital D)
– PNF stretching is an efficient way of gaining flexibility and strength in a stretched position (plus less DOMS)
– Plyometrics in between sets are an effective performance booster (aids motor unit recruitment)
– Carbohydrates are essential to strength performance
– Caffeine is legal (in non-ridiculous amounts) – use it
– Domino’s pizza are a performance hungry (or just hungry) student’s saviour
– Hydrate – you’ll feel the difference, even if you’re not training
– Sleep is where hard work becomes a progress (if adequately nourished)
– Music pushes performance
– Mental imagery is a performance booster

Personal thoughts on the 5×5 plan:
– Like all internet plans, it’s too rigid
– The 3 day a week split is perfect
– The 5×5 plan aids strength, but it’s mainly strength endurance based
– I sure would love to Deadlift more often (only once a week on this plan)
– No vertical pull work, which is why we do our own (but I don’t mind this)

All in all, I’m looking forward to working with the “Ramping Method” in coming weeks, but that info will come later.


Today’s wisdom bombs:

– Carbohydrates, again, ESSENTIAL
– Adequate hydration, ESSENTIAL
– Mental imaging/encouragement – it works! (for me, at least)
– Improvement is gradual, but blatant, in time
– Go explosive between sets!
– Technique, technique, technique…don’t cheat yourself

Also, congratulations to Jon Jones for his UFC title victory – I was rooting against you…


Sean Cassidy, Shogun Fan


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