Sunday, March 27, 2011

In pursuit of the perfect squat technique

It's almost 2am and I am obsessing about how in hell to improve my squats. The only lift I am decently good at is the deadlift. My squats and my benchpress are extremely weak. I don't really care about the benchpress but I really, REALLY want to improve my squat technique and numbers.

On a good day (i.e. when I am eating well - which I'm afraid I'm having some trouble doing) I can squat 3 sets of 5 reps of 43kg squats. Which is okay. But can be better. Much better. Much much better. Psychological reasons aside, I know that there is something off about my technique.

Vince Lombardi once said, "Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect."

How true. The squat, to me, is highly technical. It doesn't matter if you're practicing often. If you're using the wrong technique, you won't be impriving anytime soon. You may even risk knee injury.

So in pursuit of improving technique, I revisited this clip again.

I don't know about you, but Coach Rippetoe's way of squatting looks a bit weird. But I might wanna try it anyway just to experiment whether it'll improve my squat numbers. Will experiment tomorrow... oops. I mean later today.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Super Spinach

Spinach. I think it's all about the spinach.

My friend and I were discussing about skin problems. She told me she had very dry skin when she was small and when she stayed with her grandmother, she was fed a lot of spinach. Spinach every single day. For every single meal.

To Adeline: This is how bayam is normally cooked over here. I'm sure you've seen it before. Ha! Ha! Ha!

As a result, her skin is smooth now and devoid of any scars whatsoever. And I thought, if it worked for her, perhaps it could work for me. I'd do anything to rid myself of eczema without having to resort to lifelong medication.

So throughout this week I had spinach for lunch (together with rice and fish of course). It made a heck of a lot of difference, I can tell you that. Usually I'd get hungry again by 5pm and feel sluggish as heck. But I don't feel hungry at all throughtout this week (after my bayam-fueled lunch) and can train (usually at 8pm) without having to eat a light meal prior.

And the performance in my training has not been compromised as well. This spinach thing is pretty amazing indeed. I'm going to try to ramp up my spinach intake and see what else is going to happen to me.

Yeay! I'm a guinea pig!

About deadlifts and feeling good

I think I've found my groove back. I'm getting excited over my training again. And yes, the kettlebell class at Pushmore helped. Looking at all those extremely fit people really helped to motivate me. Perhaps it is one of the pitfalls of training solo. You only have yourself to compete with. And even if you didn't do your best, the sense of shame is not as apparent as when training with a partner.

I've also discovered something interesting. Last night was workout night. My hams are still hurting from the kettlebell class so I decided not to squat but to deadlift instead. I came home late yesterday. And only started training at about 8pm - 8.15pm. My workout went like this:

1st set warmup
8 reps x 43kg

2nd set warmup
8 reps x 53kg

Actual workout
5 reps x 63kg (3 sets)

It was a pretty quick workout. I was done in less than half an hour. But that's not the point. The point is that the only meal I had before my workout was lunch which comprised of a heck of a lot of spinach, a piece of fried fish and 'paru'. Only that and nothing else after that.

Maybe the workout wasn't that intense. Maybe I was pretty sedentary until the time I start to deadlift. Although I have a suspicioun it had to do with what I ate. I'll try to choose similar types of lauk again and see whether I can replicate what I did.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Minimalism vs. Variety

Ever since I got myself a Blackberry, me and fellow fitness junkie and blog-o-buddy Adeline have been discussing incessantly about all things training related (we gossip too, but that's a different entry for a different day). Yesterday, we were talking about our training programmes. Adeline is used to doing a lot of different types of exercises per workout while I keep a pretty minimalist approach to my training.

So which one is better? I can't comment on Adeline's take on multiple exercises per training session. Because I have not used that technique in a while. Turbulence Training uses a lot of exercises per session. But then again, it was for fat loss. And I used TT when I was a relative newbie.

But back to the minimalism approach: in my case, simple does not mean relaxed. Yes I only do 1 or 2 exercises per training day: front squats and back squats for day 1, overhead press, backrows and pushups for day 2. Very basic stuff, but I try to go as heavy as I can. As a result, my workouts tend to be very short (20 minutes to 30 minutes on average). Strength is a skill and my objective is to train the brain and try not to fry my CNS.

The analogy I gave Adeline was like comparing 2 students: One studies for half a day and the other studies for half an hour and yet both students get the same result. It's all about doing things systematically. Quality over quantity, folks.

Plus, having a short training session gives you a positive psychological effect. We all have bad days, tired days, busy days. And if your training sessions tend to be long you also tend to make excuses not to do them because 'it takes too much time'. Can you really give a solid excuse if your training only takes 20 minutes?

What about you? How do you train? Does your training sessions last more than 1 hour or does it take less than that? Do you do many different types of exercise or do you stick to the tried and tested basics?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pushmore's Kettlebell Class

DOMS usually sets in after about 12 hours post-workout. Not on Saturday, though. On Saturday, after a few short hours my posterior chain is killing me. My wrists hurt like hell. And the back of my left forearm is sporting a pretty visible bruise. Heck, pretty much my whole body is sore.

This is all thanks to the kettlebell class I attended at Pushmore. It's conducted by Jon, if anyone's curious.

The class lasted all of 2.5 hours but it felt pretty much like a lifetime. Albeit an informative and an enjoyable one. In a masochistic kind of way. Jon taught us three basic kettlebell moves:

  1. The Swing: One armed, two armed, Russian, American

  2. The Snatch

  3. The Press

Although I have done my research prior to the class, I have always thought that the kettlebell moves (save the kettlebell press) are more focused on the lower body. As my battered body can attest, it targets everthing: glutes, hams, lats, delts, forearm, wrists, grip... the list could go further.

The experience of doing the swing and the snatch i.e. heartrate, the exhaustion is akin to what I experience whenever I go for a running session. Less than 10 minutes into the snatch (we didn't do that many, mind you, because we were more focused on technique compared to volume) left me dripping with sweat.

Needless to say, I always looked forward to our water break.

However, I'd like to highlight that the swing and the snatch in particular are highly technical. The bruises I got at the back of my forearms were souvenirs of the wrong snatch technique. Heck, even the swing is quite technical.

I would honestly not advice a newbie fitness junkie to go straight to kettlebell swings without first knowing how to do proper bodyweight squats. If you can't do a proper bodyweight squat you should not touch a kettlebell yet.

All in all, the kettlebell is a very good tool for conditioning purposes (it's way cheaper than a bloody treadmill - that should be a huge plus point in itself). And I think it is a good tool for assistance exercises. It's also great for training grip strength as well.

I would say that the using the kettlebell is complimentary to your training. Nothing beats a barbell. But during those days when you don't feel like running outside (or maybe you avoid running like the plague) - the kettlebell swing is an excellent alternative. The snatch is a fantastic assistance exercise that smokes the whole body. Both the swing and the snatch make fabulous finishers to end a good training session.

p/s the fees include the purchase of our own kettlebell. But it would only arrive in April - of which a short refresher course will be conducted. I don't mind waiting till April. And I certainly don't mind going back to Pushmore.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I Gotta Buck Up!

I'm not exercising as regularly as I'd like - I only exercise twice a week now.

My diet is down the drain - I am not eating enough.

I am losing weight. But not losing strength (yet). However, I'm not gaining strength as well. So it's still bad.

I am reverting to old bad habits.

No, this is not a nosedive. Not yet. But if I am not careful it will get there. So I must buck up.

Perhaps, the kettlebell workshop this Saturday will be the catalyst for me.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Squat Rack - I want!

I am seriously considering getting myself a squat rack. I've asked around and there is one available for the price of RM2,300. Pricey. But come to think of it, it's pretty much like the cost of 2-years' worth of gym membership. I can either pay cash for it or easily swipe my credit card and arrange for a 24-month instalment - very similar to the modus operandi of commercial gyms galore.

So yeah. The financing is pretty much arranged. But is it really worth it?

Space is an issue. Although I can easily tweak the arrangement of my furniture (I have lived 5 years in my apartment, and the furniture layout has not changed at all) to accomodate the rack.

Getting a squat rack would address quite a number of issues actually. I can train alone without worrying about not having a safety catch or ruining my dining chairs (too late, they're already ruined). I could hang my TRX at the frame. It's pretty much a complete gym.

Any opinions? For or against?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Filler Update

Yup. Still alive. I've been busy. Unfortunately, money doesn't grow on trees and thus I d0n't really have a choice but to work my arse off in the pursuit of a comfortable living.

But anyway... there's really not much to update. Training's been good. My squats are improving. My overhead presses, not so much. Perhaps I need to deload and build up to a new personal best.

I think I can hit a bigger number for my squats but I'm kind of scared that I might hurt myself since I don't have anyone to spot me and my crude safety catch is not very safe anymore.

Could it be that this is a good time to buy myself a squat rack? Hmmm.....

The cost aside, where the heck am I gonna put it in my pigeon hole?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Series of Unfortunate Events

My car has been acting up. It's been in the workshop for close to 2 weeks now. I've been hitching rides to and from work from a colleague who lives nearby and kind enough to pick me up from my place of residence.

It is a very busy period at the office. Work seems to overflow despite the additional team members. I come home extremely tired, and if no one picks me up and have dinner with me I tend to sleep without having a meal.

Training is out of the question. Totally exhausted, lacking nutrition... I'm just happy I can still walk. Hopefully when work subsides a bit I will have more energy. Right now I am so drained I'm hardly able to type this out.

Okay. I'm off to sleep. Yeah, it's only 8pm. But I'm super tired. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....