Thursday, November 24, 2011

Higher reps for the ladies

Ladies, if you are ever gonna seriously go into weightlifting, I personally would recommend an 8x5 (8 reps for 5 sets) and progressing to 8x8 rather than use the popular 5x5 method.

5x5 works really well for the guys, but women are known to benefit more from lifting higher reps and taking shorter rest periods compared to men. I don't have the science to back it up... But many trainers also acknowledge this. One of them being Jason Ferruggia in his e-book Muscle Gaining Secrets.

As for me, I experimented it on myself. I didn't get far using 5x5 but I am currently on an 8x7 programme for squats and my progress has been much better as compared to using the former programme.

As of 22 November 2011, my 8 RM for squats is 53kg. 10% more than my bodyweight of 48kg. Only a few short weeks ago, I had serious doubts of my ability to squat 45kg and I am quite happy with my progress so far. Of course, I still cannot beat Adeline's 60kg squat for 10reps. But hopefully I will hit that milestone soon enough.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Of being your own worst enemy

I hit a new 5RM for squats today. It's just 53kg, but it has been long overdue.

I talked about my latest achievement with my pal Adeline and we both acknowledged that the only thing that has ever held my progress back was my self confidence. There is this psychological barrier and even though I KNOW deep inside that I can lift much heavier, I never dared to venture outside of my comfort zone.

Again, I cannot stress the importance of a training journal. It keeps things in perspective... acting as some sort of gauge of your abilities. And what my journal screams out is that I am my own worst enemy.

Now that I know that what I am capable of and what I can potentially achieve, I am psyched more than ever. I look forward to getting stronger and stronger each and every day.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Of knowing when to call it a day

So I was happily setting up my barbell for another routine lifting session. Then I started warming up. This time though, it felt weird. Something was off. I couldn't get the rhythm going. Nevermind... I thought. I'll start to get it going once I move on to my work sets.

That didn't happen.

Even after the thurd set I felt weak. Something is just not right. I checked my training journal. Hmmm... It is almost my fourth continuous week of training. That pretty much explained it. It was time to lay off the more intense lifting.

So I took 4 days off from training and started again today. I felt great. The warmups are more explosive. And my worksets went really well. I increased my weights again today. It is not much. It is just a 1kg increment from my previous 8RM but it is still an increment.

What I am trying to get at is that there are times you should push yourself. It is just your mind getting in your way. And there are times your body is trying to tell you to give it a rest.

How do you know when to forge on and when to not risk frying your CNS? Beats me. You'll know when you have a bit of experience under your belt. But a training log does help. You can basically tell when it's time to take a short break by how long have you been training consistently.

Most people will need to take a break after training for 4 to 8 weeks. For me, it seems like I need more frequent short breaks. Not sure why that is, though.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I went boxing

I have always been interested in learning how to box. Some say muay thai is the more popular sport nowadays... But there's something about boxing that appeals to me. Besides, my kicks suck. My legs are too short.  They can't hit a damned thing.

So when I found out that there's a gym in Sri Hartamas offering boxing class, I jumped at the opportunity. They give out a free trial, anyway. So there really ia nothing to lose.

On Monday, together with two of my colleagues and my fellow fitness junkie, Adeline... I went for the tryout. The trainer was friendly and entertained all of our questions as well as gave us reasons why certain moves are done a certain way. The other students were friendly as well.

Most importantly, I really had a good workout, sweating buckets and punching the bag with abandon. I can tell my colleagues were having fun too.  Work stress was released in a healthy way, and it was a proper boxing training session and not some crappy cardio bastardization of the sport.

I am thinking that perhaps I should make boxing sessions a  regular staple in my training.  It would complement the weight training that I do nicely.  They're charging RM150 per month for a one a week boxing lessons.  For RM200 you get 2 sessions per week and you get access to the gym as well.

But I already have a squat rack.  Which is still sufficient.  And my primary thing would still be weightlifting.  Boxing is complimentary.  So I think the RM150 package, should I decide to join... should be sufficient.

Now... to find me some wraps and boxing gloves. Hehe...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Training Journal

After almost 4 years of working out and almost 2 years of serious barbell training, I have only recently kept proper training records. When I say recently, it was precisely on 4 September 2011 that I started my training journal.

Some might feel like smacking me on the back of the head for not started it sooner. Much, much sooner. And some might think... "meh... I don't keep a journal but my memory serves me really well."

Yeah, so maybe you have a really good memory. But a journal does not only serve as a place to record your training. It also serves as a diary of sorts. Recording your training journey from being a weakling that could be mistaken for a fallen twig into someone with decent strength and a fairly attractive body.

And for me personally, it serves as a constant reminder of what I am really capable of. That I am NOT a weakling. That with a little push every training day, I will always be making progress.

I flip through my journal and all I see are improvements. If not in terms of the amount of weights lifted, it is in terms of the number of reps done. It amazes me how just a few weeks ago I was stuck lifting the same weights for the same number of reps day after day.

Now that I write everything down... I always have a target to hit each and every training day. And that will almost always guarantee progress.

If you haven't started a training journal yet, I strongly urge you to do so.

Apart from recording the type of workout, reps and sets... You could also record how you physically and mentally feel before, during, and after each workout. For example, I usually feel weak on my first work set but as I progress to more sets I feel stronger and stronger.

Therefore, I know that it is pretty much how my body works and not to feel intimidated by the bar when the first set doesn't go as well as I think it should.

And on days when training just sucks, I note down how I feel and what I ate (or didn't eat) and see if there is any clear pattern that contributes to an unproductive training day for me.

So yeah... Keep a training journal, folks. It requires very minimal investment and it is the best thing you could do to improve your training.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Kettlebell swings with thumbless grip

Yep... More thumbless grip experiments.

This time it's about swinging the kettlebell with thumbless grips. Again, this thumbless idea came from Jedd Johnson of Diesel Crew... Pretty much the go-to guys on all things grip strength related.

And yes, the thumbless grip kettlebell swing is used to strengthen your grip. So right after my squat training I did 6 sets of 30s/30s swings, and I discovered that my forearms were burning by the third set. My grip was still okay.

There is a possibility that apart from my grip, my forearms are also my weakest link. Pretty logical since the forearms hardly get any direct work unlike the legs, back, traps and even triceps.

Anyway.... Back to the swings. Swings are really cool. Leaves you drenched as if you just jumped into a pool, trains your breathing, and increases cardiovascular endurance. Plus it sure as heck is not boring like jogging is. And now you can even use swings to improve your grip strength.

All in all, an exercise that is value for time. If you haven't tried it, you should. You can use dumbbells if you don't have kettlebells. So you really do not have much of an excuse.