Thursday, July 1, 2010

Training Updates

One of the issues facing me as I departed for Italy was how I would maintain strength and muscle mass over the course of 3 weeks without access to a gym. I brought my homemade TRX along for the trip (it weighs nothing), which proved to be a wise decision. Long story short, I came back to the states at approximately the same weight and leanness. I didn't do anything in Venice for the first 4 days, but when we moved to Florence I had more opportunities. A nearby park had a pull-up bar and I showed up once every other day with my TRX and went to work.

Lots of chin-ups, rows, push-ups, unilateral leg exercises, and tons of core work. Some of it was Crossfit-inspired training with a 21-15-9 race against the clock, other parts general sets and reps scheme, and some HIT thrown in there as well. This experience allowed me to fool around with TRX and I appreciate it more than before. I familiarized myself with a number of great core exercises and found ways to make simple bodyweight movements challenging. Still, it's not the only piece of equipment I'll ever need (as some people might argue). For the advanced trainer, having a weight vest to go along with the TRX is crucial because doing sets of 25 for the upper body might not deliver the desired stimulus. Can I use the TRX to leave me lying on the ground out of breath or with my core on fire? Sure, but it doesn't cover all the bases. It is still just a tool in a toolbox. Sadly, I think it has garnered a cult following and is being lauded as the second coming of JC. Nevertheless, it is a good piece of equipment and has its place in a training program.

I've had two training sessions since returning from Italy. Both have gone well and my strength levels are about where they were before I left. Monday was upper body and Wednesday was lower body.

1A Chin-ups bw+45 1x5, 50 3x5, 1x4
2A 1-arm explosive band pulldown 6x3
1B Floor press 165 3x6
2B 1-arm dumbbell row w/ thick grip 90 2x10
TRX work, band pallof press, explosive pullups

Notes: The floor press is a new exercise for me and I like it a lot. However, the way I have it set up is not a true floor press and is more like a pin press with with me laying on the ground. Without a spotter or a power rack I can't get the bar to a racked position at the top of the lift. Instead, I put the bar on top of two parallel "fitness steps." This is not ideal, as Eric Cressey discusses, because the scapula don't get set as well. I noticed this while performing the lift. I'll see what I can to correct the problem. Still, Christian Thibaudeau praises the pin press, so it's not all bad. The core work I did at the end was challenging, but the next day I was shocked to be so sore. It felt like all my ribs were broken and it still does a few days later. I had done the pallof press and Nick Tumminello's variations before, but not with bands. I stole the band idea from Tony Gentilcore' blog and I think I prefer it over using a standard cable. I'm going to be using those more and more.

Wednesday AM:
10yd sprint 1x3, Flying 20's 1x3
1A Bulgarian split squat 125 1x5, 135 2x5, 1x8
2A 1-leg explosive step-up 3x3
Bench hip thrust 235 1x15, 255 1x8
Landmines, band pallof presses, Turkish get-ups, weighted birddog

Notes: This was my first time doing BSS's with a barbell on my back. Previously I had held dumbbells at my side, which caused my grip to become a limiting factor. I felt strong on the lift and the weights should be jumping up quickly although my shoulders and wrists weren't fond of the exercise (made me wish I had a safety squat bar). Again, I paired a heavy lift with an explosive movement because of post-activation potentiation. It's a mouthful, but it does the body good. I also have been loving the hip thrusts. My glutes are dead right now. The weight continues to jump up and up. I might try some of Bret Contreras' explosive variations soon. I tried a set of snatch grip deadlifts, but it didn't feel right, so I stopped it there. It's supposed to be a great lower body exercise, so I'll look into the technique more. This was also my first time doing landmines, so I'm not sure how good my technique was, but it felt good.

I did a brief PM lower body session with the TRX. It was not intense because my AM session was way too much for a two-a-day. Still, I figured it couldn't hurt. I did some bodyweight BSS's on the TRX with a very slow eccentric and a five second pause at the bottom, which gave my glutes a good stretch and pump.

Today is upper body and then I leave tomorrow for New Hampshire. I'll be there for a weekend soaking up the sun, eating lots of dead animal flesh (in the spirit of July 4th, of course), and doing whatever else one does in that state. I've got more content coming soon: more thoughts on Italy, book reviews, and more good stuff.


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