Do you remember the first time you saw it?

Do you remember the first time you saw it? The Meister remembers being on the beach and noticing for the first time the distinct curvature of the earth (as an urban child, this was usually the only time the Meister could see the horizon).

Some years later, in a similar revelation, the Meister believes that he might detect a slight bend in his loaded bar.

Of course, there are various possible causes for this:

  • the Meister’s eyes are not seeing straight. Given the Meister’s vintage (nearer to 100 than 0) this is clearly a possibility. And also, does anyone else worry that those eye-popping final reps might be accelerating this process?
  • the Meister’s bar is junk. Given the Meister’s propensity for not spending money where not absolutely necessary, this is also clearly possible. The Meister has successfully tried that thing to test whether the unloaded bar smoothly rolls across the floor. Though Spanish floors are not necessarily the best reference…
  • the Meister is finally lifting some decent weight. Define “decent”, but on the basis that it continues to get heavier than before, this is also a possibility.

As the Meister always says at Christmas when offered Turkey “leg” or “breast” – the best answer is probably a little of each.

Onwards. (And look for a new bar in the January sales.) (And laser surgery.)

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What’s in your post-workout drink?

shake

Ingredients:

1 banana (skin obviously off)

1 peach, or apple, another banana, mango, quince (?), (skin on, stones out, roughly chopped), or whatever fruit you have. Not tomato, because we don’t hate ourselves.

500ml skimmed milk (or AMAP that fits in the blender) (>19g of protein, as much as full milk, who knew? Protein scoops could be added too if feeling rich)

2 tsp ground cinammon (anti-glycemic thingy, and gives a lovely beige colour which demands respect and must clearly be good for you)

Juice of half a lemon (for taste)

Instructions:

Blend, add ice cube if sunny

Look backward, not forward

The Meister is not immune from wondering whether he is normal and where he should realistically be on the scale from 1 to beast.

This is not helped by internetters, youtubers and instagrammers going on about how many 100s of pounds they and their students can lift.

And one day, all being well, the Meister would definitely also like to be able to speak in these terms. But dammit, Meister, you’ve been doing this two months and are no longer 20 years old.

So fellow squatter and atomically-habitual James Clear had it right when he said “Measure backward, not forward“: “When you measure backward, you get to enjoy the progress you are making right now rather than yearn for a different life in the future.”

How did he know the Meister needed to hear this? If I keep wondering whether I ever will be able to squat four plates or whatever, that’s totally depressing and counterproductive. If I look at what I was doing a month or a week ago, then there are plenty of positives to see:

  • Squat: September 66.75kg; now 81.25kg: +23%! This doesn’t tell the full story of ups and downs but the Meister is back on 5s and showing pretty squatisfactory progress. November goals: steady progress to 90kg (probably 91.25kg due to weird bars and plates but hey).
  • Deadlift: September 108.5kg; now 108.5kg: +0%. What? Bad form led to back pain and a major reset. Much better now, due to the acquisition of…. new socks (who knew?) November goals: no particular number objectives – if doing the similar weights with good form all will be good.
  • Bench: September 56.25kg; now 67.25kg: +20%. A bodyweight bench, hurrah! November goals: maybe going for fractional increases from now on but this is solid progress and +5kg during November looks totally feasible.
  • Press: September: 42.25kg; now 47.25kg: +12%. Steady, steady, steady. November goals: another steady 5kg. (So the same increase as October, although that would only be +11%. So clearly LP gets easier as you move up? Hmmm, I’m not sure that my genetic potential understands those apples.)

These numbers are not “impressive” compared to … well, anyone else really. But they are impressive compared to what the Meister was doing a month and two months ago. And that’s the point.

Be Fractionally Ambitious…

I’m not going to lie, and my loyal followers will be more than aware of this: the Meister likes Excel. (Other spreadsheets are available).

So in between poverty presses the other day, the Meister noted that:

  • the Meister’s poverty bench press is now 98% of his bodyweight (which is now also rising, so this may be a race)
  • the Meister’s squat is now 98% of what Strengthlevel.com thinks a novice should be squatting (I know, I know, trying to think of another word for poverty…)
  • the Meister works in kilos but his current press is actually the equivalent of 99 lbs.

Who cares? Is the Meister getting stronger? Yes. Is there a long way to go on all this? Yes. Are the Meister’s numbers anything to blog publicly about? No (oh, wait…).

But these are nice little goals. For the next week or so they will give a helpful impetus to the Meister’s training. Mentally, the Meister will be determined to push past them. Which is half the battle.

Actual maxes (kgs and lbs), rep PRs, e1RMs, number of “plates”, bodyweight comparisons, tables put on the internet by people who also like Excel… every little helps. As the wittily wise Tim Minchin once said “Be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you. You never know where you might end up.”

When a princess retires…

warmup

One of the “Good Things” propogated by the fine Starting Strength people (and their offshoots and copiers) is the lack of any scientific or practical need to do any warm up that isn’t a light version of what you’re about to do.

Back in the 1980s not a session would go by without 30 minutes of jogging, stretching, cycling and/or other preliminaries. And you could feel disapproving bro eyes on you if you skimped…

(Though in fairness the giantly set Brian Alsruhe seems to be on the other end of things with all manner of band work, bear crawls and what have you. And what about the madly scientific Chris Duffin, with his kettlebells, sledgehammers, planks and other mad_scientist_stuff?!)

Anyhow, even now, the Meister has been doing far too much. As a novice this is probably normal – the person who is unused to too much weight is always going to think they are likely to break under any sudden strain. (#snowflake)

Though actually it’s not been the quantity that’s been over the top, so much as the resting in between. Rest? It’s a bit like when a princess retires – from what?!

Yeah, Meister, that’s a pretty dumb waste of time. Resting after a set of 20kg x 5 will probably actually cool you down again (and increase time taken away from other stuff, and guilt).

For the light stuff, the Starting Strength style warm up is a fine start:

  • 20x5x2
  • 5s tapering down to 2s or so equally spaced between 20 and the work set weight (Excel skills please inquire within…) so:
  • 40×5
  • 55×5
  • 70×2
  • 85×2
  • 100xWork

For heavier stuff I prefer the Andy Baker method which gets as warm as possible (#AWAP!) at the bottom and then “singles it up” to 5% or 10% off the top. So:

  • 20×5 (+more)
  • 35×5 (or more)
  • 50×3
  • 70×1
  • 85×1
  • 95×1
  • 100xWork

If you read PPST3 by the same authors, it’s all quite similar.

This may depend a bit on what exercise (shoulders need more gradual warming but get tireder more easily than quads?). And where in the workout – if squats are first then they’d need more than one’s later deadlifts. And deadlifts ineveitably start off with about 60kg, because, well, they have to. But the body is also not powered by Excel – if we feel we need an extra set near the bottom then we of course should take it (but not near the top because we are unconfident).

Also remember that if you do upper body day you’ll be using most of the rest of the body too. Who wants suddenly to do a press 2.0 with cold hips? #ouchies

But #don’thangabout. #getonwithit. Maybe after the hard singles you need to take a minute. But the time to change the plates (and fiddle with the Excel) is probably plenty.

However, when getting to challenging weights what is a good idea is to rest between the last warm up and the first work set. So not so much resting 5 minutes between sets as before each set, amirite? No Excel needed for that. You’re welcome.

September review – October goals

Deadlift

To resounding cheers from his 4 followers, the Meister’s initial enthusiasm for posting his weekly numbers has waned (should that be “weakly numbers”? Ed.).

But after a full month, we can afford a bit of a review and a bit of looking ahead.

  • Squat: August 51kg; now 66.75kg: #gainz 30%! The part of the Meister that hangs around on Instagram, Youtube etc. says “Wow, how come I’ve only got a bodyweight squat?”. The childishly innocent other part says “Wow, I’ve done a bodyweight squat!” It’s true that it’s not as strong as the Meister’s other lifts, but it’s on its way. Objective for October: 1. hit 80kg (by whatever means possible, 4s, triples, singles, even though 5s is “home”). 2. stop comparing myself to other people.
  • Deadlift: August 91kg; now 108.5kg: +19%. The Meister feels it’s gone well but is a bit worried about form (lower back?!). Stay calm. Objective for October: fix lower back issues by 1. not going crazy on weight, 2. doing DL before squat on heavy day, and 3. building strength and form with a few Romanian DLs, rows etc. Twice bodyweight is not far but that will be for November, with the form improved.
  • Bench: August: 47kg; now 56.25kg: +20%. The Meister is definitely “not doing the programme” as he found benching once a week was not good for driving progress or practicing technique. So (smartly) benching and pressing get a second light day. And it’s working. Objective for October: keep doing LP, there’s lots more to come.
  • Press: August: 39.5kg; now 42.25kg: +7%. The Meister reset this one to work up again so not a fair comparison perhaps. Form also an issue here – the Meister has had to work out for himself that a wide grip takes the triceps (should that be “uniceps”? Ed.) out of the equation and is a Bad Thing. Therefore the Meister believes that there is more to come here too. Objective for October: keep doing LP, albeit with 1 or 1.5 kilo a week increments.

There will almost certainly never be another opportunity to write “gainz 30%!” so please forgive the Meister’s keenness to overshare. #gainz #gainz #gainz (told you the Meister was childishly innocent…)

I’m Sorry

Overhead Press

There have been a few posts lately along the lines of “it’s really hard”.

Well, yes. Go figure. The Meister is pushing himself into new territory all the time. You want it to be easy? How will we progress otherwise?

Perhaps it got hard quickly. Perhaps I thought the limit was going to be further away… Talking about squatting here really. The Meister does not have a good squat.

But wait. What limit? Has the Meister missed any reps? No. Has the Meister done himself any damage while squatting? No. Have these sessions really been balls-to-the-wall, eyeballs-out, bone-on-bone, RPE 10.5 grinders? No. Has the form been horribly dangerous? No. Has the weight been going up in a linear way? Yes. Do the reps look quicker on the video? Yes, actually.

The mental side of this is important. It can be scary going into the unknown. You never really know if a squat PR is going up, and there’s always a possibility of getting stuck at the bottom (or anywhere).

There’s no reason why it shouldn’t go up. It’s only maybe 2 or 3% more than last time. But you know it’ll be hard.

There’s an inner game here. As a novice, perhaps the Meister lacks experience of (or can’t remember) what things are supposed to feel like. Fine. This is what they feel like. Hard. But they are getting done.

Getting under that bar can be tough. You really have to commit. Pressing “record” on the video helps – “show time”! (Not quite like having someone lingering, watching, waiting to use the rack, but still.) Why the doubts? All the evidence points to success. Don’t over-think it. Squat cues can be a bit like golf cues – you remember one and forget three. Little by little.

It turns out training may be as much about the mind as the body.  This is a Good Thing. And impossible to realise until you do it. So let’s do it.