T Nation

ActivitiesGuy Intro and Log


#1

12/5/2014: updated to keep current training description, current goals, and current PR's on the front page:


Current Primary Goal

[i]10 sets of 10 pull-ups in 20 minutes at bodyweight 195 pounds[/i]


Programming note (posted 12/5/2014):

As anyone who flips through my log can see, I tend to get on little "kicks" where I really focus on something for 4-6 weeks, then inevitably change things around. I've been pretty good about sticking to my pull-ups as a tracker of progress, and I've started mixing in some isolation work to bring up a few weaknesses (or at least maintain what little I've got - biceps, I'm looking at you - as I try to lean out a bit).

I really like my morning "50 pullups plus a little pump work" routine, and I also enjoy unwinding after work with a few rounds of kettlebell swings. So I'd like to build a little program around both of those constructs and stick with it for three solid months. This will get disrupted for most of December, as I travel and the school gym is closed, but when I return in January & the new semester begins, this is what I'd like to do:

Weekdays:

AM - 50 pullups plus pump work
PM - 150 kettlebell swings plus pump work

Both of the daily workouts will have the same structure: ten rounds of (5 pullups) or (15 kettlebell swings) plus a selected isolation exercise (cable curls, seated rows if at the University gym; EZ-bar curls, lat pulldowns, chest press, whatever if using my apartment fitness center) in between, spread over 20-25 minutes.

Weekends will always be a wild-card from the list of :

Bikram Yoga
Spinning Bike
Kettlebell Workouts (if my GF is visiting me, or I am visiting her)
Gym Workouts (with brother and/or dad if the occasion allows)

The dual focus on pull-ups and kettlebell swings should be fun.

I'll be doing this "as best as possible" for the next month, but once the Uni gym closes and I go spend a week at home for the holidays, this exact structure will not be practical - I'll get a workout in every day of some type, but at home it will be a hodgepodge of kettlebell stuff and yoga classes. So this will pick up in earnest just after the New Year.


Long-Term Performance Standards & Rationale

100 Pull-Ups in 20 Minutes (achieved as 20x5, working towards 10x10)
5K Run: 20 Minutes (currently on hold; nursing a bum wheel)

Brief explanation: although not a CrossFit guy, I am an all-around athletic guy that enjoys a number of different activities. I have been a specialized athlete at various points (powerlifting, football, and distance running) but for the time being prefer to exercise for health, wellness, and enjoyment. I do love traditional powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting, but the convenience and enjoyment of doing kettlebell workouts at home (or even on the road!) has won me over for the time being. Plus, a nagging feeling that I really should be better at pull-ups and push-ups has inspired me to carve a program mostly of pull-ups, push-ups, and kettlebell workouts, although I'll still visit the gym for a more "traditional" workout once in a while, and I'll probably do occasional workouts with my dumbbells at home to get a little isolation work. I've just ordered some gymnastics rings and will look for creative ways to do pull-ups with them anywhere and anyway that I can think of.

I have a ton of respect for all of the strength sports (bodybuilding, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, strongman, etc) and try to follow each to some degree. I'm just trying this Activities Guy thing out for awhile. This does not make me better or worse than anyone, it's just what I like to be :slightly_smiling:


Longer background on who I am and where I came from:

Childhood: My father and his best friend (former offensive lineman at Colgate) were into powerlifting. He read a lot of Dan John material and enjoyed Westside Barbell material as well. For as long as I can remember, my father had a bench and squat rack, originally with an old 30-pound bar and Standard plates rather than Olympic barbell and plates. I started lifting when I was nine years old, using an empty bar for squats and bench presses. Form was always a focus over weight and my father was quite careful with my progression. I was a bit sporadic: my dad would ask if I wanted to lift, and sometimes I'd say yes, other times I'd say no, but I built a nice little foundation. By the time I was in seventh grade, I could comfortably bench and squat 135 pounds.

I was extremely active as well: playing soccer, basketball, and baseball as a wee 6-7-8 year old, then eventually moving into sports that suited my husky build (football taking the place of soccer when I turned 9, wrestling taking the place of basketball in eighth grade, and shotput/discus replacing baseball that same year).

Teen Years: As most of us do, I had a big growth spurt from ages 12-14, and I started to take lifting a bit more seriously. I did a bench-and-deadlift meet (the Sarge McCray meet in New Jersey, put on by the WNPF) in eighth grade, benching 175 and deadlifting 265 as a 181-pounder. The next spring, in ninth grade, I did a full meet and went 235 squat, 220 bench, 350 deadlift as a 198-pounder. Powerlifting was now more useful to train for football than anything else, but I really enjoyed lifting (much more than my teammates generally did) and took it quite seriously. My father also really enjoyed reading and lifting; he was a big fan of box squats, reverse hypers (we eventually bought a reverse hyper as well) and Westside-style training, and once we acquired an Olympic bar and bumper plates, we also began to do power cleans and snatches as well (I never did master the full lifts). We subscribed to Powerlifting USA and Milo, and watched Olympic lifting & Strongman contests on TV whenever we could (WSM reruns appeared on ESPN2 a lot). So I grew up with a fairly well-rounded knowledge of the strength sports.

My best lifts in high school were a squat around 365 (our HS weight-training coach allowed very high squats to count for maxes, like 8-inches-or-worse-high, but good form was too ingrained in me to squat obscenely high just for a big number), 315 bench, 425 deadlift, and 250 power clean. I was about 5-11 and 215-245 pounds throughout high school (fluctuated a bit between football season and wrestling season, and actually cut to 215 as a senior for wrestling after staying in the heavyweight class the two seasons prior). I had a thick chest and broad shoulders, but I was sorta strong-but-fat; I never had any "semblance of abs" or even very much definition other than my thick chest and shoulders. I had a decent HS sports career (three-year starter on good football team, qualified for state wrestling tournament, scored consistently in the shotput in big meets) but possessed no real special talent other than being a big body that worked hard, which is enough to be a pretty good high school athlete.

College: I played Division III football and had a modestly successful career, starting 29 games at left tackle over four years (23 consecutive as a junior/senior), twice named to our All-Conference team, playing in the Division III playoffs as a junior and then an ECAC bowl game as a senior. I was one of the only kids on the team that prioritized maintenance lifting during the season, and the summers before my junior/senior year were arguably the greatest strength gains that I ever had.

All-Time PR's (these are all from summer of 2007, the summer before my senior year of college football; I am not worried about approaching these numbers again, just providing for relevant background info)

Squat: Hardest to pin down because I never really approached a 1RM in training. I box squatted 315 + bands for ten doubles (several times, that was a favorite workout) and did front squat 315 for a triple (no bands). If I had to hazard a guess, I probably could have back squatted in the low 400s.
Bench: 3x365, 22x225
Deadlift: never pulled a max single that summer. Occasionally loaded the bar to 405 and pulled a couple of reps after cleans, but the power clean was my main "pull" exercise. Given that I power cleaned 315 a couple of times, I suspect I could have pulled about 500 if I trained for it.
Power Clean: 315, 6x275
Power Snatch: 3x185


Kettlebell Training for Strength
#2

Since Then:

As my college football career came to a close, I decided that I was tired of weighing 250 pounds. Not that I have anything against big, muscular dudes, but I was carrying plenty of spare mass that wasn’t exactly fit for the Olympia stage, if you know what I mean. I started eating a lot less junk food - not really any sensible cutting plan other than ‘just eat less and do a lot more moving’ - and doing a ton of recreational exercise. I played a ton of pickup basketball, ran every day that it was nice out, etc. I did continue lifting regularly, but rarely put more than 225 pounds on the bar for a while.

A year or so later, I’d gotten pretty fit, dropped about 50 pounds of bodyweight and stabilized around 200 or so. I was getting pretty into distance running and hooked up with a semi-elite running group in the area. I liked having an athletic competition/goal to train for and became quite serious about distance running, eventually recording best times of 18 minutes in the 5K, 1:04 for 10 miles, and a 1:27 half-marathon. As you might expect, lifting went by the wayside, not so much because I didn’t enjoy it any more as a time limitation; I only have about 12-14 hours per week to devote to fitness, and that was almost entirely consumed by running & cycling.

I never totally “abandoned” lifting but it became far less consistent; some weeks I might lift twice, some once, some none at all depending on the running volume of the week. It was really just a “gee, I suppose I’d like to keep some muscle” approach. I did have periods of time where an injury would force a brief layoff from running, and I’d return to the weight room with some regularity for the sake of having something to do. Despite the periodic layoffs, I have always enjoyed lifting; you might say that I just enjoy “exercise” in many different forms - in addition to lifting and running, I have dabbled in cycling, rock climbing, and yoga as well, more on these in a moment. Most recently, I developed a stress fracture in my leg this past fall, and that combined with a general reconsideration of life and fitness goals has inspired me to rethink my overall approach to exercise and fitness.

How I Currently Train:

As described above, I really like exercise and “being in pretty good shape” more than any specific discipline, and it’s occurred to me that rather than specializing in one thing, I should just embrace being a generalist (no, I don’t care to compete in CrossFit). Rather than focus on one or two to the exclusion of all others, I’ll try to maintain some flexibility to incorporate some of each, sort of cycling the focus based on season and what I feel will benefit most at a particular time.

For the moment, since I’m still recovering from the stress fracture, that only includes upper-body lifting and yoga classes. The type of yoga that I practice is called ‘Bikram’ yoga; I took my first class about 4 years ago and have done it anywhere from 1-5 times per week since then. It is a series of 26 postures (90 minutes) performed in a room heated to 105 degrees. The sequence is the same every time; once you have taken a few Bikram classes, you can walk into a Bikram yoga studio anywhere and it will be identical to the ones you have already taken, save for a few studio-specific quirks. Dan John has written about it before (not sure if he still does it) and I find it a wonderfully ‘restorative’ workout, something I recommend to any performance athlete. You sweat a ton, your heart rate gets pretty high at several points, and the balancing series does a surprisingly nice job forcing you to contract and squeeze your legs at several points. You leave class exhausted, drained, but pleasantly refreshed.


#3

A typical week (right now) looks something like this:

Sun: Bikram yoga class
Mon: Heavy upper-body lift @ school gym
Tue: Light DB/KB circuit @ home
Wed: AM Bikram yoga class, PM light DB/KB circuit @ home
Thu: Heavy upper-body lift @ school gym
Fri: Light DB/KB circuit @ home
Sat: Bikram yoga class

Once fully healed, I plan to incorporate some running, cycling, and yes, actual leg training again, including real squats and pulls. I have a shower at my office and therefore occasionally will run or bike to work, so those are easy to work into my routine (pre-stress-fracture, I ran/biked to work almost every day). Eventually, I expect to lift “hard” 2-3 days per week, practice yoga 2-3 days per week, run/bike to work as often as I feel the desire to, and hit the climbing gym after work whenever I feel like it.

I?m a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh and have access to a full gym with squat rack, bench, dumbbells, etc. No place to do farmer’s walks - that’s the only thing I would really “like” to be able to do at the gym as part of my “heavy” workouts that I can’t - but I can do plenty in the University gym I have access to.

I also have accumulated a fair amount of stuff over the years at home (a spinning bike, 10-20-30-40 pound pairs of dumbbells, a 45-pound kettlebell, and four sets of bands ranging from “very light for side laterals” to “I can barely get these to shoulder height”) which allows me to break a good sweat when going to the gym/yoga is not an option. I frequently do a little circuit workout in the evenings after work, even if I have already gone to yoga or worked out at the gym in the morning, because 20 minutes of pushups, kettlebell, and dumbbell work is a nice way to decompress after sitting at a desk all day. I don’t particularly care whether this is ‘optimal’ for training or not; I just like doing it.

Size and Recent PRs:

Height: 5-11
Weight: 205 (give or take a few)
Bench: 3x250 (easy, have been gradually increasing work weight over last 6 weeks)
Pullups: 12

Goals (for the time being):

Bench: 315
Pullups: 15+


#4

Philosophical Points:

  1. I train because it makes me feel good and because I enjoy it. I have long since accepted that I might sacrifice performance gains here & there because I am just doing something that I want to (for example, if a friend asks me to join them at the climbing gym after work, I’m unlikely to say “Sorry man, today is bench day” - I will just go ahead & join them for some climbing, and I’ll do the bench workout later in the week). Working out is just a means for me to maintain good health, mentally and physically.

I would like to bench press 315 again (I haven’t benched three plates since losing my football weight), and once my legs are healthy enough to permit leg training, I will add a clean-and-press goal as well (probably to clean and press my bodyweight of 200 pounds). I also really want to do 15+ pullups, because as a former chunker, I have never been really good at them and I am happy that I can even do double-digits now. But there’s no urgency attached to either of these goals; they are just something to work towards.

Thus, you won’t see me complaining that “my arms won’t grow” and then listing a bunch of excuses for why my arms won’t grow when the answer is really that I’m not training them directly or using a consistent program designed for that goal. Dan John has a great quote from one of his books that says simply “Look at your training. Look at your goals. Does your training match your goals?”

Many would do well to heed that advice.

  1. I generally use the Paleo diet as a ‘framework’ while allowing occasional indulgences (e.g. out to dinner at a really fantastic restaurant with a truly gourmet dessert menu) and a weekly glass or two of wine. Not here to preach about it, but I think the basic framework of eating quality meat, vegetables, and a little bit of fruit works well for body composition and overall health. No, I don’t miss pasta, bread, or pizza. Most people who ask “Don’t you miss (Food X)?” have never really thought about how much indulgent cuisine fits into the Paleo framework. I have big breakfasts of bacon, eggs, and greens almost every day. In the past week, my dinners have included beef short ribs braised in wine, pork spareribs, duck confit, and chicken drumsticks wrapped in bacon. It’s not a sacrifice by any stretch.

  2. I read a quote on here from Lonnie123 a few weeks ago that I really liked. Something to this effect:

“The longer I train, the more I realize the exact routine is really NOT the end-all-be-all. You might be able to eek out a few more pounds of muscle following a certain kind of routine, but for the most part if you train with consistency and effort, you will end up wherever you are going to end up. EVERYONE IS “AFRAID” THEY COULD BE DOING BETTER STUFF. Everyone gets results slowly. Just focus on each workout and give your best effort on that day. Add enough of those days up and that’s all you can do.”

I think a lot of people would do well to heed this advice. In that vein:

  1. I think there is value in well-chosen supplements, but I think some people look to them for a quick fix or shortcut at the expense of, you know, actually eating and training properly. I’m fine with someone that has a solid base and training consistently on any sensible program that decides to invest in supplements (and that describes many people in these forums). They’re doing the right things and probably will achieve some level of strength or physique development with the supplements that would be unattainable otherwise.

Many people, though, spend too much time majoring in the minors and worrying about whether their current supplement stack is maximizing their GAINZ when they can’t even answer the classic question from Chris Colucci (“What, exactly, did you eat yesterday?”) which is often so enlightening.

  1. I acknowledge that I have never competed at the truly highest level in anything and that, today, I am no more than “a guy who works out.” With that said, I have at least tasted a modest level of competition in football, wrestling, throws, powerlifting, and have ample experience performing the “power” versions of both Olympic lifts. I’ll defer to experts in any case where I’m out of my league, but I hope to become a useful contributor to this community.

  2. Oh, and the story behind my handle. One of my college football assistant coaches, seeing me a few months after my senior year after dropping 40+ pounds, said that I looked like an “activities guy” now instead of a football player. I have embraced that identity, obviously, given the wide variety of activities which I currently enjoy.


#5

I’ll log my progress here periodically. May not always update daily but will try to track key workouts, and some won’t have much worth describing (i.e. “Bikram yoga class” is pretty much “I sweated/stretched/balanced for 90 minutes”). My workouts, also, are somewhat of an “intuitive” thing rather than a set program. I generally have a plan going in but I’m willing to change it if something feels especially good (or especially tight).

I do a lot of warmup sets (a 27-year-old body needs more time to loosen up than a 21-year-old’s, I have discovered) and often do fairly low-volume. I like triples a lot. A recent “heavy” session, yesterday morning:

Bench Press
5x135
5x145
5x155
3x185
3x205
3x225
3x225
3x225

Dumbbell Shoulder Press
8x45
8x50
8x60
8x60

Pull-Ups
5xBW
5xBW
5xBW
5xBW

Incline Bench
5x135
5x145
5x155
3x185
3x205
3x225

Today was just a light circuit in the morning at home. Will be traveling over the weekend to visit family/girlfriend and thus will be hitting a few yoga classes (I met my GF at a yoga studio, and my parents have both become avid yoga practitioners as well. My dad still does his heavy box squats and cleans plus a couple of yoga classes a week, and he swears that it’s done him good!), so probably no more lifting of note until Monday.


#6

Cool, man, I’ll be following – seems like an interesting mix of activities. I also did Bikram for a couple of years, it was good fun and seemed to help out some mobility issues back then.


#7

Cool, man.

I don’t think Bikram is the magical cure-all that some of the instructors claim, but I do think it’s been very useful (and enjoyable) for a couple of reasons:

  1. I really like to feel like I’ve “done something” almost every day. While I know many of the best athletes in the world take rest days, I just don’t really like to. Bikram class helps me “break a sweat” without putting undue stress on any muscles or joints.

  2. I’ve always had very poor flexibility and mobility; not only that, but I wasn’t a fan of static stretching after workouts, either. Bikram class gives me a full separate day/session to address those issues.

  3. Finally, it’s just fun. People at the yoga studio CAN be a bit odd, but most of us are just regular guys/gals that need something Bikram offers. My parents started up when a studio opened in my hometown & they go to class 2-3 days a week. I met my girlfriend at the Bikram studio (in fact, tonight I’ll be going to Bikram class with both of my parents and my GF, visiting home for the weekend).


#8

Quick session before hitting the road:

Bench Press
5x135
5x145
5x155
3x185
3x205
3x225
3x245
3x255

DB Shoulder Press
5x45
5x50
5x55
5x60

Pull-ups
5xBW
5xBW
5xBW

Bench Rep-Out
20x155 (stopped a few short of failure; just wanted to crank out one high-rep set to pump some blood through at the end)


#9

Bikram Yoga Class (90 minutes)


#10

Sat: Bikram Yoga Class (90 Minutes)

Sun: Bikram Yoga Class (90 Minutes)

Weekend at home, just did a hot yoga class each day with mom, dad, and GF.

Bench workout on tap tomorrow.


#11

Bench Press
5x135
5x145
5x155
3x185
3x205
3x225
3x245
2x275
3x225

Didn’t “fail” on 275 but the second rep was a bit of a grinder and I didn’t have a spotter, so I racked it to be on the safe side. Still pleased with this, heaviest weight I’ve benched in a few years.

Incline Bench
3x135
3x155
3x175
3x205
3x225
3x235

EZ Bar Curl
5x5x95

Pull-ups
5x5xBW

Paused Dips
5x8xBW


#12

If you once benched 365, I’m confident that your strength will return to you very soon. I know that the muscle memory thing is a bit of a cliché, but I have seen that happen in a few people.


#13

[quote]kgildner wrote:
If you once benched 365, I’m confident that your strength will return to you very soon. I know that the muscle memory thing is a bit of a clichÃ?©, but I have seen that happen in a few people.[/quote]

I agree that it’s easier to regain lost strength than it is to add “new” strength, but I’m a good 40 pounds lighter than I was at the time (and have no intention of regaining that weight). It wasn’t all LBM, but additional mass seems to particularly increase the bench. I expect to reach 315 or so fairly “easily” (which is about the same that my 365 @ 250 BW would have been by strength-to-weight ratio, about 1.5xBW). Beyond that might be a bit more of a grind & might require a bit more dedicated focus. I also expect that once my leg is healed and I can resume squatting & cleaning, I will see some overall body-comp improvements.


#14

Bench Press
5x135
5x145
5x155
3x185
3x205
3x225
3x235
3x245
3x225

Pullups
5xBW
5xBW
5xBW
5xBW

Incline Bench
5x135
5x155
3x185
3x205
3x225

EZ-Bar Curls
5x95
5x95
5x95
5x95


#15

Unusual circumstances this week (traveling again) led to me benching on back to back days. I’ll be doing just yoga classes for the next three days. If ya don’t like it…tough, see my disclaimer above about training because I like it.

Bench Press
5x135
5x145
5x155
5x165
3x185
3x195
3x205
3x215
3x225
3x235
3x225

No sweat on any of these. Good solid work.

EZ Bar Curl
5x5x95

Shoulder Assistance w/light DB’s

Bench Rep-Out
20x155

Off for a weekend of yoga and beach vacation with the girlfriend :slight_smile:


#16

Friday: traveling, no gym access, so a favorite on-the-go workout:

380 Push-ups (done in sets of 10, starting one set every minute on the minute)

Traveling to beach in North Carolina with GF tonight, staying over the weekend. Planning on hot yoga classes at the beach tomorrow and Sunday morning. Back to real life and the gym on Monday.


#17

I’ll be following your log. I like your whole thought process about training and your posts have me thinking more about mine.

I started a log of my own over at the O35 forum today, although I’m somewhat confused about exactly where the logs belong. I would guess here, but they seem to fly over at O35 as well.

As a side note, I bought a beginner yoga DVD this week. Flexibility is something I should be improving on, so it seems to be worth a shot. My gym also has a class that I could probably make most weeks, already included in my membership.

Enjoy the beach. I’m not too jealous, since this is the first nice weekend in Maine since… a long time ago. 65 and sunny, going to lift tonight and I may go haul my ass up a mountain tomorrow.


#18

Hey twojar!

I’m hardly the arbiter of where logs “belong” but I think anywhere is fine. I’ll look for yours now that you’ve started one, I really enjoyed your introductory thread and love your attitude.

Re: yoga, I would encourage you (as I would any strength athlete) to consider SOME form of mobility work. For some people that can be 10 minutes of rolling around on a lacrosse ball or foam roller, or maybe DeFranco’s Agile 8 or Limber 11. It just happens that I’ve found the hot yoga classes enjoyable. Your mileage may vary, as they say, but try the DVD and/or the class at your gym and see if it feels like a useful addition or something you can do on a rest day.

One myth about yoga: the notion that you have to be flexible or be “good” at it to be accepted in class. Here’s a little secret: NOBODY CARES IF YOU’RE GOOD OR NOT! I’ve found people at Bikram yoga studios (I’ve been to about 10 now in my travels) to be universally accepting and friendly. People of all shapes and sizes come to class. My dad, a 230-pound ex-powerlifter in his fifties, goes to hot yoga class a couple times a week. So does my 5’2" mother. So does my opera-singer girlfriend. There are 20-year-old ballet dancers and 70-year-old ladies. It’s a neat crowd.

Nice weekend at the beach with my GF. Did a pair of hot yoga classes (one each morning before heading to the beach). Now awaiting the airplane to head back home to real life. I’ll combat the post-vacation blues by starting the week off right with a bench workout in the morning :slight_smile:


#19

I am going to try to make it to the Yoga class on Tuesday, but it is entirely possible I will be having a few beers and cooking on the grill if it is nice outside. It has been an especially long winter and it is time to enjoy not freezing and make contact with our neighbors for the first time since October. As for anxiety, I wasnt worried what anyone thought about the fat man learning his way around a barbell, I sure as hell wont be bothered about sucking at yoga in front of the bendy women.

A new week is in front of me and winter is finally over. Ready to do some good stuff.


#20

Bench Press
5x135
5x145
5x155
3x185
3x205
3x225
3x235
3x245
3x255
5x225

Incline Bench
5x135
5x155
5x175
3x185
3x205
3x225

Pull-ups
5x5xBW

EZ Bar Curl
5x5x95

DB Bench
2x10x85s