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Aragorn: How Do You Train?

Didn’t want to hop on the bandwagon starting one of these threads lol, but I’m just too curious not to ask. You seem to be training for a good mix of performance and aesthetics (which is what I’m interested in) and are clearly one of the most knowledgeable people on the forum when it comes to training.

I’m sure that anything you’d be willing to enlighten the rest of us about any facet of your training protocol would be doing the rest of us a great service. Thanks!

Surprised this hasn’t already happened

[quote]MaazerSmiit wrote:
Surprised this hasn’t already happened[/quote]
x2.

Definitely a strong and smart guy, and a great resource to have here.

Ya I agree with you guys.He always give’s solid advice and It would be great to get a peek into his training and diet etc.

Well holy shit!

I didn’t expect one of these for me–sorry I’m so late to my own party, I was in the cesspool of PWI philosophizing for far too long apparently (thanks for csulli calling my attention away from that place).

I’ll get some more detail in here soon but yes, I do train for a mix of aesthetics and performance. Primarily strength.

For most of my training life I have been training specifically for strength, and I have, quite honestly, found that aesthetic gains were quite acceptable for pretty much most means. I lack bicep size because I hate training biceps, but for most other things I feel ok (triceps get a lot of work from pressing).

Thanks for the compliment guys! It is very appreciated. Now that I know this is here I will be back very shortly to ramble on about some of my story lol, but I have to check on some experiments first.

For those of you who don’t know, I got my Master’s in biochemistry and molecular biophysics. I’m currently running an analytical pharmacology lab so I am both a) by a computer most of the day and b) sometimes completely unable to use it haha :).

[quote]Aragorn wrote:
molecular biophysics[/quote]

By any chance have you attended/presented at any of the Biophysical Society Meetings?

Ok, so I have to very much apologize in advance for the stream-of-consciousness randomness or disjointed flow of my posts here. One of the problems I have is that my brain tends to run very quickly and most of the time is jumping through connections that my mouth or fingers can’t follow fast enough to speak or write lucidly. Very much like an overloaded funnel haha. I will do my best to be articulate with my story and replies but…well it’s not a strong point. Particularly when I’ve got a ton of info, or my background, to condense :), and unfortunately it means things will inevitably be left out only to be recalled out of place when I finally remember them! Added to that, I pass my down-time by writing…

I started training as a first semester freshman in college at 160 lbs, 6’2". I peaked at 255 lb fairly lean, and currently hover around 240 ish. If I’m honest with you guys (because I’m always honest with myself haha) I’m feeling very unworthy of this thread because life’s been crazy hard for several months schedule wise and my training is seriously suffering (as is my level of strength and leanness). I’m currently averaging 14 hour days, get up around 6am train clients before work (I am still coaching), then go to work and then get off and train more clients.

By the time 8:30 rolls around I’m very tired, and it’s not unusual for me to be up and working in the lab until 11pm or later if something is wrong, so that means my work day is closer to 18+ hours sometimes. That’s no excuse. It has been, however, very frustrating because I have not been able to train the way I like to lately. I am still training–I’ve sworn never to be the “ex” lifter guy, and I get really angry and even depressed if I can’t lift for a period of time :). However training is currently being revamped.

So I guess I’ll start at the beginning for a little on how I started, then I suppose jump ahead to what I’m doing to sort of make ends meet for the moment.

[quote]GrizzlyBerg wrote:

[quote]Aragorn wrote:
molecular biophysics[/quote]

By any chance have you attended/presented at any of the Biophysical Society Meetings? [/quote]

Yep, had a poster at one waaaay back in the day in 2006 before I started grad student work. Are you a fellow nerd?? Sadly I don’t go any more because I’m out of the biophysics group and in a different area, being that my work is more pharmacokinetics/pharmacology.

[quote]Aragorn wrote:
Ok, so I have to very much apologize in advance for the stream-of-consciousness randomness or disjointed flow of my posts here. One of the problems I have is that my brain tends to run very quickly and most of the time is jumping through connections that my mouth or fingers can’t follow fast enough to speak or write lucidly. Very much like an overloaded funnel haha.
[/quote]

[quote]Aragorn wrote:

[quote]GrizzlyBerg wrote:

[quote]Aragorn wrote:
molecular biophysics[/quote]

By any chance have you attended/presented at any of the Biophysical Society Meetings? [/quote]

Yep, had a poster at one waaaay back in the day in 2006 before I started grad student work. Are you a fellow nerd?? Sadly I don’t go any more because I’m out of the biophysics group and in a different area, being that my work is more pharmacokinetics/pharmacology.[/quote]

I just graduated with a BS in Biology but was very much involved in Chemistry, Physics, and Astronomy. I guess you could say I am a nerd for everything science. I presented two posters there (2012 and 2013). I had to ask because most people have no clue that biophysics exists.

Pharmacokinetics sounds pretty freaking cool btw. Where did you do your grad work?

Very interested in this

I’m in on this, one of the few poster’s I pay atention to around here, got the build, and the knowlage. Shoulder’s, Aragorn, want to know about those round shoulder’s !

Oh and on a side note, it’s almost time Csulli gets one of these as well :slight_smile:

If you don’t mind, I’m gonna ramble story style. Down time today, so you all get to suffer for it! haha.

So newbie freshman me got pissed. I fucking hated being skinny. I fucking hated being weak. I fucking hated it! And to top it all off outside of my disgust with myself my girlfriend of 2 years and I broke up a week before coming to college. Suffice to say I was not excited to be in college. I also had the “honor” of being in the worst dorm and worst floor on campus (intensive study antisocial floor, all doors were always shut).

I had messed around with weights in the basement of one of my friends dads before. Only a couple times as a senior, but his dad worked out, was bald and looked badass. When I got sick of everything in college that drive kicked back in like never before.

I did everything wrong. I started in the machines. I was reading another site at the time cough and moreover I was just to damn shy and scared of what I thought of the ‘monsters’ in the free weights to get into the free weights section. I laugh now, because by the end the guys who were still there that I was afraid of started coming up to me for advice and spots, but at the time I knew all too well how weak I was and I was shy and skinny. The first workout I did was arms and I couldn’t move them for a week afterwards…I almost quit it hurt so bad. I did at least get good coverage on my back and legs, but all machines.

That lasted a couple months til I couldn’t find a satisfactory answer to one of my questions at the other site forume and I hit google. I found T-Nation and Charles Poliquin, Ian King, Charles Staley stuff…and a guy named Thibaudeau. I still was too scared to hit the free weights because I knew I’d be embarrassed by how little I could lift and that the machines weren’t doing the job. Eventually I worked the courage up and it was every bit as bad as I thought it would be, except that the other guys ignored and didn’t tease me. Still, I felt burned.

Starting stats:

bench 95 lbs. Actually that’s not fair, I got stapled by 95 lbs 3 different times, so…yeah.
squat 115 lbsx3, crappy and high.
RDL 135 lbsx3, crappy, but down deep. Didn’t learn to deadlift right away, just started on the RDL cuz I could handle more weight…lol.

I was sore and bruised for a week. I had been working out for about 3 months, only a couple weeks in free weights. Almost quit several times, even after my very first workout, but I had promised myself I wouldn’t miss any workout for any damn reason for a couple months. About this time I read “Getting Schooled Westside Style” first, and then “The Mad Monk of Powerlifting” from the archives on T-Nation.

It changed my fucking life.

I had never even conceived of these weights being humanly possible. Shit, I thought 315 was a mindblowing bench press. I didn’t even know a human being was capable of bench pressing 600 lbs, much less being the lowest fucking bench in the gym! I crystallized. I swore I was going to do that. I was going to squat 600 lbs if it killed me. I had no idea how I was going to get there. I looked and looked for powerlifting programs.

By sheer luck I stumbled onto the “9 week basic training program” which was 100% written out–sets/reps, everything. That winter break I searched high and low and found a place that had a GHR and reverse hyper. It was an hour away. Sadly it is no longer there. My skinny self went and started. I had no spotter, no lifting partners, was in a gym I didn’t know (ironically also called Westside), and no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I was going to fucking do what they were doing at Westside, sometime, somewhere, in the future.

I remember the first ME lower day I had, I was sore for a week. I saw my first ever 600 lb deadlift in person by some nameless heavyweight who had to try 3 times to get it. It blew my brains all the way out of my head. I good morninged 150 lbs for 1 rep, and I did it down to parallel, and I did it mostly right for a newbie. I had to warm up for about 30 minutes by stretching to do DE day later that week. I couldn’t sit down. My abs were unspeakably sore from just 5x10 on the roman chair.

I stayed on Westside, re-ran the program after I finished, and literally read everything I could get my hands on. I averaged about 2-3 hours of reading on nutrition and training a day for the first 3 years I lifted, and have kept an average of about 1-1.5 hours 7 days a week for the first 8 years I lifted.

I stayed on the traditional 4 day a week template for 5 years or so. Every once in a while I would stray to something else when I had an attack of the “shy skinny wanna be ripped and Ahnold” kid. I mean, I really did want to look like Arnold. Still do as a matter of fact, as I’m sure most of us do. I wasted time doing the odd cut, or more bodybuilding style stuff from Thibaudeau ala “the big back stack” or “triple threat back” or something like that, but for the most part the first 5 years were pretty much all Westside, all the time.

My bench went up slowly, aggravatingly, embarrassingly, but eventually got to about 300 lbs. My squat and deadlift went up. And then up. And then up. I pulled 400, then 450, then eventually 500 lbs for the first time in my life. What a rush that was…I’m pretty sure I looked like a crazy person lol. Squat went up, stalled, went up, stalled, finally got to 450. Long limbs and tall…bad combo for easy squat progress lol. I actually good morninged more than I squatted which should have told me something but I didn’t really have anybody to help me. I was completely on my own with only what I could read and glean for guidance. I did eventually squat 500, then really stalled.

Several points throughout this period of time I did some two week high frequency super-compensation cycles, and some other stuff: Smolov intense phase for my deadlift (yes that’s right), my own hybrid programs based on frequency and what I’d read from CT and Poliquin and Louie. They actually worked pretty damn well for the spurts I was on them, but I didn’t know how to modulate my training–because I was the only damn person in there doing this stuff and didn’t know anybody to ask except forums–and eventually burned out, had to go back to Westside 2 lower body days a week. The T-Nation forums were helpful, but obviously can’t take the place of a real coach.

[quote]AnytimeJake wrote:
I’m in on this, one of the few poster’s I pay atention to around here, got the build, and the knowlage. Shoulder’s, Aragorn, want to know about those round shoulder’s !

Oh and on a side note, it’s almost time Csulli gets one of these as well :)[/quote]

Hahaha! Again, compliments from you and Matty very much appreciated because I always knew you two were yoked. I got some specific info on that–I rambled enough on the story so now just straight training stuff. Get back to you later today, right now more experiments.

If anybody does TL:DNR I am not offended!!

SHOULDERS

I’ve changed up shoulder training over the years and am pretty happy with all the things I’ve tried. For much of the time I’ve trained shoulders as an assistance exercise for the purpose of bringing up my bench. This means they were never very often the focus of my training because I was focused on the big three and didn’t want a “shoulder day” or any such thing. However, as I’ve gotten more into phases of aesthetic training I’ve noticed a couple things really worked for me. LONG POST AHEAD–for the ADD people bullet point #1 is rear delts (this post). #2 is lateral delts–next post.

  1. Note on rear delts–3D shoulders are as much about the back as the shoulders themselves. lots, and I mean frequent, work on the rear delts–and low traps–helps a ton. It not only makes your shoulders rounder it really helps stabilize the joint for the movements that will really put meat on them and keeps you injury free. Low trap work isn’t really self-evident, but it plays a role in the stabilization of the structures. I mean, you can’t really get focused on shoulder training if you have constant pain there. Besides which, chronic weakness in the structural stabilizers leads to decreased neural drive as a physiological safety mechanism even if you’re pain free. SO, here’s what I have done.

At the beginning of every workout in the week, I have a face pull, pull-apart, or high row as part of my weighted warm-up. As I have been doing frequent training up until the past few weeks, that has amounted to about 6 days a week for a year and change. 3-4 sets x 5-6 days x a year. It’s quick and painless, takes 5-6 minutes max.

My warm-up circuit was this, or a variation: power snatch from hang x 3-5 reps, plyo push-ups or something, face-pull 6-8 reps, lower body exercise or jump, and roman chair. Essentially hit all major movement planes, but it adds up to a lot if you do it every day: 3 sets power snatch + 3 sets face-pull = 6 sets. 6 sets x 5 days is pretty good weekly volume, and it’s a warm-up.

FYI I am/was pressing overhead 4 days a week, and at least 2 days of power snatch work. For a long time my recent routines had 4 days of power snatching, 2 light 2 heavy, with 2-3 days of overhead pressing in addition to that. It was all low rep olympic based stuff (1-5 reps).

When I did “back days” before going to the high frequency set-up I would also sometimes go through periods of focusing on this as a finisher or part of a tri-set or something. Never the main focus per se, but there. Can’t remember where I came up with it–I may have gotten the idea from CT years ago perhaps–but basically: 10-2 raises, rear delt flyes, and then rear delt swings all in a superset with no rest for 8-12 reps each. This was all done lying the wrong way on an adjustable incline bench set to mid/low incline. Too high and you get upper traps taking over.

I came up with the swings myself as far as I know although I am quite sure that they’ve been done before–one of the best back movements there is and also one of the best for rear delts depending on how you tweak the motion and if the delts have been pumped/fatigued prior. A
basic swing is this:

Use bench like you’re going to do dumbbell rows. Instead, grab a kettlebell–they work with db’s as well but this is one of very few movements I far prefer a kettle for. Now, set up hand/knee on the bench arm hanging down. Push the chest up without leaning up (essentially arching) and keep the shoulders perfectly parallel to the ground. Hold the chest up and starting from a dead stop swing the kb to your hip. Arm should remain very close to your body and you should thing of “stretching” your back, or lengthening the space between head and tailbone.

This is not a row to the hip, it is a swing–very much like a reverse hyper is not a hamstring curl but a swing from a dead stop. You might keep “soft knees” but you don’t flex your knees when you do a reverse hyper and you shouldn’t flex your arm when you do these. Palm facing floor when the bell is at your hip (facing towards your head when hanging down).

Do muscle-rounds (thanks CT): 6 reps left, 6 right, 6 left, 6 right, etc. That’s 4 rounds of 6 reps a side with no rest. Light weight–this is a feel exercise getting started and if you fuck up the feel you can’t get the most out of them. Start just regular sets of 10 to get a feel, then after a couple days of doing it switch to the rounds. Once you get the feel you can go heavy. These also hit the lats hard btw, depending on your grip style. For rear delts these are most effective after face-pulls or something you can really feel in your delts rather than lats. As I mentioned, you can also do these lying face down on an incline bench.

  1. Lateral delts have responded to high volume and high frequency for me. Bodybuilding style it’s: heavy strength exercise, then fatigue fatigue fatigue with other exercises a couple times a week. Olympic lifting is the high frequency and honestly I’ve noticed some of my best development with these. You overhead squat, power snatch, press, and high pull 3-5 times a week and your shoulders WILL grow. That’s a promise. The Klokov Press is one of the greatest shoulder movements ever. It’s something you need proper technique for and good shoulder mobility and T-spine mobility for, but it’s great.

Essentially, it’s very simple for me–everybody remembers the old 5x5 routine, but not many people have thought to do it for shoulders. It’s not that you CAN’T…it’s just, well, it’s a) something people do for bench and squat and shit and b) too simple to possibly work!

Nope, works great. I prefer more frequency and less volume in each session. 4 times a week 3x5 with a weight you can strict press 8 times. Next week 3x6 or 4x5, and the week after 3x8, then increase the weight. The snatch grip width, hands out to the collars for me, is what makes this shine. This is in addition to anything else–the weights you can handle with crisp form are so small for most that it won’t interfere meaningfully with your benching.

Between that and the power snatch I’ve really gotten all the volume I need, and end up doing pretty good volume in a week. Typically that ends up between 25-40 sets total. BUT since I power snatch and high pull for performance and strength I don’t think of them as “shoulder movements”. They’re just athletic movements.

So it ends up being–conservatively–about 20 sets for shoulders with olympic based stuff/klokov press and about 20 sets of rear delt work in the daily warm-ups. So 40-50 sets a week. Mostly 3-5 reps in pressing stuff, 6-10 reps in pulling stuff.

Bonus is, you get strong too! haha.

Now this is going to sound weird, but as a trainer, over the years I’ve found guys are usually chest dominant, or shoulder dominant, and I adjust they’re training accordingly. Anyway do you find your shoulder’s get in the way of your chest training alot, or that it’s hard to isolate chest, say on a bench, whithout shoulder’s taking over.

Guy’s with great shoulder’s I’ve found, have a harder time building they’re chest, and have to use tricks like pre-exhaust, and what not, just wondering how this works for you, then I’ll stop harrassing ya :slight_smile: Thanks for shoulder info

Great info! OH Pressing 4 times a week G A S P! it makes me miss OH pressing so much. Cant agree with you enough with regards to the rear delts, it has allowed me to bench again pain free and even aesthetically I like what has happened from hitting them multiple times per week with face pulls, reverse flies and pullaparts. Its odd how such a relatively small muscle could take such a beating and make such a difference in look, health and strength.

Thanks for this.

In on this. looking forward to seeing what your current training looks like. I remember you did HFS for a while and a lot of CT’s programs.

[quote]Aragorn wrote:
I’ll get some more detail in here soon but yes, I do train for a mix of aesthetics and performance. Primarily strength.

For most of my training life I have been training specifically for strength, and I have, quite honestly, found that aesthetic gains were quite acceptable for pretty much most means. I lack bicep size because I hate training biceps, but for most other things I feel ok (triceps get a lot of work from pressing).[/quote]

Strength and aesthetics, with strength as a primary focus AND hates training biceps. I knew I picked the right guy lol.

Holy shit dude, you write a lot! But I read it all twice. The amount of effort you put into those posts is much appreciated, and I definitely learned a few things. Your posts really made me miss doing power snatches twice a week. Think I’ll restart that after exams finish up. Out of curiosity, when you say you were power snatching twice a week, were they both from the hang? Would it be better for me to do one day from the hang, or maybe from boxes, and one day from the floor? I certainly wouldn’t mind trying my hand at an Oly comp at some point, but I don’t have any immediate plans. I’m currently on a beach muscles (which are lagging behind my legs and back) kick, though the majority of my training/present competitive interest is powerlifting focused.

And finally (and I’m sure I’m speaking for everyone else here too), thanks for this. This is already shaping up to be a great thread!