Calvert and Milo Barbell

Barbell Curl: 70# x 5 - PR
Z Press: 75# x 9
Flared BB Bent Row: 85# x 9
BTN Press: 85# x 9
Bent-knee Pullovers: 31# x 14
Backbend Situps: 30# x 9
V Squats: 95# x 18
Jefferson Squats: 95# x 18 (9 per side)
DB Side Press: 50# x 6 (per side)
H2H KB Swings: 70# x 16 (32 total)


  • delayed a day. Been busy with Chinese New Year cooking and stuff.

  • I accidentally loaded 55# for the side press to do 3 reps, but then thought about it. Which is harder? The 50x6 I was supposed to do, or next session’s 55x3. So I did the harder one.

  • not the same, but I did a loaded carry with one kid on my shoulders for a good while yesterday. Going to hold off any extra work until next week.

  • I’m basically getting 3-5+ protein sources a day recently. Today was milk, flank steak, spanish chorizo, pork ragu, beef chuck, and that was just by lunch. We haven’t even cooked the Chinese New Years foods of pan fried pork buns, shrimp and pork dumplings, and braised fish.


Chinese New Year jumps around the calendar every year, kind of like Easter does. I spent a lot of time trying piecing this together in the past, so sharing a bit about how this works.

There are four main celestial patterns we can see from Earth, and that directly affect our lives and the world around us:

  • the rise and fall of the Sun (solar day)
  • the rise and fall of the Moon
  • the revolution of the Earth around the sun (solar year)
  • the revolution of the Moon around the Earth (lunar month and moon phases)

Before there were phones in our pockets and watches on our wrists, there were clock towers and local observatories that kept track of the local time and date. Before all of that, we just watched the sun and the moon. There are even cave paintings of moon phases.

First important pattern: the day

So, it’s really easy to tell if it’s daytime or nighttime, because the sun is either up or it’s not. During the day we have light and heat, and during the night we don’t. Activity makes sense during the day, and some things make sense to do in the morning, and others in the evening.

Second important pattern: the year

The second major pattern that affects us significantly is the solar year. Summer is hot, winter is cold. If you’re not on the equator, there are seasons. As an agricultural society, it’s important to have some understanding of this, because it controls when we plant and harvest.

But it’s hard to tell how far we are into the year and plan things. What is everyone supposed to do, count how many days it’s been since the shortest day of the year?

There’s basically four natural markers. The longest day (summer solstice), the shortest day (winter solstice) and the two equinoxes, where day and night are the same.

(There are actually lots of interesting and very consistent seasonal patterns in nature; bugs and animals emerge from hibernation, birds migrate, trees flower. A whole branch of science studies that (phenology), and all sorts of poems and literature.)

Third important pattern: the lunar month

There is actually a consistent and observable pattern that we can track though: the moon phases. It takes 29.5 days to go from one full moon to another full moon. (The word “month” originally was related to the moon.)

If someone says “I’m having a party at my place 3 days after the full moon”, everyone can figure out when that is.

It’s much easier to track things based on 1) the moon phase, and 2) days after that phase. Every household can do that. And that’s essentially how we end up with the lunisolar calendar.

Some calendars are based entirely off the lunar month, especially in places that don’t have seasons (that’s why Ramadan moves through the year); others are primarily moon-based, but do things to keep the lunar months and solar year in sync (Jewish and Chinese calendars); and others completely abandon any moon observations (Roman/Julian/Gregorian calendar).

So China has had a mix of calendar systems, one that’s tied to the solar year and used for planting, and one that’s tied to the lunar month and used for everything else. Chinese New Year is the synchronization of the lunar months with the solar year.

The actual festival lasts from the new moon (New Year/Spring Festival) to the full moon (Lantern Festival). ~15 days.

(New Year is almost always 2 new moons after the Winter solstice [the shortest day], which is how they sync up. The actual rules are more complicated, but that’s basically the idea.)

The Roman calendar used to work similarly: months were based on the moon, and the year started in the spring. March was the first month. September (sept = 7), October (oct = 8), November (9), December (10) actually made sense once. Winter wasn’t tracked.

But then there was romance (trying to align with the Egyptian calendar, which has 12 months instead of 10) and politics (all months should have 30 days! all months should have 31! we should alternate! July is named after Julius Caesar and so it should have the bigger of the two (31 days)! August is named after Augustus and he’s equally important, so it also should have 31 days!)

That stayed fairly stable until people started making fun of the Christians because their calendar got further and further out of sync with the sun. Easter was no longer in Spring. And that’s when it was reformed and became the Gregorian calendar with all the weird leap year rules. (But notice the changes happen in February, that way March is actually the start of the solar year… just as the Romans did.)

All that said, these things ultimately go back to the sun and the moon and the things we can easily watch.

The fourth pattern: the rise and fall of the moon

This matters if you live near the coast. Tides come in and out, and tidal floods are a thing. It affects us, but it doesn’t affect all of us. Some people track it, some don’t.

More than you ever wanted to know about the calendar.

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Barbell Curl: 70# x 5
Z Press: 75# x 10
Flared BB Bent Row: 85# x 10
BTN Press: 85# x 10 - failed! only 9!

Took a break to contemplate life after that failure…

(And eat some lunch, and meetings)

Going to try it again.

BTN Press: 85# x 10 ← did it
Bent-knee Pullovers: 31# x 15
Backbend Situps: 30# x 10
V Squats: 95# x 20
Jefferson Squats: 95# x 20 (10 per side)
DB Side Press: 55# x 3 (per side)
H2H KB Swings: 70# x 17 (34 total)


  • Well, I did a bit of work there. Next time: more weight, less reps.

  • I was feeling beat up over the weekend. I thought it was maybe from carrying a kid on my shoulders all of Friday night. But I’m also at the end of the cycle where everything is 9 and 10 reps. I think I felt beat up last time this happened too.

  • Morning bodyweight is still going up. Will probably cross 160 in the next week or so.

  • There’s an idea that you should be in deep sleep between the hours of 11pm and 1am. Which means actually being asleep before then. (Technically the 2 hours surrounding solar midnight.) I’m not here yet. Recently, it seems I’ve also become caffeine-resistant. Probably need a few nights early to bed.

  • Upper back mobility is still not where I want, especially on the right side. I’m trying something new; lying lengthwise on a foam roller, then doing a wall slide movement with a light weight in hands (2.5#), just giving it time to stretch everything out. Also tried a snow-angel like movement coming back “down” to the sides.


Exciting stuff.

Probably next video will be once I hit 50# x 10 on these. Then onto the crazy stuff.


I shared this in the t-ransformation thread. My bodyweight is now up 20 pounds from this time last year. I was weighing in at 137-139, and now I’m weighing in at 157-159.

And I can still see my abs.

Actually, that is what I’m finding strange: I’ve been pushing the food a bit the past couple weeks, and have noticed some change in size, but not in fat gain. Last time (years ago) I noticed my ab definition changing, but this time I feel like they look the exact same at 157 as they did at 151. Maybe I’m training better?

Barbell Curl: 70# x 6
Z Press: 80# x 5
Flared BB Bent Row: 90# x 5
BTN Press: 90# x 5
Bent-knee Pullovers: 31# x 15
Backbend Situps: 35# x 5
V Squats: 100# x 10
Jefferson Squats: 100# x 10 (5 per side)
DB Side Press: 55# x 3 (per side)
H2H KB Swings: 70# x 18 (36 total)


  • [almost] all the weights went up and reps went down

  • the nerd inside me likes the 70, 80, 90, 100 pattern. Certainly easy to load.

  • two days in a row of being asleep – not just in bed – before 11:30. Still tired, but this is probably the right thing to be doing.

  • I was quite sore after last workout. Then I had a dental cleaning and my gums are sore. And a deep tissue massage, so even more sore. But ok-ish today. My baseline is “sore” these days; this was just sore-er.

  • Dentist took blood pressure and pulse. 114/70 with 48 bpm. Healthy enough.

  • Tweaked something in my left upper trap/neck, probably during Z press. Everything was already sensitive and this took it over the edge.

My body says I’m training hard, but my mind says these weights are lame. I don’t even have 135 on the bar for my squats. I haven’t picked up anything over 100 pounds for months.

The psychology is annoying.

However, this is the foundation-building work I never did before, but should have. Physique-wise I’m certainly better for it.

I’m just whining.


I noticed this happens when I push ab training while bulking. Building bigger and stronger abs!

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Well, ok, I guess Calvert’s stuff works fine. I guess I’m not getting weaker.

I needed to feel something heavy again, and @freshyfresh provided the opportunity. Mostly because I feel like I have very little credibility around here and I felt the need to prove it. I may not know much, but I do know how to do a 13" pull.

First time doing anything resembling a deadlift in 3 months. This is pretty close to my all-time training max, and definitely the most I’ve lifted on the axle.


Nice pull man!

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My bodyweight is now up 20 pounds from this time last year. I was weighing in at 137-139, and now I’m weighing in at 157-159.

Congrats, that’s awesome progress!
Since I’m on a similar path as yours, I’d love to hear about some of the details behind your transformation. Were you eating in a caloric surplus the entire time? Or did you plan any breaks where you allowed your body to “reset”/stay at maintenance/or even slightly below for a mini-cut effect?

@freshyfresh Thanks! I have a history of offering advice based on knowledge, but not experience. I felt like I needed to back that up, and it really was a good opportunity to scratch that itch to lift heavy.

I think it was because of those hand-to-hand kettlebell swings. Calvert said they will increase your deadlift, but I didn’t believe him. However a few other people have said the same. Maybe something to try?

So I was digging through my old log to see where this stood. The heaviest mat pulls I ever did was “405” with 35# of chains, for 3 reps, in April 2015. I was proud I crossed that barrier.

I held the 405 reps way too long at the top before descending and wore myself out. Brain wasn’t functioning well. Did a few pseudo-attempts/isometrics with it before dropping the weight down to 375.

Rolled out some stuff before leaving, but things got tighter as I went on. Low back was stiff before 405, and stiffer after. 375 left my quads hurting too. Hanging out in hollow-body position made things feel a bit better.

I think I need to put some serious attention to ab work. I think my low back is just overpowering things right now.

Next day:

I’ve also got a sore spot at the top of my abs, where they connect with my ribcage. It’s like I pulled something there with the 405 reps yesterday.

This reiterates, again, that I should be doing more ab work. I’ll wait until it heals, then throw in DB ab rollouts 2-3x a week.

That was around when I started getting into hiking, and I really didn’t do any more pulling after that until, well, 2023.

I reweighed that bar this morning, and the bar I’d always thought was 45 pounds is actually only around 25 pounds. I knew it was light; I didn’t realize it was that light. That “405” was actually just 385.

So if we ignore the chains, yesterday was an all time PR.

Back then I had to hype myself up for the lift, I got an ab strain, and my body really didn’t like it. This time was pretty uneventful, no hype, no strain, no extra soreness.


You give me too much credit :slight_smile: No, I haven’t put that much thought into it.

I’m highly analytical, but also lazy and inconsistent.

My general approach is to set a destination and then just make sure I keep heading the right way. I’m a lot less focused on the actual process, since it can and will change.

I’ll try to be brief, but relatively complete.

I was looking at height/weight stats, and found that most of the lifters who looked the way I wanted to look were a lean 2.4-2.5 pounds per inch of height. For me that’s a lean 172. Which means I need to weight at least 172, regardless of leanness.

I was also looking at some of the latest information of “how much muscle can you build in a month” and most answers seem to be around 1.5 pounds per month. A bit more in the beginning, a bit less later.

Because “it’s easier to lose fat than gain muscle”, I’ve had an arbitrary target of gaining at least 2.5 pounds a month.

When it comes to weight changes, one thing I’d found is that works well is looking at a 10-day trend. If you fit a line to the last 10 days, the slope of that line shows the rate of gaining or losing.

I have a spreadsheet where I can track my weights and calculates the 10-day trailing slope. So on a daily basis I can get a feel of whether any recent changes are pushing me in the right direction.

I also track my evening weights. I noticed I personally lose a bit over 2 pounds every night. One way to use this information is to make sure I weight at least 2 pounds more than my morning weight.

So getting to the actual implementation.

My dinners are always at least one protein and one cooked vegetable. Sometimes a carb, often noodles or rice, rarely bread. My lunches are usually leftovers from dinner. We eat a wide variety of proteins and vegetables, across various cuisines. It’s hard to have consistency except the basics of: mostly protein, some vegetables, a bit of carbs.

(Maybe an important note: My wife doesn’t eat dairy, so there’s no cheese, butter, cream. So my dinners and lunches don’t contain those those.)

My body doesn’t like solid food for breakfast, so it’s some mix of a carb source and caffeine source. Today, milk and an energy drink. Some days milk and coffee, others milk and tea. Sometimes milk tea, or a milky coffee-shop espresso drink. Sometimes I’ll get a drink made with half-and-half for the extra calories from the cream.

I’ll do eggs and bacon on the weekends sometimes though.

The main tool I’ve used to increase calories is whole milk between meals. Fat, protein, and carbs in one source. A lot of protein shakes advertise “blended protein”. Milk is the original blended protein.

With both of the measures before: rate of weight gain over the last 10 days, and the morning-evening weight difference, I can increase or decrease the number of shaker bottles of milk I drink a day. A couple basic rules: don’t drink it 2 hours before bedtime, don’t drink it 30 minutes before eating.

As far as “mini-cuts” or whatever, that stuff has just happened naturally. It’s been a winding zig-zagging path. Sometimes I stop tracking things for a month or two. I tend to maintain/lose when that happens. Sometimes I’m hungry and eat a lot, sometimes I’m not and don’t.

I try to work with my “natural” behaviors and patterns as much as possible, and make the changes that require the smallest willpower. The measures are there to keep things pointing in the right direction, regardless of the methods. It’s a lot easier to be compliant when you can operate mostly on autopilot.

The more interesting finding is that, recently, I was playing catchup from not gaining much weight in January. I set a goal of ~168 by May and “got behind”. I pushed the food a bit harder the 2.5 lb/mo goal, and my body seemed to use it the right way, rather than putting it toward fat. I don’t know how that’s going to change things yet.

Hopefully something in there helped.


Thanks for the thorough response! My circle of family and friends consists mainly of people looking to lose weight and slim down, so I’m always the oddball looking to GAIN weight. That’s why I love getting the perspective of others with similar nutritional/physique goals as mine.

I’d say I take very similar approaches as you. I’m also very analytical (sometimes to a fault :slight_smile: ). I track my weight daily and look for increases in the weekly average. My meals also consist of a protein and vegetable. My body seems to tolerate carbs fairly well, so I’ll typically add in carbs (rice, potatoes, oatmeal, legumes) to most meals just to make sure I’m getting in quality calories. I like meal-planning on a Sunday to set myself up for success early in the week, but then I’ll let family dinners (w/ leftovers) dictate my meals later in the week.

I like your approach of letting things happen naturally - like you said, it allows you to operate on auto-pilot and not over think the nutrition side of things. Small changes are easy to implement, and over time transform into consistent habits.

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@Tonino I do want to chat about that more, but I’m short on time today.

Heading out of town for the weekend with the family, and juggling packing and stuff, so abbreviated this.

Barbell Curl: 70# x 6
Z Press: 80# x 6
Flared BB Bent Row: 90# x 6
BTN Press: 90# x 6
Bent-knee Pullovers: 31# x 10 ← 10 felt like enough. These are about the sternal stretch, not the weight.
Backbend Situps: 35# x 6
V Squats: 100# x 10
Jefferson Squats: 100# x 10 (5 per side)

DB Side Press: 55# x 2 (per side) ← was cutting ROM short on the right, and failed when I did it “right”
DB Side Press: 50# x 3 (per side) ← got a bit of quality work in still
H2H KB Swings: 70# x 18 (36 total)


  • 3 press variations, and the last one sometimes suffers. It’s the one that has the greatest mobility requirements too, so it tends to hurt the most during, not after.

  • the foam roller wall-slide (floor slides) things seem to be helping. I did get a shoulder cramp kneading dough the other day, which I think is… good? Uncomfortable at the time, but a sign of change.


I do want to chat about that more, but I’m short on time today.

Sounds good, enjoy the family getaway!

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So I’m going to dial back the weight gain.

I found the other side of the limit, where the rate of fat gain exceeds muscle gain.

Feel free to laugh.

Basically what I know is that 2-3 lbs per month is a bit too conservative, and 6-7 lbs a month is a bit too much.

Good vacation though. Glad I skipped the leg work on Friday because I spent a lot of time climbing up and down. Mostly sand dunes, but some stairs.

There were some heavier winds the two days, and lots of sand flying around. Dune, the story, got some inspiration from the constant fight against the sand dunes on the Oregon coast. I saw a couple houses half-buried in the sand.


Definitely not!

I’ve always felt it was for you, because you’re lighter and leaner naturally, it’s too easy to miss out maximising growth by trying to minimise fat gain (Pwns done a good blog recently that touches on this)

So I’m really glad to see this:

Great to see you pushing the boundaries and finding the limits, you’re making solid progress in moving towards your goals, keep up the great work.

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Barbell Curl: 70# x 7 - PR ← I still hate these. Ulnar side of right wrist.
Z Press: 80# x 7
Flared BB Bent Row: 90# x 7
BTN Press: 90# x 7
Bent-knee Pullovers: 31# x 15
Backbend Situps: 35# x 7
V Squats: 100# x 14
Jefferson Squats: 100# x 14 (7 per side)
DB Side Press: 55# x 3
H2H KB Swings: 70# x 19 (38 total)


  • I went back to my old old Z-press setup: car jack stands on mats. I never liked any setup I could get out of my rack because the pins didn’t go low enough. This is much better, but a bit tricky to rerack.

  • the side press programming is out of sync with the other press programming. Its progression of 3-6 takes 4 sessions while the other’s 6-10 takes 5 sessions. Plus they both advance by 5 pounds. It’s getting significantly harder, relatively. Not sure of the fix yet.

  • for now I think I’m going to move the side press to doing it twice before advancing, just like the curls. So 8 sessions to add 5 pounds.

  • this was the first time I’ve side pressed and not actually hurt within the joints themselves. Still didn’t feel good, but not the same kind of pain.


I reviewed my programming. Some differences between what I’ve been doing and what I should have been doing.

  • this first one, which I knew, reps should only increase every other session. This is by choice, and fine. The option is there to slow down as needed.

  • one version of the course says to increase the BTN press by 10 pounds, the other by 5. I’ve been using the 5 version. This explains the discrepancy where the 2-arm version wasn’t staying in sync with the 1-arm version.

  • squats are supposed to increase by 10, not 5. Both versions say that. I’ve been doing 5. So both squat forms should be heavier than they are.

I’m pretty close to start adding in Second Course exercises. I looked through those last night. Several of those are just unilateral versions of what I’m already doing.

When I was thinking about my side press over the weekend, I considered “maybe I should start doing some windmills again”. But Calvert to the rescue: Windmills make an appearance in the second course. And that starts in a couple weeks.


I have some stuff to get out of my system.

I have no idea what’s really driving this, but I want to mess with the programming. (Actually after I wrote that, I now have a ton of ideas why.)

One thing I eventually want to do is revisit the randomized sheiko stuff for my press, but with an appropriate level of volume. Closer to sheiko volume, not easy-strength volume. Structure it something like 1-2 main lifts with 2 accessories.

I also want to put some direct training into the 18" pull. It’s already high so something like ROM progression is essentially out (it’s not like there’s much ROM to progress through…) But I actually like Calvert’s high-rep-for-lower-body double progression stuff. Something like 10-20 range (by 2s), add some weight, repeat. In fact, I may start doing this weekly.

I also want to work on my axle grip strength. And my power cleans.

Ok, that’s out there.

Second thing. I had a weird dream that involved fighting or grappling or something. It followed dream logic so I don’t know how it worked. I woke up with the conclusion that: someone who gets massively strong doing kettlebell stuff is a force to be reckoned with. Not just the normal conditioning high-rep swings and snatches girevoy-sport stuff, but someone who truly works heavy get ups and windmills and side presses.

In real-life logic, that actually makes sense to me. I kind of hate get ups though.

Third thing. I was having a silly conversation with a friend about martial arts weapons training, and how impractical it is. Swords, spears, staffs, etc.

But then I remembered that Portland is known for it’s weird machete-wielding crazies. You can buy a machete at a grocery or hardware store for under $20, sometimes under $10, and it doesn’t require ammo.

I looked at the news, just to validate my memory, and came back with this.

  • Feb 1: Man with machete accused of assaulting people at Portland apartment building. The 38-year-old man was reportedly moving around the Franklin Towers building Wednesday evening assaulting people with a machete, police said.

  • Feb 18: Convenience store owner defends himself with machete during robbery

  • Sep 21: Robber wielding machete targets hidden safe at N. Portland tavern, makes off with reported $50K

  • Sep 8: Man with machete threatens children in Northwest Portland park, neighbors say

And then on a reddit thread about the topic 6 months ago:

“This past week I’ve seen three different people in Portland carrying machetes and now this. Are there machete wars going on?”

“I saw a guy swinging a 3 ft board with nails sticking out of it last week on near W 5th and Burnside. My wife saw a blond-haired guy swinging a hatchet menacingly near lloyd center a month ago. Need to open a thunderdome or something?”

“last summer some guy was swinging a padlock on a 6ft chain around his head and into car doors down by Loyal Legion.”

“I saw a man rollling a full sized, whole ass barrel down foster yesterday evening. Like donkey Kong style. I see men wielding metal pipes, swinging at trees and light posts around outer SE fairly regularly. There’s a man that sits on the max with two chefs knives in his hand sticking up, muttering aggressively. And the police just won’t respond to shit like that. It’s scary out there.”

So… maybe learning how to use a staff/sword/spear actually has some relevance in my modern life?

What’s driving the itch to mess with the programming?

  1. the stuff yesterday about how I’m getting close to transition to some Second Course exercises
  1. I was on vacation, so a disruption

  2. work frustrations. My emotions highly influence my ability to think about stuff. Frustrated about something? Don’t want to/can’t apply any energy toward that thing… but that energy needs to go somewhere…

Actually, that’s probably all there is to it.

Also some more-difficult parenting stuff going on too. I have a smart kid who learns really well, but unconventionally, and who has trouble regulating emotions. Enough so that the school-police were called in to help de-escalate a situation last week. (They were just there to keep her on school property after she ran out the building, after hitting and kicking multiple administrators.)

All because she didn’t want to put a toy away.


Sorry to hear about the parenting stuff, that’s incredibly challenging. I know when we’ve got parenting stuff going on (pretty regularly!) It’s a drain mentally and emotionally - which tends to lead to feeling drained physically.

Seems more like you should move to me :joy: