T Nation

Former Rugby Player Trying to get Back in Shape...


#1


Hello all,

My name is Brad and I turn 35 this month so I thought this would be the appropriate place to start. I have decided to "get back into shape" and having been a T-Nation member for several years, decided that some accountability and advice was in order. This first post will probably be a little on the long side, but I appreciate your patience if you could read it through. If not, I understand - it is mainly for my accountability to myself and to put it out there publicly.

Up until a few years ago, I led a very active and exciting/adventurous lifestyle. I played football, wrestling and lacrosse in HS, didn't go to college, but I started playing rugby in my early 20's. I have practiced martial arts since I was a teenager as well. In my late 20's, my rugby "career" was in full swing: I was on a Div 1 Men's Club starting side. Having started off as a wing, I had moved up to blind side flanker and eventually to loose head prop. For those of you unfamiliar with rugby, it is the equivalent of going from wide receiver to tackle/guard in football. I trained my ass off and used AAS.

I am 5' 11" and I went from weighing 165/170 lbs. when I started playing, to about 245 lbs. in about 7 years. I had a few knee surgeries along the way, but it didn't take me out - it just slowed me down a little. I was that asshole in the off-season who would do plyometrics and sprints while dragging tires behind my back so I could get a jump start on the season. My wife gave me a sled to drag for my birthday. Yeah! I was that guy...

My best lifts were when I was 29 years old, weighing 245 and just moved up to the front row (my new position was loose head prop) and was in the middle of my 5th cycle of juice (test enth, EQ and deca) They are not even close to some of the athletes on this site, but I was proud of them at the time. My numbers were:

Squat: 515
Dead Lift (sumo style): 560
Clean from the ground: 335
Flat Bench: 345
Push Press: 285
Body Weight Pull ups: 22

I don't know what my body fat was, but my top two abs were visible. I was an arrogant SOB too.

When I was 30 I sustained a "career ending injury" playing against Charlotte. Torn pec, completely torn rotator cuff, concussion. Not a good day. Two screws and a half inch of bone off the clavicle later, I was told I couldn't play rugby any more. Had to stop lifting too. (you would be surprised how one's shoulder is involved with EVERY free weight lift). I don't use machines. I did the therapy for six months and got the mobility back. I was smart enough to cut back on my diet so I didn't turn into a fat piece of shit completely. I lost 40 lbs of muscle that year. Hubris is a bitch!

Now for the sob story (I'll keep it brief): Got divorced, lost my house, lost my kids, I'm a mortgage broker so I don't need to tell you all what my income looked like in '07... Blah blah blah. Life kicked me in the nuts pretty hard, but I got back up, dusted off and promptly became a workaholic for the past two years

Which is where I am today: working 12 to 16 hours a day, weekends, behind a desk and hunched over two computers, eating Chipotle, Wendy's, Burger King or a high dollar high fat meal at some fancy place if I'm entertaining a client. It's ten at night as I write this and I'm still at my office. I'm tired of being out of shape, my back hurts and I don't feel very healthy.

SO I'M GONNA GET BACK IN SHAPE! I would appreciate any help the members of this forum can offer. I am not bothered by criticism, so long as it is constructive. I have no illusions of getting back to the numbers I was lifting before. My ego is on the shelf. I realize that I am essentially starting at square one.

MY BEGINNING (for the next two months) GOALS ARE:
To develop core strength and hip flexibility.
To avoid re-injuring my self by starting with pre-hab work and light unilateral lifts.
To eat healthier and take control of my diet.
To work out in the gym a minimum of three times per week.
To get two hours of energy systems work a week (even if it's just walking in my neighborhood)
To sleep 7 hours a night.

ACTION TO DATE:
Bought enough supplements to follow the Velocity Diet Lite for two months. (started today)
Got a gym membership at Fitness First less than a mile from my office.
Bought shoes, socks and shorts today.

INJURIES I'M WORKING AROUND:
Right shoulder and pec: torn pec and rotator cuff and two screws in shoulder, half inch of bone off clavicle.

Lower back: Got an X-ray taken last year when I was in some serious pain - turns out it is a muscle imbalance from being on the left side of the scrum all the time. I have a slight curve in my spine, but the Chiropractor said it was easily corrected by strengthening the other side.

Knees: Had two knee surgeries on my left knee and one on my right, but they don't bother me hardly at all (just in the cold) - I don't anticipate any problems as long as I warm up properly.

Right hand: Three surgeries on the tendon's in two of my fingers. (had to take a knife away from somebody once when I was young) It affects my grip when I pull anything over 250 or so. I have to use straps above that weight. I won't have to worry about that for a while!

That's it for injuries.

BEGINNING WORKOUT
Duration: 2-4 weeks
Emphasis: Flexibility and core strength
Frequency: Three times a week alternating A B A, B A B

WORKOUT A:

Foam roller work and dynamic stretching - 10 min
Plank - held as long as I can hold it. Add a set every week.
Dead bug / single leg lift series - 12 reps each side, approx 5 sets
Single leg squat - 2 x 12 add a set every week
Scap push ups - total of 50 as many sets as it takes
pull ups - total of 50 as many sets as it takes

WORKOUT B:

Foam roller work and dynamic stretching - 10 min
Hanging alt leg lift 3 x 12
ab wheel roll-out 2 x 10
Step ups 2 x 12 add a set every week
dips - total of 50 as many sets as it takes
Modified renegade rows 3 x 10

Any suggestions or advice would be helpful. Keep in mind, I have not lifted in several years so I want to prevent injury.

I will see what starts to hurt and modify things if necessary, but I know the difference between soreness/working the kinks out vs. hurting myself.

Here are my photos:


#2


right side


#3


left side


#4

back


#5


front


#6

(my rehab work is limited so if there's a better way of training it chime in)

You sound sort of like my brother man, he had a bad jump from a plane and it wrecked him, anyhow.

Cuff injuries,
Every gym has them, the big rubber bands. Focus on doing movement related pulls with the bands, over the head, single arm rotation with the elbow in the hip, front raises, rear upright rows. If your gym has no big rubber bands then use the towers but remember to use super strict form and as slow as possible to recondition the muscle.

Pectoral,
When your doing the pushups be sure to alternate between wide, staggered hand placement, overhead, narrow, diamond and using a wobble board.

Knees,
Remember alternations when doing a squats, try doing double legged squats but placing one foot on a wooble board, or squatting on with staggered foot placement to hit the tendons that wrap around and connect the knee and recondition them.

With all exercises,
Incorporate Pilates type teachings into most if not all of your movements, 1 to 2 sets out of the movement your doing do a 1 80 second rep, 40 seconds thru one range of motion and 40 seconds thru the second half of the motion, it'll further help to recondition the muscles as well as stimulate muscle memory

And I feel you on the loan officer crap dude, I used to work in one of the First NLC call centers as a loan officer and as soon as GMAC died off and the subprime market died we all got cannned, Losing a job overnight blows.

And god you look familiar, you look alot like the district manager of the north virginia branchs lol.


#7

Thanks for the feedback LJ.

Week one went well. I hit the gym on schedule and no major pain. I'm trying not to over do it.

My flexibility sucks!

Oddly, my Left shoulder was more sore than the right one.

The diet is hard for me. I had company over on Saturday and my guest brought some beer and I ended up drinking more than I should have.

I did well during the week. The protein tastes "less bad" than when I started.

Knowing that I'm accountable is a tremendous help.


#8

Careful you're not putting more weight/strain on the left side to protect the right. Played a season of "bar league" rugby in Colorado Springs in 1979. Wasn't the playing hurt me it was the aftermatch parties. Good you've made a turn around in your life. Look forward to seeing where you go from here.


#9

I can empathize with the divorce and kid situation. It's tough to get back into the groove since we don't have that S on our chest anymore. Be patient. It's akin to rehabbing a knee, you have to walk before you can run.

When I got back into lifting the hardest thing for me to adapt to was regulating/modifying my diet.

It looks like you've got a good attitude and mindset. Zulu time baby!


#10

Thank you hel and hawk for the feedback. I will definitely be conscious of making sure that I am keeping proper form and not getting ahead of myself.

I am humbled by my current strength levels. I definitely don't have the S on my chest anymore! Having never done uni-lateral work (speaking of single leg squats with one leg behind me on a bench), finding my groove is proving to be difficult. I can tell that my glutes are not "firing" like they should be. I am experimenting with foot placement, etc..., but it doesn't feel right... maybe I just need to do the exercise more to become comfortable with it. I believe the following factors are occurring:

1) Having been behind a desk 16 hours a day for the past two+ years, my hip flexors have shortened and are preventing my glutes from activating properly.

Solution: I need to pay more attention to lengthening my hip flexors and will add that to my "warm up"

2) Imbalanced / weak core. My body is perhaps protecting itself from a load that the weakest link (my core) cannot currently handle.

Solution: I will continue to strengthen my core and restore strength and balance to that area.

3) I've lost a lot of muscle! Sitting on my ass and letting my self go combined with massive stress and the catabolizing hormones that accompany it have left me worse than I thought/expected.

Solution: This one's easy - build more muscle! Also, as I lift more, my CNS will get more efficient as well.

The step ups are not so bad, but I suspect that is because I am using more momentum than I should be.

I am definitely out of my "comfort zone" with the uni lateral lifts.

Some positive observations are that my scap push up numbers are improving in just a few short workouts and my core exercises are getting easier to complete (able to go lower on the ab wheel roll-outs). I am feeling great after each workout and I am less stressed.

I have made one modification to the program on workout A : I substituted high cable rows (face pulls) for the pull ups. I did this because I believe that it will improve my shoulder health more specifically than the pull ups will, and in this "pre hab" phase that is my primary concern.

Also I realized that I never posted my weight. In the past week I have weighed between 190 and 192. We'll see where it goes. I am less concerned with the scale as I am my waistline. I should probably take some measurements, huh? I'll have some measurements the next time I post.

DIET:

Waking up hungry! I drink a protein shake upon rising. Usually a salad with chicken for lunch. I am not always a good boy when it comes to dinner, but I am more aware of healthier choices when I am eating out. With my job I tend to entertain a lot - usually two or three times a week and most of the networking events that I attend are happy hours. When I have a cocktail now it is a Bacardi and diet or wine vs. a beer or a vodka tonic. I also nurse my drinks now (drinking only one or two vs. four) My bar tab is looking better!

After re-reading the above paragraph I realize there is some serious sand in my vagina! Got it... As I said before, the diet is going to be the hardest for me to change, but it ain't gonna change itself. I'll get on it.

Any and all feed back is appreciated.


#11

Second week of lifting went well. I am very glad that I made this change. My lower back feels much better. I am getting some awareness of some posture changes/adaptations through the core work. I never did it before - I just went and lifted heavy shit! Now I can actually feel muscles that I never paid attention to specifically and how my hip alignment affects certain movements. If I had paid attention to this before, I may have been able to lift more... I am very optimistic about lifting heavy again. I know I need to take it easy and build up to it gradually, but I think I can eventually get back to lifting some respectable numbers.

The post workout soreness is reminding me to be better with my posture while sitting, and I make sure to get up and walk around more during the day.

I know I owe the measurements I promised in my last post - I need to find my measuring tape (or buy a new one). I will get it done this weekend. Have a good weekend everyone.


#12

dukes - welcome to old farts group!
As a suggestion...
You'll get more feedback and motivation by posting your training here in your log. Keeps you accountable and motivated.


#13

You just inspired me man. Sometimes, life kicks us in the ass. We fight. We get back up and fight back. 2 years ago, I lost everything in my bank account after being scammed. Long story. For months, I scraped and scrapped, winding up racking up big credit card bills. I felt like giving up, but I didn't. I decided to go back to school for Resp. Therapy and found a great job to help pay my bills while in school. My girlfriend then dumped me. Try going to shcool and studying now. LOL. but, I did it.

I made it through. I have 6 weeks left of clinicals then I am done. I've been thru hell the last 4 years as you have. THE ONLY THING THAT'S KEPT ME GOING IS FITNESS. I drink too much I know but that also gets me thru my days and nights. I have a stuttering problem and have been DILIGENTLY trying to overcome that. At 41, its now or never. No more excuses. Life sucks sometimes. Anyway, its nice to see you are fighting. I empathize man.

Mark


#14

Thanks for the support soldog. Reading about your progress over the last few months is one of the things that got my ass in gear. Question: Do you want to see every single work out? I'm still dialing it in with what weights to use, etc... I'll post what exercises and weight I did on Friday.

mark, I'm glad you found some inspiration in my post. I hope that it serves you in a positive way. If it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger in mind and in spirit. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and you'll get through what ever challenge you are currently facing. Constantly evolve in one way or another. At 41 you have plenty of time left! Sounds like you are almost at the top of one of your "mountains". keep it up.

Thanks for the feedback, guys. As promised, I finally took measurements (in inches).

Weight: 192 lbs.

Height: 5' 11"

Neck: 16.5

Chest at nipple line: 41.25

Stomach at belly button: 37.5 (flexed is 36)

waist: 36

Hips: 40.75

Upper right thigh: 23.25

Lower right thigh: 18.25

Upper left thigh: 23.25

Lower right thigh: 19

Right calf: 16.25

Left calf: 15.75

Upper right arm flexed: 14.75 (hanging: 13.75)

Upper left arm flexed: 14.75 (hanging: 13.5)

Right forearm: 13.75

Left forearm: 12.5

I am right handed which should account for the differences in the forearm measurements. Did a lot of rehab on the left knee with the two surgeries which should explain a little more development in the lower thigh - I've only ever done leg extensions on that leg. I skipped out on the therapy for the surgery on my right knee cuz I didn't think I needed it. The differences in the calf measurements is explained by a broken left ankle many moons ago. Everything looks like it makes sense. So that's my starting point!

Here's what I did on Friday:

Foam roller, myofacial release stuff, mobility work, focused on hip flexor stretches. My left side it tighter than the right.

Dead Bugs, single leg lifts, on the floor core work (didn't really count the reps and sets - just did what felt right)

Hanging single leg lift alternating legs: 3 x 20 total

Ab wheel roll out from knees: 8, 10, 10

Land mine side to side "chops" with just the bar: 3 x 16 total

DB step ups with as little momentum as possible: 20 x 10, 30 x 10

Dips, BW: 12, 10, 8 (left shoulder started bugging me so I stopped at 30 total)

SCAP pulls to face: 3 x 90 x 10

That's where I'm at right now. As I said before, my goal for the first two months is just core strength and hip mobility. Not trying to throw a bunch of weight on the bar and fuck myself up because of my ego. Give me six months and you'll see some nice numbers, I assure you. Have a great weekend everyone.


#15

Hit the Gym Sunday in the AM. Completed Workout A. I am only using the bar with the single leg squats - I am working on my balance. I am keeping it light until I get the movement down (or the flexibility to do it properly). I am very tempted to load up the bar and go balls to the wall, but I really can't afford an injury right now. So I am sticking to my guns and focusing on just core strength and mobility.

A few hours after my workout, I got a 90 minute deep tissue massage. It was excruciating, but I think I worked some of the kinks out. It was definitely worth it. It is easier to maintain a good posture now. My scapulae feel "younger" and my lower back is much better. Boy was it painful, though...


#16

Starting to notice a lot more core strength... All of the core exercises I am doing at the beginning of the workout are becoming easy. I am noticing better posture and less lower back pain in my day to day activity.

Still having trouble with the single leg squats, though. I feel like I'm going to topple over if I load the bar up. Thinking about using a smith machine, but I am very reluctant to do so - I have shied away from machines my whole lifting career and am reluctant to start now. If anyone has any input or advice on the topic of single leg squats with the non-working leg supported on a bench behind you, it would be appreciated. How long did it take some of you guys to get the movement down and start adding weight?

If I'm just being a pussy about it, let me know and I'll just keep my nose to the grindstone.

On the step ups, I am holding a 60 lb. dumbbell in each hand doing the step up to a platform that's around knee level, and that is very easy.

I also played around with the "pistol style" single leg squat, but my left knee (the one I've had two surgeries on) was having sharp pain under the kneecap, so I don't think I'm ready for that exercise yet.

No pain at all in my right shoulder (the one with the surgery), but some discomfort, slight pain and less overhead mobility with my left shoulder. I have been very conscious of my form, so I know I'm not favoring that side to protect the other.

So I am going to adjust the program starting next week by incorporating Front Squats and Sumo Dead Lifts in addition to the unilateral work. I will also be adding more pre-hab shoulder work ( I need to do some research on the exact exercises, but I will post it next week ) I will also incorporate pullups.

If anyone has a perspective to offer, I would appreciate the insight. Thank you


#17

Well I am officially 35 as of last Saturday. My Beginning workout phase was successful. My goals of core strength and flexibility were met. I can feel a HUGE difference now compared to when I started 4 weeks ago. The goals I was focusing on were met:

To develop core strength and hip flexibility.
To avoid re-injuring my self by starting with pre-hab work and light unilateral lifts.
To eat healthier and take control of my diet.
To work out in the gym a minimum of three times per week.
To get two hours of energy systems work a week (even if it's just walking in my neighborhood)
To sleep 7 hours a night.

I am now going to shift gears and take it to the next level. if the past month has taught me anything, it has taught me that I need more energy! I was good for the first half, but I would run out of steam toward the end of my workout. Since the order I was doing things was Core, Legs, Back, Chest, I feel that I barely worked my chest enough. So I am going to switch things around for the next phase by doing a three day split: Legs, Push, Pull. I will also start doing some GPP and some sprints.

So for the next 4 weeks the goals are as follows:
To continue to focus on core strength and flexibility
To continue the pre-hab work and unilateral lifts - start putting a little weight on the bar
To keep a food log (my diet is the biggest weakness I have, so I need to establish control - this will be the first step)
To work out in the gym a minimum of FOUR times a week.
To remember to put Surge recovery in my gym bag!
To do two sprint sessions a week out side of gym time
To raise my GPP activity (take the stairs, park farther away, walk more, etc...

I still need to keep things light, because I don't feel like I am at the point to lift heavy. Here is the proposed new plan:

PHASE II WORKOUT
duration: 4 weeks
emphasis: core strength, raising GPP, getting my form back in the main lifts before adding weight
frequency: 4 days a week at least (more if work/life permits) rotating Legs, Push, Pull; two sprint sessions a week two days apart

LEGS:

Foam roller work / mobility
Core routine
Shoulder prehab
3 X 8 of one of the following: Single leg squat, Step up, lunges
3 X 8 front squat
3 X 8 good mornings
GPP - KB swings (I've never done these, but my gym has a pretty good selection so I'll figure out what's appropriate and post it)

PUSH:

foam roller work / mobility
Core routine
Shoulder prehab
3 X 8 incline DB press
3 sets of dips
3 X 8 vertical push
3 X 8 lateral raise

PULL:

foam roller work / mobility
Core routine
Shoulder prehab
3 X 5 power clean (not going above 135)
3 X AMAP pull ups
3 X 8 seated cable rows
3 X 8 BB curls

Sprints: 10 X 25 meters (sprint, walk back, sprint, walk back....)
I'll add more as I get my wind up - don't want to kill myself the first time.

If anyone has any suggestions or feedback, it would be welcome.