MarkKO's Training Log

Only just started looking at this section of the forum. I like the idea of sharing progress in one place.

Basic information about me/my training history: I’m 30, been around the 198 lb mark (give or take 10 lbs) for the last five years and started training in mid 2010. That was basic, normal noob stuff but I did squat and deadlift and loved them. After about 3 months I started kettlebell training (not entirely voluntarily) and did mostly bodyweight and KB stuff until I started competing in kettlebell sport proper in 2012. I did nothing but kettlebell sport from January 2012 to June/July 2014. The last three months of that I worked with a Russian coach and burned out.

July 2015 I came back to barbell strength work, and by September knew I wanted to compete in raw powerlifting. I do all my own programming and coaching as I prefer it that way. I might make more mistakes that way but I enjoy it more and learn more.

Currently I’ve had two competitions at 198 lbs and my best lifts are:

Squat (belt, wraps) 210 kg/462 lbs
Bench press 115 kg/253 lbs
Deadlift (belt) 227.5 kg/500 lbs

Notable rep and training PRs for me are (almost all in the last fortnight except for press and pull-ups):

Squat (belt, sleeves) 152 kg/334 lbs x 8; 173 kg/380 lbs x 5; 194 kg/426 lbs x 1
Bench press 94.5 kg/207 lbs x 5; 100 kg/225 lbs x 3
Deadlift (belt) 182 kg/400 lbs x 6; 210 kg/462 lbs x 3
Press 72.5 kg/159 lbs x 1
Pull-ups (shoulder width grip) 8 reps

I’ll keep updating notable events in my training as I go.


I also figured it’d help if I gave a brief overview of how I’m training right now. The best way to describe it (I think) is a simple kind of pendulum periodisation approach. I train in blocks of two and three days, with rest blocks of two or three days (I train around work) and this works out to seven days out of every 14.

I set my training up into mesocycles made up of four microcycles (usually two or three sessions each): speed (60-70%), heavy (80-90%), assistance and volume (75-85%), very heavy (80-95%). My macrocycles vary in length depending how much time I have between meets but ideally I like 12 weeks which is about four mesocycles.

My training template I’ve tried to keep nice and simple:

Squat day
six work sets, two or three assistance exercises for around nine sets total

Bench press and deadlift day
six work sets for bench, 10 for DL (as I usually work in the one to three rep range), one or two assistance exercises for around six sets total

Assistance day 1
front squat five sets, bench press variation six sets, press six sets, row variation three sets

Assistance day 2
heavy hip hinge five sets, light hip hinge six sets, row variations for six sets

Volume day
Five sets each of squat, bench press and deadlift

I always ramp up to my work sets, so depending on the load I can go through five or so sets of ramping. It takes time, but I feel better for it.

The way the days fit into my mesocycles is that I’ll do a squat day for speed, bench/DL for speed, then move to squat heavy and bench/DL heavy, then my two assistance days and the volume day, then squat very heavy and bench/DL very heavy. After that I cycle back to speed, but add 2.5% or so on to all my lifts.

Because of how this all rotates it doesn’t mean I do back to back speed, heavy, assistance, etc rather I do them in that order but might have a two day block that goes volume, speed or speed, heavy, etc.

I’ve been doing this since the beginning of 2015; in 2014 I had a simple linear progression using a similar approach but with much less assistance work. I did that for 12 weeks and was happy with the results but towards the end found increasing the weight on the bar got harder and harder. Since switching to this approach I’ve had better results.

I rotate assistance exercises based on what I feel needs the most work. So, for instance, my elbows are playing up so I’m incorporating curls and tricep extensions to help strengthen them. Earlier this year I did a ton of pull-ups to strengthen my upper back and midsection.

Right now I’m coming to the end of the second mesocycle of my current macrocycle: I have my two very heavy days coming up and I’m on a three day rest block and it feels like I’ll come into that two day block feeling pretty good.

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So far this week has been good, interesting and a bit of a reality check.

I got told my knees cave a bit on heavier squats - which is true and I’d been stupidly ignoring it a bit because my squat is going well enough in terms of weight on the bar. Sometimes it takes an external voice to make me listen. I’ve got pretty tiny quads for a raw squatter, so no prizes for guessing what the cause of the caving is.

My solution is replacing half my work sets of squats with hack squats on the machine; cutting three sets of deadlift and adding three sets of Bulgarian split squats; and also adding in box jumps on deadlift days, which will be a bit of conditiong too. I’ll try this for six weeks and see how I go. It feels odd to drop work sets of a main movement, but the problem of caving isn’t going to go away if I ignore it and I don’t think just adding more work per session is a good idea.

Actually, I really like the Bulgarian split squats. They highlight a whole bunch of weaknesses I have even with just 70 lbs per hand. A reality check is healthy.

My elbows are happy with the remedial work (curls and pushdowns) so far, which is a plus.

In terms of the main lifts, I’m pleased with progress so far. A 425 lbs squat with sleeves and belt feels very nice now for a single, with no real stall at any point. Yesterday I hit two singles at 246 lbs on the bench with no lift out, which while very light is a biggish deal for me.

Laslty I hit a new deadlift PR: 529 lbs

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Well, that was an interesting week. Direct quad training is feeling good, split squats especially. It took a few goes but I’m beginning to get a feel for them even though the load is tiny (70 lbs per arm). Box jumps were a lot of fun too - nothing at all high though, the box only goes up to 75 cm and most of them I did at 50cm. I think I’ll work at 75 cm next week though.

I was a bit worried before that I rely too much on my belt for squatting, but on Friday I hit eight at 345 lbs without a belt and felt very comfortable. Sumo pulling also is feeling very nice: beltless 374 lbs for seven on Saturday (I’ll own up to using straps because a callus was starting to tear). So, I think I’m doing ok in terms of belt reliance.

WhenI tried to squat heavy on Sunday my CNS had other ideas, so I added a couple of extra sets of hack squats. I also tried some heavy front squats, with a belt for the first time and hit a double at my previous max single of 308. I tried for a third but the bar slipped off my shoulders about halfway through. Luckily I took a step back and looked back over the week before beating myself up for not getting through my squats (I completed my ramping sets, topping out at 352 lbs and while the weight felt fine I just wasn’t getting tight enough no matter what I did and I felt sluggish coming up).

On that note, I need to pay closer attention to recovery, as I’m starting to notice a pattern: set a couple of PRs in training (rep or max) within a day or two of each other and by the end of the week my system just starts shutting down a bit. No big deal, especially since if I take my usual rest days I come back a bunch stronger; but, all the same, I should probably sit down and take a look at pre-planning for this or at the very least bear it in mind. I wouldn’t be surprised if the new quad training had an effect in this respect as well.

Bit the bullet took a long hard look at my programming to see if I can do something about my less than optimal recovery after the three day training blocks. After a bit of thought I figure the best way forward is to nut up and drop the third day in favour of two shorter days on days I work. I’ll have to get up around three am to train, but if I stick to grunt work on those days I’ll be fine. I figure those two days can just be assistance/conditioning work that don’t require much attention to technique. It ends up being a four day per week approach, but I keep the speed/heavy/very heavy pendulum. Being a fortnight/meoscycle just makes it easier to cycle as my work rotation is fortnightly.

I also took the opportunity to clean up my exercise selection in terms of assistance work. Since my posterior chain is way stronger than the front of me, I’ve dropped most posterior chain assistance and focused on bringing up my quad strength (front squats, hack squats, split squats), doing the usual upper back work that applies to all three lifts (Kroc rows, pull-ups) and more bench specific work (close grip bench, press and tricep pushdowns). It ends up having me squat twice a week in week 1 and once in week 2 (heavy), bench twice a week both weeks (not including close grip) and deadlift twice a week in week 1 (sumo and snatch grip) and once in week 2 (heavy). I figure now my deadlift is getting heavier I’ll do better using sumo and snatch grip for the majority and only pulling conventional heavy every fortnight. That should let me train all the portions of the deadlift without burning out my CNS. I’ve also incorporated band work for speed day on squat and bench, again because I’ll only be doing them once a fortnight.

In terms of actual training I rounded things off pretty well hitting a 440 lb wrapless squat for a single after 392 lbs x 5 and 415 lbs x 3 on Wednesday and then a 407 lbs beltless snatch grip deadlift for a single. Bench was its usual hot/cold but still hit two 240 lbs singles.

Looking forward to getting into the re-set program from next week.

Looking forward to this log. I need to start one too, haha.

Following this, good work man!

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Thanks guys! I’ve noticed since starting this that it has helped me evaluate my training more. I’ve always kept a proper pen and paper log for my day to day sessions and pre-planned my cycles in advance with reevaluations at the end of each cycle but this has been more reflective and helped me figure out what I needed to change and what I wanted to keep.

I almost wnet ahead and did a pre-work session this morning to test the timing and see how the three am wake up feels but held back because I figure the three day break will be more beneficial and function as a mini deload. I like that excitement, though. It’s one of my tells that i’m physically and mentally ready to go.

First day working my amended program, and first day squatting against bands. As a note, it helps to remember that when you use two bands, they both add tension at the top. It took me two sets to figure out why my 310 lb squats felt so damn heavy up top. Then I realised I was getting an extra 88 lbs instead of 44 lbs because each band was adding 44 lbs.

The best thing so far was that I got in and out in under two and a half hours. I love my lifting but I do need to do other stuff too.

Today’s training (work sets only):

8x2 310 lb squats against bands adding about 88 lbs

3x6 360 lbs machine hack squats

3 sets 100 lbs Kroc rows (left/right going 21/15, 10/10, 10/10)

3x6 57.5 lbs triceps pushdowns.

Tomorrow, bench and dead speed work.

Pretty average session today: not bad and not great. Had to give up the pull ups at the end because my elbows were playing up a little as well as the insertion of my left bicep. Well, I know I can do pull ups by now so unlike a few months ago I didn’t freak out and just did a few pull aparts and face pulls instead.

Today’s training (work sets only):

8x2 165 lb bench press against bands

5x2 132 lb close grip bench press against bands

2x3 320 lb sumo deadlift
3x3 340 lb sumo deadlift
2x3 375 lb sumo deadlift

5 crappy wide grip pull ups

Time for two rest (i.e work) days, then into microcycle two.

Idk if it’ll help, but m elbows act up some with pull-ups, switching to doing them exclusively with fat grips has pretty much eliminated the problem and allowed me to get some actual volume in with them.

I’m not sure if it’d help but I might give it a go. The issue was the width - I switched to wide grip and that made a huge positive difference. I think the main problem was that my squat and pull-up grip were pretty much identical and I was pulling my elbows forward so aggressively in the squat and doing that many pull-ups my elbows just freaked out.

I’ve dropped the pull ups to three sets twice a week with a wide grip and that’s helped. I’m just more careful, so the moment they act up a bit I back off. I’m in this for the long hall so I’d rather be careful.

Apparently I can’t post directly to this from my mobile.

Third attempt for today’s entry: first session of my work microcycle which means loads are between 80 and 90% and rep range is 3 to 5.


5x3 400 lb squats

3x3 286 lb front squats - quads feeling this right now

3x4, 3, 3 137 lb press - wanted 3x5 but that wasn’t happening, upper back was trashed

3 sets 40 lb concentrated curls, 5, 5 and 4 reps per arm - remedial work to keep my elbows happy.

Sets one five of my squats today

Set one, pretty mediocre because I wasn’t tight enough

Squat work set 1/5, 182.5 kg x 3: Squat work set 1/5, 182.5 kg x 3 - YouTube

Set five, much better

Squat work set 5/5, 182.5 kg x 3: Squat work set 5/5, 182.5 kg x 3 - YouTube

Second set of front squats, these all felt pretty good.

Front squat set 2/3, 130 kg x 3: Front squat set 2/3, 130 kg x 3 - YouTube

Finally, first set of presses. Lost the fifth by that much.

Press set 1/3, 62.5 kg x 4: Press set 1/3, 62.5 kg x 4 - YouTube

Yo. Have you ever tried the “Rippetoe Grip” for presses? I switched to that a couple of months back and I definitely feel more triceps and it has definitely helped my lockout for the bench. Feels awkward at first but I got used to it after the 3rd/4th training session.

Skip to around the 1:54 mark for the grip.

I haven’t, but I surely will now. Thanks, that looks like it would be a lot more comfortable.

Bench press and deadlift work day today. Pretty good all things considered, especially for bench. Left bicep is still feeling a little off but nothing terrible. I think it’s just an awkward knot that need to work out.

Today’s training:

5x3 220 lb bench press

5x3 347 lb snatch grip deadlift - first set hook grip, second set conventional because I was showing a friend how I pull conventional and sets three to five using straps because boy oh boy does hook grip hurt.

3 sets split squats with 80 lb/arm, 6, 6 and 5 per leg

3x5 pull ups - first set wide grip, second set chin ups thumbless, third set narrow thumbless

Time for rest tomorrow.

Well, three am training didn’t happen today. I’m not beating myself up, the last two sessions were really quite good and I felt tired and quite stiff and sore yesterday. Besides, all this session would have been is a little assistance. I think an extra day rest will do me good.

On that note, I also think I’ve become a little too concerned with volume and frequency over load on the bar and results. I mean, where’s the harm in only training six odd days over a fortnight if my strength on the competition lifts keeps improving and I keep chipping away at my weak points and imbalances?

The last week’s sessions were really quite good in how they felt and I think the loads by my standards are decent.

Heavy days on Wednesday and Thursday coming up - I’m getting excited.