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The Optimally Sub-optimal Training Log

I’ve been considering starting a log on here for a while now, but held off, because I already keep a log book and wasn’t sure anyone would be interested in my training or random thoughts or questions. COVID has also thrown training for a loop this year, like for everyone else without a home gym. I’ve decided to go for it, though, because I haven’t had a training partner in a couple years and so no one to keep me in check or tell me when what I’m thinking is stupid. Also, having turned 40 a couple months ago, I’ve started trying to consider a range of aspects of fitness, including mobility and endurance, in the hopes of being able to continue to train for decades more.

The title of the log is a bit tongue-in-cheek. I’ve come to consider optimal as a moving target, only really applicable to your exact situation and goals. For example, is my training optimal for becoming the best possible powerlifter, bodybuilder, runner, etc? Not even close. What I’m trying to do is work towards my current goals while enjoying training and keeping a balance with work and family.

2021 goals:

-385 squat (eventually I’d like to get back to 405). I’m currently at 3 reps with 335.

-405 deadlift (500 is a goal I still haven’t hit, but I’d be happy with 450 at this point). Recently did 5 with 365.

-275 bench (eventually back to 315). I have no idea where I am currently, because I haven’t really benched in a year.

-Keep some ability to run. During the shutdowns, I managed to be able to do 2.75 miles at a 8:30 pace and 5 miles at a 9:00 pace. I can currently do 2.75 miles at a 9:30 pace, but some of that difference is due to running on snow and ice and wearing multiple layers. I’m not interested in improving my running at all, just keep it in this ball park. I just don’t like the idea of having to say I can’t run or collapse after a mile.

-Improve mobility pretty much all over.

-Build muscle (or at least try to).

I think these are pretty reasonable, given where I am and where I’ve been. None of these goals are things I haven’t done in the past and none are anywhere near elite levels. My primary goal is building muscle, but getting my strength a bit back is a close second. The mobility and cardio/running are more for overall health and longevity.

Currently my training is built around a 5 day split with “high” volume (around 16 sets/bodypart). It seems to work for me and I enjoy it. What I’m working on is how to fit in trying to get my S/B/D numbers back up a bit and keep my running numbers.

I noticed coming back from the shutdowns, my squat and deadlift just don’t feel coordinated or tight and I haven’t benched in a long time, so for the next couple of weeks, I’ll be doing low weight/low reps, but a lot of sets to try to get the technique back and then build the weight from there. I plan on running 2-3 days/week, but only this 2.6 mile loop I like. I just need to plan it around leg day. I find if I run the day before, my strength/energy for legs is super low.

I’ll get into more of my actually training in my next post.

If anyone happens to read this and have any thoughts or suggestions, I’d love to hear what anyone thinks.

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Love the title

Thanks!

My current training week is set up as your usual bodybuilding/bro-split set up:

Mon - Chest
Tues - Back
Wed - Shoulders
Thurs - Legs
Fri - Arms

The main exception is on 4 day weeks, like this week (because of New Year’s). On these weeks, I’ll do legs on Wednesday and combine shoulders and arms on Thursday.

I do face pulls almost everyday, so there’s a little extra back work spread out through the week, on top of the dedicated day. I’m also doing close grip bench on arm day, to get a little extra chest.

One thing I’m considering is how to get in some extra leg work. I’m planning on running on Mon/Fri, so I’m thinking about some backwards sled drags on Tues.

As for trying to get my S/B/D up, I mentioned in my last post that I’m starting light. Once they start feeling comfortable again (hopefully just another week or two), I may try a really simple progression, starting at 3 sets of 3, adding a set each week to 5 sets of 3, then adding weight and going back to 3x3. This may change over the next couple of weeks/months, I just want to get an initial plan in place.

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Alright, first actual training post.

With tomorrow being a stat holiday, I combined shoulders and arms today. The only tough thing right now is my gym limits people to a 45 min time slot, but given the alternative, I’m not going to complain. I spent a couple month in the spring training outside with sandbags, bands, light dumbbells and a TRX. That wasn’t terrible, because the weather was nice and it was a novelty. Having to do it for a couple weeks in early December, when the weather was below freezing wasn’t as nice…

Normally, I’d start with an OHP, either dumbbells or barbell, but as I’m trying to work on my bench, I started today with close grip bench. Did a bit more bis/tris before some dumbbell front and lateral raises. Didn’t do OHP, because of the close grip and other tri work.

Close grip bench: 12, 10, 9, 8 with 165 lbs
ss with
Alternating DB curls: 12, 10, 8, 7 with 35

1 arm cable OH tri extensions: 13, 10 with 25
9, 8 with 20

1 arm DB preacher curls: 12, 11, 11, 11 with 20

Front DB raise 12, 12, 10 with 15
ss with
Side laterals 10, 9 with 25
8 with 22.5

Bent over DB flys: 12, 10, 9 with 30
ss with
Face pulls: 12, 12, 10 with 35

Band tri pd: 60 reps
Band curls: 35 reps

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Easy day today. Just an ab circuit, which reminded me that’s it’s been a long time since I’ve done direct ab work, and some mobility stuff.

Flutter kicks 30 sec
Twisting mountain climbers 30 sec
V sit ups 60 sec

45 sec rest

Scissors 30 sec
Canoe crunch 30 sec
V sit ups 30 sec

Today felt really solid. Bench was still relatively light, but my form felt the best it has since coming back to it and I had zero shoulder pain. Before the past couple of weeks, the last time I’d benched was Nov 26, 2019.

I’ve dealt with pain in my right shoulder for about the last 15 years. I’d gone to various chiros and physios and treatment always loosened things up, but as soon as I went back to benching, it would come back. From what I can tell, the problem is muscular, not structural, so I’m hoping with age comes wisdom and a combination of stretching, mobility work, and working up slowly and concentrating on good form will make the difference. I’m not married to the lift, though, so if it ends up hurting the shoulder again, I’ll just have to retire it. I figured, why not one more try?

Bench: worked up to 5 sets of 3 with 185. Felt good and the reps just started slowing on the last two reps of the last set. Far from grinders, so next week will go up to 3x3 with 190 and see how that goes.

Low incline DB bench: 12, 10, 7 reps with 70. 8 reps with 60

1 arm cable cross over, low to high: 12, 12, 10 with 30

1 arm cable cross over, high to low: 12, 10, 9 with 30

Face pulls: 12, 12, 12 with 42.5

Hammer Strength Chest Press: 12, 11, 10, 9 with 200 lbs
supersetted with: pull ups: 9, 8, 7, 6 with 25 lbs of assistance.

Run: 2.65 miles at a 9:26 avg pace. 154 ft elevation gain.

Mobility work will be done later tonight.

Would dumbbell benching reduce the pain?

Yes and no. From what I could tell, the yes was just a function of using less weight. Even pressing the 100s it’s only 200 lbs total. If I took the weight that was pain free with dumbbells and put it on a bar, I could press that pain free as well. No, in that when using heavier dumbbells, the pain would be there when getting the dumbbells set at the top to start and got my shoulders stable.

The problem for me on bench would pop up as I got heavier, usually >245 and especially if I was doing reps. I wouldn’t be able to hold my shoulder back and it would shift/rotate anteriorly. I was usually ok for singles and could hold things in place for the one rep. Often it would get inflamed enough that it would hurt when not in the gym as well.

Whenever it got bad enough I needed to get checked out, ART or IMS in my lat/pec/trap would calm everything down, usually in just 1-2 sessions. As soon as I started training again, everything would tighten up again and I’d be back where I started. Sitting at a computer or in a car a lot for work didn’t help and I also did a ton of chins and pull ups for years, which only made things worse.

The last physio saw the problem from a different view than any others I seen before and it made the world of difference. All the others treated the symptoms, with maybe some simple base-level mobility/activation exercises that didn’t do anything. The last guy took a look and within 5 minutes identified an lack of internal rotation, but also a lack of extension ROM (raising the arm to the back). Within 1-2 weeks of working on those to things, my shoulder hadn’t felt that good in years.

Even now, whenever that shoulder starts to tighten, which usually happens from working at a computer all day, 15 seconds of working internal rotation and extension loosens it up quickly.

So, now, I’d like to see if I can work my bench back up while staying pain free. I’m really working on flexibility/mobility, limiting vertical pulling to 2 exercises/week on two separate days, adding in daily face pulls/pull a parts, and YWTs on back day. Staying in the pain free zone, as far as actual lifting, will also be important to keep things from flaring up. If in the end it doesn’t work and I have to ditch the barbell bench for good, so be it, but I just want to give it one more chance.

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A decent training session. Deadlifts and some other back work.

Conventional Deadlift: Worked up to 3x3 with 335. Hamstring/glutes feel strong enough to go heavier, but core strength is lacking right now. I have no doubt it will come back, as I was doing sets of 5 with 385 at the beginning of the year. I’m assuming it’s just low from not deadlifting much since the spring.

1 Arm Cable Rows: 12 with 55 lbs, 10, 9, 8 with 70.

Face Pulls: 4x12 with 42.5

Straight Arm Hang from Bar: 1 set of 60 secs

YWTs: 3x5 with a 5 sec iso hold on each rep. I got these last two exercises from Joe Defranco. He’s talked a lot about them on his podcast and I’m liking them so far.

I was looking back in my training log and just realized, I box squatted 380 for a double on a parallel box and deadlifted 410 for a double last January, and was DB benching the 100s for 6-8 reps in May. That’s a lot more recent than I thought, which gives me some hope, as long as my gym stays open. Any semblance of a decent bench is a couple years gone by now, so that’s a lot more uncertain.

On another interesting note, I found some pictures I took in May. Even with the lock downs and the increased running, it doesn’t look like I lost any muscle, even if my strength is way down. If anything, I’m a bit leaner (Maybe about 3-4 lbs right now). During the summer, I was way down, about 10 lbs less than now (203 vs 213), but that was summer condition :slight_smile: and I’m working on trying to gain anything I can before April/May, when I’ll be back dropping some fat.

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Decent day. Nothing to write home about, but got some good work done. My back feels really good after yesterday’s training. Even though I didn’t do much weight and no heavy rowing, the single arm cable rows and YWTs seemed to do what I was looking for. I can feel it totally in my upper back, between my shoulder blades, which is exactly what I’m looking to improve.

Straight Arm Hang: 1 minute. Also got this from Defranco.

OHP: Worked up to 10 with 95 and 6, 5 with 115.

Hammer Strength Shoulder Press: 15, 12, 12 with 90.

DB Laterals: 15, 13, 12, 12 with 25. I rarely go heavy on these anymore and use higher reps.

Hip Huggers: 12, 12, 10, 10 with 60s.

TKEs: 2x20. Nothing crazy, just a little extra low stress work.

Shoulder Complex - Thumbs up lateral raises to overhead, lateral raises, bent over flys with thumbs down: 12, 12, 10 with 12.5

Face Pulls: 15 with 35. Only one set today, because of the rear delt work during the workout.

Straight Arm Hang: 30 seconds.

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Leg day today. I’m excited to try to bring my legs up, as they could be better. Just tough with only a 45 minute time slot at the gym. I’m trying to get some mobility work done during the day, to keep my warm up short, but there still isn’t a ton of time. I think I’m going to start taking a hamstring exercise I’d normally do on leg day and put in after DLs on back day. That can keep my leg day more squat and quad focused.

Box Squats: Worked up to 3x3 with 275 and 2x3 with 315. Today was mainly looking for a good starting point. Next week, the goal will be 3x3 with 315.

Hack Squats: 15, 13, 13, 10 with 90. Full ROM, bottoming out the machine with each rep.
supersetted with:
Swinging Leg Curls: 12, 12, 10, 10

Alternating Reverse Lunges: 2x20 with bodyweight

Straight Arm Hang: 1 minute

Face Pulls: 3x12 with 35

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My favorite way to end the week - arm day.

Straight Arm Hang: 1 minute

Close Grip BP: 12, 10, 8, 8 with 170
alternated with
Alternating DB Curls: 12, 10, 9, 8 with 35s

OH Cable Triceps Extensions: 12, 10 with 25 then 10, 10 with 20

1 Arm Cable Preacher Curls: 10, 8 with 30, 8 with 25, 8 with 20

Rope Press Downs: 15, 12, 10, 9 with 50
alternated with
Rope Cable Hammer Curls: 15 with 25, 12, 12, 10 with 30.

YWTs 10, 10 with 5 second iso hold

Face Pulls: 15, 12 with 35

Run: 2.62 miles at a 9:41 min/mile average pace.

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I have some work to do to catch up here. Looks like you’re doing some good work. I’ll try to keep up. I sometimes miss the logs in the Over 35 section. I belong here, though. I’m 36.

Haha, if I can keep it under 10 min/miles, I’ll be happy. Under 9 would be nice, though. Had it there in the summer, but I’ll blame it on the snow and ice right now. Just one foot in front of the other.

I debated whether to put my log here or in the main Training Log section. Now that I’m 40, I decided to come over here. I’ve been popping into the main section more often recently, to check out some of the logs of guys I’ve seen around a lot and who know what they’re talking about, like yourself.

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Chest and run today.

Straight Arm Hang: I’ve been doing these for almost a week now. Maybe too early to tell for sure, but they seem to be helping keep my shoulder feeling good.

Bench: 5x3 with 195. 10 lbs more than last week and all sets still felt really good. The reps didn’t really slow until the last two of the final set. Going to move up to 200 or 205 next week and see where I am.

Low Incline DB Bench: 12, 11, 9, 8 with 70. These also felt a lot more solid than last week.

1 Arm Cable X-over - Low to High: 14, 12, 11 with 20

1 Arm Cable X-over - Hight to Low: 13, 12, 11 with 30

Hammer Strength Bench Press: 14, 12, 10, 9 with 200

Run: 2.62 miles at a 9:13 average pace. Winter PR. I feel I could have been sub 9 if it wasn’t for the snow/icy spots. I would have only needed to be about 30 seconds faster, total.

All in all a really good training day. Weights/reps were up across the board and a PR run.

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Not a great day, but they all can’t be great. Started out a little rough, but finished ok.

Conventional DLs: Felt a little heavy today, but thought I’d be ok, because I was just looking for 4x3 with 335. When I got up to 275, felt a little pull in my right forearm, so stopped there.

Trap Bar DLs: 2x5 with 180, 2x3 with 230 (Weight on the bar - I’m not sure how much the bar weighs). Decided to get a little more DL work with the trap bar, because of the neutral grip. Worked off the low handles.

1 Arm Cable Rows: 12 with 70, then 10, 9, 8 with 85.

Straight Arm Hang: 1 minute

YWTs: 10, 5, 5 for each movement with an iso hold at top, holding a 2.5 plate in each hand. These have been feeling really good and I’m getting a great pump in my mid upper back.

Some modifications, takeaways form the last couple of weeks:

  • I liked the feeling of the trap bar. I think I’ll use them for the foreseeable future. I’m just looking to build strength, not train for a powerlifting meet right now.

  • I’ve noticed my quad tendon pain is coming back during squats and especially single leg work.
    It’s something that I’ve had for years, so isn’t surprising. I have a physio appointment on Friday, so we’ll see what he says.

  • I’m considering running before training on Monday/Friday. I did it in the spring/summer and actually felt pretty good in the gym afterwards. Nice and warmed up.

  • I’m starting to rethink if trying to work towards building heavier squats and DLs right now is the best idea. My main goal is still to build muscle, but with only a 45 minute time slot in the gym, if I do any kind of warm up, then work my way up in those movements, it doesn’t leave much time to get much else done. Maybe, I’ll move them later in my workout and treat them as another sub-max exercise until I can get more time.

  • I’m not sure if any one will read this, if not I’ll repost in the injury and rehab forum, but in case someone does, over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed a hamstring issue when lowering a DL. It’s hard to explain, but as I go down and reach the 1/4 squat position, there’s almost a tic in the middle of my right hamstring. Nothing above this position and is just there for a moment and is gone once I move lower. I’ve tried SMR/stretching/mobility and can’t find any trigger points or anything else that seems wrong. It’s just strange that it’s just in that one position. There’s also zero pain afterwards. The main issue is I’ve started shifting to the left to take some weight off the right leg on the way down, which isn’t ideal. I’m curious if anyone has dealt with anything similar.

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I was not expecting this to end with forearm. Glad it’s not those pesky back problems. It didn’t seem to be an issue for the rest of the pulling workout.

[quote=“Tougher, post:16, topic:271348”]
there’s almost a tic in the middle of my right hamstring.[/quote]

I don’t have anything for you here. I’ve never heard of that one.

Nice running PR on the previous session!

Thanks!

It ended up really being nothing. I haven’t done a mixed grip DL in a while and it was my supinated hand, so I just don’t think it was used to pulling in that position. I like to think I’ve learned from past mistakes, so I just erred on the side of caution and switched things up before something actually happened. I’m lucky I’ve never had a back issue from DLs, just the rare glute/hip strain.

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Shoulder day today. Everything felt good and I made up for yesterday’s sub-par training.

Straight Arm Hang: 1 min

Standing Dumbbell OHP:

  • 10 with 40,
  • 8, 7 with 50,
  • 9, 8 with 40

DB Laterals:

  • 12, 11, 10, 8 with 27.5, then 5lb drop sets to 7.5

Hip Huggers: 12, 11, 10, 8 with 65

DB Shrugs: 12, 12, 10, 10 with 60 and iso hold at the top of each rep.

Face Pulls: 3x10

YWTs: 1x10 for each movement.

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Leg day today. It went fairly well, but did a little less than I wanted to, because of time and also because I have a physio appointment tomorrow to have my knees checked out.

Box Squats: 4x3 with 315. These felt better today. Still way heavier than they should, though. 315’s feeling what 365 used to. The plan is to go for 5x3 next week, then up the weight to 325 and go 3x3.

Hack Squats 15, 13, 13, 12 with 110. I little more weight and 2 extra reps on the last set, so I’ll take it.

Swinging Leg Curls 12, 12, 11, 10 with bodyweight. I still like a machine leg curl better, but since they took it out of my gym, these have been a decent substitute.

Had lunges in last week, but skipped them this week, because single leg work really aggravates my knees. I’m interested in what the physio will suggest next week.

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