Monday, January 18, 2010

Training Entry #2: The One with the Bottom-Position Squats... and the Poundage... and Tapping into The Source

Training Entry #2: The One with the Bottom-Position Squats... and the Poundage... and Tapping into The Source
Sunday, January 17th

Since my last training entry, several things have happened to me. For one—and this is the most impacting—I severely pulled a pectoral muscle. A couple of years ago, I had a partial pec tear, so I've had to take it kind of easy while training my chest muscles. However, even training easy didn't help in this case.
I haven't let the minor setback keep me from training heavy, however. I have—since my last entry—been training quite heavy on squats, deads (various kinds), overhead presses (I can overhead press without much discomfort), and various sorts of upper-body pulling movements (chins, for instance).
The other is that I have been using the 5 to 7 Method of training. (Read the post a couple below this one for more info on that form of training.)
Now, on with this entry....

For the past several weeks, I have been lifting using the 5 to 7 method. I train on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays—but by Thursday of last week I was feeling so overtrained that I knew I needed a break, so I decided to take the day off. Also, I knew that this week I would need to cut back on the sheer amount of volume and training density that I had been performing.
So I decided that this training day should be my first heavy day of squatting since the last training entry (approximately one month ago). Since I had been averaging 5 to 7 sets of 5 to 7 reps on most of my exercises, I knew that it was time to test the ol' one-rep max. I also knew that this kind of heavy training would also be a good way to both get a good workout and decrease my total workload for the week—as long as I didn't add any back-off sets on my core exercises.
"What we doin' today?" Puddin' asked when he picked me up, and we were headed to the "Wreckin' Crew Gym".
I had already told him I wanted to max out on some exercise, he just didn't know what I had in mind. "Bottom-position squats," I said. "We haven't done any of those since we began training together again," I added.
"Sounds good," he said. "I don't like them damn things, but it still sounds good."
"Well, since you don't like them, that probably means that you need to do them."
Words to the wise for anyone reading this: If you don't like to do a particular exercise, chances are that's an exercise you need to do. I don't like overhead presses, but I've been doing them anyway. And I don't like them because they have always been tough for me, and I am not near as strong on them as I am on almost everything else. But I also know that all the work I've been doing on them will be good for me when I finally resume bench pressing—in fact, I will probably be stronger on benches at that time.
We arrived at the gym, changed into our workout clothes, turned on the stereo—"Somewhere Back in Time" from Iron Maiden being our current CD selection—, then hit the squat rack.
I knew I was going to have a slight advantage over Puddin' for this exercise. Puddin' is over 300 pounds, and he's a couple inches taller than I, which means that when we set the pins at bottom-position for him, we're setting it about an inch above parallel for me. Still, since he has the decided weight advantage—I currently weigh between 185 and 190—I suppose it's close to being a wash.
We began with 135 lbs for 2 sets of 7. We did these conventional, without starting from the bottom position.
Next it was 225 lbs for 1 set of 5 reps.
We set the pins in the rack so that Puddin' was below parallel. As expected, I was right at parallel, only slightly above it if that.
Next up it was 315 lbs for 1 set of 5.
"Now let's begin doing doubles or singles, so we can conserve energy for a max set," I said.
Puddin' just nodded. He was trying to get in the zone: skullcap pulled down to his eyes, his mind lost in the rhythm of Maiden's "The Trooper".
Then I hit 405 lbs for 1 set of 3.
"Thought you said we were doing doubles or singles," he said, looking at me askance.
"Two felt easy; felt like I needed to do one more." I paused, then added, "You ready for another plate?"
It was time for the singles now. 495 felt strong; looked that way for my partner, too.
"Two 25s or two 35s?" I asked, eyeing what our next set would be.
"35s," Puddin' replied with determination.
We loaded the squat rack with 565 lbs. It had been a long time since I squatted that much weight—bottom-position or otherwise.
I took a good three minutes to prepare myself for the lift, careful not to get too psyched up before doing it.
I approached the bar, stood with the bar right next to my hips, made sure that my feet were in the proper place before I squeezed under the bar.
The key to lifting big weights is saving enough energy until you need that energy. You have to know when to flip the switch.
I flipped the switch.
The weight was a little too slow coming up for my liking, but I made the lift, then set the bar down slowly on the pins.
Puddin' followed suit. It didn't look much easier for him—or any easier, for that matter.
"How you feeling?" I asked.
"Not bad."
He nodded.
We loaded the bar with 605.
Three to 4 minutes later, I was ready to commence. A part of me didn't think I would make the lift—565 had felt awfully slow—but another, deeper part of me knew that I could do it.
What I'm about to say might not make a lot of sense to some of you reading this. And that is because it must be experienced. And in order to experience it, you must learn to cultivate it.
There is a Power that knows the way. It's inside of me, inside of you, inside of all of us. It is the Source of all that is. And, no, it's not there just so that you can set records on lifts, or win powerlifting contests (or make money, or any of that other crap).
But It is there, and there's no reason that lifting heavy weights cannot become a communion of its own; no reason that it cannot become a source of inspiration to you, and to others.
There is no reason that lifting weights cannot become an Integral spiritual practice all its own.
And so I found the Source that lives within, surrendered to it, and knew that it was not me that was about to lift this weight, but the Power that knows the way.
605 lbs felt easier than the 565.
Not that I wasn't spent once I was done with the single. I had to sit down for a minute, my head was swimming and dazed.
My workout partner missed the weight about halfway up; it wasn't that he couldn't lift it, but I think the weight had just gotten inside his head, so to speak, when it really does have to be the other way around.

The rest of the workout was fairly routine for both of us. Puddin' did a few sets of benches. I did three sets of overhead presses. We then followed that with 5 sets of chins, and 4 sets of skullcrushers. And a little ab work.

End Note: Bottom-position squats—if you haven't been performing them—really are one of the best exercises you can utilize. A lot of people don't like to do them because you require some flexibility in order to squeeze under the bar and most people have to surrender their egos at the gym door. Until you get accustomed to them, you will find that you are decidedly weaker on bottom-position squats as opposed to regular squats.

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