Stand By Me.

October 31, 2012

There I sat on my stack of plates.  Exhausted.  Sweating profusely and breathing heavily.  I turned to my left and told Derek that it was going to be “a long road back.”  After taking up both snatches and cleans with Alex “The General” Lee, I landed some pretty dismal numbers.  Better than last Wednesday, but that’s not really saying a whole lot.  Alex pointed at me, silently asking if I wanted another attempt at the 150 clean and jerk that I just clarked.  I waved my hand at him “no”.  I watched him clean 160 a few times and decided that I just needed more reps.  More reps.  More reps is all I need.  The Clash was on the Stereo and somehow it seemed fitting for the humility that I was experiencing.

If I wasn’t going to lift anything heavy, I may as well be productive and get as much work in as I could.  He pointed at me again, silently asking what weight I wanted next.  “70”.  He stopped what he was doing and looked up at me like I just walked into a bar and ordered a tall, ice cold glass of Crystal Light.  Lemon Raspberry flavor.  If I had any pride left, I would’ve swallowed it; took a set of 3, loaded 100 and sat down.  Back to the safety of my stack of plates, I sat, wondering why that felt so much easier than the first time I took 70 for a set of 2.

Doubles.

Double clean and jerks at 100, 110, 120x, 120x, 120, 130, 140 and then 150.  Each time I would finish my set, gasping for air and return to my stack of plates where I would sit and feel my rhythm come back to me.  A concerned and slightly amused CC motioned her shaker cup at me, offering me water.  I waved my hand “no”.  160.  Fuck it, let’s load a 170.  I chalked up my hands and then Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash came on the stereo.  Camilo went over to change it thinking that I would surely want to listen to something to get me fired up.  “LEAVE IT.”  Five or six deep breaths and then I pulled the dickens out of that 170 and racked that sucker.  I had nothing left in me to jerk but that is the most work I’ve been able to get in one session in about 3 months and the first time I pulled 170 since my injury.  Moral of the story: more reps.  Always more reps.  You may have the strength needed to go big, but if you can’t catch a rhythm or if your mind just isn’t mentally prepared to take risks, then you need more reps, my friend.

Brixton Beanies.

October 30, 2012

Brixton beanies.  The official beanie of alongthelinesof.com.

Winter 2010.

I generally don’t like to wear hats.  But I DO wear beanies in the wintertime.  I’m particularly fond of this brand due to the high quality of their products (although I’m pretty sure that there’s nothing else made by this brand that would fit me.)  These beanies retain their shape after repeated use and washings and securely fit to your dome; snug enough to wear while snatching.  I don’t know about you, but Sacramento can get pretty damn cold during the winter months.  Grabbing ahold of the cold steel every morning after a long night of training the night before is not something that I personally look forward to.  Beanie on.  Thermal on. And I’m set, bro.

Eyes Unpolluted.

October 29, 2012

Last Saturday, I had my first back squat session since I (re)injured my back a little over a month ago.  The program I wrote for my team called for just one heavy set of five; a pretty good day to jump in.  CC, M and Ann had gotten their workouts in that morning and all three of them achieved pretty significant personal records.  CC hit an extremely easy set of 5 at 120kg; so easy in fact, that she decided hit another set at 125 for an overall 10kg PR.  It still looked pretty easy.  Squatting strength is one of M’s limiting factors.  It’s not that she has weak legs.  Lack of hip mobility and loss of body tension will cause her to get pitted at the bottom, even while working up with sub-maximal weights.  We’ve been working to improve both of these factors and she’s been getting a great deal more horsepower driving out of the hole.  She recently clean and jerked 90 with her best front squat only being 95 and her best back squat only being 100.  On this day, she hit 100 for a set of 5 so to say that she’s showing improvement would be an understatement.  Ann had a goal of squatting 137 before our meet on November 4th.  She crushed that and then got another at 145.

I’m usually working until around noon on Saturdays so most of the time I’ll go home, nap and open up the gym later that evening for myself and whoever missed the workout that morning.  On this particular Saturday, I was mildly hungover so an extra hour or so of napping was very necessary.  6 hours later I was back at the gym by myself.  I wouldn’t recommend this (for safety reasons).  But I’ve had to train by myself for a good portion of my lifting career so I’ve grown accustomed to it.  Also, I knew for a fact that at least one of my athletes was going to get a workout in so at least she would be there to find my rotting corpse if I passed out with a couple hundo on my back.  My go-to soundtrack when working out in this situation is usually an extremely moody and brooding playlist consisting of a lot of Radiohead.  If not that, then I’ll throw on Sleep-Dopesmoker because a lot of times the only way to get through the whole thing is to be engaged in something whilst listening.

Here’s another good tune.

I’m working my way up my sets of 5 pretty quickly.  I had a pretty extended warm-up period consisting of mobilizing, voodoo flossing, glute-activation with bands and a dynamic warm-up.  I hit 70,120, threw on a belt and hit 160.  I unrack 190 and out of the corner of my eye I see two sets of tiny hands reaching up the bars protecting the windows of my gym.  The tiny hands struggle to pull up the tiny heads of some Middle Eastern kids who were cruising the neighborhood on their bicycles.  Upon seeing me, aggro as fuck, moody electronic blaring with 190kg on my back, their faces lit up at first with confusion and then with astonishment.  I’m sure they didn’t even know the building was a gym with the roll-up door locked up and half of the lights switched off.  I don’t disappoint as I really sell this set of 5 to these kids.  Upon racking the weight, they each lift off one hand from the metal bars and start cheering.  I do what comes naturally and give them a quick bicep flex accompanied by a nod of approval.  I might as well have told them to say their prayers and eat their vegetables.  Fueled by this, my next set at 210 comes pretty easy.  I go super aggro with the aid of Slayer and hit a set of 4 at 227.  Damn.  Almost had it.  I guess the point of telling you all this is that sometimes we forget how cool lifting weights can be, especially to eyes unpolluted.

 

Rakistan.

October 26, 2012

My 75+ JR lifter, M, gets Heavy Duty Friday started early with a nice 90kg clean and jerk PR.

I use one of my favorite cues, “Rack and stand” which sounds deceptively like “Rakistan” an imaginary Eastern European country that produces great lifters.  Camilo and I used to joke around after one of us would say “Rakistan” saying that their lifters were notorious for having trouble standing up out of a clean but had great jerks.

“Rack and stand” is actually a great cue for trying to get a lifter to drive hard out of the bottom of a clean.  Just be aware that it sounds funny when you say it.

Friends.

October 24, 2012

CC, Ariel and Mary traveled down to Cal Strength Last Friday for a fun session.

While not actually on our team, Ariel and Mary add a lot to our group and always raise the intensity whenever they hop in one of our practices.

MOAR Deficit snatch.

October 23, 2012

This is quickly becoming one of my favorite accessory exercises.  I just use 3 extra stall mats as the risers.  This comes up about 2 inches, which doesn’t sound like a lot but believe me, you will feel a huge difference.  You will have to line up pretty much straight up and down and sit way back on your heels to account for the extra distance traveled.  Throw these in during a lighter session in place of power snatches or no hands no feet snatches.

Good Days.

October 21, 2012

I know from all the videos and stuff that i post, it looks like every Friday is a PR festival of techno music and personal bests.  And it kind of IS.  I’d be a liar if I said that somebody PR’s every week.  Some Fridays are better than others.  Everyone has good days and bad.  But as a team, we are all progressing and we are all engaged in the pursuit every Friday (every day, really.  Every snatch and C&J PR you get is the product of the work that you put in during the weeks past.)

Weightlifting is a process.  And sometimes that means taking a couple steps back, even if you don’t want to.  Weightlifting, in the end, will always win.  But as long as you respect the process and understand that there are only so many factors within your training that you can control, weightlifting will always give something back to you.  It is my hope that all of my Jedi in training will be lifting several years from now.  For the pursuit of PR’s.  For the pursuit of the pursuit.

Anyways, M, my 75+kg JR athlete had a great day on Friday.  I’ve had her for about 6 months now, and she’s making tremendous progress.

She really stuck this clean.  And the next at 90.  She JUST PR’d her front squat this week. 95kg.  Effecient enough, breh?

CC went to Cal Strength on this day and got a PR snatch of 81.

Friday: Socks Edition.

October 18, 2012

Last Friday was our very first inter-team competition: guys vs. girls.  Each member’s total for the day would be compared to their best gym max for both lifts and then avereaged with the other teammates’ scores.  Cameron’s total acted as the wild card.  He subbed his total in place of the lowest total.  The girls came out on top scoring a 98% as a team.  With Cameron’s total subbed in, the men came close with a 97%.  Everyone was going BIG.  I mean, BIG PR attempts and BIG misses.  It ended up being a lot of fun and we’ll probably do similar contests in the future.

Here’s a few photos.

I’ve put on some weight. Not all bad weight. Some muscles involved. I’m well on my way to becoming a tank.

John Tai made all kinds of gains with his clean and jerks, hitting a 120PR. Here’s him snatchin’ a hundo.

CC took a couple attempts at an 82 snatch. Not quite there, but overall getting way more consistent.

I was good for a 135/160.  Which is awesome.  My back is still mending but overall the pain is greatly decreased.  I also got my long lost training partner, Alex “The General” Lee, back.  When we work out on the same bar it’s like that one scene from office space where they’re beating the shit out of the copy machine.  What I’m trying to say, is that he’s a good thing for me.  I honestly think a 140/170 is well within my reach tomorrow.

As far as my goal of making it to the American open, it’s still up in the air.  I’m lifting again, but my back is still around 70%.  Last year, I dieted back down to 105, coming off a back injury, and hit like a 135/160.  I’d rather not do that again this year as a super.  Also, CC and I already booked our tickets.  We fly in on Saturday.  B sessions take place on Friday, so I’d have to make the A session total at the meet were going to on November 4th.  We’ll see.  If nothing else, tomorrow should go well.

Back To Work.

October 17, 2012

Here’s me snatching 123 from the deficit this morning.

I’m not sure, but I think that’s a 3kg. PR for me.  But that’s not really fair because this isn’t a regular exercise in my routine.

While watching this video, you might notice a few things:

1) I’m fatter.

2) I’m balder.

3) My trap-cut shirt is awesome.

4) I’m sitting back on my heels a lot better than usual.

This exercise is great because it really forces you to do that, but this is also something I’m really trying to focus on while working from the floor as well; to the point where I’ve changed up my start somewhat.  I’ve only been able to start practicing the lifts again for like 2 weeks or so, but I think this is going to be a permanent change for me.  I was able to snatch 135 last Friday.  While that isn’t exactly great, it’s still pretty good for how weak my back is right now.  I’ve got precisely ZERO power from the hang, so that tells me that what I’m lacking in strength, I’m making up for in solid mechanics.  This, I’m fine with.  Getting stronger is the easy part.

One Day.

October 10, 2012

Here’s some footage of me the last time I attempted to front squat 220 back in April.  I got TOTALLY PITTED, BRO.  SO PITTED.

At the time, I was front squatting twice a week and weighed around 114kg.

Here’s the video of me hitting the 220 last night.  Keep in mind that my back is still in process of being rehabbed.  Pain is greatly decreased.  But I’ve only begun to practice the lifts again last week.  Snatches are going to be the last thing to come back.  I couldn’t even hit 120 today.  And the fear of re-injuring myself is leaving me a bit gun shy. Cleans are giving me less trouble.

I’m now about 118kg. and I front squat between 6 and 9 sessions per week.  I still haven’t added in back squats yet as I think that’s what re-injured it the first time.  I can feel my back tighten up from even having anything racked behind my neck.

Here’s the changes that I’ve made which I believe to have helped me get stronger legs:

1) I am bigger.  Bigger legs, bigger arms, bigger traps, and yes, a bigger gut.  That’s fine.  I’m not too concerned about it.  I’ll start worrying when I can no longer hit a few sets of muscle ups.

2) Mobility and warm-up.  I take my warm-up more seriously which includes various hip and quad stretches as well as some glute activation exercises.  I also use my trusty K-Star voodoo band.  I even begin every workout with 3×8 strict RDL’s with light weight just to wake up my hamstrings.  I’m not sure if that will be a permanent feature, but I think it’s helping.

3)  Full grip.  I fully grip the bar when I front squat.  Even if I don’t do this on my cleans, it really gives me a great stretch in my shoulders while front squatting.

4) Valsalva performed before lift off.  I’m NOT saying that you should do this.  But it sure has helped me on the big weights.

5) Frequency.  I’m NOT saying you should do this either, but I’ve been pretty much just doing a daily max.  On days when I front squat multiple times per day, my 2nd session will always be heavier.  I started off with very sub-maximal weights, taking care not to strain too much.  Over a period of about 3-4 weeks, I was able to break the 190kg. mark.  My previous best was 215.  Obviously, once I transition to doing more work with the lifts, my squatting frequency will decrease and I will go for a more traditional approach.

What was funny about my PR last night was I couldn’t really front squat that morning.  It felt terrible.  So instead I just loaded up a bunch of weight (220kg. to be exact) and just unracked it.  After my last set at 220, I turned to M, who was sitting on a stack of plates wondering what I was doing.  I told her that I “wanted to front squat that one day.”