Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. No sleep til Sunday.
Tuesday and Wednesday
The weekend was frantic and somewhat lacking in adequate amounts of sleep and the week has, so far,
continued in a similar vein. Due to convoluted reasons that I won’t bore you with I’ve had to be at the gym every morning to open it up. Which means getting up at 530am. Which is way too early. Now, early mornings are fine if you can get to bed at a reasonable hour but there has been a conspiracy of wakefullness that has done all in its power to prevent me from getting to bed before midnight. On top of that Max, my youngest child, has had a cough that has been waking him up at various points throughout the night. Zoe, bless her, has been dealing with the comforting of ill and miserable kids but you still get woken up and your precious 5 hours of sleep becomes 4 or even 3. Obviously lack of sleep and hard training don’t make for ideal bedfellows but, so far, I don’t feel too bad. I expect to crash apocalyptically at some point, slip into unconsciousness on the drive home and plough into a bus full of nuns, children and fluffy kittens. All will be incinerated in a fireball of death but at least I’ll finally be able to get some rest.
As the week has progressed, and my sleep debt has risen, my workouts have somehow got better and better. Rhod and I have made a few little tweaks to the program and they seem to have really made a significant difference.
Tweak 1. The warm ups that we have been doing for the past couple of months have been cardio followed by activation. So we have been doing 5-10 mins of steady pace cardio and then 3 or more activation exercises such as; squats, lunges, kettlebell swings, gun dogs, etc. This has been working great. The cardio at the start gets your heart rate up and the activation switches on the same muscles as your about to train in your main workout. What we have experimented with this week is making the warm up harder, faster and more specific. This has the effect of turbo charging the whole body and central nervous system and by the time we are done I’m dripping with sweat and bouncing with excitement. Remember Dan John: “Make the warm up the workout.” So now out warm up looks like this –
- 30 secs hard high intensity cardio for example; skipping, sprints, kettlebell swings, pad work, Bulgarian bag, battle ropes.
- Leg exercise, pick ones that stretch as well as work the muscles. Squats, front squats, overhead squats, various jumps, step ups, every type of lunge you can think of. The list is endless.
- Pull exercise, I like using the elastic bands here but any pulling movement will do; face pulls, pull aparts, paloff press, any rowing movement on the TRX. Kettlebell cleans, swings or snatches. Olympic lifting exercises. As with the leg exercises you are only limited by your imagination.
- Push exercise. As above. Pick a random pushing movement at get to it.
- Now all u you have to do is put it together as a circuit. For example – 30 secs skipping, 10 lunges,10 face pulls, 10 press ups. Repeat it 3 times.
- What Rhod and I have been doing is 3 different circuits 3 times each. So 9 circuits in total.
Tweak 2. Squats. We have been starting with squats as our first exercise everytime we train with weights (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). One of those days is our 5/3/1 back squat day and the others have been front squats and safety bar squats done for 3 sets of 10 reps. We have now changed it to do more sets at heavier weights but far fewer reps. So on a front squat day previously it would have been 1 warm up set of, for example, 10 reps at 40kg and then 3 sets of 10 at 60kg. Now we do 3 reps as dynamically and explosively as possible. Starting with a light weight and then add a little extra weight each set. We don’t count the sets or worry what weight we end up with on the bar. What we are using as an indication that we have done enough is our force delivery. Quite simply if the reps feel punchy, tight, powerful and above all fast – then we will add more weight and do another set. Once we get to the point where we can no longer accelerate the bar then we’re done with squats and move on to the next exercise. This doesn’t apply to our 5/3/1 squat day as we have target weights to hit irrespective of speed and power. But we will still use the 3 fast punchy reps as a way to properly switch on body.
This might sound like a lot of extra work as 8 sets of 3 reps sounds a lot harder to do then 3 sets of 10. Interestingly it isn’t. How you measure the amount of work that your muscles have done is to multiply reps x sets x weight. So 1 warm up set of 40kg and 3 sets of 60kg done for 10 reps looks like this: 10reps x 1set x 40kg = 400kg of stress. Plus 10reps x 3sets x 60kg = 1800kg of stress. 400 + 1800 = 2200kg of stress. Compare this to (3reps x 40kg) + (3reps x 50kg) + (3reps x 60kg) + (3reps x 70kg) + (3reps x 80kg) = 900kg of stress. Less then half the amount of stress but working at heavier weights in a more relevant fashion. I hope this makes some kind of sense. Don’t fear the maths.
This is what all that looks like as done by two elite athletes at the top of their game:
Yet again I’m at the gym before the sun rises and, instead of sitting on my fat arse surfing the net for pictures of Christina Hendricks, I’m here to train. There are those who function and train well early in the morning and then there is me. I stare with undisguised loathing at the early birds at the gym. How dare they show up, chat, exercise and enjoy being here. Why do they have to be so damn cheerful about it as well? It’s unnatural.
Rhod is off to Manchester later today to see some dancey, trancey, bleepy, bloopy kind of band/DJ. As far as I can work it out a DJ is a person that gets paid to play someone else’s music. And, while I’m having a grumpy old man rant surely all shows like Britain’s Got Talent (Which seems to go out of it’s way to prove that it hasn’t, in fact, got any measurable talent at all) and X-Factor are only very public versions of karaoke Where is this generation’s Sex Pistols and The Clash? I want angry young men and women not Angry Birds. Previously the nation’s dissatisfied youth would take to the streets and chain themselves to buildings. Now it seems enough to like it on Facebook. I don’t know if this is good or bad but I miss a bit of righteous indignation.
Anyway, it was early and we had to train and I wasn’t happy about it. As it turned out the workout was awesome and I felt epic for the rest of the day. This is, however, not enough to convince me that the gym early birds are nothing but potential serial killers and should never be trusted.
Here’s the video. We forgot to film the warm up/activation segment. But we did do it. Honest.
After training it was straight back home as I had a Christmas party to prepare for. But more of that in the next blog . . .
Thanks for reading.