Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lifting, Week 2

Last week saw me do my first couple of lifting workouts comprising all 7 movements I'll be working on. Those movements are as follows:

Bench presses
Shoulder presses
Bent rows
Lat raises

The lat raises are different from deltoid lifts in that my arms are slightly bent inwards, requiring the lift to come more from the lats than the deltoids. I'd imagine there's also some rhomboid and possible rotator cuff involvement. Whereas, deltoid lifts pretty much just work the deltoids, and my shoulders are already pretty large, so in the interest of muscle balance I went for the lat raises.

Here's what I learned from my two lifting sessions last week: I'm not lifting nearly heavy enough. I messaged my go-to lifting advice guy on the MDA forums and asked him if these workouts were supposed to feel easy and fast (they've been taking me ~15-20 minutes), and he said no, and went on to outline the following basic rules:

1. If I require less than two minutes recovery between sets, I'm not lifting heavy enough.
2. If at the end of my third set, I feel like I could do another set, I'm not lifting heavy enough.
3. If I'm just pumping through sets relatively unbroken, I'm not lifting heavy enough.
4. Doing 4-6-8 reps of truly heavy loads is better than 6-8-10 of fairly heavy loads.

Conclusion: I am not lifting heavy enough AT ALL. So with this in mind, I went into yesterday's session keeping the above rules in mind. I realized the difference between what I thought was heavy and what's actually heavy when I played around with different weights on the bar and pretty easily deadlifted a set of my max load from last week--80--without breaking a sweat. It was difficult, don't get me wrong, and required effort, but it was the kind of effort that I've usually put into weights, i.e. "I can do this for several sets and will be pleasantly sore tomorrow". I realized that I have to completely change my idea of what's possible to lift when I'm aiming for max loads.

This time, when I loaded the bar for my first deadlift set, done at max load, I took a shot in the dark and loaded 32 more pounds than last week's "max", to hit 112. This was a very different feeling. I felt ALL the muscles in my body tensing and straining to lift this weight, and I couldn't just do 4 reps like bam-bam-bam-bam-done. I had to pause, take a breath, reposition, and really gear up--really focus on my form and visualize lifting the bar--for each rep. I did the 4 reps successfully, i.e. without failure, and I think that while I made a breakthrough in my concept of "heavy" lifting, I STILL could have lifted more weight. Next week my deadlift will start at 125. I really need to pinpoint what my one-rep max is for each of these moves.

Yesterday, all told, I did deadlifts, shoulder presses, and bent rows, increasing max loads from last week on all three moves--not really impressive, since I wasn't actually lifting my max last week. Shoulder presses were still the hardest. I did 2 minutes recovery between each set, and all told, the workout took me 32 minutes, not including warmup. This is closer to the 45-minute goal, but still falls short, which means--yes--I didn't lift heavy enough. There is such an unexpected learning curve to this, I kind of can't believe it. Lifting heavy things: harder than it looks.

Since it was a lifting day, it was also a low fat-high carb day. I'm starting to get more used to the massive carb intake, but it is WEIRD and HARD trying to regulate my fats, and I usually end up pretty hungry in between meals. My first meal was at around noon and was a Big Ass Salad with spinach as a base and all kinds of vegetables and fruit, some egg whites and a couple of baked chicken breasts, and honey-mustard dressing I made myself (honey, brown mustard, and vinegar--easy and fat free). Along with this salad was fat-free cottage cheese with frozen pineapple and berries. Then for after my 3pm workout, I made this "pumpkin pudding" an MDA-er told me about, with a can of pureed pumpkin, vanilla whey powder, cut up fruit, honey, and cinnamon. I was supposed to eat this, along with two baked sweet potatoes and a pound of cooked ground turkey, as my post-workout meal. I made it through the pumpkin and half of one sweet potato before I was stuffed. I then had pho with the EMS crew for dinner--a perfect workout-day meal, due to the simplicity of broth, meat, and carby rice noodles--as long as I order the kind with leaner cuts of steak. Due to skipping the sweet potatoes, my carbs only hit 174 instead of the goal 200, but my fat was right at 30g, so I did good. I cannot tell you, though, how mind-bending and annoying it is to switch my dietary paradigm twice a week. And I hate having to keep track of fat intake. But overall, it's not as miserable as it was when I started.

Today is a rest day. Tomorrow is my HIIT/sprint day that I'm not supposed to do but that I feel strongly about keeping up. I'm going to do hill sprints for 10 minutes, then a 12-minute bodyweight circuit. We'll see how it affects my Friday lifting session. I have a feeling it will be just fine.

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