Monday, April 18, 2016

My training at 38

Not a PR lift, but you never look good doing a PR, and the symmetric weights satisfied my OCD...
I wanted to do a post that patterns what Robb Wolf does annually. I think it's a good idea to be public about my personal training. Since I'm giving you work to do you should know what I do myself. Generally a post like this should go on my birthday, but I figured I would do it as we near the gym's anniversary instead. I've had a year to dial in my workout with my new schedule (new kid, new gym, real job), so it's a good time to tell you what I've learned. Maybe I'll update it in a few months as my birthday approaches.

So here's my training at 38½:

The first thing you need is some context: I've been lifting for nearly 20 years - 15 of those very seriously - so I've passed the point where PRs come easily and where I can make gains just by dong something and I need a more planned approach. Additionally, I have a new gym and a new baby (both are about 1 year old!) plus a real job to pay the bills. That means my training time is limited, and my recovery time is even more limited (interrupted sleep and all of that). I also don't get bored easy, so I can stick with a simple program.

Even with all of those limitations, I can truthfully say that I am stronger now than I was a year ago when the gym opened - I'm actually at my all time strongest ever right now. So whatever it is that I'm doing is at least working for me.


After tinkering with some higher-rep body building work last summer, kettlebell work in the fall, and a simple Starting-Strength-style 3x5 linear progression this winter, I have converged on a program that's very similar to what Randy recently assigned to the runners. It really works well with my schedule and where I am with my training.

While not specifically making me any stronger, I think that the whole body building, kettlebell, 3x5 work was perfect for not overtaxing my under-slept body and helped me build a good base that I'm starting to be able to take advantage of - plus it helps that it's spring and the sun exposure is helping with all of the other photochemicals to make me stronger. So I don't know if the current program is the magic program that's working for me, or if I'm finally starting to take advantage of the past year of base-building.

Monday is heavy squat day. I do something like 3-3-2-2-1-1-1 up to nearly 100%. Each week I try to make the top set about 5 lbs heavier, and in two weeks if it all works I'll have another squat PR (though I did just set one a few weeks ago - my first squat PR in about 3 years). At this point in my training age (and physical age) PRs are becoming much less frequent - plus they're pretty neurologically taxing, so I don't try them too often anyway. With warm-up the full workout is under 20 minutes. If I'm still feeling good after the workout, I'll do 5 pull-ups between putting each plate away.

Tuesday is heavy press day. My shoulders are not as strong as they should be, so I take a few more reps to help with some hypertrophy. I'll do something like 8-5-3-3-3-2-2-2-singles-until-failure with very small jumps. This way I spend some time getting more reps in, but I still go to a heavy single once a week. I'm usually done in 15 minutes with shoulder day.

Wednesday is my favorite day: heavy deadlift day! I do the same 3-3-2-2-1-1-1 up to about 100%, going heavier each week like I do on squat day. I start my 3's really light and take much bigger jumps up to my singles. My deadlift is heavy enough that it definitely takes a full week to recover from, so I'm extra careful to minimize the number of high-weight reps I do in a given week. I take this at a pretty relaxed pace, so it's about a half hour or so to get this done. I also do 5 push-ups between putting each plate away, and that really adds up with deadlifts!

Thursday is a bonus shoulder hypertrophy day. I play around with kettlebells on Thursdays. Timed snatches, C&J, push press, TGUs, etc. I get creative and try to get about 200-300 reps of shoulder work in (swings don't count on Thursday). It's always light and fun since I'm still usually pretty tired from deadlift day.

Friday is a dynamic effort day. This is very similar to the conjugate method, but I'm not as strict about it as Louie Simmons is by having a max effort lift every day. The weights are light on Friday, so there's no real warm-up other than getting my hips open, then it's 10x2/1:00 squats at about 60% followed by 10x1/1:00 deadlift, also at 60%. The math there says that it's 20 minutes of work plus warm-up. The key to Friday is to move the weight as fast as possible and keep it accelerating.

Weekends are total rest days other than a long walk or hike.

I spend on average 20 minutes a day working out (but if you actually count the time under the bar and not sitting on the box it's very very little). I'm making serious gains. I feel great. And I'm always recovered when I make it back to the gym. It's boring, I do the same stuff every week, but it works for me.

If you look at it, the week starts out hard and ends easy - that's the same thing I do with your S&C programming. I like to take it easier on you as the week progresses so you don't get too beat down.


My nutrition is pretty simple. I'm strict "paleo" - whatever that means. No grains, no dairy (except for the occasional grass-fed cheddar, but that's just a treat), little sugar. I don't go out to eat more than once a week. Breakfast is bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns cooked in coconut oil. With that a breakfast that big, I don't need lunch. Dinner is salad, meat, and veggies. We mix up the meat and veggies so it's always different, but the pattern is the same.

There's lot of controversy on whether intermittent fasting is good or not. And as Amy wrote about last week, the answer really is "it depends." For me a 12-hour fast works well, I feel great, I'm smart (enough) at work, and I'm as lean and powerful as I want to be. I have breakfast around 7:30 AM, and dinner about 7:30 PM, so it's two punctuated meals with long fasts in between.

Nutrition is very personal, and outside of some common "rules", you need to tinker with it and find out what works for you. I've been playing with this for years and my local minimum is always drifting depending on my other lifestyle conditions. I'll have a longer post later on the right way to experiment with nutrition.


Yeah, let's not talk about sleep. The right answer is that I get 9 or more hours of uninterrupted sleep a night in a cold, dark room in sync with the sun. But...

I have a baby who likes to get up a couple of times a night, and a 4-year-old who likes to get up early to play "quietly". Plus I need to write these insightful blog posts for you to read every day. So sleep is less than ideal. I know it's bad, I will make it better when my lifestyle changes. Plus even Robb Wolf gives a pass for new parents (or at least realizes the fight for sleep is futile), so I'm not feeling too guilty about it right now.

strength - add weight from last time (more info) 

push press 5x3 


3 rounds:
every 5:00 
farmers walk 1 lap
spiderman crawl 1 lap

8 squats (~50-60%)

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