Sunday, November 30, 2014

Having some fun with Sled pulls today..

Sun 11/30/2014 - Squats and Deadlifts
Hamstring Rehab.. Week 3

Safety Squat Bar 245 x 5 x 5
Stiff Leg DLs  185 x 10 x 3
5 Trips/Sled - 3 plates
Shrugs 365 x 15 x 3
Rolling Planks 3 sets of 10

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bench and Power Rack arrive from Texas Strength Systems

Today, the last big key piece arrived for the gym.. the Bench and Power Rack combo from Texas Strength Systems.

 I did a lot of research before buying this setup. Considering that space is fairly limited in the two-car garage training setup, I had to be careful and make wise choices how I used the space. The last thing I wanted was to overcrowd the area, and make it difficult to use. The key was to get right core of high-quality equipment that would allow us to train all the main and accessory lifts.

I knew I needed a bench and a power rack. Originally, I was going to purchase both. Get a high-quality competition bench, and then setup a power rack separately... I knew that would take up a lot of space, but I didn't want to compromise on the quality of the equipment. Then, I found a Power Rack/Drop-in Bench combo from Texas Strength Systems.

At first, this seemed like the answer - they offered a very reasonable price on a 2.25x2.25 Power Rack with 1" hole spacing, and had an option for a drop-in bench with spotters platform. After doing some research, I found some questionable reviews on customer service and weld quality... I emailed the owner Wes, and worked with him and his manager, Eric.. I felt reassured, and made my decision to go with it.. with a few tweaks.

I checked out my federation's rule book for the exact bench specs (Height and Pad Width) because I knew it differed from what I was used to at the YMCA, and the height always threw off my leg setup on meet day. If I was going to do this, I wanted to do it right. I sent the bench specs over to Texas Strength, and also requested to using a non-slip bench covering, as well as a thick competition-style pad... I also requested to make the spotter platforms larger like a regular competition bench. From order to delivery was less than 4 weeks. They always responded to my emails, and sent me tracking numbers when it shipped. I paid half up front, and then the other half when it was ready to ship. I thought this was very fair.

When I received the shipment, it was very well packaged and wrapped in plastic, foam wrap, and peanut wrap. It had to take a couple hours to wrap it the way they did. Again, nice job. Assembly went together smooth. Everything fit well and snug. After the bolting it all together, it is very solid. I'm ultimately going to bolt it down, but honestly we could get away without it. Its that heavy and solid. (About 250lbs with the bench). The spotters platforms are super solid and held my 280lb body no problem, no wiggle. One concern I noticed online was the weld quality. Not anymore.. the welds are super solid and clean. They are even ground/smoothed down on the surface areas. Whoever did this knew what they were doing.

In the end, I can give Texas Strength Systems a positive review, and honestly say it was a great solution to my needs considering my space requirements. I would highly recommend their equipment.

Link to Texas Strength System's rack page:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Some speed squats and sumo work..

I'm still rehabbing my Hamstring.. so I'm working on a 5 week linear progression switching off between Sumo and Conventional deadlifting. From there I'll shoot into a quick 5 week off-season bulk, then a modified 10 week meet prep.

Conventional pulling is my go-to form for meets and max PRs, but whenever I want my squat to shoot up, I know I need to train the sumo. I've found Sumo deadlifting really strengthens the hips.

Lately, we've also been doing a ton of work with the Safety Squat Bar and Sled Drags.. so when combining those two with the sumo work... I should be setting myself nicely for a good meet prep cycle once I jump back in the gear.

Tonight Fred worked the SSB for 245x3x5 for some speed work, and you can really see how the bar moves the weight around on you. The goal is to keep the pads parallel to the ground, which is tough because the weight wants to throw you forward.

I did some speed pulls 315x3x3 Sumo.

Finished this up with 10 Sled Drags

Some reverse flyes sets of 20x3 sets

Quad band extensions 3 sets of 20

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Rehband Knee Sleeve Review

After about 4 years with my old Inzer adjustable knee sleeves.. it became time to get a new pair.. The Inzers come with 3 adjustable straps on each one and served me well. The reason I am replacing them is because the rubber strands are beginning to break/tear, and the seams are beginning to come apart.

If you search online, everyone seems to be buying the Rehbands.. so I figured I'd give them a shot.

First off, the big difference is these Knee Sleeves are neoprene, where as the Inzers are a fabric/rubber weave. Think about a wrist wrap or knee wrap.. thats the kind of material the Inzers are. The Rehbands are a much thicker material than the Inzers.


Why do I wear knee wraps? Not  for carryover. If you are looking for carryover into your squat, go buy knee wraps. I wear sleeves to give my 42 year old knees a bit more stability, and keep them warm during sets. They seem to make my knees feel more confident and tight.

They tell you to measure right over the patella. (Knee Cap) .. my knees are around 37 cm around. Based on the size chart, that puts met right in the middle of a Large. I figured that was about right. I'm 275lbs and 6' tall.. I don't buy many things that aren't at least a Large. In retrospect, I probably should have sized down to a medium. When I put these on, they were snug, but definitely not tight. I'm hoping they don't stretch out much, or they will end up slipping down, or really losing their support. (Support is great right now, just hoping it doesn't stretch....)

I wore them for the first time last night during my squat session, and they felt great. There was a solid feeling of support and stability about my knees. I always felt tight and confident with them. Again, there really is no carryover here. Its about confidence with your knees and stability/warmth. I rate these a 10. I like them better than my old Inzers. (Even when they were new) .. While the Inzers gave me some support, they were nowhere near as thick as these, and the material did not make your knees feel "Warm" like the Neoprene does.

Probably should have sized to a medium, but lets see what happens. Right now - they are working great, and I would highly recommend them.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Getting the new Metal Jack Bench shirt ready...

Although I'm a few weeks away from getting into a shirt again, I can't keep my hands off...

Up until now, I've had the same single-ply bench shirt for 3 years - a Titan Super Katana. It's been a good shirt for me, and my best meet PR was 485 in it, and my best gym PR was a 500... But time has taken its toll on this shirt, and it's lost most of its pop. (It's stretched out) Anything over a year or two out of a shirt is on borrowed time. I've done over 12 meets in this shirt.

So I decided to take that dance with the devil so to speak and step up to a multi-ply Metal Jack shirt. First impressions? What a monster. It makes my Katana feel like toilet paper ... The material on this shirt is a solid 1/8" thick.. The seams are about 1/4" thick. Definitely going to take some breaking-in and adjusting period to make this shirt work. Just from trying it on a few times, it's going to look like a mid 500s shirt just to make a touch. My next meet is at the end of March, so hopefully I'll have this thing tuned up by then.

I've spoken to a few friends who wear Jacks and they all agree it's important to stretch the shirt out properly, and sometimes trim the sleeves.

Here's a YouTube video by Pro Powerlifter, EliteFTS athlete Joey Bench of Nebo Barbell who explains it in detail:

 So now.. Here my shirt sits.. Footballs in sleeves.. Waiting until the time is right to take this thing for a ride..

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Some off-season training updates...

Over the last 5-6 years, I've been pretty fortunate when it comes to injuries. Injuries are part of the game in powerlifting. If you go into every lift worried about an injury, you will never get anywhere. But there are certain things you can to regarding training smart - to minimize them - and get back in the game quickly when they do occur.

A few years back, I strained my Quadratus Lombartum (QL muscle) in my back deadlift.. that was really painful. Put me to my knees. Learned the hard way about not letting it heal long enough too. It put me to my knees a second time, 2 weeks later deadlifting only 225lbs. I went back to the drawing board. Fixed my deadlift form, and rehabbed my back properly. Now, 3 years later, I'm much stronger in the deadlift (about 70-80lbs) and my form is 100 times better.

Last week I had the unfortunate thing of straining both my hamstring and tweaking my pec both in the same week. And the way things work out, I wasn't doing anything stupid.. I was running some sprints, and bam, I felt a sharp pain in my ham.  Being smart, I shut it down for the night and began rehab. A few days later, benching only 265lbs (which is fairly light for me, considering my raw 1RM is around 375lbs), I felt a sharp needle pain in my upper left pec during the 3rd rep. Again, I shut it down.

Kind of a bum situation, both a bad hammy and a pec in the same week huh? Well. I guess I'll get em both out of the way now. haha.

The hamstring has healed pretty fast honestly, I think it was very minor - but I'm still nursing it and working rehab.

Basically how you rehab any type of pull/strain/minor tear is to :

  • RICE it (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) right after the immediate injury
  • Once the pain, or "acute" part of the injury subsides - begin rehab. DON'T TRAIN THRU PAIN. Not this kind of pain. You are setting yourself up for re-injury.
  • Rehab- super light weights or light light bands, for high reps. What we are trying to do is get blood flowing into the muscle. Blood carries nutrients which will heal the injuries.
  • Over time, build the weights, and phase down the reps.
  • How long will it take? Depends on the injury. But usually 6-10 weeks is about right. Any faster and you are risking re-injury. 
I put together a roughly 10 week plan to rehab and train around my injuries, working on a 3 day split as follows:

Mon- Deadlift
Wed- Bench
Fri- Squat

I'll start with Squat first..
I had to get a specialty bar right away - a safety squat bar. This was key with my pec injury. I couldnt be stretching that pec out getting under a bar with that injury nagging. This is one of the best (Worst!) bars I have ever used. It gives your pec and shoulders a break by allowing you to hold the bar in front of you, but also makes the weight sit up higher, and makes the lift WAY more awkward and difficult. I started out with only 225lbs on a 12" box for sets of 5, and my outer hamstrings/quads, glutes, and abs feel more sore today, then they have in a long time. I can't even remember them feeling sore in the areas they are. I am really excited, because I think this training will actually boost my squat by building my weak points.

Full write up on the Safety Squat bar by top ranking Powerlifter Greg Panora here:

 My plan is to follow a 10 week linear progression plan, starting out with around 225lbs on the bar 3 sets of 5, and increase 10lbs each week, up to 325lbs. I am pairing that up with light Stiff Leg Deadlifts starting at 135lbs, increasing 10lbs each week, for 3 sets of 10. Each session will also be paired up with Sled pulls and band pull thrus.. everything working on keeping that posterior chain strong thru rehab, while allowing my injury to heal.

Starting out with dumbbells, in a similar linear progression. Light dumbbells. like 20lbs. 3 sets of 20. Work my way up to about 60s after 4 weeks. Then progress to a barbell at 135, and work my way up to about 205 by week 10. I'll match that up with heavy tricep work and back work, so I keep the rest of my benching support muscles strong during rehab.

My plan is to cycle between Sumo, and Conventional, throwing in Safety Squat Good-mornings.. 3-5 reps... starting around 275lbs and working back up to around 405lbs.

If all goes well, in about 10 weeks, I should be fully rehabbed.

That just so happens to put me 10 weeks out of my next meet, March 28th.. so I'll be jumping into a customized meet-prep cycle as well.. this may prove interesting since I was planning on getting into some brand new Metal Multi-ply powerlifting gear.. this may or may not happen for this meet.. depends on how well/fast it breaks in.. but thats getting ahead of myself hahaha.. lets get thru rehab. :)

Some updates on the gym..

I've been working hard the last few weeks converting my 2 car garage into a powerlifting gym.. its coming along. I installed 3/4" Horse stall mats throughout and just finished building a 3x7.5 deadlift platform.
Still waiting on the combination bench/power rack. Once that comes in, we will be ready to roll.

I've put together some good bars:

  • Texas Power Bar (For squatting and benching)
  • Texas Deadlift Bar
  • McDonald Camber Bar
  • EliteFTS Safety-squat Bar (more on this awesome bar later...)
Some other items:
  • 12" Squat Box + Mats
  • 150lbs Chains
  • Full set of Elite FTS Bands
  • Dumbbells 7.5lbs - 110lbs
  • A couple Kettlebells
  • Rogue Sled
  • 1000lbs+ of plates
I am working on getting a couple more bars - the EliteFTS Swiss bar (see video below) for benching/floor pressing, and a dedicated Iron Wolfe Squat Bar. Need to save up a few bucks.. not easy considering the holidays are right around the corner..

The last big piece I want to get is a commercial-quality Glute Ham Developer. This is a core item for developing a big squat and deadlift. Nothing hits the hams like a GHR.