Tag: weight training

Trap Bar Deadlift Video

I’m a fan of the Trap Bar Deadlift. The Trap Bar is a hexagonal bar that surrounds your legs as you stand, with the handles on the side and set front-to-back. This allows for a different position for your arms and hands. If you have any kind of shoulder, elbow or wrist issues this might be the answer.

Trap Bar Deadlift from the top showing the bar
Trap Bar Deadlift from the top showing the bar

I’ve included a video to help show you how I do it. Note that my arms and legs are very long in proportion to my torso. That changes my alignment a bit, so that I’m starting with a more forward position with less bend in the legs. I’m also using the upper handle on the Trap Bar Deadlift so it might be viewed as a type of “pulling from pins” exercise. I train hard with the Romanian Deadlift (RDL) so my lower back can tolerate it better.

One thing to pay attention to is that I duck down a bit to relax and stretch my tendons and joints, then put tension back on them as I rise up and prepare for the lift. I’m doing sets of two singles. I do a heavy pull from the floor and set it down. Then I rest up for about 3-5 seconds and do another pull from the floor. Be careful in doing any type of lift, but especially the Trap Bar Deadlift, to keep that arch in your lower back. If you hunch it into a reverse arch you could risk some damage to your spine or pelvis.

A Trap Bar Deadlift is fine if you’re not training to compete as a Power Lifter. In my opinion it’s valid as a way to lift heavy weight and improve strength and fitness. I’m also doing the negative, or eccentric motion. That’s setting the bar down under control for most of the way down. Many Power Lifting training articles will recommend against it, since it can increase muscle soreness for some people as well as fatigue that might result in a shorter duration workout.

Since I’m not training for maximum load or, again, as a Power Lifter, I’m not sure if it’s so relevant. I also like to train for the purpose of fat loss, and heavy Trap Bar Deadlift training to fatigue, in my opinion, can help with that goal.

Trap Bar Deadlift Video Demonstration:

Speaking of fat loss, be sure to catch my new book “The 100 Calorie Diet Plan” available on Kindle, Nook, Google Play and a print edition on Amazon. I cover the basics of journaling and measuring improvements using simple basic math and SMART Goal Setting Principles. Check it out HERE for more information.

How to Log and Compare Workouts

In my most recent book The 100 Calorie Diet Plan (available in Print on Amazon andCreatespace, and for Kindle and for Nook ebooks) I explain briefly how to log your workouts and then make steady incremental progress from workout to workout. For a more complete explanation and a better example than in the book, here’s two of my recent training sessions compared side-by-side.

Leg Day Training - two side by side workouts
Leg Day Training – two side by side workouts

If you’re already training, I hope you’re keeping some type of training journal. If not, you have one now. Put your data in your nutrition and success tracking journal we started in the previous chapter. The plan now is to log everything, minutes, miles, feet, pounds, sets, reps. If you don’t know what you’re doing now, how can you know if you do more later? or worse, less? I like to have as much meaningful information as possible, with a focus on meaningful. — The 100 Calorie Diet Plan, Page 13

I use the Color Note App on my phone while training, just because it’s really handy and I can share it to my home PC or online document app whenever I want to compile stats. I have developed a shorthand over the years to make my logging easier, even though the auto-complete on the phone should make it simple to type. Here’s a quick guide to my shorthand, and some specific terms used on this example:

Log Workouts: glossary

Hyper: Back Hyperextension, laying forward in the machine bend toward to floor then up to a straight body
RC: Roman Chair (usually done on the Back Hyperextension bench) ab training motion
Gravitron: An assisted pullup/dip machine.
PU: Pullup
Cybex: Equipment Manufacturer, a style of strength training machine
RDL: Romanian Dead Lift – deadlift done from standing to the floor and return to standing, typically with straight legs
Leg Ext: Leg Extension, straightening the legs under load
Leg Curl: Retracting the legs to folded under load
Ab Curl: a type of situp in which the spine is flexed to a c-shape curve
Delt: short for deltoid, the shoulder muscles

First I get core out of the way with Back Hyperextension and Roman Chair Abs.

I begin the rest of the workout by warming up with the Gravitron pullup with a 130 pound assist. This gives me about 50 pounds of load. I do this about every other workout, if not more, since these are climbing-specific muscles and I need to do a light duty set frequently.

Cybex Fly Machine for Chest and Delts
Cybex Fly Machine for Chest and Delts

I then do the Chest and Rear Delt Fly. I did chest on my previous workout and this helps stretch out the muscles and flush blood and toxins through for faster recovery.

Romanian Dead Lifts are a great “Posterior Chain” workout, working the glutes (butt) and hamstrings (back of legs). These are important muscles for everything, but particularly upward travel at higher speed.

Romanian Dead Lifts from a stand on the platform
Romanian Dead Lifts from a stand on the platform

Then for squats. I am doing Power Lifter style squats, with the bar placed low on the back, centered over the upper notch in the scapulae and with the legs fairly wide, going as far down as flexibility allows. Some people only squat down about 4″ and this allows a lot of weight to be used, so if you try going all the way down, keep in mind that you might not be using as much weight as you would think.

The view from the row of Cybex Equipment at the Breckenridge Recreation Center
The view from the row of Cybex Equipment at the Breckenridge Recreation Center

I use the calf sled since there isn’t any other calf machine at this facility and I’m not really stable doing them without a power rack for safety. A calf sled is a seat on sliding rails with weight underneath. You lift the seat on the rails by pushing with your toes on a plate.

Finally I do a couple of finishing moves on the Leg Extension and Leg Curl machines with a lot of reps at a moderate weight. In between stuff and as it seems appropriate I also do a lot of stretching. This is controversial but I’ve done it for years and believe it helps me recover faster.

Leg Extension:

Leg Curl:

If you look at the side-by-side comparison you’ll see that I’ve made good progress between the two sessions, about a week apart. In another post we’ll look at the math, but I do cover that in the book, if you want to skip ahead and do it yourself. Remember to log workouts if you want to know for sure what you’re really doing.

Remember that by logging your training, you are making it measurable, and adding to your accountability. Measuring is the “M” in SMART – the classic goal setting strategy. Some people need professional help with this to ensure greater success faster. I know I could have halved the time I spent losing my 60 pounds and getting ready for my adventure goals had I gotten professional help early.

High Rep Calf Raises

I was talking to a friend a couple weeks ago. He was doing off-season training for ice climbing and mentioned how his calves would get tired while leading. In leading ice you normally stand on your front points and lower your heels to lock in your knees and keep your weight on your bones, or skeleton. This saves wear and tear on your muscles. Be that as it may though, it still takes quite a bit of flexibility and strength to do most efficiently. This made me think about my own training with high rep calf raises.

Without going into too much detail about muscles, the calf is built with two different ways of moving. Basically, the calf lifts your heel, or pushes with the toes. It’s the same thing really. One set of calf muscles does this while the knee is straight. Another set does it while the knee is bent. In the High Rep Calf Raises we’re going to see here, your knees are straight. The calf muscles are pretty small overall, and for many of us don’t respond well to hypertrophy. That means they won’t get very big. You use your calf muscles all day long. Every step you take. So they’re pretty well tuned to high volume work. Lots of repetitions. I like 25 for the weights I use for my high rep calf raises.

High Rep Calf Raises Progression

One thing about any type of training, including maybe especially high rep calf raises, is that when you first begin, you might not be very strong. Many people will start with only their own bodyweight, possibly even supported. Let’s begin with a stretch. In the photo below I’m stretching one leg at a time, and I’m fairly flexible there. At first you can use two legs. I’m standing on a 6″ stepping box, but anything sturdy will work like stairs or a deck. Use your hands for balance. Let your heel drop below your toes as far as you can with just a mild burn in your calf. Hold that position for about 20 seconds. That’s it. You’re done. Do it before and after your calf exercise.

Stretch your calf muscles before high rep calf raises
Stretch your calf muscles before high rep calf raises

If you’ve never done high rep calf raises before, use that same step to lift your body up, keeping your knees straight, with both legs. Just your body weight is good for now.

Bodyweight 2-leg high rep calf raises
Bodyweight 2-leg high rep calf raises

When you can do 4 sets of 25 at bodyweight with two legs, then you can begin to add weight. Barbells can be tough to balance on your shoulders while doing calf raises, so I like to use the Safety Squat Bar. But you can just use anything that has weight. In the photo below I’m using a 25 lb olympic size weight plate.

Weighted high rep calf raises
Weighted high rep calf raises

If you’re feeling pretty strong and want to give it a go, you can do your weighted high rep calf raises on only one leg. Keep in mind though that for many people balance can really be an issue. Don’t hurt yourself.

Weighted Single Leg High Rep Calf Raises
Weighted Single Leg High Rep Calf Raises

High Rep Calf Raises Video

In this video I’m doing a set of high rep calf raises. 25 reps at 245 lb. (4 x 45) + 65 (for the bar) = 245 lb. This is a Safety Squat Bar and I’m glad it is. Notice how it swings when I step up onto the riser at the beginning and how it leans when I set it into the hooks at the end? If it were a straight bar I wouldn’t be able to use my hands to help with balance. But that’s just me. You might not have any issues at all. I love how my calf muscles shake the last few sets in the inset lower right. I did this after my squat training session for the day. I did that after my elliptical warmup. My legs were pretty warm by then. I recommend you warm up too. Calf muscles are pretty small and can be pretty tight, so make sure you properly warm up before you train them hard.

For myself that weight and volume works for me. You can experiment with other sets and reps to see what works for you.

Basement Training Room Updated

Finished the floor for my basement training room. This is the room where my weight equipment gets used. I bought a few boxes of the plastic garage flooring at Costco (they have it every summer) and staggered the black and white tiles in a checkerboard pattern. It’s pretty fast and simple to do. I had to cut the tiles around the edges on two walls. The space I left is for the framing for insulated walls with electric outlets – that should be later in the year, maybe summer.

I started at the most difficult place – an “L” and worked my way outward to the right and back (facing the L) then the left and front. I had just the right gap to the right and back, but to the front and right I had to cut tiles. To the front it was just the little extended locking teeth that had to come off, but to the left I had to split the tiles almost in half (5-3/4″ of 12″ tiles). I used a small crosscut saw for cutting after marking a line with pencil, and I used a 2 lb rubber mallet to knock the tiles in place.

[picasa gallery]

I took a few pictures of how I arranged the equipment for the best most efficient use based on a few years of experience with it. I’ll put up more pics and maybe some vid as I go along. I’m working on a companion volume to my ebook Planning Your Home Cardio Theater, sadly, no longer available for Amazon Kindle.

Remember, the single most important success factor in my transformation has been training at home. It could work for you.

Why Am I Doing This?

If you are interested in training at all, reading all the really good information in books, articles and forums on the net, you’ll see a lot of devoted fanboyz pushing their magic pills and formulas.

Train like a powerlifter. Olympic lifter. 400 Savage Paleo lifter. Functional. Bodybuilder. Complicated set and rep schedules that take software to figure out and track. Weakness Of the Day randomness.

You’ll also see them rip on each other. No bands, no gloves, or wraps, or straps. Metal suits, reduced Range Of Motion, maximum ROM. No machines, no cardio, no heat. Yeah.

So how do you wade through this morass? Think for a minute.

Why am I doing this?

Plank with feet on box
Plank with feet on Box

Yeah, think about it seriously. Why would you train like a Bodybuilder? You want to be a Bodybuilder. Why train like an Olympic Lifter? You want to be an Olympic Lifter. What about you? You want to go chop up Trojans? You want to set a PR in a Powerlifting Comp? You want to wheelbarrow race in bleachers with sacks of concrete? What do you want to do?

I’m assuming since you’re here, you want to climb mountains. What does that involve?

I feel like you should probably spend about 70% of your resources on cardio, and the remainder on weights. I’m not a big fan of “functional” and later I’ll explain why that works for me, but if you have a real, unimaginary issue, please put your 30% into that instead of weights for a few months, then evolve into weight training.

What type of weights should you do? What do you have, or have access to? A Glute Ham Raise is awesome, but it’s a rare gym you would probably belong to that has one, and it’s very expensive for a limited-use machine and the “bang-for-the-buck” is pretty low. Unless you’re shooting for a 500lb deadlift 😉

Wraps and straps and gloves? You’re training to climb a mountain, but you also have a life. You have to support your expensive mountaineering habit somehow, right? Gloves protect your hands from the knurling on the bar, so you can type or whatever it is you do. Wrist and finger muscles are tiny. They take a long time to develop for most people. If your fingers can only do three reps with the weight that your big muscles can do ten of, you need straps. If weak wrists are the only thing preventing you from doing pushups, then get your wrists wrapped.

Olympic Lifts are dynamic, complicated chains of events in 3D paths. You can hurt yourself very badly by missing a perfect arc. Search youtube for dislocated olympic lifters – these are the best in the world too. In a normal mountain climbing environment, you should never have to do anything involving major swings, leaps, or anything else plyometric. Vertical Limit aside …

Bodybuilding? Ten sets of every single little muscle every day is a bit much, in time and recovery. You should think about having a little bit more mass, but not so much that you are too big and heavy to get around. Muscles are a great fat-burning furnace to keep you warm and efficient as a cardio machine. A little strength is good for dragging packs around, lifting them onto your back, chopping steps in a headwall, cutting out a tent platform, digging a snow cave. Yeah, the fun stuff.

So, in this article I’m not telling you what to do, or what works, but rather to guide you in your search for knowledge to look at the big picture. Knowing your long-term goals of fitness and health, as you read articles and training programs, and ask yourself:

Does this make sense in the context of training for mountaineering?

Remember, you’re not training for a specific sport, like Power or Olympic Lifting. So who cares if you use bands or wraps or straps or chains? Who cares if you use a large or small range of motion? Heavy or moderate or light weights? A little bit of this, and a little bit of that, without getting hung up in dogma. It’s all good if it helps you achieve your goal.

These are all just little examples, to give you a jumpstart. Think about it for yourself. Be smart.

Training Report for November 2011

For November I increased my weight training a bit. My own personal opinion is that during the cold and dark winter months the body naturally goes into a form of anti-hybernation. You sleep more and eat more. Optimum conditions for gaining muscle mass. So I upped my weight training.

For weights right now I’m doing some good basics:

  • Front Squats
  • Box Squats
  • Straight Leg Deadlifts
  • Bench Press
  • Military Press
  • Front Row
  • High Row
  • Low Row
  • Pulldown

Along with some limited accessory movements:

  • Facepull
  • Haney Shrug
  • Seated Calf Raise
  • Standing Calf Raise
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Raise

Later I’ll post my set/rep plan if you’re curious at all.

For cardio, I’m still working on the Maffetone plan, riding Zone 2 on my Polar FT80 HRM which for me is between 130 and 140 bpm. Very tough to do, but I’m figuring it out, and committed to 3 months overall to see if it does work. Haven’t run any stats on it yet, and I don’t know intuitively yet either. I wrote a post about the Maffetone plan HERE. I’m mostly riding the treadmill right now, averaging about 20 miles a week of running and walking mixed. I’m working toward either growing to 30-ish miles, or incorporating other crosstraining cardio into the blend.

One important event that occurred is that the garage, even with an insulated roof, dropped below 50 degrees, the temperature at which my electronics start to go nuts. On the agenda is insulating the walls and doors, which might extend the season some, but without a heat source, it will eventually drop. That’s a major project, maybe someday.

I have a treadmill in the basement, but it’s right under the cold air intake for the furnace – tons of fun till you’re warmed up 😉 I have permission to bring some of my stuff in, and maybe I’ll build a really cool Home Cardio Theater out of it, if I can spare some time. If I do, I’ll post progress reports on it, to keep you in the loop, if anyone is interested.