Monday, March 29, 2010

Birthday Pullups!

To celebrate the 33 orbits of the earth around the sun since my birth, I did 33 pullups today. According to my (completely arbitrary) birthday pullup rules:
Kipping was allowed,
Chin above the bar counted,
Resting while hanging from the bar was allowed,
Letting go of the bar before rep 33 was not allowed,
Touching the ground before rep 33 was not allowed.

Reps were counted by a thoroughly objective and unbiased party. (Audrey)
The magnanimous folks at Get Built Chattanooga allowed me the use of their pullup bar.
Thanks to everyone who cheered for me!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Press Improvements

A friend asked me how to achieve her goal of bench pressing her bodyweight.

First, how cool is it that a gal wants to bench bodyweight? I think its AWESOME!

Here's what I told her:

1) Lift heavy. Alternate bench and press (Some people call it shoulder press, overhead press, or military press - I just call it press because I think Rip is right about this.) every other workout. Do as much weight as you can lift for 3 sets of 5 reps. Add weight every workout, in small, but consistent amounts.

2) Eat big. The major limiter to upper body strength is muscle size. Upper body muscles are smaller than lower body muscles. To get bigger, muscles need protein. You need to eat at LEAST 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. This is a minimum for anyone lifting weights to get stronger. Yes, that's a lot of protein. A lot of food. Remember: you're not going to eat like this forever, but you need to give your body the raw materials to build itself into the kind of body that can do what you're asking it to do - which is lift something heavy. To do that, you need muscle, and muscle comes from protein.

3) Do your squats. And do your deadlifts. These two exercises are responsible for dumping the maximum amount of growth hormone into your system.

4) Get at LEAST 8 hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. REM sleep is the time when your body does its construction work. It takes all the protein you ate, all the growth hormones you got from your lifting, adds in some more growth hormones, and goes to work building new muscle.

5) Every once in a while do ring dips, push presses, push jerks, hand-stand push-ups, prowler sled pushes, or something else that's difficult and involves pushing.

It'll be fun to see her progress this Summer.

Monday, March 22, 2010

My First Weightlifting Meet

My first experience in a competitive weightlifting tournament began as a result of curiosity and internet badgering. CrossFit’s main page recommends “learning new sports and competing in them,” CrossFit Football is rife with competitive spirit, and the guys at 70s Big are relentless about using competition as the perfect catalyst for self-improvement. So Audrey and I signed up for the War Eagle Classic at Woodward Academy in Atlanta.

As a painfully shy & skinny kid, I would rather have jumped into a pit of tigers than lift weights standing all alone on a platform in the center of a gymnasium full of people. Perhaps I’ve grown up a bit; it was fun. The people were really easy to get along with and there was a lot of encouragement for us newbies. The spirit among competitive weightlifters is more camaraderie than animosity. Everyone was trying their best at something very difficult, and supportive of others doing the same.

I walked into the gym at Woodward Academy in Atlanta with no expectations. I’d spent the last week and a half hanging out on beaches. No heavy lifting, no training, no exercise beyond tossing a Frisbee. I certainly wasn’t going to expect much from my body. But it went well. Looking over the videos, I’m pretty happy with my form and I put up a new PR in the clean & jerk.

One piece of advice from the 70s Big guys was spot-on: look at a spot over the center judge’s head; don’t make eye contact. It’s distracting having someone so close to my line of sight staring at me, but that’s his job. I kept my eyes on the bar while setting my feet and grip, then blinked while I settled into position, opening my eyes on the far wall.

Audrey made me very proud. She had heaps of extra pressure from going first. The very first time she tried a weightlifting competition she didn’t get to become comfortable with things by watching someone else first. Audrey was a champ, and lifted gloriously. She made 5 of her six lifts, and set a new PR in the clean & jerk!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Thoughts on Transition Periods

My exercise programming is currently in fartlek mode, which I think is an old Norse word meaning "do what you feel like." I just finished up two cycles of Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 Program at Get Built Chattanooga CrossFit. It's a different kind of max strength training program, which seems to fit very well with CrossFit-style programming. In a week I'll be travelling for about two weeks without access to a gym, so this week isn't going to build into any kind of new strength cycle. What to do?

This is a perfect opportunity for a transition week. Instead of just jumping from one hard training cycle to the next or loafing around drinking beer for a week, I'm going to play! Over the past year I've been getting more interested in the two olympic lifts: the snatch and clean & jerk. This week I'm going to try out one week of an olympic lift oriented training plan that the 70's Big guys at Wichita Falls Athletic Club have used. I'm not evaluating the whole plan or expecting it to work magic in a week. I'm doing it 'cause it looks fun - I get to spend two days on just the olympic lifts, plus I still get to squat and deadlift. Where's the down-side in that?

In any case, I think it's important for an aspect of one's training to be fun. Sure, it's important to put in the hard work to get stronger and build charachter, but the part of working out that continually motivates me is the chance to learn something new. With the olympic lifts I'm going to be learning for a long time to come. I've signed up for my first weightlifting meet in Atlanta on March 20th; a great opportunity to try my best and watch some experts. I'll let you know how it goes.

Stay safe, lift heavy, and have fun!