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Harriet

Harriet's Emergency Stopgap

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20 minutes ago, Harriet said:

Today I benched 80lb for the first time. Got 4.3.3.2.3. A blond underwear model university lad rescued me from my failed fourth set. It's quite different from my gym in Berlin where I had to do the roll of shame regularly. Here it took about five seconds for someone to dash over and assist. No regrets. 

But something even more awesome than a benching PR happened today. One of the staff walked over to me (I glanced at my bar to check I'd remembered both clips) and asked me if I had a trainer or was just doing things by myself. He'd seen me trying my hardest and writing my results in my little book. And he told me there is a powerlifting club in a secret underground lair under the main gym and I should check it out. On my way out I saw him at the front desk and asked how to get downstairs, so he showed me into the warrior's dungeon where I saw round colourful plates (no sodding dodecahedrons) and wooden platforms. And no one who is not in the club is allowed in. Only power and oly lifters. In fact, olympic lifts aren't allowed in the main gym, but they are downstairs. I'm so excited. It doesn't make sense to start now because one has to pay for a semester and things are obviously winding down for Christmas. But next year, next semester, I am going to sign up. I'm so excited.

 

giphy.gif

WOOOOOOOTO!!!!!!

 

So happy to hear about your good day at the gym. Since you mentioned clips and failed sets, some benches have 'bail out pegs' that are a couple inches above where your chest might be, see if your benches have them, I use them regularly when I bench. As far as clips go (at least for bench), I was recommended to not use them at my gym. If a weight is too heavy to roll off via your stomach (it isn't a roll of shame, just getting heavy weight off of you), if you DONT have clips on, in desperate situation, you could then tilt the bar to one side and plates should slide off some (now it'd be a bitch for the counter balanced side, but still works). Not sure if you gym even allows that, but at my old YMCA, really no one used clips on bench that I saw

 

But still. grats! 

 

 

P.S.

Did they show you a super secret handshake? I'm so jealous

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39 minutes ago, Harriet said:

the warrior's dungeon where I saw round colourful plates (no sodding dodecahedrons) and wooden platforms. And no one who is not in the club is allowed in. Only power and oly lifters.

 

I am so jealous I am at a complete loss for words.

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You guys are the sweetest for being excited with me <3

 

1 hour ago, farflight said:

So happy to hear about your good day at the gym. Since you mentioned clips and failed sets, some benches have 'bail out pegs' that are a couple inches above where your chest might be, see if your benches have them, I use them regularly when I bench. As far as clips go (at least for bench), I was recommended to not use them at my gym. If a weight is too heavy to roll off via your stomach (it isn't a roll of shame, just getting heavy weight off of you), if you DONT have clips on, in desperate situation, you could then tilt the bar to one side and plates should slide off some (now it'd be a bitch for the counter balanced side, but still works). Not sure if you gym even allows that, but at my old YMCA, really no one used clips on bench that I saw

 

There are safety pins that are the perfect height for large males. I am rather shallow from front to back, so they're a few inches too high for me and restrict my ROM. And I was gentle scolded by the hawk-eyed staff one time when I forgot the clips. But it's all good because 1: I'm getting better at knowing when I'm one rep before failure and 2: 80 pounds is technically not too heavy to roll off my stomach and I did start doing this but 3: the gym is always busy with gallant youths who are keen to show their worth by speedily rescuing small powerlifters. It's apparently also totally normal here to ask for a spot. I think the reason I got three reps on my last set instead of two is that I waited an extra 30 seconds to make eye contact with someone for this purpose.

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I looked up the powerlifting warrior's guild and there's good and bad news. The club that the guy mentioned is a student club, and I'm not a student so almost certainly can't join. Such sad. Much tragic. 

But there are powerlifting classes in the same underground warrior space. They're three times a week, and they're a little bit expensive. But I could do it if I wanted to. And there are specific days/classes for specific lifts: "bench clinic", "squat clinic" and so on, with lots of information and help, for $20 each. I am highly tempted to pay for the expensive classes plus some clinics. Come to think of it, they're much less expensive than personal training would be. And I wants the round colourful plates. 

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1 hour ago, Sloth the Enduring said:

$20 for skilled instruction sounds like a bargain.

 

I concur. I'm especially looking forward to Deadlift Clinic. 

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Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat! So cool :D

Taking lifting classes sounds great! A trick I used when hubby was still a post-doc is that, as the spouse of a student/uni staff, you can usually get a pass to join societies, etc. Maybe you can try that? (don't forget the eager puppy eyes)

tenor.gif

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11 hours ago, Harriet said:

But there are powerlifting classes in the same underground warrior space. They're three times a week, and they're a little bit expensive. But I could do it if I wanted to. And there are specific days/classes for specific lifts: "bench clinic", "squat clinic" and so on, with lots of information and help, for $20 each. I am highly tempted to pay for the expensive classes plus some clinics. Come to think of it, they're much less expensive than personal training would be. And I wants the round colourful plates. 

 

This is AWESOME! 

If you can manage the classes, I 100% recommend. I spent far more money than I really wanted to on personal training and never regretted a penny of it, will probably do it again some day - if you can get decent quality instruction in the main lifts for even less than that it sounds like the best deal ever. To me. 

 

Even if you decide not to, $20 for a dedicated lift clinic is amazeballs!!! 

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3 hours ago, Nol said:

A trick I used when hubby was still a post-doc is that, as the spouse of a student/uni staff, you can usually get a pass to join societies, etc. Maybe you can try that? (don't forget the eager puppy eyes)

tenor.gif

 

I will ask. I can't do the giant pupil thing, but I will use my normal eyes. 

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1 hour ago, Tanktimus the Encourager said:

Whether or not you are a student, you have been accepted into the secret underground, and that is awesome and so are you.


You are most kind. Here is an adorable fox dog gif for you:
 

giphy.gif?cid=3640f6095c15336153556b6436

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1 hour ago, Gemma said:

 

This is AWESOME! 

If you can manage the classes, I 100% recommend. I spent far more money than I really wanted to on personal training and never regretted a penny of it, will probably do it again some day - if you can get decent quality instruction in the main lifts for even less than that it sounds like the best deal ever. To me. 

 

Even if you decide not to, $20 for a dedicated lift clinic is amazeballs!!! 


I'm definitely going to go for the classes. They're in four week blocks, so I don't have to pay a huge amount up front. I think it's completely worth it. 

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Alright. This challenge has been a bit haphazard because of the messy holiday start. I have just been throwing new habits at the challenge wall to see if they stick. Some have stuck, so it's actually not as bad an idea as it sounds. There's one more day until family arrive, and then there will be much Christmas, including a few days of travel. So I need a plan to keep me on track despite the change from routine. 
 

1. Keep doing meditation first thing every morning.

2. Get fish oil and D3 out of the fridge first thing every morning and eat them at breakfast.
3. Lift three or four times per week when in town, do bodyweight exercises daily when not. Do these before breakfast.
4. Set aside time for reading and writing every day in the afternoon. Set a timer/deadline if I get anxious and start procrastinating.

5. No wine from Sunday to Thursday. If wine, then only 2 glasses. More makes me sick and unmotivated the next day.
6. Cook as many healthy meals at home as possible to avoid restaurant overkill.

6b. One family member is vegetarian, another can't eat cheese. So I should plan some possible meals now, before they arrive, because things will be hectic later and who thinks up nice recipes when they're flustered? Not me.

7. At the inevitable restaurant, enjoy but stop eating when full, do not eat until stuffed. American restaurant portions can be crazy. 

8. Don't freak out about imperfect food choices. Do not freak out. Even two weeks of eating pizza will not make me fat and weak, or turn me back into the sad, helpless person I was before I started lifting. That's not how it works. 

9. In the mornings, check in here to remind myself of my mission, or do some journaling to help me set goals for the day. 

 

 

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Argh. Overhead press was worse today than last week, but I did another set to make up for it. I was hungry during my workout, and when I came home I felt compelled to sleep for two hours during the middle day. Not great for getting stuff done. Not sure what's wrong. It may be that the gym opened late today so I had to wait and read for an hour, by which time I was cold and an hour little closer to lunch time.

 

Also, I'm not sure I'm making progress on the pulling exercises - inverted ring rows and such. I had to use the assisted pull-up machine today because the room with the rings is closed for renovations. I was hoping the inverted rows would get me further on the pull-ups, but I still feel like it's using my arms, not my back, and that I'm just really weak. I had to use an offset of 68 pounds just to get 5x5 :/  I gave up dumbbell and barbell rows for the same reason--I felt like they were just using my arms and I wasn't getting better at them. But, if my four main lifts are progressing, does it even matter? Does improving on the deadlift mean my upper back is getting stronger, or probably not? 

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Catching up, and I can't convey into words my levels of jealousy.

 

 

14 hours ago, Harriet said:

Argh. Overhead press was worse today than last week, but I did another set to make up for it. I was hungry during my workout, and when I came home I felt compelled to sleep for two hours during the middle day. Not great for getting stuff done. Not sure what's wrong. It may be that the gym opened late today so I had to wait and read for an hour, by which time I was cold and an hour little closer to lunch time.

We all have bad lifts from time to time. As long as it isn't consistently getting worse, I wouldn't worry too much about it.

 

You have several questions, I'm going to try and answer them, albeit out of order.

15 hours ago, Harriet said:

Does improving on the deadlift mean my upper back is getting stronger, or probably not?

Deadlifts hit everything, but most of the work is going to come from your posterior chain. But also it's super important, there's a  reason one of the cues is to pack your lats before you start lifting.

 

15 hours ago, Harriet said:

I was hoping the inverted rows would get me further on the pull-ups, but I still feel like it's using my arms, not my back, and that I'm just really weak. I had to use an offset of 68 pounds just to get 5x5 :/  I gave up dumbbell and barbell rows for the same reason--I felt like they were just using my arms and I wasn't getting better at them.

Are you activating your back before you start pulling? You should be treating it just like a deadlift. Things you can do to start working on feeling that activation.

Scapular pushup/shrugs: Get into pushup position, hold it at the top, the retract the scapula (squeeze the shoulder blades together without bending your elbows), then push apart back to start position.

Dead to active hangs: Grab on a pullup bar and hang there biceps/shoulders touching your ears, everything but your grip completely relaxed. Then while keeping the elbows straight (see a theme?) pull the shoulders down and back, creating separation and setting up for the pullup, but not following through.

The goal with both of these is learn what it feels like to make your upper back work without doing anything else. I think @Blocky mentioned it earlier about a lot of the beginner workout programs not including accessories, particularly ones that help teach your body HOW to make your big lifts better.

There's always more exercises, but those are both pretty good teaching tools that work for a while.

Also, don't give up rows, BB or otherwise. They're amazing upper back builders.

 

15 hours ago, Harriet said:

But, if my four main lifts are progressing, does it even matter?

Yes it matters, stronger back still helps with deadlift, also helps with bench, squat, and pretty much everything else. 

 

 

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23 hours ago, Grumble said:

 

Are you activating your back before you start pulling? You should be treating it just like a deadlift. Things you can do to start working on feeling that activation.

Scapular pushup/shrugs: Get into pushup position, hold it at the top, the retract the scapula (squeeze the shoulder blades together without bending your elbows), then push apart back to start position.

Dead to active hangs: Grab on a pullup bar and hang there biceps/shoulders touching your ears, everything but your grip completely relaxed. Then while keeping the elbows straight (see a theme?) pull the shoulders down and back, creating separation and setting up for the pullup, but not following through.

The goal with both of these is learn what it feels like to make your upper back work without doing anything else. I think @Blocky mentioned it earlier about a lot of the beginner workout programs not including accessories, particularly ones that help teach your body HOW to make your big lifts better.

There's always more exercises, but those are both pretty good teaching tools that work for a while.

Also, don't give up rows, BB or otherwise. They're amazing upper back builders.

 

Yes it matters, stronger back still helps with deadlift, also helps with bench, squat, and pretty much everything else. 

 

 


Thanks for the advice. I tried the scapular push up. I can definitely retract my blades at will. They're just not very strong, and my arms, though also weak, are stronger. So... how should I go about getting better? Atm my workouts alternate between A: deadlift/ohp/inverted row and B: squat/bench/inverted row (plus some variations and grip exercises).

Should I:
 

1. Accept that the pulls are just going to get stronger very slowly, like the OHP, and try the BB and DB rows again with puny light weights to prevent cheating.

 

2. Have an extra day just for pulling. Pull all the things.

3. Put pulls first on some days, even if my pushes suffer.

 

4. Add more pulls to my existing workouts even though I already get tired by the end?

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2 minutes ago, Harriet said:


Thanks for the advice. I tried the scapular push up. I can definitely retract my blades at will. They're just not very strong, and my arms, though also weak, are stronger. So... how should I go about getting better? Atm my workouts alternate between A: deadlift/ohp/inverted row and B: squat/bench/inverted row (plus some variations and grip exercises).


Should I:
 

1. Accept that the pulls are just going to get stronger very slowly, like the OHP, and try the BB and DB rows again with puny light weights to prevent cheating.

No

2 minutes ago, Harriet said:

2. Have an extra day just for pulling. Pull all the things.

No

2 minutes ago, Harriet said:

3. Put pulls first on some days, even if my pushes suffer.

Yes*

2 minutes ago, Harriet said:

4. Add more pulls to my existing workouts even though I already get tired by the end?

Sometimes*

 

*Big compound lifts like Bent over Row should be treated like any other lift, unless you're one of those squat erryday maniacs. (TBF quads are probably the most resilient of all our muscles, so there's some sense behind it) Those muscles need to recover. Plus working the muscles in different exercises will activate those same muscles differently. Maybe one day you do inverted rows at the end, the next you do bent over rows at the beginning. You can also do DB rows one or two arms (those are fun, try to balance doing free standing two arm db rows. :D) Final note, you can add stuff at the end, but never sacrifice form for One More Rep. That's just asking to be put on the shelf for a while.

 

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1 hour ago, Grumble said:

No

No

Yes*

Sometimes*

 

*Big compound lifts like Bent over Row should be treated like any other lift, unless you're one of those squat erryday maniacs. (TBF quads are probably the most resilient of all our muscles, so there's some sense behind it) Those muscles need to recover. Plus working the muscles in different exercises will activate those same muscles differently. Maybe one day you do inverted rows at the end, the next you do bent over rows at the beginning. You can also do DB rows one or two arms (those are fun, try to balance doing free standing two arm db rows. :D) Final note, you can add stuff at the end, but never sacrifice form for One More Rep. That's just asking to be put on the shelf for a while.

 

 

Awesome, I think I'll put pulls before heavy squats and before heavy OHP. And I'm going to give the bb and db rows another shot. Don't want anything interfering with bench and deadlift though. I have one more scapular enquiry, if I may. I just remembered something that confused me about the bent over barbell row. I can't easily the get barbell to my chest because my torso is a bit shallow--there's a lot more length on my forearms than there is depth on my chest. So if I squeeze my shoulder blades together fully, the bar will still be a few inches away from touching my chest. So I can only get it to my chest by then pulling my entire shoulders back. Should I do this or not? 

 

ETA what I mean is, should the bb row be more like the scapular shrug, or more like, um, rowing a boat? 

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1 hour ago, Harriet said:

ETA what I mean is, should the bb row be more like the scapular shrug, or more like, um, rowing a boat? 

Boat. The shrug is designed to teach you activation. If you watch rowers, you'll see that they pull their shoulder blades back AND pull to their chest (technically beyond, but that's not what we're about in this conversation) However comma but. If the regular motion of your arms does not allow for the barbell to touch your chest, then don't pull that far. Move the weight within whats reasonable for your body to do. If your mobility improves and you discover that you can touch your chest with the bar, then by all means. Go for it.

Side note, what version of the bent over row are you performing?

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3 hours ago, Grumble said:

Boat. The shrug is designed to teach you activation. If you watch rowers, you'll see that they pull their shoulder blades back AND pull to their chest (technically beyond, but that's not what we're about in this conversation) However comma but. If the regular motion of your arms does not allow for the barbell to touch your chest, then don't pull that far. Move the weight within whats reasonable for your body to do. If your mobility improves and you discover that you can touch your chest with the bar, then by all means. Go for it.

Side note, what version of the bent over row are you performing?


Gotcha. I tried barbell rows for 6 months and gave up when it still felt wrong. Then I tried DB rows, they also felt wrong as soon as the weight went up even a little. I tried assisted pull-ups (they made some definition appear in my back, but the machines in the new gym feel a bit wrong and I'm still weak) and now I've settled on inverted rows which I do from hanging rings. This is the move where I feel my back working. But I tried barbell rows again today at a v light weight, and they felt right. So maybe I've built up enough stability to do them properly this time. Keep in mind I started with minus 10 upper back strength and hyper mobile shoulders that I couldn't even prevent from moving in all directions. 

I think I'm going to keep doing inverted rows and assisted pull-ups, but add BB and DB rows back in, do them first sometimes, focus on form, and be incredibly patient. 

 

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3 minutes ago, Harriet said:

I think I'm going to keep doing inverted rows and assisted pull-ups, but add BB and DB rows back in, do them first sometimes, focus on form, and be incredibly patient. 

Get a form check. You can do it here on video, or a trainer at the gym, or another gym rat. Just get something.

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6 hours ago, Grumble said:

Boat. The shrug is designed to teach you activation. If you watch rowers, you'll see that they pull their shoulder blades back AND pull to their chest (technically beyond, but that's not what we're about in this conversation) However comma but. If the regular motion of your arms does not allow for the barbell to touch your chest, then don't pull that far. Move the weight within whats reasonable for your body to do. If your mobility improves and you discover that you can touch your chest with the bar, then by all means. Go for it.

Side note, what version of the bent over row are you performing?

 

I teach all my clients to pull the bar to the top ab (or at least bottom of the sternum) when doing barbell rows. It reduces strain on the rear delts and recruits more mid back/lats. Plus the elbow can be pulled back further, allowing even the gangliest rower to get the bar to touch...

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31 minutes ago, Blocky said:

 

I teach all my clients to pull the bar to the top ab (or at least bottom of the sternum) when doing barbell rows. It reduces strain on the rear delts and recruits more mid back/lats. Plus the elbow can be pulled back further, allowing even the gangliest rower to get the bar to touch...

 

While I can't explain the mechanics behind it, this also seems to be easier on my tendinitis-infested wrist.

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