Monday, Oct. 14, ’13: Chest, Back, Abs

I actually did train on Saturday, but I didn’t get a chance to blog about it. Plus, it was sort of a hybrid leg/cardio day, so it was all over the place. Nice to train with “no rules,” and even nicer to be back in the game on Monday morning…

Chest: Incline DB presses (3×15,10,7(8) + X Reps—last set was an X-cel drop set); DB flyes (4×10 + X Reps); Leaning one-arm DB flyes (3×30,20,15 + X Fade)
Back: Undergrip BB rows (3×12,10,8(8)—last set was an X-cel drop set); Pullovers (4×10 + X Reps); Supported bent-arm bent-over laterals (3×30,20,10(9) + X Fade—last set was an X-cel drop set)
Abs: Leg raises (3×15); Full-range crunches (4×20 + X Fade); Knee ups (3×12 + X Reps)

Note: My current PowerBlock gym program is based on 4X, TORQ and Super TORQ techniques, as well as various hybrid techniques from Beyond X.

Summary: I liked the rep variation from Friday, so I stuck with the same basic breakdown today. DP 3X plus an X-cel drop set on the midrange exercise, 4X on the stretch, and then TORQ on the contracted move.

I finished chest off with Leaning one-arm flyes again, but this time with the standard PowerBlock handle rather than the KettleBlock. Both are great, so I’ll actually need to do them back-to-back in order to decide which feels best.

Started back with Undergrip rows, and was surprised at how great my lats felt. I can see why they were a favorite of Dorian Yates, the Lat Master. I did the Bent-arm bent-over laterals with support today, and it really allowed me to feel the contraction much more, so I’ll be sticking with this version for a while. They felt so good that I added in an X-cel drop set at the end, just to X-tend the back-squeezing joy.

I didn’t realize until sitting down to write this post that I completely forgot to do traps. Oops! Looks like DB shrugs will be part of tomorrow’s shoulder work.

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Friday, Oct. 11, ’13: Delts, arms

Freaky Friday! Not necessarily a freaky workout, but definitely freaky back pain. Would love to blame an exercise, but I’m pretty sure it’s because I’ve been sleeping on my stomach. Regardless of the reason, I had to adjust the shoulder work, but everything else went without a hitch…

Delts: DB presses (3×15,12,8(12) + X Reps—last set was an X-cel drop set); Incline laterals (4×10 + X Reps); Seated laterals (3×30,20,12(15) + X Reps—last set was an X-cel drop set)
Triceps: Lying DB extensions (3×15,12,6(12) + X Reps—last set was an X-cel drop set); One-arm DB extensions (4×10 + X Reps); Kickbacks (3×30,20,8(10) + X Reps—last set was an X-cel drop set)
Biceps: Standing curls (3×15,12,8(10) + X Reps—last set was an X-cel drop set); Incline curls (4×10 + X Reps); Concentration curls (3×30,20,8(12) + X Reps—last set was an X-cel drop set)
Forearms: Wrist curls (3×15,12,8(12) + X Reps—last set was an X-cel drop set); Reverse wrist curls (3×15,12,8(10) + X Reps—last set was an X-cel drop set)

Note: My current PowerBlock gym program is based on 4X, TORQ and Super TORQ techniques, as well as various hybrid techniques from Beyond X.

Summary: I stole one out of my former training partner’s playbook today, as I decided to try an X-cel set here and there to maximize Friday fiber recruitment. X-cel are speed reps of about 1.5 seconds per rep, but still under control. I loved them! Did them at the end of a DP 3X sequence for the midrange exercises, but liked them so much that I also added them in at the end of standard TORQ sequences on the contracted exercises. I’ll probably use those as a finisher much more often, and will probably vary between using a drop set of the same exercise or simply picking a different movement to do as a super set. As mentioned above, my low back was out of whack, so I couldn’t do my Upright rows. No worries, however, as the seated DB presses worked out well.

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Thursday, Oct. 10, ’13: Chest, Back, Abs

I decided to prioritize a bit today, so I changed the sequence up by doing back first. Back training takes a bit more out of me, so it’s good to give it priority once in a while, and I’ll probably alternate every other chest/back day this way. At least until I change my training split…

Back: One-arm DB rows (3×30,20,12(8)—last set was Rest/Pause); Pullovers (3×15,12,8 + X Reps); Bent-arm bent-over laterals (4×30,20,15,10 + X Reps)
Chest: Incline DB presses (3×30,20,12(8) + X Reps—last set was Rest/Pause); Incline flyes (3×15,12,8 + X Reps); Parallel-grip bench presses (4×20,15,12,10)
Traps: DB shrugs (3×30,20,15(10) + X Reps—last set was Rest/Pause)
Abs: Leg raises (3×15); Knee ups (3×15 + X Reps), Full-range crunches (3×20 + X Fade)

Note: My current PowerBlock gym program is based on 4X, TORQ and Super TORQ techniques, as well as various hybrid techniques from Beyond X.

Summary: I always forget how much I like doing back before chest. Not only do I get a better back blast, but chest training feels better, too, since my shoulders are already warm.

For both back and chest I performed the midrange exercises with TORQ, but ended with a Rest/Pause set. That’s when you finish a set to failure, rest 10 seconds, then use the same weight to blast out as many more reps as you can. Good stuff!  The stretch exercises were DP 3X, and the contracted exercises were done with a 4X sequence of TORQ. No chance of boredom or monotony that way!

I experimented with Parallel-grip bench presses as a “contracted” movement for chest. Yes, it’s more of a midrange exercise, but you’re able to really squeeze at the top, so that’s what I concentrated on. They worked really well. I normally do trap work tacked on to the end of back work, but traps aren’t my biggest concern, so I saved the DB shrugs to do after chest. I spiced up the ab training by adding Leg raises. Took a toll on my strength, but felt like a much more thorough ab blast.

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“Watch” Your Heart Rate With MIO Alpha

mio ALPHA BluetoothThose who know me are already aware that I don’t run marathons or triathlons, despite having worked for Iron Man for almost two decades—I can’t tell you how many times I had to explain that it wasn’t that Ironman.  Heck, I don’t really run much at all except when I’m playing with my son, so my use of a heart rate monitor might not make sense to many.  I do work out just about every day, however, and I happen to love gadgets like the new MIO Alpha heart rate monitor sport watch

The MIO Alpha is not only a very accurate heart rate monitor, which I confirmed after comparing it with the built-in monitor on my stationary bike, but it’s also got Bluetooth connectivity to pair up with a variety of fitness apps on your smart phone. Oh, and it happens to be decent looking enough that I’ve adopted it as a regular watch when I’m out of the gym, too.

MIO Alpha Heart Rate Monitor Watch

Anxiously opened box and went straight for the monitor action. Based on my heart rate, maybe I didn’t run in from the delivery truck quickly enough.

While the Bluetooth connectivity is probably a big selling point for runners, bikers, or anyone who likes to have their smart phone strapped on while training, it didn’t prove as useful to me during weight training sessions.  I use my phone for music, but I don’t use earbuds since I train at home with a PowerBlock home gym, so I find that the  heart rate signal gets lost if I venture more than 15 feet from the phone.  For my purposes, however, that’s not a big deal, as I don’t track that information for my weight training.  It does work flawlessly when I’m on the bike doing interval cardio, however, and that’s where it matters a bit more.

Even though the available phone apps are geared more toward endurance type training, I still love wearing it for my daily weight training without being “connected.”  I’m currently doing a lot of high tension-time work with low rest, and I’ve realized there’s a strong correlation between my own heart rate and my strength recovery.  You can even set heart rate zones with an audible alert, though I find myself looking at it so much that the visual alerts suit me fine. 

It’s supposedly accurate if you’re running up to 14+ MPH, and I have no reason to doubt that.  I do find that accuracy falls off with hands over head, such as any sort of overhead pressing moving.  That said, any information it’s trying to give me while I’m under load isn’t of use to me anyway, so it’s just post-set heart rate that I care about.  Again, even during HIIT on a stationary bike, it’s constantly right on par with the my built-in monitor. 

The MIO Alpha is a very cool piece of tech.  It utilizes an electro-optical sensor to detect blood volume and rhythm, it has a motion detector and also filters “noise” to compensate for movement which would otherwise render it useless.  Plus, it’s light years beyond a chest strap when it comes to comfort.

MIO Alpha Sensors

A view from where the magic happens. These are the light sensors, as well as a view of where the magnetic USB charger docs.

As mentioned already, I’ve also adopted it as my casual/sport watch since it’s so comfortable, and I geek out on the ability to check my heart rate when I’m watching racing, playing with my son, getting stressed, or just drinking extra coffee.  There’s also no need to ever worry about replacing the battery, since it’s rechargeable and comes with a USB dock.

On the plus side, it’s very easy to use and it’s comfortable and accurate, and it just happens to look decent.  The Bluetooth connectivity would be a big plus for real endurance athletes, or anyone who likes to track all the data from their training, but you obviously have to have your smart phone nearby for it to work best.  The only thing close to a negative for me is the fact that there’s no back light, so the clock isn’t visible in the dark.  There are audible and visual alerts (tri-color lights) for monitoring your heart rate zones, but as a normal watch, it’s not very useful outdoors at night.  Otherwise, it’s a great watch and heart rate monitor, and even draws enough attention for people to strike up conversations with you.

MIO Alpha Contents

Everything it comes with: Watch/heart rate monitor, USB charging doc, quick-start guide. Simple!

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Tuesday, Oct. 8, ’13: Delts, Arms

The mornings are getting crisp with the fall air, and you know what that means. Great workouts! At least that’s what it means for me. Nothing beats early-morning training when it’s a bit cold. No idea why, but I love it. Plus, it turned into a family training day (sort of)…

Delts: Upright rows (3×30,20,15 + X Reps); Incline laterals (3×12,10,8 + X Reps); Forward-lean laterals (3×30,20,15 + X Reps): DB presses (3×12,10,6 + X Reps)
Triceps: Lying DB extensions (3×30,20,15 + X Reps); One-arm DB extensions (3×15,12,10 + X Reps); Dips (3×12,10,8,6 + X Fade)
Biceps: Standing curls (3×30,20,15 + X Reps); Incline curls (3×15,12,10 + X Reps); Concentration curls (3×12,10,8,6 + X Fade)
Forearms: Wrist curls (3×30,20,15 + X Reps); Reverse wrist curls (3×30,20,15 + X Reps); Alternate hammer curls (2×12,10)

Note: My current PowerBlock gym program is based on 4X, TORQ and Super TORQ techniques, as well as various hybrid techniques from Beyond X.

Summary: I woke up even earlier than normal today because of the anticipation of a great workout. The energy must’ve been contagious, as my 3-year old son decided to join in on the action, too. I wish I had the video camera rolling, though, as it was quite impressive and entertaining. He decided to to KettleBlock deadlifts, presses and even chins off the dip station. Complete with grunting sound effects. Great way to test my focus, since it was so hard not to chuckle during my sets.

Back to the training… I brought back the DP 4X/3X on stretch and contracted exercises today, with standard TORQ on the compound moves. A great combination of rep ranges and time under tension.

Noticing that my delts are looking a bit flat, I added a bonus set of DB presses at the end, which also meant not needing (or being able) to use extreme weight. Dips were great at my last arm workout, but I decided to try them as my contracted move today, making sure not to completely lockout on any reps, since that would mean resting rather than actually contracting the muscles. Going a bit heavier with DP 3X on the contracted moves for bis and tris was different, and good! I finished forearms off with a bonus set of Alternate hammer curls, an old favorite of mine. Just two sets with 30 seconds of rest between, so I guess athat could be considered my firs-evert DP 2X set. LOL

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Monday, Oct. 7, ’13: Chest, Back, Abs

The plan was to try moving to a 6-day training schedule, but plans change. Saturday was our wedding anniversary, so my wife, son and I got an early start on the day, and on Sunday we had to get going even earlier in order to help some friends in need. No big loss, as it was good recovery time and a good weekend, which meant starting the week on a high note…

Chest: Incline DB presses (3×30,20,15 + X Reps); Incline flyes (3×10 + X Reps); DB bench presses (2×20,12 + X Reps); Flat flyes (2×10 + X Fade)
Back: One-arm DB rows (3×30,20,15 + X Fade); Pullovers (3×10 + X Reps); Bent-over bent-arm laterals (3×30,20,15 + X Fade); DB shrugs (3×30,20,15 + X Reps)
Abs: Knee ups (3×20 + X Reps), Full-range crunches (3×20 + X Fade)

Note: My current PowerBlock gym program is based on 4X, TORQ and Super TORQ techniques, as well as various hybrid techniques from Beyond X.

Summary: I wanted to really feel my chest workout today… And I did! Started with incline work, as my upper chest has been looking a bit flat, and finished off with flat presses and flyes, but just two sets of each of those. The low-rest between sets makes them much more efficient, especially with the fatigue build up from incline work. I did my least favorite exercise for back, yet I loved it. Time off from One-arm dumbbell rows was a good thing, I guess, as they felt incredible during and after. I think my old distain for that move was simply their time-consuming nature, being a one-arm movement. The feel made up for that, so there was a new-found fondness for them.

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Thursday, Oct. 3, ’13: Delts, Arms

Holy humidity! We’re in our last warm stretch before the real fall weather takes over, and there’s nice storm brewing, so humidity is way up there. Even with windows open in the gym, it was a major sweat fest…

Delts: Upright rows (4×30,20,15,10 + X Reps); Incline laterals (3×30,20,15 + X Reps); Seated laterals (3×30,20,15 + X Reps)
Triceps: Dips (4×20,15,10,8 + X Reps); Overhead extensions (3×10 + X Reps); Kickbacks (3×30,20,15)
Biceps: Standing curls (4×30,20,15,10 + X Reps); Incline curls (3×10 + X Reps); Concentration curls (3×30,30,15 + X Fade)
Forearms: Wrist curls (3×30,20,15 + X Reps); Reverse wrist curls (3×30,20,15 + X Reps)

Note: My current PowerBlock gym program is based on 4X, TORQ and Super TORQ techniques, as well as various hybrid techniques from Beyond X.

Summary: Another fantastic one today, despite the crazy humidity. With motivation levels pretty high, I ended up bringing back full POF/3D in order to hit all muscle groups from every angle. Part of it may just have been out of the enthusiasm of being able to do full range-of-motion training now with the new gym setup.

I used the dip attachment for triceps, and they got blasted as a result. Kickbacks were a nice change, too. Full-range POF on biceps brought on a significant pump, as well, and TORQ on forearms had them on fire today… It was a bit of a shocker to see some vascularity.. In October!

PowerBlock dip attachment

The handy PowerBlock dip attachment in place for some triceps torture.

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Wednesday, Oct. 2, ’13: Chest, Back, Abs

I had contemplated changing my training schedule to take every fourth day as a rest day, but I’m way too motivated for that right now. Plus, it simply doesn’t feel like it’s needed at this time, so I may end up going with a rest day every seventh day for the time being. We shall see…

Chest: Incline presses (4×30,20,15,10 + X Reps); Flat flyes (3×10 + X Reps); Leaning one-arm KettleBlock flyes (3×10)
Back: Bent-over rows (4×30,20,15,10); Pullovers (3×10 + X Reps); Bent-over bent-arm laterals (3×30,20,15 + X Reps)
Abs: Knee ups (3×20 + X Reps), Full-range crunches (3×20 + X Fade)

Note: My current program is based on the 4X/TORQ and Super TORQ techniques, and various intensity techniques from Beyond X.

Summary: I got going a little bit late today, but you know what? It didn’t matter. My gym is literally 30 seconds from my office now, including the time it takes me to put shoes on. I love that! I’m a big fan of iTunes radio so far, too, but that’s another story.

As I knew would come to pass, the 50- and 40-rep sets are getting hard to look forward to, so I went to a standard-ish TORQ sequence, but added a fourth set, then did either a 3-set 4X sequence, or standard TORQ. The variety of exercises and techniques made for a great one today.

With no cable crossover machine, it’s a bit hard to really isolate the contracted phase on chest, so I improvised with Leaning one-arm flyes. The standard PowerBlocks work well, but I decided to play with the KettleBlock handle, and that proved to be a winner based on the range of the exercise.

Kettle Block

The KettleBlock handle slides right in and works just like a standard PowerBlock handle. Note the extension on the rack for storing the empty handle.

For those not familiar with the move, you stand next to an upright (such as a power cage or, in my case, support beam), and hold it about shoulder height with your inside foot against the upright, then lean as far over as you safely can. Holding the weight in the other hand, simulate a one-arm incline flye, raising it up to just above eye level. I prefer to stop the eccentric (negative) stroke just before the resistance falls off at the bottom. It’s a great movement even in gym with other options.

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Tuesday, Oct. 1, ’13: Legs

Well, that was tougher than expected. Partially due to missing my last leg workout, but also because of the barbell hack squats, which I haven’t even thought of doing for the past several years…

Quads: Hack squats (5×30,30,20,20,15 + X Reps)
Hamstrings: Stiff-legged deadlifts (5×30,30,20,20,10 + X Reps)
Calves: One-legged standing calf raises (4×30,20,15,10 + X Reps); Seated calf raises (5×50,40,30,20,10)

Note: My current program is based on the 4X/TORQ and Super TORQ techniques, and various intensity techniques from Beyond X.

Summary: I’ve been looking forward to this workout for a couple of days, as the impending old-school barbell hack squats were something I haven’t done in probably 6-8 years. You can tell by looking at my rep ranges listed above. Ha! I was shooting for the usual 50,40,30… Super TORQ range, but fell short. It wasn’t because of the weight being too heavy, but rather it was because of my lungs! Barbell hacks call in a lot of back and forearm work for support, so they’re nice and taxing.

Legs felt great, though, and this could very well be the cure for all my upper- and mid-back issues, but time will tell. Stiff-legged deadlifts weren’t new, but they were still tough simply from the fatigue build up from hacks.

I ended up doing two exercises for calves, as I was so happy to be able to use some variety now. I haven’t had a chance to build a decent calf block yet, so I was going to use the stairs… Then I realized the base of my bench was a perfect choice as a replacement. I also hadn’t done seated calf raises in a while, but was able to use the base of the bench again, teamed up with an old dining chair sitting in the basement. I’d never done them with dumbbells, so I was way off in my weight choices, so I had to go full-bore Super TORQ since I accidentally got 50 on the first set. No complaints, though, as they felt great. 

That dining chair is definitely only a temporary fix for seated calves, as it was creaking and groaning a bit with the weight it had to deal with.

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Sunday, Sep. 29, ’13: Chest, Back, Abs

Man, I hate when I miss a day of training, but at least I can usually live with that as a bonus recovery day. Missing three days, on the other hand, can drive a guy crazy! I had to work away from my office from Wednesday through Friday last week, and it just so happened that the schedule was altered each of those days, making it necessary for me to leave 3 hours earlier than planned, and get home later as well. Hence my first Sunday workout in years, but the excitement of my new gym setup played a big part in that…

Chest: Incline presses (5×50,40,30,20,10 + X Reps); Flat flyes (3×15,12,10 + X Reps)
Back: Bent-over rows (5×50,40,30,20,10); Pullovers (3×12,10,8 + X Reps)
Abs: Knee ups (3×20 + X Reps), Full-range crunches (3×20 + X Fade)

Note: My current program is based on the NEW–>4X and Super TORQ techniques, plus various intensity techniques from Beyond X.

Summary: Plans change, and sometimes that can really tick you off. Then again, maybe a few days of missing workouts is a good thing in this case, as I was so amped to train that I did it on a Sunday morning. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the PowerBlock set I’ve been lusting over showed up on Saturday. I never expected to be this riled up about training at home, but the convenience and fact that I can create my own training environment really seems to have stoked a new fire in me. Cooling weather helps, too, as I’m a big fan of cold-weather training. Having a basement gym should help in that arena quite a bit come winter.

Training was great today! That was guaranteed after missing a few days, but using real weights at home blew it through the roof. I followed my Super TORQ rounds with modified 4X. They were 3X sets with 30 seconds of rest, but I just had to use some weight, so the reps were actually to failure on each set. That made for a nice Sunday morning celebration. Best chest and back workout in close to a month!

PowerBlock U-90

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