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Day 24: Arms

When I work arms, the most important set for me is the last one.  This is when I pick a workout at I know will burn my arms and make them feel like they’re falling off.  I like doing a curl line as my finisher because it can be done with light weight and it’s about getting the reps in to complete the burn.  This type of finisher works your bicep and forearms to give you that last pump before you walk out of the gym.  If you’re doing this at the end of a workout, remember to try and stick with your form.  Swinging to get the weight up won’t get you the arms you want, so if need be, lower the weight or pause to make the reps solid.

Warmup:

  • 5 minutes on stair climber
  • Shoulder stretches

Workout:

  • Close grip chin-up and close grip dumbbell floor press superset: Chin ups till failure then superset with 40’s for 8 reps. 3 sets
  • EZ-Bar Curl and decline skull crusher superset: 60 easy curl bar for curl till failure then drop to 40 for skull crushers till failure. 3 sets
  • Rope Hammer Curl and Rope triceps pushdown superset: Dropset with weights on rope curls then superset with 40 for pushdown till failure. 3 sets
  • Inclined Curls: 22.5’s for 15, 25’s for 10, 30’s for 6, 35’s for 4
  • Hammer Curls: 25’s for 12, 30’s for 8, 35’s for 4
  • Concentration curls: 25’s till failure (slow and feel contraction)
  • Curl Machine: 85 for 5 then drop to 30 and hit each arm individually
  • Concentration Curl Machine: 40 for 8, slow and focus on stretch and contraction
  • Curl Line: 30’s regular curl for 8, 25’s hammer curls for 8, 20 half curl for 8, 15 reverse curls (forearm) for 8.  Repeat 3 times

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

Day 23: Shoulders

Back at it to hit shoulders.  Was short for time so had to blast through the session nice and quick.

Warmup:

  • 5 minutes on the stair climber.
  • Static stretching to loosen up shoulders

Workout:

  • Shoulder Press / Arnold Press Superset – Warm up by climbing to max weight 3 sets. 4 sets at 60lbs/25lbs with reps of 5/10
  • Military Press / Chin Ups Superset – 4 Sets at 95lbs for 6 reps/ as many chin ups as you can get
  • Cable Lateral Raises 3 Angles Consecutive – 7.5lbs for 10 at each angle
  • Lateral Raises Front and Side –  3 sets at 15lbs.  10 Reps front, 10 reps side
  • Shoulder shrugs 55’s for 15

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

Day 22: Legs – Sounds of the Gym

So, I walked into the gym today, ready to smash some legs.  I followed the same routine as I always do.  Pack my bag in my room listening to some music, get my protein shake for after the gym, get my pre-workout for before, and then head out the door to kill it.  When I walked into the gym it hit me, I’ve just made a grave mistake, or so I thought.  When I walk out the door, I normally throw my headphones in my bag so I have them for the gym, but on this day, I was thrown off by a phone call from a friend.  I took my headphones out to answer and forgot to bring them with me to the gym.

This was the first time in about a year I went to the gym to workout with no music.  I thought that this workout was going to suck because I didn’t have my beats to pump me up, and push me through the workout.  I hit the stair-climber like I always do, and proceeded to warm up.  While I was warming up I started to notice the sounds of the gym which I never noticed before.  It was a calming background noise that combines all that was going on around me.

There is the banging of the weights, the sound iron makes when it bounces off iron.  This sound holds a special place for lifters, and it is a nostalgic sound that motivates you just by hearing it.  CT Fletcher says there ain’t nothing better than a pair or 45 pound plates slapping together.  In the gym today, you could hear the loud thud from heavy deadlifts, and the clinking from re-racking the bar when squatting.  These sounds represent the respect and power it takes to lift these weights.

The conversations in the gym were drowned out by the sound of the weights.  Voices blurred together and became a constant murmur.  Individual conversations formed a collective from a zoned-out state.  I could narrow in to try and eavesdrop on a conversation, but I choose to stay withdrawn, and let the voices in the gym drown out the thoughts in my head.

I listen to music to pump me up or as background noise.  I was ignoring how great a place the gym can be to just unplug and take in what’s around you.  Over the past few months I’ve been making an effort to be mindful of what I’m thinking about.  When I am in the gym I try and keep my focus on the task at hand.  I need to get better at paying attention to the here and now, and let my mind wander less.  Forgetting my headphones might become a common occurrence because of the calming nature of the sounds of the gym.

Warmup:

  • 5 minutes stair climber
  • Lower body stretch
  • Lower body foam roll

Workout:

  • Squats (pyramid up and down):  95 for 12, 135 for 8 for 3 sets, 155 for 8, 175 for 8, 185 for 6, 195 for 3, 205 for 2, 225 for 1 for 2 sets, 135 for 8
  • Leg Press: 360 for 6 for 3 sets (normal), 180 for 15 for 3 sets (narrow legs)
  • Quad Extension (drop sets) 60 for 10 then drop to 40 and go till failure.  4 sets
  • Calf Raises (plate machine): 70 for 10 for 4 sets
  • Walking Lunges: 50lbs barbell on back, walk for 10 sets each leg, turn around then walk back
  • Hip Abductor machine: 175 for 12 reps

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

Day 21: Chest Day – Asking for Help

When I started this journey of wanting to bench 225, I knew it would be a challenge.  Mentally I am still in the zone and know I am headed in the right direction.  Physically I feel like time trying to make gains a little to quickly which is compromising my form.  One thing I have noticed is that when it comes to the bench-press, my form is sloppy when I am putting more and more weight on the bar.

I work out alone, and often don’t have a spotter or motivator with me.  This limits me when it comes to the bench press because I often stop a rep or two short of what I could do if I had a spotter.  The spotter is that mental and physical safety net.  It makes the pump so much better when you are able to go to failure on the bench and have the spotter help you get that last rep or two up even thou they claim “it was all you”.  If you are like me and workout alone, I cannot stress enough how important it is to not be afraid to ask for a spot from a random.  If your gym isn’t full of douches, chances are someone will be glad to help.

I work out at the same time most day, which means I see the regular gym crew there most nights.  It’s the same 10-30 familiar faces that I see on a day-to-day basis, which gives me some comfort when asking for a spot.  Most of these guys are stronger than me, but they see me there almost every night so they respect the grind.  When I ask for a spot, I also ask them to keep an eye on my form.  I don’t just want them to help me get the weight up, but to also let me know if my mechanics are off.

When I was benching in the previous week, I asked one of the regulars for help spotting one of my 155 benches.  I wanted some feedback on my form, and this dude being a bodybuilder, was well educated in lifting iron and more than capable to give some feedback.  He told me that I was flaring my elbows when I was coming up, and that was the only mechanical issue that he saw.  This is a common mistake in benching.  When you are bringing the bar down, you need to keep your elbows tucked in closer to your body to avoid injuring your shoulders.

So, on this chest day, I stuck with a weight that I knew I could easily handle (135), and spent a good half hour continuously doing sets with perfect form.  On each rep, I was carefully watching the mechanics of the lift, and ensuring that I didn’t flare my elbows.  Form is something that you can master at low weights, but you should make sure once you start progressing, that this form doesn’t deteriorate.

Warmup:

  • Stair climber for 5 to get heart going
  • Shoulder stretch

Workout:

  • Bench-press: 95 for 12, 135 for 12 for 5 sets, 135 for 10, 135 for 9, 135 for 8, 135 for 7, 135 for 6
  • Incline Press: 50 for 10 for 3 sets
  • Chest press machine: 100 for 12, 115 for 6 for 3 sets (pause reps)
  • Inclined chest press machine (one arm): 40 for 8 for 3 sets
  • Cable flys (downward): 22.5 for 15 reps (hold and squeeze in middle)
  • Cable flys (upward): 15 for 12 reps (hold and squeeze in middle)
  • One arm triceps extensions superset with triceps kickbacks: 30 for 12 then superset with 12.5 for 10. 3 sets
  • Overhead triceps extensions: 17.5 for 12 for 4 sets
  • Skull crushers: 40 for 8 for 3 sets

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

 

Day 20: Were Back for Back Day

We were back at it again with another back day, and boy was I excited to walk into the gym.  I had taken three days off to heal a sore neck which was starting to feel much better.  This time to let my neck heal also gave my body three days to heal as well.  I walked into the gym feeling strong and rested.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to give it 100 in the gym today because I didn’t want to aggravate the injury, but it was a sign I was headed in the right direction and was ready to get back at it and get a sweat going.

I always start with back day because I like to think of myself as different from all the other gym rats.  Monday signals the start of the work week, and the workout week.  Monday’s have been decreed as International Chest Day at every gym across the globe.  Since I like being unique and don’t like waiting 45 minutes for a bench, I do back on Monday and chest on Tuesday (normally).  This simple observation on bench wait times has changed my life and lead to tremendous gains that would have otherwise been missed.

The workouts I’m going to be doing will be changing soon.  I have been following the bro split for the past couple months.  For those who don’t know, the bro split is when you do chest one day, then back, then arms, then legs, then shoulders and you repeat this. This is great for foundation building and getting back into it, but it is easy to plateau and hurts your gains over the long haul.  In my workouts, next week, I will be switching to a different style of workout.  I will be switching to a pull day, a push day and leg day.  This split works multiple muscle groups per workout, but gives less time off for each muscle group, which is better for gaining strength and will better serve me in achieving my goal.  Muscles will be activated more often, and not left to sit for 7 days after they are done their workout for the week.

Warmup:

  • 8-minute stair climber to get the blood flowing
  • 5-minutes stretching to get shoulders loose

Workout:

  • Lat pulls 100 for 15, 115 for 10 for 4 sets
  • Lat pull narrow reverse grip 100 for 10 for 3 sets
  • Chin Ups: 8 for 3 sets
  • Aussie Pull Ups: 15 for 3 sets
  • T-Bar Row: 90 for 15 for 2 sets, 135 for 6, 115 for 6 for 2 sets
  • Seated Cable Row: 45 for 20, 50 for 15, 60 for 8, 70 for 8 for 2 sets
  • Dumbbell Shrugs: 60 for 15 for 3 sets

Take Away From Workout:  By the end of my back days I am noticing that my grip strength is shot.  Now this is normal for intense workouts, but I am noticing that when I am doing my lifts that my grip isn’t the strongest, and I’m cradling the weight when I should be gripping it hard.  I narrowed this down to my forearm strength.  Moving forward, to avoid injury and not plateau with my back days and deadlifts, I will need to work on my forearms to build their strength up.  It’s funny how these secondary muscle groups can affect your bigger lifts in such a large way.

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

Day 19: Rest Day – Changes Moving Forward

When I started blogging I jumped right into it, bought the domain, set up the theme quick and didn’t even think through what I wanted to write about or the strategy I was going to use.  It was just something that interested me as a young marketer who needed to become comfortable writing content.  I knew I wanted to focus on something fitness related, but the form that this would come in was still a mystery to me.  With so much emphasis today being placed on video in regards to filming workouts and body transitions, I felt like the written word is something that is being forgotten about in the fitness realm.  The written word is a story just like a video, but ingested in a different way.

After a month of blogging, I’m ready to build on what I have been doing and have no interest in abandoning it anytime soon.  While the blog is great for sharing detailed posts about what I have been doing in my workouts, there are still aspects of my daily life that aren’t being touched on, which play an important part of my fitness goal.  I’m mainly referring to cardio and diet here.

They say that to achieve the body you desire, 90% of the work is done in the kitchen, and 10% is done in the gym.  This means that I have only been reporting on 10% of my day-to-day activity.  This provides me with an exciting problem.  How do I want to showcase my diet and cardio that I am doing outside the gym?  The answer that I have come up with involves branching out from blogging to social media.  Instagram is a visually engaging channel which is great for showcasing diet.  The diet that I am on is always changing depending on my fitness goals and how my body is feeling.  Currently my diet emphasizes proteins and fats with fewer carbohydrates.  I have been trying to time my carbohydrates to ingest them prior to or after a workout, which is harder than it seems.

I will be posting what I am eating daily on my Instagram to hopefully be a positive example to show what meal prepping is like and how to easily make healthy meals at home without spending a ton of money.  My philosophy on eating clean is that if you are feeling good, and feeling like your moving in the direction, then you are on the right path.  I don’t count calorie intake or ratio of protein/fats/carbs just because of the sheer time it takes to do, and the reality is that counting is guessing most of the time.  Your body is a natural counter, and you just need to listen to what it is telling you, and that’s how you mold your diet to best fit your body.

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

Day 17-18: Rest Day Thoughts

After getting back at if for only three days I made the call to hold off for a couple of days to not aggravate my neck strain.  This is a weird strain that doesn’t seem to be recovering.  Normally with injuries they tend to start feeling better each day but with my neck it’s just been getting stiffer.  I’m not sure if I am sleeping on it wrong or what the heck is wrong, but it’s just one that I feel I needed to make a call and take a few days off.  I’ve talked before about knowing your body and what you can and can’t work through, and this is one where I felt it will pay off more in the long run if I take a couple of days now.  It’s better to shut myself down for a few days to let the ice and heat do their work.

What makes this injury frustrating is because I have no idea how I hurt my neck.  It was one that crept up on me and before I knew it, it was a problem.  With hurting yourself in the gym, you can normally narrow down an injury into one of two scenarios.  Scenario one is when you feel a pop or tear on a movement.  Easy and plain as day to point out, and easier to understand what you need to do to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

The second scenario is when you have an injury creep up on you and the source or cause isn’t always known.  One of the most common examples of this I can think of are lower back injuries.  People will complain of hurting their lower back because they feel strain or discomfort in their day-to-day activities.  This pain isn’t necessarily from a certain activity or movement.  Time off helps but doesn’t necessarily heal.  They don’t ever fix the root problem because they don’t know if it was done in the gym, as a part their lifestyle, or even as a repercussion of diet, etc.  This is why that lingering lower back injury is so common in our society.

With my neck, I felt a little discomfort and stiffness coming on for a few weeks.  I attributed it to my body getting used to me getting after it in the gym.  I tried to hold on to good form and can’t recall a set I did in the past few weeks where I strayed from form badly enough to cause an injury.  Looking back, I did climb up in weight for the deadlift quickly and this could have been an attributing factor.  I was trying to get back into the old weight range and might have overdone it.  Holding that weight puts strain on the neck and upper-back.  When I get back at it, I must focus on lifting less due to ego, and watching the position of neck and truly leading with my eyes.

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

 

 

 

 

Day 16: Legs

Working out chest the day prior, I knew my upper body needed a day of rest to deal with the strain.  My legs however felt fine, which meant it was their turn to do some work in the gym.

I’ve been amazed at how quickly my legs have gotten their strength back.  At the start of October I was just getting back into the rhythm of squatting and was struggling with 135 on the bar and getting down to depth while holding form.  Now I’m approaching 225 for a PR but and I’m in the 200’s for reps now.  It shows what can be achieved with persistence.  The most I’ve ever squatted was 225 some years back but now I’m about to hit that mark while feeling much better about it.  Last time I got to this mark I was a young lifter throwing weight on the bar I couldn’t handle.  I was shaky and cheated aspects of the lift, but now I feel much more confident.  My leg feel like they can handle the weight but more importantly my secondary muscles like core, and back can handle the weight as well which makes the lift much safer.

Warmup:

  • 5 minutes on stairclimber to get the blood flowing
  • Static leg stretching

Workout:

  • Squats (pyramid up and down):  95 for 12, 135 for 8 for 3 sets, 155 for 8, 175 for 8, 185 for 6, 195 for 3, 205 for 2, 215 for 1, 135 for 8
  • Leg Press: 360 for 6 for 4 sets (normal), 180 for 15 for 3 sets (narrow legs)
  • Quad Extension (drop sets) 60 for 10 then drop to 40 and go till failure.  4 sets
  • Calf Raises (plate machine): 70 for 10 for 4 sets
  • Walking Lunges: 50lbs barbell on back, walk for 10 sets each leg, turn around then walk back
  • Hip Abductor machine: 175 for 12 reps

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

Day 15: Chest – Dealing with Injuries

When I woke up in the morning, I felt something every lifter fears.  The day before I had hit some heavy deadlifts and felt great when doing it.  But the morning after, I woke up feeling like I pulled or strained something.  It was a weird feeling on the right side of my neck down to my right shoulder.  Now I’m no doctor, so I can’t give official advice on lifting and injuries, but I can talk on knowing your body, and give some basic tips on what you should and shouldn’t try to work through.

Injuries and setbacks are common, don’t let people tell you otherwise.  This is why so often form is preached in the gym, because it reduces the likelihood of injuries.  A basic explanation of lifting weights is you tearing you muscle fibers apart so they can regrow stronger and bigger.  With this will come some sore days, and days you’re feeling a little stiff.  This is something you can work through.  Through stretching, better diet and staying hydrated, you can alleviate soreness and stiffness.  This is why I never let a little stiffness keep me from the gym.  Just hit the stretching area for 10 minutes and you feel like a new man.

The thing I always ask myself when I have an injury, is “can I work through this without making it worse.”  If the answer is yes, then head to the gym and keep working out.  These workouts aren’t go big or go home type workouts.  You can rehab and workout at the same time.  Rehab can still get you sweating and build muscle.  At the gym I go too, there are bodybuilders who will spend 15 minutes with a 5-pound weight solely focusing on rehabbing shoulders as a part of their workouts.  If you drop the ego, lifting for rehab and recovery can help you recover from injuries and setback quicker than rest.

If you answered no to the above question, then you still have a few options on how you can proceed.  With injuries and setbacks, you can always take a few days off to see how your body reacts to some rest.  If rest treats you well, then listen to your body and you will know when it’s time to head back to work.  Another option that you have is to work out different body parts.  There have been times where my shoulder is sore from past dislocations so I take time to focus on lower body workouts or working out on my core.  On these days, I’ll mix in some rehab and when I feel comfortable I’ll try a light workout with the body part that I was feeling was injured and go from there.

For this workout, I felt like I could continue to work out.  The strain felt light so I hit the gym for a light chest day.  I knew going in that I was going to have to concentrate on form with low weight to see how my body reacted to the strain.  About half way through the workout I felt like I was just making the strain worse so I laid off the weights and did some stretching and got in some core work.  I didn’t walk out feeling defeated because I still go a sweat going and knew I would need to avoid certain types of workouts and focus on some rehab and stretching going forward to help with this setback.

Warmup:

  • 5 minutes on stair climber to get my blood flowing.
  • Upper body stretch for 10 minutes.  Focus on shoulders to get them loose, also focused on neck stretches to see if I could loosen up my neck.

Workout:

  • Bench-press (pyramid up and down): 95 for 12, 135 for 10 for 3 sets, 155 for 6, 155 for 4, 155 for 2, 135 for 8
  • Inclined Press (Drop set): 50’s for 6 then drop to 30’s for 10.  Three sets of this
  • Chest press machine: 100 for 12 reps for 4 sets
  • Fly machine: 115 for 8 for 2 sets, 130 for 6 for 2 sets (focus on squeezing contraction)

Stretch:

  • Static stretches at different angles for shoulder and neck

Core Work Circuit:

  • 15 situps, 20 Russian twists, 20 flutter kicks, 20 leg raises. 3 sets of this
  • Declined situps: 3 sets of 20
  • Oblique twist machine: 3 sets at 100 lbs

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

 

Day 14: Back Day – Confidence

I walked into the gym feeling confident, which for me is huge.  After my rest day, my body had recovered well and I was feeling strong.  For a lifter looking to make some gains, confidence is huge.  It gives you that extra boost you need to push yourself through obstacles, challenges and setbacks to achieve what you have set out to achieve.  But the reality is that for all things in life, confidence is huge.  There have been stages in my life where my self-confidence is real low, and this affects you outside the gym, but since this is a fitness blog, I’ll stick to talking on confidence within the sanctuary of iron.

There was a time in my life where I was a bigger guy, and I’m not talking about muscle.  During the college days, I skipped the freshmen fifteen and put on the freshmen thirty.  I was considered overweight, had no confidence in my body, and just kept to myself most of the time.  My lowest point was when I stepped on the scale and weighed in at 210 pounds (for reference I’m 160 now).  The feeling I had in that moment of just wanting to break down and cry and hating everything about my body is something I won’t forget.  I would try to go to the gym to workout but that’s where I saw what having no self-confidence can do to you at the gym.

During the periods when I had no confidence in myself, I felt like everyone was watching me.  I thought everyone was looking at me and thinking “he’ so weak for his weight” or “man he’s out of shape.”  I was afraid to work out around other people for fear of judgement, and these were people I didn’t even know.  I would show up to the gym and leave within thirty minutes because I would get anxiety from thinking everyone was watching me in the mirrors.  It kept me from the gym for weeks at a time and it was a tough cycle that kept going for months.

What changed things around for me was when I got a job working nightshift.  I would work out before I went in at midnight, or after work when I got off at 3am depending on the shifts I had.  At this time, the gym is a ghost town, just me and the weights.  This is where I built a foundation of muscle and confidence in my lifting.  I could practice form with low weight without the fear of embarrassing myself around others.  I gained a little strength and saw a little change in my body and the effect that had was astounding.

Eventually I started working out during the day and even thou my confidence was still low, I put my headphones in, put my head down and focused on the work at hand.  This grinding mentality is something that stuck with, and it’s all thanks to the gym.  I had to realize that every guy in that gym started somewhere too, and that through consistency, I could make positive changes, but only if I stuck with it.

Now, it’s easy for me to spot someone at the gym who has no confidence in themselves.  They try to do workouts but don’t know how.  They try to lift weights they think they can lift, but they can’t do it.  They show up and leave shortly after, and when they leave they have a look of defeat on their face.  This is why encouragement in the gym is something that we need more of.  If I ever see someone struggling, or fail on a lift and I can see they are struggling with confidence, a pat on the back can go a long way.  Telling them “you’ll get it next time” or “keep at it, it will come” can make a huge difference for that person.  How do I know? Because I’ve been where they are.  I had guy’s show me technique when I was struggling, I’ve had guys motivate me by encouragement.  Guys I didn’t even know, but they encouraged me instead of judging me, and that little nudge they gave me pushed me through the tough times.

At the end of the day, the only person you’re competing with at the gym is the one you see in the mirror.  So, if you’re reading this, next time you’re in the gym I challenge you to drop the ego and judgement and create a positive community that other can feed off of.

Warmup:

  • Stair climber for 5 minutes
  • Hamstring stretches
  • Shoulder stretches

Workout:

  • Deadlifts (pyramid up and down): 135 for 12, 155 for 12, 185 for 10 for 3 sets, 205 for 10, 225 for 6 for 2 sets, 245 for 4 for 2 sets, 265 for 2, 285 for 1 for 2 sets, 155 for 6, 135 for 10
  • Lat Pull Down: 115 for 10 for 2 sets, 130 for 6 for 2 sets
  • V Bar Pull Down:  115 for 8 for 3 sets
  • Lat Pull Machine (drop sets to 40 after till failure): 50 for 12, 60 for 8, 70 for 8, 80 for 4 for 3 sets
  • Bent over row (barbell) 65 for 15, 85 for 12, 105 for 8, 125 for 4, 105 for 6, 85 for 10, 65 for 10
  • Aussie Pullups: 15, 15, 15, 15
  • Lower Back Extension Machine: 205 for 12 for 4 sets
  • Superman: 3 sets of 10
  • Shoulder shrugs: 45’s for 15, 55’s for 12 for 3 sets

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”