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Day 8: Back Day – Deadlifts

Want to get stronger? Do deadlifts, it’s that easy

This lift works out so many different muscle groups.  Hamstrings, hips, abs, lower back, upper back, biceps etc.  To often people are intimidated by the deadlift so they stay away from it.  It’s hard work, and as far as dangerous gym movements go, this one is up there.  There are plenty of horror stories to go around of people throwing out their back because of deadlifts.  But the reality is these injuries can be boiled down to one or two mistakes.  The first being form, the second being too much weight.

Mistake 1 – Form.  When deadlifting, form is of the utmost importance.  I cannot stress enough how proper form affects this lift.  When I started deadlifting I wouldn’t go about 135lbs until I knew my form was solid.  This lift is mechanical in that there are so many different moving parts and they must all be in sync to avoid injury.  There are so many great resources both written and visual that break this lift down into its different stages and components.  This is one of those workouts where you can cheat form and still get the weight up, but it only takes one bad lift to change your lift.  In my second-year lifting, I went for a 225lbs pull which at the time should have been easy for me, but I cheated my form and wasn’t paying attention to the mechanics.  The result was what felt like my spine breaking in two.  It took 4 months to fully recover from that injury physically, but mentally I have not forgotten the lessons I learned from that lift.  Take your time to learn the proper way to lift the weight, then slowly progress to heavier weight.

Mistake 2 – Weight.  It’s tough when your deadlifting to want to throw on more weight that you can handle and try to impress those around you.  Even on those lifts where you get the weight up but sacrifice form, there something about this lift that makes you want to try to throw on one more plate and see if you can get it up.  That’s the beauty and curse of the deadlift.  Hitting new PR’s are proud moment, but these moments can come at the expense of your health.  Deadlift progression should be slow and methodical.  In the gym community, “ego-lifting” is a common occurrence, and it is something that is frowned upon and should be avoided at all costs.  If your trying to impress the bodybuilders and the boys lifting 4-5 plates a side, or even the girls at the gym, trust me, they will be more impressed with form than weight.  The reality of the gym is that you’ll never get laughed at for lifting the proper weight for you, you’ll be respected.  But you will be laughed at for lifting a heavier weight than you can handle and flailing it around and have no respect for form.  It’s sad but true.  Drop the ego, and lift smarter to achieve your goals.

Warmup:

  • Stair climber for 5 minutes
  • Foam Roll lower body and static leg stretching.

Workout:

  • Deadlifts (pyramid up and down): 135 for 12, 155 for 12, 185 for 10 for 3 sets, 205 for 5, 225 for 5 for 2 sets, 245 for 4 for 2 sets, 265 for 1, 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, 12, 12
  • Chin ups (till failure): 8,8,6
  • Shoulder shrugs: 45’s for 15, 55’s for 12 for 3 sets

At this point my back is feeling it, and my grip strength has all but disappeared, all signs of a good lift.

Post-Workout:

  • Massage chair for 15 minutes 🙂

 

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

 

 

Day 7: Rest Day

For me personally, I don’t follow a set schedule when it comes to my rest days.  I listen to my body.  When my body is telling me “your sore today kid, I need a break,” well then it’s time to take a break.  Not resting when you need to can lead to major injuries, or even worse, you just going to the gym to go through the motions and minimize gains.  This is not to say that on a rest day you should sit in your room and watch Netflix all day, because there are things you can be doing to get you ready to get back in the gym.  It’s a rest day, not an unproductive day.  One of those things is stretching.

Stretching is a fantastic activity to do on a rest day.  The day prior I had done legs, so I woke up tight and stiff, and not in a good way.  So, what do I do on my day of rest? Lots and lots of stretching.  You don’t necessarily need to go to the gym to stretch, just lying in front of the TV and spending 15-30 minutes trying to loosen up those tense muscles groups goes a long way.  There are lots of great videos out there on stretching routines, and I have included a good short one that I use right here.  After a rest day, you don’t want to walk into the gym feeling tired and fatigued.  Listen to your body, I cannot stress this enough.  If your body needs two or three days after a workout, then so be it.  As you work out more and more, your body adapts in its recovery time.  This is why so many people hurt themselves when they start working.  They try and jump back to a level they were once at, or they try going for 7 days straight and BOOM, injured and off for three months.  I’m telling yah folks, If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen this, I’d be homeless but I could make a payphone call to tell you about it.

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

Day 6: Legs – Getting Under the Bar

“I can’t wait to go to the gym and work legs today” – No one ever

I’ve been told that legs make up around half of the body.  I’m not a doctor, or good at math, so I’m not sure if this is exactly true or not.  What I can tell you is the truth is that I DON’T LIKE LEG DAY.  Squats are my least favourite exercise, and if they weren’t such an effective compound movement, I would never do that exercise again.

When I first started working out, I had one of those hour-long fitness consultations with a trainer and he asked me to do a body squat (no weights) so he could coach my form.  I couldn’t even do one.  I was embarrassed, I felt like everyone in the personal training section was judging me.  For a couple months after that I never touched my legs in the gym.  I figured that just avoiding my weaknesses was fine.  But once you start working out for a while you get hungry for growth.  You want to push yourself, you want to grow, and I mean both mentally and physically.

So, after a couple months I finally got under the bar, tried a squat with no weight and made a fool of myself.  I couldn’t get to depth and was doing those quarter squats that you see newbies doing, and I couldn’t get my left shoulder behind the bar so I was squatting on an angle.  Long story short, I dropped the bar in the rack, it made a huge noise, and everyone looked at me.  Just because I the will to do a squat, doesn’t mean I was going to be able to do one.  I wasn’t prepared, and I learned the body and mind must work in unison.

This might have deterred me from squatting a couple months prior, but at the time it got me angry.  I did my homework.  I used youtube to learn proper form, how to build a strong foundation, and learned how to make progression.  I read fitness blogs on leg workouts for beginners.  I watch people in the gym to see what their form was like.  And every week I kept getting under the bar, and every week I got better.  I could squat the bar, then 10’s, then 25’s, then 35’s then 45’s, but then I trailed off.  I got comfortable with the exercise, but with that comfort came complacency.  I thought it was good enough that I got to a level where I could throw a 45 on each side and get down to depth for 10.  But it’s been almost three years now and I’ve been squatting within the same 50lbs range for years.  I realize I had lost all hunger and drive for growth, and I was fine being in the same place today as I was yesterday.

When I set this goal to bench 225, it came from the idea that I need to start pushing myself harder in the gym and bring it every single time I walk in.  Although I haven’t set a goal for my lower body, i’m bringing a stronger mentality with me when I get under the bar.  The mentality to push harder every day and through this, the physical and mental growth that I’m craving will come.

Warmup:

  • 5-minute stair climb
  • Foam Roll my legs.  Acting confident as I roll, as I’m pretending to know what I’m doing.

Workout:

  • Squats (pyramid up and down) – 95 for 10, 115 for 10, 135 for 10 x 3 sets, 155 for 5, 175 for 3, 135 for 8
  • Leg Press (pyramid up and down) – 90 for 15, 180 for 10, 270 for 8, 360 for 4, 180 for 6
  • Walking Lunges / Band Sidesteps (superset)– 50lbs for 10 steps each leg, Light band for 10 steps each leg
  • Quad Extensions (one leg at a time)(pyramid up and down) 40 for 12, 50 for 8, 60 for 4, 50 for 5, 40 for 9
  • Hamstring curls (one leg at a time) 50 for 10 reps x 3 sets
  • Seated Calf Raised – 70 for 10 reps x 3 sets

At the end of the lift, my legs were dead and it was a good lift.  Doing a little stretching can save you from walking like a penguin for the next three days.  Foam rolling is always helpful to loosen up those muscle fibers and gain back some of that mobility you’re sure to be craving.

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

The Importance of Vision and Goals

Today I want to touch on something that one of my greatest idols always talks about, and that is the importance of a vision and goal.

“Why do you want to work out, what is your goal.  The most important thing is that you have a vision, that you have a goal.  Because without that vision and without that goal, you’re just drifting around and you’re never going to end up anywhere.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

These couple sentences are stuck in my head (often hearing them in Arnolds voice).  A vision sets the tone for how you will live your life.  It makes you accountable.  Are you habits and the way you live your life bringing you closer to your vision, or are they pushing you away from it?  When it comes to your body, it needs three things to make a vison a reality.  Weightlifting, cardio and nutrition is all it needs.  So often were caught up in the impossibility of life’s challenges, that we forget to break down these challenges into attainable wins that will bring us closer to our vision.

Here’s an analogy for you.  If you were told you could get a billion dollars, and all you had to do for it was to go outside and lift a rock, chances are you would be excited, yet probably skeptical.  You start asking questions, “well how much does the rock weigh” you ask.  If a voice answers back that the rock weighs one ton, chances are you would become depressed because it’s impossible to lift that much weight, and it’s not realistic, and you wouldn’t even try to attempt to move it.  But if a voice answers back that the rock weighs five pounds, you get excited because you know you can do that, because it is an easily achievable task.  But what if you applied your outlook for the five-pound rock to the one ton rock.  Five pounds is manageable, if you just chip away at the one ton rock, five pounds at a time, eventually your gonna move the whole thing.

Our visions and goals are things that need to be chipped away at.  If the vision is strong enough and you stay accountable to that vision, take it one day at a time and you will eventually get there.  My vision with my fitness is to become a lean and strong athlete.  I have set SMART goals for my vision.  I wrote them down on paper and I have a mental image in my head of how I want to look and feel.  Every day before I crawl into bed at night I’m doing an accountability check.  Am I closer today than I was yesterday?  Did I do enough today with the time I had? What am I going to do tomorrow to be closer tomorrow than I was today?

Have a clear vision, and chip away at it, one step at a time.

Johnny,

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”