Mother Nature Providing Sick Gain Conditions

Over the past few weeks Canada has been getting hit with some cold weather, and with that came the snow.  This miserable weather provided us with some heavy disgusting snow, and for many Canadians, it ruined parts of their day.  They had to spend minutes of their day cleaning snow off their cars and wait for them to warm up.  They had to dust off the snow blowers from last year to clear snow off the driveway.  They even had to use their phones to call in to their places of employment and ask to work from home because the commute was so treacherous.  For those of you thinking of us in your prayers, thank-you, we do appreciate it.

But while my countrymen were complaining about these conditions, as a gym bro, I was seeing nothing but potential for some sick gains.  You see, I don’t just go to a gym.  The world is my gym.  You put me anywhere on the planet and I guarantee you I’ll find a way to get a pump.  Some call me crazy for this, but they called Steve Jobs crazy too.

When mother nature gave us this thic white power my heart started racing (snow not cocaine).  Being the visionary I am, I saw potential for several juicy pumps to be had, let me explain them to you.

Triceps Pump: This snow was wet.  It wasn’t that winter wonderland lets have fun with the whole family kinda snow.  It was the gross, I’m all wet, let’s slip on the neighbour’s sidewalk and sue them for all they have kinda snow.  But the wetter the better when it comes to the triceps pump.  Pushing the snow with your shovel activates the triceps.  The action of pushing then lifting the snow works the various branches of the triceps.  Only problem is I’m not coordinated enough to push with my left hand, only the right.  So, my right arm got the pump and my left didn’t.  But it doesn’t bother me being a little lopsided.  I mean I rather be lopsided than small.

Ab Pump:  I don’t even know if this is a thing because I can’t see my abs.  So, I guess you could call it core activation instead.  Pushing the snow, lifting it up on the shovel, and dropping in on the neighbour’s driveway requires tons of core activation.  It was an entire core workout.  Rotating with the snow on my shovel works the oblique and lower and upper abdominals.  Talk about some sick gains.

Bicep Pump: Load the shovel with snow and get to curling.  Curling a shovel with snow on it is like curling in the squat rack.  It’s unnecessary, but I do it anyway.  I’ve often thought the best workouts are the ones you use your whole body for.  And by whole body I mean arms.  Get the bicep pump, then stand back and admire your veins.

Cardio Pump?:  I think it would just be cardio since I guess your blood is always pumping.  Burn some calories and get a sweat going then sleep like a baby knowing you’ve done your one cardio workout for the month.

Good Deed pump: Be a good citizen and shovel your neighbour’s driveway.  You get the gains for yourself, and even if they didn’t ask you to do it, they will owe you one for it.  You can call this chip in whenever you need.  Oh, the boys are “being too loud” and it’s a “Wednesday” night.  Remember that time I shoveled your driveway?  Yah boys the party is still going.

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

Day 35: Push Day

On these push days, I have noticed that I have been avoiding working my shoulders.  For me, shoulders I my least favorite part of the body to work out.  My left shoulder has dislocated a couple hundred times in my life due to a sports injury.  There was a time it was so bad it would slip out in my sleep.  It was the worst of times.  Through rehab and watching the movements I used my left arm for, I am happy to say that it has been about 2 years since I had any major movement in my left shoulder.

A big reason why is because of rehab and stretching.  It might not look the coolest to be playing around with the bands doing stretching before workouts but it’s what helps me loosen up that bad shoulder and get it warm.  On these push days, I should start devoting more time to shoulders.  This doesn’t necessarily mean pushing heavy weight with them, but by doing more reps with lighter weight, it is still possible to strengthen the shoulder and its ligaments.  Even though I said I was gonna work shoulders more in this workout, I did two shoulder exercises and moved on.  Guess I don’t always follow my own advice.  Maybe next lift…

 

Warmup:

  • Stair climber for 10
  • Stretch of shoulder using bands
  • Band and static stretches for back

Workout:

  • Dumbbell-Press: 50 for 15, 60 for 15, 70 for 12 for 2 sets, 80 for 4, 80 for 4, 50 for 8
  • Shoulder Press: 50 for 12 for 3 sets
  • Arnold Press: 30 for 8 for 3 sets
  • Chest Press (individual arm): 40 for 12 for 4 sets (focus on contraction and squeeze)
  • Chest Press (both arms): 100 for 10, 115 for 6, 100 for 10 (focus on squeeze in middle and hold)
  • Cable Flys: 22.5 for 15, 25 for 12 for 3 sets
  • Triceps extension superset with triceps kickback: 35 for 10 then superset to 15 for 10. 3 Sets
  • Overhead Triceps Cable Extensions (dropset): 25 for 12, drop to 17.5 for 8 for 4 sets
  • Rope Triceps Extensions: 30 for 10, 40 for 8, 40 for 5, 30 for 7, 30 for 6
  • Triceps Dips: 3 sets of 10

Finisher:

  • Skipping for 10 minutes

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

 

Tips for 2018’s New Gym Crowd

“if I feel I’m making progress then I am making progress”

Were fresh in the year 2018, and the gym has been like a zoo.  Although it sucks waiting for machines, benches and even waiting in line at the water fountain, I love seeing all the new faces in the gym.  It’s important to remember that these people are making an effort to better themselves and achieve their goals.  Everyone has their own story and it’s not my place to judge anyone because lord knows I was in their shoes at some point.  Some of the new faces are first time gym goers trying to live the gym life for the first time in their lives.  Some are those who fell off with their fitness and are trying to get back into it.  These newcomers all seem to have similar looks on their faces.

When you first start at the gym, motivation is high, but confidence is low.  These newcomers share a daunting look that this is going to be a lot harder than they thought.  You look in the mirror after a couple of workouts and there are no results to be seen, and it really is disheartening.  They realize it will take daily work and persistence to reach their goals, and it doesn’t come easy.  But as someone who has gone through it, I can share some tips on how to better go through this period and stick with it for the long haul.

Tip 1: Pump Theory

  • This is a theory that I came up with myself and really has no academic fact to it, it is just a personal philosophy I went to the gym with. When you lift, your muscles fill with blood and it gives you a feeling of a pump.  This pump feeling is what I focused on.  When you get a pump, your making progress, so I chased this with every workout.  You won’t see this in the mirror off the bat, but instead it is something that you can feel, so focus on that.  A tip for getting a nice pump is to do dropsets.  Dropsets will give you a thick and juicy pump feeling.  Hit a dropset for your first few lifts and let this feeling of juiciness motivate you for the rest of the workout.

Tip 2: Stay off the scale

  • New year’s comes with resolutions. How many of us have said this is the year I’m going to lose that 10-20 pounds?  If your stepping on the scale daily waiting to see the number drop you’re going to be discouraged.  The first few days you might see results from dropping water weight but then it will trail off and discouragement sets in.  Instead step on the scale every two weeks or a month, take note of the changes, but don’t make that your sole focus in the gym.  I focus on feel, if I feel I’m making progress then I am making progress.  Body change isn’t some linear perfect line on a graph, it is a staggering and frustrating process that takes time.  Focus on the feel, not the number.

Tip 3: Look at your eyes, not your body

  • When your head is on a swivel in the gym, your focusing on everyone but yourself, even though you’re the reason you’re at the gym. It is tough to see those who are smaller than you lifting twice as much as you, but that’s how it goes in the beginning.  You need to accept and come to terms with this.  I would find myself looking at others, then looking at myself and judging myself.  This lowered my confidence and it would ruin my workouts.  When you put the blinders on in the gym, you are forced to focus on yourself.  I wouldn’t look at my body, I would look at my eyes in the mirror.  This allows you tap into a motivated and focused mind state.  Each set, each rep is yours to progress.  I found myself having fun with myself.  I’d catch myself smiling when I couldn’t get that last rep up, but I knew next time that rep is mine to own.  The mind is your biggest obstacle when it comes to gains, so stay in your zone.  If you can believe you can get there, then that’s half the battle right there.

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

 

Community Gets You Through Tough Times

The date is December 23rd, 2017.  It has been almost three months since I left my job and new work has yet to find me.  When I left my job, I was ignorant to the affects that it would have on me being out of work for the first time in eight years.

Work for me was a time filler, when you’re doing 40-60 hours a week it gives you a daily activity and sense of purpose.  I had many co-workers that were friendly and engaging, and this gave me a sense of community and a social atmosphere to be around every day.  The problem was, that this job wasn’t pushing me like I wanted it too.  I was too comfortable, and it wasn’t preparing me for where I wanted to go, and what I want to be.

When I left, there was this giant void in my life.  I lost the daily social interaction and sense of purpose when I got up in the morning.  After a month of apply for jobs and not even hearing back, I was frustrated, anxious and depressed at where I was in life.  I had to figure out what make me tick, and what things can I be doing on my own to help with this period.  I turned to fitness and blogging as an outlet, and I couldn’t be happier that I did.

When I first started blogging, I thought it was all about the likes and followers, but there was only one problem.  I wasn’t getting any of either.  This is when I started to engage with the community around me on WordPress.  I started to read the content that others were producing and I learned a few lessons.

  • I’m not the only one struggling, and listening to the struggles and stories of others can put your life into perspective and motivate you. You see what others are doing daily to make their lives better, and that pushed me.
  • WordPress is a communal site. If you think people are going to flock to your blog because write a few paragraphs, you are sadly mistaken.  Engaging with others and being a member of the community of positivity and encouragement is as important as your content.  Be the voice you want to hear when someone talks about your work.
  • The online community is a place to be open and honest. In real life, I find myself living according to the expectations of others, but on my blog, I am myself.  If I am having a shit day I can say so, and I know the community of WordPress can relate and give me the boost I need.  I don’t need to exaggerate the lifting stats for you, just be honest and humble with every view and comment I get.

In closing, the communal effort of WordPress bloggers has gotten me through a tough low in my life.  I put my head down, put on my blinders and spent weeks asking myself where do I want to be, who do I want to be, and what am I right now.  I am still figuring out the answers to these questions but I didn’t do it on my own.  Taking in the experiences of communal bloggers has given me new perspective on life, and that is something that money cannot buy.

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

 

via Daily Prompt: Communal

Day 28: Leg Day

“The legs feed the wolf”

This is a quote I heard the other day when I was watching the movie miracle on TV.  In the movie, it is used to explain how team USA is going to need to out skate their opponents to win.  They are the tool that makes everything become possible.  To relate this quote to my fitness journey, legs are foundational, if you take care of them, they will take care of you, and make your goals possible.

When you look at leg exercises, the majority of them are compound movements.  When you are doing these, you are also working out secondary muscle groups that get activated to deal with the weight and maintain form.  These movements scorch calories and give you a cardio workout even though you may not notice this.  Cardio is thought to be the best for breaking a sweat and fat loss, but I challenge you to do a set of squats then follow this up with lunges to see if you’re not breaking a sweat.  Legs for me is one of the best forms of short burst cardio that also builds strength.  A good little trick is to slow down your reps and do pause reps.  If I am doing 10 squats in a set, I don’t rush through to get the ten then re-rack the weight.  I’ll try and have the weight on my body for 45 seconds to a minute.  For those ten reps, I’ll do them slow to increase the time the muscles are under tension, which is great cardio and builds strength.

Another advantage of working legs is the effect that it can have on your hormones.  Testosterone is one of the most important hormones when it comes to building muscle.  Two leg workouts specifically are great for boosting testosterone levels.  Heavy squats, and heavy deadlifts are known to increase and regulate testosterone levels.  Since I’m no doctor I don’t want to give advice on this topic when it comes to hormones and science and such, but I am good at research, so I have linked some great sources for information that pertains to testosterone production and working out your legs.  The legs are the largest muscle group in the body, so don’t ignore them.  Take care of them, and they will take care of you.

Johnny’s Must Reads:

https://www.quora.com/Does-training-legs-increase-testosterone-levels

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/health-fitness/mens-health/6-ways-to-increase-testosterone-with-exercise

http://www.menshealth.co.uk/workout/testosterone-boosting-leg-day-workout

Warmup:

  • Stair Climber for 5
  • Lower body static stretch
  • Shoulder stretch

Workout:

  • Squats: 135 for 12 for 3 sets, 155 for 8, 175 for 8, 185 for 5 for 2 sets, 205 for 2, 225 for 1, 135 for 6
  • Leg Press: 180 for 15, 270 for 10, 360 for 8, 450 for 5 for 3 sets, 180 for 12
  • Lunges: 50 pound barbell walking for 15 steps each leg. 3 sets
  • Quad Extention machine: 50 for 10 each leg for 6 sets (Rest every 2 sets)
  • Calf Raises: 70 for 10 for 3 sets
  • Calf Raise Machine: 115 for 8 for 3 sets.
  • Hip abduction machine: 145 for 15 for 3 sets
  • Hamstring Curls (one leg): 50 for 12 for 3 sets

Post Workout:

  • Jump rope for 5 minutes

 

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

Day 27: Push Day

We’re back at it for push day.  Gotta admit I was sore af when I woke up, and this continued all day.  My back was aching in a good way and I felt like an 80-year-old man at times.  This is a sign of that good work.  Being sore is nothing to be bummed out about.  It’s all about perspective and how you look at it.  You can look at it from the negative, in that you’re slower, in pain, and miserable but this outlook doesn’t advance you in any way.  I prefer to look at it from the positive, in that I am in a better position today than I was yesterday.  My body aching is just growth masked by discomfort.  Nobody has gotten to where they want to be without a little discomfort.

When I walk into the gym sore, this is where warmup and stretching become important in my humble opinion.  Getting your blood flowing and stretching those tight muscles will loosen you up.  There have been days when I walk into the gym stiff as a board, but I’ll dedicate 20 minutes to warmup and stretching.  The result is that I am still a little sore, but I’ve pushed my body on the right path with recovery, and my workout will be much better.

Warmup:

  • Stair climber for 5
  • Stretch of shoulder using bands
  • Band and static stretches for back

Workout:

  • Bench-press: 95 for 12, 135 for 10 for 2 sets, 155 for 5 for 2 sets, 165 for 3, 135 for 10
  • Incline Press: 60 for 10 for 3 sets
  • Incline Fly’s: 25 for 10 for 3 sets (focus on stretch and contraction)
  • Chest Press (Individual arm): 40 for 10 for 4 sets
  • Chest Press (Both arms): 100 for 10, 115 for 6, 100 for 10
  • Triceps extension superset with triceps kickback: 25 for 15 then superset to 12.5 for 10. 3 Sets
  • Overhead Triceps Cable Extensions: 25 for 12 for 4 sets
  • Rope Triceps Extensions: 30 for 10, 40 for 8, 40 for 5, 30 for 7, 30 for 6
  • Narrow Benchpress: 70 for 8 for 3 sets

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

 

Day 26: Pull Day

We’re here to get it today with this pull day.  I’m excited to get started on this new workout split.  It will be a challenge and something my body isn’t used to but that’s why I’m excited.  I want to keep challenging myself in the gym because that’s what leads to growth.

To have success with this I am going to need to buckle down on the diet.  When doing a regimen like this, recovery time is going to be tight.  My macros must get dialed in and make sure I am getting the grams of protein that I need for recovery.

Warmup:

  • Stair climb for 5 minutes
  • Shoulder and back stretch with bands

Workout:

  • Deadlifts: 135 for 12 for 2 sets, 185 for 10, 225 for 8 for 3 sets, 245 for 6, 255 for 6, 275 for 3, 295 for 2, 225 for 6
  • Lat Pulldown: 100 for 15, 115 for 10, 130 for 8 for 3 sets
  • Lat Pull Machine (one arm at a time): 50 for 15, 60 for 12, 70 for 10, 80 for 6 for 3 sets
  • Chin Ups: 8 for 3 sets
  • V Bar Row: 45 for 15, 90 for 12, 115 for 8 for 3 sets
  • Dumbbell Row: 60 for 10 for 3 sets
  • Seated Curls: 25 for 10, 30 for 8, 35 for 4 for 2 sets
  • Concentration Curl Dropset: 25 for 10 then drop to 15 for 10. 3 sets per arm
  • V Bar Seated Cable Pull: 60 for 8 for 3 sets
  • Hammer Curl: 30 for 8 for 3 sets
  • Reverse Grip Curls (ez-curl bar): 30 for 12 for 3 sets
  • Curl Line: 30 for 4, 25 for 6, 20 for 6, 15 for 8, 12.5 for 5

Johnny

Soon to be “Johnny Two Plates”

Day 25-26: Rest Day

There comes a time in ever training regimen that changes must be made in the name of progress, I am at such a point right now.  Following the bro split has been great for building a foundation, but my gains are slowing down and my body is in plateau.  I am going to drop down to a three-day split.  I will have a pull day where I will work back and biceps.  I will have a push day where I work chest, shoulders and triceps.  And lastly, I will have a leg day where I focus on the lower body.

The reason that I am doing this is to get more activation out of my muscle groups.  With the bro split, I had a week to recovery with each muscle group.  While this was great at first, when your body becomes acclimatized to work you’re doing, you are fully recovered and ready to go again a few days later.  This leaves the muscle isolated and untouched when it could be getting some work in.  This new split will help me get to each muscle group twice a week which will help with my strength gain.

There is no ab day, because abs are something that I try and touch most day.  Weather it is in a workout that I post on this blog or just late at night before bed, abs are something that can benefit from getting hit more often.  I never realized how important working your core is.  A strong core can help your bench press, squat and deadlift.  These compound movements help to activate your core and give it a workout, but this is not enough.  Hitting core quickly after your workout to give it a quick burn will help it gain the strength it needs.

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”