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About Me
Hey yo! For those of you who don't know my name is Phoebus Apollo. I am a Pittsburgh, PA based blogger, web designer, fitness nerd and once-passed bill writer. I spent 3 years working in the Portland, OR area for Circuit City and 4 years before that working at Regal Cinemas in downtown Portland, many of you may know me from those places. After moving to Pittsburgh I worked at Sears, now I work with Office Depot. Some of you may have met me via activities in the Pittsburgh area that I host or attend on meetup.com which is awesome. Others may know me from my work with Perverted Justice and their websites @ pjfi.org. A few may even remember that time I founded the alliance Of Sound Mind in Eve Online, although I am on haitus from the game. My hometown is Greenville, MI where most of my family is located.

This is a home for my ideas, projects, fitness logs and other nonsense. Right now I mainly post day to day thoughts on Facebook so check me out there to say hi!

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“Liquid” Mesocycle 6 Review

“Liquid” Mesocycle 6 Review


Well a new year brings about a wealth of new changes, after 6 successful runs of my self taught “Liquid” program I feel pretty good. Learning a lot, but nearing that point where I need to move on to learn more. To go forward though, one needs to know where they’ve been…

Current Status

Mesocycle 6 lasted from January 2nd (2015) to February 16th, great to start the new year on a new mesocycle. It had the most programmatic changes of any since I started my “Liquid” program. To bring you through to where I am today though, I’m going to paint a picture of where I was before.

To give an overall history of my training background, back in April of 2013 I knew nothing about weight training having only a couple months previous deciding to join a gym for the first time in my life. I avoided the weight floor because of my inexperience and the volume of big fit people who lord over the equipment. I had lost nearly 70lbs on my own over that last year, so joining a gym was my next logical step to explore new levels of fitness. Prior to the big weight loss, I had lived a solid 31 years of my life with no exercise or training plan of any kind, having never exercised even a day in my life. Now having just turned 32, I was feeling great about the opportunities that lie ahead.

Fast forward to October 2013. I was still a rookie as far as gym workouts go, knowing only a little from fitness Youtubers about lifts and the sophisticated form issues. I was still using the smith machine heavily for fear of failing to understand benching or squatting, and was relatively new to the deadlift. My early deadlift totals at this time were something along the lines of 225lbs. I started logging my workouts, via my website, which helped me keep my gains in context.

In short order, I began to “believe” in the merit of barbell training over regular bodybuilding exercises. I knew I needed to get away from smith machine work and start focusing on real compound lifts, and learned to value strength as a marker for progression. I was a novice through and through, but up to this point my motto has been “do it on my own” and I stuck to that by choosing to build my own beginner program. Knowing nothing about programming, I kept it simple to start, a 5 day training split one day for each major body area. This was probably not enough frequency for me as a novice to truly optimally gain, but it was a great platform for me to learn about my body and lifting. I now refer to this plan as “Solid” because it did net me some really concrete newbie strength gains. Solid had one facet that pushed me to progress fast as I frequently would try for new one rep maxes nearly every workout. Often hit them too, thanks to the novice training effect.

By May of 2014 (7 months on “Solid”), I had learned a wealth of new exercises, gained a basic proficiency in the squat, deadlift and bench press, although was fairly still weak by most standards only my deadlift was approaching anything considered “intermediate”. I had also on the cardio front completed my first half marathon, which was a huge fitness milestone for me. However my pushing to do new one rep maxes all the time started to creep up on me, I was damaging my shoulders (particularly the right one) by doing too frequent one rep max training on my bench press. It was becoming unmanageable, so I wanted to design myself a “novice-to-intermediate” program. Knowing a little more now – enough to be dangerous – I started producing my program “Liquid”. Liquid earned it’s nickname from making slight shifts as I learned more about programming, to eventually become more sophisticated as I learned more about programming principles.

Now it’s March of 2015, and I’ve been on Liquid for about 10 months, having completed 6 full training cycles. There were highs and lows but one thing Liquid did was it solidified in me a lot of knowledge about the principle lifts – benching, deadlifting and squatting – as well as gave me great benchmarks and ideas for progressing. With my last mesocycle I came to the realization that while I am progressing, I am not doing so optimally for someone of my training history. I realize rather readily that never being on a true novice program (now I know what the qualities are of one at least) and did not know in full detail what truly makes an intermediate plan shine. I also noticed my gains are good, but not where they could be – I project I could be getting 150-200% improvement on my gains if I were just picking a different, more conventional, adaptation cycle.

I’m still researching what plan to go to, starting to lean towards a powerlifting interpretation of the “Texas Method” but not fully decided, but there will not be a complete mesocycle 7 – I plan to decide in the next week ideally what exactly my training plan will be. It should be simpler, and more focused on my goals of being a stronger lifter and progressing through to full intermediate planning. Whatever plan I choose I hope the principles I garner from it will allow me to make further tweaks to “Liquid” so I can eventually come back to it and get better results than in my first go around. It’s a big decision though, I don’t believe in program hopping and whatever plan I pick has to be rock solid for at least the next 6 months.

So at the start of Mesocycle 6 work had given me a substantial amount of life stress – I closed a store and went through the entire holiday season at a new store as part of my company’s merger. I never did get a reprieve I had hoped for, still being assigned constant tasks and having to deal with cut payroll hours leads me to a workplace situation where things just are more stressful than they need to be. On top of this for the first time I chose to buy a house of my own and planning for that was another life distraction. So all said, lots of life-related stress during this mesocycle which absolutely does impact performance in the gym. To cope with it, I started using my free time for an old MMO I love – Eve Online – and getting into it again as a casual player has really helped me relax. It also eats up more time than I’d like, but by no means did training take any kind of back seat.

In fact, Mesocycle 6 had me set a new Deadlift PR of 345lbs, I set a new HIIT workout marker at doing 6 full M100’s without passing out and in general I saw a considerable amount of improvement in form and technique in most of my lifts and even accessories. I feel really utmost confident in my actual routines. I’m not sure the intensity markers are good for my workout plan though, while I know you’re supposed to hit the weights hard I feel sometimes a lingering sense of dread at going in to get the work done, which I’ve always personally associated with overreaching/overtraining. This could easily just be life stress.

My cardio is fallen completely to the wayside, as I am no longer training at all for any sort of running. I’m okay with this, because powerlifting is my focus and it’s not important to run like a half marathoner to be good at it (endurance progression does not translate to strength nearly as much as strength does to endurance). That said, it makes me a little sad to run for 4-5 miles and be “done”, at a pace considerably slower than where I used to be. This is in part though due to gaining a little weight, which makes me feel good knowing I’m mostly at a very good place on my weight and level of personal fitness, at least health wise.

Progression Overview

Now to actually review the mesocycle itself. My most recent revisions to “Liquid” had me start with three 2 cycle/week “blocks”, first conditioning (first two weeks), second control (second two weeks) then third strength testing (final two weeks). These employed daily undulating periodization (DUP) which was a new facet to the plan, inbetween the block periodized “themes”. I felt good about this, but the realization set in as time passed that this is too sophisticated a program for someone who is not quite to that level. I am probably an early intermediate right now who can progress better on week to week plans than 6 week ones.

Regardless, cycle 1 started out fresh and optimistic and went well as did cycle 2. Cycle 3 & 4 were downright fun, cycle 5 had me really feel like I was grinding as I tried and failed to hit new maxes. This was exacerbated by entering the 6th and final cycle (my final strength test) starting to get sick and feeling particularly low energy. Part of me thinks this was the onset of sickness which did eventually pass (my final Dev Day is when I set my new deadlift PR, not on the actual Deadlift day in fact that workout I gassed out completely getting only two singles out at 330lbs) and part of me thinks my diet is contributing to some of the low energy days I’m having in the workout, as they are becoming more and more common lately.

Conclusions & Progression Updates

I’m going to stop using “training max” variables to track progress as I’m going to soon be choosing a completely new plan, and instead use my own real 1 rep max (RM) as a measure of progress. In this sense I did progress a little in every lift during this mesocycle, but all said in a month and a half I should have done a little better.

I’m giving myself a nice weekend off lifting then possibly a deload week to digest what my new plan should be for the next 6 months, and get settled into the new home I am closing next week. Then my next big project… a home gym! A new plan and home gym should really change my life around, I will still provide a program update when I’ve settled into that routine.

Deadlift: 345lbs 1RM (previously 340lbs)
Stated Goal: 400lbs verified one rep max

High Bar Back Squat: 225lbs 1RM (previously 205lbs)
Stated Goal: 315lbs verified one rep max

Bench Press: 185lbs 1RM (previously 180lbs)
Stated Goal: 225lbs verified one rep max

Some of my favorite pics during this training cycle… click the left/right arrows to see them all
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“Liquid” Mesocycle 5 Review


Kept on track with Mesocycle 5, kept me real busy in December. It is another period that ended with major program revisions, will explain more about that below.

Current Status

Mesocycle 5 lasted from November 18th to December 31st which were the holiday months, busy at work busy outside of work. Work peaked out in being busy, and life brought me a lot of things to do. I kept only lightly on my lagging cardio.

I’m going to skip the review of each week, as doing that every mesocycle is tiring, but all 6 weeks went off pretty well with maybe 2-3 rest days per cycle. There was a few inbetween workouts near Christmas, and I was sick over it, but the workouts kept me fresh for resuming the final cycle. Just as a layout of events, I knew Christmas Eve and Christmas would be no gym days and I was ending cycle 5 a couple days before Christmas Eve, so I had a workout with all three lifts as an inbetween cycle workout where I set a new deadlift PR. I was really sick over Christmas, which led to having my workout afterwards be a recovery workout, but it was paced perfectly and cycle 6 went off without a hitch.

One realization I made during this cycle was that my plan (which is sort of a block periodization where every weekly cycle is it’s own theme) does not plan for equal parts muscle growth and strength development like it should considering that I’m still a novice to intermediate in most lifts. While checking out solutions I ran across a good explanation of daily undulating periodization, where workout volume cycles in a staggered way. I liked this and combined it as a facet into my lifting program, which is now condensed to three blocks (conditioning, control & speed, strength testing) which each have daily undulating periodization staggering between two weekly cycles. So still six cycles, but with a few modifiers as the weeks go.

I’m really looking forward to the changes, as I write this I’m actually two weeks into cycle 6, but I’ll save observations for this for later. One important thing I ran into was a new math tool to help quantify workout intensity better. For those reading who know I write my own program, know a few mesocycles ago I applied Prilepin’s chart to my workout plan to create a series of valid measures for workout intensity. I felt it was a great balancing, but lacked something. In the recalibration I’ve been doing to make my program feature daily undulating periodization, I’ve managed to find a mathmatical calculation that keeps me able to apply workout intensity to workout duration.

So the measurement works like this. It’s called intensity over number of lifts or abbreviated INOL. INOL provides a point variable for a workout session based on the reps divided by a figure relating to percentage of training max. Since my training max percentage is a core facet of my program this is easy. The exact equation is INOL = REPS / (100 – PERCENT) where the PERCENT is a whole number rather than a fraction. So 80 percent is simply “80”. 4 reps at 80% intensity is then INOL = 4 / (100 – 80) or 4 / 20 making the INOL for that work .2. As a generalization, INOL represents overall workload really good, and at about 1.0 total work is generally a good workout that will typically fall in the guidelines of Prilepin’s chart. I also add INOL to a workout set (via estimation) that contains a difficulty modifier like pause or deficit reps that are naturally more difficult that vanilla lifts. I used this calculation to determine the INOL of my old workout sets, and planned my progression at all my new training days to a similar INOL.

This means weekly I have an INOL of about 1.8 of training into each lift (deadlift, bench press and squats). I can throw that math into the daily undulating periodization of different weights/reps applied in a shuffled pattern to keep the intensity similar no matter what the features level of exertion is. So far I find that workouts at INOL 1.0 for a specific exercise tend to feel very full, whereas .4 or lower is simply not enough to provide stimulation, and workouts in those levels tend to stay within Prilepin’s chart. The new daily undulating periodization also produces workouts at a more diverse range, but seem shorter due to just better focus. All very good changes so far.

So a recap of the plan where it stands going forward: I have three two week (as expressed in cycles) blocks of training. First is conditioning, which is daily undulating periodization for two cycles of staggered low volume/high weight, medium volume/medium weight, high volume/low weight lifts. This continues in block 2 of “control & speed”, but on low volume/heavy weight days I wrap up with several sets of speed lifts, and on high volume/low weight days I wrap up with climbing doubles at heavy weights. Then my secondary lifts at medium volume/medium weight are wrapped up with an AMRAP (as many reps as possible) set at the end. These estimate though into only slightly greater INOL calculations than the conditioning week.

Then the final block of “strength testing” features medium volume/medium weight days as “heavy weight acclimation” with static isometric holding of my training max weight (to get over the psychological factor of holding that much weight) and begins daily undulating periodization gets heavier on the weight on low rep days higher on the volume on low weight days to keep things progressing to a peak. The final cycle leads each day with the same as my old 6 week cycle, to test my strength progression with singles to failure. My performance during this block is what is used to determine how much progression I should plan for the next mesocycle, like before.

Dev day stays the same as it’s purpose doesn’t change. One thing I find already is that the INOL calculation is good on any exercise where I can eyeball a “max” rep… giving me a way to find out how to make a workout intense at a comparable levels to other exercises. It’s very handy to know at any time I can find out if I’m at INOL 1.0 during a particular exercise or INOL .4.

Conclusions & Progression Updates

To move forward my bench press I am finally increasing it. I am cautious on the deadlift, as I’ve increased 10lbs every mesocycle almost every time so I’m doing only 5lbs this mesocycle to help make sure I’m progressing well in the neurology of the movement. My squat was low and I knew that before going into it, so I’m bumping that up a lot too. Here are the new numbers!

As a policy I am continuing the added drop sets to my bench press, as I believe extra volume there is needed to continue progression.

Deadlift: 355lbs (previously 350lbs, tested one rep max is now 340lbs)
Stated Goal: 400lbs verified one rep max

High Bar Back Squat: 240lbs (previously 220lbs, my max rep has not been well tested but it is definitely above 200lbs)
Stated Goal: 315lbs verified one rep max

Bench Press: 195lbs (previously 190lbs, finally moving forward here, tested one rep max is 180lbs however it’s hard to think of that as a reliable number to be able to hit)
Stated Goal: 225lbs verified one rep max

It’s rather symbolic that my final workout under mesocycle 5 was New Year’s Eve, and I get to go into 2015 with a completely refreshed program. Really excited for Mesocycle 6’s changes, feeling like “Liquid” is becoming truly polished now!

Some of my favorite pics during this training cycle… click the left/right arrows to click through
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“Liquid” Mesocycle 4 Review


I decided to give my personal workout program a new nickname – up to this point have referred to it by it’s phase of revision (which is 2.1) almost like a software program. I decided to nerdify it up even more by having the name reference the four states of matter, which since we’re on the second major revision of the plan puts us at “Liquid”.

This feels appropriate too – my first novice-era program was pretty much a consistent linear program which was very rigid with very consistent progress (you could say it was “Solid”), and now my second state of my workout program advancing me towards intermediate skill is more flexible with lots of minor changes being made along the way due to it being a more sophisticated periodized plan, being more “fluid”.

Metaphors aside, “Liquid” is a pretty fun plan that works well for me right now, but hard to tell just how well until we break it down a bit…

Current Status

Mesocycle 4 lasted from October 1st to November 10th and it happened during a fairly stressful work period while I ran a closing store through the final phases of liquidation. Work absolutely saps the motivation to get workouts done, while I was able to keep it consistent I think the biggest hit was to my cardio. It didn’t help that the cold weather started to set in, which made it less motivating to be outside. My cardio doesn’t have to be top notch though, in a life priority I’m sure I can make it up in the years to come and still hit my goals, my real priority is lifting. It is very notable how much life circumstances can impact an exercise plan, and how it’s important to keep prioritized.

All said though I feel this mesocycle went well, and enjoyed it greatly.

Cycle 1: Conditioning

Period: Oct 1st to Oct 7th
Rest Days: 3

This was the first workout week where I swapped out my old front squats for the high bar back squat, which was a real good change. Deadlifts went well, Bench Press was still rough, Squats were really good. Dev day this week was arms and shoulders. Fairly straightforward.

Cardio was very light this week, 3-ish mile hike in Boyce Park was the only real dedicated cardio I had on one of my rest days.

Cycle 2: Hypertrophy

Period: Oct 8th to Oct 13th
Rest Days: 2

Started the week with a cold, so the first couple of days had a shorter than usual workout. I got over it though and wrapped up strong. This was the first time I did a new stretching/rotator cuff exercise routine (hard to really describe but in short I stretch one arm while doing rotator cuff exercises with the other then switch) which really makes the shoulder health work a little more compact and nice.

The only cardio this week was a 3.82 mile run in Frick Park, fun and nice. Definitely lacking in the cardio department which is a trend of mesocycle 4.

Cycle 3: Stability & Control

Period: Oct 14th to Oct 19th
Rest Days: 2

Started this cycle out at low energy, second workout had a time constraint, but otherwise things went well. I noticed again seeing good mornings (pinned in the squat rack) back in workout schedule, and I want to note that I definitely am trying to throw in either those or stiff legged deadlifts (which I find works best if you just start from the floor with a proper barbell as if you were going to do deadlifts and trying to get low enough to touch the floor again, although my flexibility ends a little above the floor level). This I think is very important to hit on leg-focused days.

This cycle was the first cycle I started to just decide that my bench press, which has felt weak up until this point, just needs more volume so I started making developmental day a secondary bench day and I’m keeping it that way until I start seeing better progress.

Got a great 5.16 mile run in at Monroeville Community Park this week and did a 2 mile run with a 1 mile walk, so improved my mileage a bit, but not yet anywhere near where it was before.

Cycle 4: Conditioning & Speed

Period: Oct 20th to Oct 28th
Rest Days: 4

This may seem a little long because my 4th cycle overlapped my 5th cycle. This cycle also marks my return back to my first gym, which I’m only doing as a secondary gym membership. I like my first gym a lot, but I fear in the winter I’ll have missed days due to weather or other concerns and my old gym is next to where I’ll be working soon, so for winter I’ll have both then I’ll drop the old gym when the cold weather passes. It’s nice to have variety for the time being.

As for the workouts themselves, my bench still felt weak, and I feel it’ll take a bit of extra time to make it up so I’m just putting in the work right now. Oddly the change of scenery had a noticable impact on my workouts… I just felt like my current gym had better workout days than the old gym. Again dev day was bench press focused.

Did 2.2 miles on the treadmill for cardio, and a 3 mile run outside. It was breezy and before a storm, sounds cold but the weather was perfect once the pace set in and I had no rain on me.

Cycle 5: Heavy Weight Acclimation

Period: Oct 27th to Nov 3rd
Rest Days: 3

Again this workout cycle overlapped the previous one, stretching it out an arbitrary day. Started this workout week with a nice new PR in my deadlift of 330lbs, it was just one of those days where everything felt right so I went for it and hit it. Did strain my low back for a few days, since it was impromptu it was beltless, but it felt great. I started doing some stiff legged deadlifts in a more traditional fashion, almost like a deadlift, although my flexibility doesn’t let me quite toucgh the floor yet, and it felt good.

For cardio I did a 5.3 mile run outside again in the breezy weather, it was the only run this cycle though.

Cycle 6: Strength Testing

Period: Nov 4th to Nov 10th
Rest Days: 3

Okay, so my testing cycle went pretty well overall. My Deadlift is still consistently improving, which is fantastic. My Bench Press is still stalling, but I realize that it should improve if I just invest a little more energy into increasing the volume. My squat, which was started at kind of a low figure, feels pretty solid and I felt comfortable bumping it up considerably.

For my final week’s cardio, I did 6 miles on the treadmill. Still a noticeable diminishment from the last mesocycle.

Conclusions & Progression Updates

I feel that what my bench press needs is more volume, so more developmental day workouts will be chest focused and more bench press exercises will end with drop sets until I see an improvement. Addressing that matter my squat and deadlift progress well, and I’m happy with how that goes. The program so far needs no real changes at least for now, although I should focus better on keeping my cardio going. While I do not need to hit any new cardio goals (it’s winter time basically and I don’t see myself running a race until spring), I do need a little more to keep pace and prevent degredation of my running ability. Alright, new goals…

Deadlift: 350lbs (previously 340lbs, tested one rep max is now 330lbs)
Stated Goal: 400lbs verified one rep max

High Bar Back Squat: 220lbs (previously 200lbs, I did feel this first training estimate was low so I felt increasing to 220 would be worthwhile)
Stated Goal: 315lbs verified one rep max

Bench Press: 190lbs (no change, as stated increasing volume as I will not budge this up until I am comfortable with the level I’m at, perhaps I moved this up too fast in the first place as this is the second training cycle I am not increasing it)
Stated Goal: 225lbs verified one rep max

Not the most exciting update, but worthwhile progress made. I feel like mesocycle 5 could be really great!

Some of my favorite pics during this training cycle… click the left/right arrows to click through
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“Liquid” Mesocycle 3 Review

My “Phase 2″ intermediate lifting program during this revision is now by the nickname “Liquid”, so updating the title to reflect that.

I know this is a lot of mumbo-jumbo for a title for my workout log, but my “Phase 2.0″ plan got a review and cleanup after the last mesocycle, so now my exercise plan is what I simply call “Phase 2.1″. Below will be my breakdown of how the workouts went, and what I learned and the changes I’m implementing to the plan due to the observations made.

In general, I felt pretty good about Mesocycle 3 although it shows the least improvement in my bench pressing skills. I feel like I learned what I need though, and I’m excited to start Mesocycle 4.

Current Status

Okay Mesocycle 3 lasted from August 17th to Sept 28th. A solid 6 weeks, so felt like the training went on schedule. My only real problem is that my cardio training is suffering lately as you’ll see near the end of my mesocycle. My running was very consistent on the start of my training but near the end, I’ve fallen off a lot due to work sucking up my time and energy.

Having an outside thing like work take your focus off your workouts definitely has an effect on training that should always be considered. If only I were independently wealthy, I’d have the time for all the training I’d ever want. Maybe if I was smart and did this training back when I was young, that’d be the case today… but anyways, enough rumination and whining, time to get to how things went!

Cycle 1: Conditioning

Period: August 17th to 24th
Rest Days: 3

The first thing I noticed was I revised my front squat training max (which will become less important later) in my very first training week just because I felt off with the figure I moved up to. This is a great example of why conditioning week is a good way to start this periodized workout routine because it’s got a good way to basically test if my training estimates were correct before I get too deep into the more specialized periodized workout weeks to follow. For my dev day this week I did overhead pressing, which I felt was pretty good and was the first time I had done overhead pressing in a while, so I used the opportunity to test my strength range a bit.

Cardio wise, I had a pretty intense week it was a 7 mile run out by the Highland Park Reservoir, a hike on the weekend then the short but intense Electrodash. So really only one of those rest days was a legitimate sit and rest day, which is almost an ideal exercise week honestly.

Cycle 2: Hypertrophy

Period: August 25th to 30th
Rest Days: 1

Work starts to get more demanding here, which is a background narrative to how the workouts will proceed going forward. I was a big fan of the volume changes to this week and it’s placement, so I enjoyed it. For dev day I worked on my chest with decline bench pressing and cable flys, which was appropriate as I had to cut my bench press day short this week due to time constraints.

For cardio I did a great 7.15 mile run in Frick Park, and that evening I took 2 hours out to go bouldering at the Climbing Wall gym. I count Bouldering as a unique workout so I did not count this day as a rest day. Busy and great week here.

Cycle 3: Stability & Control

Period: August 31st to Sept 7th
Rest Days: 3

This training cycle was pretty consistent, a lot of rest days due to work and being busy. I did strain my right glute during a bad lift on my front squat day, which affected me, but I took care to treat it right, gave myself an extra rest day and was cautious in the gym. Dev day was back and core, staying away from the strained glute to further facilitate recovery.

For cardio I had a good 5.09 mile run at the park and a street run of 6 miles that turned out to be a pretty challenging run given it was after the strained glute and it was uphill (unintentional, but I felt the run was needed).

So far all the plan changes to the program have felt very appropriate and I’ve enjoyed the greatly.

Cycle 4: Conditioning & Speed

Period: Sept 8th to 14th
Rest Days: 3

Still affected by the strained glute, I proceeded cautiously, but sometime during this cycle it finishes healing up. I felt good about the increased heavy workload on these speed days, and did a good job picking accessories. I noticed something that seems like a recurring problem, increased issue with front squat form. This time it was depth, but a lot of that is a function of back stability.

For cardio this week, I got a training run in at Monroeville Community Park. It was a little muggy and hot, but I got 6 miles in and felt productive, but at a fairly poor pace. This probably marks my decline in my cardio conditioning, where I stop finding good time to run more than once a week for a while. This is bad going into the Great Race at the end of this mesocycle, but I’ll get to that later.

Cycle 5: Heavy Weight Acclimation

Period: Sept 15th to 21st
Rest Days: 3

The first thing I noticed about this was I felt the rep ranges were poor after doing one day, and normally I follow those instincts to revise my plan accordingly. After making a revision, the other days went very good and I was very happy with this cycle. This has me having heavier weights in my hands, which I think really helps me psychologically going into my final week of strenght testing.

During front squatting I noticed a lot of form breakdown. A lot of forward tilt in particular. For some time I’ve been thinking about revising the workout plan to switch to high bar back squats instead of front squats, under the mentality that the higher weight levels will let me progressively overload my squatting faster and better as I won’t be limited to lower weights due to issues like tilt or back strength. Better overload, the better my leg strength translates to my deadlifts getting better which is honestly the lift I care about the most. It also is the lift that would translate directly to a powerlifting competitive lift (I simply don’t see myself being an olympic lifter any day soon, but someday getting into a powerlifting meet would be realistic).

This was further reinforced when around this time I also watched a video by Jonnie Candito explaining why he thinks the high bar back squat translates better to strength gain than the front squat, and I felt this reasoning was very sound…

Any good strength program needs focus, and I agree that the ability to progressively overload the high bar back squat is best.

The final points he makes, regarding carry over and the options you can use with fatigue and back strength, I think really drove home some of the feelings I’ve been developing about the front squat. I was intending to switch prior to this video, but this video I felt really convinced me I had made the right call.

While I feel front squatting is absolutely essential to understand, I understand it could be limiting my overall strength development, and that’s always a sign that change is needed. So it was around here I became convinced the next major program change would be swapping out the front squat with the high bar back squat.

Dev day was nice, an at home workout which was a great change of pace. Always nice to switch things up from time to time.

As for cardio, I took a 6 mile run at Monroeville Community Park. Work is getting more hectic at this point, and it’s taxing on me. I could’ve run more or started cycle 6 faster because I knocked out most of my workouts quick in this week cycle, but I decided instead to just take a couple days to clear my head and focus.

Cycle 6: Strength Testing

Period: September 22nd to 28th
Rest Days: 3

The final cycle here is my testing, and let me explain how it went. First was deadlifting, I hit four strong singles at 93.9% of my training max. I felt real good about that and decided it could definitely be a good increase for my deadlift max. Next up, bench pressing. No clear signs of improvement with a single rep at 92.1% of my training max. I decided I really need to focus on form and be cautious here as not to reaggrevate my old shoulder impingement, and I plan to do this by being more cognizant of my grip. I want my primary movers, the pecs, to get involved more so I’m going to do more close grip bench pressing and only widen it as I get up in weight levels. Lastly on my front squat, while I was much better on my form I did 4 singles at 92.3% of my training max then set a new real max at 190lbs. While the form was dodgy, I felt like it was good enough to count it.

For cardio this week, I got in one 4.37 mile run then on the day after dev day I finally ran the Great Race. I had respectable performance, finishing the race at an 8:40 mile, definitely better than expectation given the falling off of my cardio training progressively throughout the training cycle. It was nice though, to run the full 10K at something I felt was competitive.

Conclusions & Progression Updates

So, the point of all this work is to revise the plan, update the training updates and digest some goals for the next mesocycle. It was interesting, fun and a welcome diversion from the increasing stresses coming from work (currently closing my store, and there is ups and downs associated with running on minimal crew). New training max numbers for the next mesocycle…

Deadlift: 340lbs (previously 330, tested one rep max is still 315)
Stated Goal: 400lbs verified one rep max

High Bar Back Squat: 200lbs (new lift to replace the front squat, noting that I got a new one rep max on my front squat before converting to the new lift of 190lbs)
Stated Goal: 315lbs verified one rep max

Bench Press: 190lbs (no change, focusing on form development, tested one rep max is 175lbs and I re-verified that this training cycle)
Stated Goal: 225lbs verified one rep max

The new layout will give me time to more safely progress on my bench press, the high bar back squat switch will I hope translate to more gains across the board. No major program changes made besides the minor ones I noted.

As for cardio, it’s okay for it to fall off a little bit but I need to try to have at least one respectably long run and a few shorter ones in each week. I may just do a few 1-2 mile runs just to keep things on track.

Work is a serious distraction at this point, but an end is in sight soon and by the end of my next mesocycle, I should feel a lot more stable with my workplace situation. So we’ll see how this all goes… wish me luck!

Some of my favorite pics during this training cycle… click the left/right arrows to click through
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“Liquid” Mesocycle 2 Review

My “Phase 2″ intermediate lifting program during this revision is now by the nickname “Liquid”, so updating the title to reflect that.

While I still post exercise logs quietly in the background of my website, my focus now is more on getting them logged for personal records more than anything else not to provide good content for the blog. So I figured a good idea just to catch up on the whole training cycle all at once by summing up my training progress in one article, particularly when I end a complete rotation of all my cycles of training.

Current Status

So I just wrapped up Mesocycle 2, which lasted from June 25th to August 10th (15th counting a deload at the end). My plan is periodized into 6 cycles of four workouts (A – Deadlift & Front Squat, B – Bench Press & Deadlift, C – Front Squat & Bench Press, D – Developmental Day), so I’m going to review and recap each cycle below…

Cycle 1: Conditioning

Period: June 25th to 30th
Rest Days: 2

Workouts were solid up until front squats (Workout C), where I noticed some poor form developing in my squat depth. I put it on my list to fix this. Dev day (workout D) focused on core work and overhead pressing.

For cardio, I clocked in a meager 4 miles on treadmills. This whole training period was a low point in my cardio conditioning.

Cycle 2: Hypertrophy

Period: July 1st – 8th
Rest Days: 4

The extra rest time was directly attributed to getting real sick, the sickness lasted 2 weeks but the peak of it hit during this cycle causing a lot of time off and poorer workout quality. Figured out during workout A what the issue was with front squats (tipping forward too much, back not upright) I did a bit to help fix this in workout C (details linked here), in that log I went over the problem in more detail and started fixing it, a lot was thanks to a form video from Jonnie Candito. This helped a lot. Dev day (workout D) was more squatting to reinforce the improved depth.

For cardio I clocked in 6 miles, 2 inside and 4 outside, which was nicer than the week before.

Cycle 3: Hypertrophy+

Period: July 9th – July 16th
Rest Days: 3

Being sick was still a factor here. Inbetween workouts A-B I did a home workout just to stay active during the worst of being sick.

Workout A was short, due to being sick. The extra workout was a 50 chin-up/100 push-up/100 dip challenge at home, which was a great way to get the blood flowing without the whole aggrevation of having to leave home while ill. By workout C, I was feeling good enough to put the energy into the normal workout volume, albeit it was a struggle. Dev day was upper body, which I felt was the best thing to focus on while ill, since it’s less neurologically demanding than lower body work.

For cardio, I only did 2 miles on the treadmill, and it was a rough, haggard run due to being sick.

Cycle 4: Speed

Period: July 17th – 26th
Rest Days: 5

Lots of rest days which I believe were primarily from Meetup activities. I had two extra days today of physical activity, did kayaking inbetween workouts A-B and bouldering the same day as workout C which is arguably the hardest of the workouts. I cut legs a little short to get to bouldering on time, so I made dev day a leg workout day with a little bicep action. Training as planned, but I realized during this cycle that having a whole routine set aside for speed on top of two hypertrophy cycles is excessive time in a lower weight level… so I’m going to completely rework the plan as a whole to accomodate this.

For cardio I only had the kayaking, which was 2 1/2 hours on the Youghigheny River. My girlfriend did more rowing than me, but 7 miles of kayaking is not insubstantial for cardio. Still, it was bad to neglect running for such a long period of time. Several meetup activities and work in general kept me off my game for the other rest days.

Cycle 5: High Intensity & Stability

Period: July 27th – August 2nd
Rest Days: 3

This workout cycle is dedicated to pause reps, working exercises that demand more stability or use unused muscle groups and focusing on using high intensity principles to get more out of the weight. However it is diminished weight, and it follows 3 other weeks of diminished weight training. So again this appeared to be a programming problem that drove the point further home that I need revisions. I returned to doing flat bench pressing during workout B, which was the first time in a while. I am still very cautious on the bench due to the shoulder issues, but feel much better now. Workout on dev day (workout D) was with a friend, so it just kind of was whatever it happened to be but the focus was rear delts and biceps.

The only cardio this cycle was a short 1.3 mile run to the gym and 1.3 miles back on workout D. Very concerned about the slacking here.

Cycle 6: Pure Strength

Period: August 3rd – 10th
Rest Days: 3

The final cycle here was heavier than usual lifting and it was used at the gauge to determine where I stand in terms of increasing the max estimates used for the whole next mesocycle’s worth of lifts. Workout A was rough and made me afraid I had not made any progress deadlifting, but workout B showed me that perhaps it was just how I felt that particular workout. I do however believe the long period in the middle of this plan at lower weight levels is impacting my deadlift progress, so again need to change it a bit. Workout B showed my decline bench press is still very strong, and that I’m still a little nervous about standard bench pressing in comparison just yet. Workout C had me hit a new Front Squat PR, which is awesome and felt great. Between Workouts B-C I had a nice 3.7 mile run in the rain through the hills of Boyce Park.

For cardio, the Boyce Park trail run of 3.7 miles and a followup hour and a half hike of 3-3.5 miles again through Boyce Park was it. Still lagging behind in terms of mileage.

Optional: Deload Cycle

After this was over, I did workouts A, B & C at deload weight levels (60%-70% of one rep maxes). I used the new estimated training maxes to do these lifts. The deload felt good, and came at a good time because it let me recollect myself to deal with outside stresses (work mainly).

I also got out for some more normal level training runs, a 5.28 mile on my half marathon training loop in Frick Park and 6.14 mile run in Monroeville Community Park on a familiar loop there. I thing improving my mileage was the biggest bonus of this deload cycle, as I felt I had more energy for the running with the lower demand on my lifts.

Conclusions & Progression Updates

Alright so my new training maxes, which are theoretical but realistically projected one rep maxes are as follows:

Deadlift: 330lbs (previously 325, tested one rep max is 315)
Stated Goal: 400lbs verified one rep max

Front Squat: 195lbs (previously 185, tested one rep max is 185)
Stated Goal: 225lbs verified one rep max

Bench Press: 190lbs (previously 185, tested one rep max is 175)
Stated Goal: 225lbs verified one rep max

Gotta push numbers forward to encourage progressive overload. I am cautious to push myself on the flat bench press due to shoulder issues, but they feel better and as I integrate it more, that caution will wear away. I will still be decline bench pressing primarily for one more cycle, however, swapping it out as I feel appropriate.

As for problems, well as noted above I felt the program has too much time in sub-optimal weight levels. I’d rather do fewer reps at higher weights to acclimate myself to improving better, than have a lot of the lower volume stuff. I also recalibrated reps and sets to fit more in line with other major weight lifting plans and the suggestions outlined from Prilepin’s Chart, a chart of sets to reps and optimal loadouts as determined by Soviet scientists studying Olympic weightlifters. After the revisions, I’ve seriously changed the periodization of my plan. I kept what I felt worked, and threw out what didn’t.

So the new plan which I call Phase 2.1 is still periodized into “cycles” like above which all estimate to being about a week (so 6 weeks) and still have the same A, B, C & D plans. Cycle 1 is still conditioning, with sets/reps revised. Cycle 2 is still hypertrophy, and I’m making my accessory work during this week the high intensity loadout and tweaked the main lift volume as well. The third cycle is Stability & Control where I will do the pause reps and supporting exercises, which is the last sub 80%-cycle in the plan (so only two weeks worth of plans in the sub-80% lifting category). The rest is decided to throw in the rest of what I like into a heavier lifting plan – Cycle 4 is a second set of conditioning exercises mixed in with explosive speed lifts at the end at lighter weights (but high volume). Expecting this to burn. Cycle 5 is intended to get me ready to lift heavier, and Cycle 6 like the existing cycle 6 is pure strength and lifts intended to help me project new training maxes for the next full rotation.

Another big recurring problem (which has been with me since the end of the half marathon in spring) is the fact that especially during this training period I’ve really been neglecting the cardio. I really need to pick it up to be ready for future races I have planned. If I don’t improve my regularity soon, I fear going into next year I won’t have the conditioning to do fat loss without substantially cutting back the calorie intake (which will further slow my lifting) and possibly not have enough training to consider trying a second half marathon race or trying to complete the Rachel Carson Challenge. I look forward to Phase 2.1’s revisions, and think it’ll make for a much better experience. We’ll see though how this goes and where life takes me! Thanks for reading.

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Exercise Log 7.4.14 (Front Squat & Bench Press Day + Cardio)

Okay, it’s been a while since I typed up a meaningful workout log most of them are backlogged these days a week and a half and I’m rushing through logging them. I do keep them on the website, deep in here, but don’t syndicate them to the front page or Facebook or anything as to prevent routine annoyance.

Anyways, today was Front Squat and Bench Press day, my second cycle of my second 6-week rotation of my program. I tweaked volume of my secondary lift because I realized the secondary lift was doing as much lifting as the primary lift, which makes no sense would rather save more energy for the main lift.

I had noticed a chronic problem with my squat, with the form in tipping forward and failing to get hips to actually go very low. Thanks to Jonnie Candito of CanditoTrainingHQ I managed to get a good view as to what I need to do to fix this. What worked for me came in this video, mainly to look up but also to just focus on changing the back to be more straight up and down, which is kind of hard to do mentally until you see it and practice a little. It’s so easy with a movement like a squat to just do what comes natural and develop form deficiencies thankfully filming myself on my phone has been an aid in finding those.

Here is the video I mentioned…

Keep the back upright, it is a stronger position by default so even though it might not feel right at first, it definitely will feel stronger.

Alright, and with that out of the way I felt real good about this workout. To reinforce the newer form, I applied similar principles to the back squat and used that as a secondary leg workout, which felt and went really good.

Remember this week is about hypertrophy, so it’s about higher volumes (6-12 reps mostly, not as high as some do but my preferred range on a lot of exercises) at lighter weight levels. I use these old logs to make sure I’m following the principles of progressive overload when I go into the workouts day to day and it’s helping a lot. So ignore my spam if you ever review my workout logs on my site.

Front Squat: Set 1) 10 reps @ 110lbs. Set 2) 8 reps @ 130lbs. Set 3) 8 reps @ 140lbs. Set 4) 5 reps @ 150lbs.

Decline Bench Press: Set 1) 12 reps @ 110lbs. Set 2) 9 reps @ 130lbs. Set 3) 6 reps @ 140lbs. Set 4) 3 reps @ 80lbs.

Angled Leg Press / Calf Raises: 4 sets of 12 reps each @ 270lbs.

Back Squats: 3 sets of 5 reps @ 165lbs.

Stiff-Legged Deadlifts: 4 sets of 10 reps @ 100lbs.

Cardio today was a fun run outdoors at Frick Park. It was a great day for it, ran 4 miles and felt real good. My cardio as stated fell off the wagon after the half marathon. I notice even a slight loss in running training can produce a huge drop in performance. I find it odd how tempermental endurance training for cardio can be in comparison to the more consistent but slower results of strength training. Still I’m working on it and planning to not skip quite so much of my cardio in the future.

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Exercise Log 6.21.14 (Rachel Carson Challenge – Failure)

Flunked out of the Rachel Carson Challenge this year, had poor choice in footwear (used an old pair of boots I never used for hiking before due to concerns with mud and traction and their worn out soles were like hiking on sandpaper) and my feet were bloody and spent by the second checkpoint, after which I bowed out and hitched a ride back to my car. I only made it 18 miles out of the 34.7, little past halfway.

I consider all cardio to just be training for my general fitness goals including races and challenges like this, so I just look at this like another instance of training to failure. Had I done any training preparation though I would’ve found out the problem with my shoes, as well as the bag I used to haul my supplies with me (of course I brought too much thinking it’d not be an issue, but spending half the trek fumbling with the bag was a nuisance).

Lessons learned, I will be sure to try this again someday but only when I have the right preparation. I do however have this crappy Sheetz selfie to show for it, with me looking pretty much totally miserable.

I’ll look better next time, but it might be a while before I hop back on that beastly trail.

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Exercise Log 6.17.14 (Deadlift & Front Squat Day)

So begins the 6th and final cycle of my 6 week/cycle program. I’m really enjoying the progress of the program so far and feel like I’m making steady gains. The structure of the program is fun, and I love that as I go I get to tweak and make it better. One chronic issue of the program so far is my first and second workout days often do deadlifts a little too close together, but that’s not so big an issue honestly. At least not for now. I may tweak the lifting pattern though to accommodate it better if I can’t get a rest day inbetween those two workouts more often.

So today was heavy lifting day, and for the first time I decided since I’m going to go to near maximal loads (above 90% of my one rep max) that I’d wear a belt. This is my first time wearing a belt, I can’t say I like it, but it definitely adds to core stability. I would certainly wear a belt for weeks like this where I’m lifting at near my max, or for competitions, but I don’t want to rely on it for every lift.

Belt looks good on me though, maybe I should just get one to fashionably accessorize.

One thing I felt was I could feel how much more solid my core was and it almost felt like it might be easier to grind part of my back up with that extra friction. It doesn’t exist when you rely on your natural weight belt, your transversus abdominus & thoracolumbar fascia. I feel better lifting without it, but I know for anytime I’m going very heavy close to my max, I probably should get in the habit of using it.

So once this last week of workouts is over, I’ll be starting my next workout rotation by figuring out a new “training” max rep range. This will increase the base weight of all the next 6 weeks worth of workouts. I figure after I’ve completed the second mesocycle I should have a week of actualization – try to hit new real maxes. So this means I won’t be doing max rep attempts only but once every 3 months, which I think is a good format. I may deload after this week is done or may just start the next 6 week cycle, not sure will play that by ear.

Enough jibba-jabber, on to my log of an excellent workout. Cycle 6 is acclimation to heavier weight. So I’ll be going straight to the pork belly, ham.

Deadlifts: Set 1) 5 reps @ 255lbs (80.9% of my One Rep Max). Set 2) 3 reps @ 270lbs (85.7% ORM). Set 3) 2 reps @ 285lbs (90.4% ORM). The final set was intended to be to failure… Set 4) 2 reps @ 300lbs (95.2% ORM). I almost hit a third rep on this. My performance at this level will determine how much I will bump up my training number I use for a one rep max.

I’m going to estimate a new training max of 325lbs for my deadlift, based on how this set and cycle have gone so far. This number will be used for future weight calculations for my next cycle. After my next 6-week cycle I’m going to do a week of actualization, to find out if my one rep max estimates reflect reality.

Front Squats: Set 1) 3 reps @ 150lbs (85.7% ORM). Set 2) 3 reps @ 155lbs (88.5% ORM). Set 3) 3 reps @ 160lbs (91.4% ORM).

1-Armed Dumbbell Rows: 3 sets of 8 reps @ 80lbs, this felt real good, but was difficult.

Bent Over Rows (Barbell) / Pendlay Rows: 5 reps BOR rows / 3 reps pendlay rows @ 165lbs. This weight level was too high to get very good form out of the exercises, but I was intending to test my heavy limits. The lifts above expended a lot of my energy, so that was a factor to these sets not being ideal.

Tire Flips: Wanted something strength focused and what is better than 3 sets of 6 flips with the heaviest tire available.

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Exercise Log 6.12.14 (Cardio Only)

Today was a rest day and I regret not doing much cardio, just hasn’t fit into my lifestyle as much lately. I want to go into the 5K this week hitting it hard, so I needed to test myself. So I did a training run on the treadmill because the weather was awful. The treadmill was new to me (first time I used the treadmills at the new gym), which sucked because it had stop buttons in stupid places. Ran 2.1 miles close to my 5K pace (8 min/mile) then in an attempt to take a brief rest I hit the stop by accident. Ran another mile haggardly after getting the machine on and off and decided it’d be better to finish with a couple hard sprints. Did one .25 mile lap at max speed (10mph, 6 min/mile) then did another .125 mile sprint at 9mph.

After that which was a total of maybe 40 mins with some legs of walking and a few minutes of warming up to start I hit the speed bag/heavy bag room for 10 minutes. Just trying to learn the rhythm of the speed bag work, felt like I did a real good job there. Went after that heavy bag hard, sticking and moving as much as I can, but I’m no pro boxer. Still, you learn by doing so I figure if I keep this up, maybe I can add a more serious kind of boxing training to the program. We’ll see. Or perhaps I’ll just call it light cardio with stress relief.

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Exercise Log 6.10.14 (Deadlift & Front Squat Day, No Cardio)

Alright, another Deadlift/Front Squat day begins cycle 5, a higher intensity training cycle. For this cycle I’ll be focused on applying some of the high intensity principles to make the reps mean more. Some of that will be slowing the cadence, some of that will be pausing the reps and some of that will be defraying as much momentum from the movement as possible. I’m not literally going to failure which some people might consider a flaw in the programming, but my goal is to simply learn the process and to push myself harder than if I was simply doing regular speed heavy resistance.

Here for example is a training video with Mike Mentzer (a chief advocate of high intensity) teaching his style of deadlifting.

Notice his slower cadence defrays all the momentum, the weight he’s doing is light but he’s seriously expending his muscular energies. This is what I was shooting for with this training cycle.

At first, I wasn’t sure if I picked the right weight level and I did tweak the program a bit, but I think I ultimately made the right choice.

For the primary lift in this cycle, I’m going to do 3 sets of high intensity-style reps (controlled, pausing where possible, slow tempo, no momentum) with the primary lift being followed up with a drop set at the final weight to failure (calling this “bonus round”). Then the secondary lift is going to have a climbing failure, 2 reps at +5% until I just lose form. I actually think my next cycle I’ll reverse that because I prefer the climbing reps first.

So again, lower weight levels than normal, but should produce a new type of response. I feel real good about this training cycle.

Deadlift (No Momentum): 3 sets of 5 reps @ 225lbs (71.4% ORM). Then bonus round reps to failure: 6 reps @ 225lbs.

Front Squats (Pause 2-second): 3 sets of 5 reps @ 105lbs (60% ORM). Then climbing sets to failure: 2 reps @ 115lbs. 2 reps @ 125lbs. 2 reps @ 135lbs. 2 reps @ 145lbs.

1-Armed Dumbbell Rows (No Momentum): 3 sets of 8 reps each arm @ 60lbs. Noticed these got real difficult after rep 6 just from the longer time under tension and lack of pulling momentum. I really focused on using the upper back and rear shoulder to pull up rather than sort of use body momentum to get the weight up a little faster.

Iso-Lateral DY Lateral Row Machine (No Momentum): Not sure what the DY stands for, but I just wanted a plate loaded back row to hop on and this worked great. Again went light with a total of 93lbs and focused on higher intensity style reps. 3 sets of 10 reps @ 93lbs.

Sumo Deadlifts: Part of one thing I believe in training as part of the high intensity cycle is one stability exercise, and I feel like the best way to stabilize yourself is to train yourself in a way that is a new variation of your main lift. I found these real hard since I do NOT do sumo deadlifts often. Really worked my glutes here. 3 sets of 3 reps @ 275lbs. Was real hard though, did a lot of individual reps.

I normally would add a leg exercise, but ran short on time. Great workout day though.

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