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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 administrator, computer tech, fitness nerd, dad of 3 and once-passed bill writer. I believe in challenging the myths of modern America with nuanced thinking and open minded discourse.

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 and Office Depot/OfficeMax. 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. My hometown is Greenville, MI where most of my family is located. Currently I enjoy a career with a great local IT company.

This is a home for my personal ideas, projects, fitness logs and other nonsense. Follow me on Facebook for pointless asides and hashtag parades!

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Exercise Log 10.26.13 (Jack o’ Lantern Jog ’13)

Alright today had a pretty fun time, just thought I’d make a short record of how I performed for the first of the two 5K’s I’d been training for. This one was the Jack o’ Lantern Jog that took place out in Canonsburg, PA. My pacing was sorted out by this time and I had experienced the weather with my previous day’s jog, but I gotta admit work didn’t leave me a ton of time for a good night’s rest. The race weather was extremely windy and cold, the wind just made it a bit stinging.

Still that wasn’t really the issue with the race. This particular course has 2 miles solid uphill, pretty steep at that, with 1 mile downhill again fairly steeply. So uphill was a bit brutal, I didn’t know just how much uphill I’d be doing so I tried to not overextert myself climbing. Then when the downhill section finally came, I couldn’t make up for the lost ground because going too fast downhill was just not as easy to maintain stability. So my end time was 26:49, about 2 minutes slower than my Boyce park race. My BPM was average 170, peak 184, showing I pushed myself as hard but I was limited in keeping the heart rate up because of the downhill sections (which kept my heart rate low as the challenge was less pushing myself forward, gravity was doing that, and more not falling on my face). I expect on a flatter course I’ll hit my 5K time and exceed it, but we’ll find that out next week at my next 5K (and possibly last for the year given how cold it’s getting)!

The race had awards for almost everyone, they broke up age groups to 5 year increments which to me is far too little for anything other than a race maybe of 1000+ people. So in my age group, I was third, which is nice and all and I got a little bronze award thingy, but I felt it was novelty. I did a good job, but could’ve done better had I known more about the course… that’s all I took from today’s race performance wise.

A handful of pics being posted to Flickr:


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Exercise Log 10.24.13 (Chest Day + Cardio)

Today was another “beginning again” day for me at the gym, this time with chest work instead of the squat work I had done the day before. My focus today was the bench press, and trying to wean myself off the smith machine.

Chest day is a fun day for me because it’s all about hitting the chest heavy from all sorts of directions and I always get a crazy pump that makes my pectorals get all bloated up with blood like the belly of an overfed mosquito. However one thing is I’m trying to train my neurological system to deal with more complicated movements. Now for a beginning body builder/strength trainer, moving from simpler movements like pushups to bench presses is a little intimidating. I don’t bench press anything of note (my upper body is underdeveloped from years of atrophy from a sedentary lifestyle that only ended two years ago, I’m trying to improve but it takes time) but for the last few months I began the bench pressing movement with the smith machine and feel like I learned a lot so far.

One of the real hurdles is I’m pretty anti-social at the gym, not with people I come with naturally or people I otherwise somehow meet and get to know, but with the random people I’m absolutely someone who just doesn’t interact well. I’m not saying I hate people, I just am very focused on me and learning the lessons I enjoy learning in the gym on my own terms. I feel like I just digest info better that way, firsthand. Not with someone else making comments, or interfering with my rhythm. So this is reflected most in learning the bench press. For one, at my gym the weight floor is very busy. I simply don’t like competing for bench spots when the floor is active because people will periodically want to “work in” with you. What that means is they expect you to just stop after a set, and let them have a turn. I hate long waits between sets, feel like it makes my workout less intense to have more than 45-60 seconds rest time. Also too, the smith machine is appealing because when you get on it, you can literally do all the benching you want and it’s not heavily contested machinery and they have three smith machines there… so really I can just keep using it as much as I want. Lastly though is the safety issue. Of all the exercises in the gym I feel I need a spot for, the bench press is the top one. The bar can do so many things when you fail a rep, and the one time I tried to bench press (the first time I tried the motion at all) I failed on a rep and it required someone else to jump in and “save” me. Always awkward in the gym.

However, as I grew I noticed a few things. One with learning about deadlifting and squats, I learned that there are so many elements to the complex motion that mean so much more for your body in the exercises to have the free, heavy weight. You can’t get a good deadlift from the smith machine, for instance, despite being able to emulate the movement it just doesn’t work. I ultimately came to the conclusion that while the smith machine might be a nice way to test upper limits of my bench strength, I don’t think it’s good for the standard movement anymore. I need to learn the conventional bench press. The second thing I noticed from observation was that day to day there are a TON of people who use the bench press safely, without a spotter, and without issue. At first I felt like it was just big gigantic guys who were doing this, but ultimately I realized it was people of all difficultly levels.

So I decided to look online and learned there are two key elements to a “safe” bench press without assistance. One is the form, you simply need to be practicing good bench form. While I pieced together the form matters before the workout with a series of videos, after I got home I found one video from Scott Herman that really just laid down all the form issues in one short concise video that I’ll share here…

Scott Herman demonstrates good form bench pressing

The second real big issue is learning what to do with the weight when things go… well not as planned. Well the first, and best and most safe thing to do is to set up the bench inside a power rack (one with adjustable bars to support the weight). Set the bars at just chest level or slightly below, then when you go too high, you can adjust slightly or deflate your chest and let it rest on the supports. Well this is good and great but my gym has one power rack, and I’m not tying it up for a ridiculously long time doing benching… it’s really primarily there for people to do squats. I honestly thing our gym needs two of these racks but that’s a whole different post. On top of that, I need to hit inclines and declines and the power rack supported bench press is not as easily swapped to those. So then you have the standard inclined/declined/flat benches with no special supports, just a rack and a secondary pin in case you can’t quite get to the top pin and that’s it.

Well if you lose control of the weight, the most likely thing that will happen is it’ll come down on your chest and you’ll just be stuck. Well for one, if that happens you can probably call for a spot but there is two things you could do solo without bugging someone else to save yourself. For one, if you don’t collar the weight you can tilt the bar to the left or right and let the weight plate slide off. This is uncomfortable and the resulting *CLANG* is bound to make you look like an ass to everyone else on the weight floor, but done in a controlled fashion you will prevent yourself from hurting yourself and will be able to get back up and reset yourself. Now you might ask “but that means you’re doing all your bench pressing without weight plates being collared to the bar, isn’t that dangerous?” Well I thought so too, then I thought on it. Really if you’re being safe AT ALL in the bench press, your gestures are controlled and the weights won’t be slipping around… and if you’re trying to press something you can’t control that easily, then you’re talking about simply pressing too much. You kind of have to know where you really stand with the bench press to know one way or another, and that’s the real issue, not whether or not it’s “good” to have the weight uncollared.

The second way to dump weight, which made me feel a lot safer just knowing about it, is the “roll of shame”. When you fail your press and you don’t have the strength to lift the weight back up to the rack, all you have to do is roll the bar down your abdomen to your hips, and sit up. As you sit up and eventually shift to stand up, the bar goes into a deadlifted hold and it gives you a safe way to set the weight back down to get everything reset. This video demonstrates the technique readily.

Home alone with a scary weight… keep calm, tuck & roll

So with this in my mind I decided I’m going to get off the smith machine today, and hopefully for a while except for exceptionally heavy pressing, and learn the bench press right. Well I think I did good but I only did so with exceedingly little weight. I knew the number one point of safety was simply knowing your limits, and I even started every new angled press with a bare bar. I knew from the smith machine what was going to be “too much” and as I expected, less weight “felt” heavier in the free weight environment because my body had to work all it’s stabilizers to keep it in position. After finishing off incrementing sets, my max weight I think was a mere 115lbs (laugh all you will, I’m still learning the movement) I dropped the weight down to something lighter even and did a lot of extra reps to help reinforce the pattern. All said I was very happy and felt like I did a good job of focusing on the chest area with the presses which is the goal of this exercise in my routine.

After the bench press lessons, I continued my workout with dumbbell flys. I started with a standing low dumbbell fly to work the lower pecs. Then I did an inclined fly keeping sure to keep my chest neutral and not to engage in thoracic extension because I knew if I did so, it’d neutralize the angle at which I was really hitting my chest, and effectively hit my upper chest (my upper chest is pretty well defined actually which is a hard area for a lot of people to hit so I’m lucky, if anything my chest issues are namely that the bottom more “mass” heavy part of the chest isn’t filled in very well). Then I did flat bench dumbbell flys to hit the central part of the chest. After this I was feeling froggy and felt it was time to do something heavier with some good volume, so I nabbed some 50lb dumbbells and went to the floor to do some chest pressing. I did quite a lot of presses and felt pretty good about that. Then I wrapped up with hitting crossover cable flys (I call these “pledge of allegiance” flys because I hold one hand over the pec being worked, to feel it compress because the rope machine based exercises are hard to isolate the right muscle). I also made sure to do completely upright shoulder presses with a focus on the elbow mechanics to work the uppermost chest muscles… the only thing I forgot today was an extreme low angle chest exercise, and something simple like pushups to really round it out. I felt like my pump was really good, so it was all good.

If anyone has the patience to read any of these exercise logs, they’ll know I’m training for a 5K. Thankfully my gym running buddy who is awesome showed up and we got in an incredible run. I did a total of 4 miles, but I kept the 3.1 miles at my 5K pace successfully (after failing twice, first at 2.3 miles and then at 2.5 miles) and off the record books I improved my 5K time by 40 seconds tonight. I’m hoping it pans out to an even bigger improvement on race day. My running partner is not as fast a runner as me (although she could easily be, she’s a much more natural runner than I am but that’s a rant for another day) so while I waited for her to complete her 3 miles, I spent the last mile running intervals. Doing a walking rest, a short run then a one minute “hard” run. Doing this already expended beyond my run let me know that I have more emergency energy than I expected, so maybe if things go well in the race I can tap that in the last few minutes and really pound the pavement. We’ll see!

Lastly, didn’t forget to stretch tonight! Got myself a nice stretch in all parts of my legs feeling nice and limber. Going to take a day off tomorrow (maybe do a fasted morning walk but that’d be it) and then carboload myself up. I’m thinking pancakes and fruit for breakfast, panera bread sammich/pastry for lunch and pizza hut pasta/pizza for dinner. Might cost me an arm and a leg, but it should add a little boot scoot to my boogey. Again… we’ll see!

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Exercise Log 10.23.13 (Ab & Fun Day, No Cardio)

Quick note from the latest exercise routine. Today was Fun Day which by default is ab work with a “challenge”. I’ve been absorbing information about squatting and trying to make myself a better squatter, so today I was calling for a special “squat-topia” training day for my challenge.

Short story on squatting and me is that I’m working on both my front and my back squats, with my main focus on depth and form. I like the olympic style form, where the focus is on more upright action, thoracic extension, and not having to deal with the more “sloppy” high weight powerlifting forms that have a lot of hip action and back movement.

My goal for squats is twofold, first purely to work my legs and I feel my form that I chose is best for that and my secondary goal is to lift a lot but to feel I’ve mastered a difficult form method to do so. Deciding how much “a lot” is can be difficult for someone starting, though. I’ve sort of come to the opinion that I’ll never be big enough to compete professionally so having that powerlifting form which in my opinion is an exercise that has a lot of weak elements but lets you press more weight, is just not appealing to me.

I’ve been spending a lot of time this week thinking about front squatting as you may have gleaned from my previous updates. After what I consider a squat disaster on my last leg day, I wanted to just have a day to think and reset a lot of my thinking about the whole squat action. Training the nervous system is an important part to successful squatting due to the complications of the movement so doing that means doing high volume at the best weight you can do at what you’d regard as “perfect” form. Which for me is not much at all, but I’m a newbie so that’s to be expected.

One thing I learned this week was that aside from the clean grip and the powerlifting grip, there is a third method of gripping the bar for front squats that can be used involving wrist straps.

Christian Thibaudeau demonstrates the three generally accepted means of gripping the bar for front squats

So the wrist strap one is not one I’ve tried due to simply not having wrist straps. I headed to the sporting goods store and found wrist straps are only $12, so snagged a pair and headed into the gym. Quiet day at the gym so I picked a good day to hog the equipment I think, as the gym has only one power squat rack (it has two open ended standard squat racks that today I wanted to stay away from). To warm up I did a squat I hadn’t tried before but heard a lot about as being a good squat to get you into the movement pattern for heavy squatting, the goblet squat. Incoming another Youtube video to show what I mean…

Scott Herman demonstrates the Goblet Squat

This was I felt a real great exercise to get me warmed up and ready to squat, as well as it emphasized thoracic extension as the weight is kept forward on the chest, which as I noted before is important for the type of squatting I tend to prefer. I went a little higher in weight for a few sets until I felt ready to get in the power squat rack.

After the cage was ready with the pins and bars in the proper place, I made sure the side bars were nice and low by doing a few trial squats with the bar barbell. Then I was eager to try the strap clean grip so I laced up the barbell and did a few rackings and unrackings with the straps. This felt pretty good and I did a set of those just to be sure I felt good about it. I started with very low weight throughout the entire exercise just because I’m learning and testing my limits right now, I wasn’t happy with all the realizations I made today but I’m happy to have made them, if that makes any sense. So I started with 95 total lbs (including bar) to start, that’s merely the bar and two 25lb plates.

After several sets of this, I felt pretty good that I was learning the wrist strap grip and went up in weight. I did a few reps only to find that even a minor increase in weight at this level (an extra 10 on each side for a total of 115lbs) was nearing my maximum. I feel like my body is strong enough to do more, but I’m still learning the neural path of this movement so it just is too much for my body to activate everything to make more happen. So I pushed it harder and then thinking maybe I’d be better with a clean grip, tried that after dropping 10 total pounds (105lb).

Things I learned about straps vs. clean grip… the strap grip definitely was easier and better on my elbows, and I noticed as I fatigued or had a few jerky movements displace the bar slightly as I pushed myself harder, all that is required to “fix” it with the strap grip is pulling up real tight until the bar re-nestles itself back on that groove the deltoids have. That said though the bar felt like it was a little more loose in this grip than the clean grip. I have decent shoulder and wrist flexion, so the clean grip with three fingers just feels very solid. However as I push myself, I have less shifting issues and more issues with having the pressure of the elbows and wrists dip down my thoracic extension of my chest (for those who don’t know what I mean by that, I mean basically puffing your chest out to keep your upper torso upright) and I’d dip forward a little which I’d have to fix by thrusting the arms upright again. That’s fine, but if I get to where I’m pushing much heavier weight, it’ll be undue stress.

So both grips had their advantage and honestly, as I continued I switched between them. Using the straps to warm myself up, then doing a few clean grips to continue. I liked this and once I did a few more sets of pressing to find the balance of where my strength was, I dropped the weight to 85lbs and did a couple more sets of high volume. This is where I’m hoping to reinforce the behavior.

Taking a little break from that I came back to work on back squats. As said before my goal is to have a more upright back squat than most, considered a “high bar” squat. However my form did break and slip into a “low bar” squat quite a bit. Both squats are acceptable but I prefer the high bar stance because worst case scenario you break from the high stance into the low stance, but if you’re already in a low bar stance and you break form further than that, your back basically caves in and you go down. Something I learned while thinking about it, and I tried to start every squat at this level with thoracic extension engaged again still.

I noticed right away that I was not able to back squat what I was before on the other squat racks with the higher resting pivots. I felt like if anything, it was the exact same weight level as the front squat. Of course this was a form issue, I was going for a more olympic style of back squat which involves more upright action which in many ways is similar to the front squatting I was doing. That said I settled on being able to press probably 10lb more this way. Not a ton, but enough to feel like I did good work. Again I focused on volume, doing a modest amount upfront in several sets (this time 105lb), then doing heavier sets (115lb), then dropping the weight to a low 85lb and doing two sets of higher volume.

So it was a learning experience that I enjoyed. Key things I noticed were issues. One as I pressed up my back would arch and I’d sometimes break down a little bit into pressing the back upright again, I found if I engaged in thoracic extension by puffing the chest out and resetting that I avoided it. Second was I felt like my upper back was weak, and I felt a tendency for the shoulders to round. I fought it almost the entire workout, but I realized by the end that I would’ve performed better if those muscles were stronger. The key muscles in question are the scapula adductors, the ones that pinch together the shoulder blades. So that will be a key muscle to work heavy on in my next back workout. To work on the thoracic extension, I decided to go to the open squat rack and do some clean grip isometric holds… that is grab the barbell with a lot more weight than I intended to try to squat, grab it with a clean grip, and just hold it. Held it for about a minute before I felt like I had to put it down. 4 sets of this and I feel like my ability to hold it was worked out nicely.

I also decided to set some goals for future improvement. My first goal is to front squat 200lbs with this form, and back squat 225. No timetable because the body will proceed at it’s own pace but it’d be nice if I could do this in a year… which is nice to have goals in this to go with my deadlifting goal of hitting 400lbs. We’ll see how it goes!

Feeling like I needed a good ab workout too, I found and snagged this recent Youtube post from Mike Chang and executed it. It’s a simple, 100 rep ab workout you can do easily in 5-10 minutes with no real gear. Just get on the floor and properly work each section of abs. Great ab workout.

Mike Chang shows off a simple 100 rep ab workout, try it!

Tried to have some cardio afterwards by executing an M100, but felt both wrist and shoulder strain as I started. I’d have pushed myself into doing it anyways, but it’s flu season and a lot of people around me are getting sick, so I’m not pushing myself too hard in exercises hope it keeps my immune system up to fight off the pathogens out there. I’ll get a good run in tomorrow to compensate for it I’m sure.

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Exercise Log 10.22.13 (Arm Day + Cardio)

Typical arm day so this log will be short. Got to the gym late today (took another midday nap in my car) and it was packed, all of Monroeville seemed overly busy today for whatever reason.

After warming up I hit a curl bar, started heavy (for me) with a 70lb curl bar and did some basic curls, then got down and did some tricep/chest presses from the floor (4 sets, 6-8 reps for the curls and 10 for the presses). Felt like this was a good start so I grabbed some 30lb dumbbells, heavier than I normally use for this step and did my fully wrist pronated to supinated bicep curls (my favorite replacement for hammer curls) superset with tricep kickbacks (4 sets again 8 reps for the curls 10 for the kickbacks). Decided to keep the momentum going by doing some 21’s paired with french presses from the floor. For what I mean by both, I first link a video by Scooby for his “21’s” exercise and then a link from Scott Herman showing the french press (skullcrushers), I do them on the floor though which is a tip I got from Scooby. Good to see how these different tips all congeal into a workout routine.

Scooby explains 21’s

Scott Herman illustrates the french press

Honestly I would do this part on the bench, but the damn gym gets too busy for that. It gave my triceps a hell of a burn though especially after the kickbacks. So after this I hit up a heavy concentration curl with a few forced negatives (not many) on a 40lb dumbbell, with tricep overhead presses (6 reps curls, 12 reps overhead press, 4 sets). Then yet another superset, my favorite for a great muscle pump, bosu ball balanced overhand grip curls on a lighter weight curl bar (10 reps) with overhead tricep curl bar presses (12 reps) for 4 sets. This got a little difficult as I proceeded, maybe fatigue or just the balancing ball added in it’s factor, but I tried to keep my focus and keep pushing.

Still wasn’t done yet though, got some overhead rope machine bicep curls (from above the plane of my shoulders to the back of my head), 4 sets of that then 4 sets on the same machine of rope handled pulldowns for triceps. Then, lastly, wrapped up with 4 sets of chin-ups (7 reps) superset with tricep dips (7 reps) making sure to keep my body vertical as much as possible for the dips to focus on the tricep area and I definitely noticed the focus doing this.

Can’t forget some cardio, I did 2 1/2 miles at my 5K goal pace, tapped myself out a little early and had a handful of walking breaks, feel like my conditioning is wearing out a little. Hoping though the runs like the one tonight will keep me primed enough to beat my 5K time though. We’ll see!

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Fall ’13 Schenley Park Picture Tour


Decided to have a fun hike through Schenley Park to appreciate the beautiful fall weather!

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Exercise Log 10.20.13 (Leg Day + Cardio)

Today was a bit frustrating at the gym definitely, perhaps it was just low energy or a shitty night’s sleep last night due to carpal tunnel pain, but it was very rough. After my leg warmups which went well, I got started with squats. Starting with the front squat, my focus was twofold, one to emphasise the depth of my squat and two to practice everything I’d learned about the clean grip to keep a solid “shelf” with my delts to support the bar. The shelf was pretty good, I start by heading up to the center of the bar and lining it up with the notch in my neck. Then pressing my body forward I engage in thoracic extension (chest upright) and shrug my traps to bring my shoulders directly up. This creates the deltoid “shelf” the key being, and it took a few weeks to learn this, to shrug the shoulders high enough to actually raise the deltoid shelf level above the collar bone (you don’t want any part of the bar resting on the collar bone unless you want a bruised collar bone at the end of your workout). I felt real confident with this, but when I proceeded to squat I felt like my depth was horribly shitty. I would fold forward and barely reach parallel position.

So I went up in weight until I felt like I had done enough weight-wise to challenge myself eventually falling flat on my ass trying to get deeper. This was a bit embarassing as the guy working out next to me decided to offer me some squat tips (encouraging me to use the bodybuilder grip which I feel weakens my thoracic extension, also my issue wasn’t the grip I felt good there my real issue was the squat depth). All said though, his advice did wind up being useful as he showed me the deltoid shelf by lining his arms straight out and I found it easier to line up the delts this way and found you can load either the clean grip or the bodybuilder grip this way if you want. Still… doing so bad I get unsolicited advice is always awkward. Determined to learn more I reracked for lighter weight and started back squats. I was also aiming to change my back squats by adopting a more “olympic” upright style, as it’s leg day olympic style squats both ways tend to be more leg-centric with less back movement. However I felt like I failed that too and without getting low enough.

Frustrated with the depth issue… especially not more than three days ago I made it a point to practice my depth at home… I reracked for an especially light weight and went to town clear away from the squat rack. That was when my squat exercise really kicked off, doing some legit ass to the ground squats and relifting every lift from a completely dead position it helped me mentally feel more in charge of the squats and I know now I can go deep, I just need to restart a lot of my squat training from a much lighter weight level. So my “squatpocalypse” leg workout will now be two tiers in the future… “heavy” mid-level squats where my only goal is to get close to the rack without losing stability, and then lighter “ass to the ground” low level squats.

I notice these issues are mostly neuromuscular… it’s hard to take my neural energy and flush all the muscles in the right succession to make the complicated movement happen. So I feel like this plan will help me greatly improve the neurological issues as well as increase my overall strength in the motion. Now after squatpocalypse ended, I decided to try a new kind of lunge which is a squat variation called a “deadlift split squat”. Basically holding the bar underneath my legs you lunge to lean down over it. Then you do a standard lunge drawing the barbell up into your crotch area. It’s actually better than a lunge, because time under tension is constant as you never truly peak your movement (unless you like to crush your balls). I found it easier to do with 45lb plates due to their taller standing position, just easier to grab and pull than a barbell with smaller weights. For a nice video of how to do deadlifted split squats, check out this Testosterone Nation video.

Having had my fill of the barbell area and the frustration that goes along with it, I decided to head to the vertical leg press which always makes me feel good. Well almost always! I did a solid set of increased weight repetitions superset with calf repetitions. I found that holding the back of the seat not only stabilizes my body, but squeezing my abs allows me to transfer arm energy down through my trunk into my legs, to help give a more solid “oomph” to push the weight up… I encourage anyone doing vertical leg press machine to try it. Took a quick snap of the rack on the press before I reracked the weights…


That made me feel a bit better after the squatsaster earlier, but I knew I needed to at the very least hit my glutes pretty well. Glutes have a lot of primary functions that are neglected so I’m going for nice and strong ones. I started warming up on the hip extension press machine with a few short sets (2-3 reps) at near max weight, then quickly went up to max weight and went in patterns of sets of 2 presses on each leg, 3 sets in a row then a break. I did this an unknown amount of times I sort of lost track, and made sure to end with a quicker succession until total butt failure.

Well that concluded leg day, and I felt like I learned a lot but wasn’t that happy with what went down. Usually I like to keep cardio light due to, well, leg day beating my legs to shit, so I went ahead and took a hike down in Schenley Park. It’s getting into the colder part of fall, snow will come soon, and I doubt I’ll see much of Schenley Park through the winter. That was 3.22 miles up and down Panther Hollow trail. I got there a little late so the photos weren’t that great, but I’ll post a picture tour in my next post… so enjoy that. I feel like my cardio could be better for my upcoming 5K’s, but I think I’ll do fine… we’ll see!

Can’t really neglect a little nutrition in my log… I’ve been needing extra calories and wanting something to snack on that is better than my staple snack treat of animal crackers fisted with hershey kisses. So I decided to nab a batch of some protein bars I saw on sale at the supermarket… will see how they go down the next time I need the extra calories!


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Exercise Log 10.19.13 (Back & Shoulder Day + Cardio)

Deadlift mania today as I did some routines to focus on my back strength. My theme today and my theme on back day in general will be more strength training than mass building, so ultra high weights low repetitions many sets is the ideal. Just trying to push it to the max because my back doesn’t need to look big and thick as much as it needs to be just very, very strong. Who can argue with a healthy, strong back? And shoulders too while I’m at it since back day is also shoulder day.

Started the night (after warmups of course) with some bent over rows. I chose some heavy preloaded curl bars I felt going from 90lb to 110lb and just kept form very tight keeping the bent over row position that Scooby advocates in the video below, in letting the bar trace up and down against your quads to get it nice and tight and squeeze out the lats.

So after that nice starting exercise I was eager to hit the deadlifts. I did a few to warm up at 135lb emphasising static position – letting the bar fully come to a rest and even standing up briefly after each rep to reposition and restart the movement from scratch, ensuring that all the driving force of each lift was done from muscle strength alone and not bodily elasticity or other forms of momentum. It is after all the deadlift, not the “jerky and quick bouncy lift”. I do deadlifts for back day because my emphasis with them is the lower back which I want to become very strong, plus I want my core to strengthen for a natural belt for heavy lifting like this, rather than need a weight lifting belt to hit heavy load limits. So my form emphasised that by keeping narrow feet placement (at shoulder width apart or closer) and focusing the driving force with the back angle being the main driver for movement. Any other style of deadlift gives me more driving force yes but also recruits more leg muscles which I don’t want.

I did however focus on heel driving into the ground and learned a lot tonight about the mechanics of creating a strong core plus a heavy driving force utilizing leg and back force coupling to get the weight up from the dead position. In fact since I hit a wall where I was having a hard time getting more weight up, inbetween things I just did some practice flexing and bending movements to get my neurological system worked up. I did a lot of focused interabdominal pressure flexing especially and it definitely helped me squeeze out an extra rep or two at the heaviest weight level… and with a little work, I feel like I could definitely immediately improve my deadlift by 50lbs and I feel like it’s just a neurological issue of focusing the right chain of muscles. So I’m definitely going to focus on conditioning to make that happen I don’t have an immediate deadlift goal because the only goal is to make my lower back really strong, I’d really love to hit a 400lb deadlift sometime which for my size I think is a good starting goal.

While the video below does not emphasise the deadlift from the perspective I did it tonight, it explains a lot of the basic mechanics of the deadlift very well and I think I’m a fan of all the videos on this channel… it’s a Canadian bodybuilder named Christian Thibaudeau’s Youtube channel called Testosterone Nation. I wouldn’tve figured I’d liked it just by the name, but I really like the guy’s explanation of key principles and he has an awesome voice to listen to. In other notes too Christian has a great video on front squatting which I think will help on leg day (ideally which will be Sunday’s workout, we’ll see).

In 3 sets I moved up to my deadlift max of about 225, which I held at with a lot of failed lifts. I knew it was psychological though and proved it to myself by eventually busting out 5 good lifts. I tried to increment the weight higher but I’m not sure if fatigue was setting in or if I was just depleted or had exceeded my max lift for the night, but I could not get the weight to budge. This process ate up a good amount of time so eventually I pulled an Al Bundy and shoed it in by unracking the heavier weight. To finish up deadlifting, I dropped the weight down to half and did a solid 16-20 repetitions in quick succession being sure to keep still with the theme of completely resetting the weight on each pull, which got my blood pumping and felt like it gave my lower back a good burn.

So after this I decided to inkeep with the theme of heavy ass weights so I grabbed a 60lb dumbbell and started doing one arm dumbbell rows on the bench, did 10 reps each arm and went to 65 for two sets then 70lbs for the fourth set. 70 was very high for me and I felt like any higher would’ve broken my form so I’m glad I know that’s in my upper limit area for this exercise. I also went to hit the upper back with some seated rows, tried to keep form real good and squeeze the scapula together keeping all my major trapezius muscles flexed as best I could and really loved that. There was a few back exercises I wanted to do still but I had a long morning and long day, so it was time now to start shoulders.

Shoulders were quick, in keeping with the previous theme of strong & heavy I started with some seated overhead dumbbell military presses superset with standing read deltoid flys. That was a little rough started with too heavy a weight so dropped it and then hit it for 4 sets of 8-10 reps each. Then I swapped to a much lighter weight and proceeded with my favorite routine for shoulders, a triple set of side raises, forward raises and low leaning rear flys with a slightly different form/angle than the standing deltoid flys I did earlier. I did these for a good 4 sets as well. I was sure to give my traps a little loving, so I hopped on the trap machine and racked up as much as I could (230lbs) and shrugged. I found after a set that grip strength was an issue, but completed 3 sets of 8 reps. Maybe 4 sets? I forget. I always feel a little sore perhaps from strain from doing trap shrugs, but I just don’t care honestly trap shrugs are fun and I love them. I need to work on my nervous system though I feel grip strength might be an issue as I grow.

Lastly, I skipped cardio the night before so none of that tonight. I got a 5K next week so I ran 2.33 miles at my 5K pace. Why not 3.1 miles? I feel like I gassed out a little bit as I hit my final mile, and when I hit that wall I decided to call it out. I feel like though treadmills pace you slower than a real pace because all your extra energy doesn’t make your treadmill go any faster so when you start exterting you don’t see a gain unless you exert at the same pace you increase the treadmill pace… but I felt it was a good trail and I’m hoping I can improve my 5K pace 2-3 minutes from my previous time in one of the two 5K’s I got coming up soon.

That’s it!

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Exercise Log 10.17.13 (Fun Day Video Blog!)

Today I sorta crashed in the evening, maybe my body just needed some rest maybe I just ran into a low spot. My gym buddy didn’t make it either so I had no obligation to be at the gym at all today, being a day off I rarely spend my days off at home… just felt it’d be nice to stay in. So I decided at some point I wanted to do front squats because I wanted to work on squat depth, go deep to the floor, but I don’t have a straight bar at home only an EZ curl bar. Is it possible to do front squats with just an EZ curl bar? Aparently so. When I ran out of weights to rack up heavy enough to increase the squat, I grabbed dumbbells and slapped them in a napsack for added weight.

I did 5 solid sets of 12 reps, increasing weight as I went, then did one extra rep at a heavy enough weight to need to stop. I felt really good about how low my squats got, but ran into a few form issues. I felt like I learned something fun, so I decided to Youtube tape and share my experience with people… so hey, watch the video!

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Lee Drive Park

Lee Drive Park20131014_09332320131014_09322820131014_09321620131014_09314220131014_093126

Lee Drive Park, a set on Flickr.

Some pics from a short little detour on my walk from Monday, nice neighborhood, a little tiny playground. Wasn’t able to explore much, which kind of sucks I guess.

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Broccoli Time

20131012_132629 by phoebus_apollo1
20131012_132629, a photo by phoebus_apollo1 on Flickr.

What makes Phoebus happy

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