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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 - I'm back in game but definitely a Minor League Casual Gamer these days. My hometown is Greenville, MI where most of my family is located.

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Jacked Factory’s “Nitro Surge” Pre-Workout Review

Another scoop, another review – this time of Jacked Factory’s “Nitro Surge” pre-workout.

Cover to Cover

Jacked Factory’s tagline for Nitro Surge is that it is a “Scientifically Dosed Pre-Workout Powder”. It boats “Endless Energy”, “Muscle Growth”, “Powerful Pumps” and “Laser Focus”. Fairly straightforward label nothing really bombastic anywhere on it.

Let’s get straight to the ingredients.

Ingredients – Flavor & Nutrition

The flavor of cherry limeade comes from a base of citric acid and pineapple fruit powder, real simple and basic and greatly appreciated. To boost the flavor a bit is some Ace K (acesulfame potassium) and sucralose and thankfully to get its color it uses actual fruit and vegetable juices. The powderizing agents of silica and calcium silicate keep it dry and mixable as it should, no caking was experienced.

All in all, appreciated to see some natural ingredients even if it needed a little bit of artificial sweeteners to boost, it’d be an A-grade on flavor from me if they could get this same mix with stevia instead of sucralose/Ace K.

I want to note in a non critical way that the spoon to scoop is nice and big but the handle seems like its an inch and a half long, barely fitting inside the container. Could probably trim half that handle off and still be good on the length of the handle.

Ingredients – A Team (L-Citrulline, Beta Alanine, Betaine Anhydrous)

It wasn’t until I reviewed this pre-workout that I noted the difference between L-Citrulline and Citrulline Malate. Malic Acid with Citrulline is fine IMHO, but is double the dose to get the same quantity of Citrulline as just pure L-Citrulline powder. At the end of the day I’m not really sure which is better, but 2g of L-Citrulline powder (which is effectively 4g of Citrulline Malate to my understanding) seems ample. This will absolutely help with recovery and fatigue management. For its actual pre-workout effects you’re probably good but a little more couldn’t hurt would like to see this be 3g ideally.

Beta Alanine is another great stimulant and will help your workout volume with its positive endurance and energy output effects. The 1.6g dose should be plenty for preworkout purposes although you probably should consider taking a little more of this daily if your goal is dietary supplement more than mere pre-workout stimulation (using it only as a preworkout is still namely all I consume a preworkout for right now).

Betaine Anydrous is also a new one to me, a choline vitamin which if you have diverse dietary sources you should get some of. As a preworkout supplement this one is weak, but as a general health dietary supplement I think its fantastic. The vitamin lowers your homocysteine levels, which could be an issue for you if you have a meat-centric diet (as many working out will to keep their protein intake right). It’s great for the liver, and can help with the lipid levels to keep you burning fat. I’m not sure what dose is regarded as good for this, but 1.25g seems like plenty.

Ingredients – B Team (Caffeine Anhydrous, L-Theanine, Hordenine HCI, Black Pepper Fruit Extract Bioperine)

I won’t comment much on caffeine anhydrous but 180mg is okay. It’s not great, it could be better, especially since so many Americans like myself have completely ruined our caffeine tolerance through consuming caffeinated beverages. L-Theanine at only 90mg is kind of weak but I don’t think there is a ton of research on what would make for suitable levels… being a tea leaf derivative it has its own range of beneficial features. Here I believe it is to help provide mental focus (or “Laser Focus” as the label says) with an anti-drowsiness/relaxing effect. As a dietary supplement I’m all for more of this and honestly this should be like 250mg per dose rather than 90mg. Some of the effects of this take the edge off rather than put the edge on though but I’ll get to that more in my workout results below. Hordenine HCI is at a good 25mg dose and that will also help the “Laser Focus” claim, being great for your central nervous system.

Lastly the black pepper extract patented under the brand name BioPerine, well I’ll take this info from the horse’s mouth at the official BioPerine website. It is supposedly a “bioavailability enhancer” which lets you absorb nutrients more efficiently. Now I’m not really sure why it is here if that is in fact what it does. Most of what the BioPerine people suggest it works well with helping absorption rates are select aminos (none of which are included on this list at least that I see), minerals (none in this mix), antioxidants and vitamins (maybe L-Theanine is effected by this but again it is not on the site’s list of items to pair with Bioperine). Seems like a waste to me to include BioPerine if you aren’t going to include a few more other items that go along with it – like a ton of extra vitamins or a nice herb extract stimulant mix. Just a little wasted potential here, feel like it’s on the label to just be there.

Workout Results

I’m going to be honest about this, I feel like Jacked Factory might be simply misbranding this product by pushing it as a high energy muscle building preworkout, which isn’t meant to insult its preworkout properties in the least. I like this product a lot but not entirely for preworkout reasons. Now as for my workouts, I’ve had pretty good workouts while on this, it definitely helps concentration and focus and is a good change of pace from a preworkout that overstimulates and has a bite. This one is good to get focused but doesn’t get you amped which is not how I feel a product called “Nitro Surge” should necessarily behave.

While working out to give this mix a bit of a kick I have been stacking it with a half serving of the pro-thermogenic Diablo that I reviewed before. This just tastes good especially mixed with something else and the extra kick of a different stimulant product definitely helps a preworkout dose a ton. In fact, my last workout with that combination scored me a new personal best deadlift PR 1RM. This preworkout definitely gives good focus.

It just isn’t a “Nitro Surge”. It’s more like a “Cool Breeze”, refreshing and calming on a day when the bite of a harder mix just isn’t desirable and every workout schedule has a ton of those kind of days. Today is my recovery day, I’m enjoying Easter with the family and I’m drinking a dose of my “Nitro Surge” because I was feeling a little worn out and wanted the focus and energy, it made me feel great. I’d drink this daily if my personal budget for preworkouts permitted it. I also like it on certain workout days. But if you’re looking for that awesome kick in the ass get you peaked and freaked type of preworkout, this isn’t for you.

My final advice just be open minded and get it, experiment with stacking it with other preworkouts for a real full preworkout experience and I will definitely consume again. It is a creative blend and I like a lot about this and would like to see more like this in the preworkout marketplace. My only advice to the makers is maybe consider a herb-extra based stimulant mix to really make the BioPerine more worthwhile and give the product a little bite.

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ANS Performance’s “Diablo” Pro-Thermogenic Supplement Review

So my wife handed me ANS Performance’s “Diablo” thermogenic, so I’m hoping she was intending me to write another review instead of merely suggesting I’m getting a little… portly. Since I joined team No Legs and abruptly stopped my cardio, my capacity for burning extraneous fat has certainly gone down. What better way to find out if there is a better way to burn the fat off than by try out what will be my first thermogenic supplement?

Cover to Cover

ANS Performance’s product Diablo is billed as a pro-thermogenic supplement, in that it increases your body’s heat expenditure through “means” (will discuss that with this product in detail when talking about ingredients) which presumably increases fat burning potential. Whether or not this is a powerful fat loss tool or just a marketing gimmick, I will state upfront that I do have a sincere belief that the product can be useful for those working out. I’ll explain in more detail as I continue, first let’s take a look at the cover of the product.

ANS Performance has the product name Diablo blazened on the front with “Pro Thermogenic” along the top, denoting it is an “ultimate fat loss system” (which of course is a statement not evaluated by the FDA). In promotional materials online the fat burning properties of this product are heavily advertised. Some materials online suggest the product is to be taken prior to working out, but the bottle’s directions suggest taking up to 3 scoops over the course of a day starting with breakfast daily. This schedule makes sense if trying to assess its fat burning capacity for a long duration but for the purposes of this review I will be assessing it for its pre-workout qualities.

Ingredients – Flavor & Nutrition

The flavor is definitely lime-like in taste, composed of citric acid, sucralose, a kick of Ace K (acesulfame potassium) and food coloring agents yellow #5 & blue #1. I honestly don’t think the product really needs its bright green complexion to be effective I’ve always personally just been fine with it being whatever color it just is, and I definitely dislike food coloring for its own sake. To say I’d prefer less artifice and more actual lime to be in this mix in here is absolutely an understatement, even if that results in the product not being as crayola green as it is. We have some calcium silicate and silicon dioxide again to keep the mixture dry and mixable and it seems to do fine in that respect, no caking and quick to mix was my experience.

Despite my griping I personally have no big issue with the flavor or taste, it’s fine and the lime-like flavor is a nice wake up.

Ingredients – L-Carnitine L-Tartrate, Choline Bitartrate, Green Coffee bean extract, AdiLase (TM)

The LCLT (L-Carnitine L-Tartrate) is the most prominent ingredient at 500mg and is generally regarded at least in my cursory glance at things to be the lead ingredient to promote the fat burning and muscle recovery promised on the bottle. Generally speaking dosages that I’ve noted as being effective are around 1-2g per day, so as the bottle advises 3 doses of this supplement (which would be 1.5g of LCLT total) is sufficient to get all you should need from this product. So very sensible pick.

Choline Bitartate (250mg) is next in line. Generally speaking I’m in favor of biological elements in supplements that have a net positive impact on the body which is what Choline has, and it being delivered by a salt Bitartate is good. If you do consume the doses multiple times per day as advised, you should find that it may have a net impact on neurotransmission rates by being converted into acetylcholine. The liver might also be happy with a little bit of this stuff. Otherwise though, I’m not convinced at this moment by any compelling reason that this is a strong mover. It makes sense to add it this supplement, and I’m all for it, but I’m not sure the end user of this product gets a lot from this honestly. Supplements are supposed to add things you don’t normally get and while choline comes from various sources taken directly it is a decent thing to add. It’s one of those situations where you don’t really get excited but it does make sense to have included.

I heard green coffee bean extract (150mg) was popularized on Dr. Oz in a manner that suggested it was a fat burner on the league of replacing physical exercise. I think it goes without saying to be skeptical of this claim and that it is entirely possible the little extra chlorogenic acid you might get from this mix is not going to have a substantial health benefit, and I do somewhat think prunes or eggplant might be an equally sufficient source. The manufacturer promotes the green bean extract as an inhibitor of an enzyme that allows glucose to be more available, thus causing the body to draw on other sources more readily (like fat). Whether this is the best ingredient for that end, if this inhibition is anything noteworthy to begin with, or whether it is mostly a marketing thing is honestly indiscernable to me at this time. I do not really object to natural ingredients in supplements but with some thought I think a better one could be found for this.

– AdiLase, a flower extract of the Hemerocallis fulva (ditch lillies), at 125mg is kind of an odd ingredient. I’m not too familiar with this ingredient, I think its increase in use in supplements has to do with tests that show in rats at least that it increases lipolysis, which to the layman just means it helps burn the fat good. Its popularity comes from Asia, where like many other herbs and vegetation it is peddled as a curative medicine. ANS says it is for those people who struggle to lose fat with “typical” high stimulant fat burners and that this can help “low responding” fat storage cells. Assuming this is in fact the case just on the face of it, I’m not sure 125mg 3 times a day will have any noticable impact on changing the way the user’s body decides what fat storage to take from as it burns fats during activity.

Again while I had some gripes, these primary ingredients are fine.

Ingredients – DIABLO INFERNO COMPLEX (!!!)

This extremely named mix is only 212mg, so lets go over it. Caffeine Anhydrous, which I assume is around 125-150mg of this mix (personal guesstimate) is the primary stimulant here. I’m going to be honest, since the rest of the list is kind of long and I doubt it even adds up to 100mg of material I’m going to just throw random comments here and there about what I see on it: 1) Hordenine for CNS stimulation, good but likely not in this bottle at the 25mg dose it probably should be (unsure without an exact list but it is last on the list which generally denotes it is the least included ingredient even below the various plant extracts) 2) Lots of plant extracts some for stimulation some for increasing that heat factor, if you are going to throw in extracts of plants this is what I like, a big mix of various things for all sorts of effects 3) B-Phenylethylamine HCI which I think is great for mood and focus and I think this should be regarded as standard for a stimulant mix.

Workout Results

Well the workout in question did happen on a very cold morning, it was probably 25 degrees out and my home gym is poorly insulated so it was probably 40 degrees. It didn’t help that the workout was early and I also sleep in a poorly insulated part of the house, so to say a thermogenic supplement would be welcome here is an understatement.

Now I believe to be fair to a supplement we have to remember nearly all supplements are meant to have a noticable but negligable effect on training. They are the cherry on the top, not the whole sundae. Usually I take my supplement 5 minutes before I head down to start working out, but I focus on having my more focused part of my lifting morning around 20-30 minutes when I usually experience the best part of the feels from the actual preworkout. Just so I could judge this I did take the supplement on its own, which honestly the stimulant factor of the supplement leaves room to stack it with another preworkout if you like, depending on your tolerance of caffeine.

Now I’m really unsure if this is genetic or whatnot, but I sweat like a pig – not like the expression implies but more like real life in that I don’t sweat hardly at all. I have had heavy face drenched workouts but usually this happens only in warm weather where the sheer heat and humidity around me is driving it moreso than my own body’s inclination to sweat. I always kind of chaulked this up to my Native American background although I’m unsure if genetics have much to do with it. However with relatively little warming up, I did start to feel warmer than usual which was incredibly welcome in this workout given how cold it was. After 10 minutes of the workout I felt fully warmed up and ditched the hoodie which is a notable thing to say in a poorly insulated Pittsburgh basement in the middle of winter. I did not have that extra heavy sweat that people do sometimes talk about when taking good thermogenics, but again I am just not predisposed to sweat much while working out.

Now I’m still on the fence about this supplement. I don’t personally see myself taking 3 doses a day as I’m not really inclined usually to take supplements for anything other than preworkout purposes (unless you’re talking about creatine which I’ll take daily so long as true nutrition keeps shipping me some free with various orders). That said I definitely liked Diablo and would recommend people try it to find out for themselves if its good. While I am critical a bit of the product’s full ingredients page, some things might be there to market some things just to hype, I’m happy overall with the supplement and think if you did use it at the recommended dosage you would probably notice some difference in your overall training as far as losing fat. Perhaps not the “ultimate” fat burning capability is promotes but at least a good one.

So would try again and would suggest to others, but I would not invest any time into hyping this product. If using as a preworkout consider stacking it with another stimulant of your preference after you try it once or twice on its own.

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Sportrition’s “Infuze” Pre Workout Review

As a followup to my previous review, this time I’ll be taking a look at Sportrition’s Infuze pre workout (Strawberry Flavor). Again since in my training cycle I am still in recovery from an injury, I am closely documenting how I feel workout to workout and I feel this puts me in a good place to give the product a very clean slate in comparing it to my normal preworkout, a simple 200mg caffeine anhydrous pill.

Cover to Cover

Once again I’ll check out what is on the cover. For a pre workout it is also pretty basic, claiming the four attributes of “Focus, Energy, Growth & Recovery” on the label. I’ll refer back to these later. It also on the very front of the label shows the general dosages of primary ingredients – 3g of Citrulline Malate, 2g of Beta-Alanine (marketed as the premium variant “CarnoSyn”), 1g of Creatine HCL, 750mg of Agmatine Sulfate and 175mg of caffeine. That is pretty handy to have this info up front and I wish more companies did this.

Ingredients – Flavor & Nutrition

First we got some information on flavoring, the flavoring agent is simply mentioned as “natural and artificial flavors” which is a little vague, some silica dioxide which I’ll come back to later and it is flavored with sucralose. I was a little disappointed this was not stevia, but sucralose-base is still fine as I mentioned in the previous review.

As for nutrition, it looks like a small series of vitamins (various vitamin D, B1, B3, B6, B12 and folic & pantothenic acids) I think these are fine and a good roster of items to supplement to address the problems of deficiencies – but of course you all eat your vegetables so you shouldn’t be deficient in any of these. Right?

No calories for this preworkout – as for the taste, well I can’t say it tasted very strongly like strawberries, maybe they should suck it up and make an all natural strawberry flavoring agent for this drink.

Cake N’ Bake

Well it seems the silica powder just wasn’t enough to keep the mixture dry. The product has a huge label on its top lid warning you to keep in a cool, dry place for fear of attracting moisture and caking the powder, thereby hardening it. Well unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to store it anywhere before I had issues with this as upon opening the mixture I did find that it had already caked prior to even getting to me. This powder is very mixable though and I found out that as soon as water hit it, it dissolved fast.

I didn’t have to complain about it as I was notified directly by Sportrition that the batch sent to me was suspected of caking and hardening and that I should contact one of their reps if there is any problem for a replacement batch. Good customer service to spot this problem and notify potential customers before they get their merchandise! However I do feel this product will be stronger when they address this problem in future revisions of this mixture. If the caking happens to you while you could contact the company and I’m sure they’d help you, I’d honestly suggest it isn’t a big deal as it only makes the product harder to scoop – the caking doesn’t affect its quality any.

Ingredients – CarnoSyn Beta Alanine 2g, Citrulline Malate (2:1) 3g & 175mg of Caffeine

These are essentially the key ingredients to me in this mix so I’ll talk about these first. First I have similar thoughts on Beta Alanine as the last review but my understanding of CarnoSyn branded beta alanine is that it has a sustained release feature which means you need to take it fewer times a day to notice the benefits of it. A 2g dose is good as far as I’m concerned but I will note I have no other beta alanine supplementation during the day so I’m probably not taking enough overall (you should probably take CarnoSyn beta-alanine 2-3 times a day and generic beta-alanine 1-3 extra times – I might decide to get more to consume throughout the day in the future and see how it helps). So to anyone reading if you want your muscle carnosine levels elevated be sure to grab extra beta alanine to dose with throughout the day, I’d suggest preferring CarnoSyn-branded beta alanine.

On a stimulant level, the 175mg of Caffeine is only slightly lower than what I’m used to (200mg) and again with the beta alanine it is an okay level of stimulation to me. Enough to talk about its “Energy” properties on the bottle for sure.

Citrulline Malate is a new supplement to me, and its 3g dose should be suitable to get its positive benefits of managing muscle fatigue and recovery, and is adequate as a days dose. However you may find extra citrulline malate is beneficial. I’d definitely give it a point towards its use of “Recovery” on the front of the bottle for this level of dosage.

Ingredients – B Team

Next we got Creatine HCL (1g), Taurine (1g), Agmatine Sulfate (750mg), N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine (500mg). I like the inclusion of taurine since beta-alanine depletes taurine levels and always felt you should balance them, although I consider this a minor issue as it is unlikely normal diet won’t rectify this matter if you eat proper. Agmatine Sulfate I assume is also here for its neurotransmission properties – probably going towards the “Focus” element of the pre workout. And of course Creatine HCL is fine as a creatine base mix although I have no major opinion about hydrochloride bound creatine over just monohydrate or any other number of delivery systems.

This is also my first time with N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, and I’ll comment more on my thoughts about this next.

Workout Results

During this workout again, like the last pre workout I reviewed, I did notice an energy boost but the stimulant action was weaker than before. However as the workout proceeded, one of the best benefits of this preworkout was my levels of focus and clear headedness was great. I attribute some of this definitely to the N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, which I honestly will look for in other preworkouts. Again though I am something of a newbie to preworkout consumption, so perhaps I’m just beginning to see how things work. Mileage may vary on this preworkout and its overall effectiveness to you but I had a net positive experience with it and think the average consumer will too. Definitely no junk in it every ingredient has a good reason to be here.

Did it live up to the cover? “Focus” was great, “Energy” was okay perhaps could’ve been more stimulating, “Growth” is difficult to assess with just the dose of Creatine HCL driving that but several ingredients took care of “Recovery” factor just fine. Overall not misleading and I appreciate how the product presents itself.

One perhaps criticism was that the last preworkout I took spoiled me with its incredible mix of natural plant-based stimulants and full 200mg of caffeine. If this preworkout had that, I have a feeling my overall experience would’ve been greater. Fact of the matter is the modern American has a high caffeine tolerance with all the coffee and caffeinated beverages they consume and I’m no different.

All in all good product would try again in the future, hopefully the caking is less of a problem in future revisions for this product.

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Naturo Nitro “Decimus” Pre Workout Review

Today I’m writing a fairly lengthy review of Naturo Nitro’s “Decimus” Pink Lemonade preworkout supplement. To provide some context, my fiance got a discount on this preworkout for the purpose of posting a review and since I’m the one who actually used it I thought I’d write the review for her and try to be as objective and informative as possible.

Some quick background on me first – I am a novice-to-intermediate powerlifter who is off his normal routine workout due to coming back from a bad injury. For the purposes of this review that’s probably a good thing as it gives me something of a clean slate – I’m lifting very light and keeping a close eye on progress with notes week to week. Having only trained for a couple years and starting training in my 30’s I’ve been very critical and skeptical of the merits of various preworkout supplements, so I have not yet used any preworkouts whatsoever – normally I’m only using a 200mg pill of caffeine anhydrous to get a shot of pep prior to my workout.

The workout I tested this preworkout with was a very simple squat/bench/deadlift workout with an accessory of stiff-legged deadlifts with bent over rows. Simple workout and the weights were super light as I’m still nursing myself back up to my normal strength potential and being very cautious of anything that might cause any new injury. My previous week’s workout that I will compare this workout to was the same workout with only the caffeine anhydrous pills as comparison point.

Cover to Cover

First let me describe what you get on the outside label. Naturo Nitro’s bottle is fairly straightforward in a simple blue design with a stamp saying “Best Seller” on the bottle. There is no real unnecessary hype on here which to me is a pro – many preworkout paste spastic nonsense to hype you up. In my mind if the preworkout does its job in my mind, it will hype you up on its own.

There are a few claims posted to the front label – “increase workout intensity, maximum mental focus and energy, enhances muscle growth & endurance, amazing taste and mixability, 100% absorption” with the standard asterick next to each claim pointing to a notice that these claims are “not evaluated by the FDA” and that the supplement does not essentially cure, treat or diagnose any known illness (a fairly standard disclaimer). I will refer back to these claims as I provide my opinion on it.

Ingredients – Flavor & Nutrition

Probably most important to me is the ingredients, lets go through them real quick. 1 scoop is a fairly standard 28 grams with no sugar added. The pink lemonade flavoring is sucralose-based with natural flavor and citric acid which I think is a good simple combo. A standard silica dioxide mix is here to keep the powder dry and to keep the flavors strong. As for the “Amazing taste and mixability” claim I would agree it tastes like pink lemonade, goes down good, my mixing was with a spoon and not a shaker bottle but mixing with the recommended amount of water did leave a fairly small amount of powder at the base of the drink the two times I mixed it. I’m pretty sure that would not be the case if I was using a mixer bottle, but I would rank that as “good mixability” moreso than amazing.

Zero calories, tasty, no complaints.

Ingredients – “Performance Blend”

Naturo Nitro lists all their ingredients in three categories. This one, the “Performance Blend” is 3000mg total of a combination of Beta Alanine, Arginine AKG and Agmatine Sulfate – if everything is to FDA guidelines the first ingredient (Beta Alanine) should be the largest portion of that mix and it should list in descending order from there.

Beta Alanine is a great supplement I’ve eyed for a while, it acts as a great stimulant and has lots of positive workout volume benefits (affecting endurance, oxygen uptake and energy output). Also we don’t get a lot of free form beta alanine so supplementing it makes sense. Arginine AKG is a nice non-essential amino acid, good for kidneys and liver, although sometimes I think its popularity in supplements has more to do with libido pumping. Agmatine Sulfate I assume is in here due to its neurotransmission properties, for the “mental focus” aspect of the aforementioned claims.

All considered, not bad but without exact dosages while I’m pretty sure you’ll get the beta alanine you might want in this dose (I got a bit of paresthesia tingles after my workout which makes me assume its plenty of beta alanine) the arginine AKG is probably on the low side of what I often see recommended as dosage (1500-3000mg) especially if the agmatine sulfate is in the 500-1000mg range. Although all said, great mix of ingredients – simple and effective supplements.

Ingredients – Creatine Blend

I don’t have a ton to say about the creatine blend. 2000mg of creatine base is fine, I don’t know a ton about the creatine subcomponents but having it be I assume mostly creatine monohydrate is fairly straightforward. I might usually consume more than this, but I have powderized creatine that I usually drink with whey protein drinks. Creatine is to me an essential ingredient – if you are a non responder to creatine, it still doesn’t hurt to have more, if you aren’t you will notice a performance gain in long term usage.

Ingredients – Energy and Focus Blend

At 394mg, this has the most as far as stimulating and generating focus goes. I assume a ton of that is the first ingredient, caffeine anhydrous, I hope 200mg worth. The rest appear to be very natural plant based stimulants, with a series of other good effects that improve focus. Again falling back to the “maximum mental focus” claim this supplement it appears to have ingredients with a positive effect on mental focus.

Workout Results

So during my workout I did notice a boost in energy and focus over my normal use of caffeine andryhous from the prior week. This tended to peak about 20-30 minutes into my workout during my bench pressing, which resulted in me topping off that final set with triple the normal range of reps – I was after all handling very (very) light weights. By my previous week’s workout set, I had been fatigued by the end of the complete workout, but despite the extra work this week plus my normal progressive overload and the extra reps I mentioned I finished this workout feeling great. Some of this may be simple readjustment to lifting after the injury as I am in the early phases of that adjustment but I believe quite a bit of it was due to the supplement.

The supplement in comparison to competitors has a lot of easy to understand natural ingredients, with very well established and effective supplements that are helpful prior to working out. Very few of the claims on the front of the package I take any serious objection to, and for someone who is critical of ingredients used I found all of them to be relevant and useful. Would definitely purchase again.

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TXM Phase 2 – What Progress Means

As a novice to intermediate lifter, it can sometimes be difficult to plot progress. While you can track gains from week to week, it is sometimes difficult to get a good feel for where you’re at. A lingering uncertainty is the bane of the early lifter, which is sort of an undocumented phase of the whole thing that I’d like to focus on. I’m a normal, middle aged nonathletic lifter looking for steady gains that might amount to something, someday. So far a ton of time focused on training and programming has gotten me going “down the path” one might say, with plenty of knowledge to form a good foundation.

Status Update

While ripping up my calves in a deadlift has me a bit sour, what makes it moreso is continually being tired. I find one thing that has impacted my training quite substantially is just not doing as much cardio as I did when I started. Just feel less energetic, and take more time in the gym when I am there. For financial reasons I’ve decided to stay at home working out – that also has limited the routines, as I don’t have a ton of equipment (power rack, barbell, plates, bench). However creativity has me going back and forth on things.

As stated in my last update, part of that is definitely work related. Life stress definitely has a big impact and with an erratic schedule and a family life to take care of. It’s important to juggle fitness goals with personal life, but sometimes it’s hard to find where it fits together and that’s where I’m at right now. Now if anyone finds themselves in this type of situation I definitely believe staying focused on the goal is the best thing, and my priority with lifting is definitely keeping progress good on the big three.

Right now I’m closing week 25 of my Texas Method variant. As I’ve stated before, I’ve played with it a bit to suit personal preferences and in the last few weeks I’ve increased the volume, started using it as more a hypertrophying workout. I’ve made some small amount of progress, but not as much as I should. I have though in the last few weeks to getting back into doing cardio – weeks of bulking has started leaving me a little, well, bloated. Some powerlifters definitely develop a body type which involves a bit of excess body fat and that’s part of the training style, but personally I think a cut is part of my programming soon just out of necessity.

Going Forward

So as far as the program goes, I think it’s important that everyone in their progress not get too happy with one static system. I think progress is something you plan out and grow on, and that means when one training program progresses through a lot of its logical steps that rather than stick to it for its own stake, you identify a good place to progress to the next thing. That I think will push training to better results and keep people losing focus on track and that’s always a very personal choice. Without doing these types of shifts people will often just give up when a favored system wears thin or life gets in the way. I don’t mean to advocate program hopping but at the point you realize you got something else that will work better, start shifting gears. Planned progression is in my view, the thing that will get me to that point I’d like to be in 5-10 years.

With that in mind, after I recover from my injury I’d like to switch my plan up with a more high volume workout plan, maybe do split lifting days rather than doing all three “big lifts” every workout. Still not 100% sure there. Definitely going to take back lifting values and reset them a little bit, work on form get nice and focused form. Switching from high bar to low bar back squatting to get more familiar. Going to continue developing my Power Clean, and find more workouts for my rear delts and scapular retraction that I can do at home.

I would like to do a period of more genuine bodybuilder style working out too, as I feel it will help my lifting in the long haul, and while I don’t prefer to train that way I think this is definitely a focus shift. Then top it off with a nice cut before I go back to focused strength training.

I think it’s a good plan. For now, recharge, play around and settle in, then shift it up a bit. I think it’s healthy for anyone in this type of situation to do sometimes when it comes to a fitness plan. I definitely encourage anyone interested in any level to have SOME kind of plan in mind before going forward.


Some of my favorite pics during this training cycle… click on the photo to check them out on Flickr

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TXM Phase 1 Review

Alright, ran my first 12 weeks of my Texas Method variant and figured I’d log my thoughts and progress.

Current Status

When we last left off I was recapping my progress from the beginning, barely over 2 years ago when honestly when I knew little to nothing about lifting. I feel like I’ve made good progress all considered, but progress as a late bloomer sure is slow. Getting into lifting is definitely not a life decision that pays off to wait till the mid 30’s to make. Better late than never?

I still have not done much cardio like I should, that again has been a secondary priority to life and lifting. All said it is the biggest thing I’ve lacked, but during this cycle I had a lot of life stressors, and honestly when life throws things at you just staying consistent on a lifting program is itself quite a challenge.

Alright, so to recap where I was at I have not done much weight capacity testing since starting but to begin, I lowered the weight a bit and just stuck to the program. There were a few minor revisions, made myself a nice spreadsheet to keep track of my progress, and now I’ve got it going pretty smooth. 12 weeks have passed since I began this period of training.

Progression Overview

Starting the Texas Method was rocky because I had just purchased my first house and was moving. I had one week be a false start due to moving plus work (didn’t count it as my first week after I realized how poorly it was going), then the second week was incomplete but was enough to consider it started.

First week was good all around, but the second week started with a little bit of the sickness. I got sick three times during these last 12 weeks which really had a big impact on progress. By week 3 I was bouncing gyms, checking out the new ones in the area near my new house and had a bit of an irregular work schedule. Week 4 saw a bomb drop, my last workout at my old gym which suddenly closed out of nowhere, only found out on the start of week 5. Sadness!

At this point, through the next several weeks, work just kept getting more and more demanding on my personal life. I took a deload week to recover my mind from the move (the moving wound up being over two weeks of stuff to take care of it) and finding myself coming back to a crapton of work. I scaled back progressive overload each week just due to the overall life stress this brought on. Work is not even settling down now to be honest.

Entering week 9 I had a work vacation, my mom came down to visit so I got a week of time to destress from work, I used the time to set up my home gym. Got myself a nice Rogue R3 (Shorty) power rack, built and slapped it on a somewhat poorly built but good lifting platform, and got myself a cheap set of weights and a beater barbell. Nothing fancy but enough to do my workouts at home. This has really helped me adjust my life now that my super favorite gym is closed, and was one of the reasons I bought the house I did, so just nice all around. Near the end of this week though I had a minor setback in the form of a shoulder strain on my lighter recover & control day. The strain happened at my new outside the house gym – decided I should have a place to work out when I feel a need to get out of the house still. After my workout was mostly done (was going to do one more accessory then leave) I was just moving a standard barbell from one spot to another but however I grabbed the bar and held it just created a freak strain in the shoulder. I froze my bench press weights and took it extra careful in the weeks to come.

Around this time as well I started to notice that as my deadlift weights moved up, my grip became an issue. I was concerned this might catch up to me at some point, because I prefer my volume day be done with a double overhand grip to maintain good training for my grip strength, but I’ve had to stop that. I’ve started a few more grip-centric accessories but ultimately on week 10 I realized that I simply had to reset the deadlift back a good number of pounds. I feel like it’ll just be good for me all around to step back, and get things straight. I’m not certain if I’m going to keep pushing to do more lighter sets with double overhand grip or just start using the alternating grip more often, but in general a weight reset can really be helpful sometimes.

I also added a couple days of extra stretching during this time period to just provide a little relief, especially in the shoulder area which got strained. I worked through the issue and felt really good to do so. Now I’d say my shoulder is nice and healed up.

Another thing I decided was I could feel a little burnout happening and I took a look at my program, and decided perhaps it might be due to having too much deadlifting in the program. The traditional Texas Method and popular variants have less deadlifting than my variation does, so I scaled mine back a little bit, I like deadlifting and want to do it more than prescribed but I don’t want it to be counterproductive to the training model. I feel pretty good about where it’s at.

So with week 12 in the bag, it’s too soon since my last deload to do another deload so I decided the best bet to just change things up, give my body some time to heal and grow and feel good, is to do some low weight high volume work this week. So a little off program, but sometimes that’s a great thing to have.

Conclusions & Progress Updates

I’ve told myself I’d give the Texas Method at least 6 months before really testing too much or thinking too much about the progress. I will say this: versus my old plan there is definite visible planned progressive overload on this plan and I like that a lot. Aside from that, there is a better improvement in my squat and bench press which I feel confident about. No progress which is world changing – just a steady, slow growth which is real comfortable to me. I’d hope anyone in my situation would feel the same way and not want those quick and dirty gains.

There is not a lot of muscle weight or body composition changing, to that extent I am concerned diet wise that I may not eat enough (which might make my girlfriend sad as I eat probably as much at dinner at her and her two kids), but I honestly am happy just making strength gains progressively for now the way I am. It is true that if I added an extra meal I might grow better, but it’s also true that I might just get fatter and need to cut if I ate too much more. Once strength progression stops, I’ll revise my eating plans.

No recap on my lifting values because I’m not going to test them for probably another 12 weeks. I will however link a lot of my favorite pics from this training cycle…


Some of my favorite pics during this training cycle… click on the photo to check them out on Flickr

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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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