Saturday, November 19, 2011


Recently I wrote about my wondering if I should try a different sport. I love lifting, especially lifting heavy, and that doesn’t completely mesh with Figure. I like to squat heavy and that builds big quads and hams that are not competitive in Figure. I’ve been lightening up my leg routine with a lot of plyometric based stuff and low weight squats lately to start changing my leg muscle formation. The problem? I have the most fun lifting heavy. That’s what led me to start thinking about powerlifting.

I bench regularly and squat pretty regularly, but I almost never deadlift. I decided to see what I could be capable of two days ago and I managed a 230 lb deadlift, so I decided to check out powerlifting up close and personal. My university’s annual powerlifting competition just happened to be today so I decided to sign up and jump in last minute for the experience.

I hadn’t expected to be competitive today, but I’m happy with where I clocked in. Powerlifting is scored with a ratio. Your cumulative pounds lifted between your best squat, best bench, and best deadlift are divided by your bodyweight and then competitors are scored based on the highest ratio to the lowest. My best squat today was 190 lbs, best bench 120 lbs, and best deadlift 240 lbs (I lifted 250 lbs in my 3rd set, but I made a first attempt, repositioned and then got it off the ground so that disqualified the lift) and I weighed in at 143.6 lbs bringing my total score to 550/143.6 or 3.83. I placed 5th out of the 8 women competing. One of the things that makes powerlifting great is that it’s more about having fun together and rooting for everyone out there than being strictly competitive. I’m proud to say my friend Rachael came in first today though, with a crazy impressive 295 lb squat, 190 lb bench, and a 405 lb deadlift. It’s hard to not get all amped up about powerlifting with a friend who gets out there and rocks it to that degree. Totally proud of her today =)

I’m off to a good start, but I have a long ways to go if I want to become a real powerlifter. I have good squat form, but my bench and deadlift form need a lot of work. You can hurt your lower back very easily with poor deadlift form so my top priority is to start paying careful attention to my form at lower weights and then work up my weight after I have solid form. As for benching I just need to do it more often with Rich there spotting me to lift heavy for low reps. I also need to practice bringing the bar to touch my chest, pause, and then lift. Today we each got three tries at each lift and I failed the first two bench attempts by not being able to get it back up all the way after touching my chest. My third attempt barely cleared the good lift test (aka eyes of the judges). You can’t lift lower on your 2nd or 3rd lift than your 1st so you have to be careful to start with a number you can clear for sure. I started too high with 120 and was stuck with it, but I’m happy, today was a learning experience =)

Bye bye Figure Mommy? Hello Power Mommy? Maybe...We'll see! ;)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Shoulder Strength! =)

Shoulder Strength

My shoulders are one of the main muscle groups I’ve been seeking to build both strength and mass in. One of my favorite things about training is getting my numbers up. Getting a new “heavy” (a new max weight for a particular exercise) pleases me like nothing else in the gym. This is what sometimes leads me to wonder if I should give up the notion of competing in Figure again one day and train for power-lifting instead. Power lifters compete on their max bench, max dead lift, and max squat. Maybe someday =)

When I first took up with weight-lifting I could only hoist 15 lb dumbbells, alternating arms, for the shoulder press. I then got stuck on 20 lb dbs for months upon months and worked up to a simultaneous shoulder press (both arms moving together). I was proud when I started doing 25s here and there. Then, 6 weeks back I said to heck with it it’s time to jack my weight up and worked through 30s to 35s. I’ve been able to do sets of 6-8 reps with the 35s for 5 weeks now. I tried last week, after a few sets at 35, to go for the 40s and could only get them up to 60% of one rep, fail. Today, I decided to go for the 40s fresh. I warmed up with cardio first and a quick 12 rep pump with 15s to prevent injury and then it was time to go for it. Success!!!

Nutrition thought of the day:

Do you go grocery shopping in November? Oh, say, in Trader Joe’s? And get a craving and a half for a huge plate of Thanksgiving helpings thanks to the elaborate pie ingredient displays, turkeys all lined up in refrigeration, and delectable cornbread stuffing with cranberries, chestnuts, and gravy being handed out at the sample table? Find yourself thinking it would be a good idea to make a “trial” Thanksgiving dinner now and subsist on the leftovers for the next 2 weeks? Nooooo. That didn’t happen to me on our way home today. Why ever would you ask? ;)


Buy turkey breast tenders and sear them off with salt, pepper, and Pam Spray in a 450 degree oven for 12-15 minutes (until cooked through). Let cool and slice to apportion into Tupperware along with a handful of steamed asparagus, green beans, or broccoli, 2 tablespoons of cranberry sauce and ¼ cup of Trader Joe’s turkey gravy drizzled over the top. 4 oz. of turkey breast tenderloin packs a lean 28 grams of protein for 120 cals, the veggies are innocent bystanders, the gravy is 20 cals of negligible macros, and the only naughtiness involved is the 12 simple carb grams of the sugar laden 50 cal portion of cranberry sauce. If you want to get hung up on that aspect make your own cranberry sauce with Stevia. I didn’t though; I just bought it at Trader Joe’s with the rest of the stuff. That’s what I had for dinner and I have 3 more servings all Tupperwared up and ready to roll in my fridge. Turkey is regarded as lean all year long until November hits, but with a little savvy you can keep that bird, and yourself trim!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Bulking Season

You may call it the holiday season, but Gaspari (the maker of my favorite protein powder, Myofusion) aptly calls it “The Bulking Season.” First comes:

1)Halloween – the holiday so oddly reminiscent of a figure competition. There are big bowls of candy everywhere just like in the backstage dressing rooms at a competition. Fantastical costumes, fake eyelashes, mass makeup, and fake nails abound on stage and on the streets of Halloween night alike.

2)Thanksgiving – Yoga pants are recommended wear for this holiday, not for their gym practicality, but for their easy waist expansion capabilities. M&F Hers and other fitness minded mags are happy to offer up turkey day trimming ideas, but apportioning out 4 oz. of white meat turkey, skipping the mashed potatoes and gravy, the green bean and sweet potato casseroles, the rolls, making your cranberry sauce with Stevia or Splenda while skipping dessert altogether does not sound like any fun at all! A true Thanksgiving meal should not be avoided, but ideally, the leftovers thwarted.

3)Christmas – The catalyst of the January gym joining rush. If only Christmas was but a day, but it is holiday parties galore, treats at the office, secret Santas bearing edible gifts, two days of decadent meals and the days of leftovers to follow.

Beyond the holidays Mother Nature and your own biology are seeking to bulk you up. As temperatures dip to frozen it becomes instinctual to crave comfort foods. Your body is purposefully seeking to increase body fat to stay warm. Not quite like a bear preparing to hibernate for winter, but close enough! This is warranted and healthy. Walking in the cold this morning I recalled how cold I was all the time last April when I’d plunged to 13.1% body fat for Emerald Cup. If I was at that composition currently I’d be too cold. One can see why there are hardly any bodybuilding competitions in the Northwest November – February.

Bulking has its purposes. It’s far easier to put on new muscle mass without trying to lean out at the same time. Really, there is no solidly merited reason to detest bulking. You can gain new muscle if you structure your workouts right. You can enjoy some foods, albeit in moderation, that you wouldn’t normally be allowed to touch. You can stay warm for the winter (that one’s making me laugh).

The drawbacks? You can’t wear your favorite jeans. You start to worry that you won’t ever get back on track. You realize you need to get a plan and set some goals.

The Plan

Limited to 5 – 50 minute workouts and 1 – 90 minute workout a week. Only working out once a day. Refusal to cut calories substantially.

What I’ve been doing:

Skipping cardio altogether most days of the week, only doing it 2x week, to allow more time to lift. Not counting calories or tracking macros at all, a don’t ask don’t tell policy of sorts, haha. Not packing meals every day, or in some cases, intentionally carbing up what I do bring. Bringing tasty cheeses and Wheat Thins into the house. Those are my #1 snack weakness and I know better than to make them accessible, but I’ve been disregarding better judgment. Eating a handful of Halloween candy most days. Shhhhh.

What needs to change for the next 4 weeks:

1)Each week 5 of my 6 workouts need to begin with 30 minutes of cardio and then have my weights session squeezed (through super sets and very short rest periods) into the remaining 20 minutes. The sixth workout will make up for the lack of traditional cardio with a plyometric and track workout session targeting the lower body.

Mon: Chest & Triceps
Tues: Shoulders & Abs
Wed: Legs
Thurs: Back & Biceps
Fri: Plyos & Shoulders
Sat: Legs
Sun: Off

The most ideal training split is to hit every muscle group twice a week, but by putting cardio back in the picture I won’t have time. Continuing to build shoulders and working on leg shape are my key work areas so they’ve been left in a 2x week split format while abs, back, biceps, chest, and triceps will only get hit once a week.

2)Nutrition. I’m going to be super lazy here and go in with the 40/40/20 macro split for my 1,800 cal budget. I’m going to throw allowances for a 10% macro variance and a 200 cal variance as the benefits of perfect meal planning don't surpass the costs.

What, by the way, is a 40/40/20 macro split?

40% of your cals come from protein
40% of your cals come from carbs
20% of your cals come from fat

1,800 cal budget x 40% = 720 cals for protein / 4 cals per gram = 180 grams protein
1,800 cal budget x 40% = 720 cals for carbs / 4 cals per gram = 180 grams carbs
1,800 cal budget x 20% = 360 cals for protein / 9 cals per gram = 40 grams fat

How do you catch and redirect yourself when you veer too far from your goals? What works? What doesn't?