The Quarterly Update – 3rd Qtr 2016

TRAINING DIARIES

Do a Google search on “Training Diary” and see what comes up.  The first thing is the shopping results.  There were six on the first page that I looked at.  They ranged in price from $8.99 up to $22.95.  That’s ridiculous.  Training diaries should be composition style notebooks.  Those things are sturdy enough to take with you to the gym and the pages won’t fall out as easily as they would from a spiral bound alternative.

What are you supposed to keep track of?

  • Time and date
  • Location (if it is subject to change)
  • Exercise
  • Sets
  • Weight
  • Reps

Is that enough information?  Probably not.  Here’s a few other things:

  • TUL – time under lift
  • TBS – time between sets.  TBS should be a fixed number and need only be noted where you screwed up.
  • Cadence – seconds up, seconds down, pause (if any), peak contraction (if any)

Why so much info?

Here’s three objectives for each training session:

  1. Keep the reps slow and controlled
  2. Keep the speed consistent
  3. Leave one rep in the tank

Those who only record sets, reps and lbs in their training diary will not know if these objectives were achieved unless they are in the habit of keeping detailed records.  That could mean writing a paragraph or more, but that approach is only effective if you write between each set.  You do not want to wait until the end of the workout and trust your memory.  Everything has to be contemporaneous and that means right now.

The problem with writing a paragraph or even a few sentences between sets is:

  • Its distracting when you need focus.
  • It increases TBS.  TBS is a variable and variables must be controlled.

Another issue is that paragraphs don’t make for easy comparisons.  You need objective measurements – sets, reps, weight, TUL and TBS.  With that type of information you can track trends over time.

Take these three workouts:

SQUATS 9/13/2016 9/6/2016 8/30/2016
TBS – 90 seconds  LBS  TUL  LBS  TUL  LBS  TUL
 1st SET 205 33  195 29 195  31
 2nd SET 195 32  195 31 195 32
 3rd SET 195 33 195  32 195 32
 4th SET 185 34 195 31 185 31
 5th SET 175 32 185 32 175 32

These are five rep sets.

Analysis:

August 30 – a 4 down / 2 up cadence gives you a 30 second TUL on a 5 rep set. The TUL is consistent and that indicates that the reps were smooth. The fact that the last two sets were strip sets indicates the weight was about right.  Looks like a good workout.

September 6 – the second workout is where the adjustments are made.  Since the weight did not increase on the first set, the 195 was justified on August 30.  The 4th set this workout shows improvement, + 10 lbs over August 30.  TUL says that the increase was justified but it can also says that the early sets were too light.

September 13 – this one indicates an error.  The 10 lb jump was too much.  It probably should have been +5.  How can you tell?  Two things  – first, the TUL is too long.    Second, the final set is down 10 lbs from last week.

HOME-MADE LEG CURLS

Unless you belong to a club you probably don’t have access to anything with a pulley, or any other type of machine.  That’s the situation I am in and I constantly look for ways to get around it.  I found two options for training hamstrings:

Standing Single Leg Curls

Looking through an old issue of Hard Gainer I found instructions on making a standing leg curl using surgical tubing, dowels and some small dog collars.

Today we can buy resistance bands.  I picked one up earlier this year to help my kids learn to do chin ups.  I’m using bands in place of the tubing.

Why the dog collar?  It goes around your ankle.  You could try to simply step into the band but without something snug to go around your leg, the bank will snap up to your knee at the top of every rep.

I put a standard barbell through the strap and put the bar on one side of a power rack.  The power rack keeps the bar in place.

I stand on the opposite side of the rack with my quads against another bar, which is set at height so that my lower thighs press into while standing in front of it.

Put the collar around your foot, brace yourself against the thigh-height bar and curl.

These are one leg curls, which is a bummer.  It takes longer to train the legs independently than it would on a conventional leg curl machine.  However, there is no need to rest between sets so that makes it a bit better.

DISCOVERED A BIT TOO LATE

Its sad that HardGainer magazine is not published any more.  I was a devoted fan of it for years.  People like Dick Connor, Ian Duckett, John Christy and Bob Whelan offered their advice and it had a huge impact on the way I went about training.

Alas, HardGainer is gone.  Perhaps its a victim of the common sense that it espoused.  There simply is not that much to say about training.  Its about hard work, basic exercises, eating right and getting your rest.

Still, I miss it and was very happy to discover Bob Whelan’s podcast – Mind Force Radio.  There hasn’t been a new episode since April 2016.  I really hope that this is a temporary hiatus.

THE ART OF THE PAUSE

I always used pauses in my training.  In the past, I would use them only on exercises where the peak contraction is a factor.  That would be any pulling movement, such as bent rows or chin ups.  Recently, I have added them into other movements and find them particularly effective for higher rep sets.

DEFINITION: “Effective” – making the set more painful than it would otherwise be.

Example – bench press.  Lots of people pause at the top because it takes the pressure off for a second and you can catch your breath.  Try pausing at the bottom.  Doing so removes all momentum and makes the set that much more difficult.

Your ego will take a hit.  Don’t expect to handle the same weight / reps on a “pause” set then you would where you permit the bounce or “rubber band” effect to prevail.