Getting Superficial Up in Here: Powerlifting Training and Adaptation Methods

When you strength train, you are asking your body to adapt to what is hopefully a periodized series of forces placed on it. You squat heavier progressively–you have to give your joints, muscles, and nervous system a chance to figure out what you’re asking of them and then adjust so they can handle your demands. If you don’t give yourself enough time to recover or quality of recovery (read: sleep and eating crazy amounts of protein–a lot of that being, in my case, chicken) from each progression into your lifting routine, you aren’t giving yourself adequate opportunity for adaptation.

Let’s say you do things right, train well, and recover responsibly. As you adapt, you’re still going to be sore and you’re still going to see some stuff happen to your body that could be called “trauma” by anyone who’s watched crime shows or fallen off their bike or tried to jump over a fire while drunk. I’ve never engaged in the latter two activities but I have witnessed the physical aftermath experienced by multiple friends who have. Yes, I have multiple friends who have tried to jump over fires while drunk.

So let’s explore what corporeal lifting-specific changes have occurred for me thus far:

1. Calluses

See those arrows? Those point towards the calluses I have on my palms as a result of lifting weights for a while. The more you’re hanging from some bar (pull-ups, chin-ups) and doing stuff or hanging onto one (squat, deadlift, good morning, lunge, roughly 845 other exercises) and doing stuff, the more you’re going to develop these on your hands. Wearing gloves to prevent this from happening SUCKS and if you do so you land yourself in ¬†“goddamn wuss, what is wrong with you?” territory. Seriously. Unless you’re a hand model, you do not wear gloves while lifting. Got calluses? Deal with it.

2. Bruises/scrapes from deadlifting

I apologize for the paleness of my legs in this photograph. When you look away from your computer, be careful not to operate heavy machinery immediately because you will probably have some pretty serious retina burn. The bruises you see starkly against the retina-burn-inducing glow here are the result of deadlifting for the second time I have ever done so. I believe the bruises I had the first time might have been worse. Or this is a picture of the bruises from the first time. That said, it’s been about two months since I started deadlifting consistently and this no longer happens. I still get bruising and my shins still get roughed up, but it doesn’t look like this the next day anymore. Note: some people don’t bruise this easily. Some people actually bleed. When you deadlift, individual results may vary.

3. Muscles

Are we watching Jersey Shore here? Look at this jerk with her shirt lifted up. Alright, so this is both exhibitionism and me illustrating a point. If you do heavy compound lifts and eat reallllllly well (ie not crap/not a ton of alcohol), you can have a set of abs as a woman. Okay, I do some ab-specific exercises too (mine are slightly sore from the ab-wheel rollouts I did yesterday), but I maintain that one of the BEST ways to actually build your abdomen is to squat, deadlift, and a perform a host of other major lifts using good technique. Hell, you’re engaging your core when you do pull-ups, alright? So do those. Don’t get down on a floor mat and do some shitty little crunches after using the elliptical for 30 minutes. You will not build abdominal muscle with that routine, ok? Ok. I know no one who advocates this approach to attaining The Situation abs (yes, Jersey Shore references will be made for the next few weeks in this blog as I obsessively Netflix my way through the four seasons to be had on that site) is reading this blog.

You are reading it, though, so let’s discuss a little more this “gaining of muscles” via lifting, and specifically via powerlifting. Generation of muscle mass takes TIME, especially if you’re a woman. Want to see what I looked like five years ago? Sure you do. Prepare yourself:

Holy god, I could pick her up. I could overhead squat this chick FOR REPS and not get tired. Okay, I’d get moderately tired.

So here’s me about five years ago weighing in at well under 100 lb. I’m not sure exactly what I weighed in this picture, but I’d be surprised if it was over 94. I used to be idiotically skinny. I was idiotically skinny probably up until about 2008 or 2009. I’ve been strength training in a relatively serious fashion for about two years and officially started training for powerlifting in April. I will go into my own transition from non-lifter to lifter more thoroughly in a future post, but have posted the above image and discussion to demonstrate how much time it has taken to ¬†dramatically shift my body and gain strength and muscle mass (as an aside, the latter does not necessarily indicate the former, also another topic for another post). If you’re just starting out with lifting, or want to, don’t get discouraged when you don’t have a new body in two months. Don’t get discouraged/wuss out when you’re bruised to hell in multiple areas and your hands are no longer smooth and pretty. This comes with lifting, and it’s actually kind of great. Being able to pull off an asshole The Situation impression with the help of your abdominal muscles in a club is kind of great too. I imagine it is, anyway. I don’t club, I live vicariously through Jersey Shore denizens who do.

Your Triceps are Weak and You’re a Hot Mess

See this guy? See his frontal appendages? See how weak they are? So are mine. I have T-Rex triceps.

I don’t intend to post every repetition of every set of every lift I complete in each of my daily workout sessions on this blog. If that’s what you’re looking for, I send you on your way empty-handed. I do plan on commenting on remarkable aspects of a given workout when something of sufficient magnitude takes place during one; failing out on the second rep of my second set of squats at 155 a week or two ago would have met the criteria for being mentioned in this blog. That was a dark day on which many an appreciably immature sulk was to be had, and this blog’s readership will have missed the bulk of said sulking because I wasn’t blogging at that time. Your belated sympathy is a comfort and I thank you for it. Moving on.

Today’s remarkable event was, very simply, a Discovery of Weakness (from this day forward to be included in the tags, gentle reader–take note). My triceps suck. I’m strong at a variety of “pushing” exercises such as shoulder press, dumbbell bench, et al because I have managed to use my delts, traps, and who knows what else to perform them. Do I have triceps? Yes. And they are fleshy. My arms are not proportionately that small in comparison to the rest of my body, and it’s not all bicep, alright? Well, yeah, a lot of it is bicep. Or I have an appreciable amount of bicep. But some of the arm bulk is tricep, and apparently whatever tricep is there is basically for show. That might have been okay when I was thinking about going out for physique-based competitions, but as my goals have now shifted to a sport that is all about strength, not aesthetics, weak triceps are even more useless than they might otherwise have been. I am now performing close-grip bench as well as a particular variety of cable tricep pushdown in order to correct my deficiency.

I’m going to cut things off here for your sanity and in the name of my completing mundane chores. Some of these chores might involve my T-Rex triceps. A narcissistic picture-post accompanied by what is sure to be academic discussion of what it means to have any amount of muscle as a woman to come in the near future. A lot of posts with that theme are projected for the future, actually–and yes, many of them WILL be accompanied by pictures–because this is my blog and I will be as much an exhibitionistic self-centered lifting freak here as I see fit. I mean, it can’t get as bad as Zyzz. No, it can’t. Maybe it can.