Personal Space

I usually walk into the gym expecting to be able to complete my workout without being impeded from doing so to any great degree. I have my space in which I’m working, you have yours, and everyone is going to get along fabulously provided we honor this understanding. If you’re a lifter who spends too much time on the internet or a lifter who pretends you don’t spend too much time on the internet, you may have heard the phrase “my bar is an extension of myself.” If you’re a lifter and you don’t think this way, you should. Once you’re moving the weight loaded on a barbell for your chosen lift during a given workout, thinking of it as just another appendage you have to quite literally keep in line helps you respect it as a member of your corporeal team to a greater degree.

This is why it is a pretty serious breach in gym etiquette to go anywhere near anyone’s bar as they are preparing for or executing a lift. To do so is comparable to passing roughly four inches from someone in a drug store in which there are, at most, two other shoppers, and those two are somewhere over in the incontinence section. You do not do it. Common sense and social cues tell you not to do it. So when I’m setting up to do, say, some Pendlay rows, and someone walks onto my platform and passes my bar by a few inches, I’m going to get irked. My last rowing workout involved a lot of taping so I could watch my form. Before one of my sets, my camera caught this:

I don’t care if you have never stepped foot in a gym and are a total newbie at it. If you see someone who looks like they’re lifting or looks like they’re about to do so, stay the fuck away from them. If you have entire aisles that are clear behind and on the sides of the platform that is located in the path you’d like to travel, USE THEM. It’s called goddamn personal space, and bad things happen when you get in someone’s share of it.

In other news, I managed to bench 115 lb for three reps yesterday. That weight is more than I weigh and a PR, and it suggests that my 1RM (one rep max, for those of you non-lifters) has increased. The third rep was ugly as hell, but I locked it out. I did this for my final set of 5 working bench sets for that day, too, so I imagine I made this effort with a bit of fatigue going on. Yeahhhh benching!

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Trying for Symmetry

The theme of my lifting life of late has been balance. Move the weight with balanced, solid effort. Use both shoulders with balanced, equal range of motion. Keep the bar balanced and unmoving on my back. Balance working out with the demands of a new semester of teaching and course-taking and work-producing. Balance as I bumble between my bed and the bathroom in the morning. Balance the level of hydration necessary to keep my hair from turning into a massive ball of frizz when it’s raining, like today, and I have to go lift, and I just need my stupid hair to stay in place while I’m lifting and god damnit all the little frizzies are flying everywhere and by the end of my workout I’m going to look like a cross between a Pomeranian and the Bride of Frankenstein.

Some things I balance far better than others. I definitely fail with my hair, particularly on days when nature apparently has a vendetta against me for not doing a very good job with recycling. Listen, the recycling system in this city sucks, I have my limits. The Earth is doomed anyway.

I semi-fail with balancing the bar on my back while squatting during recent squat sessions. It’s an issue that stems from, believe it or not, the manner in which I grip the bar and allow or do not allow my left and right wrist to turn under. THIS issue actually stems from how well I’m able to maintain an extremely strong, tight upper back. The closer one lifts near one’s max weight on squat, the more the aforementioned issue grows in importance. If I can’t keep my shoulder blades locked together, I can’t keep the bar glued into my back. When I can’t keep the bar glued into my back, 160 or so pounds start to slide one way or the other (on me, given my particular imbalances, this is towards the right). My wrists, particularly my right wrist, shift to account for the bar’s shift. Everything starts getting more and more out of place as I tire during a squat set and this is how the bar becomes unbalanced. Do I have to focus on keep my right wrist straight to prevent this chain of events? Yes. Do I, more importantly, have to focus on maintaining tightness as I ascend out of the bottom of the hole? YES. God damnit, Janis. Equilibriate or fail.

In bodybuilding, symmetry of muscle development is crucially important and judged to minute levels. I’m not a bodybuilder, but to my eye, my physique is relatively balanced in development at the moment. Balanced lifting promotes this state of physique, and as long as I continue to try to correct my asymmetries, particularly the  one described above, I will remain a non-mutant-looking example of a human being.

That said, here is a picture of some muscles I’m developing as a particular consequence of powerlifting, most particularly because of heavy deadlifting:

I pretty much wear the same thing for physique updates every time I do them, which is almost never these days. No shirt, ill-fitting jeans, crappy belt. Also, thanks to Kyle for taking this picture.

See those kind of horizontal-ish lines running along my back near waist-level? That means my back is developing! Look at the little muscles grow! Awwww.

I’m going to attempt to do better with posting more often in the near future. The semester started and my internet time was the first casualty.

Dear Diary, This Is What I Did Today

Here’s an example of a workout I might do on a squat/deadlift training day. 

squat
bar x 8
bar x 8
95 x 5
95 x 3
120 x 1
140 x 1
160 x 2
160 x 2
160 x 2
165 x 2
170 x 2

deadlift
95 x 5
95 x 5
135 x 3
135 x 3
185 x 1
205 x 1
235 x 2
235 x 2
235 x 3

Lunges, walking DB (cumulative DB weight)
40 x 24
40 x 24
40 x 24

pull-throughs
60 x 20
60 x 20
60 x 22

standing cable ab pulldowns
50 x 18
50 x 18
45 x 21

I’ll be starting up a new training cycle soon and we’ll see how my squat progresses. Bench has been a little slower than I’d like, but I’ve been pressing more than my bodyweight for doubles and my form is solidifying, so I’m feeling good about heading into another training cycle with that lift. 

Yeah, see that workout up there? It has left me tired as hell this evening. No more writing for me. Just staring stupidly at various screens (Master Chef is on tonight! I’m going to eat stuff and watch it!).