The Complete Power Look Program – My progress

I just wrapped up the first phase of “The Complete Power Look Program” that I picked up off of one of my favourite training sites – TNation. The first phase was 4 weeks in length and I am now transitioning into the second, with 3 phases all together.

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 WHY I CHOSE THIS PROGRAM:

  •  4 years ago I transitioned from endurance training into heavy strength training in the pursuit of lots of lean muscle mass and continual increases in strength. I build my programs around the 4 main lifts – Squat; bench press; deadlift; and overhead press (push-press/military press). This program is built around these king exercises for 10 weeks, with changes to the reps/sets and the accessory exercises every 3 or 4 weeks.
  • This program uses the front squat instead of the back squat, and the push-press instead of the military press; which I absolutely love because my spine could use a break from heavy back squats, and I will benefit from the push-press since the military press is one my weakest exercises; the push-press will allow me to move more weight and use the eccentric phase to help build strength.
  • I chose this program to learn more about proper strength training programming. The use of % RM is something fairly new to me, as well as the manipulation of the set/rep schemes each week.
  • I have yet to incorporate exercises to correct weak areas in my main lifts such as the deficit deadlift, floor press, and top-half press from pins.  Therefor, I can’t wait to see my new 1RMs at the end of the program.

 MY CURRENT 1RMs

MY CURRENT 1RMS

EXERCISE WEIGHT(LBS)
Front Squat 120
Bench Press 90
Deadlift 200
Push-press 90

WEEKS 1-4: My thoughts and progress

  • Figuring out my weights for the accessory exercises, along with mastering the correct movement pattern for new exercises, always contributes to the challenge during my first week on a new program.
  • The deadlift from a 2 inch deficit challenged me the most; the increased forward lean made it harder to sit back on my heels. With that said, I feel like my low back and quads were more taxed than usual, but the whole posterior chain benefited from an increased range of motion.

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  • Getting a solid push-press technique down took me a few tries. Learning how much momentum to use, along with keeping a solid stance took time, but I improved immensely as the weeks progressed.
  • The bent-over barbell row with torso angled at 90 degrees attacked my mid/low traps and biceps.
  • The paused front squat was a fantastic incorporation of time under tension and my quads benefited.
  • On squat day, arms remain in the front squat grip position for almost the entire workout – very hard on the wrists if you aren’t used to it.
  • The Bulgarian split squat with a front squat grip was new to me, and it just made me love the split squat even more.
  • I have already seen an increase in the size of my triceps thanks to the floor presses, and significant anterior chain development thanks to the front squat and push-press.
  • I no longer work-out; I TRAIN.

WEEKS 5-7: My thoughts and progress

  • I thought the deadlift from a 2 inch deficit was hard; and then came the sumo deadlift from a 2 inch deficit – holy shit, hands down the most challenging exercise for me this phase.
  • The wide-grip bench press initially made me nervous (not-so-good left shoulder), but I was surprisingly stronger than I thought I would be. It’s too bad my right side is noticeably weaker despite it being the more stable of the two (I’m a southpaw).
  • Deadlift from pins (pins just below knees), blasted my mid/low traps and lats.
  • Week 5 – day after push-press, my triceps were extremely sore due to the half push-press; I loved that one, along with the 1/2 bench press.
  • Week 6 – the night after the 3×5 front squats my quads and anterior delts were screaming! I continue to see immense anterior chain development and I love it.
  • EXTREMELY IMPORTANT: USE OF GUARDS OR PINS. I’ll admit, I was an idiot and actually performed a couple moves incorrectly and felt it right away. Read the whole program and make sure you understand each exercise before walking into the weight room (unlike me).
  • Week 7 – Front squats; my legs were feeling strong and my confidence was going up as quick as the weight that day. Also, I knew I had made gains because resting the bar on my anterior delts was less uncomfortable = shoulder development, woot woot!!
  • Sumo deadlift is still blowing me away (I made a lot of notes about this one, so I’m not kidding).
  • Noticeable development of my “top shelf” a.k.a. Upper Traps.
  • On average, these workouts have been taking me 30-45 minutes to complete. I stick around afterwards to bang out conditioning work such as BARBELL COMPLEXES or I practice aspects of the Olympic lifts, which I hope to soon conquer.

SIDE NOTES: 

If you have a look at THE COMPLETE POWER LOOK PROGRAM you’ll see that Christian Thibaudeau offered exercises for optional bonus work. I am always game for more, but I decided I would choose the exercises (it’s hard for me to follow a plan designed by someone else and not have a say at all). Moreover, you’ll notice there isn’t any direct ab training included in this program. I add 1 or 2 weighted ab exercises after training, but make sure not to overdue it – this program is incredibly heavy on the core!

This is me back in January of this year finally hitting one of my long term goals – 200lb deadlift. I hope this program takes that number up a notch, or two.

Could testing grip strength predict heart disease risk?

Check out this article:

Could testing grip strength predict heart disease risk?

Article overview:

– The study authors used a longitudinal population study to see whether muscle grip strength can predict the chances of getting a range of diseases.

– 142,861 people across 17 high, medium, and low income countries were Hand gripincluded in this study.

– The grip test could be useful in low income countries.

– Researches said their findings showed that muscle strength is a strong predictor of having a heart attack or stroke.

– The study suggests that people with low muscle strength may be at an increased risk of dying prematurely.

Side notes: Weight training will increase your grip strength and chances of living a longer, healthy life. It’s not about looking good at the beach, or flexing a ridiculously bronzed body on stage – it’s about keeping your cholesterol, blood and glucose levels in check; having energy to get through your day; independence; confidence; and ultimately freedom.

Obese Canadians should be granted legal protection from discrimination, professor says

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Obese Canadians should be granted legal protection from discrimination, professor says

Interesting read!

I 100% agree that no individual should be discriminated against because of their physical appearance, ever. However, I think considering an obese person as disabled is pushing it; unless there are physiological or medical reasons contributing to their inability to lose weight.

What do you think?

Some Things I’ve Learned About Core Training

mark wahlberg

  1. Core = everything but your limbs

Your abs are your abs, your core consists of all but your limbs. This means the glutes; hips; back; chest and abs are all part of the core. If your core isn’t strong, don’t expect your arms and legs to be.

  1. Heavy carries are the best for adding thickness and increasing overall strength

Waiters, suitcase, and farmers walks are some of the best exercises you can perform to increase size and strength of all the core muscles. Just grab a heavy weight in one hand, or both, and take x amount of steps. Make sure to keep your chest proud, back up straight, and shoulder blades together.

  1. Train your abdominals like any other muscle group

Planking for days or performing hundreds of crunches is boring and no good long-term; it also isn’t a true determinate of core strength. 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps of weighted exercises such as cable crunches, reverse cable crunches; barbell pull-over leg lifts and landmine 180s are your best bet.

  1. Heavy deadlifts and squats aren’t enough

I took a break from direct ab training taking on the notion that performing heavy squats and deadlifts every week were enough. Wrong!! I noticed the definition in my mid-section slowly diminishing and soon realized that isolating the rectus abdominus through weighted crunching exercises, and activation of the deep transverse abdominus with the use of such exercises as the weighted plank are absolutely vital to a good, strong core.

  1. Both anti-rotation exercises AND crunches should have a place in your program

A lot of trainers seem to be on the “anti” high when it comes to ab training, and for some clients using anti-flexion and anti-extension exercises may be the best thing for their abilities or current condition. However, in order to work a muscle effectively it should be worked in all the planes of motion it is capable of; therefor crunching is necessary!

  1. 6 packs aren’t impressive – thick, bulging 6 packs are impressive

I was younger and naïve once, I used to be so impressed with 6 pack abs. Now I’ve realised that crack heads have 6 packs; which means your body fat just has be low enough to see them, not that you’re in great shape. Now what impresses me most is a nice, thick, bulging 6 pack that can be seen even with a higher percentage of body fat. What gets me even more than this however are back muscles that are so well developed and defined I could label them.

I hope these tips save you some time and frustration if you’re on the quest towards solid and impressive core muscles. Keep Moving!!!

Lost Battle with Mental Illness

My passion lies in promoting health and fitness while helping others lead a long, happy, and healthy life. Beyond promoting good nutrition, physically active lifestyles, and consistent exercise; I am a huge advocate for mental health. As I mentioned in a previous article (Beyond Blue), this factor is often overlooked when considering ones overall health status.

Many people view psychological disorders differently from other diseases such as cancer or heart disease; but the reality is they are just as serious, and just as commonly end in death. Like cancer, there are treatments, but some begin too late and fail to save the diseased individual.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), someone around the globe commits suicide every 40 seconds. In the year 2000, 815,000 people lost their lives to suicide — more than double the number of people who die as a direct result of armed conflict every year (306,600). For people between the ages of 15 and 44, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death and the sixth leading cause of disability and infirmity worldwide (World Health Organization, 2002).

While catching up on the world’s news this morning, I came across this heart breaking, eye opening story which I felt compelled to share. A young woman by the name of Natalie recently took her life after a long battle with mental illness.

Natalie and her Mom

My daughter, who lost her battle with mental illness, is still the bravest person I know

I was more than taken back by this story, and my heart goes out to Natalie and her family, as well as anyone who has lost a loved one due to mental illness. I truly believe –as the article suggests- that psychotic breaks are not sudden, but are rather a climax of a long buildup. If the body can become ill; so can the mind. Educating yourself on topics related to mental health will help you get a clearer understanding of the diseases, and hopefully detach the social stigmas surrounding them.

  1. World Health Organization (October 2002). World Report on Violence and Health. Geneva.World Health Organization (October 2002). World Report on Violence and Health. Geneva. http://www.who.int.

Jacked Up Calves

Calf Muscles

Lately I have been totally neglecting an important muscle group that I used to hit all the time – calves.

By the time I am done my leg workout, the last thing I feel like doing is working on my calves. There’s just something about working the not-so-big muscles at the end of a heavy workout that bores the crap out of me, and I often head into it half assed, or not at all (shaking my head in shame right now). With that said, I have to change my approach and once again get excited about making those calves grow.

One of the rules of training is to exercise any lagging body parts first in your workout. Instead of waiting until I am exhausted after my workout; I am going to start training my calves first thing while I’m fresh. I can foresee this being hard for me because I’m that girl who will race you to the squat if it’s free, so putting that second will be challenging.

Also, I know that calves respond nicely to high volume. I normally won’t do anything less than 20 reps at a time when training calves and perform anywhere between 4-6 sets. That’s not to say I am going super light with the weight, I still want to make it as heavy as possibly while still being able to effectively go through the full range of motion and emphasize a squeeze at the top of each rep; if I can’t do this, I have gone too heavy (I’m talking to those people who load up 5 plates a side on the standing calf press, like wtf?).

The Gastrocnemius and the Soleus are the two major muscles of the posterior leg. Together they make up that nice bulge and run the entire length of the lower leg, connecting behind the knee and at the heel. The Gastrocnemius crosses both the knee and ankle joint, while the soleus just crosses the ankle joint. This tells me that I need to be training my calves from both a standing and seated position; hence the standing and seated calf press machines.

On another note, I’m big on angles. I know that slightly angling my toes inwards will emphasize outer portion of my calves, and turning them slightly outwards will emphasize the inner portion. I used to make the mistake of performing calf raises on extreme angles, but I have come to learn that this will prevent me from achieving maximal calf activation and likely puts excess strain on my ligaments. With that said, do not over angle your feet, or don’t bother using that technique at all; everything will be hit while keeping the toes straight forward anyways.

In my defense, I may not currently stick around to work my calves at the gym, but I do focus on them often while walking and standing. You really don’t need external weight to make those puppies grow; body weight will work wonders too.

For whatever reason, I have always been one to walk on my tip-toes, specifically while making dinner or concentrating on something while standing. I also love playing with my gate while walking and will push forcefully off the balls on my feet (especially while walking uphill) to really get my calves involved. These techniques have resulted in strong calves without the heavy weight. It also allows me to train them more frequently, which is also a great way to make them grow since your calves are great at handling high volume and frequency.

Try this Calf workout with me and let’s see if we can make some gains:

  1. Bodyweight standing calf raise 1 x 20
  2. Standing Calf Raise Machine 5 x 20-30
  3. Seated Calf 5 x 20-30
  4. Single Leg Body Weight Calf Raise (do not bend knee and use one finger to balance yourself on an external object) 2 x 20-30 each leg

Note: Do not bounce or jerk the weight at the bottom of the movement. Each rep should be done with control; slow descend (negative), full stretch, and full contraction (squeeze) at the top.

Disease Screening

As we get older we take on more responsibility. Work, family, and other commitments consume our time and the days come and go with a blink of the eye.

Many people are responsible for taking care of so many others; some often forget to take care of themselves.heart_disease-1335

With that said, it’s important to take care of yourself and take responsibility for your own health because no one else will do it for you. Getting screened for potential diseases or health disorders is one of the many ways to do so.

The following is a list of some common diseases along with when you should get screened in order to reduce the risk of disease, or detect it early enough to treat it most effectively.

Test

What It Looks For When to get tested

How often

Cholesterol -High lipid levels in the blood = increased risk of heart disease -Age 20-79 -Every 4-6 years

-Depends on risk factors and/or current cholesterol

Pap Test (Pap Smears) -Cellular changes in the cervix indicative of cervical cancer -Sexually active woman under the age of 65 -Every 3 years
Mammography -Breast cancer – Women ages 50+ -Every 1-2 years
Colonoscopy -Colon cancer -Age 50+

-Earlier if there is a family history

-Every 5-10 years
Prostate-specific antigen -Prostate cancer -Men ages 50+ -Talk to your doctor about this test
STI’s -HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea -Sexually active men & woman of any age -Every year

Your family history and the exposure to other risk factors may determine when/how often you should get screened for certain diseases. Some diseases do not have routine screening tests and may require multiple tests in order to detect any indication of disease. Please talk to your doctor to get more information, especially if you see or feel unusual changes in your body externally or internally.

Moreover, you always have to right to a second opinion. As in any profession, people make mistakes and some are better at their jobs than others; doctors included.

You can’t take care of others unless you take care of yourself.

SHAKE IT UP BABY – Revamped Shake Recipe

Back in September of last year I posted a shake recipe. Since then I have added to my concoction and wanted to share it here on Shape180. I have to give it up to Costco for providing these ingredients in bulk for a fair price, thank-you!!

Ingredients:

  • 140g Irresistibles Berry Cherry Fusion – Mixed Fruit
  • 122g Kirkland Frozen Mixed Vegetables – Normandy Style
  • 1c Spinach
  • 12 Plain Natural Almonds
  • A few shakes of Cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup Plain, Dry Quaker OatsShake
  • 1tbl Chia Seeds
  • 1 scoop Muscle Pharm Combat Powder – Cookies and Cream

Nutritional Info:

  • Calories: 563
  • Carbs: 61g
  • Fat: 15g
  • Protein: 40g

You may notice that this is just a jacked up version of my previous recipe. I use this as a meal replacement -breakfast or lunch- and it keeps me full until my next meal. It offers a great source of each macronutrient, and you get the benefit of consuming a couple serving of vegetables without even tasting them. Give it a try 🙂

Annoying Gym Goers

I can give credit where credit is due. It’s great to see people at the gym instead of sitting around being lazy all day. However, there’s actually a few people I wish would just stay at home. Here is my list of people that drive me crazy at the gym.

8. Terrible Trainersbad-trainer-WH

As a trainer I can spot a terrible trainer from across the gym floor. There used to be a trainer at the gym I work out at who was a prime example. He would stand – too close – to his clients as they performed every move incorrectly, nod his head, and tell them to keep going as he constantly checked his cell phone. Not to mention he would hit on any young cute girl that walked past him. I wanted to punch him in the face, but luckily he got fired before I could.

This isn’t to say that all trainers are bad. There are plenty of amazing trainers who truly want to help others succeed. If you ever decide to hire a Personal Trainer, shop around first, and make sure you don’t end up with some idiot who’s over charging you to do ineffective and/or incorrect exercises.

7. Talkersplease shut up

It blows my mind how many people converse more than they lift. The coffee shop is for chatting people, not the weight room floor.

The talkers don’t seem to understand or respect gym etiquette. They will interrupt your set to talk about nothing at all or totally mess up your rest period because they just don’t shut up. I understand you can make friends at the gym, but when I’m going for my PR deadlift or catching my breath between sets, I really do not want to talk to you.

On the same note, please don’t strike up a conversation in the change room while you’re completely naked. I admire how comfortable you are in your own skin, but jeezzusss, wait until after.

6. Flexing in the Mirrors More Than Lifting-ers

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It seems to be the younger guys that do this most; they’ll pace the floor and flex in the mirror more times than I can count. Having to walk around you to get my equipment as you aimlessly wonder around isn’t really my favourite thing. It’s also a little distracting catching you constantly flexing in the mirror behind me as I complete my set. Did you come here to train, or practice your posing? I’m pretty sure the latter can be done at home.

5. Rack BlockersBlocker

1-arm rows are one of my favourite exercises and I think everyone should do them, just NOT in front of the dumbbell rack. Blocking any equipment as you do an exercise is just plain rude, and if I so happen to accidentally drop a dumbbell on your foot one day, it’s going to be your fault.

4. Unnecessary Gruntersgrunter

Overall, this one hasn’t been much of an issue for me. I myself curse under my breath every now and again or let out some unattractive noises as I complete a heavy set. The people I’m attacking here are those that do it excessively or unnecessarily. A man where I train grunts loudly after every, single, rep. It doesn’t matter is he’s curling 15’s or pressing 80’s, he is loud, excessive, and sooo f****** annoying. If you’re doing it for attention, you got it, but not in a good way.

3. Nipple Shirt Wearers

nipple shirt

These guys are usually jacked and decide to show it off by wearing spaghetti strapped tank tops that expose everything but their lower abdominal’s. They seem to think they are a gym god and just beg to be looked at. Everything from the way they walk to the way they stand just reeks of arrogance. Hey, you might be in amazing shape, good looking, and possibly have a great personality to boot; but I’ll never know for sure because I have already labelled you as a douche bag.

2. The Cable Cross-overers

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There is one big pulley system at the gym where I train. It sits in the middle of the floor and you either have to go through it, or around it to get to the other side of the gym. During peak hours, few things tick my clock more than that guy hogging 2 out of the 3 pulley systems to perform cable cross-overs. First off, I have to duck under the cables if other routes are blocked, second, you’re taking up too much damn space, and third, someone else is probably waiting to use ONE of those pulleys. Save this exercise for when traffic is low and opt for other variations when its busy. Thanks.

1. Non-unrackers

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Do you have any idea how many times I get all pumped up to do some squats just to spend the first 10 minutes of my training session unracking 4 plates a side on the squat rack? LIKE REALLY?! Mr. Macho can apparently (half) squat 400 pounds but can’t seem to put the plates away afterwards. This makes me so angry because these people consciously make the decision to not put their equipment away and leave their mess for the next person to clean up. I’m wasting energy moving your plates, and the first thing we learn in kindergarten is to put your toys away before taking another. If you’re contributing to the mess you are a straight up jerk.

My Pre-workout Supplements

A good pre-workout supplement can take your training to a whole-notha-leehhvall! The right sup can boost your strength, endurance, focus, and give those muscles a nice pump; who doesn’t want that?

Before I get into sharing my pre-workout stack I feel it necessary to share a short story regarding my past experience with some name brand pre’s.

A few years ago I started using pre-workouts for the reasons I stated in the first paragraph. I Dumbbellfound a reputable name brand and began taking it as directed. I felt like superwomen in the gym! I was moving faster, pushing harder, and training longer than I ever have. This high lasted a while; until it all came down to bite me in the ass.

I eventually became dependent on these pre-workouts and couldn’t imagine training without them. Sadly it got to a point where my sleep suffered – probably from the high level of stimulants most name brands possess. It wouldn’t matter if I took it at 5am or 5pm; I could no longer get a solid full nights rest. This snow balled in the sense I was still taking it to combat my fatigue from not sleeping; resulting in over-training, under-recovering, and no gain in muscle mass what’s so ever.

So please be cautious when supplementing with pre-workouts. To be honest, anything with a picture of a skeleton, or the word “explode” makes me nervous, as do some of the price tags.

Personally, my favourite pre-workout stack is one I can put together on my own. I purchase the ingredients in bulk and then toss them together about 20 minutes before I lift. If I had tons of money, I’d likely add to my stack, but here are -in my opinion- the necessities:

  1. BCAAS

“Branched chain amino acids or BCAA are the smallest sub particle of protein and are a chemical chain of the amino acids Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine.. They are often referred to as the building blocks of protein. This particular blend of BCAA supplement is a 2:1:1 ratio of the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, valine. Amino Acids are essential in the body and are produced naturally. When the body undergoes physical stress, BCAAs can be used as an alternate fuel beta-alanine-1lbsource to fuel protein synthesis and delay fatigue. They play a special role by being metabolized quickly and directly in the muscle where you need it most, not in the liver. By allowing the body to stay in a positive nitrogen balance and continue protein synthesis, BCAAs are best known for keeping the body in an anabolic state (muscle building). When taken around times of training, BCAA powder can be essential to keeping protein synthesis going and the body in a fuelled state.”

  1. Beta-Alanine

“Beta-Alanine is a non-essential amino acid used to promote muscular endurance and improve exercise performance by being able to train longer and harder. By promoting high levels of intramuscular carnosine, it can delay the build-up of lactate burning in the muscles. It has also been known to increase maximal power output when training.”

  1. AAKG

“AAKG is a salt derivative of the amino acid arginine and alpha ketoglutaric acid. It is used as an exercise supplement to cause an increase in nitric oxide production in the body. This increased nitric oxide production causes the body to vasodilate blood vessels (increasing their internal diameter to increase blood flow) giving users the muscle pump effect and causing more oxygen and more nutrients to the target muscle. AAKG is an advanced form of arginine and is approximately 2 times the potency. Therefore if one was to take 6g of arginine, it would only require approximately 3g of AAKG to achieve the same effect. AAKG has been shown in new and ongoing research to increase anabolic activity and increase levels of growth hormone, IGF-1, and insulin, glutamine and other amino acid metabolites.”

  1. Creatine Monohydrate

“Creatine Monohydrate or Creapure Creatine Monohydrate is a natural substance found mainly in the skeletal muscle cells of the human body. Made up of three amino acids l-methionine, l-arginine, and l-glycine it is produced in the liver and to a small degree in the kidneys. It is used in the body to provide energy to all the cells in the body especially the muscle cells by increasing the amount of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) available. This ATP that is created is used to fuel flexingall muscle contractions in the body via the Phosphocreatine Synthesis cycle. Although creatine monohydrate is not an essential nutrient, it is very necessary to intense training and physical strength. Creatine is used widely by athletes and resistance trainers to increase strength, power, endurance and explosive strength. Creatine is naturally occurring in foods such as beef but supplementing with exogenous creatine monohydrate is a much easier and more efficient way to increase creatine stores to induce more muscle growth and much more intense training. Creatine is among the most popular and effective supplements available and is very important to anyone looking to improve physical performance.”

  1. Caffeine Caps*

“Caffeine is a bitter, white crystalline xanthine alkaloid that acts as a stimulant in the body. Caffeine is found mostly in different types of seeds, leaves, and fruits. Caffeine in humans acts as a central nervous system stimulant which may prevent and/or ward off drowsiness and restore and keep you alert. Caffeine accomplishes this by causing the release of dopamine which is a chemical in the brain that keeps us alert, improves problem solving and pleasure.” (Canadianprotein.com)

I took each description off of the site I order these supplements from. It saves me a lot of money in the long run and I can’t help but feel like a scientist as I mix them together prior to my workouts. These supplements are pretty tasteless, but I often add a squirt of a flavoured water inhancer to get it down easier. If you decide to order from here, please use my link:

http://canadianprotein.refr.cc/KRT7T64

* The reason I put an asterisks beside caffeine is because I no longer include this in my stack. I’ve realized the high amounts of caffeine alone, or in other pre-workouts aren’t good for me. I am a very energetic person as it is and sometimes have issues with anxiety. This has decreased dramatically since I have stopped taking them. Also, I drink a lot of green and black tea so I’m sure I get enough caffeine as it is.

1. Canadianprotein.com,. ‘Canadian Protein: Canada’s Supplements Superstore’. N.p., 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.