View Full Version : Odd Blog on Strength, Conditioning, Nutrition, El Alia

Mark Fenner
04-25-2010, 03:24 PM
Well, I figured I cluttered up the PL & OL forum enough with my Smolov thoughts ..... so, I should actually move in over here in the logs section. I'm going to treat it as a blog that would be of interest to the Catalyst Athletics community. I used to have a "real" blog but I moved on from that institution.

I'll come back here (to this first post) and edit a few things about my athletic and training history. I might even keep the first post update with current training, goals, etc. Boy, wouldn't that be something -- keeping it updated :).

My athletic history is a sad, sad story. I never had any introduction to strength (per se) as a youth. In elementary school, I played tons of soccer, some basketball, some wrestling, and did lots of bicycling around town. In high school, there was some moving trauma, I tried my hand at football (my brother was a bit of a football stud playing guard at 168 soaking wet) -- that didn't go so well because I was bigger and weak as a kitten. But, I could run (slowly) and I went back to soccer -- playing goalie at first and then all over the field (fullback, stopper, mid-field, forward). Oddly, my high school was small enough that the football players (at least some of the O-line) were big soccer fans (many had played in elementary school) and they cheered us on. I also joined them for weekend tackle football. So, I had some toughness and grit ... but man, I was lucky not to die some times.

But, my real loves were hockey, volleyball, and martial arts. I played ever game of volleyball I could -- given that we didn't have a high school boys team. I started on foot with deck hockey and progressed to rollerblades for a lot of roller hockey (almost all pickup games). I even had two or three games on ice (ugly, ugly stuff). After longing for martial arts training (for years), I started some kung fu in 10th grade and carried it through for a couple of years (nothing special). Later I trained at an MMA school before MMA was a term -- we did karate, judo, BJJ, escrima, JKD, etc. It was a Dan Inonsanto type place.

I didn't _really_ touch a weight until about junior year in college. I could barely bench press 115 pounds at 190+ bodyweight. Yup: fat and weak. Fortunately, my wife still loved me (she wasn't my wife yet). Found some half decent advice (Fred Hatfield's ancient website) and started squatting. Nothing amazing, but I was on the right path. Late in college I was doing nothing but studying my tail off and hitting the gym fairly regularly.

Early in graduate school, I made far more progess in the martial arts: after a stint in aikido, I hooked up with some great judoka (fall of 1999) and eventually worked up to nidan (2nd BB) in 2007. Anyone that knows John Schneider -- when he was a brown belt, he destroyed me (a yellow belt) with a o-uchi gari, knocked the wind out of me (I was gasping on the mat), and on the way down, my fist caught his eye leaving him rolling on the mat. I was happy to be in his wedding last year. I was never a _strong_ judo player but I had good instincts from a tough older brother and wrestling early on.

Through early graduate school, I started lifting a bit (I think I had some major delusions that came from 1/16th squatting 315). But, I got sucked into the dreaded hell of jogging. I had ballooned up to 215 lbs. and I took up jogging. Can you guess what happened to my knees, shins, ankles, etc.? It wasn't pretty. And I didn't learn.

Fortunately, one of the instructors at my MA school was also a long-time strength devotee and eventually he invited some of "us" to his gym -- The Dungeon (yes, yes, it's not an original name). Six weeks later, my wife and I were the only ones still training every weekend. This was probably around 2005 but I'll have to check my log book. After a lot of work, a broken leg (from judo), and so forth ... I got into the 2-3-4 ballpark (even more with trap bar DLs and hand-on-rack safety bar SQs). At some point I knew every article on T-nation, I had a FAQ answer on Crossfit, etc. Yippee. A few years ago now, graduating (PhD), new born son, new job, moving, selling a house ... ACK! Real life!

Which brings us to the present day: I've had pretty consistent training for 2.5 years with the exception of summers. That's the curse of an academic schedule ... you fall apart after spring semester. Seriously. Any teachers out there that deny this? I'd love to have some of what you are on. [I now believe that simply taking May off is the best answer -- it beats losing the whole summer.]

<that's it for now ... I'll throw in some more about different programming things and how I got from 215+ to a judo competition at 178 ... holy crap, is that really 40 pounds? whoa!>

Mark Fenner
04-25-2010, 03:25 PM
Quick props to my wonderful wife.

At 140 lbs bodyweight she did:

SQ: 225 lbs
BP: 120 lbs
DL: 110 kg (242.5 lbs)

Total: 587.5

Next up: 600

Allen Yeh
04-26-2010, 04:41 AM
Nice intro. I look forward to seeing what you'll be writing, I liked your Smolov post, not enough to try it (at the moment) but good reading!

Derek Simonds
04-26-2010, 06:47 AM
Yep I thoroughly enjoyed your Smolov post, just a little different then Allen I actually might do it. I will definitely enjoy reading your log/blog. That is an awesome job by your wife on her total.

Mark Fenner
04-30-2010, 02:29 PM
So, I haven't forgotten my one week old blog/log project. In fact, I'm hoping to only update it once a week or less. Seriously, I don't think people want to know about my extra set of KB C+P this morning. That said, I did actually take a bit of time this week working on something for the blog: I went back through my workout log books that started in the January 11, 2001. Wow. Seriously, I see that I didn't train on 9/11 (and I remember that morning too -- I bet you do also).

Anyway, the length of the record isn't nearly as cool as it sounds: there are lots of off periods in there. Especially in the first notebook. I have three archived notebooks now. In fact that first one (which is smaller) took me all the way through April 8, 2005. I see I weighed 195.5, I worked out from 7:54 -> 9:30 AM, and I hit a 3 @ 295 DL. I'll stop with those details now.

I made a summary spreadsheet that I'll probably attach to my first post. But, there are a couple things that struck me as I tried to summarize what I was doing at different points in time. (1) Sometimes, I was taking way too long off ... especially after hitting a high note in training (sometimes the layoff was enforced by real life, injury, etc.). But seriuosly, I see at least three points in my life that I've worked up to a 195+ BP. And almost every time, shortly there after, I've "switched things up". Seriously! I've done similar with 315 SQs (worse yet, the old ones were "high bar" and the new ones are "low bar". Not that the hi/low difference was even the main culprit, but you'll see my point in a minute.) Really, is a new training goal worth the year to get up to 315 again? DL isn't innocent either, I've hit 170-190kg repeatedly without pushing higher.

I think my point is that it takes a lot of hard work and some blood, sweat, and tears to get up to these weights (for me). Pushing beyond them is like climbing a mountain that gets steeper towards the top. Yes you have to keep walking. And each step is going to get continually harder. If this game was easy ...

So, there are a few reasons that I couldn't push beyond. (1) Life. Can't do much about moving, having children, new jobs, etc. A new situation may take 1-3 months to get sorted out. This stuff I don't begrudge. (2) Shiny new program. Oh dear. We've all dealt with this one. I made some nice strength gains, but I softened up a bit. Time for a "fat loss/work capacity" block. Which of course you aren't adapted to, you push too hard, and you get injured. Or, "I'm bored". It's time to make another run at learning the Oly lifts. And you don't SQ or BP for two months. Ooops. Hey, if _you_ haven't made these mistakes, you should probably find someone else's writing to read. I'm only talking about what I know. (3) Shiny new exercise. This is a little more insidious than (2) because you might keep the same structure and 90% of the exercises from your current program.

But, tell that to your BS that you spent 6 weeks adding 30-40 pounds too. When you hear the siren song of SnGrip DLs and _replace_ your SQs ... and six weeks later, you've lost the 40 pounds on your SQ ... you can comfort your SQ with "Well, I'm stronger. I just can't display it on you. You understand. Right?" Sort of like new job, salary, wife, diamond ring or trip to the islands.

So, that got me thinking. If you want different, make sure to keep some same (thanks DJ & Pavel). How's about this, with a new program or lift, keep your hard fought lift that you built up in your program. Keep it first and do 3 of 5 or 5 of 3 twice a week. Or maybe do a 10 rep total (5-3-2, 3 of 3, 5 2s) with a little higher intensity. Make sure they look and feel good. Who knows, you might not only be stronger with the shiny new lift, but you might even keep some strength-skill. And, after a week or two focusing back on your main lift, you might actually PR.

I'm also happy to say that I did push beyond today (Friday).

BP: 215 (PR) ... forever from mid-pt to top (triceps)
SQ: 345 (PR) ... knees fell in (adductor hammie - right, this one is opposite of "common sense")
BW: 195

Both felt good. Neither were psyched. That wouldn't help my BP, but it would add to my SQ.

Last Friday, I did a meet like session. But, I did some repeats on some of the lifts to get a better feel at the weights. I ended up with:

SQ: 2 @ 295, 3 of 2 @ 315
BP: 2 @ 185, 2 @ 195, 1 @ 205, 2 of 4 @ 185
DL: 2 @ 150kg (hook), 1 @ 170kg (lup), 1 @ 180kg (lup)

The DL 170kg didn't feel good, so I didn't try to match my PR of 190kg. I really wanted to. Fortunately, the 180kg felt better although it was more difficult. Doing all of these in one session (3 hours) was a real bruiser. I was hammered over the weekend, but some of that might be due to a virus that really knocked my wife around. I got it too, but maybe not as much. I ended up not training until today (with the new PRs). Frankly, I felt like crap for the week and didn't want to train today. Even warming up with my SQs, I was thinking "Just a light day to log some lifts." That never goes as planned for me. Although I did have two back to back light workouts that set a great stage for some records in Spring 2008.

Mark Fenner
05-08-2010, 05:53 AM
Good grief.

Did my first bike ride of the season. The weather was ... interesting. High to very high winds (20-40+ MPH), passing storms and t-storms, and dropping temperatures. I spent the morning checking the bike, lubing and cleaning some parts, and getting my gear out. I was debating whether to ride, decided to ride, had a depressingly cold rain pass through, decided to wait, checked the weather, waited a bit, and _finally_ decided to go.

I did the ride last year, but not as my first ride. There's an
endless climb in it and I was curious about heart rate during the
climb, so I wore my HR monitor. More on that after I describe the

The segments on my Jacob's Hill ride:

Home to approach on Rte 12 (via train station-rec fields + bike path). 5.2
Approach climb from 12 to trailhead. 2.3 (dirt road)
Off road.
Climb to height of land on Jacob's. 1.3 (dirt road)
Down to 12. 2.3 (dirt road)
Home via Nat'l Life hill. ~5

And my times & ticker readings: Overall 2:24 / 140

30 / 166 (first two segments overall HR)
40 / 111
12.30 / 146
6.28 / 107 (weeeee)
32 / 123

I also took a rest at the trailhead (5 mins), and swapped my fleece off and on a few times depending on rain and wind.

I couldn't really walk the rest of the afternoon. The climb up Gould and Jacob's just crushes. I rode it non-stop in the saddle the whole way in my lowest gear 99% of the time. On the trail, I felt like crap on any of the climbs (mud and leaves, weakened legs -> bad mojo) and walked most of the significant ones. Boo. But, I felt good in the slaloms and rollers. I was fairly certain I was going to get slammed by a storm: I had some motivation to keep moving. Fortunately, when the winds peaked, I was nicely sheltered by some friendly trees.

When I popped out of the woods, there was an awesome display of clouds over mountain tops. I like to call it a "dynamic" sky. Wow. Definitely cool stuff with a crystal blue sky in the background.

Unfortunately, I'm sure that ride will crimp my squatting style today. I'll probably delay them until Saturday (**). I'm also thinking about how to counteract the negative effects of endurance efforts on strength and power. Now, I'm not so worried about it that I'm going to stop riding. Summer == riding & hiking == fun. But, if we can cleaverly prescribe some medicine to account for the enduro, maybe we can offset some of the anti-strength & power adaptations. I'm thinking along the lines of a few (A FEW!) bouncy drills that keep the CNS up.

I'm also thinking about dealing with the repetive motion of cycling (in particular, on the road portions) on the quads and hip flexors. Pedaling around the circle (with clip ins) helps with the legs proper but I easily fall back into "push only" pedaling. I'm also thinking about the old hip flexors. I do plenty of hip flexor stretching/mobilizing -- we'll see if that is enough or if it needs to be upregulated to compensate for biking.

(**)Yeah, well, um, yeah. I can't really (read: I'm constitutionally incabable of) not work my lower body at the gym. So, with thwacked quads, glutes that were somewhat neglected on the ride, and a "friskyness" for something heavy ... there's only one logical choice. Rack pulls. They went well. I stayed a hint conservative b/c riding does actually put your back in an annoying position for several hours. None the less, I worked up to 5 @ 455 with hook grips to 315, and both alt. grips at 365.

I'm still flailing as to my programming for the next several weeks. We're moving and I know that will take a lot of energy.

Mark Fenner
05-15-2010, 06:21 AM
Just a few thoughts I've had recently:

Hiking with (your own) young kids. Here's a scenario: you enjoy hiking, you do it enough to be able to "just go". You have a child. It's easy enough to throw your child in a carrier pack and keep hiking. Especially if you've become used to the weight. But here's where it gets interesting. When THEY start hiking! What do you do? Chances are, one of the reasons you like hiking is because you enjoy the physical work. But, you can't bomb along with a 2.5-3 year old. And you can't go all Sgt. Major on them either (move it or I'll kick your .... yeah, not such a good idea). Yet, you want to introduce them to the wonderful world of the outdoors and encourage them to be physically active.

Hummm. Certainly, you can alternate periods where they walk and you carry them. You can also alternate levels of hikes: some days Junior will ride and some days he or she will walk along. Here's a thought for those days when you do a super light hike and you (mom or dad) are jonesing to go. Get up early or find a way to sneak out for a quick 10-20 minute HIIT type session. Short and to the point. Burn off enough of your energy so that you aren't frustrated when you do a slower walk.

Some might say: you have to be kidding. You are so hung up on training that you can't just relax with your family? Well, I'd say: sometimes, yup! Have you had to skip training this week? Have you had a particularly crummy week at work? Are you trying to keep pace on a couple goals? Would doing the quick session allow you to focus even more on your family? All good potential reasons to make your training, training and your family time, family time.

I'm going to have almost six weeks of very open time for training. I'm considering a high-frequency approach along the lines of Kelly Baggett's PTTP like frequency oriented routine here: http://www.higher-faster-sports.com/highfrequencybenching.html. Note, while I will bench, my focus will be squatting. I'm trying to talk myself into a goal of a solid 405 SQ by July 1. It's odd, it's pretty easy to "train hard and see what happens". Mentally, it's very different for me to say: "this is the goal, must make it happen".

Shoulder's been unhappy. One thing I'm adding is more time with a stick and working the back SQ rack position while just sitting with a forward lean. From there, I move the hands in and out and do behind-neck-presses (this is with about 5 pounds of weight total). I'm going to do this multiple time daily and see if I can get the (good) feeling of racking the stick to transfer to the SQ. The benefit to the stick is I can play with tiny, subtle adjustments. The bad thing, of course, is I can't tell if going from 5 pounds (or less) to 315 (or more) will have any transfer. I do think the literal stretching and muscle firing patterns might transfer, particular if I am very mindful about the position (i.e., mentally convince myself that the stick is the 315 that will conspire with gravity if I screw around).

Mark Fenner
06-11-2010, 07:09 AM
My family and I are moving.

Those words put an immediate "zap" on most sane lifting plans. We haven't gotten into the heavy, heavy lifting phase yet. Fortunately, my wife's new job has offered some moving assistance. Unfortunately, it's not unlimited so we have to do some picking and choosing -- we'll move some stuff our selves and have some of it done professionally. We moved ourselves locally last summer -- we had about 15000+ pounds of stuff. It took us a week. We couldn't walk for the following week. Ugh. Fortunately, we got rid of a lot of junk and we don't have to do it all ourselves this time.

However, the physical element isn't really the worst part. It's the planning, replanning, finding reliable help, finding a new place to live (rent? own?), looking for a job for myself, feeling bad your son is being uprooted, and so forth. But, we'll get through it. On to fun stuff:

Two of my last points were that (1) my shoulder was being problemsome and (2) I wanted to be hell bent on a 405 SQ. I didn't realize just how troublesome (1) was and how it would affect (2). I also realized the cause of (1). I was trying to do some ring dips (which haven't been a problem before) and ... ouchie, tweakie ... my left rotator cuff went into spasm, unhappiness. That actually persisted for quite some time (May 1 until ... now). I kept up with the PL SQ through May 15 or so, but when two weeks off of PL SQ (with only a single workout on May 23) didn't reduce the inflammation, I made an executive decision to give the shoulder a rest. So, I moved to High Bar Back Squats (OLY SQ).

There are some nice benefits to the OLY SQ for me: I dont' _have_ to spend 20-30 minutes warming up and stretching out my shoulder girdle to do them. (Of course, with my goal being a health shoulder, I do the warmup more often then not. I just don't add the stress of PL SQ). The OLY SQ have been ok: of course, that means they're about where my PL SQ was in January *sigh*. But, I'm mostly content to be getting good leg work and trying to improve the shoulder. Incidentally, the OLY SQs are as deep as possible. I'm not using oly shoes, but I've considered it (I have them).

Training wise, I had four weeks of about 1 heavy session per week. I was supplementing that with some other work: "just" doing an extended warmup up twice, hiking Camel's Hump (great hike, quick, knees were mostly ok though they complained at the very end), and a couple KB swing, snatch, clean+press workouts. I always intend to do some windmills and getups, but for some strange reason ...

The brings me to this last week. Since the next couple weeks may be back to one session a week, I've been attempting to lift whole body, squatting every day on MTuThF this week and MTu (next week). Squatting four days a week will get your attention. M was 7 of 5, Tu was a heavy single (275), Th was 3 of 5, I'm not sure about today. I've also been hitting the BP each day: M 2,3,5 ladder x 4 (40 reps), Tu heavy double (195), Th 2,3,5 ladder x 5 (50 reps).

A tiny bit of direct upper arm work has also found its way into my routines. And, it turns out that it may be useful! I literally have done about 15 sets of curls in the past five years (or so). I've done a few more tricep extensions, but not many. Well, I opted for some "stretch position" movements: incline bench DB curls and OH tricep extensions. And, my left arm is definitely weaker. So, I'm working to get that balanced out. Also, the OH tricep actually gives me a few moments to see how my shoulder sits in the OH position (i.e., do I get nice and tight to the ear, do I have to assist with my off hand to get into that tight position, etc.).

One last tool in my toolbox that I had really used a lot in the Fall: I call it "Eurocise"ing -- b/c, well, "Euro" makes everything better (or so the infomercials say). Anyway, this is simply Pavel's ETK C+P and PullUp ladders alternating between them. For me, it looks like 1 C+P, 5 breaths, 2 C+P, 7 breaths, ... N C+P, 1.5 minutes rest, 1 PU, 5 breaths, ... N PU. The C+P are done with a barbell.

A last note. My wife is training out of Celli's Gym (http://www.cellisfitness.com/) in Pittsburgh for the summer. Ryan and Dana Celli are wonderful folks: I met them a few weeks ago. Ryan is also beastly strong: he totaled 2000 @ 198 (equipped) and 1807 @ 198 (raw). Whoa! Dana is no slouch either. Anyway, if you are in Pittsburgh and need a gym, it is only 5 minutes from downtown and 5 minutes from Oakland (if you know the right roads). It's also 5 minutes from my brother's. Man, if only we were still living there!


Mark Fenner
06-24-2010, 07:51 PM
So, just a few thoughts:

1. I've been training a variety of places. The gym at NU, the Moores, and at Celli's. It interesting when you switch environments. Different bars (possibly with a variety of groove widths and slight diameter variations), different lighting, music, etc. Different styles of benches, squat racks, etc. Doing three places in two weeks definitely gave me an appreciation for the benefits of "home" -- one dedicated place to train. Of course, variety has benefits too.

2. I finally put up a pic for my avatar. It shows me and my son (Ethan) on top of Camel's Hump in the Fall of 2009. He's 2.5 yrs and about 35 lbs in the pic and he rode up on my back. (Talk about rucking! Try it with a wiggly load). He is wearing some great clothing: a Steelers fleece and an Elite Fitness beanie. I've actually taken him up CH three times.

3. I've been experimenting with back-to-back days of squatting. The first day I "grab some volume". The second day I "grab some intensity". As an example, Day 1: 7 of 5 waving up to 235/245. Day 2: work up to a nice single at 275. (These were with what I call for my own reference "Olympic squats". For me, this is high bar, mostly upright, medium- width, narrow hand spacing squats. I moved to them for a few weeks to take some stress off my shoulder. They've been a nice variation -- though my knees got a little achy as I upped the volume/intensity. Also, my lower back was a little disgruntled. But, none of it was more than adaptation. I'm ready to get back to mostly PL style squats. I'll probably use my heeled shoes when I return to Oly style.

4. I had some nice success with log pressing (small potatoes for most folks, but I was happy). I haven't even done heavy militaries since last fall but I was able to match an older 2RM (i.e., about a 4 year old effort) for some nice sets of .... 5 (I think ... my log book is five feet away and I just drove 12 hours .... Pgh to Montpelier).

I'm finishing my wine and going to bed. Last note, my sister ... who at the young age of 50 has gotten into training ... commented on me looking more like a lifter than even last summer. Good stuff. See, it really does pay to string together more than 8 months of continual training (that's a note to self!).

Mark Fenner
06-28-2010, 04:05 AM

It looks like this will be my last post from VT (the Internet is going dark at the Fenner household today).

I had some fun squatting against chains on Friday and did some asymmetrical KB C+P (5 of 5 @ 24kg, 16kg L and R -- 10 of 5 total) on Sunday. Unfortunately, I tried a sumo deadlift (which I haven't tried in about 4+ years?) on Friday and my hamstrings weren't ready for the force-stretch combination. Nothing serious, but I definitely got a little tweakie in the hammie.

More box moving is in the RX for today and I might get a last NU workout tomorrow. Officially the three things we'll miss about VT: a few close friends, Camel's Hump, and Ariels' Restaurant. (Yes, there are a couple other things like great winter sports, Fall, wood burning, etc.).

Now, I'm back to being a Pennsylvania mutt (born in eastern PA, elementary school in central PA, high school + college in northwest PA, graduate school in Pgh, moving to northeastern PA).


Mark Fenner
07-05-2010, 10:42 AM
I've been really run down: between weeks of moving boxes, too much driving, house hunting, and some very annoying respiratory congestion, things have been a bit rough.

It's about 90+ degrees and 90+% humidity with a blessed light breeze outside. I did some rounds of:

5 tree pulls ups
5 Assym KB C+P
1 Hill "Trot" of around 70 yards on a light slope (would be a sprint, but my hammies aren't 100%)

I got 5 rounds and had to stop for an extended water break. Then, I did 3 more rounds. Not sure what day I'll get back to barbells. However, I'm quite happy that my shoulder/rc issues seem to be pretty well under control. Some rehab, different exercises, and extended rest seem to have done me good.

Mark Fenner
07-20-2010, 10:56 AM
Life as a wandering nomad continues to scatter my training.

I'm getting back into a PL SQ groove (had been doing a more Oly style): one day, 3 of 5 @ 225; another day, 3 of 5 @ 275. I've been doing some box-paused safety bar squatting. These end up being fairly wide stance. Man, they really hammer the hammies. In particular, the inner (adductor) ones. The lower body has also been enjoying some trap bar DLs.

BP has been napping (3 of 5 @ 175 or a more ambitious 2,3,5 @ 175). Overhead pressing has been alive though. Several days of log pressing, random KB pressing, and some nice doubles with a 32kg KB (right and left). Followed up the 32s with sets of 12 @ 24kg on both sides.

My PL SQ form must be at least somewhat dialed in. A guy commented, "You must be a Rippetoe guy." I said, "Huh?" I thought he said "You must be a grip toe guy". A few repeats cleared it up. But that is my generic form: medium stance, lower bar placement (but not absurd), closer hand spacing, neutral head, lots of hip drive.

Mark Fenner
08-25-2010, 10:14 AM
Still nomadic, although we'll at least be in temporary housing (stable) on Saturday! We'll also get to see Mom. Yay.

Training has basically fallen off the proverbial cliff. However, in the last week or two I have gotten in (1) a bit of KB'ing and (2) rehab hip stuff. Unfortunately, my whole left hip girdle has been very unhappy with me. Fortunately, it seems to be responding to some band work (4 direction hip movements), hip flexor stretching, IT stretching and rolling, etc. It's one of those things where you take a week off, it becomes two weeks off, things just get worse (from sitting, etc.). Finally, you get ticked off enough to do some "sissy rehab exercises" and, voila, you have some relief and progress. I did sneak about 5 days of hard-core ibuprofen and icing in with only minimal benefits. The ibuprofen felt good, but it didn't make any lasting dent. Anyway, on to more interesting things:

Today I did 3 rounds with KBs of:
2rh c+p, 2pu, 2lh c+p, 2pu; 3 same; 5 same; 8l c+p, 8r c+p.

rh means "right heavy": i.e., the right hand had my 24kg and my left hand had my 16kg. lh means "left heavy". You don't say! l and r mean left and right by themselves with the 24kg. The pulls ups were on a tree branch which meant three things: (1) uneven grip heights (I balanced them by flipping within the rounds), (2) bouncy bar (the limb shifts around a bit and I'm trying not to break it! parents would be a bit upset! um yes, we're staying at my folks), and (3) thick bar grip training - definitely have to false grip and squeeze, knots in the wood help a bit.

Not sure how long it took. About an hour. The end of the 2nd and all of the 3rd rounds also involved playing soccer and t-ball with my son (as active rest, of course!). He also want to do a few pushups. The last round: the 5 pull ups were broken (4+1 then 3+2); the 8 c+p were broken on the left side (7+1).

Doing some math, it looks like 2+3+5 = 10 ... x 2 = 20 ... x 3 = 60 pulls ups. And it should be 60 + (8 x 3) = 84 heavy c+p. And then 60 light c+p. A nice workout under a tree with some playtime thrown in.

I need to find some video of someone who knows what they are doing on a double KB c+p. I feel like I can't get my hips jackknifed quite enough with two bells. It feels like I end up too upright (more of the dreaded squaty KB movements).

Mark Fenner
09-03-2010, 12:33 PM
Less "wandering nomad" and more "living in a box nomad" these days. But, I did string together several days of training. Did a 3 of 5, "get back into it", day: 3 of 5 on SQ, BP, DL, MP. Light weights and just moving. It was enough to tire me out.

Did some KB days. One was more movement+recovery oriented. One was more strength oriented. Movement+recovery looked like Maxercist rows and presses (e.g., b/o row on one leg, standing press on one leg), get ups, and windmills. Strength day was C+P with a single KB. Both days, I snuck in some field mobility work (walking knee raises, leg swings, lunges, lunges with reaching, 1-leg toe touching). C+P day had a circuit:

(2 C+P r, 2 C+P l, jog ~70y, 2 PU, jog ~70y; 3, 3, jog, 3, jog; 5, 5, jog 5, jog) X 3.

Kept track of time + average HR:

3:00/101 (rest)
2:58/118 (rest)

Took about 5 minutes walking and drinking water to get down to about 115. And man, it was getting hot already (hot days, here in the Northeast).

Mark Fenner
09-15-2010, 09:32 AM
Saturday PM:
1:45 mtn biking - decent pace, technique is improving quite a bit

Tuesday AM.
Another KB C+P day. Circuits of: C+P r, C+P l, jog, PU, jog. Added a (2,3,5) round and a (2,3) round. So, it looked like:
(2,3,5) x 4 + (2,3)

Times for the (2,3,5) rounds were all around 8:15 or so. The (2,3) round was around 5:00. Rest between rounds was 2:00. Rest after exercises was "one step up" breaths (2 reps -> 3 breaths; 3 ->5; 5->10). Took a few extra breaths between circuits rep progression (after the second "trot").

Total time was around 46:00. (**)

Tuesday PM:
??? mtn. biking - more rests, better pace b/t rests???, technique was ok
(possibly AM KB'ing took more out of me than I though)

Hopefully, I'll grab a barbell workout on Th or Fri.

(**) Geez. That turned into a longer slug fest. So, 46 min. for 40 PU, 80 C+P, 28 x ~65y = 1820y = ~1 mile. 8 min of explicit rest + breathing rest. Hummmmm.

Only the last round, last circuit of 5 was pushing into suck. I'd like to get up to rounds of (2,3,5,10) but the 10 pull ups will be a real problem. I could do them jumping; I could break them up (but 10 would still be tough after the 2,3,5); I could go to something like rounds of (2, 4, 8, 16) for C+P and (1,2,4,8) of PU. The 8 would still be tough. Maybe (2,4,8,12) and (1,2,4,6). Maybe try a few of them and report back.

A shorter, more intense version would be nice too. Picking up the running would do it quickly. But, I'd like more work on the P of C+P. Maybe C+2xP?

Mark Fenner
09-20-2010, 01:16 PM
A shorter, more intense version would be nice too. Picking up the running would do it quickly. But, I'd like more work on the P of C+P. Maybe C+2xP?

Well, figured out the shorter, more intense version. I did my C+P with as double C+P (two KBs, one heavier -- 24kg, one lighter -- 16kg). So, the rounds looked like 2xKB C+P (l. hvy), 2xKB C+P (r. hvy), jog, PullUp, jog. They felt like ... ugh.

I only got through two rounds of 2,3,5 and the second round of 5s wasn't complete. I missed my last r. hvy press and I had to rest to get my last pull up. I kept track of the times, but I'm now ashamed of them. In the second round, I also rested longer, while having a conversation with a guy who was intrigued by my workout.

So, what can I blame it on? I'm working on a cold, sleep has been crummy, I had my shake before hand (normally it's coffee only), and there was a blue moon. Also, I was/am dealing with a partially sliced off pad of my index finger (mtn. biking crash -- somewhat spectacular). Seriously, it's always interesting how much habit and sameness play into performance. Manipulate a few things and all of a sudden, it's like learning to walk again.

For the record, the times were about: 7:40, 2:00, 11:00.

Hopefully, we'll try this 2xKB workout again and see how it goes. Maybe, I'll try rounds of (2, 3, 2, 3) next time (i.e., split the 5 up a bit).

Mark Fenner
09-27-2010, 05:29 AM
Tue & Fri (Sept. 21 & 24): Mtn. biking. Both rides were pretty good. Definitely hit some technical stuff on Friday that had been holding me back. Couple nice shin bangers.

Sun (Sept. 26): Field mobility & movement & KBs.
5 rounds of 2/3/5: r cp/l cp/jog/pull up/ jog. 10 breaths b/t rungs, 2:00 b/t rounds.
Times: 7:00/2:00/6:53/2:00/7:11/2:00/7:30/2:00/7:19 -> 44:00 (36 work, 8 rest).
50 reps of each exercise; ~1 mile trotting

Also working on the MobilityWOD with John S.

Mark Fenner
10-17-2010, 10:24 AM
Ah, got a great ride at Frances Slocum on a great, sunny, Fall Sunday. It is one of those days when you just have a $h!t eating grin on your face -- for the rest of the day. Several thoughts from the ride and training for the last couple weeks.

As I threw at on Facebook:

The interplay between "cardio" and "strength" is really amazing when you're doing something in the "real" world (i.e., not marathons and powerlifting). Yes, yes, I know, there's always call for people to run messages about battles ... and deadlift buses off of stranded citizens. But, let me get to a point.

From around Aug. 29 to Oct. 3 (five weeks), I road 1-2 times a week. I squatted about 3 times in the same period and I hit a bunch of KB workouts. I had two "really good" (relative to me, of course) rides in there. Both were the 2nd ride in the week, and both were when I was more rested (didn't KB the same day or SQ the previous day or two). There were still some obstacles and terrain that gave me grief.

Fast forward two weeks. Over two weeks, I've squatted five times (if you are doing the math, I included Oct. 1 SQs in both counts). Lotsa SQs (Smolov style days but only two a week). I didn't bike at all. I didn't KB at all. So, what happened with my riding? Some of you can probably guess. I was able to destroy some obstacles that had really been a problem. I was able to climb steeper terrain more easily. I had a MUCH deeper low gear. I had enough extra to give a pop with my legs to help life my front wheel. Great! Right?

Well, yes; but ... There is a trade-off. I gassed really easily. The combination of putting out more (man)power and having a less well-tuned CV system leds to some serious attempted to loose my breakfast and a lung. Loosing the edge on my skill also meant more effort for some similar results. Bringing together the extra gear with some tuned skill would probably solve most of the riding problems I have at Slocum (just about everything is almost in my reach). Hamming through it is another issue.

In a nutshell, you can see how bringing all the components together (cardio, strength, skill) at once ("peaking") can be a really powerful combination.

A summary of my experience today:
Skill keeps you out of trouble. Strength gets you out of trouble. Cardio keeps you going.

Forward thought: Looks like I'm going to try the Brothers Smolov (TBS) programming. It seems to have been pulled from its previous sites. I'll respect Dr. PP's intent and not share the specifics but suffice it to say that it is a similar "half Smolov" to what I've done before, although TBS has a different style of halving then the Pavel-Smolov.

Rick Deckart
10-17-2010, 08:16 PM
A summary of my experience today:
Skill keeps you out of trouble. Strength gets you out of trouble. Cardio keeps you going.

Forward thought: Looks like I'm going to try the Brothers Smolov (TBS) programming. It seems to have been pulled from its previous sites. I'll respect Dr. PP's intent and not share the specifics but suffice it to say that it is a similar "half Smolov" to what I've done before, although TBS has a different style of halving then the Pavel-Smolov.

You just earned a free hoodie plus three t-shirts, what size? And thanks for TBS!

Your in good company! The two Burgener sons and Glenn Pendlay will use the template and Pavel even speaks of the Smolov-Pütz cycle... Drop me a line with your words once your done! And friend me on FB!

Rick Deckart
10-17-2010, 08:27 PM

The excel sheet is there...

Rick Deckart
10-18-2010, 12:38 AM
and just to make this clear once and forever:

i do not intend to make a single penny out of it! :)

Mark Fenner
10-19-2010, 05:16 AM
You just earned a free hoodie plus three t-shirts, what size? And thanks for TBS!

I'm very flattered. For the hoodie, large. For the t-shirts, medium or large (are the t-shirts for around town or for in the gym?).

I'll be doing a run through of either the break-in followed by Mark II (love the names, by the way), or just Mark II. I've been doing half-Smolov weeks for the last three weeks so I feel mostly ok going straight to Mark II. Then, a week off over Thanksgiving. And then, another 3 week block.


Rick Deckart
10-19-2010, 07:22 AM
What is your max? If you consider yourself intermediäre you don't skip the Intro and Chose MarkIII...

Rick Deckart
10-19-2010, 07:24 AM
Mark ii = Novize, Elite
Mark III = intermediäre
Mark i = Elite Elite

Mark Fenner
11-06-2010, 10:27 AM
So, I'm one week into a TBS (The Brothers Smolov) style lifting cycle. I'm basing off SQ: 300 and BP: 210. I'm planning on a x%, x+5%, x+7.25% progression week to week. Both "maxes" have been higher within the last year (during heavy Winter/Spring training), but I looked over the workload to plug in sane numbers, for me, for right now. I quite guilty of not doing the break-in. Oh well. If I wait to do the break in, I won't have three uninterrupted weeks until after New Years. I have, however, done several Smolov-style days over the last months.

For SQ (intermingled with heavy mountain biking):
Oct. 12: 7 of 5 @ 225.
Oct. 15: 10 of 3 @ 245.
Oct. 19: Heavy 5 (255)
Oct. 26: Heavy 3 (295)
Oct. 29: Weak 2 @ 275

My weights for Week I looked like (SQ/BP): (210/145), (225/155), (240/165), (255/175). With training on M, Tu, Th, Fr.

M-W I felt really good. The 5x5 on Th started to take a toll. Fr was a hard session to complete in some ways, but not in others. Part of it was shoulder related. Most of it was general "systemic" fatigue. All the reps went up. Not necessarily with ease, but they went up. Non were gut busters. Actually, some of the early sets were harder than the later sets. I found this in my previous Pavel-Smolov dealings. My best sets are generally around 2/3 of the way through the set count.

My shoulder (darn it) has been acting up again. It is pretty well isolated to a VERY GRUMPY infraspinatus and teres minor. Of course, there are pinball effects. I'm working with an ART/Chiro to hopefully get it under control. Literally, the pain is between squat sets. Not during. Bench is ok: I have some fear on the first rep b/c the shoulder is fired up, but after I get it stable and go, it feels fine. Oh well. I've added ext. rot. exercises and rows; I've dropped pull ups for now. I wouldn't have done many pull/chin ups with the Smolov style workload anyway.

I've scaled back my Mobility WOD following. There just aren't enough hours in the week. However, I've kept some things that I feel are helpful (as opposed to following the "general" MobWOD). Some ball/foam rolling, some band distracted stretches, and some regular stretches. Today (Saturday), I squirreled in an hour of mobility stuff (I did the next five episodes from my running list). I can't really emphasize how good the "light stress" (eustress) of the mobility work is for my physical (muscular and neural) and mental (various) recovery.

Oh, and my appetite has gone off the charts.


Rick Deckart
11-07-2010, 10:19 AM
very good, keep notes and please write a detailed report for me, currently working on four articles... if you don't mind you report will be another piece of the big puzzle!

Mark Fenner
11-12-2010, 09:46 AM
Another week, another $. Or not.

The shoulder was the main problem this week. The good news is that the pain is in a different area (anterior). The bad news is that it isn't a lot less painful. M was ok, Tu was very bad, Th was ok-ish, Fri was bad. However, the pain is far more limited to the duration of my workouts. I'm doing some basic shoulder stuff (Y-T-P) + side ext. rotation and it seems to pump the shoulder up and calm it down. I've also been icing.

Enough about that. When you are doing something in the Smolov (or Sheiko) category of training, you have to decide what level of dings, pains, and possibly injuries, you will tolerate. If you are below threshold, you keep going. I think there's actually a place for lumping on enough volume that you expose your structural weaknesses ... and then you address them when you're done with the short, intense overload phase.

Again, the 5s are just really, really tough. I definitely lost my back position on one of the 5ers and paid for it a bit. But, nothing drastic. There's a very real possibility I mis-loaded my 7s weight on Tuesday. It was one of those later-in-the-day I thought: gee, when I cleaned up the weights and got my station set up ... I only grabbed one set of 5s. So, that means I must have used 10s for the SQs. But that means ... oh man, that's why they were so hard.

I don't recommend mis-loading on a Smolov-like plan.

If I didn't mis-load, my weights for Week II looked like (SQ/BP): (225/155), (240*/165), (255/175), (270/185). The 240 might have been 250. It did feel particularly hard. Again, I trained on M, Tu, Th, Fr.

Looking towards next week (week 3), my increment is supposed to be an additional 2.5%. That's easy on a 200-ish max: 5lbs = 2.5 x 2. On 300, without access to my mini plates, I'm stuck deciding whether to go up 5 pounds or 10 pounds (the math says, 7.5 pounds). I'm leaning towards +10. I'm also considering a "week" that looks like M-Tu-Fri-M with the 2nd Monday in the following calendar week. That gives me more rest before the 5s and more rest after the 5s. It also fills in the holiday and moving gap of what to do around Thanksgiving (assuming I'll be completely off Thur-Sun): a nice workout on Monday and then ... recovery with turkey, wine, etc.


Mark Fenner
11-19-2010, 10:17 AM
(I'm writing this on Friday, technically the last workout will be Monday. But, baring grave misfortune, things should go as planned.)

So, I am currently completing a round of Puetz-Smolov (Mark II: the week-to-week progression is x% -> x+5% -> x+7.5%). Base xs are 70, 75, 80, 85 for 3 of 9, 4 of 7, 5 of 5, and 6 of 3. You can find the spreadsheets by googling for "The Brothers Smolov".


My original schedule was M-Tu-Th-Fri. I maintained that in Week I and Week II. For Week III, I modified this to M-Tu-Fri-M. I'll discuss it below.

Week IV is supposed to be something like rest then 1RM on Thu and 1RM on Fri. I'm not pseudo-maxing on Thanksgiving. Sorry. I think what will happen is a gentle max on Fri (at a gym on the road, not sure if I'll have access) and then do heavy singles on the following M-Tu.

I ended up "rouding up" for my Week III squats. And, I bumped my last two BPs by 5 pounds.


Like Pavel-Smolov, Week I felt easy and I threw in some extra stuff here and there. Mostly some rows to help with shoulder support. Later, the shoulder support came mainly from YTP and external rotations. The shoulder held together, but there were some days that were real gritty. Week II Tu in particular the shoulder was on fire. It always felt ok while squatting and after the first rep of bp, but between was not pretty. And the 1st bp rep frequently had me questioning my sanity in not stopping: but, after rep 1 things were generally ok ... the problem was rogue pain, not structural failure. Starting in Week I, I was also under the care of a D.C. + ART practitioner. (highly recommended)

I'm going to run the numbers on Pavel-Smolov versus Puetz-Smolov (as performed) to get some idea of relative intensity and volume. However, I feel -better- systemically now then I did in the Spring (w/ Pavel-Smolov). This is somewhat surpring to me b/c the Pavel-Smolov is a bit more drawn out and should give more recovery time. As I mentioned above though, the shoulder gave me much more trouble this time around. My left hip got frisky, as well. But some of both hip and shoulder can be attributed to sleeping on the floor right now (only for 1 more week!).

I decided to split the final week's Th-Fri (5s and 3s) with a break over the weekend. 5s have a special effect in this program. They are probably 1.5 to 2x as hard as the 9s and 3s day. 7s day can come close to the 5s (some weeks). But, since 5s are -killer-, it makes sense to get an extra day of rest before and take a day or two after. However, you can't do it every week, or all of a sudden you have a six or eight week program. So, just doing it the last week gives you some room to "go for it" (round up 5 or 10 pounds) on the 5s and 3s days. [Note, if you were doing it as suggested by DrPP, you would be going M-Tu-Thu-Sat, I think. Which has benefits. Unless you don't train on the weekend.]

I made good use of MobWOD education in several instances: particularly with knee "hot spots", I was able to create some slack from the hip, ham, quad, calf to relieve some pressure (both through improved positioning -- mainly keeping the left hip sitting back -- and increased slack). Working hip flexion + internal rotation became a standard warm up piece. I developed a distinct tightness on the left side, so I did "up pigeons" twice on the left and once on the right. It helped a lot in Week II, a bit in Week III.

I got away from my Pavel-Smolov warmup (somewhat b/c I was much more focused on keeping my shoulder together). I think I missed the hip flexor stretching, planking, and goblet squats most. My shoulder preparation revolved around pec, trap, int. rot. stretching; halos, band pull aparts, band poor man, and fr/bk serratus raises for mobility and activation. I included some band distraction work early, but I started to feel it was moving the shoulder too much out of its groove before I put it under increasing stress. Regardless of it being in a "better" position (potentially), the problem was that it was in a position that I was -less adapted to-. So, in my prep work, I balancing keeping my groove "same, but improved" -- and not, completely different.

A last bit of comparison. In the Spring, I did six weeks of Pavel-Smolov and, a few weeks later, I did a two week "mini Pavel-Smolov block" of four workout in the traditional Smolov scheme. The weights I used then were (sq/bp): (225/155), (240,165), (255,175), (275,185). My Week III for Puetz-Smolov had weights of: (235/160), (250/170), (265,185), [predicted: (285,195)]. The first workload has about 33% more lifts and is over 10 or 11 days. The second workload is over 8 days. The first workload was enough to have me write "Uncle" in my book. I think the second will leave me far fresher. After the Spring "mini block", I hit some nice PRs 10 days later (345/215).

I'm planning on gradually working up to new PRs between now and Christmas. I'll see where working up to singles puts me at the end of next week. I imagine I'll be able to add a bit to those singles over three or so weeks. I also (desperately) need to get more variety in my program: I neglected DLs and upper body pulling and OH pressing. I definitely need to reincorporate those -- at least at a "doing them" level (3 of 8 for the upper stuff; speed deads for DLs?).


Excessive Detail Follows:

*Weights, Rests, and Auxilliary Work*

(x/y) SQ wgt, BP wgt
lazy rest: beep and then go
strict rest: setup as beeps
wu sq, bp: # of wu sets
aux: ser -> side-lying external rotation

Week I: Oct 31-
M: wu: shoulder, 2 sq, 3 bp (:30)
work: 3 of 9 @ (210/145), lazy 3 (:30)
aux: DB rows, YT, bat-wing

Tu: wu: shoulder, 3 sq, 3bp (:25)
work: 4 of 7 @ (255, 155), strict 4, (:43)
aux: :30 walk, maxercist row/press, raises, etc.

Th: wu: shoulder, 4 sq, 4 bp (:36)
work: 5 of 5 @ (240/ 165), strict 4 (:55)
aux: YT, batwing, ser

Fr: wu: shoulder, 4sq, 4bp (:35)
work: 6 of 3 @ (255/175), lazy 3 rst? (:55)
aux: ser, 1-rows, poor man

Sa: lotsa MobWOD

Week II: Nov. 7-
Su: light hike, rolling, poor man
M: wu: shoulder, 3 sq, 3 bp (:24)
work: 3 of 9 @ (225/155), 3,3,4,... rst (:32)
aux: YTP, ser, :30 walk, roll, rows

Tu: wu: shoulder, 4 sq, 3 bp (:29)
work: 4 of 7 @ (240, 165), strict 4 (:40)
aux: <nada>
* rough shoulder

Th: wu: shoulder, 5 sq, 5 bp (:27)
work: 5 of 5 @ (255/ 175), lazy 4 (1:00)
aux: YTP, ser

Fr: wu: shoulder, 5sq, 5bp (:35)
work: 6 of 3 @ (270/185), lazy 3 (1:00)
aux: YTP, ser
Sa: MobWOD work (specific to my needs)

overall shoulder: M: ok+, T: v bad, Th: ok, F: bad

Week III: Nov. 14-
M: wu: shoulder, 4 sq, 4 bp (:36)
work: 3 of 9 @ (235/160), rst: 3,3,3,3,5,5 (:40)
aux: YTP, ser, :30 walk, roll, rows

Tu: wu: shoulder, 4 sq, 4 bp (:36)
work: 4 of 7 @ (250/175), lazy 5 (1:03 w/ phone call)
aux: YTP, ser

We: few pushups + planks, KB press, MobWod

Fr: wu: shoulder, 5 sq, 5 bp (:42)
work: 5 of 5 @ (265/ *185), lazy 4 (1:11) *wgt jump +10 instead of +5
aux: YTP, ser

overall shoulder: M: ok+ tight later,
Tu: ok,
Fri: stiff before, ok+ later

M: wu: ()
work: 6 of 3 @ (285/195), () +15/+10 instead of +10/+5

Mark Fenner
11-22-2010, 05:39 AM

I'm currently in "hurry up and wait" mode on the closing of our house and moving stuff around. I didn't mention it above, but last week had a 10/10 stress factor. Absolutely ridiculous. I'm going to skip the details, but when you work with financial people, keep them on a very short leash.

So, I'm going to lose my Internet connection in a bit, for a bit. But, I wanted to throw out a few thoughts on health (Dan John taught a lot of us the concept of health and fitness -- well-being and specific preparedness).

If you are unhealthy (you hurt) you have a few options: (1) "suck it up" and keep going, (2) quit, (3) address it. With 1 and 2, you will eventually stop doing things. So, we're left with addressing it.

Many of us are a mess. I'm mid-30s. I grew up with a good bit of "play" in my life, but I lost a lot of it in high school to video games and TV. Dumb me, my parents should have encouraged me more, etc. That ship has sailed. I'm still better off than many of our youth will be in 20 years.

Some of my friends in their 40s, 50s, and 60s are hurting for other reasons. They played a lot while young. But, they also moved into the "suck it up" mindset and pushed it until and beyond the point of breaking: shoulders, knees, hips.

I think some us now see a different path we want to follow: we want to get "awesome". But, we want to be healthy and we want to be health 20-30-50 years down the path. We want to use our fitness with our grandkids. We want long-term health and we want to build fitness.

Looks like the guy is here to steal my cable modem. Talk to you soon.

Mark Fenner
12-17-2010, 09:38 AM
Not an exciting update. I can never remember where I put this, so I'm putting it here. Basic public health, physical activity guidelines:



150 min moderate -or- 75 min vigorous activity per week. Mix and match. Double it for increased benefits.

Mark Fenner
01-06-2011, 05:30 PM
Man, not a great month of training. But, I did keep the wheels turning. I developed a neck stinger (pinched nerve) that required a bit of ART, posture improvement, and rehab to address. The shoulder also started playing dirty. But, I did get a moderate linear progression run from 3 of 5 @ 185 -> 245 on squat and 155 -> 175 on BP. Nothing amazing, but still work. Also got in plenty of MobWODs, some custom MobWOD work, added in some DLs, MPs, and rows. Hit a SQ 3 of 315.

Got a nice long hike in (12.5 in 4:45) though the knees were very grumpy since the last long hike was in June.

Hit KBs the week of New Years, plus a bit. Mainly working on C+P to get away from rehab and more towards developing the shoulder. Doing 2-3-5-10 of 1C-nP or nC-nP (i.e., C-P-P-P... or C-P-C-P).

Not sure what's next for the next blocks of training. I definitely want to incorporate more regular CV type training. It will almost certainly be multi-modal (run, bike, swim, snow activity, kettlebells) and mix longer-slower with shorter-faster work. I definitely want to add arm and shoulder mass. On a whim, I measured my arms and legs: 28" thigh and 16" arms. Definite disparity. Don't even have to measure to see it. Need to keep the shoulder and hip happy. Want to keep moving the powerlifts forward. These are all workable together; not sure what, where, when.

Mark Fenner
03-13-2011, 04:26 PM
Man, not a great month of training.

Man, not a great month of training.

Do ya see a trend? Well, it's not -all- bad, but things have been better.

About three weeks ago, I had a serious back issue come up during warm-up sets of squats. Another reason to ALWAYS start with lighter weight. Had it been 185 (still a warm up weight) instead of 95, I might have been really fubar'd. Anyway, since November (and, in reality, longer), I've been dealing with increasingly annoying lower back/hip/SI joint/etc. issues. It's sort of come and gone. Anyway, after a day of heavy snow shovelling, the next day of squatting caused the serious issue (very pissed off disc in the lower lumbar) that sent me crawling to the ART chiro. Some soft-tissue work to relieve some of the excess tension let me sleep and move for the next week. And things calmed down. Another snow storm put some additional stress on the lower back (but thank you to the neighbours with snow blowers) and laid me up for the evening.

I'm now about 3 weeks out. This sort of injury is a 6 WEEK thing. So, while I'm feeling mostly ok. The level of pain is normally very tolerable (1-2/10) and only spikes to 3-4/10. But, if I *ding* it up again, it will be another 6 WEEKS before it really heals and ... on ... and ... on. Etc. So, I'm really trying to take it seriously and give the back time to heal. Snow shovelling is mandatory, but it looks like we might be mostly clear now.

So, no heavy bilateral leg/back work. No significant posterior chain work. No running. No rowing. Etc. But, I've been able to quad/glute leg work, remedial core work, upper arm stuff, and I've gotten at some walking (with and without weight vest) and swimming. I've also revisited ice skating which I hadn't done for about 10 years. Relearning how to skate stop (damn you, left turning skate stop) has been fun. And the real fun of skating is my 3-year old son is making his first strides.

So, hopefully 3 more weeks and I'll be able to --gradually-- start back into some heavier lifting. But, I'm planning on at least a 6 week ramp up to work weights (but still sub-max stuff).


I realized that only captures my training since later February. January itself was a mix of a $hit ton of shoveling and moving of *heavy* boxes of books, wgt. equipment, etc. The back survived, but I think it was increasingly injured by repeated exposures to the "uncontrolled real world". Fortunately, good friends and beer helped me through (thanks Bob & Bob & Jason & Jason and Three Penny). I also hit a few bouts of snowshoeing. All in all, I was physically active, just not in the gym. And, we finally have our home gym set up. My wife put some pics online, but I don't remember where. Heck, I don't need to logon anywhere to look at it! :) We just need a good adjustable weight bench. NYBB delivers quickly to us, but I'm not quite content enough with their benches. Craigslist in this area is somewhat disappointing. Later!

Mark Fenner
05-29-2011, 06:47 PM
Things still haven't been great. But I think I'm --starting-- to turn a corner.

I developed some serious lower back issues (and some severe neck issues). I have much greater sympathy for anyone who has ever "given up" their athletic endeavors due to chronic pain. I've always looked down on folks ... boy do I feel like an ass.

I imagine it will be at least three more months before I squat seriously (with seriously defined as reps with > 275 ... my PR is 345). I imagine a long slog of squat like movements, light deadlifts, etc. etc. I have to completely retrain my squat and pulling patterns. They developed (devolved) into some serious hyperextension at the lumbars, inactive torso (rectus ab, tva), inactive glutes, etc. Along with ... serious desk jockey posture.

Have you gotten to the point that mowing the lawn was causing pain? If so, I feel your pain.

Giving up and taking some relaxants and pain meds and quitting (all physical activity) would be so easy it is silly. But, I can't give up the activity. I'd end up ... well, I'd end. So, back up on that pony and time to keep slugging along.

Updates when something interesting happens.


Mark Fenner
07-27-2011, 08:30 AM
In the spirit of posting every two months ...

The back is "pretty good". The neck is fine. Sometimes, lots of active recovery methods are needed. Sometimes you just need to rest. For weeks. But, keep building the desire to "get back to it".

I've been doing substantial mountain biking (on a new 29er). I'm -- just this week -- starting back into some calisthenics and using a lighter kettlebell. I think ETK ROP (ha! look 'em up) will be my ticket to build back up to some strength work.

I can't imagine *starting on* heavy for at least another two months (beginning of October). That would work well as mtn. biking season would be starting to wind down.


Mark Fenner
01-25-2012, 07:21 AM
Just a quick note, I'm still alive!

From July 2011 (my last post) on, I've been doing a metric ton of mountain biking (up to and including last week). Ranging from 25 mile enduros to 1 hour "faux single speed" gag fests. I'll likely continue through the winter. I'm hoping to start some swimming (primarily as a skill, not as a "workout") to get a little variety and b/c I love being in water.

I've started toying around with Dan John's MMS high-rep squat progression. I'm not doing MMS. I'm playing around with the squat progression. (Is that enough of a disclaimer?) The degree to which high-rep squats transfer to mountain biking is freaky. I'm also keeping in the game with KB C+P, pull ups, and swings. Along with the Williamson core awareness drills. Everything, including me, seems to be chugging along pretty well. Once I have a bit more steady training (things started back up around October, but were scattered ... I've been pretty consistent since the insanity of Christmas travel) to talk about, I'll put up some details.


Mark Fenner
11-24-2012, 05:11 PM
Wow, immensely long time since a post.

But, I've been very physically active and I'm pretty darn happy about it. Last winter was very mild in the northeast and the upshot was that I had essentially no break in my mountain biking over the winter season. While I was sad to do almost no skiing, snowshoeing, etc., my biking really grew by leaps and bounds. I carried a ton of riding into the summer and I went from "middle of the pack" in our group rides to riding (admittedly, behind) with the front riders. Some of them are *really* good and it will take a substantial amount of work to truly ride -with- them ;) [smiley courtesy of my son!]. About the only big downside is that I expected about three years out of my (new last year) hardtail 29er ... with the winter and not losing any riding time, I'm completely ready for a new bike. Drat!

As you can tell from the first topic bias, biking has become my preeminent activity. And I'm really happy abou that because I grew up loving two wheels; it just took me a long time to re-discover that old flame. However, I also love the iron and here's what I've been up to (for the last year!):

Nov 2011 saw me working ETK ROP and into Dec 2011 I started following Dan John's MMS SQ progression. As I mentioned above, I was *not* doing the entire program. However, the SQ progression really intrigued me. I ended up doing ETK style swings and C+P plus some pullups/supine rows. At the end of it, I got 50 reps at 185 in about 8:13. I can't emphasize the benefit of high rep squats for short "punchy" hill climbs on the mtn bike. That took me through (about) March first. March, April, May were consistent with a 40-workout type flavor. However, the end petered out and from June through September I had very scattered training (four workouts a month in June, July, and September; none in August!). However, my riding was just this side of insane (for me) and included a one week trip to Arizona with a good friend:


As it does, the iron called my name and I've rolled back into some training that leans more towards the "punch the clock" style of workouts that DJ has been advocating (and which works well in the context of other demands -- life, sport, work, etc.). I've settled on a super simple "template" that is a mashup of Pavel's PTTP as interpreted by Kelly Baggett (with clear flavor from Wendler's 5/3/1). Here's the important stuff:

Four days a week plus one optional; two full days rest between SQ2 and SQ5: SQ0, SQ5, SQ3, SQ2, SQx.
SQ0: 2 of 5 (medium); SQ accessory
SQ5: 2 of 5 (light-medium)
SQ3: 3 of 3 (medium+)
SQ2: 5-3-2 (medium+); SQ accessory
SQx: 2 of 5 (very light)

Essentially the exact same for BP. The days can be same (BP5/SQ5) or lagged (start the SQ early in the week and kick in BP later: BP5 with SQ3). The accessory can be skipped (Wendler's "jack shit"), they can be combined (just do some clean and press and accessorize everything), they can be super specific (the best accessory is volume), they can be upper/lower: sq accessory is dl + sq, bp accessory is bp and mp. But don't be distracted. Just do a little bit everyday with moderately heavy weights. Obviously, this takes an ego check or you can go overboard. Starting with Wendler's 90% as 1RM is a good start. I mix in pull-ups with my squats.

I do a warm up with goblet squats, swings, jump rope, etc. and some very targeted stretching or strength-stretching (bulg. split squats).

Or, I just drop it and do some goblet squats to get ready for SQ and pushups to get ready for BP. When I do that (and no accessory), I'm in and out in about 30 minutes. Very useful for my current life schedule. Combing the lifting with somewhat extensive cardiovascuar demands means that I'm eating like a darn growing teenager.

In other news, my wife did MMS and loved it. I give her a ton of credit: she's working out before going to work in our enclosed porch gym -- that means it's not exactly the height of creature comforts (think cold). But, like most other MMS followers, she's complaining about her wardrobe needing replaced. Between my training and riding, her lifting, and our five year old (thick as a brick, in a good way) son -- our food bills are slightly ludicrous.

I hope to give some updates on how the "punch the clock" template works. I think that if I can spend most of my time (1) ignoring the accessory work and (2) checking ego on raising weights, I'll see nice progress.

Ah yes, last topic: the hip and shoulder. The shoulder has been 100% trouble free. My hip on the other hand is constantly back and forth. Before I restarted lifting I had a good time of almost 100% pain free. But, even hard enough riding could cause a flare up. With the lifting, I have to moderate (the lifting) to keep it from getting too grumpy. That's ok though. It's a good lesson in wisdom. I am convinced that there is nothing "broken" in the hip. It's simply an issue of hyper active muscles and activation patterns. Which means I can push on it -- I just need to keep practicing relaxing it.

Best and happy holidays,