Weekend Update Anew

So I’ve put up a new video which pretty much details my progress though I’ll summarize a bit here.

As I mentioned, I’ll be updating my macronutrient values to reflect the updated activity multiplier. After some thought, I’ve decided to use an activity multiplier of 1.375 instead of 1.5. Also, I’m using Andy Morgan’s cut ratio of +10/-35 for my training day / rest day split though one way to update this in the future is to switch to a more drastic level of -10/-30 which is actually closer to what I was doing but gives me more calories on my rest days while maintaining almost the same weekly deficit. My goal is by this Saturday (the powerlifting meet) to be deadlifting 400lbs, squatting 300lbs, and benching 200lbs. I’m pretty confident that all of those targets are reachable.

Strength recap, numbers are two weeks ago -> last week -> now:

  • Bench press: 185×5 -> 190×2 -> 195×2
  • Squat: 275×3 -> 275×5 -> 290×2
  • Deadlift: 340×2 -> 340×4 -> 375×1
  • Chinup: +30×7 -> +40×7 -> +50×5

I’m pretty happy with the strength increase though I’d really like to see renewed fat loss. I’m going to try my updated macros for two weeks. If it goes well, then I can stick with it through the rest of March. Otherwise, I’ll need to start figuring out ways to tip the scales back towards burning fat (I’m thinking of starting EC supplementation – but will hold off on this till after the powerlifting meet).

Weekend Update 2: A day late. . .

So, last week I departed from my 1000 calorie a day diet and switched to following Andy Morgan’s macros for a cut that he describes on his site. So far, things are going well. My strength is up, and I finally broke through my 185lb bench press plateau. My wake-up energy levels are up, I seem to get out of bed faster now without hitting snooze. While I’m sure this was definitely nutrition related, I will admit that there were other things going on in my life whose stress could have affected my waking energy levels as well.

Weight-wise, I’m at the same point. Part of the reason is that this week, due to various social events, I’ve actually went over my macros (though only on workout days) – pretty much every single workout day. So slightly disappointing, but still amazing when you think about it. See, I went from eating around 1000 calories per day to a diet which averages to 1750 calories per day, had several days where I exceeded that average by a lot (Saturday was a 5000 calorie day) and despite all that, did not actually gain weight.

This week should be much more low key, so I’m looking forward to seeing the scale move down and cutting more fat. Anyway, let’s look at my strength change just over the past week alone:

  • Bench press: 185 x 5 -> 190 x 2
  • Squat: 275 x 3 -> 275 x 5
  • Deadlift: 340 x 2 -> 350 x 4

The squat and bench press gains as written don’t tell the complete story. So I do a version of reverse pyramid training on my three main lifts (Which are the ones that I list for benchmarks {though I sometimes also list weighted chin ups for those who are looking at the strength goals listed by Martin on leangains, but I don’t do those as often as the big three}). Anyway, for example, I would aim for the following on squats: 275 x 5, 270 x 5, and 265 x 5. If I can achieve (rep-wise) sets of at least 4-5-3, 4-3-5, or 5-3-3 or better, then I move up the weight by 5lbs on the next day I do that exercise. I’d been stuck at 275lbs on my squat for over a week and only this week did well enough so that I’ll be moving up to 280lbs tomorrow. The same thing applies to the bench, I’d been stuck at 185 for almost two months and now only finally did well enough to move that up.

My deadlift has always been my strongest and continues to improve in leaps and bounds compared to my other lifts. One thing that I’m pretty proud of is being close to reaching specific strength benchmarks. So, for the purposes of talking about this, I’ll recap my current strength levels including weighted chin ups:

  • Weight 194lbs
  • Bench press: 190 x 2
  • Squat: 275 x 5
  • Deadlift: 350 x 4
  • Chin up: +40lbs x 7

So, copied from Martin’s leangains site are the following strength benchmarks:

Strength Goals: Intermediate

Bench press: body weight x 1.2

Chin-ups or pull-ups: body weight x 1.2 or 8 reps with body weight.

Squat: body weight x 1.6

Deadlift: body weight x 2

These numbers are for a raw (no straps, belt or knee wraps) single repetition.

The progress towards the intermediate strength goals should be fairly linear, meaning that there should be no plateaus that cannot be solved in an uncomplicated manner. By “consistent” training I do not mean never missing a training day, nor do I consider taking 2-3 months off from training consistent.

By “decent training routine”, I mean “not doing blatantly stupid shit” (training 5-6 days/week, 20-25 sets for chest and arms, etc.). I do not mean optimal and flawless.

Strength Goals: Advanced 

Under the exact same conditions as the previous example, 3 out of 4 of the following goals should be reached within five years, along with all of the strength goals listed under “intermediate”:

Bench press: body weight x 1.5

Chin-ups or pull-ups: body weight x 1.5 or 15 reps with body weight.

Squat: body weight x 2

Deadlift: body weight x 2.5

Strength Goals: Highly Advanced 

Under the exact same conditions, all of the following goals should be reached within ten years. Alternatively, 3 out of 4 should be reached, and one should be “Elite”:

Bench press: body weight x 1.5, or x 1.8 (elite)

Chin-ups or pull-ups: body weight x 1.5 or 15 reps with body weight, or x 1.8 / 20 reps (elite)

Squat: body weight x 2, or x 2.4 (elite)

Deadlift: body weight x 2.5, or x 3 (elite)

“Elite” denotes one lift that is often ahead of the others. For example, people who are natural pullers (long arms) may very well hit a 3 x body weight deadlift before a 1.5 x body weight bench, and vice versa for the presser (short arms, stocky and barrel-chested) benching 1.8 x body weight but not being able to pull 2.5 x body weight in the deadlift.

Excluding the bench press, I feel I’m within a few weeks of meeting all the Intermediate goals (I already meet the chin up one). If I can maintain my strength with slight improvements, excluding the bench press I would meet (or exceed) all the Advanced goals after losing 14lbs (bodyweight of 180lbs). I feel fully capable of being at this point by the end of April and cautiously optimistic that my bench would catch up within 4 months.

Leangains: First Week in Review

So, today was my final workout day in my first week of leangains. My primary workouts are the bench press, squat, and deadlift and I’ll be using my final top sets from this week to establish my starting strength baseline:

  • Bench press: 185 x 5
  • Squat: 210 x 5
  • Deadlift: 245 x 5

I’m kinda surprised by my deadlift. In fact, it feels like what is going to be my initial limiter on the deadlift is my grip strength. So far, I’ve been using an underhand grip. I think sometime near the end of next week, I may switch to a mixed grip to increase my grip ability so I can continue progressing with the deadlift. Though I’ll need to start working in some grip strengthening exercises in the meantime.

Today’s bench press sets are a bit disappointing. Part of the issue today was that I was working in with someone, rather than alone, so did not take as much time to rest in between sets as I would when alone. Still, I’m starting to think my progression on the bench press may end up being slower than I anticipated.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that on my workout days, the workout seems to abate my hunger. Within a few hours of my eat window on my workout days, food starts to crowd my mind. Also, regardless of which day, now on the leangains intermittent fasting protocol, whenever I’m about to eat – though apparently this only happens with food that I must chew (not protein shakes or anything I drink), I salivate a lot when the “move food from bowl/plate to mouth command” starts being executed.

Starting The Lean Gains Approach

So this week, I’ve started the leangains approach to dieting and exercise. Really, it’s not so much dieting as it is changing the time periods where I eat my normal food amounts. Though in my case, I am eating around 1000 calories a day, so I specifically am on a diet. The exercise approach calls for low volume high intensity compound exercises. The diet approach calls for a 16/8 intermittent fasting method of eating where one eats during an 8 hour window, then does not for the next 16 hours. There are a few other odds and ends to the lean gains approach which I only realized yesterday that I’ve been leaving out. Specifically, my fasted workout pre-workout supplementation. So, I will have that fixed by my next workout tomorrow.

One thing that stands out from lean gains, which I’ve already started doing, is setting goals and tracking one’s progress in the gym. I’ve changed my primary routines to squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. I may add in weighted chin ups later to my gym workout, for now I just do the chins at home. Aside from the bench press, I hadn’t done any of the others in the gym until either this week, or shortly before the Christmas break. And even the bench press, until this week, the last time I’d done any non-machine presses was over a year ago. Despite all that, while I’m going to log my starting weights at each exercise starting with this week, I think for the purposes of monitoring my progress, I will consider my true start to be my current levels at the end of this week.

Why you may ask? Well, since I’ve not done squats or deadlifts, my initial results at those workouts will be much lower than my actual strength. So using the results from my first exercise would portray a much larger than actual increase in strength. In my first go at deadlifts, I went from 135lb sets to 195lb. I will likely increase by another 20-40lbs tomorrow. So even choosing 195lbs as my starting best would still skew the numbers too much.

My current plan is to stay on lean gains through the end of February, then make a decision on continuing for another two months (before then deciding on continuing for the rest of the year). My first checkpoint will be at the end of January. I’ll evaluate where I am strength, weight, and fat-wise, and decide whether I want to try to drastically increase my fat loss at the potential cost of strength or continue at my current pace through February. Strength-wise, assuming that I’m able to increase, not just maintain strength, I actually expect to reach (or exceed) 280lbs on squats and deadlifts and 230lbs on the bench press. Then if I continue through April,  325lbs on squats and deadlifts and 265lbs on the bench press. My stretch goal by the end of the year is 400lbs on squats and deadlifts and 325lbs on the bench press. Writing it all down seems ridiculous now, pretty much doubling my current strength on all those items, but those are my goals and I’m going to stick to them.

Beyond strength goals, I want to be at 10% bodyfat by the end of April and 5-8 by the end of the year. Aesthetically, I want nice 6-pack abs while not being ridiculously skinny. I expect it will be tough, until I start seeing results, I’m going to be too obsessed over whether things are working, what I’m eating, if I’m pushing myself enough in the gym, not to mention dealing with stress from school and life. I’ve also wondered if this is a backup plan for my sanity – having something else to succeed at so if things go bad with school, I’m not a complete failure at life. So, no pressure me. . . no pressure.