Next Phase

Begrudgingly, I move to the next phase and that is going back to building muscle and focusing on weak points.

Of course, before I can go full-bore into my off season growth phase, I need to "reset" my blood markers, and I need to continue to rehab this hip injury. I will be reseting blood markers for the next 10-12 weeks while my hip recovers from this injury. I would love to continue to push into a growth phase, but with my hip being questionable right now and not 100%, it would be stupid to push it too fast and too early when I can recover right now. This way, when it's time to go back to stepping on the gas for the off season, my hip will be ready to go and not be a potential set-back or vulnerability for the leg training that I want to get done during the off season.

One of the main things that came out of this year was that getting so lean, I was able to tell how weak my legs still are after my years of chronic lower back injuries. Admittedly, my lower back has been healthy for about 4 years, but it took at least 2 of those years to build back enough confidence to even THINK of putting a lot of weight on my back to squat or to even load up a leg press or hack squat. That may sound weak, but if it does, you likely have not ever had the lower-back pain that I dealt with for years.  My legs this year had come up quite a bit from what they were a handful of years ago. However, they still aren't what they used to be as I really only starting bombing the hell out of them and going heavier within the last 2 years. Legs will be my top priority for this off season.

My upper body showed obvious improvements and at my age, that isn't easy to accomplish. My chest was improved and so was my back. My arms have always been pretty good and they stayed about the same. My delts may have been slightly better but didn't make the improvements that chest and back made. This makes sense because my focus this last off season was on back and chest and shoulders. 

I have not put together a plan for how I am going to train legs into the off season, simply because my hip injury is keeping me from training legs right now, anyway. I have time to figure that part out while I focus on getting my off season diet and training for everything else set up.

I will slowly be transitioning out of this cut phase by making small, incremental adjustments to my diet to increase my scale weight while continuing to feed my metabolism. I will not ever go back to the archaic notion that I have to add a lot of body fat to make good gains. I feel healthier and want to look better, so remaining lean and disciplined with my diet all of the time during an off season phase is far more appealing than being fat, having my blood pressure go up, increasing the risk of injury to my lower back, etc. 

I maintained in the 220s most of my last off season until pushing up into the 230s for the last 2-3 months before starting the cut phase for 2020. As I pushed into the 230s, I lost insulin sensitivity quickly and basically gained zero positive results from a growth and progress standpoint. I will never purposely push my scale weight up again like that. I won't say that I didn't progress, I guess, but the progress that happened during that time was minimal. I stayed far more insulin sensitive in the 220s, so I plan to go that route for this off season, as well. 

I will not lay out, in detail, what my diet will be because I have done what I do long enough to know that it would simply be copied and either used for personal gain (though that's funny because my diet is set up specifically for ME), or it would be taken and used for "clients" to generate more money for other trainers. Instead, I will just say that I will be keeping the same approach that I used last off season -- because it worked so well -- by keeping fat lower than usual and carbs higher than usual ("usual" in reference to my diets in the past, for ME). Protein will remain as it always has because I feel that my protein intake is pretty solid. For me, this is usually in the range of about 45g of fat per meal from complete protein sources and then whatever trace grams of incomplete protein are in other foods for those meals. If you have ever worked with me, you will know that I count only complete protein.

Though I won't do it right away, I will be going back to doing my high-carb days with my rice bowls. This worked incredibly well last year and I anticipate that it will again this year. However, I don't know how long it will be before I can get them into the plan. It could be a week or two or it could be two months. I just don't know at this point.

My training is going to be the biggest change that I will make this year, relative to training for the last several years. I train very hard as it relates to intensity but I also have more volume than most who train intensely. I am going to change that -- or at least experiment -- and lower volume considerably. I want to capitalize on recovery even more than I did this last off season. The bulk of this experiment will take place while I can't train legs, so that means in the next 10-12 weeks. I feel this time will be best because I need something positive and different to focus on to keep my brain from being bothered by not being able to train legs. 

To give you an example of the type of change I am going to make in volume, if I typically do 12 working sets for chest (arbitrary number to make my point), I will be dropping to roughly 50-60% of that for this experiment. I figure over 10-12 weeks I should get a very clear picture of how well this is working in regards to recovery.

By the time I finish the next 10-12 weeks, my hip should be 100% for me to slowly start to build my leg training again and that is when I will step on the gas again and start fueling the off season gains even more.

Now, at least a few of you who follow my coach logs may being thinking, "Skip, you just said last week that you had trained legs twice and that it has been going well." That is true. However, I noticed late in the weekend that my hip -- more my piriformis -- was irritated quite a bit and ROM for external rotation at the hip was decreased, slightly, coming into this week. I didn't re-injure the hip, but I damn sure got a clear sign that it is not ready to be trained hard, yet. By the way, thank you body for the subtle hint instead of a full-blown injury. Much appreciated.

I was being very calculated, very careful and smart, but the hip just isn't ready, yet. So, in keeping with the "smart" concept, I am not going to push my hip right now when there is no benefit from doing so. I simply need to wait until it is ready.

Though I have not put together a detailed plan of attach for how I want to approach my leg training this off season, I can tell you that at least off the top of my head, it is not going to be this complicated, elaborate plan with weird exercises, stupid rep ranges or anything else completely out in left field. Here are my early initial thoughts:

I would like to eventually work into a training rotation where I train legs twice a week every roughly third week. This would give my legs extra work, but not so frequently that they would overtrain. 

I am leaning away from squatting, to be honest, at least from strictly a poundage standpoint. I have never seen big increases in leg size while squatting for strength, even back when my legs were arguably my best body part. Keep in mind that squatting for strength would also open up my back to injury much more than other options, as well. Now, I could see myself still squatting in a smith machine later in the leg workout after quads were pre-exhausted with other exercises, though. 

My go-to quad exercises will likely be pendulum squats, hack squats, leg presses and lunges. I would still do things like leg extensions and use the sissy squat machine, but those are exercises that I prefer to do less frequently as I don't see them as big mass builders.

Things I refuse to do for legs:

verticle leg press

free-bar squats

front squats

glute bridges

These exercises above are simply not going to happen, either because I find them ineffective for what I want to accomplish or they are just too much of a gamble for my lower back (or both).

I will still Skipload but the loading for my off seasons are very different than while cutting. I tend to have roughly 2 meals, once per week, and they are nowhere near as large as when I am cutting. I am simply not depleted enough to benefit from them so I won't push the food without a reason to do so. 

How long will the off season last? Good question. I am still very bothered by what happened this year after everything had gone so well, so I have not even begun to think about that, yet. I am focused on my recovery for my hip, getting my blood markers normalized, and getting into a consistent off season schedule of progress and consistency. After I do that, my focus will be leg growth over everything else. After that? I will deal with that when the time comes. I am too exhausted from what transpired this year to even look that far down the pike.

 

 

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