Programming Thoughts

I wasn't sure what to log this week for my Coach Log because sometimes I swear that when things are progressing, it makes for a boring read in my log.  I mean, I don't have any nagging injuries to talk about; I don't have problems right now with my back; I am not having problems increasing either strength or size; I am not having problems with my diet or loading or my health... pretty much anything.  Boring is definitely good but boring makes for a lame log.

So, I figured I would get more into my split because I didn't explain the reasoning behind some of the things I am doing and figured that a lot of people actually do want to know more about programming and some of the decisions that I make after doing this for 35 years.  I will rarely do anything, ever, in the gym without a specific reason.  I don't do something because "I just feel like doing it" or "it feels right."   Maybe this will give some of you an idea of how much planning goes into a workout, at least from my vantage point.

Because one week I will train push twice and then the following week train pull twice, I will explain some of the thoughts that I have around this programming.  Here is the schedule, again, for reference:

chest/delts/tris

back/bis/rear delts

rest

chest/delts/tris

legs/abs

rest

rest

back/bis/rear delts

chest/delts/tris

rest

back/bis/rear delts

legs/abs

rest

rest

repeat the cycle again

A few notes before I get into an example of this week's exercises, rep ranges, etc.

I like to train heavier on Mondays and Tuesdays and these are typically upper body days because my upper body sucks (other than maybe my arms).  I like these days to be heavy days simply because of Skiploading on the weekends and these are the first 2 workouts of the week.

I would love to be able to train 5 days a week.  I love being in the gym but even more than I love being in the gym, I love progressing and not overtraining.  I overtrain very easily -- much easier than most people, even though I have been training for 35 years.  For that reason, I have to be very sure that my workload, frequency, intensity techniques, etc., is within my recovery abilities.

This is the main reason that I do not train more than 2 days in a row unless I absolutely have to.  

I also do not like to train legs early in the week.  Even though I may be stronger, I am concerned about my lower back and I remain slightly distended from Skiploading for about 2 days.  By the 3rd day my waist is pretty much back to normal so it is "safer" for my lower back to train legs after my distention has come down from the Skipload.  For what it's worth, I also do not train abs the first few days after a skipload because of the same distention.

Getting into this week's schedule and I will make specific notes about each day and each exercise:

back/bis/rear delts

I tend to do more rowing, leaving more of the lat work (whether focusing on the stretch or ROM to widen my back or not) for the second back session in 3 days.  I do this because I can move more weight and train heavier with exercises that aren't done to maximize ROM of the scapula.

Dumbbell rows on an incline bench.

I will almost always do a heavy row exercise that supports my back, prior to doing a row movement that is unsupportive.  The reason should be obvious but I want to fatigue the muscles of my back without fatiguing the errectors too much so that they can't support my back.  Doing it this way, I tend to fail during unsupported rows simply because the muscles of the back were pre-fatigued with the supported exercise. 

 Because it's a heavy day I typically will work up for working sets so that my last set of each exercise is the heaviest set.  I also rarely go over 3 working sets per exercise and I do this because I need that limit or I would sometimes go to 4 or even 5 sets per exercise.  By limiting to only 3, I have to start higher in weight and I know that I need to get my heaviest 3 sets in.  If for some reason I get less than 7 reps for a "heavy day" movement, I will immediately do a drop set by extending that set due to not getting enough reps.

Alternating Hammer Strength Lat Pulldown

I use this exercise to help widen my back under the armpit because if the extreme stretch that I can do on this exercise.  I get an even better stretch by doing 1 rep on one side and the next rep on the other side, alternating each side for each rep throughout the set.  You will very rarely ever see me doing any exercise where I do all reps for the set on one side and then match those reps on the other side.  In fact, the only exercise I can think of that I will do that is standing leg curls for hamstrings.

Doing one side first and then the other side, brings into play things like fatigue from the longer set and imbalances in strength from one side to the other.   I am too OCD to be able to get 12 reps on one side and then maybe hit failure at 10 reps on the other side -- oh, hell no.  If I alternate each rep, if one side fails then I know that the set is finished. 

Smith Machine Barbell Rows

I am plenty warm now, after doing 2 other exercises for back, and can now do unsupported rows without worrying if my lower back can handle the load.

I prefer using the smith machine for barbell rows because the pull remains even left to right and front to back.  I feel this allows for less vulnerability for my lower back by staying in more of a fixed plane.  The angled smith machine also benefits the angle of pull, anyway, for this exercise.

Shoulder-width neutral grip chins

This exercise is one of the best stretching exercises for my lats and tie-ins for my back, under my armpit (where I want the most width).  I try not to go as heavy but heavy enough to still be able to get a full stretch, allowing my scapula to stretch and pull apart as much as possible.  In fact, the stretch, itself, is really more important to me than the amount of weight I am moving (though I still try to stay as heavy as I can).

By this point, I am usually toast (my back is fried) yet I still want to do rack deads in the smith machine.  I will get to that in a minute.

I now go to biceps because I want to do biceps prior to doing rear delt work.  That may seem odd but I do this because the posterior delts are a small muscle group and they get pretty hammered during back because of having to stabilize the shoulder complex, especially during rows.  Doing biceps in between back and rear delts allows the delts to take a break and to work harder than if I train them immediately after training back.

Biceps -

Right now I am playing it safe with my exercise selection for another 3 weeks due to the supinator injury I had about 2 months ago.  I feel it may be healed completely but I can't be sure so I am going to be careful with it by being careful with my exercise selection.  I can pound the exercises hard without bothering my arm, at all.

Any fixed preacher curl machine like Hammer Strength or Body Masters.  Because the bar is fixed, the supinator does not have to work and will only be felt if I thoroughly exhaust the biceps.  Even when I do that, if the grip is fixed then the irritation is mild and doesn't hinder the set.

High cable preacher curls standing

This one needs explaining and the best way to explain it is I use an EZ curl bar attachment to a pulley and set the pulley as high as the preacher curl bench.  In doing this, my biceps are not being stretched hard and under heavy weight but as the bar is curled to my face, the heavier the weight is and the more resistance so that it ends up being a "peak contraction" type of exercise.

Under-grip lat pulls

I would love to do standing barbell or dumbbell curls but both of these exercises irritated my arm too much about 2 months ago. So, I am not even going to gamble with it, instead opting for the exercises that simply do not bother the arm, at all, and that I can train hard and heavy.

I then finish with a few sets of light dumbbell hammer curls just to get more blood into the supinator muscle without hitting it too hard or heavy.  I typically do reps of 15 - 20 with light weights like 15 or 20 pound dumbbells.  When my arm is better, this exercise will remain but I will go considerably heavier.

Rear Delts -

I focus more on rear laterals either with dumbbells or a reverse pec deck set-up.  On this day I did reverse pec deck.

Two things I focus on for this exercise:

1. I want the reps to be full stretch to full squeeze until I cannot get a full squeeze, anymore.  At that point, I focus on partials in the stretched position. Why?  Because everyone knows that a muscle fires more from the stretched position.  Plus, the rear delts aren't used to resitance in that bottom position of the movement and that equates to a stimulus that the rear delts aren't accustomed to.  That means growth.

I am finished with my workout at this point BUT... I will train when I get home at the gym at my apartment complex because I still want to do some sets of rack deads.

The reason I don't do them in the gym is because even though my lower back has been injury free for over 4 years, when my lower back gets pumped too much, it will feel weak and it will start to ache (big difference between aching and hurting).  By allowing my back and lower back to get rid of the large majority of the pump, I can then do deads hard and by the time my back starts to get pumped to the point where it feels weak again or starts to ache, I am done with deads and done training for the night.

I do my deads in a smith machine so that the path remains the same the entire time no matter if I am fatigued or not.  I do reps usually of 10-12 as I am not comfortable going really heavy in lower rep ranges due to my chronic history of lower back issues.  Doing deads this way and with this rep range has helped my back health, considerably.

I will not ever do deads first because I need my entire body to be incredibly warm and my lower back to be nice and loose.  If I were to train deads first, I would also be stronger and because I want development over strength with this deadlift movement, doing them at the end is the safer option and also should help with hypertrophy more this way.

I will break down another workout in my next coach log.

chest/delts/tris

rest

back/bis/rear delts

legs/abs

rest

rest

Comp-Combo-Rack-two

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