Workout Journal: March Madness Review

As one might notice, the novelty of blogging every single workout quickly wore off.  Not sure if it’s my personality or the natural evolution of things becoming “old hat”, but either way I’ve decided to move to a monthly review.

The biggest thing this month is the commitment to an 8 week workout plan outlined by the Full Fitness app.  Previously I was experimenting with different individual workouts just to get my joins and ligaments used to the motions again, and felt good about jumping into a full plan.  Let’s check out the calendar:

Workout days for March 2011

The 13th was the start of the 8 week Ultimate Arm workout. For perspective, the 6th of March was my first Full Fitness app workout ever, and before that I only had a few intro workouts which I blogged about in detail.  That first week was also pretty busy for me at work, so the week of the 20th includes an extra day for one of the upper body sessions I missed that previous week.

The Ultimate Arm program is broken up into week-long routines that are woven between mostly upper body, but some lower to balance it out:

Weeks 1,3 (Upper Body)

  • French Press (2 sets, 10-12 reps)
  • Standing Concentration Curl (2 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Hammer Curl (2 sets, 10-12 reps)
  • Barbell Bench Press (2 sets, 8-12 reps)
  • Lat Pull-down (2 sets, 8-12 reps)
  • Cable Seated Low Row (2 sets, 8-12 reps)

Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8 (Lower Body)

  • Dead Lift (2 sets, 8-12 reps)
  • Barbell Squat (2 sets, 8-12 reps)
  • Swiss-ball Oblique Crunch (2 sets, 8-12 reps)
  • Barbell Standing Calf Raise (2 sets, 8-12 reps)

Weeks 5, 7 (Upper Body)

  • Dip (2 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Chin-up (2 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Cable Triceps Pushdown (2 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Dumbbell Biceps Curl (2 sets, 8-10 reps)
  • Barbell Bench Press (2 sets, 8-12 reps)
  • Lat Pull-down (2 sets, 8-12 reps)
  • Cable Seated Low Row (2 sets, 8-12 reps)

Given only 3 weeks, I don’t yet have experience with the hell week outlined in the last set, but I gotta say, I’ve really enjoyed this program so far. Before we get to the actuals, I’ll preface my cardio with a blanket statement:  Every single workout began with a 5-minute elliptical, and ended with at least 5-10 more minutes on either the Elliptical or the Treadmill. Out workout schedule is such that we get there towards the end of the night when they’re closing, so my ending cardio usually consists of whatever time is left.  Increasing the time I spend at the end on cardio is something I hope to increase as time goes on.

Let’s check progress!  First, weight: I’m still flat-lined at 255.  They said it was probably gonna happen. I absolutely do not mind however, as what I have noticed is a great shift in body structure – basically the inches are falling off my waist and gut and getting applied to my arms, shoulders, and chest and I’m loving every minute of it.

On to the proof in the pudding – let’s check the scoreboard:

ExerciseStart WeightEnd WeightTotal RepsTotal WeightRecord WeightRecord RepsRecord Date
Total--13371138102226263-
Ab Crunch Machine70110302700110103/20/2011
Barbell Bench Press13515048696015083/30/2011
Barbell Military Press606044264060123/7/2011
Barbell Squat135135608300135103/20/2011
Barbell Standing Calf Raise606060370070103/24/2011
Beginner Squat909020180090103/6/2011
Bulgarian Split Squat505020100050103/6/2011
Cable Seated Low Row8514012414840160103/27/2011
Dead Lift90100605900100103/20/2011
Decline Close-grip Bench606024144060123/7/2011
Dumbbell Biceps Curl25252460025123/7/2011
Dumbbell Calf Jump303036108030123/9/2011
Dumbbell Front Squat404032128040123/9/2011
Dumbbell Lunge10090363360100123/9/2011
Dumbbell Pull-over40402496040123/7/2011
French Press5070116680070103/30/2011
Hammer Curl25359627203583/30/2011
Lat Pull-down851201341446014083/22/2011
Machine Chest Press5012055498012093/16/2011
Machine Leg Press909036324090123/9/2011
Machine Triceps Extension656524156065123/7/2011
Single-leg Standing Calf Raise0+2550+25556142800+255123/9/2011
Standing Concentration Curl30259424703083/13/2011
Swiss-ball Ab Crunch0+1300+1302431200+130123/6/2011
Swiss-ball Oblique Crunch0+1300+1306078000+130103/20/2011

 

Highlights

Although a small few exercises began with admittedly lower weight for safety (Machine Bench Press, Dead Lift, Barbell Squat), most of them pathetically began as honest challenges to my system. The main highlight is that for some exercises (lat pull-downs, low rows) I’ve been able to increase weight by 60+% in just a few weeks.  Not bad after years of no strength training. : )

The second highlight is that for some exercises (Chest/Bench Press) I’ve been able to get off the machine versions and go to free weights, which I think is the idea for really nailing it.  I’m not sure what kind of non-machine substitutions there are for things like Lat pull-downs or tri-extensions, but I was happy to have eliminated the others, especially the squats.

Finally, the total number of reps for all exercises performed is 1337; a result  that was totally unconscious on my part (I swear!).

Lowlights

Some of my muscle groups feel pathetically weak. Particularly my biceps in isolation. I guess I’ve always considered myself to be a relatively strong person – but what I’ve realized is I’ve only really achieved that using leverage in most cases rather than raw isolated strength.  Thinking back I basically did most of my “work” from the core and my shoulders in everything from Baseball to Kickboxing.   So for these first few weeks, it’s been pretty disheartening doing concentration and hammer curls with only 25lb dumbbells and not being able to increase in weight nearly as much (35lbs on hammer curls but you get other muscles to help out on the lift)

Still, although I feel weak, I am already noticing definition improvements in my arms and shoulders. My core is also shifting to more inverted triangle than grimace.

Lessons Learned

  1. Going to the gym back to back (26th and 27th) was noticeably taxing, even thought I was working out different muscle groups.  My output on the 27th was definitely affected by general fatigue without the recoup day in between.
  2. Muscle Milk expensive, but it’s awesome right after a workout.
  3. I can row the shit out of some weight.
  4. Dead lifts are terrifying. I don’t know if my torso just isn’t long enough, but getting the bar over my still bent knees on the way up is extremely easy to do with good form and posture.  Even using the guided squat rack to do them proved worthless as it doesn’t “give” laterally, so I just ended up being craned over the bar so it would clear my knees. I ended up just simulating it the best I could by splitting the weight amongst dumbbells and keeping the grip and motion the same as possible but allowing my knees to pass through the gap safely.
  5. As I hit the 140+ mark on some things I’m starting to tear my hands up.  Need to consider gloves.
  6. Frech Press is difficult to do “correctly”, if correctly is the video demonstration where the guy’s elbows are pretty well turned in.  I find I can’t really grip the bar comfortably without widening my grip, which causes my elbows to bow out. Not sure if this lessens the effect of the exercise, but it hasn’t felt like it will injure me at least.
  7. Oblique crunches while trying to balance yourself inclined sideways on a swiss ball is not as easy as it looks.  I worked out muscles I never knew I had and woke up the next morning wondering if it was appendicitis until I realized it was just them being sore. I had to Google that shit.
  8. I’m not entirely sure how to record body weight related exercises. I’m basically nothing them as N+X, where N=Additional Weight being added to X which is my body weight at the time.  For exercises that only really deal with my upper body weight, I’m figuring roughly 50% of max (255->130) .

Next month I’ll have results of the first hell week in the program, as well as (hopefully) some reductions in weight as I try to work in more cardio time and less calories into my diet!  Until then!