So, I am 13 weeks in to my ‘Half Century Transformation’ programme, and 13 weeks to go. Half way if my maths is correct. What progress am I making?
Well, I am reasonably pleased with progress, in fact. After a slightly aimless start for the first three or four of weeks, in which I went back to Crossfit a few times a week, did some calisthenics, some running, some improvised strongman type HIIT workouts, and a bit of Olympic lifting, I came to the conclusion that I was getting nowehere fast. I was working hard every day but there was no real coherence to my programme. Well, I didn’t actually have a programme. I was just trying to do a bit of everything and not really improving in anything. So I decided to focus in a bit more and concentrate on my strength for a while first, and put the cardio and conditioning to one side for a while.
I settled into a fairly back to basics routine of bench press, squats and presses, chinups and pullups, barbell rows, curls etc. I started off with really low weights because it had been a year and a bit since I last lifted and I didn’t want to injure myself straight away for the sake of ego, and, if you are training by yourself at home without even a gym crush to impress, lifting beyond your means for appearance is way beyond stupid. There’s only the cat watching and he sure doesn’t give a rat’s arse what I bench.
But I stuck with it adding reps or weight every session. I bought a pair of 1.25kg and 2.5kg plates so I could increase in small increments, and the numbers crept up. It was actually a bit difficult initially gauging the weights for sets, as I have never lifted weights before other than as a function of Crossfit WODs where it is either 1 Rep Max or dozens of reps for time. Also my 1RMs from a year ago before 12 months of enforced inactivity were not an ideal benchmark to work from.
So I started with a routine that looked rather like this:
Barbell Row 4 X 4-7 reps
Chin-ups 4 x 8-12 reps
Barbell Flat Bench Press 4x 4-7 reps
Dumbell Incline Press 3 x8-12 reps
Barbell Shoulder Press 3 x 4-7 reps
Lying Triceps Extension 3 x 8-12
Barbell Curl 3 x 8-12
Back Squat 4 x 4-7
Dumbell Split Squat 3 x 8-12
Barbell Romanian Deadlift 4x 8-12
Kettlebell Swing 3 x 10-15
Standing Calf Raise 3 x 15- 20
Hanging Leg Raise 3 x 15
Reverse Crunch 3 x 15-20
Plank 3 x 90 sec
Wednesday was rest day, then Thursday and Friday repeated Mon and Tues but with slightly lower weights and higher rep ranges across the board. 8-12 rather than 4-7.
The eagle eyed among you will recognise this as being essentially the TNB 28 routine from Tom Venuto’s excellent book Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle. Which it is.
So I did that for 8 weeks. Didn’t miss a day. Sometimes threw some extra sessions in on rest days.
And it worked. Really well.
After 8 weeks my numbers were up across the board. Admittedly I started out erring on the side of caution but I added 35kg to my squat and 30 to my bench press. I had never been able to bench press for toffee before, mainly because I simply don’t have a chest and had never done it. Bench pressing would come round so infrequently at Crossfit that I never made any progress with it. But now I have passed my previous 1RM doing rep. In fact yesterday I did a German Volume Training session just for fun (on ‘active rest day’) aand banged out 10 sets of 10 with 1kg more than my 1RM was a year ago.
Physically, although my weight is more or less static around the 85kg (187lbs) mark, the belly fat has mostly dropped away, the abs are beginning to peep through, my arms and shoulders are definitely bigger and I am finally beginning to grow a chest.
It is very motivating stuff to be able to see actual tangible progress both in my log book and in the mirror, and has given me renewed determination to work even harder for the next block of time.
The last couple of weeks I have changed up my routine to a more straightforward 5 day split: Chest/Shoulders/Back/Legs/Upper Body plus the daily skwaat session I mentioned the other day. Now that I have the strength and confidence to be doing each exercise with reasonable weight I am really enjoying my time under the bar and find myself looking forward to my workouts every day, rather than approaching them with resigned stoicism and dread.
I will detail my new routine in more, um, detail in my next update, which will hopefully be a bit sooner than the break before this one.