Ramblings no one should be interested in...really

I mean, seriously, ask yourself why are you here.

giovedì 11 maggio 2017

Midway point in the strength quarter

Quick update, 3 weeks into the 3x10 sets and I am LOVING it.

It must have been the extra calories, or the fact that it is really about breaking a number this time, and that I have time (1 to 6 sets) to work my way up to it, but the feelings are fantastic.

Fear, right before the target set. fear of injury, mostly, but also fear of failure. Then the cues, slowly wiring themselves into the brain, finding ways to activate patters. Then when the bar starts moving and I know "I have this!" it is really pure elation.

Quick cues summary (there are many that pop in and out of existence like unpredictable quantum particles)


This cue neutralizes the curve of my spine, puts my chest out and well open, and starts pulling slack off the bar.


This is a slow one. I am not nearly explosive enough at the bottom part of the movement, but it is getting better. Slightly more angled elbows also helped.


Mostly low-bar squats, I am trying to stay at least close to parallel. Also a slow grower, but I am getting more confident.

Overhead press - various DRAGONBALL images and mental shouts

This is my black sheep. Stuck at the 33-36 kg plateau since forever, and that is not even a good number to begin with. Technique sucks, strength is lacking. Too much fear. This will be my Mt. Everest! I am, however, getting much better at straight pull ups, all grips. Under hand grip with 28 kg kettle bell for 3 reps x 5 sets!

Now a quick break until Tuesday, so 5 days, with maybe a jog and some body weight in between, because I feel BEAT tendon-muscle-joints-ligaments wise. 

mercoledì 26 aprile 2017

The heavy 10 x 3 period begins!!!!

After a short break for Easter, I started the 10x3, the final stretch of the 12 weeks programme.
In weeks 9-12 the volume is in fact higher (32 reps per set in the 4x8 period, down to 25 in the 5x5 period, now up to 30 in the 10 x 3).

I was hesitant and I have to say also a bit afraid that I would get hurt here, especially because of the short break, which was rather sedentary too. It might have been just what I needed, in fact, or maybe it played no part at all.

I just know that over 3 reps and 10 sets I am able to ramp my way up to a couple of heavy triples, usually sets 6-8, and the final sets 9 and 10 feel good for the burn even if I take off 10 or 20% of the weight.

It is a bit time consuming, and not easy in a commercial gym with queues that go on forever for the bench press and power rack, but it is definitely worth it.

The poundage is going up in very small and prudent increments. I am making 2.2 kg / 5 lbs jumps every week top allow for proper form and avoid injuries, as I know my other "pillars" are not so stable. I mean recovery (sleep and de-stress) and nutrition. I also do not do enough stretching and prehab (all the preventive massaging etc...) and have no spotter, so I reckon that I need to take it a bit easier.

So far week 9 (which is really already week 13 at least, with all the delays, breaks etc...) is going well, with a good 86kg x 3 deadlift and a good 76 kg x 3 bench press, with some gas still left in the tank.

Squats tomorrow, which should be manageable, and Overhead press Saturday, which will be a serious "moment of truth" as the OHP is my slowest progressing lift, since I am basically stuck at 30 kg since I can remember....(I am talking years of plateauing there)

Wish me luck!


lunedì 27 febbraio 2017

Phase 1 done, from 4*8 to 5*5. Pain ahead!

The first phase is supposed to last just 4 weeks, out of 12 total. It is the phase when all your 4 prime movers get a 4x8 volume. You are supposed to build some muscle mass here, and some muscular endurance before the actual strength work begins. I made it in 7 weeks, with a few interruptions, a few "just conditioning" workouts, and definitely one extra week of "let me try again that overhead press top set....one last time" to see with what numbers I would have to enter phase 2.

Too much, and I set myself up for failure and injury. Too little, and I am wasting time and not growing. A fine balance!

Anyway, phase 1 was tough but rewarding, although there is nothing like strongman training for a beginner to make you feel worthless, from time to time. You just cannot help but think, on the tough days when the barbell does not want to move, about all the years spent doing body-building type of work, without a real target or goal in mind, just "stay in shape". Sure you do look better, and you get a bit stronger, but the day of reckoning is only postponed, until you pick up some real barbell training. Then all your weaknesses are brutally exposed, and your brain spontaneously withdraws to the crocodile area and fires up thought like

"if this was a beam trapping a family member, could I lift it just ONCE?"

"if I was pinned down by a tiger, could I press her away?"

"if I was to carry a mate to safety, could I bear that weight on my shoulders?"

"if I had to throw something heavy as far as I can, how good would I be?"

and then you realize that you are just a weak city slicker, who runs out of gas way sooner than your body was designed for.

and then you power through, crappy workout after crappy workout, until things do get better.

Now I am a bit worried, because the 4x8 volume was intense, and now it is time to go 5x5. The progression is that if I hit "100" in my last and best top set for week 4 (week 7 for me) x 8, then I SHOULD be able to hit 115 x 5 in the second phase. That, for me, is scary. The last top sets were at the very cusp of what I could reasonably move without a spotter or a coach or ...anything really. We will see how it goes, I am looking forward to epic pain and hopefully some gains.

What I am sure I will take home is a ton of humility (never hurts) and a ton of mental fortitude (also not too bad) for which I have to thank both Brian Alsrhue and Alan Thrall! 

martedì 22 novembre 2016

Poundage up, pain is floating, progress welcome

Not a Haiku, but a reflection. i went through a week of basically core hell and then 2 weeks of just dull and repetitive conditioning, in the shape of classic linear progression sets (4x10, 3x 8 , 3x12 etc).

It gave me a bit of a base to re-build on, as the back pain was ebbing away. No dead-lifts, light squats, it sucked but I stuck with it.

The I managed to move to the antagonistic training. On squat, bench, dead-lift, overhead press and upper back days, working up to a heavy set of 3s, immediately followed by a comparable weight in the antagonizing muscle group, to get rid of the imbalances. It allows for SO much more variation, effort, and satisfaction, and it mitigates imbalances. So, for example, bench-press followed by bent-over rows, or strict overhead press followed by weighted pull ups, right away, 3 of one, 30-60 seconds of core (planks, for example) and then 3 of the other. Strict technique, no cheating. Do this 3 times (so 3x3). Then a heavy set of five in a neighboring group (say, dumbbell incline x5 , 30-60 core, then one arm rows x5). Do this 5 times (so, 5x5), and then 3-5 minutes of assistance for shits and giggles. Curls, extensions, lat raises etc....

It felt great but it was starting to be a bit taxing so I lightened up a bit. Last 2 - 3 weeks have been much much better. It is Alan Thrall's mix of intensity Vs volume. You start explosive (say, clapping push-ups 3x3), then you go to your main movement (bench day, squat day or dead-lift day) and go 5x5. Then you super-set for assistance and do all other parts. Say, on bench day, barbell overhead press S/S with weighed pull-ups 4x10. Then you are done, but if you have still gas in the tank you can throw in some more assistance for "aesthetic" reasons (lat  raises, dips, curls, extensions).

At the end of the session, if you did every set to failure, you are beat and it is time to go home!

Yesterday I upped the dead-lift a bit, the last 5 reps were with 40 kg per side, so 80 kg total. The barbell must have been lighter than the usual ones, but it still felt heavy overall. The very last rep of the last set I felt something tighten at the very bottom of my lower back, but other than being stiff as hell this morning, which makes me thing I exaggerated a bit, I seem to be fine. I worked through all the cues in my head, and that helped.

1- Grip it tight
2- Squeeze it and "bend it" against your shins
3- Brace with a big belly breath
4- Hips down
5- Pull the slack out of the bar
6- Open knee and hip angles at the same time
7- When the slack is out, accelerate!
8- Drive through and lock out.

Bottom line, classic bodybuilding for muscle mass in itself is now so boring that I cannot go back to it!


mercoledì 14 settembre 2016

First set-back, back to bro-splits before I could even begin strongman work

Today begins with a set-back. The come back to the gym was a few days too soon, that is, I could not wait until the end of this heat wave that will last until next Friday. It is late September, and to work-out in 30-32 degrees in a BERLIN gym is just not acceptable. I should have stuck with running for a few more days, conditioning, pull-ups/pushups.

The intention was to follow Brian Alsrhue EXCELLENT and free (wow, just wow) strength program. It is featured here, as a guest-vlog on Alan Thrall's untamed strength channel

Incorporating strongman work

Do watch it, and then subscribe to Brian's channel. he is both very strong and very knowledgeable, athletic, and practices what he preaches. A rare combo.

Well, in that insane heat, even with the warm up, and a gradual increase in weight, I simply could not do more than 1-2 dead-lifts with 60kg (total. a laughable load). To top it off my lower back is now contracted into a tight knot. Hopefully it will go away soon, but bending forward is painful.

I also pin it on a long hiatus, poor rest, and lack of concentration and focus (which led to improper form), but the heat in the gym still takes the biscuit for the main factor. My bad for still trying it out of guilt, rather than out of single-minded determination.

With a bit of luck I can still do exercise until I am healed. Sadly, I have to wait for the proper strength work, and be content with the bro-splits that should really be assistance work at this point (like curls of all kind, isolation work etc...)

Then some movement, gentle, very gentle, in the hurt area. Like Brian says: blood heals. Gotta get the blood to go to the damaged area, and fix it quick.

More on that later.


Brian Alsruhe's channel
This is Brian

mercoledì 17 agosto 2016

New blog series

It's been tough to find a focus for this blog. It started as a place for rants, witty rants, livid with rage rants etc...

Then it became a general repository for impressions, some book reviews, thoughts without a place-holder of any kind.

It is still the blog of a moody bastard, but I realized that I cannot just rant about whatever ticks me off. It is a digital foot-print that might be counter-productive later, or it simply changes my brain chemistry, leading to negative spirals. Cannot have that.

Politics, religion, but also management, personal development, fatigue at this and that, are all things I need to figure out by myself.


There is fitness. I can write about exercises, fitness, and the personal development challenges. Matching life, work, friends, with social pressure, peer pressure, judgement spoken and unspoken, expectations, confidence (physical, mental) and the staples of this endeavor, as rare as they are simple

  • REST

They are not quite in order of importance, but mostly yeah, they are. Broad categories, of course, but you get the idea. They might eventually stand for other, bigger things. Convenient screens for other things I might want to say.

It will be a journey, and there will be rants, but I will also try to share lessons. Rants will be 99% about the idealized, totally disconnected from reality messages coming off the damned internet. The true petri-dish of all things good and evil. The image crafting, idea spewing volcano which mostly only manages to frustrate us all with unattainable standards of clock-work precision in scheduling one's life, with the touch of "sprezzatura". The art of being naturally and effortlessly being good st doing stuff without so much as breaking a sweat, all delivered by polished characters who are essentially there for the money, and live and thrive in social context so unique that their "recipes" "tips & tricks" and whatever else they foist on the poor internet surfer is pretty damn far from useful.

Universal truths that require so much customization as to be basically rubbish "for girls" or "for dudes" crap. I might want to set some ground rules for myself and for you if you visit and comment.

Let's start with one: here we do not talk about "girls" or "dudes" or any of that horse-shit. Here we talk about humans. Get this straight, or leave.

But I digress, because ranting is addictive. Let's start with some-one who pretty much got it right instead. Meet my 2 of my favorite fitness people. There are more (Scooby, Jeff Cavaliere etc...) but they'll pop up in the next weeks. So, follow the links and take notes!

Read their stuff, listen to some of what they say, we reconvene next week. Fresh(er) than today (I slept like ass, and also not that much) and ready to get better. 

domenica 19 ottobre 2014

A quick pit-stop, on an Indian summer day

This is not my best blog post. It is just a little blurb to keep the blog alive. It is a page where I would love to write more, but lack the confidence (and often the time) to do so.

I am writing from a room where the temperature is well above 25 Celsius (77 F), while outside Berlin is blessed by a gorgeous day of sun, a cool breeze, and the flaming colours of the fall.

It is the end of a long week, with meetings and work pretty much back to back from 8 am to 10 pm. Wednesday to Sunday, spent between coffee in unhealthy amounts, sweets and other treats, stress, and very little movement, mostly because I am sharing a room with 350 people, and some 50 laptops and mixers (they give off heat too). It's like I am asking to get sick, but so far so good.

I am writing mostly to commit this to memory. The annual membership meeting 2014 is almost over. It was interesting, but as usual fraught with lengthy conversation taking place inside my head, amongst the various facets of my personality. On the one hand, the huge motivator which was to watch and listen to the former Commissioner of the New York DOI (Department of Investigations). A true anti-corruption champion. Efficient, effective, prepared, competent, experienced, to the point. On the other hand there is the wish to do more of my own, to manage, to direct, to craft, to shape. I am witnessing a lot, but it is hard to convince myself that I am influencing anything. I could influence myself, but by training and education, my preferred venues are a bit far from what is within reach now. A gym, perhaps. A book. But other key items are missing. Time, mostly, but also the mental discipline to set my day in a way that protect the space I need to devote to personal growth.

There will be a closing dinner tonight, and the next two weekends are pretty much taken already, so that will be my time frame to set the plan in motion, to go at it again, and try to become, every day, the better version of myself, and not just a bystander observing life zooming past.