Want an Easy to Adjust Homemade Suspension Trainer or Rings? Try this.

When I started my foray back into powerlifting, I needed to find a way to spot myself without going out and getting a power rack. I simply didn’t want to give up the space in my garage. But how was I going to spot myself doing heavy squats or bench presses without, der, a rack or stands?

Chains.

Oh yes, chains. These ended up being a multi-purpose purchase, but I ‘ll get to that in a second. Every time I pass that section of Home Depot with all the rope and chain, tons of ideas flash into my head. It was only a matter of time before I found a reason to buy some. Finally, this was it. I ended up buying a box of chain from Walmart, 20’ long, with a load capacity somewhere north of 1000 lbs.; then I bought a couple extra carabineers.


The chains attach to two eye hooks already in the ceiling joists, and a carabineer goes on either end of the chain. To adjust the length, raise or lower the carabineer to the desired link.

How does this work for spotting? Simple raise the chains high enough to get under, but no too high so you can still go to parallel when you squat down. The barbell goes through the loops of the chains. Because the chains are not at a fixed point, you can squat under and walk the weight forward to ‘unrack’ it. Then take a couple of steps back and perform the exercise. It isn’t ideal, but it works pretty well.

You can adjust this setup fast for other exercises, or use it as a suspension trainer, or if you prefer, gymnastics rings, with the addition of some handles. For mine, I purchased a 2 foot length of thick flex pipe, cut it in half an slide the end of the chain through. Fast, simple, and effective.

Total cost for this setup? About $35 to $40.

The beauty of this over rope or another material are the dual functions (spotting equipment for barbells/suspension trainer) and the quick adjustment. Not to mention the price. Even new, that’s pretty reasonable.

So if you are looking for rings, or want to start suspension training, or simply need to be able to do squats and don’t want to spend the money for a power rack, look for some chains. Easy to put up, easy to take down, and a whole lot of fun.

  Want more great ideas? Keep reading:

 Setting up a Jungle Gym XT or TRX:
http://hubpages.com/hub/Suspension-Training-Where-to-Use-your-TRX-or-Jungle-Gym-XT

Lifting Big:

Stronger Back Muscleshttp://hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Build-Strong-Back-Muscles

http://hubpages.com/hub/Mass-Building-A-Simple-Approach-to-Building-Muscle

Rest and Recovery Should Always Include Exercise and Today’s Bench Press

Yesterday was a rest and recovery day. But it sucked! In an effort to stick to a two to three workout week, I am doing very little on days off.

This is not my typical schedule. I ate a lot, most of it healthy, but did not do any recovery exercise. By 8:30 I was ready to sleep! Now I get up a little early every day but this is ridiculous. So on off days I am going to do mobility workouts and maybe a light run/jog/bike or skating session. Take note people, just because you are trying a new routine, don’t throw away the stuff that has been working.

For a look at the types of mobility drills I do, read these hubs:

http://hubpages.com/hub/Develop-Functional-Strength-Get-in-Touch-with-Your-Body

http://hubpages.com/hub/Fight-Flexiblility-Training-and-Bodyweight-Conditioning

Without yoga and joint exercises, plus some type of high intensity anaerobic intervals (think sprints,) all this powerlifting begins to make me feel like a slow tank. So that’s the update. The next 4 weeks are still HIT centered, but I can’t just sit around on the days I don’t do it. Unless I can’t get up…

So here is today’s workout:

Joint rotations
Isometric pushup/plank holds
Rotating pushup holds

Bench Press: (1 continuous set to burnout)
Dumbbell floor press
Dumbbell roll backs on floor.

For the bench, I will probably use the strip/drop set method, taking plates off as fast as I can. When that fails, I will get on the floor and immediately begin doing dumbbell presses to failure, followed by tricep roll backs.

The actual results will be posted, along with a nutrition update, later today. Oh, and if you read my last post:  http://www.mosladder.com/2011/05/squat-workouts-post-exercise-recovery.html
you may be wondering how I felt the next day. The answer is sore, but not brutal sore. I walked just fine but would not have considered doing anything to engage those thighs. Until next time!

and I’m back with a full report!


So I unleashed the workout above on my body with some unintended changes. A couple of notes:

I did not do the warm-up of joint rotations, etc., as described above. Instead i opted for a bar only specific warm-up for 10-12+ reps to practice technique. This was probably a mistake. The brief bar warm-up didn’t give me the confidence I needed to start out at a heavy weight. Something I wanted to do  since I would be dropping plates fast. The result was:

205# felt too heavy, dropped to:
185# x ~3
165#x3?
115#x 6?

 and then here’s where I screwed up. Apparently I was pushing myself hard enough to forget to drop to 95# and then bar only, my original intention. You know, bench until there’s nothing left. Whoops. Instead I threw myself on my back on the floor and did:

DB floor presses: 43# each x a few, at least 5, maybe more
and when those failed:

Pushups gripping the bar (which was now hanging 12 inches above the ground on the chains. Did a few until it was too hard to push up.

Then I sat for a few minutes deciding if I was done or not. Remember, I’m trying to stick to this HIT principle, and I am still ironing out the wrinkles in my garage gym. So instead of jumping into rollbacks, I sat there wondering if I should do something else for my chest. Ultimately I did:

Tricep DB rollbacks w/43# db for ~8-10
then dropped to 37# for maybe 6 reps.

Then I stood up and did about three more overhead triceps extensions.

That was it. As I get used to this protocol again, things will proceed with more smoothness, but for today, there it is.

What pissed me off initially was not being comfortable with 205# on the bench. A couple of factors might have contributed to this:

-I was on cinder blocks on my improvised bench press
-The warmup wasn’t thorough enough
-I had eaten only a snack the entire morning; I usually have a decent meal before I workout.

Am I disappointed? Think this workout fell short? Hell no! Actually, the effort to push myself to absolute failure is making me work much harder than I have in a long time; at least on these exercises. It isn’t 100 percent failure yet, but I’m enjoying this!

Incidentally this is also the first HIT style bench press/chest/tri workout. It will be interesting to see how I improve three or four days from now. but until then…

Squat Workouts, Post-Exercise Recovery and More

Wow! My muscles must be out of shape, or my bench lop-sided, or I worked harder than I realized. These shoulders are sooore. To give you a brief recap, I did my first real bench press workout in about a year (you can read it here:  
First Bench…)

How the hell did I tolerate so much soreness as a teenager when 12 or more sets per body part was the norm? I have a theory that if we don’t do anything to prevent it, we actually get softer-mentally and physically, as we get older.

In other words, maybe some straight forward hard work is going to be all I need in this first few months. After that simple bench press workout leaving me so sore, maybe I haven’t been working hard enough. So on to the squat. Here’s the thing:

I couldn’t resist trying my own little Colorado Experiment. You know? The one where Arthur Jones and Casey Viator torture themselves on Nautilus equipment (and a squat rack) and gain a combined 80+ pounds of muscle? Yeah, that one.

It’s not that the 5/5 protocol put out by countless gurus won’t work, I’m sure it will. Especially because for the purposes of powerlifting, I will be experiencing a novice’s reaction to training; great progress in the first few weeks no matter what I do. But I get bored easily, and you are supposed to rest and focus on the lift taking place and  nothing else.

Can’t stand that. Instead, I like the idea of going all out, non-stop until your muscles have nothing left. It’s quick, it’s painful, and it keeps me from getting bored.

The other reason is the haters. Who knows if the Colorado Experiment was really as successful as they say? If it were even 10% true, this is still one whopper of a success. But I find it annoying to read outright dismissal of these claims from people who haven’t put themselves to the test.

Sooo…

I decided I will give about 4 weeks to the process of 1 set until absolute failure (ala Arthur Jones.) And guess what? I started it with my squat workout.

Now going all out by yourself is difficult, if not impossible. But if you set things up right and push harder when that inner voice tells you to stop, chances are it will be a higher intensity workout than normal. Here’s what I did:

Warm-up: Had a TaeKwonDo class before I did these, but the body wasn’t completely wiped, or I wouldn’t have tried this. Still, the muscles were warm and ready to go. So after

1@95#x3-5

to practice technique, I loaded the barbell on my chain support system, loaded up the plates to 185# (I also haven’t squatted in a while, so I was guessing on a 6-8 rep range weight,) and kept stripping plates. Without stopping except to get weight off, I did:

185 x 5-6
165 x 5-6
95 x ~8
Bar (45) x 10-12
Then I did bodyweight box squats (using cinder blocks) until I couldn’t get up.

I know I didn’t completely decimate my thighs, because I briefly considered going at another round of that.Briefly, it wasn’t the toughest, but it was more intense than any leg workout I’ve done in a long time. It will certainly get tougher. Besides, there were several moments yesterday when the legs gave out without warning, reminding me that only the next day or two would reveal just how hard I worked.

The diet felt out of control. It was as though I were trying to put all my experiments into one day. For the next four weeks, my goal is to minimize coffee (1 cup a day,) and drink green tea and high antioxidant tea (chocolate ‘pu erh in this case.) In addition, I am soaking in a lukewarm/cold bath after workouts in an attempt to reduce inflammation and speed recovery.

Here is a rough road map of yesterday’s diet:

-Dinner: ~4 0z. ribeye steak; Waldorf salad; spinach and cheese ravioli (2-3)
-Mid AM: Whole grain macaroni and chicken soup (~3 cups)

and in no particular order:

1/4 cup blueberries, peanut butter banana smoothie, 2 cups of caffeinated green tea w/ginger …damn, I know there was a lot more, but unfortunately (or fortunately) I was a bad record keeper yesterday. So be it, the process refines itself. Until next time!

First Real Bench Press Workout in a Year

After roughly a year of doing nothing but pushups, the occasional dips and ring flyes, i stepped into a real gym (something I try to avoid,) and knocked out my bench press workout. Are you excited! Hell yeah! I am.

Having worked a little too hard through last weeks bench press workout in the garage, at the mega weight of 135#, I am happy to say my strength is returning quickly. Last year I was somewhere between 240 and 250#, and today I did the following:

135#: warm-up for ~8
185# x 5,5,5,4,3,maybe one more at 2. I can’t remember.

Then:

Close grip bench:

95# x~8
105# x~8
115# x `6

None of these sets were hard, which surprised me. I didn’t know I could handle more weight, but not wanting to overdo it I left it at three sets and went home to finish. The sooner I can get out of the gym, the more relaxed I become.

At home I used resistance bands around the back for pushups, simulating a bench press grip:

3×10

I stopped when my speed slowed down on a given set.

That is the whole workout. I plan on doing some shoulder presses tonight. The report will be on this desk if it goes down.

The plan continues to follow a 5/5 program, resting for several minutes between sets. Two minutes is about the max and then I have to get moving again, otherwise it gets too boring. This protocol is not followed for assistance exercises, which have shorter rest periods and generally higher rep schemes.

Nutrition:

AM: Coffee, shredded mini wheats cereal with organic 1% milk. Half turkey, cheese and tomato sandwich on whole grain bread.

Mid AM snack: Peanut butter banana smoothie with apples, vanilla almond milk, cinnamon and a raw egg white.

After W/O: Roast chicken breast, about 3 oz.; Leftover ribeye, about 3 oz. Whole grain mac n’cheese (what can I say, somebody has to eat the leftovers,) maybe 1 cup.

Not me, …not yet

My Amateur Strongman, er Powerlifting Update

Today is a rest day. Hey, hold on now, I didn’t say no work was involved. In fact today’s post is an important one for me. Going on the advice that people are more likely to follow through with goals when they are in the near future, I have opted to prove my strength at a powerlifting competition instead of a strongman.

The reasons for this are simple.

First is the time frame. From what I can tell, there are no open strongman contests in either Arizona or California (two places I am likely to be in the next six months.) This is a problem, because I want to tackle this ‘contest of strength’ goal sooner than later. No rush, mind you, just not next year. The powerlifting meet is only three months away.

Second is the distance. The contest will be in Peoria, Arizona, which is only twenty minutes from my house,

Third is simplicity. Three lifts, no suits or supports (a ‘raw’ meet,)and only one thing required: Strength. Well, strength and power anyway, and technique. Okay, three things…the point is that the strongman contests will require a greater diversity of training implements and a complex strategy. Plus I can’t find one for this year.

Let’s get to the training strategy!!!

I could go on, but let’s get to the training strategy. I can do most of this at home, but I will be hitting the gym (probably the one it is being held at,) to get used to the powerlifting atmosphere.

Right now I am torn between the Westside method and the 5/5 strength method promoted by Pavel. So my plan is to start with the simpler of the two (5/5)and see how I progress. The lifts will be done in order of present difficulty.

Day I: Squat
5/5 after isometric body weight squats, joint rotations and light stretching.

Day II. Bench Press

5/5 after isometric pushup holds, joint rotations and light stretching.

Day III. Deadlift

5/5 after intensive stretching of hamstrings and hip flexors, lower back and groin. Why? Because I have found this method prevents injury and prepares me to go right to a heavier weight. Maybe it’s the ritual of the thing.

Three days in a row? Every other day? Dunno! I’m guessing three in a row, but I am also working on my next belt in tae kwon do, so shoot, depends on how much pain I’m in!

What, no assistance exercises? No bands? Nope, at least not this time. In my case, simple translates into consistency.

That’s it for today. The powerlifting meet is on in three months and this ‘sub-master’ plans on defeating, some, of the other old guys…

For the record, my current weight is ~198 and I suspect I will drop below this before the meet, even eating like I do below.

My Nutrition Log

Am: Coffee w/creamer, 2 thin pancakes and maple syrup.
Green tea.
late Am: Half a chicken salad sandwich on whole grain w/lettuce and tomatoes; half a liter of peanut butter and banana smoothie.(Milk, 2 bananas, 2-3 tablespoons peanut butter, 2 tspns. honey, cinnamon.)

Snack: The other half of the smoothie.

Lunch: 4 spinach and cheese raviolis with meat sauce (beef.) Green tea

8oz. water x 6

The rest of the day is ahead of me. Until next time, check out how easy this guy puts up almost 650 pounds, sick.

Short and Painful Workouts

The stats were staggering to me. In order to compete with the guys at the Southern California Strongman competition in Huntington Beach next year, I was going to have to triple, and in some cases quadruple my strength. I had tried just packing on mass before (see The Muscle Gain Experiment.)

Along with roughly 20 pounds of fat, I put on some muscle, particularly in my legs, ass, triceps and chest. But my strength gains hit a plateau after about 2 months. My body shut down. I was immobile, heavy and now burnt out. If this strongman thing was going to happen, I needed a new strategy, one that included more recovery, better nutrition and serious flexibility work. This task is made all the more daunting by the age factor. At 39, this is supposed to be an uphill battle. Not that I believe it. I feel great.

To give you an idea of what types of weights I will have to lift, check out the list below:

Light weights, 201-230 (hopefully that will be me!)

Farmer’s Walk: w/ 230# in each hand. I currently fatigue quickly with 55 pound dumbbells afters about 90 feet.

Overhead Press Medley: To be honest, this frightens me; a little bit. The medley is a keg press, axle press, log press, and if you can do those, a 130-150# circus dumbbells. You know, those old strongman db’s loaded with lead shot or something. But that isn’t the part that’s scary. The lightweights will have be pressing between 200 and 230 lbs. on each of the implements. Currently I think I can press 135#…

There is also the tire flip and the keg toss, which I’ve never done. However, these events seem as much about technique as they are about strength and power.

Atlas Stones: What strongman contest would be complete without lifting heavy stones? If you have read this blog at all in the past, you might know that I thinks big heavy rocks are the best thing since twist-off caps on a beer bottle. (Read:system-shock-workout-with-rocks) Still, the heaviest I’ve lifted is just over 130#. Hardly a dent when you consider the lightweights at Huntington have to try and lift stones from 240-350#. No worries, the stones I have are getting pretty light, so this will be interesting.

You may be asking why? Why the hell would you start training for an elite strongman competition? The easy answer is because life is for living. As Dave Tate once said, “…there’s nothing like lifting heavy shit.” Or something like that. In other words, I like it. Plus, I’m not getting any younger. The time is now.

There is another reason, as well. My kids. I want to conquer some mountains while I’m still young enough to do it as an example to my kids. Persevere, work hard, believe in yourself and you really can accomplish amazing things.

For purposes of keeping track of my progress, I’ll be closing these strongman posts with a recap of my workouts and nutrition. So:

Day 1 (yesterday)

After warm-up,
Squats: 65#x12 (easy,) 115#x8-10, 165# x 2 and “,” x3. Finished off with bodyweight squats. (*Note: these are tough numbers to accept, but hopefully just the result of not having practiced the squat for a long time.)

Deadlifts: (close and wide grip, medium stance,) 135#x10 (easy,)155#x8, 205×3, 225×1 (I had to double check my addition on this, since a year ago I could do about 310#, but damn, the numbers don’t lie.)

Suspended BB Rows: I’ve hung some chains from the garage ceiling, so instead of pulling the bar from the ground for bent over rows, I’m pulling it toward me suspended from the chains. More like a machine, but it takes the strain off the exhausted lower body and let’s me work on what it’s intended for, my lats.
135#x~12, 155#x~8, 175#x6-8.

Today:

This was a quick workout, which is just the way I wanted it. In fact, this week’s theme could be called ‘short and painful.’ After warming up doing my tae kwon do forms, I jumped right into the standing military press:

Bar x~12, 65#x8-10, 85#x6-10, 95#x4,5-6, bar only cool down. Was going to seek my max today, but I wasn’t feeling it. Nursing my neck after previous workout.

Leaning Suspended BB Chest Press: I don’t have a bench, don’t want one. So I suspended the BB from the chains around chest level and I step forward until I get tension. What I learned today is that there is heavier eccentric work for the lats on this exercise than on the regular bench press. Ouch. Results:

165#x5; 185×6; 205×6; then I pyramided back down with ~ the same reps. Each set included a few reps of close grip pressing as well. That was it. Total lifting time? About 14 minutes.

Check out the video below to see what competitors are up against. We’ll see you next time!

Strength Training Journal for Strongman, make that Powerlifting Competition

Ah, there is nothing like having to redo work you already finished, posted and supposedly saved. Thanks Blogger. But oh well, serves me right for not saving my last post on my computer. So today was a rest day, but not entirely. Something was working, mostly my mouth as I shoveled food into it. Let’s break this down, I’m training for a powerlifting competition and have put on hold the strongman competition.

Why Mo??!!?? Several reasons. One is time. Strongman is a lot more involved with regards to the training I feel I will need to do, and there does not seem to be an open entry contest in my region in the next 6 months. I would like to compete in the next 3 months. Powerlifting, on the other hand has tons of meets over the next few months and is only three lifts! HAHA!

So let’s get to today’s activity. Training? Try none, except some light stretching and an easy 15-20 minute jog. The main activity today was eating. Here is a list as well as i can recall it:

Breakfast:

Coffee- 1 cup
Pancakes (not whole grain) w/ maple syrup: 2
Half a chicken salad sandwich w/ lettuce and tomato.

Snack: Peanut butter banana smoothie (about 20 oz.)

Lunch: 4 Spinach and chesse raviolis with meat sauce.

Snack: Fruit???

Early dinner: Chicken and rice (brown/white combo,) + 1/2 a hamburger patty.

Later dinner: Hamburger patty with romaine salad and 1 tblspn. ceasar dressing.

Water at every hour to two hours, Probably 8-10 10oz. glasses, and 1-2 cups more coffee throughout day.

Eating this much was a lot of work for me, especially on a day without training. I could have done without the ‘later dinner’ and felt better to, but I didn’t; I ate it-and it was gooood.

With three months before the powerlifting meet, there is a lot of work to do. The numbers are pitiful right now, but sure to rise quick.

At a weight of 198, my goal is to hit a 350# deadlift, 250# bench press, and a 250# squat.
How much can I do now? Let’s just say I am closer to the deadlift than the others right now. Next week the world should know for sure.

Check out the video below for some amazing feats of strength. Until next time!

(This is the same gym the meet will be held at in August.)

Strength Training, Writing and Life – The Changing Face of MosLadder

MosLadder started out of a need to express my newly discovered lease on life. I started it to address more exciting ways to work out and explore the potential of the human body. I started it to post my creative ideas for keeping out of traditional gyms that always seemed so soul-crushing to me. In some ways I have addressed that goal and in others fallen short. Always i tried to stay away from the mundane.

But MosLadder was supposed to be as much about recording my new life as it was about strength training and conditioning. It is supposed to be about facing real challenges and not just showing off nifty workout equipment.

It began after a wake up call to get up, get moving and stop stagnating. My wake up call hadn’t been a bout with a serious disease or the loss of any bodily functions. It was, in part, due to the death of a close friend, someone who would say to me, “I thought you were going to do something more with your life?” When he died, I recognized the way he lived. He was a person who took action. He didn’t just try things or talk about doing them, he jumped in.

That’s the basic premise behind MosLadder. Jumping into life. Not just drifting through it. So welcome to the new face of Mos. If you are one of the handful of regular readers who has graced us with your presence, don’t worry; there will still be plenty of interesting workouts, and likely some unusual modifications to new and traditional equipment.

Some of the coming topics include:

Strongman Training-My attempt to prepare for the Southern California Strongman competition in a year.

Making the Garage Gym Fun for the Kids

Smart Workouts-Shortcuts to Any Athletic Goal

So keep stopping by. You never know what’s in store.

Cheers,

Mo