Finding YOUR path...


I've been struggling a little in the gym / with my diet lately.

I think it's because I ate way too much over Xmas, despite knowing I had a powerlifting competition coming up, which I would need to cut weight for.

I went from 133 lb before Xmas to 139 lb after and need to be 129 lb for my weight class.

January, February and March saw non-stop training and dieting, which took its toll on my energy levels.

The good news is that I set new (local / regional) records in the Squat, Deadlift and Total (140 kg, 170 kg and 400 kg), but sadly wasn't able to extend my benchpress record (92.5 kg) or beat the existing benchpress (all) record, which is 102.5 kg.

(For those of you unfamiliar with powerlifting, there are three lifts - Squat, Bench and Deadlift. These three lifts then produce six possible records - all three lifts (3), plus their total (4), when done on one day. The final two records are additional bench (5) and deadlift (6) records, which can be done on their own. Obviously doing only one lift is less taxing, so these tend to be a little heavier.) 

Since the competition, I've been concentrating on getting back to enjoying food and training, rather than aiming for goals.

In my search for a new routine, I came across a fellow lifter's blog.

His journey really resonated with mine: we're both 5' 4"; have followed similar training principles; fallen in love with strength training and achieved powerlifting records.

His blog, and his results, made me remember that, despite what cynics may say on the interweb, we are all special snowflakes.

He aspired to be like Bolo,  I aspired to be like Bruce Lee (although not initially - I wanted to be like Arnie, but see below).

He's about 100 kg. I'm about 60 kg. We're both only 5' 4".

We have totally different builds.

There is no way he is ever going to look like Bruce Lee. There is no way I am ever going to look like Bolo.

One of the mistakes I made, and sometimes continue to make, is trying to be like, or train like, other people.

Everyone's lives are different. Some people like to train every day. Others prefer to only go once a week.

You have to find what works for you, and maintain it for years - hopefully forever!

However, certain things don't change, so here are my most important lessons:

1) Base your weight-training routine around a few compound lifts - especially when starting. A routine like Starting Strength is ideal. 

2) Keep a note of your weights, sets, reps and anything else, like how you're feeling that day.

Here are my log books from the past 8 years of training:


I can look back and see how far I've progressed, as well as how my routine has changed, so I can continue to learn what works.

3) Don't worry about number of reps and number of sets. Pick a range that you like, or change it from time to time (although see point #7).

4) Concentrate on doing the exercise well - with good range of motion and with good form.

5) Progressive overload - When you've completed your chosen sets / reps with a certain weight and with good form, go for more weight next time. When starting out, this will probably be something like another 5 kg on the squat or deadlift. Now that I've been training for eight years, it's more like an additional 1% after a couple of weeks! 

6) Diet determines 90% of how you look - the fat you can lose or the muscle you can build. Keep making small changes to the diet week after week to gain / lose weight depending on your goal.

7) Choose exercises you enjoy and concentrate on getting better at them. Don't keep changing between exercises.

8) Choose a good balance of exercises - e.g. an equal amount of push and pull. A good guideline is 

  • hinge around the knees (e.g. squat)
  • hinge around the hips (e.g. deadlift)
  • horizontal push (e.g. benchpress)
  • horizontal pull (e.g. row)

Add in a vertical pull (e.g. pullups) and a vertical push (e.g. press) if you wish. Anything else is just adding complexity, which may not be necessary, especially when starting out.

With that in mind, I'm going to try a new routine, mostly inspired by John's blog (and Borge's Optimal Routine, which I linked above). Here's what mine will look like:

  • Squat
  • Bench
  • Deadlift
  • Pullups


That's it. 

I've been going to the gym every day for a while now and find I really enjoy making it part of my daily routine.

What I don't enjoy is staggering out, exhausted. I want to keep something in the tank.

Bear in mind that the squats will be almost double bodyweight for reps, the bench will be almost 1.5x bodyweight for reps, the deadlift will be almost 2.5x bodyweight for reps and the pullups will be with 50% bodyweight strapped on a dipping belt. 

I love going heavy, which is why I want to try this mega-abbreviated routine. I don't think my body recovers quickly from the heavy sessions that I love to do, so I need to dial down the volume and take it back to basics.

As John says on his blog:


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