The European Championship and the last 6 months ..
Following on from last post, I weighed in at 83.6kg the night before I was due to travel down to Aldershot but I had been water loading so was confident I’d make weight in the morning. Skipped breakfast, loaded the car with food & drink ready to rehydrate and refuel then hit the road nice and early. It’s a long old drive from Pembrokeshire and weigh-in was 10am-11:30am and I wanted to get in as early as possible so I could eat up!
Typically, my car radiator blew on the way .. perfect .. limped the last 30 miles using all the water I had in the car and heaters on full blast to cool engine, but still ended up missing the morning weigh-in by 10 minutes! Just what I needed. Used the scales they had there to see where I was and was looking at around 82.3. Couldn’t take the risk of having even a quick dioralyte as they weren’t the official scales and I may have gone over. Gutted … Had to wait till the 3pm weigh-in instead, feeling totally dried out and knackered from the hot drive down in the sun and watching the rest of the team fuel up around me. That’ll test your resolve when you are starving and thirsty as hell and having to watch your mates drinking plenty and stuffing burgers etc down their face 😔
Weighed in at 81.2kg by 3pm and spent the rest of the day eating and drinking and trying to regain as much lost water as I could knowing that my performance in the morning was dependent on it. Got a reasonably decent night sleep as was staying with family and was back ready in the morning. Didn’t feel too bad at the time, but warm-ups were feeling heavy and I knew I would have to really push myself to hit my targets.
Squatting opened well for me, hit a comfortable 190kg followed with a 210kg which went up easy so then went for a comp PB of 227.5kg (500lbs) – Didn’t go so well, knee gave way a little at the bottom so the spotters had to step in. That failed lift left me with just a 210kg squat. The judging was quite harsh and several lifters bombed out on depth so by the time bench came around, I dropped my opener down to 140kg. I’m confident I can hit that on a bad day and got that on the board happily. 150kg didn’t want to go up on my 2nd lift and on third lift my shoulder gave way on one side and the bar hit the spotters hand so I was red lighted even though I managed to lock it out (looking back at the video I can see why as not only was the bar travelling unevenly, he looked like he helped me, but when I was on the bench I didn’t feel like it!). My bench is always the first to get hit when I drop weight, especially with limited time to rehydrate again so I knew it was going to be a struggle. Ah well, on to deadlifts, dropped my opener to 180kg as again, I’m confident with that weight, easy lift on 2nd with a 190kg but centre ref had a quick word about bar ‘dropping too quickly’ and then a reasonably easy 200kg at third attempt as by that time it was all I needed to win my category and no point in shooting for a crazy PR.
So, not an amazing total by far, but it was enough on the day to take a European title and after the day I’d had beforehand, I was over the moon to have made it through and not been ‘bombed out’ of the competition at the squats – Plus the trophies were awesome 😉
Vids: Squat 190kg, Squat 210kg, Bench 140kg, Bench 150kg (fail – red light), Deadlift 180kg, Deadlift 190kg, Deadlift 200kg
Following that, I took a little time off and just enjoyed being ‘off-season’ as it seems like it’s been a long time and I’ve been nursing a few injuries for too long. Typically over the next few months I came down with a few illnesses and worst still, my knee gave way on the stairs as I’ve been suffering with patellar tendonitis for a while and sprained the inflamed tendon – yowch! Couldn’t walk for almost 3 days and training was out of the question for a while. My shoulder has also played up ever since, I think I’m getting too old for this lark! Ha ha
Now the last two months I’ve been rebuilding lost strength and trying to rehab my injuries. I have got back to all previous lifts equipped now, but my raw game has taken a big hit not only from the injuries, but the fact I’ve been focusing all my training on equipped lifting and feel my technique has come apart a little when unequipped as it’s a completely different way of lifting.
So now we’re into December and for now I’m really pushing to get my raw lifts back to where I was before I started competing. I’ll try and get some equipped lifting in once a month with the Pembs Powerlifters as I still plan on competing equipped but otherwise all training will be raw.
Life back on track, knee/shoulder calming right down with the focus on rehab and raw lifting and I’ll be posting up on here regularly again – Also, good news, I’ve met a graphic designer who will be looking at my book ‘Hench – A Straightforward Guide to Size and Strength’ as it’s still in Microsoft Word format and then will get it published and hopefully will finally get it out there! For now, back to the Christmas shopping, the joys of parenthood and work, work, work 😉
Getting Hench – The Importance of Back Training Part 1
To be truly Hench, you need an impressive back. Nothing states strength more or makes for a better looking physique than a big strong back. Whilst having a well developed chest and arms are important, without a good back alongside you will look weak and/or incomplete often with poor posture. This is why these are often called ‘mirror muscles’ – You look great to yourself when you look in the mirror, but you are never seen in everyday life like that! How often do we face someone directly face on? Your physique needs to be Hench from any angle and a well developed back is key and, dare I say, more important than chest or arms in the way you look. Not to mention the fact it is the most crucial muscle group for functional strength in tasks ranging from everyday life to athletics/sports or competitions.
Bodybuilders have a saying in competitions that ‘the contest is won from the back’, and the majority of winners have had the best back development. This alone should spur you on – A competition based solely on aesthetics considers the back as almost the most important bodypart, yet still the newbies and ego-lifters focus on those mirror muscles with all their effort and only half-ass their back and/or leg workouts despite claiming they are ‘bodybuilding’ or just want to ‘get big’.
A good back is measured on two main things .. Thickness – Which will pull your shoulders back, maintaining good posture and emphasizing your chest and ‘V’ Shape – Causing your waist to appear smaller and shoulders wider. What I would also add for a ‘Hench’ look is a third measure which is a good set of traps. Take Bane from ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, or even the same actor Tom Hardy in ‘Warrior’ do you look at him and question if he’s powerful looking? Nope .. Definitely Hench!
BeHench is Back!
I’m back! Sorry it’s been so long, had so much going on recently and I have been in hospital with a kidney stone – If you’ve had one, then you know how painful it is! If you haven’t, then hopefully you won’t find out 😉
Needless to say, after that setback my strength has taken a drop so I’m currently working back to previous lifts. A bit disappointing and I’ve had to swallow my ego and try to forget what I ‘could’ lift, and focus on just getting strong as I did before.
You will also notice a few changes around the site over the next few weeks as I haven’t taken the time to update in ages! I will also be looking to get ‘Hench – A Straightforward Guide To Size And Strength’ published and out there ASAP. This has taken a back seat for far too long. Watch this space for further details…
Hench Training ebook update
Well, back in August I thought I’d finished it. Since then however, after several of my peers and friends have read it and given feedback, I’ve written a whole new section on the main lifts and added some important technique guidelines. I’ve also been trying out some ideas for a cover design alongside this. Unfortunately the book had to take a back seat due to many other things going on, but I’m pleased to say it has now been fully updated. I’m currently in the process of adding the all important photo’s to the newly added section and then it truly will be finished and out for editing.
Something different .. ?
When was the last time you tried something different in your workout? A friend and mentor of mine wrote this article for T-nation last year where he suggests using a sandbag to break through plateau’s, improve grip and core strength, stabilise shoulders and as an absolutely killer conditioning tool!
A worthy read for anyone looking to get stronger, I would also recommend his book, hence advertising it on my site! Here Matt not only gives clear and concise instruction and programming, but also how to make your own sandbags at a fraction of the price! For a more specific guide he has also co-written a guide for MMA & combat sports.
To be truly Hench, it is not only about what you can do in the gym, but also how you can apply it to everyday life. What is the use of being big and strong if it’s only in a gym with a barbell/dumbbell? If your walking past someone struggling to lift something and they see this big guy walk past so ask you for help, do you want to be able to just heave it up with apparent ease to demonstrate your Henchness, or try and help, but struggle to hold it? Give a sandbag workout a try and be prepared to ache in places your not used to! You can get Matt’s books here.
On the book subject, ‘hench’ is now completely finished, and I’m now taking steps to get it published. I’ll keep you updated 😉
Rest day reading .. Are ‘cheating’ reps really that bad?
When it comes to performing exercise, there is so much contradiction it’s hard to muddle through. From forced reps to partial reps to ‘cheat’ reps – everyone has an opinion and everyone loves to tell you who’s wrong! Here‘s an article from Elite FTS and here, one from T-nation discussing this issue. Neither of which I hasten to add, advocate for a moment ‘cheating’ as a beginner or even an intermediate lifter in some cases, but only when you reach advanced level’s of strength and/or size and are looking to break through into new territory. I personally cannot stress enough the importance of form and believe it should be something you strive to improve all the time and focus on every single session, but let’s not forget there are benefits that can be had from ‘cheating’. After all what is a negative rep if it’s not cheating at the start and benefiting from the overload on the negative phase to come back stronger next session?
Recently I posted a video of my overhead press and commented that there was too much layback. However, this enabled me to lockout at least the last two reps of my set. If I was being really harsh probably the last three! Where these last few reps beneficial? Potential injury aside, I think so. Although I stand by the fact I need to tighten up my form (to reduce that injury potential), those last reps would have provided a stimulus for my muscles/CNS and I will be stronger for it when I re-visit the bar. To reduce injury potential I would have been better turning the last rep into a push press and perhaps I’ll try that next time!
Of course, if you are a competing athlete or weightlifter, then cheating or not locking out a lift whilst competing is an absolute ‘no-go’, and I am in no way condoning the use of ‘cheat’ reps for these types of goals. However my goal is not one of competition, but of size and strength. In the journey to getting ‘Hench’ I feel that the occasional ‘cheat’ or partial rep may well be beneficial in certain exercises, as a finisher for otherwise fatigued muscles or to force some extra growth. But this is just my opinion, I would suggest you make your own decision! If for anything else you could increase DOMS and could then potentially reduce your performance in the next session!
Ramblings and an article or two ..
So a nice few days off have done me good, been doing a bit of stretching and some foam rolling and got a fair bit of reading done. More importantly, I’ve bought myself a tripod so I can take the pictures necessary to illustrate ‘Hench’ and get it out there! Going to start these this week, so hopefully will meet my own deadline of the end of the month. (hopefully!)
Most of the reading I’ve done has been into Lordosis/Anterior Pelvic Tilt as although I know I don’t have a bad case of it, I definitely lock out my deadlifts with my lower back NOT my hamstrings/glutes and my posture could do with a little work! (as could just about anyones nowadays!) – A great article with regard to this (and Posterior Tilt) is on T-Nation Force Couples I would suggest giving it a read even if you don’t suffer from either!
The great Louie Simmons swears by posterior chain strengthening and with so many records/lifters associated with his name, you’d be stupid not to pay at least a little heed! From now on I will be doing this and some abdominal strengthening every training day. I should hope that within a few weeks I should notice some improvements (especially with my deadlift form).
Going to do some more reading into APT and try and get hold of the Westside Methods again, it’s been a long time since I read it! Also keep up with the stretching and mobility on my rest days – DeFranco’s Agile 8 and Simple 6 are great for me, click on the links to find out more.
Hench training ebook coming soon!
Finally finished writing my training book! It is a comprehensive guide to getting ‘Hench’ – In it I’ve detailed how I put the program together, why it works, nutritional guidelines, how to make it personalised to your own goals, exercise instruction and an FAQ section which should cover all bases. I’m just in the final stages of proof reading with several trainers/coaches I’ve known over the years – Then I just need to add photo’s of exercises (need to get these taken ASAP!) and then it’ll be out there. Watch this space!