Who remembers last Thursday? I sure as hell do! Struggling to deadlift, fighting off an asthma attack and under major stress, I was determined not to have a repeat this Thursday. I turned my camera on from the word GO and barely turned it off all night.
THIRTY FIVE KILOS AWAY FROM ONE HUNDRED!
And when the first deadlift is that good, what do you do? Add more weight of course!
THIRTY KILOS AWAY FROM ONE HUNDRED!
Back on track for 100kgs by the end of the program!
Wednesday Night = Arm Day. Arm day means all of my least favourite exercises, including the bench press and dumbbell curls. Of the two, the bench press is probably my least favourite exercise of all, but it's one I'm determined to beat. At my strongest, I have benched 35kg for one rep, and I'm steadily working my way back up there, one dumbbell at a time.
I'm benching with dumbbells at the moment, working my way up to the bar. As standard, I did three sets last night, consisting of eight reps each because the weight has increased. I started at twenty kilos, a ten-kilo dumbbell in each hand.
As you can see, this set was heavy but doable and when Pat suggested we try twelves, I was all for it. Now, I'm sure I've said this before, but the dumbbells at EP go from 10kg to 12.5kg with nothing in between, so when we say twelves what we really mean is twelve point five. Two and a half kilos extra may not sound like a big leap, however in the world of weight training, it's not only the weight that is important, but being able to lift it correctly and work the right muscle groups. As a general rule, when your limbs start to fatigue, your back and core begin to pick up the slack, and exercises such as the bench press are not designed for the back and core and if they start to work it can cause real damage.
Not something anybody wants to be dealing with.
I started lifting the 12.5 without a problem, although I noticed very quickly that it was heavier than expected and then I started to struggle. As you can see in the video below, my shoulders start to droop and I begin to arch my back to try and push the weight up: not good. Pat clearly saw I was struggling too, because he came over to spot me and help me finish my set. And, if that doesn't give you a clue as to how heavy those f***ing 12.5's were, the fact that I can't sit up on the bench at the end should say it all!
SAFETY NOTE: You will notice that I tossed the weights away at the end of the video. I did this while being spotted by a qualified fitness professional (Pat) who had ensured there was no one nearby who could possibly be hit by the weights, and stayed close to ensure that I didn't injure myself throwing them away. THROWING WEIGHTS IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS! Please never, ever toss a weight away from yourself unless instructed to do so by a qualified fitness professional who has ensured you have a clear area. There is a high risk of personal injury and you could cause serious injury or death if the weights strike anyone nearby.
Once I managed to get up, have a drink and wipe my face, Pat said "Back to tens, we're gonna earn those twelves!"
Oh yes we are!
So, by the end of this FIRE program I want to be able to do the following things:
1. Beat my personal record of 100kg deadlift.
2. Do a 50kg barbell squat.
3. Bench press 25kg (i.e. a 12.5 dumbbell in each hand).
Doable? I think so!
And, before I sign off, here's last night's finisher: a 60-second weighted plank.
Pat was putting the weights on and, because he knows me so well and knows how I like to prepare, he didn't tell me how much he was loading me up with as I planked. There is 30kgs on my back in weights, and Pat is not just leaning down beside me to give me encouragement, he's also putting some of his weight onto my back! We calculated there was easily 33kgs on my back for that long, long minute and that number makes me excited... because that's exactly half my body weight.
And the closer you are to lifting you body weight, the closer you get to that holy grail of weight training: BEAST MODE!
Do you have a favourite work out? Or maybe a favourite exercise? Or a favourite class that you'll go to, rain, hail or shine? I have discovered in FIRE that my favourite day, without question, is Leg Day, which is a Monday.
Maybe just because I have something to look forward too on the first day of the week, but I have fallen head over heels for Leg Day. The video below shows me squatting 32kgs. This is eight reps (as mentioned in last week's posts, weights get heavier from this week, so that means less reps to get the same workout), and you will notice that I start to tire around rep seven and lose some of my glute drive, although I'm pleased to say that my knees remain stable and I have good drive through my whole foot.
But, as much as I love leg day, it's a BITCH when I get home and have to climb the stairs to my bedroom.
A hot shower does wonders, but that only works for as long as I'm in the shower and, by the time I'm climbing into bed, my legs are reminding me of the price of my love.
But, they say, your workout is only as good as your recovery and boy oh boy do I have a good recovery. I do stretch when I get home (because muscles soreness the next day legitimately sucks), but I have a little secret weapon that I'm going to share with you now.
Meet Topical Magnesium Roll-On Oil from Amazing Oils, my secret recovery weapon. I originally discovered Magnesium oil at the Mind Body Spirit Festival in Melbourne one year and have never looked back since.
Magnesium occurs naturally in the human body and is essential for, among many other things, energy production and proper muscle function. I'm not very science-y, but those interested in getting a general overview would benefit from reading this article by Ancient Minerals, which explains it very well in lay-man's terms.
When we exercise, our bodies produces various chemicals and hormones to give us the energy to keep going. This energy production relies heavily on magnesium and, like anything, you need to top it up once you've used it. Oral magnesium supplements are available (please do not start any supplement program without first consulting your health professional), but most magnesium taken in oral form is lost due to the digestive process. Using topical magnesium, whether in the form of a spray or roll-on, means most of the magnesium is absorbed by the body and, even better, it's absorbed by the areas that need it most.
When I come home from leg day, I whack the magnesium straight onto my thighs, quads and calves, which helps them loosen up and also alleviates muscles soreness the next day. One of magnesium's functions in the body is as a muscle relaxant, so applying it liberally to tight muscles post-exercise has been a God send.
When it comes to magnesium products, I cannot recommend my roll-on gel from Amazing Oils enough
Flashback Friday is a weekly section on Barbell Dancer, where I look back at an event in my past and reflect on why it holds sure precious memories or what it means to me as an individual.
The Deadlift: 08/07/2017
This is it. This is THE deadlift, the 100kg deadlift I talk so much about. This video was taken by my dad at the Evolving Physiques Showdown in July 2017 and shows me at my strongest. This FIRE program has been all about beating this deadlift, and after the night I had on Thursday I decided what I really needed to do was remember where I've been and what I'm striving towards.
You know when you just have One Of Those Days? You know, where one thing after another goes wrong no matter what you do and the stress levels just keep going up? Well, I had one of those days on Thursday. Train cancellations, a long and unexpected bike ride, forgotten pole gear and, most frustrating for me, I was so mentally drained by the time I arrived at EP that I couldn't deadlift.
And it hurt like hell.
I managed to do 1 set of ten reps at sixty kilos, but had to cut my second set short at 8 reps because I felt like my chest was going to give out and an asthma attack was the last thing I needed after everything else (yes, I have asthma). As I breathed through my spacer and took the time I needed, all I could focus on was that the weight was the same as last week and I didn't even do two full sets. On Thursday, given how tired and fragile I was feeling, this felt like a slippery slope that I was never going to be able to haul myself up from. Anger and stress bubbled up and I felt like a catastrophic failure.
Then Pat said 'Turn your camera on for your next exercise'.
The next exercise was a one-arm row. Last week I lifted 10kgs for this exercise, and I expected to start with that, but Pat said 'Grab the twelves'. EP doesn't actually have 12kg dumbbells, so I knew when Pat said 12kg he meant 12.5kg, so I got one, brought it over to the bench and he said he was going to film me. Still furious over not being able to deadlift, stressed after my bad afternoon and generally feeling unstable, I did not have high hopes for myself as I went into this exercise.
So, what happened? The answer is below.
Not only did I lift it, I lifted it well, with good form and the more reps I did (this is my first set of ten reps on each arm), the better I felt. Being able to lift something, to do something right, was a shining bright spot in an afternoon that felt particularly bleak. When we finished recording, Pat let me in on something I hadn't noticed before: "You do so much better when you're on camera; your whole form changes, your attitude changes, something comes over you and you just fight back and smash it!"
As anyone who has been reading and viewing since I started writing this blog will know, I do film a lot. Mostly I film for progress, to look back on what I've done and compare or, in the case of dancing, so I don't forget what I've done and can review my choreography and practice tricks outside of class time. I never considered if I did better on camera than off, or if it was even relevant. However Pat's encouragement (and Pat is someone who I look up to and respect, both as a trainer and as a friend) made me consider this: if I did better on camera, regardless of the reason or if anyone was going to see it, then the damn thing needed to be on from the very first lift!
Now, for those of you who are interested, I have dozens of videos that no one else is ever going to see. I publish a various selection here - triumphs and otherwise - but for every one video you see on this blog, I've got at least three more. Sometimes I watch them, something I show them to my family, or to Pat and Hilal, in the case of dancing videos, Kristy might see them, but what I choose to publish here I choose to illustrate the point I'm trying to make for a particular post. Maybe it's a 'Wow! I smashed my record!' kind of post, or maybe it's a 'I'm getting better, here's some progress' post, or maybe, like tonight, it's a 'Geez I'm having the day from hell but I still managed to lift something!' type of post.
The point of a video is not how many likes it generates. This may seem like an odd statement to make when I'm posting onto social media, but it's true nonetheless. When this journey evolves or settles, the likes generated will be irrelevant, but the videos will still be there to remind me of how far I've come and the journey it took to get there. I am a living, breathing, thinking, feeling human being and, for that reason, sometimes it's easy to forget that I started somewhere and worked up to where I am. A video is a solid, tangible reminder that it took WORK.
I don't know why I do so much better on camera than off. What I will say is that I am always the type of person who has performed better in front of an audience. I have always loved public speaking (no, not kidding, I really and truly love it), but have fumbled and stuttered my way through rehearsals only to win prizes and ribbons after having given the perfect speech in front of 500 people without so much as a flutter. I suspect I have a similar mentality when it comes to the camera, in that it becomes my audience, even though only a small portion of my videos are even actually shown to an audience, i.e. YOU. Perhaps the camera itself, for those moments it films, becomes my audience.
So, given Thursday is deadlift day, I think it's only fair to answer the burning question: did I achieve my goals for this week?
No, I didn't. My goal was three sets at 65kg, and I didn't manage to lift above 60kg. As mentioned above, it was incredibly painful at the time, but a good night's sleep and the benefit of hindsight have brought me the following realisation: I didn't manage to go above 60kgs last night, but I didn't go below it either. I didn't slip, I hit a plateau, and plateaus are a normal part of any journey, but especially ones involving health and fitness.
Next week is another week to reach 65kg, just because I'm on a level doesn't mean I'm stuck on that level forever. I had the day from hell and I still managed to lift 60kg! That's impressive. Not only that, but my weights went up in all my other exercises and I completed all my sets with ten reps, and I take that as a victory.
Now, my final video before I clock off for the night: dumbbell curls.
This is my third and final set or ten reps with 5kg dumbbells. Given the kind of weights I've been lifting, 5kg might not seem like a lot, but it's a big f***ing deal for this exercise. Why? Because I couldn't do a 5kg dumbbell curl with my left arm when I started FIRE. My right arm was fine, but my left arm is my weaker arm (my gumbie arm, as we say in pole dancing) and it constantly gave out usually abut half-way through my second set and I wouldn't be able to completely the curl. I'd stand there like some absurd bird with one good wing, trying to force my left elbow to cooperate and lift the damn weight! But last night I managed to do all three sets unassisted.
One thing I will say about the video is that my form is not great. As I tire, I start to use my back to hoist the weight, but this is something I will work on with Pat and Hilal as I continue with FIRE. However, I do manage to get the weights from my sides to my shoulder without my left elbow giving out and locking up halfway through, and my form can only get better from here now that I've noticed it.
And that's all from me!
Left: 30kg Barbell Squat, side view.
Right: 30kg Barbell Squat, back view.
So, after barbell squatting for a grand total of THREE WEEKS I hit 30kgs for two sets of ten reps last night. I couldn't believe it! From 0 to 30kg in THREE WEEKS! I was delighted, as you can probably tell from the candid little interview Hilal did with me below. To help you put that in perspective and understand my unbounded delight, I just squatted half my body weight after only three weeks of barbell squats! The beast has been unleashed!
Some things to look out for in the videos of my lift are:
That's all for tonight. Wednesday and Thursday are lifting and dancing days, so be sure to check back for more progress. Those who are following my deadlifts, Thursday is deadlift night, so make sure you're back to see if I can hit my 65kg goal.
FORTY KILOS AWAY FROM ONE HUNDRED!
Next Week's Goal: 65kgs
Wednesday night = chest and arm day. It means bench presses, shoulder presses, TRX push-ups, strange planks with a wheel and, of course, THE HANG. I have a love/hate relationship with the Hang, because I love the fact that I can do it, but it hurts like F*** and I have to stretch my fingers afterwards. Then, like clockwork, my abs remind me that I just gave them a serious workout too, and I end with both my hands and my abs on fire.
So, what's the point of the Hang? The Hang is, effectively, an ab workout that also requires grip strength, especially in the fingers. Grip strength as a whole refers to what the hand can hold, i.e. grip, for how long. The stronger your grip, the wider you can grasp, and the longer you can maintain that grasp on a heavy object. The Hang is a grip strength exercise, but it is more about finger grip strength than it is whole hand grip, as my palms are doing very little work to hold me in this position.
I started doing the Hang by just bringing my bent legs up to my chest and then lowering them again, before progressing into lifting straight legs and then lowering them. One of the hardest parts of the Hang is that, to do it effectively and get a core workout from it, you have to make sure you don't swing. When I progressed from bent knees to straight legs this was hard, as I naturally wanted to use momentum to bring my legs up, but that defeats the entire purpose of this exercise, not to mention the damage it would do to my lower back! The key to keeping the core engaged and avoiding the swing is to breathe through the lift: in on the way up, out on the way down. At least, that's what works for me.
Tonight, however, I graduated from straight leg lifts into a circular lift with bent legs (see the video above). This was hard AF because, not only did I have to fight not to use momentum to bring my legs around, I had to force myself not to cheat as I became tired and simply kick my legs from one side to the other. The video above shows my third and final set, filmed by my trainers Pat and Hilal, and I was quite surprised how good it turned out, given it was my final exercise after an almost forty-five minute arm workout incorporating all my least favourite kinds of lifts: bench press, I'm looking at you!
Stay in the loop for tomorrow night's deadlift progress!
Last night, Monday, was leg day.
And leg day, among other things, means squats.
In my first FIRE program, I did not attempt barbell squats under the advice of Pat and Hilal, and instead did box squats with a dumbbell. This program, however, I have had my first taste of barbell squats. Last week I did my first squat with just the bar (roughly 8kgs) and managed three sets of twelve reps.
I was ecstatic!
Unfortunately, due to technological difficulties, I wasn't able to post my video here, but I am in the process of attempting to recover it from Android Netherland. But never mind that; we're talking about yesterday's squats. Last week was all about technique, getting the bar in the right place, keeping my knees strong and maintaining my depth. This week we added a bit of weight, to push me a little further and ensure that I maintained technique. I know I've said it before, but it doesn't matter how heavy you lift, if you're technique's wrong all you're doing is putting stress in all the wrong places and injury will eventually catch up to you.
I squatted 13kgs for four sets of ten reps last night (reps go down as the weight goes up). The video below shows my first set of ten reps, also noting that this is my first set EVER with extra weight on the bar. Things to watch out for in this video are: the positioning of the bar across my upper trap, my knees, which (apart from a few wobbles) are almost consistently turned out - this is important in squats as well as deadlifts, because you need to be driving your feet firmly into the floor to ensure you're stable and that your centre of gravity doesn't shift as you lift. At the moment, I'm only squatting 13kgs, so I'm unlikely to injure myself too badly if I fell, however, as the weight goes up, I need to ensure I'm maintaining my stability in my legs, core and back to keep me centred so I don't over-balance. The last thing to note in this video is my depth. I'm currently using a bench to help me achieve the correct depth, but this will disappear as I progress and am able to maintain my centre of gravity as I come up and down.
One thing you don't see in that video is glute drive. The gluteus muscles - often shortened to glutes or glute - are the big muscles in the buttocks and are the primary drivers for a successful squat. Correct squat technique doesn't only involve the knees, the feet, and position of the bar, it involves lifting in a way that maximises your results and that engages the right muscles groups.
For a squat, that muscle group is the glutes.
This second video shows my third set of ten reps, this time with glute drive. You can hear my trainer Hilal reminding me to squeeze as I come up - effectively, this is what glute drive consists of: squeezing the glutes as you come up. However, it is a hard squeeze that is almost like a hip thrust. On a personal level I found this interesting, as a hip thrust is a common movement and essential warm-up in pole dancing, as it never fails to amaze me how simple movements, such as a hip thrust, can be utilised over so many different sports.
Notice the difference between the videos? I know I sure felt it.
To finish off my leg day post, here's another video of me, this time doing standing lunges. I HATE standing lunges, walking lunges, any kind of lunges, they're evil... but they're also good for me and good for my legs. This week I progressed from 5kg dumbbells to 7kg dumbbells in each hand, and did two sets. Ironically, I found the 7kg dumbbell easier to lunge with than the 5kg dumbbell, and I didn't overbalance at all with the 7kgs, where I was constantly battling to maintain my centre of gravity with the 5kgs.
That's all from my tonight. Be sure to check in later in the week for more weights, including Wednesday night's arms and deadlifts on Thursday.
And... deadlifts are back! Thursday is deadlift day, so I once again hit the trap bar to hoist something heavy and test myself. Last week I did 50kgs for one set of twelve reps then, due to incorrect knee placement, two sets of twelve reps at 40kgs with a band around my knees. If you missed last week's post on this, you can read it here, and this week's goal was to hit 50kgs for three sets of twelve reps.
Everyone's mentality about a lift is different, some people like to go in knowing exactly what they're going to be lifting, so they can mentally prepare themselves for that, but I'm not that kind of person. I'd actually rather not know the exact weight I'm lifting, because then I can simply prepare myself to lift without over analysing the weight and asking myself the self-defeating question: Am I Strong Enough?
Pat knows I prepare better this way, so when we load the bar, he doesn't tell me what the combined total is, only that I'm going to lift it. Once I've finished my three sets, then he will tell me what I have been lifting.
So, did I lift 50kgs on Thursday night?
I hit 55kgs for three sets of twelve reps!
The above video shows my second set of twelve reps. I apologise for the way it goes blurry at the end, but you get the general idea: this is a 55kg trapbar deadlift. And there's no band! Apart from a few brief wobbles at the end, I keep my knees out and drive my feet into the floor throughout the whole set.
Technique, I believe, is the most important part of weight lifting, as there's no point being able to lift if you can't lift it correctly; it might work for a while, maybe even months or years, but, eventually, if your technique's wrong you're going to injure yourself. Possibly seriously. So, for me, the most exciting part of Thursday night's deadlift was not the weight, although that was pretty cool (I'm getting closer to 100kgs every week!), but that I got the technique almost spot on.
Next week's goal: 60kgs for twelve reps of three sets.
You don't find the willpower - you create it.
Me With No Apologies.