Why yes, I do in fact.
It's been quiet over here the last few weeks, as weights is on a break (Winter Games start on Monday!) and I've been flat out preparing a routine for another pole comp I want to enter. As a result, I haven't had much time for blogging and I realised that I haven't shared my final deadlift.
As those of you who have been following me from the start know, my goal this FIRE program was to beat my personal best 100kg deadlift. In my very first FIRE program I ended with a 100kg trapbar deadlift for one, and I was determined to get it this time.
So, did I do it?
See for yourselves.
The Final Deadlift: 110kgs!
Yes, you read and heard that correctly! The deadlift above is 110kgs. So I not only met my goal, but I smashed it by a whole ten extra kilos!
Winter Games start on Monday 4th June. My deadlift goal for these games is two-fold. So far I have only done 100kg for one rep, as part of a rep rep max workout, so these winter games I would like to do 100kgs as a working set of four reps and do a one rep max of 120kg.
Can I do it?
Oh yes I can!
J-Zone, here I come!
Since starting Barbell Dancer, I have found myself inducted into the world of 'fitness/fitspo' blogging. Now, my opinions about 'fitspo' and it's merits would be an entire post in itself (maybe something to tackle this weekend?) but there is something that really bugs me about some of the more popular blogs that fall into this category.
They're all perfect.
Certainly, I have no doubt that the people running these blogs are participating in the activities and sports they claim to be doing, but I do have trouble believing that every day is a perfect lifting day, that they beat their personal best every sprint, that they win every game.
It's human nature to celebrate our achievements and gloss-over or ignore our failures. In the age of social media, 24/7 access to Facebook, Instagram and others provide a never ending source of picture perfect lives for us to drool over. But generally, this is not a holistic picture of someone's life, just the parts they want to share. There's nothing wrong with this, after all, I certainly don't share everything I do, either here or on my private social media accounts. But what I always strive to ensure is that Barbell Dancer is a holistic picture of my fitness journey not just a long list of accomplishments. Every journey has good and bad days, yesterday was an awesome lifting day for me, but today, as you're about to read, was a struggle.
But this is real fitness, real training and it breeds real results and accomplishments. Imagine, for a moment, if everything was easy and we never had a bad day. You know what would happen? We'd never feel any sense of accomplishment because everyone would be doing it! Struggle days are just as valid to my training and my journey as power days, and if you take nothing else away from this post but that, then I'll be happy.
When faced with a difficult challenge, the act of simply keeping out heads down and waiting for it to pass is not the same as facing the challenge, working through it and coming out of it having gained something of value. - Kate James
The above is a wonderful quote from the book Build Resilience & Free Yourself From Fear about the difference between endurance and resilience. If you endure something you wait for it to pass, but if you face the challenge head on, you're practising resilience. Tonight, I did a bit of both.
As most of you will know, Wednesday night = arm day and arm day is my least favourite day of the FIRE program. Despite arriving fifteen minutes early and warming up, I still felt tight and stiff when I started my lifts and wasn't in a great head space, as I'm currently dealing with some pent up negativity in my life. Add to this mix that I was also starting to get hungry, despite having eaten an hour before hand, and I didn't have a recipe for successful lifts.
But I took a deep breath and said 'I can do it!'.
After my warm-up sets on the bench, Pat decided to go for a One Rep Max, similar to what I did on Monday with my squats, although this time the exercise was the bench press. I'm still fairly new to benching with a bar and, in general, the bench press is not an exercise where I can lift heavy. The bench press above was 30kgs and that's impressive for me, although it was damn hard and, for a moment, I really thought my arms were going to fail out. So, after I passed 30kgs, Pat said 'Let's try 35kgs'.
As you can see, 35kgs didn't agree with me and may I take this moment to applaud Pat for being an awesome spot and not letting me drop the bar on my neck.
Safety Announcement: As a general rule when weight training, unless you're in a group class, you should always ensure you have a spot. Even if you are the most confident lifter in the world, you never know what could go wrong at any given moment and, when dealing with weights, it can literally be a matter of life and death if they fall onto you or someone else.
I think I'm laughing at the end of this video because I really don't know what else to do. I couldn't lift it, I almost dropped it, and I think if I didn't start laughing I probably would have started crying from all the stress I was under. I did try and lift the 35kgs twice more, but wasn't able to get it up on me own and, with my safety in mind, Pat got me to call it quits on the 35kg bench at that point.
I won't lie, I was so angry and upset with myself for not being able to bench that weight. On reflection, I realise that a 35kg bench is heavy and, given I was benching the bar (which weighs 15kgs) less than four weeks ago, that I could even bench the 30kgs was a MASSIVE achievement. I doubled my barbell bench press!
But these reflection did not come until the day after, and, with all the external stress pressing down on me, the rest of arm day did not go so well for me. Several times I just stopped in the middle of an exercise, unable to find the physical or mental strength to push on. I'd take a few deep breaths and then start again, but I certainly wasn't on form and the J-Zone wasn't a happening thing last night.
In short, I endured my session, rather than facing it and building resilience.
My final exercise for the evening was my hang. I haven't been doing this exercise the last few weeks, so I wasn't sure if I'd still have it in me, and I was feeling so stressed and tired from everything else that I just thought 'whatever' and grabbed the bar like Pat instructed and started trying to do eight straight leg lifts.
Maybe it's my pole dancing; maybe I've just got strong legs; maybe, somewhere deep inside my stressed and tired mind, something said 'Let's finish with a bang!' and I did it. I remained stable, there was no swing, and I managed to keep my legs straight for all eight reps. It probably also helped that a couple of the ladies doing the FIRE program with me paused to lend some encouragement in the form of cheering me on. There's something about someone shouting 'Go! Go! You can do it!' as you're trying to push yourself through to the end.
For my second set, Pat wanted me to bend my knees and bring them up to my chin, again for eight, and, again, I managed it! I actually found this version of the exercise better, as it used almost exactly the same muscles I use to lift myself for several upside down tricks in pole dancing. You'll all be pleased to see, however, that I decided to save my upside down tricks for pole and didn't try and flip over the bar last night.
This was my final arm day for this FIRE program, and I will no doubt tackle it again when I take on the EP Winter Games in June. My arm day goal for my next program is simple: bench 35kgs for 3 reps.
I couldn't do one rep this program, it's true, but with some focused training and a sprinkling of determination, not to mention the support of Pat and Hilal moving forward, I say I'm only getting stronger.
Never give up! Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.
I walked into EP last night for my final leg session of this FIRE program and was greeted with this by Hilal: "Hi Jewels, you ready to squat the world!"
My answer: "Oh yeah!"
Squats last night were done very differently to how I would normally do them. Once I had done my warm up sets, instead of going into my working sets of 6 reps at various weights, Hilal had me doing something called 1 Rep Progression. 1 Rep Progression is a strength test where you do only 1 rep each set, with the weight getting progressively heavier until you fail out. So, in this instance, Hilal added weights to the bar and I squatted. If I could come up and complete the squat, we racked the bar and added more weight, before I went again for another rep and so on. Have a look below to see where my 1 Rep Progressions led me.
One Rep Progressions: Barbell Squats, 14/05/18
Previous heaviest squat: 25kg goblet squat (i.e. holding a dumbbell in front of the body.
Previous heaviest squat in current FIRE program: 25kg barbell squat.
Goal for current FIRE program: 50kg barbell squat
Squat One: 35kg
Squat Two: 40kg
Squat Three: 50kg
Squats Four and Five: 60kg
Hang on, Jewels, I thought you said One Rep Progressions? Why yes, I did. Let me explain. The video on top shows my first attempt at a 60kg barbell squat, while the video on the bottom is my second attempt. As you will see in the top video, I hunch forward and very nearly tip over during my first attempt (apparently, I almost gave everyone at EP heart failure, to say nothing of the momentary terror I experienced when I realised I was about to fall forwards). This happened for one, very simple reason: I forgot to inhale before I went down.
Strangely enough, most people do have to be reminded to breath during exercise, particularly when working with heavy weights or holding a position like a plank. I'm no exception to this and, with that heavy weight on my back and trying to make sure I didn't catch my heel on the legs of the bench, taking a deep breath in before I squatted was the last thing on my mind.
However, my body had other ideas than my mind.
The body is actually pretty amazing, it works as hard as it can, all day every day, with no breaks or sick days, to keep you alive. Even when you get sick, your sick and tired body is not only fighting off whatever is making you sick, but still doing everything in its power to keep you from dropping dead! That's pretty special.
My failure to inhale on Monday night meant that, as I came down, my body had no new air with which to power itself and continue the lift. Of course, there was plenty of oxygen in my body, but the body needs a constant supply of new, fresh air, especially when it's working. I squatted down, carrying a heavy load, and all of a sudden my body realises it doesn't have enough air. So what does it do? It does what it can to make me take a breath in! My shoulders hunch and my chest contracts, and the discomfort means I automatically breathe in. Unfortunately for me, hunched shoulders mean tipping forward and tipping forward with 60kgs on your back is not good for anyone.
But it was mind and body to the rescue! I felt myself going forward and was able to steady myself before I fell and complete the squat. As you can see in the video, Hilal performs her role as my spot with unparalleled excellence and is right there to grab me and/or the bar when she things I'm about to fall.
When we watched this video back, she explained what had happened and why I'd tipped forward, then said we were going to do the weight again and see if this was my fail out weight, or if I could go heavier. As you saw in the second video, I remember to breathe in, I keep my chest up, and I squat that 60kgs like a BEAST!
Final Squat: PERSONAL BEST
And here it is, my best squat yet. This is a combined total of 67kgs for a single rep. To put that in perspective and explain why this is so special for me, let me tell you what I weigh: 66kgs.
I just squatted myself!
So, in summary, barbell squats were a smashing success this program! I went from never having barbell squatted at all, to squatting a full 67kgs in eight weeks. I surpassed my squat goal by 17kgs and now I have to work out what my goal will be for the Winter Games. Hmm... 80kg squats anyone?
I know I keep saying it, but I have amazing trainers. As most of you will know, I recently signed up for the Evolving Physiques Winter Games, which means another weights program after I finish this one. I was having a low moment on Wednesday and confessed to Pat that I didn't feel like I was going to reach my goals this FIRE program and would have to reach them next program, which made me sad.
Pat knows me very well and, rather than trying to bolster me up on the spot, he just asked me why I was feeling that way. I couldn't pinpoint exactly what was making me feel like that, but did talk to him about how I wanted to feel confident out in the real world the way I felt confident at EP and Divas. EP and Divas are my safe places, my happy places, the places where I feel safe trying new things and shouting my accomplishments to the world. They are also two places where I feel comfortable in my body and don't see my flaws the way I do when I'm in other places. In other words, pole dancing and weight lifting are two things I love, and I love myself when I'm doing them and the places where I do them, but most of that confidence ebbs away when I'm out in the real world and I'd rather just be in the background.
I have had people in the past compliment me for being 'unassuming', 'quiet' and 'modest', but reflecting on my insecurities with Pat on Wednesday night made me realise that I am 'unassuming' to the point of letting people dictate to me what I should be doing at any given moment; I am 'quiet' to the point of not speaking up when I am uncomfortable or disagree and I have a tendency to be 'modest' to such an extent that I allow others to take credit for my achievements. These reflections brought me up short as I realised this is not the person I want to be. I'm not that person when I'm at EP, I'm not that person when I'm at Divas, but I become this person when I step out into the real world. Why? I don't honestly know. I've probably been inadvertently taught over my life (as most young women are) not to be 'argumentative, vain or loud', but that's been internalised to such a degree that people who meet me at EP or Divas probably wouldn't know me if they'd met me elsewhere or vice versa: I might as well be two different people.
Pat suggested to me that I give a name to the space I get into when I feel confident, empowered and self-assured, the way I feel when I'm at Divas or EP. I have mentioned before that giving something a name gives it power and grounds it in reality.
So, without further ado, please allow me to introduce...
The J-Zone is the place where I can do anything, where my accomplishments are mine and I don't have to be ashamed of being proud of myself. It's where I feel comfortable wearing what I want and expressing myself without fear of being judged. The J-Zone is where I wanna have my feet firmly placed in all walks of my life, not just when I'm doing the things I love doing.
Oh, and that place I've been visiting inhabited by that person who'd really rather not be seen, heard or noticed at all? Yeah, that's the VICTORIAN ERA, and a confident, determined, twenty-first century woman sure as hell doesn't belong in that place: I'm heading for the J-ZONE.
TWENTY KILOS AWAY FROM ONE HUNDRED!
FIFTEEN AWAY FROM ONE HUNDRED!
THIRTEEN KILOS AWAY FROM ONE HUNDRED!
On Wednesday I was talking to Pat and I mentioned to him that I felt like I wasn't going to hit my goal of 100kg deadlift by the end of the program. I admit I wasn't quite feeling like myself on Wednesday and in my low moment the self doubt started to creep in. Needless to say, after tonight's smashing progress I am 110% back on track to hit 100kgs by the end of my FIRE program.
Did I mention that's next week?
P.S. When I was lifting 87kgs I thought I was still lifting 85kgs. Pat sneakily put 2kgs extra on for my last set, just to prove to me that I could do more than I gave myself credit for. Thanks Pat!
Evolving Physiques, a.k.a THE BEST GYM IN THE WORLD, is currently holding a competition for members to be the EP Sponsered Athlete for 2018. I had a studio hire at Pole Divas recently and decided to film my submission on the pole, because if it wasn't for EP I wouldn't have got to Divas, but if it wasn't for Divas I wouldn't have gone back to EP for my weights training. EP and Divas have become so intertwined I can't imagine going back now, so here is my submission to be the EP Sponsered Athlete for 2018.
Winter is coming. That means dark mornings, cold days, heaters, hot water bottles and warm drinks. It is also the season where fitness tends to slip, where the snugness of our beds takes precedence over our commitment to exercise.
I know. I've been there.
Winter is hard, but I'm tackling it head on by signing up to the Evolving Physiques Winter Games.
The Winter Games at EP is a weight training program, very similar to the FIRE program I am completing now. The structure of my training won't change and I'll still be chasing those goals, but now there will be extra team challenges and the WINTER GAMES board at EP will be full of scores for the teams to beat each week.
Winter Is Coming... LET'S DO THIS!
THIRTY KILOS AWAY FROM ONE HUNDRED!
TWENTY FIVE KILOS AWAY FROM ONE HUNDRED!
I know I've said it before, but I'm gonna say it again: Arm Day is my LEAST favourite day!
But that means it's also so much more exciting when I start seeing gains on this day! Gains in something you love and doing exercises you enjoy is one thing, but when you start to see growth in an area you dislike and have to fight to progress in, that's something else entirely.
And it's something else again when the gains are in the one exercise I hate above all others: the bench press.
The bench press above is my first ever working set with the bar. Prior to this, as mentioned in previous posts, I have only ever done the bench press with dumbbells, so this is a big thing for me. The bar itself weighs about 20kgs, so it is no heavier than I have done with the dumbbells, but the mechanics of lifting with a bar and very different to any kind of dumbbell lift.
A bar is a long, static weight that is held above the body, whereas dumbbells are held in the hands beside the body. So while the weight and technique may be the same, there will always be a slight variation in the lift due to the nature of the object being lifted. Lifting with a bar also requires you to exert equal power through both arms, rather than separately lift with each arm at the same time. On a safety note as well, if you drop a dumbbell and it lands beside you, it's no big deal, but if you drop and bar, it's going to land on top of you!
Above my second set on the bench, and it weighed in at roughly 25kgs and, as you can see, I struggled with it. I attempted this weight last week with the 12.5kg dumbbells and very nearly failed out, so pushing through and attempting it again this week, and with a bar was huge.
So, the net result? I lifted it, but I'm not stable and I keep trying to compensate with my back rather than pushing through my shoulders. Pat performs his role as a spot superbly, helping me to correct the lift and finish the set, and, with this in mind, my bench press goal has changed in only one small way.
The weight remains the same, I want to be able to comfortably bench 25kgs, but I want to do it with a bar, not two 12.5kg dumbbells, and I want to be able to do it for six reps. I have benched 35kg for one set at my strongest, so 25kgs for six does not seem like an unreasonable ask for my body.
Arm day finished off with one arm shoulder presses. Now, you can do these standing up, one arm at the time, you can do them sitting on a bench, one arm at a time, or you can really get into it and put your body in a 'power position' (a pose that mentally and physically puts you in a better space to achieve) and smash out these bad boys. If you have been following me long enough, you will know which option I took. Pat sneakily Instagramed my back as I was doing this and I swear my jaw nearly hit the floor when I saw it. Given we don't often see our own back (because it is, by it's nature, always behind us) we don't often pay much attention to it, but it is often one of the places where fat loss and/or muscle gain is most noticeable.
The framed BEFORE/AFTER photo is me on the Evolving Physiques Wall of Fame. The photo on the left was taken in 2013, while the middle picture (right in the frame) was taken in 2016 after my first transformation challenge with Evolving Physiques (I had done two at Goodlife prior to this). The photo on Pat's phone is a still from my one-arm shoulder press last night showing just how freaking amazing my back looks! I can honestly say that, for the first time, I'm really looking forward to doing my AFTER measurements and photos, because I can already tell that there's going to be impressive, noticeable gains.
Alright, that's me done for the night. I have filming for a pole competition tomorrow, so there may be some blog content late, or I might do some catching up on Sunday, but big news on deadlifts coming you way soon!
You don't find the willpower - you create it.
Me With No Apologies.