And the weight goes up: Two new squat maxes

The break is coming up soon and Zach has plans for us to start a new training cycle in Olympic lifting when we get back. But before we go, we have some work to finish: finding out the maximum we can lift now.

This week we were tasked with finding a new back squat max (Monday) and front squat max (Wednesday). Considering I haven’t slept enough (when have I recently?!), I’m pretty happy with adding 10# to both.

My new back squat max is 175#. My new front squat max is 145#.

“Now you have to figure out 80% of that, and since your max went up, you’re [screwed],” Zach told us with a grin on his face. I could tell he was happy that my classmate and I did well. Of course, we’ve been working our tails off, so a PR wasn’t completely unexpected. Over the past few months we’ve been squatting a lot of reps at high percentages. There were days I would look at the board and wonder how in the heck I was going to survive:

Back squat 70%x6, 8-%x6, 90%x3, 95%x2

And that’s probably not the toughest of the programming. I may have just blocked most of it from my memory.

Still, it is nice to see something good come from all of that squatting. I’m definitely stronger.

Next week I have a feeling we’ll be going for a new max in the snatch and clean & jerk. Then a nice break. Ahhh….


I used an expletive when I looked up from my warmup at the board Monday morning.
I was already sore from a weekend of workouts – two challenge WODs and a team workout that included front squats.

Back squats and front squats? Together?


It turned out not to be as bad as I imagined. Don’t get me wrong – those were still hard as hell.
But I imagined a torture session where I would squat the bar and struggle hard the stand – maybe not being able to stand at all.

As it turns out, I was able to stand. What’s more, I focused on squatting to full depth every time. It’s something I usually am inconsistent on, especially as the weight goes up.

I could feel my weight shift on the way up as I got tired. Zach reminded me once to fight the shift, and I immediately refocused. Hopefully my shifting has improved over time. I know I spend a lot of extra time working on mobility and exercises for my hip, so I’d like to have improved.

The next morning, I was sore. I didn’t want to go to my workout. I did anyway. It was like therapy for my legs. It got the blood flowing and loosened me up. But when my coach asked me if I was sore and I said “Hell, yeah!”, his face broke into a grin.

Kind of an evil grin, if you ask me.

“Wait until we hit 90 percent.”


Video: My Clean & Jerk PR – 110 pounds

Just before the holiday break, my coach had us try for a new max on the snatch and the clean & jerk.

We had been working a steady progression of heavier and heavier weights, and it was time to see if we were stronger. The last time we went for a max, my body was toast. I had been working like crazy, living on little sleep, and the day before, my Crossfit class did the workout named “Cindy” (AMRAP 20 min: 5 pullups, 10 pushups, 15 squats). My arms were SOOOOO sore, I could barely lift the bar off the platform.

On December 19, things were different. I felt awesome. I finally made a snatch at 75#, and my clean & jerk went from 100 pounds to 110 pounds! My coach took video:

I ended up going for a clean PR as well — and I made 115 pounds.

So when I start back in class tomorrow, I’ll be working off of these numbers, which means my working weight will be a bit higher than it has been the past 6 months. Yikes!

Focusing in the gym

photo credit: ericmcgregor via photo pin cc

Wednesdays are my favorite days.

While I love the excitement of a busy gym, especially when I need to wake up so early in the morning, there is a definite advantage to doing Olympic Lifting in a quiet, calm environment.

At least for me.

I feel like I can focus better. And on Wednesday mornings, my class practically gets the gym to ourselves. It’s so quiet. I love it.

That doesn’t mean focus comes naturally. I have a tendency to want to chit-chat more when the gym is quiet. Maybe it’s because Zach and Anna and Karen can actually hear me. Chit-chatting is OK in between exercises, but not between reps and sets. In fact, this morning I stepped up to the bar and was making a comment about something totally unrelated to what I was about to do when Zach yelled out, “FOCUS!”

I ended up missing the lift. D’oh. The next few sets were better. Lesson learned.

Back to balance?

This is me in the landing of the split jerk at 95# – a PR.

I love the look on my face in this photo. I make some of the weirdest faces when I throw weight above my head.

This photo was taken a few weeks ago during my Olympic Lifting class. I haven’t been writing about my workouts for the past few months, but I’ve been going strong. I think it’s kept me sane.

Work picked up pretty dramatically in April and May, and everything started to change. In order to find more time in the day, some of my daily routines — mobility, writing, sitting down on the couch for a few minutes just to talk with Andy — fell to the wayside. They were replaced with sitting at my computer to work.

It’s only been in the past few weeks that I’ve been able to find a better balance — one that allows me to take care of myself.

It’s pretty crazy how it sneaks up on you — how one day you suddenly realize that one part of your life has taken over. For me it was work. It was all-consuming. I’m still busy (don’t ask me if I’ve seen any TV shows, because I have no time to watch ANYTHING), but I’m not quite as exhausted as I was feeling when work was most stressful and time-consuming — so that has to mean something, right?

Fortunately, one part of my routine never changed. Workouts. In fact, about a month ago, I decided my pants were a little too tight, so I started paying better attention to what I was eating and I added weekend workouts at home back into my routine.

It’s helped. I’m not feeling nearly as anxious as I was before. It’s also helped to give my daily routine structure. I feel better working within a schedule. For some reason it helps me focus.

And that’s been my rule. I don’t check work email when I’m at my workout, whether it’s at the gym or on the back porch. When I start the warmup, I’m in the workout zone. Nothing else matters. Work can wait.

What do you do to focus? I’d love to hear your thoughts….

Olympic Lifting tip: Don’t drop the bar on your head

I started reading an online fitness journal recently, and I’m enjoying it because there’s a lot of Olympic Lifting articles mixed in.

Breaking Muscle is following Olympic weightlifter Holley Mangold’s journey to the Olympics, which is fascinating to me. And there have also been a few recent posts from various coaches. This week, one that hit home was all about accidents — like dropping the bar on your head — which just happens to be a fear of mine.

Fear holds me back — as Zach has told me many times — but I’m growing more comfortable. The more I practice, the less I worry about the bar hurting me.

Accidents are a concern in any sport, and I don’t think you’re ever going to eliminate them. However, you can reduce their likelihood a lot just by paying attention.

This week a girl at work sent me a YouTube video of a guy who looked like he was about to jerk the weight up when he just fell backward. The video doesn’t show what happened, but the caption said the dude was OK. I could find that video on YouTube, but just a search of “Olympic Weighting accidents” turns up a bunch of results. Some of them look really painful.

It’s a good thing I love it and feel like I have a good coach, otherwise, I’d probably shun the sport just from watching those videos.

Training this past week

Power snatch, build to 70% then 1×5 → 50×5
Snatch pulls 90% of max 3×5 → 65×5
Back squat 80 2×6 → 120×6
Shoulder press by feel 5×4 → 40/45/55/55

Front squat + Jerk, build to 70% then 2+1×5 → 65×4
Drop snatch + OHS by feel 3+3×3 → 45/50/55
Clean pulls 90% 3×5 → 100×5
Snatch grip BN press by feel 6×3 → 40/45/45

Read the Breaking Muscle article: No Dying! How To Avoid The Most Dangerous Accident In Olympic Weightlifting

Olympic Lifting: Why my breakfast disappeared in 120 seconds

It felt good to be back in Olympic Lifting Wednesday morning!

We also have new folks in our class.  Yay! It’s always nice to see new faces. Here’s what we did:

Hip Power Snatch + BN Push Press by feel 3+4×4 → 45/50/55/60
Front squat + Jerk: build to 75% of max 2+1×4 → 70×4
Snatch DL 90% of snatch max 5×4 → 65×4
BN Snatch grip press by feel 4×4 → 35/40/45/5045

My arms and legs were really feeling it after class. But you know what  really got me? My stomach! I felt like I could have eaten a whale even before class began. When I finally sat down to eat at my desk at work, the eggs and bacon I packed disappeared in about 2 minutes.

I pretty much inhaled my breakfast.

And then I downed my coffee and it was gone too.

Ohhh yeaaahhhhh — so lady-like.

Checking in at Olympic Lifting

I love going to my Olympic Lifting class — except on Sunday nights and early Monday mornings.

Those are the times when I’ve been away from class the longest (classes are on Mondays and Wednesdays), and I fret about what Zach will have us do and whether I’ll remember everything I need to remember about how to set and move my body.

By the time class is over on Monday, I’m feeling good, and I’m already looking forward to Wednesday. That doesn’t mean I did everything perfectly — or even well — but class is fun. The gym is fun. There’s at least two other classes going on at the same time, plus personal trainers with their clients. The music is blasting, and it usually takes me back in time to when I was in high school or college. This morning I felt like I was back in middle school — one of my favorite Metallica songs was playing just as we were getting started doing this:

Hip power snatch + BN Push Press + OHS 3+3+3×4 → 45/45/50/55
Snatch off blocks 3×6 (60%-85% of max) → 45/50/55/60/60/60
Clean pulls 105% of max → 115/115/115/115/115
Push Press by feel 4×4 → 55/60/65/70

We had someone new in class this morning, which is awesome. But I have to admit I feel a twinge of jealousy when a new person can come into class and pull off a snatch or a clean better than I can. I know where all in a different place, but I’m determined to get this s**t.

Thought I’d share this video he put together of the max lifts we did a month ago. I didn’t mention it in my post about that day, but he had us do our lifts as if we were competing in a meet. He guided us through the warmup, then we made our attempts.


Wrists and lifts

I visited my chiropractor this morning.  I think he’s a masochist.

He scraped my forearm. Basically, he took this plastic tool, that kind of resembles a dough scraper, lathered my arm in shea butter, and rubbed the tool over my wrist and forearm.

It was painful.  And loud. You could actually hear crunching under the skin. Dave and Sam (the chiropractors at Next Level) say that’s the scar tissue. It’s part of what’s causing the shooting pains that go up my arm into my wrist. Or at least, I think they said that. I was too busy breathing loudly through the pain to really comprehend.

Tonight my arm is pretty red. It’s going to be a lovely shade of purple in a couple of days.

To be honest, I kind of asked for the scraper. Dave scraped my other arm early last week, and even though it was painful for a little while, I haven’t had any shooting pains since then. The stuff works.  I have no intention of being crippled by carpel tunnel. And there’s not way I’m going under the knife if I can help it.

Sometimes I wonder if when my arms and wrists finally get fixed whether it will be easier to turn my wrists in during lifts, like Zach always reminds me to do. I have a lot of trouble keeping them turned in without tensing my entire upper body. Tension puts the brakes on momentum during a lift, which diminishes power. But when I loosen up, my wrists get sloppy and the bar swings out, which is also bad for power.

See how technical it can get?

Monday February 27
Olympic Lifting
Hip Power Snatch + BTN Push Press + OHS 3+3+3×4 → 45/50/50
Snatch off blocks 2×4, 1×4 → 55/55/55/55, 55/55/55/55
Jerk Push Press 3×5 → 65/70/70/70/70/70
Snatch Pulls 110% of max 3×5 → 80/80/80/80/80

Monday felt a little off for me. My sleep was way off. I actually thought “I feel like hell” when I woke up. Not a good sign.

Tuesday February 28
Crossfit Total (Part 1)
Back squat 1-1-1 → 145/155/160 (PR)

I scratched at 160#, but I still hit a PR on back squat Tuesday morning. We didn’t have time for shoulder press, so we’ll do those next week with deadlifts. I’m going for 75# and 195# or 200#!

Wednesday February 29
Olympic Lifting
Max Snatch → 60/70/70
Max Clean & Jerk → 70/80/90 (PR)

I was a bit disappointed with scratching at 70# on the snatch, but some days you got it and some days you don’t. I’m not going to let it discourage me. As for the clean & jerk — a PR!

I’m thinking about using my Pinterest board to create my vision board. I can’t seem to get it together enough to buy art supplies and create one — so why not digitally? Anyone else use Pinterest to inspire yourself and set goals?

Signs of strength

I know I’ve been quiet over the past couple of weeks, but it’s not because I’ve been unhappy with things at the gym. On the contrary, I’ve been working really hard, and I’ve noticed some gains in strength.

Monday February 20
Hip Clean + Front Squat 1+3×4 –> 55/65/75/85
Clean off Blocks 2×3, 1×4 –> 85/95/95. 95/90/95/100/100 (extra)
Jerk Recovery 3×4 –> 55/60/60/65
Thrusters by Feel 3×5 –> 75/75/80/80/85

Last Monday, I was refreshed after resting over the weekend, and it must have made a difference. I was able to clean 100# off the blocks… twice. You can generally lift less weight off the blocks than off the floor because the distance is shorter off the blocks, so I’m hoping that means my real clean max is more like 110# or 115#.

Also, I have NEVER done an 85# thruster. I’m pretty happy with that.

Tuesday February 21
500m row – 25 ring rows – 5 DL
400m row – 20 ring rows – 4 DL
300m row – 15 ring rows – 3 DL
200m row – 10 ring rows – 2 DL
100m row – 5 ring rows – 1 DL
Time: 18:04 @ 155# (Compare to 1-10-12: 15:35 @ 115#)

We revisited a workout from 6 weeks ago. Back in January, there was some confusion over the RX weight. Apparently ther RX weight was much more — 310# for men and 205# for women. This time, Zach gave us the option of matching the weight or going heavier. I elected to go heavier.

Wednesday February 22
Drop Snatch 3×3 w/ drive 1×5 → 35/45/35/40, 45/55/60/70/80
Power Snatch w/ 2 sec pause below knee 2×3, 1×4 → 35/45/50, 55/55/55/55
Front squat + Jerk (warmup 3+2) → 55 — 2+1×5 → 55/75/80/80/80
Front squat 80% of max 2×4 → 105/105/105/105

Check it out — an 80# jerk. Huge smile on my face right now.

Thursday was the start of the Crossfit Open, which I talked about here. There were a lot of people who did more burpees than me, but I’m happy with how I did. It was interesting having a target to jump and touch. I think I could have knocked out a lot more if I had picked up the pace and not stopped the breathe a few times.

I’m enjoying my successes, no matter how small they are, but I’m also taking stock. I’m looking at my goals and I may need to reassess. Things can change dramatically over just a couple of months, and I need to take stock and measure. It’s a never ending process, but no one said accomplishments ever come easy.