Later 2014 and new programming: reflections on training (part 3)

In the previous post of this series (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), I described the periodized training I attempted in the first half of 2014. I ended up pushing (a crappy version of) my weightlifting cycle through the summer of 2014 while I was teaching. I will discuss that more in my barbell strength post.

In this post, I will describe the programming changes I effected, beginning in August 2014. They can be summed up as follows:

  1. Modified 5/3/1 (deadlift as assistance work, no bench), based loosely on Jim Wendler‘s programming.
  2. Simple running progression involving two runs per week, and an increase of weekly mileage by one mile each month.
  3. The Foundation 1 and Handstand 1 programs from Christopher Sommer at Gymnastic Bodies. (Modified only in that the program is not intended to be run concurrently with other programming, but otherwise done as prescribed.)

My weekly workout looked roughly like this:

  • Monday: GB F1 A workout, 5/3/1 strict press (plus light volume work for front squat)
  • Tuesday: GB H1 workout, volume posterior chain work (deadlift, bent-over rows, good mornings) and ring dips
  • Wednesday: GB F1 B Workout, run
  • Thursday: GB H1 workout, volume upper body work (strict press and ring dips) and front squats
  • Friday: GB F1 A workout, 5/3/1 back squat (plus light volume work for good mornings) (I later switched Thursday and Friday’s lifting work due to a back strain)
  • Saturday: run
  • Sunday: rest (might include hiking for fun, but no actual training).

This is rather a lot of work, obviously. Lest anyone think I’m entirely crazy, I specifically chose slow-progressing programming with three intense weeks and a deload week. I figured I would rather gradually progress most of my desired skills at once, than try to focus exclusively on one area. I already knew the gymnastic strength training (GST) work would take years in order to get major results from the GB programming, and I wasn’t willing to set the barbell down for months or years and sacrifice everything I had gained in 2014.

Now, you might be wondering why I did all of this. Why not just do 5/3/1 and running? Why include all the GST work? Well, I eventually had to stop my weightlifting cycle because my wrists just couldn’t seem to handle the beating they were taking multiple times a week. Similar issues with my elbows were why I had to stop benching. According to Sommer’s conversations (1, 2, 3) with Robb Wolf, a lot of lifters develop these problems due to weak connective tissue. Since connective tissue develops much more slowly than muscle, it cannot improve as quickly and, thus, lifters will quickly get themselves into a tough position where their joints hurt because their muscle has improved more quickly than their connective tissue. Sommer prioritizes connective tissue development in his programming, and has said that his athletes often had great success in developing barbell strength rapidly once they tried it.

Additionally, one of the skills that F1 develops is the single leg squat (pistol). Kelly Starrett has said that a good measure of adequate ankle mobility for a safe squat is being able to sit at the bottom of a pistol, and he has diagnosed my back-rounding/butt wink at the bottom of the back squat as a consequence of poor dorsiflexion in my ankles. I’ve been fairly unsuccessful with fixing this on my own, so I decided to trust Sommer’s programming to help me fix my ankle mobility and my wrist/elbow durability (and hamstring mobility/compression ability, which inhibits my deadlift). I also reckoned that working on gymnastic strength would develop the bodily control to make me a better climber. All in all, it seemed like a good move.

I included the running progression because I was tired of being poorly-conditioned. My upper-70s (or higher) RHR was an embarrassment, and I wanted to have the option of joining in the running group other members of my cohort had started, or just doing races on a lark. I wanted a body that could take some abuse. As I mentioned, I ran twice-weekly with a monthly one-mile bump in weekly mileage: August 2 miles/3 miles, September 3 miles/3 miles, October 3 miles/4 miles, November 4 miles/4 miles, and so forth.

So how has this all worked out for me, in February of 2015 with about six full cycles done? In short, decent but not fabulous. My mobility progress with GB has been very good, particularly in my shoulders. My hamstring and ankle mobility has improved, as well, though not as much as I would. My abdominal and lower back stamina have both improved substantially, as have my push-ups (though not as much I would like). My lifting progress was satisfactory for such a slow progression (I’d put around 20 lbs on my 1RM) until I got sick over MLK weekend. After that, the wheels pretty much fell off the wagon and my barbell strength gains for the past six months seemed to have been erased. (GST was unaffected.) In early December 2014, I strained my right calf and, due in part to my own stupidity, I have had a hell of a time rehabbing it. (More details on this in the endurance post I’ll do.)

So what’s next? I plan to keep at GB’s F1/H1, with Greyskull LP (w/o bench, and with a 1-week-in-4 deload) and a running progression which I hope will keep me from reinjuring myself. Since Greyskull LP is (as the name indicates) a linear progression, I’m hoping to give an LP the honest effort that I haven’t before. With running, I’m focusing on Tabata calf raises (thanks Military Athlete) and suicide sprints for the rest of this month. Hopefully that will build up calf stamina and durability. In March, I plan to resume distance running and to start Greyskull at the same time. My distance running will start out with a 1 mile run and a 2 mile run the first week, and then increase mileage by 10% (in the shorter run) each week with the same deload schedule as the other progressions. With luck, this will get me to the 5 miles 2x/week goal I aimed for as a decent level of endurance maintenance without an injury, at which point I will start incorporating other conditioning, speedwork, and so forth. Hopefully I can stay on the Greyskull LP pony for awhile.

If that does not work, I’ll probably put my GST work into maintenance for a bit, scale back my running, and really take a run at the Greyskull LP. If Greyskull doesn’t work for me, I’ll give Stronglifts a try. Hopefully, though, I’ve developed enough work capacity over the past six months that I won’t crush myself with these progressions.