Sunday, December 29, 2013

End of cycle

I tested 3 of my lifts after 5 weeks (lift/initial weight/final weight): 
-Press/105x5 ladders/135x1
-Floor press/155x5 ladders/185x1

Body weight 192lbs
Fasted state

Final thoughts

As expected, the high frequency did wonders for my squat, even beyong my expectations. 315lbs was my goal, but I didn't really believe I could do it. I'm getting closer from my long term goal of squating twice my body weight. Pavel was right again: greasing the squat patern without squating is enough. 

Despite the clearly good results from the ladders, 1 different lift per day is not the best idea for an swing dancer. I've been sore until the tapper week and had to be extra careful with the aerial pratices all the time. From all my testing, I concluded that the following protocol was the best for me: 
-Pick a weight I think I can handle for 4-5 reps
-Start with a 1, 2, 3 ladder for up to 5 ladders
-Switch for a 1, 2, 3, 4 ladder or add a ladder to the previous one
-Switch for a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ladder when ready
-Once I can do a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 x 3 ladders. add 5 ou 10lbs and start over

Also, my time in the weight room was too long. I don't my lifting some weight 5 days a week, because I'm already at the gym to dance and I feel better afterward anyway, but I like to keep the work under the 45min line warm up included. 

The only lift that did not increased was the weighted chin up with Fatzgrip. Perhaps because I hated it or my initial weight was too heavy, but I sticked at +20lbs and added some insignificant reps. 

I've been so impressed with the dips! I haven't done those in months and they made me realize the poor mobility of my shouilder because of my shorten bicep tendons. It took me 3 weeks and over 150 reps of them to finally feel alright. Because it is soo easy to cheat doing dips, I don't they are worth using as a 1RM kind of lift, but rather to support the other lifts and my scapular mobility/stability. 

I will definitely keep the 5 weeks template, but I'll get back to somthing similar to the RKC clean & press routine, picking up one press and one pull I can use in a ladder structure. 

Floor Press



Saturday, December 28, 2013

Perfect gift

Muscular atrophy is something anybody can avoid. I convinced my 64 years old dad to start training earlier this year and I bought him the perfect gift for Christmas: a 35lbs kettlebell. Going to the gym is not exactly his idea of a good time and he likes to keep his sessions short. He is ready to invest 2 days / week on his health and has been consistent so far. He started to work on body weight exercises before, but the kettlebell, even just for the swing, is a major add on to his routine and will shorten his sessions even more.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Videos random

In this drll, +Julien Gosselin and +Sarah Jacques are working on 3 moves: swing out, under arm and full bring in. The objective is to keep the groove of the dance all the time which is probably the most typical sticking points among intermediate dancers.
Now the focus is on the free arm. I gave them few ideas and they are tring them out. Swing dancing is about finding what is right for you and that ask for some experimentations.
Front squat rules! Very uncomfortable at first, it forces thoracic expension and the shoulders and wrists moblity. Plus, like most posterior chain compond movements, you can ge pretty strong with it evn wihtout any other exercices in you rroutine. My typical progression would be wall squat, goblet squat, front squat and finally back squat. 
The hang man is a weird variation from the Manhattan Routine. Fortunately, I practiced those plenty in Balboa, so now I'm trying to do them wiht the Shag groove.
Last attempt of the day with the Manhattan routine.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Videos of the day

The Ab Roller is on of my favorite full tension ab exercice. It forces your lower abs and your buttox to work together and keeping your structural integrity. After seeing this clip, I focused on squeezing my buttox even more. 

Enjoy! +Vivianne Carrier weight almost 130lbs, even if she looks 115lbs max. Muscles are deceiving!

We keep working on the Collegiate Shag for the next week and a half. This routine by +Tony Fraser is one of the best way to start dancing Shag. It gives you a decent starting pack of classic moves and the general groove of the dance.

Tapper week

This is my 4th week and the hard work is over....kind of! I reduce my reps to 3 for my squats and snatches and do only one ladder 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 of my upper body work. I try to use the same weight I've used last week, even if that feels super easy which is the purpose here anyway.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Last practice before the gig and Collegiate Shag exercice.

Vivianne made a lot of progress learning this routine. 2 weeks ago, she still couldn't make the Around the back aerial. 

Single time Shag vs Double time Shag : 1st Shag practice with Vivianne. Is there a better way to face the challenge of this dance than trying this basic exercice. Beginner and advanced dancers alike are going to mess up!

Random weight training videos

1 hand dumbell snatch: the weight is increasing and the Fatzgrip really makes the difference.

Janda sit ups: I'm getting used to those weird sit ups and I almost don't need the band assistance anymore.

Bent over rows: I wanted to double check my alignement which isn't that bad. The weight is increasing as well.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Choose your words wisely

I will stop using the word workout  to talk about my strength training. It sounds insignificant, but there is a huge difference between exercising/ working out and training/practicing. Practicing my strength is an integrated part of my dance training now and it is just as important as any other part of it.

Therefore, I keep track of my data and I need to watch progress over time, if not I have to make adjustment. In the fitness industry, they call that principle progressive overload which I think applies for any skills. Statu quo  is only possible once you got really good at something. We all know some dancers who used to be at the top in 2006, but somehow still manage to place in that one competition they go every year even if they don’t practice anymore. It works with dancing, strength, music instruments, languages, sports, name it! The minimum effective dose can be really low just to maintain something you can do.

Friday, November 29, 2013

New 5 weeks cycle: Squats & upperbody ladders

Here’s exactly how it’s going to be for the next 5 weeks :
-5 days/week
-1st  lift: Squat / 1 workset / 5 reps
-2nd lift: Floor press / Bent over rows / Overhead press / weigthed chin-ups / dips (ladders)
-3rd lift: Dumbell snatch with Fatzgrip / 1 workset / 5 reps / side
-4th lift: some abswork like abwheel, leg raise, etc. / 1-3  worksets / 5 reps

First impressions

All my wall squats, goblet squats and front squats seem to pay off. I haven’t been so at ease doing ‘’back’’ squat (or just squat) even if I can’t remember last time I did those a couple months back. I started a bit too heavy for me with a 225lbs x 5 and I had to drop my weights to 205lbs for 2 days instead of the other way around despite my experience with weightlifting. The soreness from the muscles I don’t use often this way should disappear eventually. I never realized how much leg action there is in the squat, but what I do realize is why so many people can’t do it properly and get injured squatting.

If you count 2, 3, 5 reps times 5 ladders equals 50 reps total. That’s a lot of volume compared to what I’ve been doing in the last year and a half or so. I’m sore, but nothing that would keep me from dancing. I can’t wait to see it that will have an positive impact on my presses! The intensity is a tiny bit lower than what I would use for 1 set of 5 despite the volume I use. It seems my upper body can handle volume way better than intensity. We will see how much of an impact this will have. If that doesn’t work with 3 different presses, I might have to choose 1 press, but I don’t think my body would appreciate the bench press for 150 reps/week. That will probably put some meat on me as well!

I’ll see if such a regimen is sustainable in the long run. So far it feels like a lot of energy  and takes me about 1h/day lifting weight which is too much.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

5x5x5 first cycle results and observations

After my last summer 40 days challenge, I was looking for something similar considering the awesome results I got. I came across this other instant classic Pavel’s program 5x5x5 from Beyong Bodybuilding which would solve most fatigue/injuries  issues I experienced with the 40 days challenge. The outlines are similar : 5 exercises (at least 3 compoud lifts), 5 days/week / 5 reps (workset) / 5 weeks. The reduced volume and the taper week (4th) got my attention and would keep me fresh for dancing.

My 5 exercises / starting weight 5 reps /  max out 5th week / previous best:

Bench press

155lbs x 5
195lbs x 1 (easy no spotter)
195lbs x 1 (hard with spotter)
Sumo deadlift

305lbs x 5
425lbs x 1
405lbs (conventional)
Weighted pull ups

15lbs x 5 (187lbs BW)
45 x 1 (192lbs BW)
25lbs x 1
Clean & push press

95lbs x 5
175lbs x 1
Suitcase deadlift

135lbs x 5
185lbs x 5

  • That’s a lot of pulling!!! Even with such a low volume, my performances dropped drastically after my deadlifts. Plus, the deadlift, the clean and the suitcase have a similar pattern. Considering all the above, I was still way less tired than during my 40 days challenge.
  • As expected, my deadlift loves an everyday approach and my bench not that much even I put it as my 1st exercise.
  • Cleaning everyday really improved my shoulders mobility.
  • I put on 5lbs in 5 weeks. Fivers makes a good difference compared to sets of 1-2-3 reps.

  • I’ll keep the same basic 5 weeks structure 5x5x5 for my posterior chain move (probably back squat next). My body seems to respond really well to this everyday approach.
  • I’ll try ladders for all upper body movements (5 days press/pull/press/pull/press) starting with a weight I can handle for 3x(1,2,3 reps).
  • I still hesitate between variety of movements (like 3 presses/2 pulls) or 2 movements (1 press/1 pull). From my understanding, variety would help with shoulders health and fewer movements for maximum strength.


Floor press should help to keep those forearms in line.

It wasn't even that hard, but I prefer to stop when I feel that my technique is going south.

I guess I didn't make it entirely to the top...

I really enjoy doing those! 1.5x my BW is my goal.

I trained those with lighter weights and Fatzgrip for 3 weeks.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Human is a creature of habits

Practice when you feel like it and you will never get any better. Practice daily at 7pm 9or any other time) and you will be a champ 1 year from now. Change 1 habit at the time, control the data and enjoy the improvement.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Rest, rest, rest.....

Whenever You are obsessed as I am about training and dancing, off days need to be part of a bigger plan. Today I'm fasting, doing some laundry and watching Doctor Who!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Resistance almost beat me today!

I felt like shit and had the hardest time to move my ass out of bed. At 8:30pm, I finally headed toward the gym and decided to take it easy. In the end, I lifted my usual weights.

Warm up set. #pullups x 3.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

40 days stronger

I just finished my 40 days challenge and I'm very satisfied with the results. I had some free time in the summer and I thought I would consider that like athletes off season. The whole idea is simple enough and goes as follow :
-Pick 5 lifts: 1 big posterior chain movement (deadlift is the right answer), 1 big upper body push, 1 big upper body pull, 1 explosive movement, 1 anterior chain movement.
-Max 5 reps per set (big lifts)
-Around 10 reps total (big lifts)
-Between 10 and 20 reps for the explosive move.
-5 reps total for the anterior move.
-3-5 min rest in between sets
-Never train to failure
-It should feel easy! At the end of a workout, you should feel ready to do some swing outs on a fast tempo!
Here's a list of my moves, previous best attempt and goals:
-Conventional deadlift 350lbs ~ 405 lbs
-Bench press 165lbs ~ 225 lbs
-Bent row 115lbs (hypothetical, never done it) ~ ?
-Power snatch ? Lbs (I learned it and could not do it at first!) ~ ?
-Torture twist (as instructed by Barry Ross) ~ N/A
Yesterday, after 3 days of rest after my last session, but not enough sleep due to previous night partying, I accomplished this :
-It sounds like little effort,  but it very time consuming since you must show up to the gym every day.
-Keeping it easy is harder than you might think. I never bring my ego to the gym and I have never been so close to get hurt during a program, for you never completely recover. I would recommend it only for intermediate / Advance lifters.
-It really changes your views from a workout to a practice.
-The first time you do it, it's basically a lead of faith. You make quick progress at first, then it's harder to notice them until you take a break.
-I put on about 9-10 lbs
-I failed 1 deadlift at 395lbs in my 6th week.
-I set unreachable goals for the deadlift and bench press and I'm surprised that I reached 1 of them. I couldn't believe it when I actually pulled those 4 plates off the ground. I wished I would have push more on the bench press. I really thought my problem was the lack of practice and that it would explode with that kind of protocol. Well +40lbs is not that bad, but I still bench like a little girl!
Next steps
I'm getting closer to my basic strength standards (or Pavel's):
-Bench press 1.5 x bodyweight
-Squat 2 x bodyweight
-Deadlift 2.5 bodyweight
My goal would be in the next 6-12 month to reach those results with the bench and the deadlift and as long as my squatting pattern in functional, I would be pretty happy.
First, I'm going to change my routine and get back to my kettlebells for the next 12 weeks at least with the RKC challenge and add some dumbbells pressing and front squatting once or twice a week. The only advice I haven't listened to improve my bench is to build some more muscle. I don't feel like giving up just yet!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Wisdom from Pavel

‘’Someone has made an observation that lawyers tend to be a lot more successful in strength sports than artists. Because the former can deal with the boredom of repetitive but necessary tasks.’’,Pavel Tsatsouline, Enter the Kettlebell p.136

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

On deadlifting

Many coaches in a variety of disciplines will swear almost soly by deadlifts as long as strength is concerned. I love that quote!

Elliott Hulse:  Deadlifts.  If there's only one thing that everyone does, it's deadlifts.  When you deadlift, you're using every single muscle in your body, and you have to use every single muscle properly in order to perform the deadlift.  Deadlifts are not one of those exercises where you can fake it for very long.  The minute you get down to put your hands on that bar, you don't even have to lift it, I know where you're screwed up.  I can tell if your ankles are tight, if your low back is weak, or if your neck is tense and tight.  I can tell you anything you need to know about your body the minute you bend down to touch that bar to pick it up.  And once you can get your deadlift looking good—and it doesn't even need to be heavy—and when you can move in a proper pattern, then everything is where it needs to be and the sky is the limit. 

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Being your own coach: micro managing to failure

After a while of strength training, I would feel stronger, but I would still bench press like a little girl. I was watching Elliot Hulse on Youtube and realized my head was not in the workout I was doing, but already thinking about what I should change, adjust, important exercises I was missing and so on. Elliot also said something else that stuck into my head. There are a lot of great programs out there, so I should just pick one proven to work and stick to it. I had to think about my priorities:
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>Focus on strength and power
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>Not to time consuming, I need time to dance!
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>Not too tiring, I need to be able to dance right after workout.

From there I switched to a 5/3/1 program (explained in detail here). Basically, this program focuses on 4 lifts: Squat, Deadlift, Bench press and Overhead press. In 5/3/1, we workout with ridiculously sub maximal weight most of the time and lift 90% of 90% 1RM once every 4 weeks for 1 rep. I finish every workout fresher than when I started it! Also, You can pick freely all accessory exercises which accommodate my burning desire for customization and in the end, as the author put it, there are just accessory then don’t matter as much as the main lifts. Plus, beside the fact that I need to go at the gym 4 times/week, my training session can be super short between 25 and 45 min.

The math can be quite intimidating at first glance, but all I did was to automate a calculation sheet on Google drive and I add weight every 4 weeks, that’s it! I always carry my phone to the gym anyway and I was already keeping track of my training session on a calculation sheet. I got myself a program I’m not allowed to customize in the essence and that works itself up.

It got me thinking. What if I was doing exactly the same thing with my dance training. What if I keep changing my focus, so it limits my ability to improve over the time through deep practice? I usually start every session with aerial/dip/lift training, for this is exhausting. I will stop before my partner or I is tired, so we can keep practicing after that, avoid injury and keep the best form possible. Then, I will choose a random theme (such as rhythms, moves, lines, jams, etc.) and work on it for the entire session, but if I can’t work on it because of my partner’s limitations. In that case, I will select some drills to work on the specific difficulty we encountered and get back to whatever we were doing if possible.

Because you can’t quantify dancing, we need to rely on subjective results such as videos, feeling and memory. What if I avoid what I should be working on, because it’s easier this way? I definitely do that with solo dancing! Everybody has a tendency to surf over difficulties especially when nobody is pointing them out. Automating my practices and tracking actual results, that’s what I still need to improve.

If you are interested to follow my day to day workouts and dance practices, I suggest you take a look at my Google+ Page where I post personal videos almost everyday.

Keep on working!


Monday, January 14, 2013

Balboa guy, fitness guy, massage guy, nutrition guy...or about being labeled.

Over the last couple of years, I received several labels. Truth is, labels are often there for a reason, but just part of the portrait. 

Because I have never seriously competed into Lindy Hop, I still known mainly as a Balboa dancer even if I practice just as much in Lindy Hop, Ballrooming and other minor specialities such as Collegiate Shag, Break Away and Charleston 20'.

Because I started to develop an more athletic vision of the path of the Swing, people starting calling me fitness guy. I admit that I know a lot now about athletic development and how a dancer should train for peak performance, but fitness as never been my final goal.

Fitness lead me on the nutrition topic, fat loss and peak athletic performance, and I got deep into it as usual. Shortly after that, I became nutrition guy!

Pain releasing techniques, anatomy, fitness, nutrition, those are all tools any athlete should be aware of, including Swing dancers. I only decided to school and educate myself and keep doing it everyday.