Discovering life beyond the barbell / by Dana McMahan

Training journal

[I'm not updating this page regularly anymore]

May 7: Started 5/3/1 program on bench. Current max (with feet on bench) = 100. Goal by August 29 is 105. End of year goal is 115.

April 30: Got under a barbell again

April 29: Started archery lessons

April 17 – saw a new MRI and the disc is herniated again but it’s not debilitating this time.

March 17: started Krav Maga. Stopped after four lessons; the impact of kicking and punching caused a lot of pain.

March 5: started weight training at my new gym. Mix of machines and free weights. No loading lumbar spine. 2-3 times per week.


Chapter the first: The last months of powerlifting

Feb 13: Surgery – discectomy for acute herniated disk at L5/S1

Jan 24-Feb 12: Near daily pool walking and 3-4 times per week physical therapy. Bodyweight 101 Feb 12.

Mon Jan 23

Follow-up with Dr. McKee. Acute herniated disc, L5/S1 with inflammation of the spinous process ligament. I’m not to load my lumbar spine again. Two weeks of strict rest. No exercise except walking in a pool. 3x week rehab with sports physical therapists. Go back Feb 7.

1st rehab session. Therapist said I can’t “find a position of relief” No sh*t.

Jan 20

Saw Dr. McKee, orthopedic physician specializing in sports injury; MRI; ordered me to rest

Jan 18

still in pain; saw family doctor

Jan 17

  • lacrosse ball, hamstring stretches
  • 10 rounds: 10 good morning ‘quarter’ squat combi (no weight) + 10 modified pushups onto tall box. By the end could do straight leg good morning. movement was improved.
  • 10 minutes ice on hamstrings

Jan 16

stretching/ice

Jan 13

still in pain

  • lot of stretching
  • Floor press 110×2
  • bench 3×6 @ 83lbs
  • max pushups x2 (15)
  • band pullaparts

Jan 12

  • Squat 4×8 progressive. last set: 165 PR
  • Deadlift 6×4 @ 175
  • Hanging leg raises

in a lot of pain, stopped workout to stretch

Jan 11

  • mobility/stretching

Jan 10
body composition analysis: 107 lbs, 15% fat. (up 8 lbs lean mass since April 2011!)

  • Pullup/chinup 10×2 (switched to chinup bc pullup hurt my back)
  • Bent over row 6×5
  • weighted lunge 4×6 each leg

Jan 9

  • bench 6×5, last two sets at 100! PR
  • Squat 5×5 @ 165 PR
  • YWT 4×10

Jan 7

  • ‘play’ for photo shoot – front squats and RDLs

Jan 6 – at home

  • 5×10 hanging leg raises
  • 7×5 chin ups (the last couple sets I had to break into a couple at a time)
  • 5×10 push ups
  • 7×2 one leg squats

Jan 5 – didn’t write anything down, but squatted 163 for reps

Jan 3

  • bench 6×6, progressive up to 95
  • db press 7×3 each side. Mostly did 25, got 30 one set
  • ring rows 10×5

Jan 2 -at home

  • Squat 145 …10×2 (30-45sec between)
  • Barbell lunge … 5×5 each leg
  • Hang Leg Raises 5×10

Dec 31 – ‘throwdown’ with my brother

  • (first squat up to 185 barefoot no belt)
  • Leg press challenge: 150 lbs for 26
  • Weighted chin-up challenge: got 30lbs, missed 35
  • ‘played’ with bench (up to 105) and deadlift (up to 195)

Dec 29

  • bench 5×5
  • push-ups 4×6 (weighted)
  • Body row 3×10
  • KB 3×10
  • Band pullaparts 3×10

Dec 26

  • Squat 90% 1×4 (180lbs) felt good!
  • squat 80% 2×3 (160lbs)
  • squat 60% (120) max reps :16
  • 24-in box jump, 6×3
  • Hanging leg raises: 5×10

Dec 24 (Major League Fitness, Fenton Michigan)

  • bench heavy double with pause: 100 (attemped 105, missed second one)
  • Front squat heavy single: 150 PR
  • weighted chin-up/pull-up and ring play

Dec 23 (Major League Fitness, Fenton Michigan)

  • Squat heavy single: 185 plus back-off sets, 165 2×2

Dec 22

  • Front squat, heavy double: 143 PR
  • 2 deadlift+2RDLs, worked up to 180
  • Chin-up 2 sets max: 8 and 5 (arms were tired!)
  • Body row: 2×20
  • Face pull 3×10

Dec 21

  • bench 4×8 (up to 85lbs on sets 3 and 4)
  • Tricep extension 3×15
  • Press 3×10 (38lbs)
  • Bent over row 3×10
  • Band pullaparts: 2×20
  • Squat heavy single, barefoot, no belt: up to 195. Missed 200

Dec 20

  • Front squat 6×2: 98lbs
  • Halting deadlift 2×8 @ 115lbs
  • RDL 5×5 @ 148
  • Superman 3×12
  • V-ups 2×20 (couldn’t do all consecutively)

Dec 19

  • Squat 10×2 @155
  • Hanging leg raises 4×8
  • Good mornings: 4×4
  • Planks 3×1 min (added weight each time up to 25lbs)

Dec 12-18

somebody was lazy and didn’t write down workouts. Monday and Tuesday – hypertrophy work: basic lifts for high reps, plus accessory. Wednesday started squat every day program. Heavy single – made 175, missed 190. Thur and Fri hypertrophy work: basic lifts for high reps, plus accessory. Highlight: max weighted chin-up – 25 lbs! Saturday: squat heavy single, made 188, did not get to depth on 193 (3 times). hanstand practice – held for 6 seconds. Sunday 145 squat 3×3.

Dec 10

Dec 9

  • 3 sets: 2 deadlift 4 RDL combo @ 155. Supposed to do 6 but Coach stopped me after 3, said I was rounding my back
  • 2×12 body rows
  • 4×8 pushups: added progressive weight up to 15 lbs
  • 2×20 tricep push-downs, thin blue band. Second set had to pause several times
  • 4×30 second plank holds

Dec 6

  • Accessory work (still have 10 chin-ups after vacation). Suck at barbell holds.

Dec 5

  • 4×8 bench progressive to 80 pounds
  • 3×5 deadlifts @ 175
  • Face pulls 2×20, thin orange band
  • Hang 1 minute x 2

****Vacation****

Nov 16

Last workout before trip

  • Good Mornings 5×10, progressive weight
  • Weighted step-ups, 3×10 each leg
  • Bent over rows 5×10
  • Side plank + dead bug + side plank x 2, dead bug w/arm and leg out x2
  • 15 minutes stretch and foam roll

Nov 15

(right foot no good, toe sprain)

  • (elevated foot) bench 5×5 @71
  • Press 3×10 @43
  • Muscle clean 3×10@43 first, 48 next two
  • Skullcrushers 3×10 @15lb kb ea

Nov 14

  • Deficit deadlifts 2,4,6 up to 165(?), 4 singles at 185 (standing on plate – 1 inch?)
  • weighted push-ups 6×6 with 10kg, got all except the very last one
  • 100 blue band shoulder raises

Nov 11

  • bench up to a heavy 6. Got 85. only got 3 on 95
  • forgot to write the rest down :(

***Nov 10***

Nov 9

  • Accessory work/deload

Nov 8

  • 3×10: squat, bench, Bent-over row, halting deadlifts, chin-ups

Nov 4

  • Deadlift triples, last set: 201, only got 2 (didn’t attempt third) PR
  • (didn’t write the rest down)
  • One hand push-up practice, and got it with right arm for two. (Need to do 4 resp of practice on left side for every one I do on right)

Nov 3

  • Go until failure: bench 1 rep, 3 clapping push-ups, add weight to bench each time. Got 102, failed 107.
  • Squat up to a heavy double with lateral band shuffles between: 177
  • (didn’t write the rest down, boo!)

Nov 1

  • Push-ups: 5×10
  • Chin-ups: 5×5
  • Bent over db rows 4×8 each, 30lbs
  • KB swings 4×10 @44lbs
  • Wall sit 1 min, dead bug 2 min, wall sit 1 min, dead bug 3 mi

Oct 31

  • Squat 160 max reps: got 8, failed on 9 (went soft in the bottom)
  • bench 95, 5×2 with pause on first rep
  • Weighted step-ups, 4×12 w/20lbs each
  • RDL 135 max reps: 22

Oct 28

  • bench 80lbs for max reps: Got 12, failed on 13. (Coach said he thought I would do 9)
  • 4 rounds: 5 presses each side (20lbs), 15 face pulls
  • Good mornings: 4×4 @ 63lbs
  • 4×10 RDLs with 70lb kb

Oct 27

  • Squats – various reps/weights, up to 160 for a single
  • Fun with reps: 95lbs for 32 reps
  • 4 rounds: run to the end of he alley and back, 12 kb swings with 25 lbs

Oct 25

  • Press 6×3 @ 63lbs (really hard)
  • Deadlift 6×2 @ 185lbs
  • Chinup heavy 3 reps: 15lbs
  • Shrugs 3×12 @35lbs
  • Farmers carry 3 laps, 44lb kb each hand

Oct 24

  • Squat up to a heavy single: 181 (got low, was hard but I never thought I wouldn’t make it. Too much knee wobble)
  • Squat 143 for 4
  • Squat 153 for 3
  • Squat 160 for 2
  • Squat 130 for 10
  • G0od mornings: sets of 6 – 43, 53, 63, 53, 43
  • Max (close hands) push-ups. Rest 2 1/2 minutes between: 20, 12, 10

Oct 21

  • Deadlift 10 x 2 @ 135
  • 6×3 chinups
  • kettlebell swings – 4×12 at 44 lbs
  • 3 farmer carries (44lbs, switch hands halfway), 2 overhead carries (15 pound plate)

Oct 20
felt strong today (big dinner last night!)

  • bench 3×5 @ 81lbs
  • 3×12 tricep extensions
  • 6 rounds: 4 squats @135lbs + three 24″ box jumps without rest (except between rounds 4 and 5)
  • 4 sets: deadlift + 2 RDL + 3 shrugs @ 123lbs

Oct 19

  • Push-ups 3×10 (sets 2 and 3 w/10 pounds added)
  • Chin-ups 4×6 (sets 2 and 3 with belt+1pound added)
  • Skull crushers 3×10 (43lbs)
  • curls 3×10 (15 lbs)
  • YWTs 3×10 (1 pound ea hand)
  • Face pulls 2×20 (blue band)
  • kb press 2×15 ea side. 10lbs set 1, 15 lbs set 2

Oct 18

  • bench heavy 3: up to 95. Tried 99, got 2 and Coach stopped me (2nd was way too hard)
  • Squat heavy 4: up to 165 (hard)
  • Deadlift heavy 5: up to 183 (felt like I still had more)

Oct 16

  • Speed squat 4×6 @ 145 (goal: don’t take a new breath – made it on last set)
  • AMRAP in 5 minutes: 2 Front squat @ 95, 5 kb swings @ 44lbs, 5 box jumps 18″ – got 5 + the squats
  • rest 2 minutes AMRAP in 5 minutes: 2 Front squat @ 89, 3 kb swings @ 70lbs, 5 box jumps 18″ – got 5 (first time with the big red kb!)

Oct 15

  • bench 1RM: 105 with pause (missed 109) 7 pound PR (with pause, 5 pounds without)
  • Presses 6×4, 60lbs
  • (didn’t write the rest down)

Oct 14

  • bench practice
  • front squat work
  • Sled pulls up to 3 at 85lbs of plates (to 2nd light pole and reverse on the way back — in the rain)

Oct 11

  • Deadlifts on the minute, starting at 65, add 10lbs each time. PR: 205 (previous 1RM: 187!)
  • Farmer carries with 50lb kbs one side
  • Shrugs 3×12 @ 50lbs
  • Hammer curls: 1 set of 20 with 10lb kb. 2nd set: 10, 5, 3. new goal: two sets of 20 complete

Oct 10

  • bench 8×2 @81lbs
  • Squat singles for 6, up to 185 on 5 (got it on parallel) missed 185 on 6 (knees)
  • Squat 7×2 @ 143 (low!)
  • Chinups: 10, 7, 7

Oct 8

  • Presses (first time!) 8×2 @65
  • Chin-up – chest to bar, 3 sets (3,2,3,4)
  • 2×10 band shoulder raises and band pullaparts
  • 2 minute wall sits x 2 (1 minute toes up each)
  • Ab wheel, 3×5 rollouts

Oct 7

  • RDLs, 4×6, up to 137lbs
  • Weighted chin-ups, 7×1, up to 22lbs
  • Bent-over single arm rows, 2×15 each arm, 25lbs
  • Y,W,Ts 2×12, 1kg plates

Oct6

Oct 4

  • Deadlifts 7×2 @ 160
  • bench 5×3 @85
  • 3×12 push-ups
  • 3×6 chin-ups
  • 2xfarmer carries

Oct 3

  • box squat for 5 to 15 inches, maxed at 179
  • forgot to write down the rest!

September 30

  • Supposed to squat 5×5 @ 135 but didn’t make it to 135 – tightness in glute made me lean/shift too much. Accessory work instead
  • Front squats with light weight
  • one legged squats, no weight
  • Max push-ups: 22 first set, 20 second (full push-ups, chest to ground)
  • Max chin-ups: 9 (after 42 push-ups!)

Sept 29

  • Squat 5×5 @115 (ass to grass)
  • bench 5×5 @ 75
  • Deadlift 3×3 @135

Sept 27
New York City CrossFit

  • Turkish get-ups – practiced till I could get up properly with 12kilo kettlebell

Sept 26

Steel Gym, NYC

  • Squat fives on the way up, then max @ 135 – 10 reps
  • Rack pulls @ 225. Got two sets of three but stopped at two on third set. Wasn’t keeping form, and no chalk, ripped a callous.
  • Bent over rows, several sets of 8 on a machine, up to 45 pounds
  • Decline sit-ups with 20lb dumbbell, several sets of 8
  • Hands facing pull-ups, 5,4 and 5

Sept 23

  • Accessory work (was supposed ot high box squat but hamstrings were tight and lower back super sore from deadlift with band)

September 22

  • bench 90lb for 4, then 3×3 (was meant to do 4×4)
  • Heavy deadlift with red band: 180
  • Deadlift 3×3 @ 168lbs
  • 3 rounds: 6 chin-ups (unassisted) + 10 close-hand push-ups
  • 3 rounds: 30 seconds band pull aparts + 90 seconds toes-up wall sites

September 20

  • bench with pause 2 rep max: 98 lbs (PR) Second rep was the ugliest in history and would have been red lighted for days, but I pressed it
  • bench 5×3 83 lbs
  • Bent over barbell rows 6×8 @73lbs
  • Max hanging leg raises: 18

September 19

  • Squats x 3 up to 171 pounds (to depth!)
  • Good mornings w/53lbs, 4×5
  • Barbell shrugs, 4×12 w/73lbs
  • High pulls, 4×12 w/25lb kb
  • Pull-ups, 5×4, unassisted

September 17

  • Low box squats (12inch on the base), doubles for speed, up to 153, then several sets (5 or 6?)
  • Body rows to pullup bar
  • Barbell shrugs, 3×6 (didn’t write down the weight but less than 100)
  • Rollouts – a few singles and a few sets of two with count to 3 holds

September 16

  • bench press 79lbs 3×6
  • Pushups, chest to hands in diamond shape, 3 sets till slow (8, 7,7)
  • Weighted chin-ups, 15 lbs 5×1
  • Wall sits 1 min on, 30 sec off x5

September 15

  • Deadlift 5×5, 145
  • 35lb kettlebell swings, 15×10

September 14

  • Max 12-inch box squat: 190 lbs (stopped there)
  • 3×3 single leg low box squats with red kettlebell
  • max weighted push-up: 35 lbs (no-go on 37.5)
  • push-ups 3×10
  • max pull-ups, 2×4

September 13

  • “play” in the park – random stuff: handstand holds, chin-ups, 3 sets of sprints+10 push-ups, picnic table sit-ups, Turkish situps, wall (tree) sits, a little basketball

September 12

  • 1.5 hour hot yoga

September 10

  • Squat 145 x 3, 6 sets, 7? ( lost count) + singles for 3 or 4 - buried them all
  • Max floor press: 90 x 2 and 95 for a single
  • bench 5×3 at 80lbs

September 9

  • 18 inch box squats – up to 2rep max: 215lbs (took two attempts, sat down on the second rep of the first set. Need to push knees out!)
  • Sumo deadlift 4rep max: 170lbs. (tried 175, got 3 butt but flew up on 4th)
  • Wallsits 90 seconds x 4, rest 90 seconds in between
  • Supersets: 44lb kb swings 4×12, split squat jumps 4×6

September 7

  • Bent over row/ RDL combo, sets of 5 up to 85, then 3 sets
  • Knee raises, 3×12
  • Turkish sit-ups, 15lb dumbbell, 3×10 each side

September 6

  • 4 rep max on bench: 91 lbs for two sets (PR).
  • High box squats: 3×5 at 205 (first time doing reps with anything that begins with a 2 — even though it was above parallel I’m excited!)
  • Body rows (by hanging from a pull-up bar with toes on a shelf) 4 sets: 6,8, 10,8 aka chimp rows
  • KB presses, 3 x8 each side, 25lbs. This was the hardest part of the entire workout.
  • Just for fun, four strict chin-ups from the rafters


September 3

First garage workout!

  • 3 sets: run to the short end of the alley and back; box squat 135 for 4. Run to the long end of the alley and back; box squat 135 for 2
  • Leg curls (weights wrapped around ankles) x 50
  • Leg extensions (weights wrapped around ankles) x 50
  • Dead bugs


September 2

  • Deadlift 3s up to 3-rep max of 180 (PR) Tried 190, no-go twice.
  • Lateral step-ups, 3×5 each leg with dumbbells: 25 ea, 30, 35
  • Cross-leg squats, no weight. 5×5 each leg
  • Single leg RDLs, 3-10 each leg, 10lb kb
  • 100 burpees for time, 8:15

September 1

  • Squat with 40 pounds of chains: 3s, then 2s, then singles. Repeated 150+chains four times until I got below parallel. Max single: 160+40! (PR)
  • Weighted step ups (12 inch box + 2 plates) 3×10, 95 lbs
  • Max push-ups, 3 sets, rest between: 30 (PR!), 22, 16
  • Dips, 3 sets: 11, 14, 11
  • Wall sit, two minutes
  • Knees to elbows x25
  • Light Bent over rows x 20 @10lb dumbells each
  • Shrugs x20 @10lb dumbells each

August 30

  • Sumo deadlifts, heavy 2s up to 160. (PR) (180 could only get a single. Coach said because of heavy squats yesterday)
  • Bent over rows, 4×10 @ 65lbs
  • Rear delts 3×10 @ 5 for first set then 10lbs each hand
  • GHRs, 3×10 @ 5 then 7 then 8 kilos

August 29 Birthday workout!

part 1

  • 1000 meter row
  • 10 reverse lunges hand to opposite heel
  • 10 two hand one foot
  • Single leg box squats to parallel, starting with doubles, up to 24 kilos for a single on each side
  • Max deadhang chin-ups: 10 :) (PR)
  • Weighted reverse lunges, sets of 10, working up to 35lb weights in each hand

part 2 (3 hours later)

  • bench up to attempted new max of 105. No go on two attempts :(
  • Skullcrushers, sets of 6. 48 lbs, 53 lbs, 58lbs
  • Red band tricep pulldowns 2 sets max: 25 and 26
  • (more) single leg box squats to parallel, up to 70 lbs for a single on each side (PR)
  • 4 sets of 30 Turkish sit-ups (15 each side) with 10lb kettlebell + 1 minute wall sit (alternate toes up one time, heels up next)

August 27 WOD
warm-up: 2 sets: 10 cleans, 10 presses, 10 good mornings, 10 squats (1 set 45lb bar, 1 32lb bar)

AMRAP: 20 double-unders, 20 kettlebell swings @ 20lbs
(max unbroken double-unders:16 -PR)
Didn’t count reps, too busy trying to get my breath!


August 26

  • 1000m row
  • 50 dislocates
  • close grip bench up to 1 rep max @ 100 (no pause). tried 105, failed
  • bench 4×4 @ 80lbs
  • Skullcrusher with bar4x8
  • Deadlift with black band, to 1 rep max at 155lbs
  • Deadlift 3×3 @ 150
  • Weighted GHR 4×8 @ 10 first then 15 lbs

August 25

  • 18 inch box squats up to 102 kilos (took two attempts) (PR)
  • Weighted step-ups to low box, 1 set with bar, 3×10 up to 40 kilos plus bar
  • 3 sets lateral shuffle 4 mats + wall sit, toes up 1 min
  • GHD sit-up holds 2 x 1 minute

August 23

  • Jump rope “play,” five minutes
  • bench with chains, worked up to a single at 100 pounds. Arse came off the bench on that one so we stopped there.
  • 3×3 at 70 lbs
  • Push press 3×8 w/bar
  • Dips 3×12
  • Black band pull aparts 3×12

August 22

  • 1000 meter row
  • High box squats
    • warm up with bar x 10, 95 lbs x 5
    • Sets of three, working up to max: 95 kg
  • Reverse lunges with 62 lbs, 3 sets of 5 each side
  • Lateral step ups (onto 2 plates) with 95 lbs, 3 sets of 10 each side
  • Weighted GHD situps: 20 with 15lbs, 20 x2 with 10 kg
  • Shrugs, 3×10 with blue kettlebells
  • Orange band pulls, 2×10

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