Tag Archives: Weight Lifting

Squat, Squat, Squat

6 Jun

Squats are pretty much my main exercise right now. I can’t do any upper body stuff. I can do deadlifts, though I suck at them, but squats are my compound lift of choice.

A couple of weeks ago I got a lovely unintentional compliment from James. After he had his form corrected by Nic (he was hunching over a bit at the bottom), James was watching me squat, and he said “the way you squat is how I always imagined I looked when I squatted”.


I do a high bar squat, which I found out from Squat Guy at the gym (his name is Wei, but he will always be Squat Guy to me – when we finally got around to exchanging names, I found out that he’s always thought of me as Squat Girl).

Some casual research online indicates that you can move more weight with a low bar squat, though the photos of it look extremely uncomfortable to me.

There are some tweaks I want to make – I’m pretty sure that I lose my neutral spine slightly at the bottom of the squat. And when I fail a squat, instead of failing it normally, I come off my heels and actually pitch forward a bit. Actually, come to think of it, when I find the weight challenging I pitch forward a bit for front squats too. This is something I definitely want to fix.

I still hate front squats, though they have been strongly recommended since I eventually want to do cleans. Front squats hurt, and the bar leaves giant red welts where it rests on me. =( I think to an extent it’s inexperience with positioning the bar, since there are times when the bar hurts less (though it’s always uncomfortable). Daniel had a theory that guys have more muscle at the front of their chest to cushion the weight.

  • Front squats – 1x a week (max set: 55kg – any heavier than that and I have trouble keeping my forearms in the correct position)
  • Pistol squats – 2x a week (one doing 3×6 at 10kg, and one trying to increase the weight, currently 3×3 at 12kg)
  • Back squats – 1-2x a week (I got 70kg once with a tiny boost, but stuffed it up the following week. I’ve done 65kg as a 1RM for a couple of sessions now, so I might see if I can push it to 67.6kg without assistance)

I miss doing overhead squats. I was at a 30kg overhead squat when I stopped, and my goal was to get to 40kg. Apparently it’s a good exercise to do if you want to do snatches, but really I just loved overhead squats for themselves.

Before my rotator cuff is fixed, I’d like to get to a 72.5kg back squat, a 20kg pistol squat, and I’d like to be more confident with the bar positioning for front squats. Hooray for goals!

New Gym Program

14 May

Now that I know I have 6-8 weeks for recovery I thought I’d go chat to Nic and get him to recommend some more leg exercises since I’m sick of cycling through back squat, glute-ham raises, deadlifts and pistol squats. In addition to being our favourite gym instructor, he’s in his final year studying to be a physio and also the strongest person I know, so I always listen to his advice!

Actually I just remembered a story Nic told us. He saw a guy trying to do a one-armed chin-up, and cool exercises like that are kind of his forte, so he went up to the guy and gave him some advice (namely that he’d progress faster if he did negatives). But apparently the guy copped a bit of attitude and was like “Can you do them? Probably not.” So yeah, Nic busted a few out, which as far as I know made the guy shut up and do some negatives.

But anyway, for my new program we’re changing my back squats up a bit. Currently I do 5×5, starting from 20kg and going up in 10kg increments. The new squat routine seems to be pretty flexible, but it’s basically mixing the weights and reps up a bit, eg:

5×3 at 40kg to warm up
50kg x 3
55kg x 3
60kg x 2
65kg x 1
67.5kg x 1
then dropping back down to 5×3 at 55kg

I’ll be squatting 3x a week (2x back squat, 1x front squat) and in addition to what I’m currently doing I’m also adding:

  • Cossacks with the 20kg barbell to warm up
  • Clean Pulls (40kg 3 x 5)
  • Kettlebell snatches with my left arm
  • Turkish get up
  • Box jumps
  • This weird exercise where I use the strength of only one leg to stand up

Nic also recommended that I sometimes do pistol squats facing a wall (well a partial wall so that my non-squatting leg can still extend) because it forces you to focus on technique, like squatting in front of a wall does.

He also gave me some extra therapy exercises to do for my shoulder, and fixed my form for my existing theraband exercises. He said my shoulder blade wings out when it shouldn’t, and you can stick your finger under there. I can’t feel the difference between doing it correctly and incorrectly, but we figured out that if I put my non-theraband hand back there I can use that to feel when I’m doing it right.

For the new rehab exercises I get to use the 1kg dumbbells. Yay me. Actually, another Nic anecdote. He tore his biceps tendon (doing some hardcore gymnastics move I think) and wasn’t allowed to lift anything for awhile, not even a can of soup. When he started exercising his arm again he had to start with the really light dumbbells for rehab. So he’d do his 140kg squat or whatever, and then he said he had to wait for some girl to finish with the 3kg dumbbell so he could use it because he was too embarrassed to ask her whether he could work in with her.

In 3 weeks I’ll be allowed to do push-ups again, but only on my knees. I’ll have to do those in private. My secret shame!

I’m really excited about my new program. I was talking to a gym buddy who has had tendonitis in his knee for several months now. He said that if he’d known that he couldn’t squat or deadlift for that long he could have done a cool program to really improve his bench or his pull-ups, but instead he was just aimless, hoping his knee would get better. So I know I have 6-8 weeks, and I really want my lower body strength to improve in that time. Then when I can do upper body stuff again I can focus on increasing that, and just maintaining for my lower body. At least I’ll have my beginner gains again. =)

Pictures For Inspiration

21 Jan

Sorry, no attribution, just random photos from the internet that I saved for inspiration.

I like this shot because she’s got big legs (like me!) but she’s still pretty ripped.

If this is what I think it is, it’s one of the steps you need to get to a planche (imagine her legs straight out behind her). This is roughly the stage that I am in my planche progression (ie. the beginner stage), but her back and shoulders are much better defined than mine!

I just think this is cool. Flexibility always impresses me.

Apparently this is some famous fitness model – Pauline someone? Look at her back!

I’m working on my handstand too. This seems like it would need more flexibility than I have though.

These are the abs that I want.

After seeing this picture I attempted to copy the position. It was surprisingly easy, though I wobble a lot and don’t look as serene as the woman in the photo. Or maybe she looks nervous.

I should print these out and stick them in my gym book for inspiration, but that might be a bit porny. I don’t really want guys following me around, trying to get a peek at my book.

Also the gym printed the wrong times for my Body Attack class today, so it was over by the time I got there. The gym lady said that there was a yoga class on, so I figured I may as well go, since I’d walked all the way there. What she didn’t tell me was that it was the advanced yoga class! So they were learning handstands and shoulder stands, and doing more advanced moves than I’d seen in like … the 5 yoga classes I’d attended in the past.

But as it turns out, general strength training makes a lot of yoga positions pretty easy, and I’ve actually been practicing handstands in my own time. We were doing handstands against the wall, and the yoga teacher came up and said “you’ve obviously done this before!” I was able to pass for someone who belonged in the advanced yoga class!

It was pretty fun, and more physical than other yoga classes I’ve done. Maybe I’ll do it after Body Attack next Friday, and maybe I’ll drag James along with me. He likes yoga for the flexibility, but not the woowoo parts of it.

Back to the Gym

8 Jan

The physio finally gave me the OK to start doing some light weight training. Which of course meant that I went back to the gym and tried to lift my old maxes, which was a pretty bad idea given that:

  • I haven’t trained for 3 weeks
  • It was a 34 degree day and the air con at the gym was busted (Bikram weight training! Woo!)
  • I’m supposed to be recovering from injury

I’ve definitely lost some strength, but it wasn’t as terrible as it could have been.

Squat – my top set went from 62.5 x 3 to 60kg x 1

Deadlift – top set went from a solid 62.5 x 8 to struggling with 60kg x 5

Parallel Grip Chin-ups – went from sets of 5 to struggling with 3 and 4

Dumbbell Bench – was at 17.5kg for 5×5 and dropped to 17.5kg for 3×5 (and I stopped because my arm collapsed on the 4th set and James had to rescue me)

I’m thinking of tweaking my program and splitting squats and deads. This is the preliminary outline:


  • Deadlift
  • Explosive push-ups
  • Pullovers
  • Pistol squats
  • Inverted Row


  • Squat
  • Parallel grip pull-ups
  • Hanging leg raise
  • Dumbbell bench
  • Overhead squat


  • Cleans
  • Pull-ups
  • Dumbbell snatches
  • Glute ham raises

Tomorrow I’m doing some power work, then it’s back to the physio on Monday for him to give me the all-clear to do BJJ again on Monday.

Before and After

1 Jan

Happy New Year!

My New Year’s Resolution last year was to get healthier and improve my athletic performance. And I know that everyone says NYR don’t work, but for some reason, the psychological excuse of having the new year really works for me. (Other silly things that have been known to motivate me: moving house and new stationery)

The first photo I was about 61kg after I started working out and was eating pretty well. It’s from November 2008 but that’s pretty much how I looked at the start of 2010. There is muscle there, but it’s hidden under fat, though if you’d asked me I would have said that I didn’t have that much weight to lose. The second photo I was around 50kg. It was taken in December 2010, but I’ve been at this weight since May. So I basically did this in 5 months and have been coasting since then.

Anyway, before and after photos!

I realise that a bikini shot would have been better for comparison (and one where I didn’t have to zoom in like .. 10x), but there hasn’t been much bikini weather this Summer so this is the best I have. It’s not a dramatic Weight Watchers transformation where you see people standing in one leg of their old pants, but this is basically me minus 20% body weight, so I am quite pleased at the change.

I ended the year 2010 leaner, stronger, faster, more flexible, and healthier than how I started it. Hopefully I can stop coasting and start improving again. I’ve gotten into the habit of going to the gym and just doing my regular workout (which don’t get me wrong, is not a slack workout). But I think I started getting into the mindset that all my big beginner gains were over so I stopped trying to improve as much. In 2011 I’m going to try and improve every time I’m at the gym, whether it’s in reps or weight.

So 2011 my health and fitness goals:

  • Improve pull-ups. I want to be busting out sets of 8-10 or even starting to attach weights.
  • Clean up my diet even more and get back to a 40/40/20 macro split. Cut out potatoes, bread and grains except for the occasional cheat meal. Aim for 7+ serves of vegetables a day.
  • Improve power. More jumping, snatches, cleans and explosive movements.
  • Lifting-wise I want to get my squat to 75kg (currently at 62.5kg for 3 reps). I want to progress in my deadlift so that it’s higher than my squat. My other dream is a bodyweight bench. I want to get my overhead squat to 40kg.
  • I want to drop to 48kg. I think I can still shed some fat around my quads and abs.

2011 is going to be a good year. I can feel it!