Being strong is not something I set out to do for the sake of it. But I enjoy strength training. The sense of achievement of being able to do an extra rep, increase the weight, or know that my form is smoother is a massive incentive to me to keep going.
I also enjoy programming this sort of training. The period before Christmas, quite apart from my slight hiatus from the kettlebells, was always going to be a time when I allowed myself to focus on getting stronger. I planned out an intermediate style system of three full body workouts a week. Each was structured as squat, pull, push, accessory work, then ending with ab and grip work (mostly abs!). These were then further organised with heavy, light, and medium days. In that order throughout the week. Usually Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
I planned out a progression that would lead to some PB attempts the week before Christmas. As it turns out, with gym messing around issues, I ended up hitting them a week or so earlier. And I had several attempts with the deadlift, and pushed it 🙂 I did try on the squat, but I clearly hadn’t recovered enough. Still, shows I can bail loaded bars onto the safety rack 😉
My previous PBs in squat and deadlift were 82.5kg and 120kg respectively. Additionally, that deadlift was done with straps for grip. I weighed 60kg at the time of that deadlift, and around 61kg with the squats. I wore a lifting belt for both. Not the same one as I use for kettlebells; a good solid one with a consistent height, so higher at the front than my kettlebell belt. The height allows me to get a good brace against it, as the bracing of the abs clearly occurs at the front. I also don’t do the belt so tight I am unable to breathe. The gap between me and the belt is the space into which I brace.
Starting out with all of the volume was a bit of a shock to the system, but after about ten days the body had pretty much adapted and decided it was easier just to let me get on with it. There was also a week part way through where we were in the Lakes, so heavy stuff was replaced with mountain biking, and resistance band work. To be honest, it probably helped the recovery of all the muscles. Along with the extra calories that I may have been consuming 😉
I started out at weights that I knew I could use to build on, and this allowed me to increase weight (on the compound lifts) week on week. I was squatting three times a week and deadlifting twice a week. On the light day, I decided to add in power cleans instead. Power cleans are still a pull movement, but I felt the dynamic nature was practical for my long cycle as it mirrors the jerk. I mixed in some overhead pressing (push press and more dynamic) and a little bit of bench for the various push movements, but I did not do these as heavy as any the other lifts. A lot of my kettlebell training emphasises that movement already, and I was conscious of overuse through a couple of niggles. Accessory work was shoulder and back related mostly, with a few calf raises. Things to help keep my shoulders healthy on the whole. The calf raises were again jerk related. The ab work focused on hanging knee and leg raises, weighted crunches, pallof press, and cable twists. The hanging work also worked my grip. (As did the deadlifts as I used only chalk, and did not use straps in any of this training.) It might sound a lot, but I had it down to just over an hour. Three hours of strength work is not excessive in a week. I tried not to rest during the accessory work and abs, so it increased the cardio effort.
I thoroughly enjoyed the whole progression. And getting a 90kg squat to parallel, and 122.5kg deadlift as one rep maxes 🙂 I was pretty stoked (to steal a phrase from my US friends) by those numbers. I had originally maxed at 120kg, so equalling my previous PB, but with no straps. But I was so determined that the next week I forced myself to get the extra. Brace against the floor FTW. At a body weight of 61.9kg, I’m also pretty much claiming them as 2x bodyweight deadlift and 1.5kg squat. For the sake of a few grams that, as a friend pointed out, I could sweat out 😉
Don’t be afraid to lift heavy. You don’t get big bulky unless you try hard. And for women, try even harder. Being strong is awesome.
Next goals, kettlebells aside, are now to do ten consecutive pull-ups, ten consecutive chin-ups, and a freestanding handstand. Not necessarily in the same training session. A bit of a different take on the strength aspect, but you gotta be hella strong to do those!
P.S.: I was going to use a lion as the image for this, but hell, why not a kitten! They all aspire to be like their larger and stronger lion cousins. And amuse me in the process 🙂 I’m aspiring too!