Friday, June 20, 2014

A Year of Training in Review: June 2013-June 2014

My wife and I got married almost one year ago to the day. The last year has been a whirlwind for us, as we went from living almost an hour apart to living in our first apartment together. Two weeks ago, we got the keys to our first home. Another big thing that happened last June was I felt injury-free enough to start seriously tracking my training progress.

The week I got back from our honeymoon, I made a conscious decision to focus on the few lifts that I could do, which back in June of 2013 were very few (deadlifts, chin ups, front squats, crawling). The thought process at the time was that although I still had a lot of shoulder and upper back pain, I could track progress in a few big "bang for your buck" areas that worked everything, and hopefully as I continued to heal I could begin to incorporate more and more variety in to my programming.

When I look at my progress in terms of a year, I am honestly taken aback by how far I've come. Not only in strength--yes, I'm quite a bit stronger than I was a year prior. But the area I am most pleased with is my level of shoulder, neck, and t-spine dysfunction. One year ago, I still had chronic headaches, I couldn't do any kind of retraction of my shoulder blades because of an angry facet joint somewhere around T3-T4, and this made it so any kind of rowing, pulling, or pushing movement was out of my programming entirely. Crazy, right? The things I was best at doing were isometric holds, deadlifts, and front squats. Crawling was a big part of my warm up, as well as my upper body strength routine--but that only goes so far. I knew that. I was putting my faith in the tools at my disposal (my Mckenzie Method certified physical therapist, who was guiding me with specific drills to do for my shoulder and upper back), and in God to continue healing me.

Fast forward a year, and my shoulder feels 90 percent healed. I only get pain with flexion and internal rotation, but it is minimal. I also get a little impingement with end range external rotation, but it's getting there and still making progress. My upper back no longer bothers me, and if I do anything to aggravate it, I know exactly what I need to do to manage my symptoms and return to neutral, so to speak. My neck is the same way--not bothersome, but manageable if it becomes so. It's been a big year for me.

Whether it's from correlation, or causation, or a bit of both, the interesting thing is to look at my lifts and weights from 2013, and compare them to now. In June of 2013 I set a goal to deadlift twice my bodyweight, front squat and bench press 1.5 times my body weight, and back squat twice my body weight. I also have a goal of doing a pull up with the "Beast" kettlebell, which weighs 106 pounds. All of these goals were pretty lofty then, because in order to achieve them, not only would I have to get stronger, but I would have to heal up certain parts of my body in order to even incorporate the back squat and pull up in to my routine and begin training them!

In order to best illustrate where I was starting from a year ago, when I was finally able to do pushups, bench press, and pull ups, I was only able to crank out about five reps of the body weight drills, and only about 115 pounds in the bench press (I weigh 160). A few years ago, when I was a college track athlete, I could bench 215 (at 150 pounds), crank out 25 pull ups, and do about 50 quality pushups at a pop. To say these injuries have caused me to lose some strength is an understatement. Feast your eyes:

June 2013  (5 Rep Maxes)                                                                    June 2014 (5 Rep Maxes)
Back Squat: N/A (Started in September at 165)                                     Back Squat: 245
Deadlift: 180                                                                                          Deadlift: 270
Bench Press: N/A (Started in March at 115)                                          Bench Press: 155 (Haven't                                                                                                                        benched in 9 weeks since 
                                                                                                               I hurt my thumb in April)
Chin Up: 5x bodyweight                                                                       Chin Up: 45lb
Pull Up: N/A (Started in May 2014)                                                      Pull Up: 15lb
Front Squat: 130                                                                                    Front Squat: 200 (Haven't front                                                                                                                 squatted since March when I 
                                                                                                              began feeling issues in my R                                                                                                                     hip, then hurt my thumb. Hip is                                                                                                                 good now, just can't hold bar                                                                                                                   yet! Began doing Zercher                                                                                                                         Squats instead in May)

Among other things, here is a list of exercises/movements I could NOT do a year ago, and can do them now without pain:
-Single arm kettlebell swing
-Single arm kettlebell clean
-Kettlebell snatch
-Kettlebell press
-Kettlebell windmill
-Sidelying windmill
-Any form of t-spine rotation drills
-Stick windmills

To say it has been a successful year both personally and professionally would be an understatement. But I owe it all to the gracious creator who seems to want me to use my experience to help others, and he is healing me gradually so I can help more people in more ways. I can't wait to see what the next year will bring. I imagine that I'll be able to get to that 2x bodyweight level with another year of training under my belt, and with that, hopefully some more balance in my pushing/pulling strength, as well as between my upper and lower body!

Until next year...

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