Do you even lift? Well, a little bit

Now that we have a couple of months of BJJ under our belts, the Fortnight of Kish and the holiday season out of the way, my wife and I are aiming to add strength training back into our routines.

Jean Luc doesn't care that you broke your foot, or are tired, or whatever.

Jean Luc doesn’t care that you broke your foot, or are tired, or whatever.

A quick back story to set up our current program and goals. We had started basic barbell training earlier in 2012 as a way to get in better shape. I had fracture my foot while running, and had a slight panic about how this incident could be the one that spirals me into becoming middle-aged and obese. My theory is that no one intends to be 40 with a BMI to match, they do so gradually, usually born from a small, legitimate reason… like, “dang, broken foot, guess I can’t workout for a few months”. The next stage is the wholly illogical “I’d start exercising more but I’m too tired and out of shape” excuse, and then mix in the escalating child and career responsibilities and BAM, you’re 40 and get winded going up the stairs.

So, I told myself that wasn’t going to happen, did some research into what being “fit” actually means.

Through this research, I saw that strength training (high weight, low reps rather than the opposite) was a vital component of fitness. Through some really great resources (70′s big, r/weightroom, starting strength, LBR, Stronglifts 5×5, mobilityWOD) I followed a basic linear progression program from scratch (i.e. just the bar to start), paid strict(-ish) attention to proper form and put in the time. I did the Stronglifts program from February to May and Wendler’s 5/3/1 from May to August (with some breaks along the way for vacations, sickness, etc.), and my strength gains were as follows:

  • low bar back squat – 45 to 255 lbs for 5 reps
  • bench press – 45 to 195 for 3 reps
  • overhead press – 45 to 135 for 3 reps
  • deadlift – 90 to 335 for 3 reps

I mixed in some other exercises along the way, some more than others, like chin ups, 3 to 6k runs and interval sprint training. At one point, lb back squats were troubling my hips, so I switched to front squats, which in hindsight has been a great decision. Also, I was introduced to Olympic lifts, which I really liked. I should note that this was all made possible by having a squat rack, barbell and weights at home in the basement. I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I had to go out to the gym to do it. Home gym, FTW! (Edit: I know these numbers and program aren’t impressive or groundbreaking  I’m pretty sure anyone could achieve the same with a little effort, likely in a shorter time. My level: beginner.)

Tl;dr – I got in much better shape and stronger by following some very basic principles. I really didn’t push it very hard (i.e. not many 1-rep max attempts), just allowed the linear progression to gradually move me forward.

We took a break from training when we started BJJ because we didn’t want to impede BJJ training. We had heard that it was really physically demanding and didn’t want to burn the candle at both ends. Now that we’re into it, we’d like to supplement and support BJJ with a reasonable training program that a) will benefit our BJJ, and b) not be too demanding on our already tight lifestyle/schedule. Since we can only really fit in two BJJ sessions a week (plus open mat on occasion), we’re looking to follow a 2 day/week program.

As of now, this looks something like:

Day 1

  • Front squat (5/3/1 scheme)
  • OHP (5/3/1 scheme)
  • Romanian deadlift (sets across)

Day 2

  • Deadlift (5/3/1 scheme)
  • Chin ups (LP)
  • Sprints (8 rounds, 10% incline, 12 km/hr)

At some point, I’d like to add power cleans to one of the days, or what’s even more likely is making the switch entirely to Olympic lifts. (Full disclaimer: Olympic lifts are fun and all, but the little kid in me just likes having an excuse/reason to say the word ‘snatch‘ in mixed company).

My long term goals include being able to wrestle with my boys, and to be able to play and enjoy hockey, BJJ or other activities without fear of looking bad and/or out of shape. I’ve made some 2013 goals for BJJ, but I don’t really have and gains I’m looking to make, or numbers I’m trying to hit. I’ve scaled the weight way back on all lifts, and for now the goal is to slowly make my way back into the neighbourhood I was in before. We’ll see how this goes. I did session #1 on Sunday night, and have the first workout DOMS right now, but once my body acclimatizes, I think this program will be fine.


One response to “Do you even lift? Well, a little bit

  • BJJ Session # 15 – No gi « Around the Harbour

    [...] In my regular gi class, we jumped right into some drills. One of the reasons for this was because of the turnout, which was the most I’ve seen so far. 13 or 14 guys, which for our small school, was a lot.  First, a few round of grip fighting.This is getting… better. I’m trying to focus on maintaining my posture and getting a feel for my partners’ strength, base and momentum. I felt a lot less fatigued, and while I still don’t really know what I’m doing, I feel more confident… which is at least something.  Also, I felt pretty good during the class, maybe even in better overall condition, something I found surprising since I had just got back under the bar that week. [...]

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