I started my third week in my Power Cycle this week. On Monday, I hit chest, triceps and calves. Basically, the Power Cycle allows me to slowly build up my strength by doing multiple sets (3) of two basic exercises with gradually increasing poundages. The first week, I did sets of 5 reps, the second week sets of 4 reps and this week I did sets of 3 reps. Next week, I will go back to 5 reps but use the weight I used on the second week and not the first. This way, I will finish off the cycle with more weight than I used in the beginning.
For my chest workout, I am doing two basic exercises – barbell bench press and incline dumbbell press. I finish off with 2-3 sets of a shaping exercise, flat dumbbell flyes. My barbell bench press is probably my weakest exercise of all the movements I do. I need to really build up the development and strength of my triceps muscles because I think this is the cause of my lack of strength in the bench press.
After dieting so many months last year, my strength went down further than I anticipated. To begin the power cycle two weeks ago, I started with only 225 pounds on the bench press for 5 reps. Last week, I did 235 pounds for 4 reps and this week, I was up to 245 pounds for sets of 3 reps.
My training partner Maks is super psyched about our training this year and he wants to make some great progress. Maks is only 22 years old and his goal is to get both bigger and stronger. Of course, at 22 years old, he doesn’t have to worry about aching joints, bad lower backs or declining testosterone levels. However, he is struggling with a hyper fast metabolism that won’t allow him to put on any weight. I remember those days.
Maks is closing in on 190 pounds and he wants to get up to 200 pounds and over this year. He’s using Optimum Nutrition’s Pro Complex Gainer to supplement his diet and help him gain weight. I, on the other hand, am hovering around 200 pounds and just trying to stay lean as I add muscle mass and strength. Maks would give anything to be 200 pounds. I could get to 220 pounds just by having a bad weekend. Different ages, different goals, different strategies.
I went up to 245 pounds on the bench press today for an easy 3 reps. On the third and final set, Maks talked me into using 255 pounds and that went up pretty easy too. I know it seems like ridiculously light weight but it felt good to finally start adding some strength after being so lean last year. Maks did 255 easily and he is building up his strength again after taking a few weeks off for the holidays.
Incline dumbbell presses were the second exercise we did. I’m much stronger on the dumbbell inclines than I am on the barbell flat bench. I did the 90’s in week one and the 100’s last week. This week, I started with the 110’s for an easy 4 reps. I felt like I could have gotten a couple more reps but I played it conservative and saved my strength by only doing four reps.
We finished our chest workout off with 3 sets of flat dumbbell flyes. If you’ve seen my training video Real Muscle (available on the Home Gym Warehouse), you know that I do flyes with my legs off the floor to really isolate the chest muscles. I’m pretty strong on flyes also. I did the 65 pound dumbbells on week one, the 70’s on week two and I used the 75’s this week for 3 sets of 7 reps. This gave me a good pump in the chest to finish the workout. The lower reps on the bench press and dumbbell incline press didn’t allow me to really get a good pump.
For triceps, we are sticking with the two mass-builders during the Power Cycle, close-grip bench press and dips. I did 185 for 3 sets of 5 reps on week 1 with the close-grip bench press. Last week, I went up to 195 for 4 reps and that was pretty easy. Today, I did 205 pounds for 3 reps for the first two sets and then went up to 215 pounds for 3 reps on the last set, thanks to Maks pushing me to use a heavier weight to finish off.
Dips was the second movement for triceps. I went up to a 45 pound plate for extra resistance today and did two sets of 4 reps and then only made 3 reps on the last set. My goal is to lock out on the top of the exercise to activate the medial head of the muscle (the belly of the triceps) and then lower really slowly until my upper arms are parallel to the floor before pushing hard back to the top.
Our last triceps exercise was lying tricep extensions (aka “skull crushers”). I started with 100 pounds for an easy 10 reps and then finished with two sets of 8 reps with 120 pounds. The lying tricep extensions work the long head of the muscle and the higher reps helped to pump more blood into the triceps.
Finally, Maks and I finished off the workout with calves. We started with Seated Calf Raises for the important soleus muscle of the calves. Since the soleus muscle is mostly red muscle fibers, we did high reps on this exercise. I started with 90 pounds for 20 reps on the first set, 140 pounds for 15 reps on the second set, and finished with 200 pounds for 8 and 7 reps, respectively, on the third and fourth sets.
I included 20 minutes of cardio on the treadmill, setting the speed at 3.2 mph and the incline at 8.5, for a fast walk. I’m still doing at least three days a week of cardio in the off season to stay lean (and off set the occasional binging of chocolate chip cookies that seems to occur several times a week). I weighed 202 at the end of the workout and looked pretty pumped and full when it was all over. Good training session today!