For two months now, the clue phone has been ringing just waiting for me to pick up on some fundamental elements of lifting. Today, I finally answered the call. When I did two very important pieces of the lifting puzzle fell into place.

Strength Session
Overhead Squats

Since Day 1 people have been telling me use “active shoulders” when you lift. “Make sure you engage your shoulders.” All this time I thought I knew what they were talking about and I thought I was doing it right. During the warm ups today, Coach Stew told us to make sure we’re “shrugging our shoulders up and holding it all through the lift.” I could feel the difference immediately, even with the PVC pipe. Everything was just much more stable.

The other thing that people have been telling me since Day 1 is “you need to have a tight core.” Variations on that theme include “tight abs, tight ass,” or “imagine pulling your belly button toward your butt.” I’ve been translating that as “suck in my gut.” Thanks to Big D, I’ve discovered that’s not the whole equation. He clued me in that it’s the same muscle control that a man would exercise when trying to stop himself from urinating mid-stream.

OK, it’s graphic I admit, but it works for me! That’s an explanation that I can understand, remember and implement. So the next time you look at me mid-lift, I’m either concentrating on my form or simply trying not to wet myself! You can judge for yourself and may want to give a bit of room. After all that might not be a sweat pile on the floor. But I digress…by putting both of these things together I had a great lifting session.

Last time I did OHS was on 9/8. I looked back at my notes from that date. We were doing 2 rep sets that day and I’ve got comments like “whew!” “Tough” and a couple of obscenities penciled into my journal. I worked up to 80lbs that day, but had no confidence in the lift. So I did an extra set at 75lbs and a bunch of reps with a bare bar to reinforce form.

Today, with a new confidence in my form, I did a few reps with a bare bar and confirmed that by shrugging my shoulders up throughout the lift and concentrating on my core the entire lift felt FAR more stable. Stable enough that I started my first set at 75 lbs. No worries. Felt great. I did as second set at the same weight to reinforce the form. It felt good. Coach Stew observed the set and noticed I was shifting to the balls of my feet. He advised me to go grab a couple of 5lb plates to position on the floor where my heels should be and to stand on those during the lift. It gives me something to concentrate on and automatically positions my feet as they would be if I was wearing lifting shoes.  While I was grabbing those I also grabbed 2 extra 5 lb plates to take the bar to 85 lbs.

I got two of the three reps at 85 lbs. I lost the bar on the last rep. My grip was slipping and I shifted my hands a bit. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until I was down in the squat that I’d inadvertently thrown my balance off. The bar pitched to one side as I was coming up and I lost it.

Coach Stew also pointed out that I tend to stay down in my squat a long time. He told me to “be quick.” The next set of three at 85 lbs was felt so good that I jumped up to 95 lbs for the 5th set. When I put it all together, it really felt great. Shrugged up shoulders, tight core, well balanced feet and a quick motion all had me psyched up enough to go for an extra set at 105. That set while very taxing also felt very stable. So overall that’s a 25 lbs and a roughly 23% improvement over the same lift a month ago! More reps, more weight, more confidence, more stable lifts all add up to a very satisfied Paulie.

21-15-9 For Time:
Overhead Squat (115/75)
Ring Dips

You could make the case that I didn’t pace myself well for the total WOD, but I really don’t care. By the time I was done with the strength session, in combination with yesterday’s WOD, my shoulders were very tired.

I scaled this back to a 65lb bar for the OHS so I could ensure consistent solid form. I used a blue band for the ring dips. I contemplated abandoning the rings and doing dips on a rack, but decided to stay with the group and scale. With 45 reps, I probably would have needed a band to get through all the reps anyway, so I decided to stay on the rings.

Ultimately I finished this in 7:26 in the middle of the pack of the day’s athletes. So I consider that pretty on target. I got through the first set of OHS unbroken. That was not the case for the last two sets, so that seems appropriate. I didn’t finish any of the ring dip sets unbroken. Those are some tough, tough exercises.

Looking back at the week, I’m pretty satisfied with my performance and training. Psyched enough that I’m planning on picking up an extra workout on Sunday afternoon. I can’t make the morning WODs, but I’d like to get to the afternoon sessions during Bull City Open Streets. I’d like to get the extra workout in, hang out with the crew as well as do a bit of ambassadorship and testify for anyone who happens to wander in. The gym has given me so much in the past few months, I’d like to try and give a bit back. If I can hang out a while and encourage and motivate others to try it, I’m glad to do it. Let’s face it, I obviously enjoy talking about this stuff, right?