Thursday, February 2, 2012

Adelfo Cerame - Road to Wheelchair Nationals '12: Reviving an Ancient Training Technique - Intensified Reverse Pyramid Training For "Disgusting" Graininess and Vascularity!

Image 1: "The Rock", Dwayne Johnson, certainly looked less "disgusting" as the Scorption King in The Mummy Returns ;-)
If I had not seen his latest pics, which were taken after my friend Adelfo went on his new torture ... ah, pardon... I mean, training regimen, I would certainly voice more concerns about the latest increase in training volume by which he intends to bring his physique to yet another "next level", or as he would probably put it: "To make my muscle look even more disgusting"... I guess, in this regard, it is actually a very smart move to borrow some "torture techniques" from the past. I mean, the mummies from the pyramids are unquestionably "disgusting", right? But before I delve deeper into the history of ancient Egypt, I better hand over to Adelfo and let him tell you what kind of pyramid he had on mind, when he planned his latest routine...

7 weeks out and getting closer: Separation, veins and grainy muscle

I am now 7 weeks out and I have been very pleased with my progress. Day by day, I'm seeing more and more separation in my muscles and in certain parts of my muscle, the fibers begin to show through the the skin. In view of the current low carb craze and the notion that even the slightest amount of sugar will make you hold tons of water it is quite ironic that it was the re-incorporation of carbs into my post workout meals, which made my muscles not only look fuller, but also much harder. And while I cannot tell whether this is simply a result of the increase in muscle glycogen, the measuring tape tells me that my arms have grown! Last I checked they were 17 ¼ and when I measured today, they are now 17 ½ …  whatever the reason may be, it certainly feels and looks neat ;-)

Here are some current progress pictures, and will probably be the last that I post in a while until I get closer to show time. I feel I can still make some significant changes in my physique, and I want you, my dear readers to be able to see the difference from now and 7 weeks later…
Image 2: 7 weeks out - my arms are now at 17 ½ inches from 17 ¼ and my waist is down to a 28" from a 29". My BF% reads 4-5 % on my digital calipers but I’m pretty sure it’s a bit off so I’d like to say 6% or 7%... maybe 8%? Just to be on the safe side. Don’t know my weight either; last I checked during the holidays, it was 141 lbs.
As I already pointed out in several of my previous blogposts, here at the SuppVersity, I am a firm believer in constant progress. There is always room for improvements, and here are those I know I can and am determined to make in the seven weeks to the show:
  • Although I am starting to notice that my lower back is coming up the way I want it (you may remember the issue if you listened to Dr. Andro's and my interview with Carl Lanore, last week). Still it seems like a long shot, but I’m making it a priority to do weighted chin-ups 2x a week to try and really stimulate my lower lower lats and maybe even the lower trunk muscles in the back... well, at least that part of those muscles, that actually still respond to the signals my brain is sending. It's somewhat awkward not to know if the whole problem is a result of the spinal cord injury or just me not paying enough attention to a muscle, I rarely use, as I simply cannot do those exercises which are the most demanding for the stabilizing muscles of the lower back.
  • Despite the fact that my muscle separation has improved significantly over the last couple of days, I am positive that I can still improve it - particularly in the area where my biceps, triceps and side deltoids meet and tie together.
  • The same is true for my abdominals. They look neat, already. The separations are showing, but still... I have even begun to include regular ab exercises in my regimen, this week. I know that I have mentioned before that you don't actually have to train your abs to get a six pack, and that diet alone will bring your abs out and shine in their full glory. For someone who cannot to squats or deadlifts, however, a few crunches could in fact make a difference. And since I don't want to leave anything to chance, I rather spent the additional five minutes on ab work then later see an "L" instead of a "Win" in the column on the score boards.
  • At the same time, I am still trying to perfect that "super" vascular, grainy and disgusting look *lol* I got 7 weeks to make that happen and certainly will spare no effort.
I guess, it goes without saying that I am not going to achieve all that without some changes and those of you who have read last weeks installment, will be aware that I already felt that my body was getting use to the EDT and 5x5 regimen that I have been doing for the past couple months now. The intensity of the workouts just didn’t feel like earlier in my prep. And while I was not sure if my body just needed any type of change, or whether it actually needed to be pushed harder, the signals were pretty clear: There was something to be done to (re-)intensify my workouts, if I wanted progress, not stagnation - let alone regress.
A brief note for those who have not followed the whole series: For the past months my training regimen consisted of escalating density (EDT) and 5x5 training - low reps, heavy weights. Aside from what my diet obviously did, I feel that the low(-er) reps and heavy(-ier) loads have helped me a lot to increase my strength and gains, while still being able to cut significant amounts of body fat, something, which is obviously not common, when you are on a non-negligible caloric deficit.
So, I thought to myself… "How can I increase the volume in my training, yet still maintain lifting a heavy load as I did with EDT and 5x5 training?" From my experience with high volume training, you often think that you lift as hard as you can, but with the high amount of reps and sets on your mind, you are always leaving some gas in the tank, so to say, and end up settling for moderate weights and ever-increasing amounts of half-heartedly executed reps.

Reverse pyramid training - a routine about as ancient as the Pyramids on the Giza Plateau

I was not looking for a concrete routine, as you know that I like to build those around the moves that work best for me, but rather for a "training style", something like EDT, or 5x5, a "training paradigm", if you will, that would allow me to train at a higher volume, but still at maximal intensity. The thing that eventually caught my eye is something many of you will probably call an old hat: reverse pyramid training (RPT).

Image 3: In case you think there is something wrong with this picture, you probably have not heard of the famous "reverse pyramid",  right?
If you are familiar with pyramid training, (which, I assume, the average SuppVersity will be ;-), you already now what RPT is: It is basically just the opposite of the classical pyramid. Instead of beginning with your lightest weight, to then gradually increase the load, you start with the heaviest weight you can handle for 4-6 reps, then just pyramid down by dropping the load while increasing the reps, while continuously pushing yourself to list as heavy and do as many reps as you can... pretty straight forward, right? What attracted me to this regimen is that I can start out lifting really heavy. Compared to starting with a lighter weight, this allows for an overall greater workload (as in amount of weight x reps) and that was what I was looking for, eventually.

Making a routine "my routine": More sets, more reps more exercises

At least those of you who are not new to this series will yet know that whenever I "apply" a new method, be it diet or, as in this case, training-wise, I make a few tweaks and adjustments according to my contemporary goals. Therefore, you may be surprised to hear that the only real "adjustment" I made, is to add in even more sets and reps... and I know what you are thinking now: "Still more? Adelfo is going crazy! That's too many exercises, the sessions will be too long and at best this is going to be un- at worst counter-productive." In that, you are probably making some good points, but like I said: This is what I feel will work for me at this point in time... and if I am wrong? Then I will keep tweaking until it works ;-)
Tables 1-2: My new RPT routine; due to the fact that I do the Gironda dips unweighed, I don't use the pyramid in this particular exercise.
As you can see in table 1-2, each workout consists of 7 exercises total and 6 sets for each exercise, with a rep scheme starting from 4 reps, 6 reps, 8 reps and so on... increasing the reps while gradually decreasing load. For my first two sets of 4 reps, and 6 reps, I lift as heavy as possible - just as I would during an EDT or 5x5 session. And being able to do just that, is what makes the beauty of this routine. On the flat bench, for example, I start my first set with 275 lbs, then gradually drop the load by 5 lbs, each set, so that by the time I hit my 6th set, I am lifting 225 lbs for 14 reps. I try to drop the load by as little as possible (in this case 5lbs steps) from set to set, to ensure that the intensity does not drop and I still lift as heavy as I can.

My body was done after Monday and Tuesday’s workout! I haven’t felt that sore in a while.

Image 3: Adelfo during his firefighting days before the accident. While he was not exactly athletic, he never had weight issues with all the physical labor. If you want to know more, read up on Adelfo's SuppVersity Student Spotlight
In case you decide to try that out, yourself, you will notice that as you go through your sets, reps and exercises, the volume and the load begin to wear you down and muscular fatigue sets in, so that it is becoming increasingly harder to stick to just dropping 5 lbs if you want to really feel the muscle on your next set and not just to partial reps to get the work done. Mid-way through the workouts it is thusly advisable to start dropping the weight faster - like 10-15 pounds or more per set. Eventually you get to a point in the latter part of your workout where even the lightest load becomes unbearably heavy… I guess, you know this feeling you get when your mind tells you that you’ve lifted this weight time and time again with no problem, but your muscles just wont budge?! This is the price you have to pay, if you, just like me, want to increase pace and volume, without having to sacrifice the intensity of your workouts...

Even when I started out doing EDT training, I wasn’t that sore. The last time my body felt this... I guess, "painfully good" is the right way to describe it, was when I came home from work after a day of hiking mountains, digging fire lines, and fighting forest fires. So, in case you are someone with a masochistic vein, I suggest you grab your gymback and give my routine a try... ah, and if you can, let me know how you feel when you are done. A pros pos, I am done for this week, at least as far as my weekly blogpost is concerned. Until next Thursday, then - same time, same place!