Thursday, August 9, 2012

Adelfo Cerame: When The Paralympics are Calling You Better Keep Track of Your Progress... and Here's How!

Image 1: Rio's beauties are already waiting for Adelfo to lift them up, literally of course!
I guess a few of you will be laughing, when they read the introductory paragraphs of today's installment of Adelfo Cerame Jr's weekly SuppVersity guest post, but you should know better than to (mis-)take Adelfo's powerlifting plans for a joke. I am not sure if his physique is anywhere near optimal for his career as a Paralympic, as Usain Bolt's long legs surprisingly are for sprinting at the "regular" Olympics (cf. Erikson 2009), but I know that he has the balls, ... ah, pardon, the mindset (!) to make it to the Paralympics 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. And as you can see in image 1 the beautiful Brazilian women are going to receive our future Paralympic powerlifting champion with open arms, one more reason for Adelfo to track his progress appropriately  ;-)

Planting Ideas, Tracking Progress, Harvesting Success

Image 2: Once planted ideas often
grow into dreams, dreams into plans
and plans into reality
“Most of us get into bodybuilding because we feel that our athletic days are behind us, but then we discover we can still be athletic; in the end it may even make you a much better bodybuilder…”
– Rich Lauro
For a while I've wanted to branch out and broaden my horizons, and find different outlets to showcase my athleticism other than just bodybuilding. I don't know if some of you saw my Facebook post the other night jokingly mentioning I wanted to train for the Paralympics 2016. *lol*... when I wrote that, it was really nothing but a joke - or at least, that was what I was thinking. The seed kind of got planted in my mind when someone at my gym asked me if I ever thought about training for the Paralympics

… and initially it was in fact nothing but one of those comments you hear and reply "Not really, no. Never really crossed my mind", I was just about to continue with my next set, when he added "Well as strong as you are I’m surprised, your ass isn’t over there for the Paralympics games"... *whatever* I smiled, and shrugged it off, and got on to my next set and forgot about the whole incident - not for long, though: When I was back home I started to dwell on it; you know how that goes, when the seed is planted, the wheels start turning and the ideas start flowering.

Paralympics, me? No... ah, I mean... well, YES!

So I logged on to facebook and made the initially mentioned post asking whether people had any idea in which sports I could possible compete at the Paralympics and f all the suggestions there was one that really stood out: POWERLIFTING! In a very different context I had been contemplating the idea of competing in a meet before - not at the Paralympics, though, but this was truly up my alley... powerlifiting. The seed it had been planted and now it was flowering.

Image 3: "I have always been contemplating to participate in a meet. So why not give it a try, now?"
Coincidentally, I ran into a power lifter the other day at the gym, so I took the chance and started to ask questions and pick his brain about how I would or should go about it… long story short, he said that he was doing a small local meet in December, and that he would be happy if I took the chance to start there! Yeah, I know what you are thinking... but I guess, I'll have to save a date in December, now! This does obviously imply that I got to make a couple of adjustments to my training regimen in order to be cater to both my bodybuilding and powerlifting goals. Nothing impossible, and I do already know whom I am going to ask for advice: Mr. Rob Regish be wary you are soon going to get a call ;-)

One thing that is going to be even more important for me, then is to keep track of my progress, both strength, as well as physique wise and that, i.e. keeping track of your progress easy and effectively is therefore going to be our topic for today's installment of my weekly SuppVersity column, as well.

Tracking progress – bodyweight, body composition and strength.

In the end it does not matter whether you train for the Olympic, Paralympic, the Olympia or just to look good, feel good and stay healthy. Tracking your progress is not just important, because it keeps you accountable. It is also important to be able to propel your progress... how are you going to know what works and what doesn't if you just go to the gym day in and day out and go by "how you feel"?

In the following I will thus briefly address the three most important outcome variables every serious trainee (and this includes everyone who does not just go to the gym to meet friends or hit on the girls) simply has to keep track of: bodyweight, body composition and strength.
  • Bodyweight - As you all know I’m not a big fan of the scale for monitoring progress, and I’ve learned not to depend on using the scale to monitor my progress just for the simple fact that it is not convenient for me to always find an accessible scale to weigh myself on a weekly basis.
    The mirror is my favorite and most resourceful tool in tracking progress because what you see in the mirror does not lie. It may play mind games with you from time to time, especially if you stare too long, but it never lies.
    Still you are losing fat you are losing, or maximally maintaining weight -repartitioning as in getting heavier and losing fat at the same time happens, if at all, only in very chubby, under-muscled beginners. Consequently the scale can be somewhat resourceful because it can give you a broad orientation on whether or not you have to increase your food intake, or at least adjust your macronutrient ratios.
    Let me give you an example: Usually the universal rule of thumb for losing weight/fat loss is "Lose ~1-1.5 pounds/week". This "rule" is meant to ensure that the vast majority of your weight loss can come from fat - you can easily lose 1.5lbs of pure muscle per pound, as well, but chances this is happening is very slim if you did your homeworks and get your daily dose of SuppVersity news and 1.5lbs is a realistic amount of fat (not weight) your body will willingly sacrifice without cannibalizing its skeletal muscle tissue. If now, the scale says that you are losing weight too fast or too slow, you know that you have to act and adjust your energy intake, or modify your training to keep your metabolic engine humming at an overall higher pace... yeah, I know "but isn't the calories in vs. calories out hypothesis flawed?", I bet that's what you were just about to say, right? Yeah it is. It is fundamentally flawed if you interpret it literally, but only with respect to the idea that you could actually calculate the difference between intake and expenditure by any standardized formula. That this is impossible does yet not mean that what has worked for generations of physique athletes, i.e. adapting your energy intake accordingly by eating more when you lose weight too fast and eating less, when you lose weight too slow does not work.
    Image 4: Don't torture and confuse yourself weigh yourself once a week. Do it always in the morning, always on the same day and don't have the result determine how you feel the next 7 days. The figures can be useful, yes, but they can hurt your progress and your psyche, as well!
    How and when to weigh yourself? I usually recommend weighing yourself every Monday morning once you wake up after doing your morning toiletry duties. The reason to do it early in the morning is that your weight will fluctuate in the course of the day, and you want the most objective and reliable measure you can get, which is for 99% of the people their morning weight. Whether you do it on Monday or another day does not really matter. I pick Monday, because Sunday is the 7th day not just of the regular weekday, but also of my training week, so that I weigh myself always after a whole week worth of training and dieting.
    I strongly discourage weighing yourself more often, let alone on a daily basis. Not just because the figures your scale will show are basically worthless due to the hilarious fluctuation, but also because it will mislead you to change your regimen on a daily basis and trust me, that will stop all progress regardless of whether you want to build muscle or lose fat, right in track
  • Body composition The ratio of your lean to your fat mass is something we have already touched upon in the remarks on tracking your body weight. The scale, which is a viable tool to assess how your body weight is developing is however not well-suited to assess your body composition (and this is also true for the so-called body fat monitors which send an electric current right through your balls and give you some insight into how well-hydrated your lower body is).
    Image 5 ( I am all for building the best legs you can, but if you look in the mirror or at your progress pics and see quads like those Olympian mountain biker Robert Forstermann is carrying around, you should rethink your leg training - unless the rest of your body matches the monstrosity you see, of course ;-)
    A much better tool than these no longer expensive, but still as useless body fat scales are a camera and a mirror - also and in particular because the scale would not tell you when you are about to develop monster quads like Robert Forstermann (see image 5). A mirror and pictures will tell you everything you need to know: Ranging from leanness, symmetry, conditioning, on to muscularity (or as in Forstermann's case "over-muscularity". I usually take photos every 2 or 3 weeks, I think that’s a good amount of time after which you can actually see significant changes within your physique. When you have a competition coming up and try to really dial in your form you can still shorten the intervals, but as in the case of weighing yourself taking photos everyday and even every other day is really beside the point.
  • Tracking strength - This is where I have to make a confession: I have hitherto not been the most consistent as far as tracking my progress in the gym is concerned – I don’t like having to carry a log book with me in the gym writing down every single detail of my workout - I just want to lift! I do understand, however, how important it is to keep track of my strength progression and do just that by hacking the weight I used on my main lifts into my computer, when I am home from the gym.
    How to log your weights effectively? To make it simple, I only keep track of the basic compound lifts. For you this would be the bench, squats, deads, pull-ups, bent over rows (or DB rows) and military presses.
    How to use the strength data to propel your progress?Now logging all the data would be of little use, if you would not use it to your advantage. I personally approach this the same way I do with my contest diets: I like to take the gradual, slow and steady approach. I try to increase the weight by as little as 5-pounds, but I try to do so as soon as I feel the weights are getting lighter week. This way my body and mind can adapt to a certain weight before increasing it. Plus, this gives you the confidence you need to actually master the heavier weight, confidence you would sacrifice for anxiety, when you force yourself to progress too fast, just because an arbitrary preformed plan says that it's time to add another plate on both sides.
Whether your bring a notebook, use your smartphone or do it like me and log your weights, when you come home, in the end it is the same for all of us: Only when your weights, your weight and your physique as it shows on your progress photos into a common log (for example in an Excel spread-sheet where you plot the weights, your body weight and add your photos as thumbnails), you'll have all the information you need to decide, whether or not you are on track to wherever you want to go... I mean, you would not try to find your way in a city you don't know without a map or a navigation device, would you?

I guess you know what your homework for next week is, then... apropos, I did not have time to do mine.(see "Back From Vegas: Mr. C. Doesn't Like His Veggies! Plus: Chicken Breast, Broccoli and Beyond!") The promised videos of me doing the exercises Eric Minor taught me will be online next Thursday ;-)

References from Dr. Andro's introductory paragraph:
  • Reiksenl HK, Kristianssen JR, Langangen O, Wehus K. How fast could Usain Bolt have run? A dynamical study. American Journal of Physics. 2009; 77:3, 224.