Southwood +…

Posted: April 18, 2011 in Posts

After finishing MMS many new discoveries have given me reason to change my approach to training. One, anytime I’m trying to gain a lot of something, strength, mass, etc. I’m shifting towards higher intensity, higher volume, less frequent workouts. Two, my upper body needs help. Dan John’s Southwood program looks to have a good focus on upper body work, while not neglecting the legs and building a lot of explosive moment capacity. It does it with four lifts:

Power Clean


Front Squat

Bench Press

The upper body emphasis is evident when you start front squatting a weight that your legs will push easily but makes you elbows tremble. Set and rep structure is simple. 8, 6, 4. I’m doing these with a weight that’s something like a 7.5 rep max.

The + comes from a lot of upper body corrective and isolation movement thrown in to combat weak areas.

The list goes:

Dumbell shrugs / Batwings

Lat Rows / Bent-over Rows

Tricep extensions / kickbakcs / one arm press with thick grips

Some kind of dumbbell/barbell curls with thick grips

Planks and ab work.

I’m doing this Mondays and Fridays. However, it’s evident that my cardio and work capacity has dropped some. Probably as a result of my dropping my general activity level during MMS. My max back squat is now 340. This is good. Flipping the big tire at work 40 times takes a brutal twice as long, even though the tire is much easier to flip. This is bad.
To correct this on Tues and Thurs I’ll be doing some heavy duty kettlebell workouts and some interval runs on Mon and Wed. KB workouts are something like:

Warm up
Stretching/foam roll
1/2 mile run or 5 min on treadmill
Mobility and Strength
Goblet Squats 3 x 10
Batwings or Lawnmower rows 3 x 10 each arm
Push ups or one arm press  3 x 10
Planks or bird dogs
Fat Burn / Cardio
10 swings / 10 strikes / 10 push ups 10 x 10
Swings and sprints ladder 10/20/30/40
swing and push up ladder 10/20/30/40
Hug swing / hammer / sprint 10 x 10
Sled sprints or farmer’s walk 5 – 10 min

Wedensdays and Sundays will be, if anything, highland games practice. Although I don’t have some key equipment and transportation issues solved just yet. I’m liking the idea of doing this program all through the summer “throwing season” hitting my local highland games again September and rolling into a month of running heavy recovery time before my annual Air Force PT test. After that it’s MMS again and 5/3/1 all winter.

Things may change, but a couple of years of  cycling through these sounds pretty good to me.



Posted: April 9, 2011 in Posts

Mass mass simple is done.

The final tally reads like so:

Bench press – starting weight for working sets 175, final 225. Starting max double, 225 (previous PR), final 245. Final max 250*.

Bat Wings – starting weight 40, final weight 65

One Arm Press – Starting weight 40, final weight 55.*

*I plateaued on my upper body work in the final three workouts of MMS. My final Max bench was the same as my previous one. However, my long held goal of being able to do some rep work  with 225 on bench has been reached and my max singles for one arm press shot up from 50 to 70 lbs despite not being able to progress past 55 for reps. Could be a number of reasons for this, stress from a six day work week and the possible government shutdown, my insomnia kicking up as a result of said stress and the seasons changing, getting a little bit of a sinus “thing” in week five. Forgetting to eat sometimes on the weekends.  I think I made a mistake in splitting the workouts on days when I had trouble finding a spotter but there’s no way to tell for sure. It’s no matter. Maxes are maxes, but in the larger view doing 5 sets of 3 with 225 shows some progress through the final weeks even if I stalled or had a bad workout or whatever on day 14.

Bird Dogs – I’m not sure if I approached these properly. Instead of doing long isometric holds for time like a plank. I did sets of multiple 10-15 second holds. I started with five each side and ended with 15 each side.

The Complex – Oh how I dread the complex. Not just the ass kickingness of them, but because I always, always forgot the damn front squats in at least one set. I started at 75 and ended using 105 for most of my sets.

Squats…my god…squats. I’ve been squatting 225 as a five rep max for a while, with moderately crappy form. So there’s no new big PR here. However, what was my five rep max is now my 20 rep max, with decent form.

Still, 60 or 70 reps in the range of your own  body weight is not something you’ll forget. The overall victory here is that my back squat, long my worst lift, is grooving nicely for a set of 10 at bodyweight and I can grind it for up to 20. That’s amazing. I love that.

The measurements are somewhat disappointing. I gained 10 pounds over six weeks, 207-217. I’m at this point nearly convinced I didn’t eat enough. The only significant increase in size is in the chest (2 inches) and the thighs (1 inch). But for all I didn’t gain on the tape measure, I gained a great deal in firmness and shape. The upper portion of my pecs are fuller. My thighs are more rounded and less of a taper to the knee. There are freaking stretchmarks in areas of my hips that are devoid of flab. I actually suspect we’ve measured two different points on my thighs, as their appearance is quite different than in my old pics. Also, I have a pair of old gym shorts that I can roll up and my thighs will hold them up for a set of squats. My forearms are much more vascular and defined. My arms don’t jiggle when I do the chicken dance.

Plus I can squat like a motherfucker now too, which is really why I did this.

The “tweaks” that are introduced during the program.

Before bed shake – This is a keeper. Not only do I sleep better (important for an insomniac) but I wake up feeling less hungover in the morning. This is something I’ll do every night regardless of what I’m doing training wise.

Pre-workout shakes – Pre-workout was bad. depending on how you define Pre-workout. 30 min to an hour before, no real effect. 30 seconds before warming up, bad idea. Hard to bench when nauseated.

Protein shake in the morning – I already did this. My breakfast is always a large protein shake, meat or eggs and oats. I’m keeping it.

Creatine – The jury’s still out on this one.

Protein after the workout – I usually ate dinner shortly after finishing a workout so I couldn’t tell if it made a difference or not.


Batwings may have helped my pull ups. Both in number and quality of reps. I still can’t go chest to bar, but I can rest my chin on the bar without craning my neck forward. I didn’t incorporated pull ups into the program, but around week four I had a what the hell moment and surprised myself with a decent set of them.


I ate more than I really imagined I could and I’m still not sure I ate enough. A typical day was Shake, sausage and/or eggs with a big bowl of oats and honey for breakfast. 9 a.m. snack would be a can of tuna, apple, hard boiled egg and a slice of wheat bread with peanut butter and honey. Lunch would be around a pound of chicken breast and a bag of frozen veggies. 2 p.m. snack was a small steak or pork chop, apple or orange, egg and bread with PB and honey. 4:30 pm snack would be another egg, bread with pb and honey, shake and some almonds. Workouts started around six. Dinner was a big pile of something that resembled lunch. Large shake, made with hormone free milk, right before bed.

I can’t recall feeling hunger pains after day three.

What next?

A week off for starters. I’ll do plenty of foam rolling and goof off a couple days this coming week. Later in the week I’ll try that max bench (I’m very zen about missing it tonight) and i’ll try a max squat. There’s a 275 pound tire that needs to be flipped for a new record number of reps. Nothing crazy though.

After that I think I’ll try the Southwood program for two days a week,  kettlebells for two days a week and not much else until warmer weather gets into full swing and it’s time to get the highland games implements out again (just a few weeks away, or even right now)

I’ll make a concerted effort to rid myself of the last of my belly fat (including the bit I put during MMS) and in October I’ll do the program again just after my Air Force PT test.

Rep Maxes.

Posted: March 26, 2011 in Posts

225 pounds was, for a long time, my five rep max in the back squat.

It is now my ten rep max. I can rep 225 ten times. I did a second set of eight.

How long did it take me to get from five reps to ten?

Four days.

Mass made simple training day 8 saw me getting sloppy on form at five reps. Grinding out five sets of five was a heroic effort. Finishing the prescribed fifty reps in sets of two or three was just as difficult.

It took one workout and and two days of rest to add five reps at 225 pounds.


Regardless of my final measurements, weight, body fat percentage, etc. just that right there is a victory.


Mass Made Simple works.

Nike Free Run+ and VFF Bikila…

Posted: March 25, 2011 in Posts

I bought a pair of each today. Having done nothing more than walk around in them I have very positive feelings about both. Obviously, my relationship with them may sour over the next few weeks and months, but so far, thumbs up for both.

VFF Bikila:

Bikila’s are intended to be a running specific variant of Fives. The sole is radically different from the original, sprint or KSO. Ground feedback is diminished some from the KSO but I think it’ll make road running in them more pleasant for people who, like me, wear them during shorter runs and aren’t trying to polish a perfect, super efficient running form. The material of both the sole and the upper is a little thicker, so I’m hoping for a warmer shoe this winter and better protection from hot pavement this summer. My only gripe so far is that they are harder to get on as the upper stretches less than the KSO.

On a style note, all the colors of the Bikila are rather vivid. So if you’re uncomfortable with people pointing at your feet and asking tons of questions, consider the Bikila LS or the TrekSports, which have more subdued coloring.

Nike Free Run+

I’ve spread Nike hate at random with a great degree of vitriol. In the past I’ve had Nike’s that fell apart in half the time of other shoes, shoes that were pretty uncomfortable and a pair of shoes that was recommended to me by a salesperson due to my having flat feet that turned sprinting into torture. While I can blame them for quality issues, I can’t really blame them for me wearing the wrong shoes. Regardless, I approached Nike Free’s like a kid approaches Tuna Casserole. People told me it was good, but I had serious doubts about it.

I’m very impressed with how well this shoe encourages and compliments a fore foot strike. The toe box is wide and roomy for duck footed people like me and the lack of seams makes it a very comfortable shoe for someone used to wearing fives. The sole provides reasonable cushion for the entire foot without feeling spongy and unstable. and this is what I got from running around the shoe department when trying them on.

I’m pleasantly surprised by this shoe. Nike has redeemed themselves a little with it. It looks like this will be a great shoe for sprints and loaded carries and would be an excellent transitional shoe for anyone looking to go from a heel strike to a forefoot strike.

Those are my initial thoughts. Should anything go wrong in the next few weeks, expect an alcohol fueled rant both here and on the offending shoes website.


Posted: March 12, 2011 in Posts

Nothing flexed, just good posture, I’m 5’10”.

Chest (around the nipples): 42 inches circumfrence

Biceps: 15 inches

Thighs: 26 inches

Shoulders: 21 inches across

Waist: 40 inches

The only thing I’m sure of is that my chest is now 2 inches bigger than the last time I was fitted for a tux. Which was my buddy Sam’s wedding. Well, I’m also sure my waist is out of regs again, but I wasn’t sucking it in.

Revisiting an old idea.

Posted: March 11, 2011 in Posts

I get a lot of ideas. There are a lot of things I’d like to try but never get around to.

Here’s one I’m revisiting; Sprinting vs. Running

I still feel I’m on to  something that, at least in my case, will work. I’ve a felling that distance running is a very binary activity, you’re either cut out for it, or you’re not. I still feel that jogging is less helpful than simply walking for an hour. After this bulk is over, it’s time to put up or shut up. But I’m not going to strictly test just sprinting. It’s mostly because I’m coming to my summer training for Highland Games and all the strength and mass I’m gaining now will be needed as I hone my technique. Also because of a few other ideas, mainly one to get fellow Airmen in shape with a program stolen from someone else, have bubbled up into my mind since I wrote Sprinting vs. Running.

I like the idea for maintaining strength while cutting lined out in this TNation article. I have no clue if it works as advertised, my gut tells me it might, but it also may injure me in the process. I’ll be using that, and a lot of kettlebell work  because it work well in my last cut. Complexes and circuit training will come into play as well.

And I’m buying a pair of Nike Frees to sprint in.

Yup. I’ll be sprinting shod. I’ve tried sprinting barefoot plenty. I never come away from it without the feeling that something bad has happened to my feet. I support and still practice running barefoot but only the exceptionally strong barefoot runners should sprint that way.

The program will be two days of heavy ass lifting per week. Two days of circuits, KB’s, etc. per week. And two days of a half mile warm up followed by as many sprints as I can crank out.

One day left to wish I hadn’t done all that.

Again, the effectiveness will be measured by how fast I can run a mile and a half. If I can drop below the 11 minute mark, jogging is out for me forever. If I can’t then it’s time to suck it up and put in some two milers every now and then.

Starting this in about four weeks. Details to come later.

You just can’t do two things at once. Like texting and driving, dating two women or having a social life and well adjusted children, you think you can. But you really can’t.

Folks, there may be the rare person who can lose fifteen inches of their gut and add three to their biceps. Especially under the early period of Rippetoe’s oft touted Novice Effect. There are rare people who can sing and dance at the same time. Just like there are a lot of folks selling albums that get caught lip syncing concerts, there are plenty of people trying to sell you a program to take you from flabby to ambercrombie and fitch in just six short weeks that fails completely.

Mass Made Simple doesn’t do that, and it works because it doesn’t. You lift, you eat, you recover. You grow.

Here’s the rundown;

My shoulders are broader, my arms and thighs are bigger, my chest is deeper. After just two weeks.

How much more?

I dunno, I got busy and dumb and I forgot to take pre-program measurements*. But the difference is, though not huge, noticeable.

So is a difference in my love handles. People have mentioned that it seems a little odd for a soon to be 34 year old to diet for eight weeks and then start eating in the range of 4000 calories a day. It may be. However, I’m adding weight to the bar, I look bigger, I weigh more. The program is doing what it’s intended to do.

I am gaining mass, and fairly quickly.

The back squat, which has long been my second worst lift, is grooving nicely.

You can’t gain mass quickly and not gain some fat. You think you can, it might happen by happy accident rarely, but by design you can’t do it.

Eat well. Lift Hard. Recover Fully. Grow Fast.

* I’ll take measurements tonight and compare them at the end of the program. My estimate would in the range of an inch to the chest,  and thighs and a half inch to the upper arm and across the shoulders.