Tuesday, November 09, 2010

More on my training regimen

Last time, I outlined the different workouts that are part of the Madcow program I've been on.  I'll talk a bit more about the setup, as well as the progression.  There are a number of set/rep schemes you can use for lifting, depending on your goals (or the goals of the program).  This program, for the most part, has you ramping up to a single set at the heaviest weight.  This is best for maximal strength, but not as good for bulk and endurance.  One of the changes I'm making for myself attempts to address this a  little bit, but first, I want to give the standard setup and progression.

To repeat from the previous post, there are 3 core lifts per day, the rest being assistance, or supplementary, work.  I'm going to start off talking about the core lifts.  The core lifts are the same on days A and C (Monday and Friday, if your schedule is Monday/Wednesday/Friday). 

Let's start with day A.  That scheme is simplest for the core exercises, simply 5 sets, and each set is 5 reps.  You calculate the weight starting from the heaviest set (let's say it's 100 pounds).  Each set leading up to the heaviest set should be about 12.5% lighter.  In other words, if the 5th set is 100, set 4 would be 87.5, set 3 would be 75, set 2 would be 62.5, and set 1 would be 50.  This does not have to be precise, but the ramp should be pretty close to linear.  The smaller the gaps, the more volume you'll do in terms of total pounds moved, but you run a higher risk of stalling.  Usually, you're not going to be able to lift 87.5 pounds or some weird number, so I just round it.  Some people drop to the next even 5 pound increment (assuming they have 2.5 pound plates).  Some people will actually microload, which as the name implies, means figuring out a way to get a very small increment of weight on the bar.  This is ideal.  It's also a pain, especially in a commercial gym, so I don't bother.

That's it for day A.  On day C (Friday for me), the first 4 sets are the same as day A, for each core exercise.  [I made a mistake on this last post, I said you only did 3 sets of 5, but you do 4 sets of 5.]  If you were successful on day A for the 5th set, then on day C, you increase the weight by 2.5% for the 5th set.  But, you only do 3 reps to compensate for that. To finish off each core exercise on day C, you actually do a 6th set for 8 reps, using the same weight you used for set 3.

If you successfully complete the heaviest set of 3 on day C, then the next time you lift (day A scheme), you bump up the weight for the 5th set.  It's interesting to note that you should always be able to lift 102.5% of a 5-rep weight for only 3 reps.  That is, if you can lift 200 pounds for 5 reps, it's theoretically easier to lift 205 pounds for 3 reps.  That does seem to be true in my experience, but it did surprise me.

So, that's how you move up the weights on day A and day C.  Day B (Wednesday) stands by itself.  First, for squats, the idea is that it's really a recovery day; you are not trying to push it.  So, your first 3 sets are the same as the first 3 sets on day A.  Essentially a couple pretty light warmups, then a little heavier warmup.  Then you do a 4th set with the same weight as the 3rd set.  You don't push yourself with squats at all on day B.

For the other two, if you complete all reps, you bump the weight by 2.5%.  And that takes care of the core lifts.  There's no real guidance given for the assistance lifts, other than they shouldn't get in the way.  The point of this program is to get your squat, bench, row, and deadlift increased.  The assistance stuff should assist in that, but it's not a big deal to the program if they don't increase.

I still haven't gotten around to the changes that I've made to the program for me, but this post is already tl;dr.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

My training regimen

For the last several weeks, I've been following a slightly modified version of a training program commonly referred to as Madcow 5x5.  That program itself is a modification of a program created by a weightlifting coach (and competitor) named Bill Starr.  The focus of this program -- like all of Starr's programs that I'm aware of -- is strength, attained by doing a full body workout 3 times a week.  Starr's programs concentrate mainly on a few different compound free weight exercises.  A compound exercise is one that requires multiple joints and muscles, as opposed to isolation exercises.  Those, as the name implies, focus more on a single joint/muscle.

As you go through different phases of weight training, both compound and isolation exercises have their place.  But for beginners, and probably for intermediates as well, programs should be dominated by compound exercises.  And whether you're a beginner or intermediate lifter has nothing to do with how long you've been lifting.  It has to do with how much you can lift, relative to your body weight.  Until you can bench press more than you weigh, and until you can do a good-technique squat with 150% of your body weight, you should consider yourself a beginner and focus on compound exercises.  If I remember, I'll go more into why in a future post.

So anyway, I'm in the midst of this slightly modified Madcow 5x5 program.  I'm adding onto it a little bit, mostly.  This, by the way, is expressly against the advice of the program's creator, Madcow.  He specifically says to not fuck with the program.  But, like me, probably a lot of people do.  The biggest thing that people do wrong is that they use the wrong techniques on the lifts.  That's probably closely followed by trying to do too much.  Doing too much volume can lead to overtraining.  Doing too many isolation exercises is unproductive at best, but can also get in the way of interfering with your progress on the core exercises.

The program is designed, like I said, to be run 3 days a week.  It's supposed to go:
Day 1 -workout A
Day 2 - off
Day 3 - workout B
Day 4 - off
Day 5 - workout C
Day 6 - off
Day 7 - off

Workout A consists of the following:
Squats:  5x5 (5 sets, 5 reps per set)
Bench Press:  5x5
Barbell Row:  5x5
Back Extensions:  3x8-12
Situps:  3 sets

Workout B:
Squats:  4x5
Military press OR Incline bench press:  4x5
Deadlift:  4x5
Situps:  3 sets

Workout C:
Squats:  3x5, 1x3, 1x8
Bench Press:  3x5, 1x3, 1x8
Barbell Row:  3x5, 1x3, 1x8
Dips:  3x8
Biceps:  3 sets
Triceps:  3 sets

For each workout, the first 3 exercises are the core exercises.  Those are the ones that are supposed to progress.  I'll talk about the progression next time. The other exercises after the first 3 are assistance exercises, designed to help the primary exercises progress.  That's important. It means, for one thing, it doesn't matter whether or not you're getting better in the assistance exercises.

In addition to progression, I'll talk about the changes I made to the program for myself, and why.  I might even embarrass myself and tell you how much I'm lifting with all these exercises.  They're not great, but the important thing is that I'm working hard and progressively lifting heavier.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What should i talk about?

The last couple nights, I've been thinking about getting re-organized.  Somewhat standard cycle for me where I cruise along with most items neatly tied up and things in control.  Then for whatever reason, stuff starts to pile up or get ignored.  Sometimes it's due to being extra busy, sometimes it's due to being extra lazy.  Recently, I've been busier than normal, and also spending a lot of time reading about strength training and nutrition.  Any specific questions or things you'd like me to write about, let me know.

I'll probably transition this blog into more of that, as I said in my last post, just because I no longer have anything interesting to say about poker.  OK, I probably rarely had that much interesting to say about poker before, but now, it would be all about bad beats and coolers, and that's no fun.  As you know, for quite a while now, my volume had been drastically reduced.  But for a few months, I was doing well results wise anyway, albeit at lower stakes than before.  The last few months have been pretty bad results wise, and I honestly haven't done a critical evaluation of my play to determine the ratio of bad luck to bad play.  I'm sure there is both.  I did go through a cursory review of my best sessions and worst sessions over the last few months.  For better or worse, my play in them is about the same.  But there are a ton of coolers (set over set, top 2 vs. set, JJ-KK vs. overpairs), beats, and lost flips in the losing sessions.  Fair enough.  But, there are very few times when I'm coolering other regs in my winning sessions, and even in my winning sessions, I'm not coming from behind or winning many flips.  Just avoiding having it happen to me.  Making pretty good value bets in both winning and losing sessions.  I do notice that I am bet/folding a lot more than I would expect.  I suspect I'm just running into hands, but as I haven't been watching videos or participating in any sort of forums and discussions, I guess it's possible that people are raising a lot thinner or bluff-raising more than they used to.

Bottom line is that poker seems like a chore, and the last several months, I've basically been playing just enough to maintain Iron Man status on Full Tilt.  I think this month, I'm just going to let it lapse.  I'm not winning enough (nor do I expect I should be) to make it worthwhile if poker is just a chore.  At this point, it may be better to just let it go, and then when the urge to play again crops up, play.  Or maybe get the urge to dive back into the real work behind poker.  That will have to come with some time being available to do the hard work off the tables, though.

My fitness journey, on the other hand, is still going well.  I'm closing in on 50 pounds of weight lost this year, I think a lot of it from fat loss.  I've made some pretty sizable strength gains over the last 6 or so months, meaning that I'm hopefully preserving whatever muscle I had.  In the last couple days, I changed up my weightlifting program to a somewhat popular strength-oriented one.  It's known as Madcow, but it's really an adaptation of  a program created by Bill Starr, who if you're into strength training you probably know about.  I'll cover the details of the program as well as some tweaks I made to it for myself in an upcoming post.

Really, the bigger success that I've had has been with my diet.  There's actually room for improvement there, too, but just like I did with poker, I'm balancing my diet with the wants/needs of my family life.  I'm pretty dedicated with my diet, but I will still have a desert with the family after dinner, eat pretty calorie dense meals (but smaller portions) with them, etc.  I'm hanging, virtually, with some guys that are incredibly disciplined, and I'm learning a lot from them and what they do.  If you want to see your abs and/or you want to bulk up and show some muscle, you can't get there just by hitting the gym. 

Leave me some comments about any particular fitness/nutrition topic you're curious about or you think would make a decent post.  Baz left some other good blogs (professionals) in comments from my last post, too.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Oh hai

Didn't realize it's been so long, but not surprising because I'm barely playing poker these days.  As in that last post a few months ago, just enough to keep Iron Man alive at Full Tilt, which basically keeps me from getting totally rusty.  I haven't been studying at all, but I intend to at least spend a few hours a week doing so for a little while.  Probably  more along the lines of participating in some forums (private and public) than doing detailed hand reviews from my own sessions, or watching vids.  Reviewing your own hands and watching videos are both great exercises, but I think that they require a more substantial time commitment to get the most out of them.  Whereas going through HH discussions other people post gives you a quick smattering of topics.  Granted, little effort put in results in little benefit out, but that's all I'm willing to make time for these days.  I want to get back to the point where I really enjoy poker, and quite honestly even without putting a ton of time into the game, it still sometimes feels like a bit of a chore.  I'm willing to do the chore just because I've already put a lot of work in, but that doesn't mean I'll do so indefinitely.

I've been about a breakeven player over the last few months, or I guess I should say just a rakeback grinder ;).  That's a step up from where I was at the tail end of being really serious about it, though, so that's good.  I have no idea whether I'm running poorly or not from an EV standpoint, and I kind of like that.  I am running pretty poorly in terms of being put in cooler spots, plus lots of times getting in good to great situations and losing.  But I may be making up for more of that than I realize.  One area I'm running poorly in is getting paid big when I do hit big hands in various situations, but that could be due to me playing too transparently as well.

Other than that, life continues to be good.  Think I mentioned somewhere that I was going on a get back in shape jag, and I've had great results.  About 40 pounds lighter than the beginning of the year, but at the same time training hard, putting up new PRs in the gym and in general exercising a lot more. The PRs are starting from a pretty low bar, but it's still nice to make progress.  I may start blogging more about my nutrition and weightlifting research and progress, although I also keep another journal dedicated to that stuff.  Not sure.  If there's any interest (if there's anyone still following), let me know, and that will give me the excuse to blog about that stuff.

Most of the time I spent playing and studying poker has now transferred over to time spent weight training and reviewing proper form and programming.  A lot more to it than I realized before.  And even more than poker, your decisions affect your results.  Talk about having to be accountable!  Wish I'd discovered some of this stuff ages ago, but never too late to improve, no matter what the endeavor.

Hope this post finds everyone well and crushing.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Does anyone win now?

All you guys seem to be in downswings to varying degrees.  I'm down a ton for the last several months and feel like no lead is safe.  I am (and it sounds like a lot of you are too) the guy on the table who supports the poor players who make bad decisions and get paid off (only to predictably dump their profits to someone else on the table). 

To be fair/honest, I am putting nowhere near as much effort into analyzing my game, reviewing my sessions, posting hands, watching vids, etc. as I used to.  Or what is needed.  So, I definitely don't feel I should be killing the games or anything.  But I've still managed to put myself in some great situations, to no avail.  Situations where I'm getting the money in against guys who routinely hit their outs, even when it looks like I'm coolering their made hands (or maybe their treating their underpairs as a draws?).

And I can tell from the reading that I've been doing that I'm not alone.  Granted, for a number of reasons, we don't spend as much time writing about the good luck we have, and it's not as cathartic to chat about our suckouts as to lament about theirs.  So, I don't think the sky is falling or the sites are rigged. But man, I wish it would turn around for us already.  Based on the play I see, the games are plenty good enough to beat.  Maybe not crush, but through 400NL there are still a good number of weak players.  And now that I've dropped down and have started to play some 100NL, I'm reminded how much worse the regs are there than at 400NL overall.

Bottom line, I'm not enjoying poker all that much these days.  That means I'm not as eager to work at it, and with a lot of other things clamoring for my attention, it means I don't work at it too much.  Which means I don't play as well.  Which means my results are relatively worse.  Which means I don't enjoy it as much.  And you can see where the cycle goes.  That said, I continue to play minimal volume, so that I don't go completely out of touch.  And I still do a minimal amount of work off the table, so that it doesn't disappear completely.  I've gotten over hating the game while running bad.  I just don't love it.  But I think that I will again at some point.  So for now, I'm playing at a stake and in a mode where I can kind of tread water until I'm ready to proceed with more enthusiasm and effort.  And that'll have to do for the time being.