Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Updating the Look, Endorphins, and more!

Bam! Shiny new blog layout and colors.

I had been using one of the default setting, which I liked very much, but it didn't let me do much myself. For example, you can now very easily follow and subscribe over on the right side of the page! No matter what I tried, I couldn't get that working right on the other setup. Now, you'll be able to keep up with my posts even if you miss the various bumps I put on other sites. Hooray for content delivery!

As you can probably tell by my excessive use of exclamation points, I'm in a good mood. Which is surprising, because I'd been in a pretty sour one for most of the last few days. I believe it was due to a reduced exercise schedule that I applied last week. Here's the scoop:

Whenever you exercise and train, especially when lifting, you are likely to eventually hit a plateau. You'll stop making progress, no matter how hard you work. Everyone is different, and you'll hit plateaus at different points for what you're doing. After about two months of working out, I hit a plateau, and for two weeks I didn't see any improvement in my lifting, which is frustrating. That's a really short time to hit a stoppage. Once you hit a plateau, there are many different theories for how to get passed them.

Strategy A: Muscle Confusion. The idea here is that, when you train, your body sees the most improvement when it has to adapt to knew motions, and as you repeat those particular exercises your body acclimates and gets accustomed to what you're doing. This results in, you guessed it, a plateau. To fight this, you simply switch up routines. This can mean changing the exercises you work as well as changing the structure. Doing 10 rep sets and getting nowhere? Bump up the weight and do a 5x5 regimen, or drop it down and do a 3 by 23. By making your body adapt to new or modified conditions, you can push passed a plateau and start seeing bigger improvements again.

Strategy B: Drop Sets. This one was shared with me recently. When you reach your point of exhaustion, you reduce the weight and do it again. For example, you do your 3x10 bench press routine, and on that last set you just barely manage that 10th rep. Take off 10 lbs and do another 10. Then take off 10 more and do it again. The thought is that your 3x10 brought your muscles to exhaustion, but you can squeeze more out of them by reducing the load. Working your muscles to exhaustion as frequently as possible is one of the core points of weight lifting, and if you plateau on your 3x10, adding drop sets pushes you up and over the plateau.

Strategy C: Recover. Lifting builds muscle by destroying the old fibers and building newer, stronger ones. If you're plateauing, the muscles being rebuilt aren't stronger than the old ones by the time you're back at the gym. When you're seeing quicker progress, you don't need to worry as much about this, since you're already giving your muscles enough time to surpass their previous state between workouts. To push past the plateau, you simply take some time off and let your body fully recover. This is the method used by athletes right before a competition, regardless of where they are in training. When you are actively training, your body is never at 100%, because it takes some time for the muscles to repair and your body's systems to get back into balance. I've even read articles about people using this method after plateauing, taking up to two weeks off from training, and returning to the gym and blowing their PRs out of the water.

I had tried muscle confusion for two weeks, and when I went back to 3x10, saw no change. I hadn't heard of drops sets until I'd already decided upon letting my body recover. Thus, I took a week off from the gym. I'll get back to you on if it helped, but here's where it ties back to my mood.

Exercising produces endorphins, the body's natural painkiller, and boosts norepinephrine production, which is a stimulant. I went a week without exercising, and come Sunday I was beginning to notice a drop in my mood, and it stuck with me through to today (Tuesday, at the time of writing).

And then I did pushups and some technique drills. All I did was put a little stress on my body and elevated my heart rate for about 15 minutes. I had downtime at work and I chose to use it. It doesn't take much, but it is just so easy to be lazy and inert. I stopped doing lifting for a few days and it made me less likely to do technique drills, and when I went long enough being lazy, I started to get sad. So don't be lazy, and don't be sad. Sad is bad.

I guess the moral of my little story here is that even when you rest you should try to be active if just for a little bit each day. Like I said last time, Lazy Me is a persuasive son of a bitch. He won for a few days, but in the end Active Me made a comeback.

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go for a run. Oh, and hit that subscribe button on the right if you want to keep up with my goings on.


  1. Have you tried the drop sets since then? Did they work?

    1. I haven't. In fact, I haven't been able to go to the gym all week. I'm going again tomorrow. If I am not seeing improvements I'm going to try them