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Ray’s Bulking Diary – Week 11

Dumbbell Rack

I’m now into the penultimate week of the program.

Day 69 – Pull

An evening session with Dom, so rests ran long pretty much throughout.

Pull-ups (to failure) into Inverted Rows (8-12)

Had a good set with these, pumping out some good pull ups, and really feeling it with the inverted rows (hitting the top end of the range for the first set, with a diminishing return thereafter).

Good to hear pull-ups are now just a given rather than something you once thought impossible to master. Great progress here.

Bent Over Row (6-10) into Reverse Grip Pulldowns (8-12)

I traded the barbell in for dumbbells for the bent over rows, and enjoyed the increased intensity before going into some reasonable (though not great) reverse grip pulldowns. I really felt a good squeeze on the rows; could possibly drop a level lighter on the pulldowns to concentrate more on getting the muscles properly worked. I think with pulldowns, for me, it’s always quite easy to do it without doing it right – working more of the arms and shoulders than the lats.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The bent over row will fatigue the lats, so the reverse grip pull down should hit the biceps more; if you’re actively squeezing them its not bad to feel this in the arms. The rear delts will get fatigued during bent over row, so again, feeling them on the pulldown is not a negative.

Upright Row (6-10) into Lying Reverse Flyes (8-12)

Another good superset. Same weight on the rows, and I hit the top end of the range each time. I’ll need to kick it up a notch with those. And this time I managed to do better with the reverse flyes, hitting the top end of the range. I’ve always found it to be an awkward exercise, to be honest.

Good work on the upright row, definitely give it a go heavier if you can. Slow the reverse flyes right down. Try keeping the little finger higher than the rest of the hand (so tilt dumbell down at the front) this can help you squeeze at the upper point.

Close Grip Chin-Ups (to failure) into Barbell Curl (8-12)

Solid way to finish. I was really happy with my chin-ups. At my old gym there was no bars that allowed me to get a comfortable grip – they were all wider and more set for pull-ups. Now, although with each set my rep return diminished, I feel more comfortable with the setup.

I’m really pleased with this. I always feel that the chin-up is an exercise that separates the men from the boys and when I’m working with someone to help them transform, it’s a nice addition to the aesthetic goal to be able to do a few sets of chin-ups. Well done, Ray.

The barbell curls were also good. I used the same weight as last time, and fell within the rep range. I do struggle a bit with really squeezing the biceps by this point, though. It’s kind of like I can no longer isolate it enough to squeeze it.

It’s quite normal to be so fatigued and so pumped that its hard to squeeze the biceps at this time. Try even lighter maybe to enable a full movement, squeeze and slowly lower.

Overall this felt like a much better and more satisfying pull session than I had last week, so I’m very happy about that.

Well done!

Day 70 – Legs

Back to the morning leg sessions…

Barbell Squats (6-10) into Front Squats (8-12)

Had to wait a while for a squat rack, but I was determined to do it properly after using a Smith Machine last time. I put out a good superset, hitting the middle of my range for the regular squats, and the low end of the range for the front squats. I can’t go quite as slow for the front squats; my arms get tired just as fast as my legs.

Front squat technique is one that needs repetition and practice. It will come with time. It’s definitely one that fatigues the core quicker and is usually more uncomfortable on the hands/arms which can be off putting. Just keep working at it.

Well done for waiting for the rack. Can be annoying and mess up your day, and isn’t always practical, but on this occasion I’m glad you did.

Glute Bridges(8-12)  into Goblet Squats (8-12)

I swapped the barbell out for a dumbbell for my glute bridges, allowing me to lift heavier. That’s good, but the bad news is that the dumbbell is bulkier, and gets in the way a little as I lower myself to the floor. So although I get to lift more, I can’t get down as far. Still, I got some good squeezes in at the top. I think this exercise has always been pretty challenging for me. Getting the squeezes in consistently is tough.

At some point I think we’ll have to do this together. It shouldn’t be that a dumbbell allows less ROM than a barbell. It should in theory allow more. Well done for trying to lift heavy though and for starting to get a good squeeze.

In between the bridges I worked on the goblet squats, going for the same weight as last time and trying to concentrate once more on nailing the form. I think I’ve got it down better now; today I really tried to squeeze the glutes to take the pressure off my back, as per Sean’s instructions. Seemed to work!

Well done. Like the front squat (very similar mechanics) this exercise just requires practice and concentration to ensure the right muscles working!

Slight confession… I kind of willingly coasted to an easier finish in the final set, as I saw the gym’s premium squat rack / Olympic bar combination become available…

Hahaha! I think we’ve all done that on the last set of an exercise before an important one with limited kit availability.

Deadlifts (6-8)

Today I went up a weight level from last week, and still pulled out a good set – hitting the top of my range each time (albeit with some slight pausing in the latter two sets). I’ve really been concentrating on pushing up through the legs, and I think it’s working because now although I still feel it in my back (as I should), it feels better. I think previously I’ve not thought enough about the legs, and as a result put a little too much pressure through my back.

Well done. And yes, think about the glutes and hamstrings. You should feel some work in the lower back, but by no means all. Well done for persevering and for increasing the weight again.

Weight Planks (30sec) into Reverse Crunch on a Decline Bench (8-12)

I wanted to find a heavier plate to progress with my planks, but had to settle for the same as last time. If I’m being honest, I probably give up a bit too soon when looking for different bits of kit. Still, the planks were decent, and the crunches in between were okay as well. I fell in the middle of my rep range for the first two sets, before hitting the top of the range in the final set, thanks to a quick mid-set break. Although the crunches are okay, I think for a few weeks now they could still have been better. I get to them at the end of the session and the tank is pretty empty by that point. No excuses, though!

You could switch your ab/core work to a rest day- making it an active rest day so as not to leave them until the end of a session and as you admit, to being tired. A mistake of many is to leave core until the end. In reality, it’s not a major goal of yours and the other exercise (renegade rows, fronts squats, deadlift, goblet squats) will be taking care of core strength to a point. Not long left on the programme, but something to think of in the future.

Day 71 – Rest

Snooze!

Day 72 – Push

Last week this was an evening session with a training partner. Today it was a solo morning session.

Dumbbell Bench Press (6-10 reps) into Dumbbell Flyes (8-12)

Same weights as last week for both. I performed slightly worse on the dumbbell bench press, but perhaps this was to be expected with shorter rests and no spotter to help me squeeze out a couple of extra reps. Still intense, though. The flyes in between were difficult; my rep return diminished each time although I still fell within the range.

Good weight selection I’d say. Always more difficult without a training partner to do more: 1. timed rests and 2. no spotter, as you rightly pointed out. As long as you work as hard as you can, we’re happy!

Oh, and this time I didn’t smash my shaker and turn the immediate area into a swimming pool. #progress #gainz

Hahaha!

Tricep Dips (6-10) into Press-ups (8-12)

Another good superset on this. I threw in a rest pause set at the end just to make up a slight deficit for the press-ups. Going into press-ups after dips is really tough, but it gets those triceps pumping nicely! I think I sometimes swing a little on the dips. It doesn’t really help me get another rep out either, so I don’t know why I do it. Need to watch that.

Just control the movement with the dips: control it down to the count then squeeze the chest, front delts and triceps to control it up. Keep the chin on the chest and feet up behind you. The core is kept tight to control any want of a swing. While we’re at it, as you feel it so much in the triceps, when doing the press-ups, think about the hands squeezing inwards as you push up and try to squeeze the pecs and front delts. This should fire the chest and shoulders nicely as well.

Standing Military Press (6-10) into Front Disc/Plate Raise (8-12)

I actually traded in the barbell military press for a standing dumbbell press, as I wanted to go for a little more weight. It was challenging, and that coupled with the shorter rest meant that my plate raising wasn’t the best. I actually struggled to hit the rep range. I threw in rest pauses to get me there, but it wasn’t the most controlled set unfortunately.

The second exercise is always going to suffer if you go heavier on the first. That’s not a problem and if you still go to failure on the second exercise, we are getting somewhere. Well done on throwing in the rest pauses which takes us beyond failure.

Not terrible, but not as good as I wanted.

I think you’re too hard on yourself. This seems like a good session so far.

Incline Dumbbell Press (6-10) into Isometric Wipers (to failure)

Same weights as last time for the dumbbell press, and although I hit the rep range, once again I actually performed slightly worse than last time. Again, that could be the shorter rests taking a toll over the session, plus the lack of a spotter helping me get an extra rep out. Once again I only managed a few Isometric Wipers. Still, this was a good superset to finish on. I threw in a rest pause at the end; not to make up a deficit, really. Just to try and really fatigue myself.

Well done. Isometric wipers are a killer and to hit failure and beyond with them is good going. I agree, as before, that less reps due to less rest and no spotter.

Overall this was a productive session. Possibly not quite as good as when I did it with Dom, but still decent enough. There’s a trade off to be made when it comes to training with or without someone else. Without means I can go at my preferred time, and my daily schedule (inc. eating) works much better this way. With a partner means my schedule doesn’t work as well, but I do get that extra competition/edge, and a spotter to help me hit failure in a way that it’s hard to do without.

Definitely a double edged sword for you with your preferred gym time being early, early doors. Then again, variation is key, so mixing it up with longr rests some days and not other is a good thing so see what happens week to week.

Day 73 – Legs

Final session of the penultimate week of the program. Let’s go!

Barbell Squats (6-10) into Front Squats (8-12)

Straight onto the squat rack for a really tough squat superset. Same weights as last time, but today I hit the top end of the rep range for each set of barbell squats. It was tough, and I certainly can’t claim that they were the best reps in the world, but I got there. The front squats in between were slightly wilder, and in the latter sets I felt my form wobbling a bit. I hit the middle of the range to start with, before dropping to the low end. In the latter sets, with the quality of my reps diminishing, I felt a little more pressure on my back. So I didn’t push full throttle to hit the high end of the range.

Well done for being careful. Going full on with back squats will effect your fronts. The idea here is basically to create a drop set, which you were working well with. Like any drops set: you go really hard with the first set, you won’t get as many out with the drop.

This actually took quite a lot out of the tank. I mean, it’s always a very intense superset. But today, with hitting the high end of the range for the squats, I really felt it.

Good. Your mental strength has gone up another notch, training intensity along with it. A BIG tick in the box for me for someone’s first proper programme they’re doing on their own. Big pat on the back Ray. Well done.

Glute Bridges (8-12)  into Goblet Squats (8-12)

Again I performed the glute bridges with a dumbbell instead of a barbell. I also increased the weight of the dumbbell for the goblet squats. Truth be told, this wasn’t my best superset. It could have been the effects of the squats beforehand, but I felt a little weaker on this. I still got in some good glute squeezes, but I was also feeling it in my back more than I think I should. Particularly on the lowering portion of the glute bridges.

The back can be fatigued considerably by heavy squats and certainly by front squats, so I’m not surprised you felt it. You possibly overuse it a little, but as strength/endurance increases in the legs/back/core/glutes this will be less.

I don’t remember this being such an issue at my old gym, where the benches generally were a little lower to the ground and had less padding. And I used heavier barbells. It’s possible that the equipment is having some part to play, but the most likely explanation is simply that my form isn’t quite right. I should really video myself like Sean has suggested, and get him to critique my form.

I think for glute bridges this could be the way forward. Might just be a little tweak needed.

Deadlifts (6-8)

A slight wait to get an Olympic barbell, but I didn’t mind too much because the few minutes of rest allowed me to gather myself back together. I increased the weight again on early in the week, throwing on another 10kg. As before, I really tried to concentrate on pushing through the legs, and I didn’t feel any burning in my back at all.

Excellent! If the back was hurting for the glute bridge and goblets, I’d expect it to really feel it for deads. The fact that it didn’t at all is great. Deadlift technique must be getting there. Well done, Ray.

I hit the low end of the rep range each time. To be honest, I think I could probably push further with this. I briefly thought today’s lift was a PB, but I checked my records and I was actually doing 10kg more than I did today back in February. I’ve had an up and down experience with deadlifts. Didn’t do them for ages, then started, built slowly, always worrying about form. I think any time I’ve had a dodgy session where my form wasn’t right and I really felt it in my back, I’ve then dropped back down. So I’ve not really experienced consistent progression with them yet. In and out! But now I think I’ve finally got it down and I could hit a new PB in no time.

I didn’t do deadlifts for years. I’d had back problems as a kid, so was always worried about causing myself a serious injury. However, I eventually manned up and went for them, slowly but surely. I have surpassed any goal in terms of weight I ever had and lifted as much as I care to. I do them now as part of programmes for the exercises benefit. My point: it’s good to be careful with them, but, don’t get caught up in lifting as much as you can blah, blah, blah. It’s just another exercise that will help construct a good physique and like any other that requires considerable weight to work it should be respected and performed with as close to perfect technique as possible.

(Check out the confidence there. Guaranteed I snap myself in half next week!)

Not a chance. You’re a perfectionist and thus your form will be better than 90% of people who’ve been hitting the weight for twice as long as you.

Weight Planks (30sec) into Reverse Crunch on a Decline Bench (8-12)

Today I snagged a heavier plate and put in three successful 30 second planks. Only slightly heavier, but I definitely felt it. Lots of grunting, especially in the final set. I had to rest pause my way through the reverse crunches, hitting the middle of the range for the first two sets, and the low end for the final set. They’ve been a bit sloppy recently, unfortunately. I do think I’ve found a way to help myself, though. If I cross my feet throughout the motion, I feel it helps me bring a little more control to proceedings, and even helps me to keep the core tight. What do you reckon, Sean? Is that a legitimate thing?

Some people do do that and find it helps. I don’t do it because I feel crossing the feet allows the body to favour one side, perhaps contracting the obliques of that side a little more. My advice therefore: perform 4 sets and alternate the foot on top each time thus working both side evenly.

Day 75/76 – Weekend Rest

I really need a rest. Some of the early mornings this week were particularly gruesome. There’s only one more week of the program left, and it’s a five day split. Really looking forward to going full throttle and finishing on a high!

Very pleased to see you’re still as keen as ever. Great work, Ray.

Ray Wilson - Author

Ray has worked with Sean on a number of projects across film, web, and health and fitness. In 2015 he completed a bulk/cut cycle, blogging about his experiences with weekly input and advice from Sean.