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Ray’s Bulking Diary – Week 4

Dumbbell rack

Hello and welcome to week four! I’ve now left behind the upper/lower splits and moved on to a rotating schedule of Chest/Back, Arms/Shoulders and Legs; each week I’ll hit one of the splits twice. In addition, each session will start with some German Volume Training – 10 sets of 10 reps. Oh, and the tempo’s changed as well. From 3010 we slow things down just a touch to 3020. Easy… right?

Hi guys, Sean here. Ray had the idea that maybe I should comment on some of the things he’s writing about to explain why he is doing what he is doing or, when he finds something tough, what he may be doing wrong, or better still how he can improve. The main problem with the huge abundance of online training vs 1:1 training out there these days is that no-one is there to teach technique or spot mistakes. Hopefully we can alleviate some of that with my little additions to Ray’s blog posts.

Day 22 – Chest/Back

I think I might have started a little too light with the dumbbell bench presses. It certainly got tougher towards the latter sets/reps and with the even slower tempo it certainly wasn’t easy, but I think perhaps one level heavier would have been a better starting point. I considered jumping up just a few sets in, but I didn’t know how I’d feel towards the end, so I stuck with it to see how it played out.

GVT is surprisingly difficult, especially as the idea is to add weight EVERY time you come back to an exercise through the weeks of rotation. Therefore starting too light won’t be a bad things as in two or three sessions time, it will seem very, very heavy.

Another 10×10 exercise followed, this time the classic lat pulldowns. Again I felt I started off too lightly, even knowing I had to do ten sets. On this one I did choose to jump up after the second set, and I think that proved the right decision as I struggled a little towards the end but just about made it.

Always good to “know thyself” – a term I’ve used in every single book I’ve written. In this case, Ray knew his own fitness and strength and made a decision. A decision that paid off. In reality, had a trainer been working with him, the trainer most likely would have made the same decision and increased the weight. As its Ray’s first GVT session, he’s still finding his feet. However, now he has set his weight, these shouldn’t change mid set again. With GVT all 10sets must be the same weight and as said above, increase each session.

After this I worked my way through some incline dumbbell flyes (slow tempo, veins popping!) and chin-ups to failure.

I tried to end the session with weighted planks to a Tabata time schedule, but I pretty much completely failed. I think I only managed one or two active phases with the extra weight before I got rid. I jumped too far ahead of myself. I’m just not quite ready to add weights to my planking.

Again, you have to listen to your body as Ray did. Now he has something to aim for: weighted Tabata planks.

Day 23 – Legs

10×10 squats! And you know what, I think I picked the weight bang on the money. By the end I was really sweating and the legs were feeling the burn, but I managed to complete every last rep. And the same goes for the lying leg curls that followed, although I think I probably started going a little quicker than I should have over the last few sets. It’s tough to keep that slow tempo consistent as the burn builds up, but I just keep counting and try to keep the straying to an absolute minimum.

Tempo is SO important and something too many people neglect in the gym. They wonder why they don’t see changes. Anyone who pays attention to tempo will certainly see changes when combined with a good nutrition plan.

I also hit up some leg extensions for the first time in a few weeks, and found the slower tempo a real challenge, as usual. I had to take quick breaks mid-set near the end, which was a bit cheaty. Don’t tell Sean.

Again, something to aim at improving, Ray!

The session ended with some inline crunches on a bench, which I’ve never done before. It went quite well, actually. I didn’t count the tempo here, instead just trying to keep it slow, controlled, and make sure I didn’t fall off the bench. I’m already feeling the DOMs. Good addition to the repertoire.

Great exercise. Try exhaling and sucking in the belly button before each rep to ensure the abs are contracted.

Day 24 – Rest

A much needed rest day. My back’s feeling pretty sore from those lat pull downs earlier in the week.

Today I ordered a few bits from MyProtein, including more Palatinose and a SmartShake bottle that I definitely didn’t need. I may have a problem…

Day 25 – Arms/Shoulders

I started off with my usual warm up on the treadmill. I usually find myself reading the subtitles from Will and Grace. Today Will told Jack to grab something heavy, so Jack grabbed Will. T’was pure hilarity.

Today’s 10x10s were triceps dips and incline dumbbell curls. I possibly used a little too much assisted weight for the dips. I’ve had mixed success this week in terms of hitting the right weights for my 10x10s, but at least next time I’ll know what I need to do. The incline dumbbell curls fried my arms pretty good. The weights were very light but with the volume, tempo and the fact my biceps are relatively weak anyway, it was still really intense. Towards the end I felt my shoulders and chest doing a little more work, coming in to play to compensate for my failing arms. I need to watch that!

It’s all about finding your feet the first time through a certain exercise. You’ve now found the right weights for all, so next time round should be better and you can start building. In terms of other muscle groups coming into play. That’s normal, especially with the volume on big compound movements within a GVT programme such as this. Just make sure you concentrate on squeezing the specific muscle you are working on each rep and that will help keep that one focused.

Other exercises included side lat raises (light weight, slow tempo, shoulders on fire) and the overhead/military press. I dropped down from my usual weight on this, but still found myself struggling to hit a consistent amount of reps. I had to throw rest pauses in at the end, as I simply couldn’t push the reps out without a break. It’s a great exercise; the slow lowering of the weight is always a killer when the burn builds up. If you don’t already work this exercise into your shoulder routine you should definitely give it a go.

You may need to use a push press when the overhead press is too fatigued to get the weight up, however, keep the eccentric lowering nice and slow despite the push press up.

Day 26 – Chest/Back

And the week finishes with another tasty chest/back session. This time I bench pressed the dumbbells I probably should have used on Monday. It proved a meatier challenge, as expected. Although this time I was thinking about whether I should have jumped two levels ahead instead.

Nope, take it slow, the strength gains will be better if you do.

I stuck with the same weight for the lat pull downs because on Monday I started with a lighter weight before jumping up. So this time I wanted to know that I could do the full 10×10 with that weight before moving up next time around. And I could! Success.

Once again the incline dumbbell flyes proved a really intense part of the session. The stretch on the outer pecs is really tough, especially right at the end when you’re running on fumes and forcing out those final few reps. This has always been one of my favourite chest exercises because you really feel it working.

This time I ended with regular Tabata planks, ditching the weight. I just about managed to do the full course, although I did drop five seconds before the end of my penultimate plank. What can I say? Tabata’s are horrible. The ten second rest is just enough time to flop down and then prepare yourself again. Calling it a rest is false advertising!

Day 27/28 – Weekend Rest!

I say rest, but there’s a lot going on. I need to fix my car and find a new place to live. I’m moving city for a new job, which also means I need to find a new gym. Pretty serious business, that. Like getting your kid into a good school…

Great work overall Ray. The efforts you are putting in will be rewarded. Keep eating well and working hard and the physique, fitness, health and performance gains will be yours!

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.