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Ray’s Bulking Diary – Week 9

Dumbbell rack

And we’re back in the room! This is actually the last week of the GVT protocol, so I’m hoping to hit some heights and really smash it before moving on to the next stage of the program.

I’m hoping the rest week proved a good addition. In the circumstances it was certainly the right thing to do.

Day 55 – Arms/Shoulders

After a week away I expected that my first session back might be a little rusty, and so it proved.

The dip machine at my new gym has different weight levels, and I chose one that sits between the last weight I completed a 10×10 on, and the weight I failed on last time around. And unfortunately I didn’t do very well. The exercise quickly deteriorated into a series of lesser sets with a bunch of dropsets and increased assistance. Not really a good start, but I made sure I hit 100 reps. Whatever the deficit is after 10 sets, I’ve got into the habit of repaying that ‘debt’ with either rest pauses or dropsets.

Well done. As I’ve said before: the mind fails long before the body. You kept the mind strong and ensured a good fatiguing session on the dips exercises despite what you perceived to be an inadequate GVT. Actually really good start.

Moving on to the incline dumbbell curls, I remembered that I was due to move up a weight after hitting a complete 10×10 last time. With a week off in between, and the fact I would likely have struggled anyway, I knew it was ambitious. But I was in that mood, so I went up and got to it. Again, quite quickly the rep returns deteriorated and I used drop sets at the end to get in the full 100 reps. Even expecting a diminished performance, I still didn’t do quite as well as hoped with these GVTs. Thankfully I’ll be hitting them again on Friday, so I’ll get a chance to redeem myself.

Again, I’m not disheartened by this; a good first session back. You could have easily walked away, but using other protocols to finish is commendable. Well done. Looking forward to seeing what Friday’s repeat delivers.

Next up I battled my shoulders, working with ever so slightly heavier weights for my seated side lateral raises, falling frustratingly shy of my intended rep range (12-15). But again, I made up the deficit. I did quite well with the standing military press, though. Same weight as last time, and three decent sets without a rest pause at the end (but some push pressing to get me through).

Well done.

The session finished with cable crunches, where I managed to burn my knee a little on the carpet. I fell a little short of expectations here, but still did okay.

Grab a mat next time if you’re in a carpeted gym!

Overall this session could have been better, but I knew I was shaking off the rust and I’ll get another crack at it on Friday, so I’m not beating myself up.

Again, I’m not unhappy with this. First session back is always a bit iffy, so you coped well and worked hard. We can’t ask for more.

Day 56 – Rest

Finally, a break between arms/shoulders and chest/back! Hopefully I’ll see the benefits tomorrow.

Day 57 – Chest/Back

The past few times I’ve done dumbbell bench presses it’s always been off the back of an arms/shoulders day, and I’ve fallen just shy of completing a challenging weight with my 10x10s. But today, with a rest day in the bag, I finally managed to complete it. Very satisfying! I was super motivated by knowing that this is my last week of GVTs. I really forced those reps out to complete the full 10×10; no way I was going to fall short. Fist pump on completion – get in!

Brilliant. As we said, your Mon-Fri routine meant the GVT protocol couldn’t be as planned usually, with said rest day between arms/shoulders and chest/back days. Less than ideal, but we worked with it: something everyone can learn from. Just because someone, somewhere once said it has to be a certain way (unless it’s a law) it doesn’t actually have to be. As Arnie says: break the rules. Well Ray, we did and you coped well. However, the results of this 10×10 showed the benfits of the correct rest days with this programme, so perhaps in hindsight we would’ve been better if we could’ve stuck to the ideal outline. Having said that, you’ve worked hard throughout and never given up, my feelings being the results will be seen regardless.

The wide-grip lat pulldown didn’t go quite as well, however. Quick bit of context: I don’t have the Internet at my new flat yet. I’ve been rinsing my mobile data. In fact, I’ve used it all up. So I couldn’t use my app to check what weight I’d been doing. Annoying! I tried logging into the gym’s free WIFI, but it wasn’t sending me the verification code. I tried a few times. No luck. All the while I’d been tutting my way through some lacklustre sets. In the end I managed to get onto the WIFI and found out I’d been doing one weight level less than I should have been. In any case, I hadn’t been concentrating on the tempo, and in the end somebody else came to work in with me, so my rests went a bit long. A messy set of pulldowns, unfortunately.

Annoying. But… like every “failure” there’s a lesson to be learned. If we take “learnings” from every mistake, there are no mistakes/failures; simply areas to learn from. The lesson here? Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Learn it. Remember it. Use it. If that had been a code to get cash out or your passport at the airport it could’ve been costly. Bring up your weights the night before (just like you get your gym kit and shaker ready) and have them in your notes ready to go. Preparation is key.

After this I moved onto incline dumbbell flyes where I tried a few different heights; I don’t think they’re the same as my old gym, so I wasn’t quite sure which one to use. I went for a weight just a smidgen heavier than last time around, and hit the low end of the rep range (12-15) on each set. This could – and should – have been a bit better. But it was still okay.

Too hard on yourself. Sounds good to me and if you worked to failure, regardless of weight, if tempo and form were good, then it’s doing the job.

Chin-ups next, and not a great set really. Again, the weight levels of this machine are a bit different, and I’m paranoid enough to think that the machine is calibrated differently anyway. 10kg here is not the same as 10kg there, etc. Daft. But yeah, a few mediocre sets of these. I’ve gotten better at these over the weeks, but never ‘good’.

Changing machines mid-programme isn’t ideal. We knew that. Machines aren’t calibrated differently; more they are serviced differently. If one is well oiled and smooth that 10kg will be 10kg. If it’s an old machine, not serviced, friction etc can mean that 10kg is no longer 10kg. Let’s get you moved onto free chin-ups anyway. No machine needed now.

Finally I came to planks, and was determined to end on a high. I grabbed a 10kg plate and went for another fully weighted set of Tabata planks. And managed it! Again, there were a few points here or there where I’d fail a second early or be a second late starting, but generally this was another completely weighted set. I’d probably need to hit it a few more times (without early/late failing) before I’m ready to progress to a heavier weight, though.

Well done. Very pleased with the development of this exercise: physically and mentally.

Day 58 – Legs

Had a slight wait to get on the squat rack, but then I put in a solid 10×10 on the heaviest weight I’ve attempted yet under the GVT protocol. Last time around I put in a complete enough set to progress, so this week it was a new challenge. I didn’t do well enough to progress again, with latter sets featuring a fair amount of pausing and an inconsistent tempo, plus extended rests due to somebody else working in. But I did better than I thought I would, and completed 100 reps without any rest pausing (i.e. racking the weight).

This is superb. Legs is the one to nail for so many reasons: it’s the hardest, it means the most, it has bigger changes associated with it and it’s the one most people don’t bother with. Well done, Ray. I’m very happy with this.

Unfortunately this gym doesn’t have a lying leg curl machine, so I had to opt for the seated variety. This is a bit of a pain from a continuity point of view, but I selected a reasonable weight – if a level too light – and squeezed out my sets. Decent, but not as intense as it should have been if I’m being honest.

Ideally any gym should have both as they work the legs in a different way. Most fitness managers/general managers don’t know this so order one or the other. Not ideal, but that’s the industry: 25 treadmills and half the kit needed for the lower body (if you’re lucky). If only gyms started giving people what they need, not what people think they want through poor understanding. Anyway, that’s another subject! Well worked around the problem.

Another slight disappointment is that this gym’s fixed weight barbells don’t go as high as my old gym, so for the glute bridges I had to go for a much lighter weight than usual. I could have loaded an olympic bar, but they were all in use. I tried to compensate for the lack of weight by really squeezing the glutes at the apex of the rep. I might have to plan an alternative to this exercise, as this isn’t quite as intense as I want it to be.

Either up the reps to 20-25 (which is tough) or as soon as you finish squats, go into glute bridges (as you have the olympic bar). Then do seated leg curl after that.

Leg extensions followed, and I tried to get to grips with another new machine. Slightly different angles, weights, positions etc. Over three reasonable sets I tried to find the sweet spot. Over the first couple of weeks there’ll be plenty of this, I’m sure. Getting used to new stuff and finding my benchmarks.

Again, not ideal changing gyms. In hindsight we should’ve got you in during last week’s active rest week to find your weights. Another learning point for me.

I finished up with reverse crunches on a decline bench. I managed to grab a decline bench, but these ones don’t have a central handle to hold on to, which seemed to bring my shoulders into play a little more as my hands had to be wider to get a hold and stabalise myself. Additionally, I tried to find a decline that matched what I’ve been doing previously, but I think in the end I actually worked on a steeper angle.

Keep trying to work it out. Most benches don’t have a handle so you end up holding the bench. Not too bad, and actually works the biceps as well!

Quite a few exercises in transition here, with new kit that needs figuring out. Not a bad session, though, and I’m pretty happy with the squats!

Day 59 – Arms/Shoulders

I struggled again with my tricep dips. Not quite sure what’s going on. The weights are the same from machine to machine, right? I mean, my old gym wasn’t calibrated differently so that x-kg over there isn’t actually the same as x-kg over here? I’m probably paranoid! It was a poor set, really, where I changed the weight up a few times but never really hit my stride. I’ve made good progress on these over the weeks, but it’s kind of whimpered out in the final week.

As said above, if machines aren’t maintained properly, friction can cause real issues. Also, brand to brand they’ll be different from the angles and number of pulleys. Let’s forget it and move onto real dips now!

Incline bicep curls, however, were much better. Earlier in the week I was a little disappointed with my performance; I’d been expecting then pretty much what I managed today, which was completing half of it, before succumbing to the weight and making up the deficit with rest pauses at the end. I’m happy with how it went, although those latter sets did see some inconsistency creep in with regards to form and tempo. Still, a much fuller set today.

Good job.

After this I tackled seated side lat raises again, putting in a fuller set than last time. And for the standing military press I managed to put out three full sets at the top end of the rep range; no rest pauses, but a fair bit of push pressing in the third set. I think I prefer to keep the weight up with push pressing, than to drop it for a rest pause. It feels a more intense way of doing it as it keeps the burn going.

Very happy with these. Well done, Ray. I thought overhead press was going to be a weak spot. Not so.

The session finished with cable crunches, and again I found myself switching up the weight and wondering why I couldn’t quite find the right groove.

Again, different machines, different angles. I had the same the other day at a gym I hadn’t been to for over a year. Cable crunches didn’t hit the spot. I chose the wrong cable machine. Learnings.

Day 60/61 – Weekend Rest!

And lo, the GVTs doth cometh to an end. Although I’ve been inconsistent in parts, I think overall I’ve made good progress through this portion of the program. I’d never worked GVT style before, so it’s been fun to tackle a different training protocol.

I’m happy overall. I think your strength on all exercises has improved a lot. Furthermore, by repeating some very core moves 10×10 for a number of weeks, we’ve drilled good form into you. Nailing squats, overhead press, dumbbell press etc techniques is paramount. Not just as we will move into supersets where you may be tired before doing one of these exercises, but also for you future as a gym user. Well done, Ray!

Next week I move on to a PPL schedule, but first… a well earned rest.

See you next week!

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.