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Ray’s Cutting Diary – Week 10

Dumbbell rack

Time for week ten, which is also the second week of this microcycle. That means the reps are going down (from 12-15 to 10-13) and the weight is going up. The idea is for weight increases across the board, but with a slight bit of rep range overlap there’s scope for me to keep the weight the same if I didn’t do well enough with it last time.

Day 64 – Chest/Back/Shoulders/Calves

 

Wide-grip lat pulldown into pushups (10-13 reps, 4 sets)

Last week I went with 39kg and did okay, but needed a rest pause in the final set. So today I increased the weight only a touch to 41.3kg, and hit the top of the range for the first three sets, and the low-end in the fourth. No rest pauses required. In between I started with 10 pushups, but this decreased by one rep each set, so I threw on an extra rest pause at the end just for god measure. A decent start.

Perfect start, text book.

Seated cable rows into dumbbell shoulder press (10-13 reps, 4 sets)

Last time out I went with 34.3kg for a reasonable set, so today I moved up to 39kg. And it proved a decent weight. I first hit the high-end, but this had dropped to the low-end by the end, but again, no rest pauses today. For the shoulder presses I actually dropped from 10kg to 8kg. This was because with the 10kgs I was struggling to hit the range and get a good set out, and I just felt that 8kg would be the sweet spot for this range. And so it proved. I hit the range for the first three sets, before needing a rest pause (which also included a few more seated rows) at the end. Happy with this.

I like that you are able to make these calls yourself now. If feel like you have really become in-tune with your own body and what will work/won’t work. That obviously comes with experience, which this bulk and cut has given.

Incline dumbbell flyes into reverse flyes (10-13 reps, 3 sets)

I opted against moving up a weight level today, instead sticking at 14kg and hoping to squeeze out three full sets at the high-end of the range. I would then feel okay moving up a level later in the week. And that’s kind of how it went, only I hit the low-end in the last set instead. Still, I’ll be giving 16kgs a go next time I reckon. In between I took Sean’s advice to have two sets of DBs for the reverse flyes, and dropset after failure. I started with 8kgs and did my best with those, before dropping to 5kgs to finish the set. Overall quite a good set, actually. Never too plentiful with the 8kgs (6 reps, then 5 reps, then only 2), but the 5kgs were there to keep things going and the squeezing was good.

Text book again. I think the dropping works well for very small isolation exercises, as often the jump up to the next weight is huge, but without trying no progression can be made. Drop setting allows this.

Cable crossover into cable lateral raise (10-13 reps, 3 sets)

Last time I felt that the 23kg weight was a little too much, but today I stuck with it due to the lowered range. I hit the low-end of the range for the first two sets, but had to dropset my way through the third (from 23kg down to 18kg and then 14kg). That’s okay, though. The dropsetting allowed me to not only get more reps out, but the lower weight meant the reps continued to be good reps. In between I once again stuck with 9kg for the lateral raises, and managed the low-end of the range each time (with help from a rest pause in the final set). I’ll probably try my hand at a higher weight here next week when the range drops again. For now, the jump from 9kg to 14kg is too much. (Although I could employ the same dropsetting method I used for the crossovers, I guess…)

What you’re doing sounds good to me. 14kg for lateral raise will be tough: that’s heavy, but perhaps with the dropsets feasible. You know your body now, so as long as you feel you can control and squeeze; go for it.

Dumbbell shrug into decline dumbbell bench press (10-13 reps, 3 sets)

Weight increases across the board here, from 28kg to 30kg for the shrugs, and from 16kgs to 18kgs for the presses. The shrugs weren’t as good this time, but I hit the range, whilst the presses were nice and intense. I used a rest pause in the final set, even though I had actually hit the range already. Later in the week I’ll move up to 20kg, and suspect that’ll prove a very sweaty challenge…

Well done Ray. Sounds good across the board. Nice to see you gaining in confidence with the decline press.

Calf press (10-13 reps, 2 sets toes in, 2 sets toes out)

Onto the leg press, and I started at the same weight (120kg) for the first set but then moved up to 129.3kg. The reps weren’t quite as good today, but I still hit the range okay. I had a little trouble getting started in the final two sets, as 129.3kg requires a bit of oomph to push out before I even get my feet in position to work the calves. In between these sets (i.e. during my rest period) I threw in some push-ups just for kicks.

Look at you, adding press-ups! Obviously the programme is too easy! 

Make sure the leg press seat is all the way back so you don’t have to leg press out as far.

HIIT

Last time I had a list of three HIIT types to choose form, and I went with Tabatas. So today I had to choose from the two remaining options:

  • 1min fast, 30sec rest x 5
  • 30sec fast, 30sec rest x 10

I went for the former, and completed it at 16.5kph and a 2% incline. Not quite as intense as it could have been, but still a challenge in its own right and worked up a really good sweat. Before I started I went through a two minute jog, and did some lunges/leg swings etc to loosen up a little. Hands up, I’m probably guilty of not paying enough attention to my warm ups / warm downs. I’ll pay for it eventually unless I get my act together!

You’re young so there’s tendency to skip warm-ups as you don’t feel like you need them. Start now as its a good habit. People look at me like an idiot doing walking lunges on the treadmill or swim stroke arms by the bench press. I’ll take looking like an idiot over a pulled muscle anyday

Overall a good session. Later this week I’ll be doing it again and moving the weights up for as many exercises as possible. Eek…

Positive look forward. Love it. Well done Ray.

Day 65 – Legs/Abs

 

Last night my left glute felt sore. This morning it’s the right one. I somehow swapped the DOM to the other cheek. That’s a talent worth adding to the CV, right?

Hmmm. Do you sit on one side when watching TV in the evening?

Leg press into straight leg dumbbell deadlift (10-13 reps, 4 sets)

From 100kg up just a touch to 109.3kg, and from 14kg to 16kg for the dumbbell deadlifts. It all went okay, actually. The leg presses felt really heavy and tough to get started with, but I managed to hit the low-end end of the range each time (although I never managed to keep moving like a metronome for more than 4 or 5 reps, thereafter often pausing for a second or two at the top). For the final set I dropsetted the weight down after hitting the range, just to squeeze out an extra five reps. In between the dumbbell deadlifts went okay, but I think I’m going to film myself doing them on Saturday and get Sean to offer some pointers – just to be sure my form is sufficient.

Thanks for the videos. I think you explode up too much when ding the deadlifts, Not a bad thing for normal exercises, especially if you are going for power for sport. You perform more 30X0 than 3010. What I think you need to do is slow everything down and feel the reps and squeeze the muscles. Even if it means lowering the weight, perform 3030 from now on.

Leg press wise, good effort on the weight, next time aim for 6-8 reps without pausing. Progression, progression, progression!

Goblet squat into TRX leg curls (10-13 reps, 4 sets)

I stuck with 20kg for the goblet squats, hoping to squeeze out a fuller set. In between I had to swap out the seated leg curls for some TRX curls, as a gaggle of friends commandeered a bunch of leg machines for a circuit. Not ideal for me, but fair play to them. Nothing untoward, obviously! I hit the range for the goblet squats each time (first set high-end, low-end thereafter), with 6-10 TRX reps in between each time. I think the TRX curls aren’t as good as the seated leg curls, but the trade of was that this probably helped me put a fuller set of goblet squats together. Every cloud.

Good to see the positives. Agreed TRX not as specific as leg curl machine. Maybe ask the lads if you can jump in one there rest, so you start you goblets as the last one jumps on the curl machine and then you go straight into it?

The goblets sounds more positive though so well done.

Leg extensions into Barbell squats (10-13 reps, 3 sets)

Had to wait a moment to get going with this, but thankfully the leg extension machine became available. I upped the weight from 41.3kg to 45kg and hit the range each time, rest pausing across the second two sets to hit well into the range instead of settling at the bottom. In between I stuck with the 20kg barbell for some squats, and it was tough, but I think I could do more. It was tough because I’m squatting – the legs will burn regardless; I could probably put on more weight without much of a difference in output.

Good work. Nice progression on the leg ext weight. My gut says 20kg is too light for you for this squat wise, but if it’s burning I may be wrong. Just make sure it’s intense.

Dumbbell walking lunges into dumbbell jump squats (10-13 reps, 3 sets)

Up to 14kg for the lunges, but sadly I couldn’t get any suitable DBs for the jump squats, so they were actually bodyweight throughout. I devised a plan to make up for it later. I worked out 12 reps per leg in each set of lunges, which I was happy with. I needed a rest pause halfway through the third set, though. For the jump squats, even just using bodyweight I found it difficult to string that many together. So the second and third set broke down into a few rest pauses sets to hit 10 reps. Not the best, but the lunges were good, so I’m happy with that.

Lunges sound good, well done on upping the weight. Jump squats, not ideal to be bodyweight but I guess you just jumped higher without weight! You could always do these as box jumps if your gym has them?

Cable crunch into weight plank into weighted jump squats (10-13 reps / 30secs, 3 sets)

Yerp! I tagged some extra jump squats onto this ab superset. I started at 59kg again for the crunches, but moved up to 64kg. It was an uneven collection of reps, really. Some great, others not so great. The planks (with a 15kg plate) were good. Once again I tried to push into the floor, and I took Sean’s advice to move my elbows slightly ahead of my shoulders for increased difficulty. It worked well. I think next time I’ll move up to a 20kg plate, though. For the jump squats I first tried it with the 15kg plate, but could only manage 3-4 reps before it just stopped happening. For the last set, I worked out 3 reps, and then dumped the plate and threw in a few body weight sets separated by quick rest pauses. 4 reps, rest, 3 reps, rest, 3 reps. Pretty meagre output, unfortunately, but I could quite easily have not bothered at all, so I’d like to give myself some kudos for trying at least.

Wow! Great end to the session. Good weight for the curls, awesome effort for the planks (will be good to see 20kg next time) and taking on the advise (and that its working). And what can I say about the jumps; superb. Really impressed Ray.

Overall not the best leg session – a little iffy with equipment this time around, but I did up the weights in places and had some good sets here and there. Chalk it up, keep grinding etc.

Too hard on yourself. Solid session.

Day 66 – Arms/Calves

 

Chin-ups into dips (to failure, 4 sets)

This went down pretty much the same as last week, starting with 6 reps a piece before diminishing. I threw on an extra rest pause at the end for good measure.

Good work. Great effort. Loving your rest pause additions.

Cable curl into triceps pushdown (rope) (10-13 reps / 4 sets)

27kg and 41kg respectively for these exercises. I hit the top end of the range to start with for the curls, but this diminished and I needed a rest pause in the final set (falling just shy at 9 reps). The pushdowns went much the same way. This wasn’t bad, but I think next week when the reps go down I’ll definitely be pushing the weight on again.

Good look forward, Don’t be convincing yourself that these weights are good though, 27 and 41 aren’t small for these exercises. I’m happy with this right now.

Incline dumbbell curl into standing dumbbell triceps extension (10-13 reps / 3 sets)

I stuck with 10kgs for the curls, with the idea being that today I would hit the range each time whilst always keeping my form strict with my back/head against the bench. I succeeded, but used a rest pause in the final set to get me to the range (and then another one to get to the top of the range). In between I moved up to 18kg for the dumbbell extensions and hit the top-end, then the low-end, then needed a rest pause.

Nice. B0th good weights and form by the sound of it.

Close-grip bench press into barbell curl (10-13 reps / 3 sets)

I used an EZ bar for the bench presses, and loaded up a 30kg total. I stuck with 10kg for the barbell curls in between. I hit the top end of the range each time for the bench presses, although they were increasingly difficult and I worked up a good sweat with it. The barbell curls, even with just 10kg, were tough. I hit the range each time, but used rest pauses in the second and third sets to hit the top end of the range.

On paper I would say both are light for you, but if its working, its working. Maybe try to progress a little weight wise next time.

EZ bar curl into Lying triceps press (10-13 reps / 3 sets)

Up from 15kg to 20kg for the curls and presses. The curls were okay, but again by this point I couldn’t get the strongest squeezes in. I may revert to a more bent-over stance to help remedy this. The presses weren’t bad either; like the bench presses in the preceding exercise, I managed to hit the top-end of the range but still worked up a good sweat.

Sounds good. And I agree, alot preceding so arms were probably fatigued. Still, a good set by the sound of it.

During this exercise I realised something. I have always thought that the EZ bar weighs 10kg unloaded. I thought I’d worked that out. But today I held that in one hand, and a 10kg fixed barbell in another, and it definitely isn’t. The EZ bar weighs maybe 7.5kg instead (which kind of ruins the weights I’d listed here). So that’s a thing.

Lol. I should’ve mentioned I guess. I always count the EZ bar as 7kg though it is probably more like 7.5kg. Either way, it’s not 10. Live and learn Ray, everyday.

Leg press calf raise (10-13 reps, 2 sets toes in, 2 sets toes out)

First set 120kg, then up to 134kg before dropsetting to 86kg for laughs in the final set. I hit the high-end for the first two sets, then the low-end for the second two sets.

“For laughs”, good work again. Star pupil.

Dips into chin-ups (to failure, 3 sets)

I threw on some more of these. You’ll note that I switched the order; dips first this time. I decided to relax with the tempo and even the ROM, and worked out 5-6 dips each time, before managing 2-3 chinups. Pretty grim output, really, but this was an extra, so it was better than nothing.

Absolutely brilliant, again, you training yourself. You used relaxed tempo and ROM to get better at something. Truly impressed Ray. Brilliant

Overall a reasonable session. I don’t think I managed to fully sink into it, as I had stuff on my mind and never really let that go. Some people can leave it all behind during a session, but I can’t. So the fact it didn’t really damage the session is a plus.

Rubbish, good to know though and an important point for anyone putting their training into a diary, how you feel matters. I t can explain a good or bad session.

Day 67 – Rest

 

Sweet, sensual rest. I usually get up any time between 5am and 6am depending on the length of the gym session to follow, but this morning I slept in until 7:30am. No pressing matters to get to work early for, nor a training session to write up into a blog. Just a casual morning. I forgot these things existed.

Sounds good. Glad you can get a lie in sometimes.

Day 68 – Chest/Back/Shoulders/Calves

 

Wide-grip lat pulldown into pushups (10-13 reps, 4 sets)

I dropped the weight from 41.3kg down to 39kg today, owing to the fact that I had to use the less smooth pulldown machine. I felt the reduction in weight would make it somewhat equivalent, if not slightly harder (which was my preference). I hit the range each time, albeit with a rest pause required in the final set (after 9 reps, mind you, so not too bad). The pushups in between were good, starting at 11 before diminishing each time. I threw on an extra rest pause at the end to squeeze out three more.

Sensible decisions throughout and a good return by the sounds of it. Best yet on press-ups I believe? good work.

Seated cable rows into dumbbell shoulder press (10-13 reps, 4 sets)

Up from 39kg to 41.3kg for the rows, and after hitting the high-end in the first set I worked to the low-end for each of the remaining sets. It was difficult to get there by the end, with some mini-pauses in between some of the latter reps. For the shoulder presses I had wanted to stick with 8kg, but they were taken, so I somewhat reluctantly moved back up to 10kg. I only managed to hit the range in the first set, with rest pauses required thereafter. This was a decent superset; nice and intense.

Sounds good to me. Even if the 10s meant less reps, I would think that this will help progress your shoulder strength a little anyway, so a big positive. You know the answer re little pauses for the row, just do less next time with that weight: progress. 

Incline dumbbell flyes into reverse flyes (10-13 reps, 3 sets)

Up from 14kg to 16kg as planned, and I hit the low-end of the range each time, throwing on a rest pause in the final set for good measure. It was tough, as expected. For the reverse flyes I did the same thing I did earlier in the week: start the set with 8kgs, work to failure, and then drop to 5kg dumbbells to finish off the range. I managed to do more with the 8kg dumbbells today than I did earlier in the week, so that’s a nice bit of progress.

Progression on both and Ray’s signature rest/pauses added. Superb set.

Cable crossover into cable lateral raise (10-13 reps, 3 sets)

Had a bit of a wait to get started on this, but eventually managed to snag two cables. I stuck with 23kg, hoping to hit some good full sets with quality squeezes. I hit the high-end in the first set, needed a rest pause in the second set, and used dropsets in the third set. So in the end it turned out to be quite bitty, I guess. But the squeezes were pretty good!

Sounds good to me: 3 different protocols used to get to failure to force adaptions and changes. I’d say that’s pretty good. How many other gym users do you see doing rest/pause or dropsets? Or even taking the first set near failure at all? Top marks Ray. I’m sure people at you r gym could learn a lot from you!

In between I once again stuck with 9kg for the lateral raises, hitting the range for two sets before requiring a rest pause. I think next time it’s definitely time have a go with a heavier weight, dropsetting back down to 9kg if need be. (I’m pretty sure the need will be…)

Good work, and yes, that’d be the plan.

Dumbbell shrug into decline dumbbell bench press (10-13 reps, 3 sets)

Stuck with 30kg for the shrugs and had a better set this time around. In between I moved up from 18kg to 20kg for the presses, and hit the range each time – first high-end, then low-end two (with an extra rest pause on top at the end). I think for the first two sets the decline of the bench wasn’t quite as steep as I usually have it. So I fixed that for the final set.

Maybe try to sneak the shrugs up again if you feel you have the strength to do so and keep the tempo/technique. Shame about the decline bench… I guess a lesson learned: check the kit before starting.

Calf press (10-13 reps, 2 sets toes in, 2 sets toes out)

Couldn’t get any of my usual machines here, so I actually went back to the squat rack and used the Olympic barbell for some raises. Not bad, but not as good as a machine would have been. During my rest periods I threw in some extra pushups, as you do.

Hahaha! As you do. Love it. Good to mix up the exercises so although it may not have felt so intense on the calves, free weights exercises do offer a different take on things so I’m sure benefits will be felt.

HIIT

Just one option left for today:

  • 30sec fast, 30sec rest x 10

I had intended to ask Sean about this for some guidance on what speed / incline would be appropriate. But I forgot; my bad. So I went with 18kph and a 1.5% incline. And it was, in truth, reasonable comfortable. Increasingly difficult, of course, but I completed it with relatively little fuss. I did, however, note a slight stiffness/ache in my right hip area, which prevented me from bothering to push the speed or incline up.

To be honest, I probably would have said 18 or 19 so you guessed right. Well done! A little quicker next time, hip dependent.

Hip wise, we need to watch this. 13 muscles make up the hip flexors so it could be a number of things. Perhaps try a foam roller on the hips, ITB, glutes, hamstrings and quads and see if that helps. Full warm-ups obviously as standard.

Overall a pretty good session. One or two extra breaks whilst waiting for kit which is never ideal, but I upped the weights and had some good sets. I was hoping for today to be a really great session, and it probably fell a bit short of that, but certainly another one to chalk up. As I’ve said before, it all adds up!

You are, as many people with high standards are, too hard on yourself. This was a good session, by anyone else’s standards, way better than 90% of people who use your gym. Keep it up mate, it’s great work.

Day 69 – Legs/Abs

 

Time for another early morning Saturday leg session.

Leg press into straight leg dumbbell deadlift (10-13 reps, 4 sets)

I upped the weights for both of these exercises. From 109.3kg to 113kg for the leg press (not much, I know), and from 16kg to 18kg for the deadlifts. I also moved the seat on the seated leg press further away from the platform that you place your feet on, as I think I’ve been too close resulting in my knees going well below 90 degrees when I lower the weight.

Knees going beyond 90 isn’t a problem if pain free and backside stays on seat. If you have the flexibility its fine to do this way. Making the seat further away will make the exercise easier as you aren’t doing the full ROM, like doing a pull-up always keeping the elbows bent.

This change allowed me to keep the reps going like a metronome far easier, if still not completely throughout each set. I first hit the high-end, but this diminished. Although I managed to hit the high-end again in the fourth set. A second wind; who knows from whence it came. In between the deadlifts I thought were reasonable; I needed rest pauses in the latter sets, though. And this time I filmed myself during the third set, so I’ll hopefully be able to get some pointers from Sean to correct my form if necessary.

Good work. Deadlifts sounded better and we spoke about the videos. In terms of the leg press and the seat height, it’s a toss up between full reps and keeping time under tension by being able to keep moving without pauses. Which is more important? Hard to say. Long term, I think technique is more valuable.

Goblet squat into seated leg curls (10-13 reps, 4 sets)

Again I stuck with the 20kg, but this time I managed to get the seated leg curl machine (for which I moved up from 59kg to 61.3kg – again, not much, but more than nothing). The goblets were okay; I hit the range each time but intermittently threw on a rest pause anyway. The leg curls in between were good – very tough. I think my legs shake on the way back up; either my legs and/or the machine. I also filmed myself here for one set (i.e. capturing both the squats and curls), so Sean can weigh in and let me know how terrible I am at everything.

It was all fine. In fact, the goblets are very good. Nice straight back, good depth and technique sits you back nicely to get best affect. A lot of people shake on eccentric phase as muscle try to control a hard weight, so good work. Triceps were the stand out thing on the leg curls, bracing you in the seat. Some great definition there!

Leg extensions into Barbell squats (10-13 reps, 3 sets)

For the extensions I moved up from 45kg to 49.3kg, but I stuck with a 20kg barbell for the squats. This was because although I reread my previous post and saw myself essentially boasting that I could do more, my log suggests I hadn’t managed to put out three full sets at the high-end of the range. So I was like okay then, Billy Big Bollocks, if it’s so easy then get it done!

Brilliant! Hence the important of a log/training diary.

So today I did. I’m not going to say I didn’t do any mini-pausing at the top, cause I totally did, but I hit the top end of the range each time. So next week when the reps go down, I’ll be justified in searching for a way to increase the weight here.

Brilliant work. Well done Ray

Oh, and the leg extensions were decent. I used rest pauses to make sure I was hitting the top end of the range, which resulted in some jumping out of the machine and general hopping around.

Hahaha! I think anyone who has used a leg ext machine properly knows this feeling/action. I love to hate this feeling.

Dumbbell walking lunges into dumbbell jump squats (10-13 reps, 3 sets)

Up from 14kg to 16kg today, and once again this proved a tough exercises. I hit my usual 12 reps per leg in the first set, but then had to take a rest pause halfway in the rest of the sets. Mostly for my legs, but the shoulders were feeling the weight as well. At the end of the second set I needed to lay on the floor for a few seconds. I’m actually surprised I managed as well as I did today, because when I first started this I was down on 10kg and it made me light-headed. So I’ve progressed quickly.

Very quickly. You see how quick you can progress, hence microcycles can be so useful. You will plateau soon but no matter, we move onto something else and shock the body another way.

In between I used 7kg for the jump squats, always rest pausing to hit the range. I must admit that they weren’t great, though. After the intensity of the lunges I didn’t really have any explosive action to my jumps. So it was a bit underwhelming, but I still got the reps in for whatever they’re worth.

You aren’t supposed to be able to leap like a salmon here, the idea is the legs are spent but you take them that little bit further over the edge, which it sounds like you did. Top effort Ray!

Cable crunch into weight plank (10-13 reps / 30secs, 3 sets)

Two sets of 59kg for the crunches before a final set (withe extra rest pauses) at 64kg. I didn’t try splitting my sets up at all here, instead trying to hit the range in full in one go. And it went quite well, actually. Sucking in the stomach, tensing, slowly lowering back up. Not bad, as it goes.

Perfect. Well done mate, every now and then it’s about concentrating on a specific exercise and nailing it as you did here. Top marks. That suck in and control is imperative to abs training but seldom done.

For the planks I moved up to a 20kg plate and it was tough. Still trying to push the floor down with my feet, and allowing my elbows to sit a little ahead of my shoulders whilst, of course, tensing the core. Next week I might stick with the same plate but add on a little extra time. I know previously that 20kg for 40 seconds was a real killer, so it should be pretty tough after some cable crunches!

That will hurt! Give it a go, what’s the worst that can happen?!

Overall a good session – very happy to end week 10 like this.

Ditto. Great week. Keep it up… 2 weeks to go.

Day 70 – Rest

 

Sweet, sweet rest.

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.