Ray’s Cutting Diary – Week 3

Dumbbell Rack

Week three is here! Let’s get straight to it…

Day 15 – Chest/Front Delts


Dumbbell bench press (12-15 reps) into press-ups (to failure)

This was a tough start! I went for 22kg dumbbells and at first hit the top end of the range, before having to rest pause my way to the bottom end. In between the press-ups were decent, but never plentiful. I was surprised at how tough I found the presses, given that 22kg is the weight I used in the final GVT week of my bulking programme to hit 10×10! What gives!?

So many answers to your question “what gives”. First, you were on a Calorie surplus for GVT, now a deficit so you will feel more fatigued. Second, you were doing 10 reps of 10, resting then repeating. Here you are doing 12-15, and from what you said, 15, then doing another exercise without resting to totally fatigue! The idea with GVT is that you can get to 10 semi-comfortably and the volume does the magic. With this, you are trying to get to failure from 2 exercises, rest and repeat. Of course it’s hard with the same weight! Lastly, your rest days with GVT were staggered in a way to allow full recovery for growth whereas this programme is set up to cut – so it’s a little different!

Incline dumbbell press (12-15) into Isometric wipers (to failure)

Wasn’t sure what weight to drop to for this so I picked up a set of 16kgs, assuming they’d likely be a bit too easy. Man, I was wrong. I managed to hit the low-end of the range in the first set, and then again had to rest pause my way to the bottom end for the other sets. In between the wipers were as tough as ever. Only a few each time.

Again, huge pre-fatigue from the sets above and then the isometric wipers between. Killer, and will be hard and require a sensible weight choice.

Standing Military Press (12-15) into Front plate raises (to failure)

An Olympic bar with just 5kg loaded on for a 25kg total, and I hit the top end of the range, before once again having to rest-pause my way to the bottom end thereafter. The plate raises in between weren’t bad. I dropped down to just the bar for the last set in hope of a fuller performance, but I still had to rest pause halfway through. I was a bit confused by this point, having underperformed at near every juncture. I was trying, don’t get me wrong. But the strength just wasn’t there.

See my first comment. All natural, don’t worry about it, just keep working to failure as best you can. The right decision to drop the 5kg off the O-bar by the way. Well done.

Dips (to failure) into Car drivers (to failure)

Today I performed the chest version of the dips. Leaning forward a little more, elbows flared etc. But I only managed two reps each set. The car drivers in between were reasonable, with 6-8 reps, but it was tougher to get there than it has been previously. I wasn’t happy with the rep return for the dips, so I decided to throw on a rest pause, but couldn’t manage a single rep. I could lower myself down, but there was no gas in the tank to get me back up. I tried again – but nothing doing.

Then you are working to failure and beyond. Not many people do, so sincerely well done.

Chest press (12-15) w/2 x drop sets to failure

Thankfully I finished the session better. I dropped to just 25kg for the first set here, and worked to the bottom of the range. I then moved up to 32kg and again managed the low-end. The third set saw me stick at 32kg but fall just shy of the rep range (I managed around 8 or so), before dropping back down to 25kg for about 6 reps, and then finally down to 18kg for another 8 reps or so. I didn’t have much strength to really go full throttle on this, either with weight or squeezing, but I could still put some reps out with the relatively low weight. So it was okay considering the general trend of the session, but I’m certainly not going to shout about it.

Pleased with this. Too many people skip drops as it hurts and feels like you have nothing. Well done mate.

Overall this was a bizarrely weak session in terms of strength, but I didn’t stop trying. A while ago I’d have probably gotten quite annoyed at this/myself for the poor showing, but today I just accepted it for what it was and did my best. And thankfully the gym was near empty, so only a couple of people saw me exhibiting the strength of a lethargic dormouse.

Hahaha! First lesson, don’t worry about what everyone else might be thinking. When they get on the treadmill next to you and do Tabata at 20kph at gradient 2% then go straight into 20 full arm pull-ups, then maybe worry. But until then, just concentrate on your session. 

I’m actually pleased with this session. I’m assuming it was a low carb day the day before, so it’s to be expected and you worked hard. Well done.

Day 16 – Back/Rear Delts


Lat pulldown (shoulder width grip) (12-15) into Wide-grip lat pulldown (to failure)

I dropped the weight down to 39kg (to offset the increase in reps), and hit the low-end of the range each time. In between I averaged about five reps of the wide-grip variety. This was a solid enough start to the session.

Good weight choice and good reps. Nice.

Seated cable row (12-15) into Standing bent over reverse flyes (to failure)

Pretty much the same here, hitting the low-end of the cable row rep range before averaging five or so reverse flyes. My form isn’t always consistent for the reverse flyes, so I should probably rewatch videos of the exercise being performed and try to sort that out.

It’s a case of really trying to concentrate on feeling the exercise in the rear delt while keeping lats down. Maybe close your eyes as you do it to FEEL the muscle. Sometimes I’ve had to press hard into the muscle I want someone to feel it in so they can then make that connection themselves. Try that; press your thumb or knuckle into each side (rear delt) and then squeeze to feel the same place.

Bent over row (12-15) into Face pull (to failure)

An EZ bar with just 30kg on it for the bent over rows. A bit too light again, as it has been each week of the programme so far. There’s no excuses for not sorting this out. The face pulls, as ever, were decent. I do wonder if my form is right, though. In the pictures I see people are standing quite upright, whereas I adopt an almost faux-squat stance so the relatively heavy weight doesn’t pull me forward.

I prefer to kneel on one knee, again, so the weight doesn’t pull me forward. To be honest, as long as you feel it in the right place (rear delts/traps) I don’t care if you sit on the floor! By the sounds of it, apart from a bad choice of weight for BOR (which I would blame on choice of bar) I think this sounded pretty good.

Chin-ups (to failure) into upright row (to failure)

A fairly disappointing set of chin-ups with only four to five each time, leading into average upright rows using the EZ bar from the previous exercise. My elbows clanged the plates a bit, which is one of the reasons Sean has previously advised that I stick to an Olympic bar or dumbbells for upright rowing. Maybe he knows what he’s talking about?

See my EZ bar point above. Personally I only use a EZ bar for 2 things: biceps and triceps. I have upright rowed it, but like you it bangs my elbows. Not ideal. Good work though, I imagine your 5 chin-ups were full, long arm reps unlike most other people meaning we will be getting some good technique in the bag as well as working hard in the session. Good man.

Renegade row (8-12) into Straight-arm pulldowns (to failure)

I hit the low-end of the range for the renegade rows using the same weight I’ve gone with for a few weeks now. I might go heavier next time, just to see. I have a hunch I’ll still hit the range, and have been unintentionally coasting for the past few weeks. The straight-arm pulldowns in between were good. It’s been a while since I’ve done these so I wasn’t sure what weight to go for. I tried 45kg and averaged five or so reps each time.

As you know, my own thoughts have been that your renegades are performed with a weight way too light for you. But, it’s a move that requires confidence so I’d much rather see you gain that with a lighter weight then move on when really ready. I think we’re there. Perfect.

This wasn’t the best session, in truth. My strength was a little disappointing as it was yesterday, and I went into the session in a bit of a bad mood so things never really had the chance to go full throttle. I’ll just take the lessons and move on.

Put it behind you. Forget it. Onto the next.

Day 17 – CV


It’s a high carb day and I’m on the treadmill nice and early.

LISS – 16 minute jog

The past two weeks I’ve jogged for fifteen minutes, so today I decided to go for sixteen instead. A small increment, but slow and steady progress is fine by me. I was flagging for the final two minutes, but made it through. My leg itched throughout the run, but somehow I managed to avoid dealing with it. I want a medal.

In the Marines we don’t let Recruits scratch or itch or wipe sweat from their faces/eyes at all. It not only teaches self-discipline, it helps when they are in situations like ambushes when the slightest move could give a position away. Whether it’s sweat or the world’s biggest spider; you have to leave it alone. I feel you actually self-taught yourself some of this today Ray. Good self-discipline. #BeMoreCommando

HIIT – Tabata sprints

Last time I started my sprints at speed 17 before working up through 18 to 20. Today I decided to try and complete an entire Tabata sprint set at a speed of 18.5, and I managed it! As expected, the final few phases were pretty tough going, but I made it through and next time I’ll be attempting an even faster pace.

Very, very pleased with this. Superb.

Day 18 – Rest



Day 19 – Triceps/Biceps


Close grip underhand lat pulldown (12-15) into Barbell curls (to failure)

Decent start here, working hard to hit the lower end of the pulldown range before some curls in between. I’m never satisfied with my curls when they’re supersetting with something else.

Hahaha! I think a lot of men would agree with you and hence spend way too many sessions curling, curling, curling. The irony is, the pull-downs/chin-ups will actually build better biceps; so keep going and just take the hit on what feels like rubbish curls. The necessary good is being done!

Cable curls (12-15) into Dumbbell hammer curls (to failure)

The last few times I’ve done cable curls it’s been at the end of the session and I’ve been completely out of gas, so it was nice to hit them up earlier today. I was using a pretty light weight (23kg, I think?), and hitting the lower end of the range. The hammer curls in between weren’t the best; only five or so each time. I’m paranoid about why I’m having to drop to such a low weight for the cable curls, given that at my old gym I was doing much more. I know I’m hitting up these sessions without breakfast which may be having an effect, but still. Puzzling!

Old gym = different machine. Different set up and likelihood, different friction. You can’t compare. it may say the same weight, but it means nothing. Forget it. Just do what you can do with what is in front of you. 

TRX inverted row (12-15) into Reverse grip bent over rows (to failure)

Thankfully I managed to get a TRX strap and a free Olympic barbell pretty quickly, and enjoyed a successful superset. The TRX rows were tough. I hit the low-end of the range on the first set, before only managing seven in the second and third sets. I made up the deficit with rest pauses at the end, of course. The bent over rows were done with 60kg, and I managed around five reps for the first few sets, before dropping to three or so for the last set and subsequent rest pauses.

Great superset. Well done Ray. Especially for the added rest/pauses. Perfect student.

Dips (to failure) into Close hand diamond press-ups (to failure)

This is a nice superset to get the triceps firing. I didn’t get quite the volume I’d hoped for, though. Six dips to start with, and about five press-ups, with returns diminishing each set. I threw on a rest pause to get some more out, but I didn’t manage to add too many. I really like these exercises. Just wish I was stronger so I could make more use of them!

Give it time, you will be. Nothing worth having was ever gained quickly. It’s all the sweeter when worked for.

Cable triceps rope extension (8-12) into Bench dips (to failure)

According to my BodySpace app I’ve never done the triceps rope extensions before. It lies to me. I definitely have. I started at just 23kg today and hit the top end of the range, before managing ten bench dips, which I was pretty happy with. I upped the weight for the extensions thereafter, to around 28kg for the next two sets, managing eight reps each time (with around 8 bench dips in between). I’m surprised I managed so many dips, to be honest. I was making sure I dipped low to feel a nice stretch, so I don’t think I was cheating myself.

Good man. Again, another solid effort on a superset. Your arms will be filling some sweaters this winter!

Close grip bench press (8-12) into Lying dumbbell hammer triceps extension (to failure)

A decent superset to finish. I managed to get onto a proper bench rack, and loaded an Olympic barbell for 30kg total. So not too much, and in fact I wish I’d gone a little heavier. I hit around ten reps each time, with 5-7 extensions in between (with 10kg dumbbells). I don’t think the extensions were all that great form wise, but today is the first time I’ve ever done them.

To make the tri exts work, almost think about keeping the elbows pointed towards the wall behind your head. There will be a (natural) tendency to let them point to the wall your feet are pointing towards as this will make the exercise easier. Always take the hard path as an Special Forces Colonel once told me.

A decent session overall, although I do find myself paranoid a lot of the time that I’m not doing well enough, or that somehow I used to lift way more at the old gym so either I was doing it wrong, recorded it wrong, or have somehow gotten weaker over time. I know this line of thinking isn’t productive, though, and I just need to concentrate on the here and now and make each session the best it can be.

Clear your mind. If you are failing, you are failing. Forget the weights: tempo, failure, superset, rest, repeat.

Day 20 – Legs / Abs


A nice early Saturday session. I don’t know if it’s the same where you are, but my gym is pretty empty at this time, which makes it a great opportunity for getting all the premium kit without having to wait.

Squats (10-12) into Barbell jump squats (to failure)

After a quick warmup set with 30kg I loaded up to 70kg, and actually overshot my first set with 15 reps (and then dropped back down to 30kg for 7 jump squats). I then upped weight slightly to 75kg (and 35kg for jumps) and pushed myself to hit the bottom of the range. I actually had to rack it halfway during the final set, which was annoying. I managed 5-6 jumps, though, which seemed okay.

Good effort Ray. Great start to the session. Good numbers with that weight and great effort upping the weight when you overshot the reps. Nice.

While struggling my way through the main squats and feeling pretty weak, I recalled the final week of the GVT phase of my recent bulking programme, wherein I’d built up to 72.5kg 10x10s. Seems a world away at this point. Of course, back then I had adjusted to training that way, and was packing the fuel in. So it was a different situation.


Deadlifts (10-12)

Higher reps than last time, so a lower weight to compensate. I started at 60kg in a sort of faux warm-up and hit the lower end of the range. I then upped it to 70kg for another 10 reps, and felt a little light-headed. So I decided to keep it at 70kg, and fell slightly short of the range over the next two sets, making it up with some rest pauses at the end. My form was getting a little sloppy towards the end.

As long as you know your form was sloppy you can correct it. The knowing is the difficult thing. 

Glute bridges (10-12) into TRX hamstring curls (to failure)

The glute bridges have been a bit awkward for me recently, but today they went well as I returned to using an Olympic barbell. A couple of small plates either side made for a 25kg load, which I managed to get 10 reps out of each time, albeit with some rest pausing in the second two sets. In between I got some good hamstring curls in: 10 reps, 10 again, and then down to 6 in the final set.

Very pleased with this. The glute exercise is an important one to nail, as in my opinion it should make up any programme for strength or hypertrophy of the legs. Well done Ray.

Bulgarian split squats (12-15) into Bulgarian split squats with no weights (to failure)

Booooo, still struggling with this. I used only a 15kg barbell and still fell short of the rep range, hitting 5-7 reps on each set (and with the weightless splits in between). I’m sure the lacklustre performances here are at least partly mental in nature, but still. Come on, man.

Keep going! You will get better. It’s a tough exercise which is why you don’t see many people around the gym doing it unless they are serious about their training. Keep it up. In the Royal Marine rehab gym there’s a wooden sign at the back of the gym on the wall, etched into it are the words “It will come”.

Decline reverse crunch (8-12) into Weighted plank (40secs)
Cable crunches (8-12) into Floor crunches (8-12)

I hit the low-end of the rep range on the reverse crunches, before finding the planks really tough. The last few weeks I’ve used a 20kg plate for 30 secs, but today pushed on for an extra ten seconds. Doesn’t sound a lot, but it’s important to remember that when you’re planking every second actually takes three hours.

25% increase?! That’s tough. Well done though mate. Just think about a 25% increase on squats or another weighted exercise? Huge. Slightly different as it’s time, but still well done on cracking it.

The cable crunches went well also, hitting the lower end of the range before a handful of crunches after. I threw on a couple of rest pauses at the end to get some more floor crunches out, but they were getting less and less crunching, and more just lying on the floor. So I eventually I decided to bring the session – and week three – to a close…

Well done on the rest/pauses to ensure a strong finish. Seem to me that considering you felt the week started “weak”, it finished strong. Well done Ray.

Day 21 – 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.