Archives For Weekly Review

Welp, it's 2015 now, meaning many people are making resolutions.


New Years resolution: Eat more vegetables. #health #fitness #gains #spinach

A photo posted by John Phung (@johnny_phung) on

Training Updates

Reflecting back on recent training, I realize that there are certain lifts that would probably benefit from increased frequency.

My thing is that I don't want to spend more time doing more stuff!

So, I'm going to make some changes to my training that will allow me to increase the frequency of certain lifts without expending more time.


Simply cram them into my warm up! This will allow me to practice more technical/explosive/poorer leveraged/weaker lifts/lifts that I suck at as a "warm up" to heavier lifts without significantly spending more time or energy.

Here's what I mean:

A lift that I do on and off is the low bar squat.

After a layoff of low bar squatting, getting back into it feels awkward. I can't seem to find my groove and my technique is off. I could low bar squat more frequently, but I find with frequent low bar squatting at RPE 9+ sets really takes it's toll on my shoulders, elbows, and low back. And it's just not comfortable. This is not the case with high bar squat, which is why I do that particular variation so often.

To make sure that the low bar squatting technique is grooved freshly into my muscle's brains, what I'm going to do (and I've done this in the past - mostly in 2013) is warm up with low bar squat, and then move onto high bar squat with a few warm up sets followed by my top sets and back off sets (if any).


Breathing Paused Low Bar Squat

  • 140 x 10
  • 230 x 5
  • 320 x 3

Paused Low Bar Squat

  • 410 x 1

Paused High Bar Squat

  • 410 x 1

High Bar Squat

  • Whatever x Whatever

This can be done with front squat as well, but my purpose is to fine tune my low bar technique on a regular basis and prevent myself from getting rusty with the lift.

Another way I plan on incorporating this is warming up with overhead presses, then move onto a few warm up set of bench presses, then finally my top set (and whatever back off sets I decide to do afterwards).


Overhead Press

  • 45 x 10
  • 100 x 5
  • 140 x 3
  • 190 x 2
  • 230 x 1
  • 250 x 1
  • 300 x 1
    • SOON

(set up bar, safeties and bench for bench pressing)

Paused Reverse Grip Bench Press

  • 320 x 2
  • 370 x 1

Reverse Grip Bench Press

  • (PR set)

For deadlifts, I have more recently performed the clean & press as "warm up" prior to deadlifting. I think explosive lifts will revv up your CNS if done prior to slow lifts, making you lift more weight. At the very least, it allows me to practice something more technically challenging than simply bending over and picking something off the ground.

Now, I just need to increase the frequency of deadlifting, and I'm set.

3 Personal Records

Only 3 PRs this week, mainly because of holidays and stuff </excuses>.

Bench Press: 335 lb x 4 (4RM)

Did this after doing a bunch of overhead presses.

High Bar Squat (No Belt): 405 lb x 10 (10RM)

New Years Resolution: Do more cardio.

DONE! Now I can relax for the rest of the year.

Overhead Press: 270 lb x 2 (2RM)

Felt like risking my life today, so I used a false (or thumbless) grip for the OHP.

I'm usually paranoid of the bar slipping out of my hands with a thumbless grip for any pressing movement, but I'm sure my Spidey senses and reaction time would get me to safety if I do drop the bar.

Stuff You Should Read

  1. 2014 Year In Review & Goals for 2015 by Me!

I’m going to keep this weekly review short, mainly because I’m working on a larger Yearly Review looking back at 2014.

Last week was Christmas, so I didn’t get the chance to train as often as I would have liked.

Still got 4 PRs!

4 Personal Records

Deadlift: 600 lb x 1 (1RM)


Overhead Press: 260 lb x 3 (3RM)

+5 lb PR! Attempted 300 lb twice, no dice. Then attempted 270 lb x 2 for a 2 rep max, but only got 1 rep. Tried again and still got 1 rep. Couldn’t keep balance for the 2nd rep for both attempts.

OHP PRs are getting tougher and tougher. Might throw in some dead-stop presses (paused at the bottom instead of a bounce, like a more proper “military press”, but without keeping my heels together), and maybe push presses in the future.

Front Squat (Paused, No Belt): 370 lb x 3 (3RM)

Missed a 480 lb 1RM front squat attempt before this, probably because I ran out of Senzu beans so my powers are not fully recovered from Monday’s 600 lb deadlift. Christmas dinner tomorrow should take care of that though.

Decided to go for an EZPZ PR. This is a +40 lb PR…from September 2013 lol.

Paused Bench Press: 330 lb x 4 (4RM)

Considering how well 415 lb paused RGBP moved the other day, I wanted to take a crack at a 425 lb touch and go RGBP 1RM.

I think my powers are still being used to digest food from Christmas dinner (and leftover Christmas dinner for breakfast). I felt sluggish all day which prevented me from mercilessly attacking my workout. Almost missed a warm up set too.

425 lb came down slowly and gently. It showed some life momentarily by coming up a few inches, but finally it was laid to rest on the safeties.

Figured I should play it safe today and go for a low-hanging fruit PR and do 330 lb x 4 4RM paused bench press. RPE = still pretty hard.

Stuff You Should Read

  1. Weigh-in Once A Week Or You’ll Gain Weight via Science Daily
    • With New Years around the corner once again, and people setting goals and making resolutions, this is a timely article that makes sense. It you constantly keep your eye on a key metric, it will probably affect your actions that would influence that metric. In this case, weight loss. For me, the numbers that I always have an eye on is my personal records in my PR Table. The goal is to keep on increasing the numbers within the table. I think this has helped me keep focus on the goal (add more weight to the bar), instead of being distracted or lead astray to do other things (example: other type of workouts that won’t influence these numbers, like jumping rope or neck training that I’ve been neglecting for most of the year).

Originally this Weekly Review was scheduled for yesterday, but all I could think about all morning (and the weekend) was deadlifting 600 lb.

I’ve attempted this a few times this year.

More recently was last week, where I taped some athletic tape to my thumbs before pulling. I could feel sweat building up underneath the tape, and during the pull it was sliding off.

Tried again a second time without the tape, and the fingers on my left hand just couldn’t hold onto the bar. SO CLOSE.

The good news is, there wasn’t much pain or damage to my thumbs.

My ability to tolerate pain is increased, probably from hitting the deadlift a little bit recently (usually I don’t deadlift).

Also, I suspected because I have been using my hands to hold onto a bar that’s placed on the ground, and standing up while still holding the loaded bar, my grip strength would increase.

Based on how fast the bar moved on the 1st and 2nd attempts, I’m 100% sure I would be able to deadlift 600 lb SOON.

I was right!

Deadlifted 600 lb yesterday. EZPZ.



A little more chalk on my hands, combined with getting the thumbs more under the bar for the hook grip, and squeezing the hell out of the bar solved the grip problem.

It moved really fast, so I’m sure my true deadlifting limit is a bit more than 600 lb.

As far as future training with the deadlift goes, I’ll deadlift more often (something greater than bi-monthly that I’ve been doing most of the year). I think squatting builds up the potential for a bigger deadlift, but ultimately gotta do a little bit of deadlifting to deadlift something half decent.

Only a few more days until the year is up, and I still have a few other goals to reach:

  1. Low Bar Squat 600 lb
  2. OHP 300 lb
  3. High Bar Squat 585 lb
  4. Bench Press 405 lb
  5. Reverse Grip Bench Press 440 lb (doubt it).

Ugh why did I set such lofty goals…!?!

Anyways, PR’s from last week:

Personal Records

Front Squat: 430 lb x 3 (3RM)

+20 lb PR!

Also attempted a 1RM before this at 480 lb, but failed because I made a fatal mistake: forgot the concentric portion of the rep 😐

Clean & Press: 205 lb x 5 (5RM)

This must be what Crossfit feels like.

Deadlift (No Belt): 550 lb x 1 (1RM)

Attempted to deadlift 600 lb (yet again) before this. Taped up my thumbs for the first try, but then as I was pulling the bar up, the tape started sliding off my thumbs! Couldn’t maintain grip.

On the 2nd attempt, I took off the tape and did it the old fashioned way. Almost had it, but I lost my grip on my left hand. FACK.

Anyhoo, 550 lb beltless deadlift is a +20 lb PR…from over a year ago lol

Paused Reverse Grip Bench Press: 415 lb x 1 (1RM)

Baby was my training partner today.

+5 lb PR! This is 5 lb away from my touch-and-go reverse grip bench press 1RM. Might be time to try for a new TnG RGBP 1RM.

Paused High Bar Squat (No Belt): 515 lb x 1 (1RM)

Attempted 585 lb for a 1RM before this, but missed. Don’t think I’m recovered from deadlifting earlier this week.

Also listened to some metal music for this PR attempt. I feel like a real powerlifter now!

Paused Bench Press: 365 lb x 2 (2RM)

+10 lb PR! Paid extra attention on getting tight and initiating a little leg drive before unracking the bar. I think it really helped.

Stuff You Should Read

  1. When Somebody Loses Weight, Where Does The Fat Go?
    • TL;DR: It comes out of your lungs.
  2. A PR At Every Workout by Bill Starr
    • This is an older article, but I just discovered it from a comment left on my article on hitting a PR everyday. This validates what I've been doing, especially since it's written by the legendary Bill Starr! There are other "PR everyday articles", but I’m not certain if the authors actually trained and made substantial gains by going for a PR everyday, or just writing something hypothetical that might work.

Train Around Pain

Even though I am Asian, I am not a doctor.


So, I can’t make a qualified self-diagnosis about any sort of injuries or pain experienced as a result of lifting weights, and I can’t self-prescribe miracle drugs to deal with pain (among other things). However, I am clever enough to figure out ways to continue training even after experiencing minor setbacks.

After low bar squatting last Sunday, I managed to strain something in my left hip. This made it quite painful to do anything where I had to push my knees out, namely a squat with a moderate to wide stance.

Also, after overhead pressing on Wednesday, I experienced unusually sharp pain in my left elbow. It was similar to golfer’s elbow that I sometimes experience, but much more pronounced.

The solution to continue training was this: perform exercises that don’t aggravate the injury and/or modify existing exercises.

For the hip pain issue, I simple performed a squat variation that uses a narrower stance: front squat.

As long as I kept my stance a little narrow, my left hip was fine. I even hit a 1RM on a paused front squat!

Somehow I widened up my stance on a paused front squat attempt at 475 lb, and the pain shut me down and contributed to me missing the lift.

With my left elbow, any valgus force would produce pain.

Valgus Elbow Pain

This would produce pain, along with holding the bar during low bar squats and even high bar squats.

So what I did was attach straps onto the bar during high bar squats, and squatted with them during my warm up and back off set. I squatted normally during my PR set though, mainly because I was worried the bar could slide off my traps while I was straining under the bar.

Holding onto straps during high bar squats is like a poor-man’s safety squat bar, allowing me to comfortably keep my hands in front of my body, reducing stress on my elbows. Interesting, this position allows me to pull my elbows back and squeeze my lats during the squat in a way that’s not possible by holding onto a bar on top of my traps. Similar squeezing your lats during a horizontal seated row. Something like this:

Anyways, personal records from last week:

6 Personal Records

Reverse Grip Bench Press: 320 lb x 8 (8RM)

Wanted a 390 lb x 2 paused RGBP, but only got 1 because of back slipping on the bench.

Also wanted anywhere from 8–10 reps at 320 lb. Only did 8, because I’m pretty sure I’d miss the 9th rep. Still a +5 lb PR. GOOD ENOUGH.

Paused Front Squat: 460 lb x 1 (1RM) & Front Squat (No Belt): 405 lb x 2 (2RM)

Left hip is still bothering me so I needed to do a squat variation where I don’t have to spread my legs so wide. 460 lb is a +5 lb PR. Felt super easy. So easy I that I was thinking about going for 465 lb. Then I figured I might as well put on a double digit number on the bar and go for 470 lb. THEN I thought, why not just go 475 lb for the bar aesthetics?! Hips didn’t like that idea though lol.

Finished off with a LMAO4PLATE beltless front squat for a double. With special guest appearance by King Kai.

Overhead Press: 240 lb x 5 (5RM)

Took a couple of cracks at a 300 lb OHP before this. No go. Need to get angrier, I think.

Also, it’s easier to apply chalk to my shirt with a block of chalk (I just have to draw it on) instead of grabbing a handful of powdered chalk and getting it everywhere

Beltless Paused High Bar Squat: 500 lb x 2 (2RM) & 410 lb x 5 (5RM)

Left elbows felt messed up. Must have messed it up somehow.

Used straps for squatting (ghetto un-safety squat bar™) for my warm up. Didn’t use straps for 500 lb x 2 (+15 lb PR) because I was scared the bar might slip off my traps. Strapped on straps again for 410 lb x 5, which is one of those “fill-in-an-empty-box-in-my-PR-table” PR.

Dammit, I got pain in my left hip from squatting yesterday!

I'll just walk this off.

I'll just walk this off.

I may have went too heavy, too soon, or too wide and too deep. Or something else. In any case, I'll likely be taking a break from wide stance, low bar squatting and go back to a more narrower stanced high bar and front squats for the next few weeks.

Anyways, hit 7 PR's last week:

7 Personal Records

Low Bar Squat: 530 lb x 3 (3RM)

Lower back a little achy from deadlifts last Saturday, but that's not going to stop me from getting a PR.

+10 lb PR from last week. Also matches my high bar squat 3RM.

Paused Reverse Grip Bench Press: 365 lb x 4 (4RM)

+15 lb PR! Missed the 4th rep last week, got it today.

Also did an EZPZ negative with 405 lb right after.

High Bar Squat: 555 lb x 2 (2RM) & Beltless HB Squat: 500 lb x 3 (3RM)

555 lb x 2 is a +5 lb PR

And originally wanted 2 reps at 500 lb, but then I saw my baby boy being carried down into the basement before I did my first rep.

At this point, I decided to [open six of The Eight Inner Gates/use the Kaio-ken/go SSJ level 1/insert power-up move of your choice] to show a little bit of my true power and put up a third rep to impress my son. I don't think he really cared though. Just drooled everywhere.

Paused Bench Press: 340 lb x 3 (3RM) & 275 lb x 9 (9RM)

+10 lb PR! Wanted only 8 reps at 275 lb, but around the 7th rep I decided to go for 10. Gassed out at 9 😐

Low Bar Squat (Paused, No Belt): 510 lb x 1 (1RM)

Wanted 565 lb x 2 first, but only got 1 rep. Might have missed the 2nd rep because I ate too much earlier today so most of my powers was diverted to my stomach.

Also, I adjusted my stance after the 1st rep (thought it was too wide and didn't get enough depth), which may have contributed to not even getting out of the hole on the 2nd rep. Felt some pain in my left hip after -_-;

Stuff You Should Read Watch

  1. On RPE: Jonnie Candito (legit strong Youtuber who competes in IPF meets) on Why I Don't Use The RPE Scale and Michael Tuchscherer reply "Why RPE Training is effective -- Reply to Jonnie Candito"
    • Personally I'm not an RPE type of guy (autoregulate your training based on rate of perceived exertion - explained here and here). Seems like a lot of manual work for something that's supposed to be AUTO-regulation! I prefer to go by my feels for what I'm going to do a particular day and to regulate my training to make continued gains. Seems interesting though, maybe something to use in the future.
  2. Greg Nuckols Interview Strength & Science - Road to Ripped Podcast
    • Made me rethink adding more volume to increase my work capacity for more gains, since I'm currently on a low volume, high intensity training regiment. But the thing about more volume, is it takes more time to perform! I'll likely keep doing what I'm doing since it's working (if it's not broke, don't fix it). Also, I'm afraid if I add more volume to my training, I'll get too big and my muscles will grow to the point of me becoming a muscle sphere.