Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Few Words on Strength Training

       I started lifting weights in Aug '09 as part of my regular fitness routine. Somewhere in the back of my mind I have always had the idea that the bench press is the ideal measurement of upper body strength. When I first got my weight bench I devoted myself to measuring my strength with the 10 rep max as the measuring tool. I know some people will argue that the 1 rep max is a better tool. I also have a place for the one rep max test, but I seldom use it and when I do its just to test the accuracy of the one rep max calculator.

     My first bench presses were like 1 set of 10 at 45 lbs. That's just the bar. It wasn't very challenging so I quickly escalated to the 80-90 lb range. That is when I started to "feel the burn" or "lactic acid build up" as the more articulate might call it. It has been a long slow journey building strength, but in its own way its just as rewarding as any cardio based activity in that goals are set, eventually achieved, and then the cycle repeats with even higher goals.

     In the pursuit of physical fitness, one age old bit of wisdom has been ringing in my ears repeatedly..."If you don't use it, you lose it." This has proven to be true across all disciplines, but in my experience it has been most notable in the area of strength training. Jan 9 2011 was the first time I was able to bench press 1 set of 10 reps at 140 lbs. I didn't repeat it for some reason and then a few weeks later training for the Blue Ridge Half started and I kept strength training to a minimum while I focused on getting my running speeds and endurance back up.

     Next thing you know the Blue Ridge Half (BRH) is over and I've got this window between Apr 17th (First day after the Blue Ridge Half) and July 24th (first day of training for the Richmond Full). Now I scheduled in a lot of races during that period, but did very little specified training for any of them. My plan was just to hold cardio fitness levels at about 80-90 percent and focus primarily on getting my strength back up. My first bench press attempts after the BRH showed about a 15% loss with a 10 rep max of 120. Unacceptable.

     I didn't stick to the plan very well. I ended up ditching speed work, but continuing tempo runs and 4 mile sprints. I had just bought a new (to me) road bike and I started pushing for faster cycling speeds too. Perhaps, by doing this,  I made it harder than it had to be, but here it is July 10th, just 14 days before Richmond training starts, and I am only just now getting back to peak strength by repeating the 140 lb 10 rep max bench press this morning for the first time since Jan 9 '11.

     In my fitness theory, which is ever evolving, I tend to believe that a rising tide floats all boats. Also, I theorize that physical performance should resemble a sine wave over the course of a given time period. With strength at or near a peak I may not be able to get much further with it before I start de-emphasizing it, but I do intend to A) use the next few weeks to push for a new peak (even if only slightly higher using questionable standards) and B) not lose more than 7% of said peak strength over the course of marathon training. This should work into my theories fairly well. Time will tell.


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