First year of Squat, Bench, Deadlift

Feels like wanting to reflect back on powerlifting in the past full year. I started Base Strong class around October last year. This post is probably going to be boring and irrelevant for those who don’t do powerlifting. But it’s been such a big thing for me in the past year, and I’m pretty much writing (rambling?) this for myself, so that I can look back on my first year.

Squat

Started last year = 35 kgs.

July 2019, 1 rep max = 85 kgs.

So…that’s around 140% growth? Wow, this has changed so much. I felt like I didn’t “get” squat for many months. Used to have this fear of squatting more than my bodyweight. Just started feeling slightly more confident in the past few months, really.

The key really is about staying super TIGHT throughout the whole movement. I was wobbly for sooooo long. Just started to understand the importance of taking BIG, deep breath, holding it in, going down SUPER TIGHT just a couple months ago.

My problems to fix are probably staying in control the entire movement and don’t bounce at the bottom of the squat. Also I’ve been told my bar is uneven between left and right shoulder. Hmm…

Overall, started to love squat more now. Feel like my squat progress has been quite steady which is pretty amazing.

Let’s aim for 90 kg squat next. A 100 kg Squat was the goal I thought definitely unattainable, but started to see more possibilities!? Not anytime soon, though.

Bench

Started with just a bar, 20 kgs

July 2019 – 1 rep max = 35 kgs

Oh…my biggest enemy, upper body strength! I am SUPER weak for this! For the longest time I hated bench and felt like there was no way my bench could ever go up. Been playing around 22.5 to 25 kgs, to at some point 27.5 kgs for so many months.

Just feel like everything about bench is SO awkward. The entire set up felt very uncomfortable for me. Won’t get into details here because there are SO many. Before I came to Base I’ve never done bench press before, because my PT never said I should do it (Because I’m a girl!?). Who said a girl shouldn’t bench press, by the way? These days I started to see more of its benefits. It could help reduce your bra bulges! Less fat hanging around that area as it turned to muscles instead. Pretty cool if you ask me. And nope, it’s almost impossible for women to get “bulky” Just forget about this.

My tiny goal used to be bench with a 5 kg big plate per side. Now I’m repping 30 kg bench press. As of today I could do FIVE sets (of 4). Never, ever thought I could do this. Sounds like a super small goal for many, but for me bench is so hard.

Overall, feel less awkward. More used to it. Of course more room to improve on techniques, as with other main lifts. I would be SO happy if I could touch 40 kg bench at some point, hopefully sooner than later.

Deadlift

Started last year with 50 kgs

July 2019 – 1 rep max = 102.5 kgs

Ah, the most dramatic one of all. The one that makes me doubt myself BIG TIME. The one that makes me feel such a failure. Wrote about all of it here.

I really don’t feel like I’ve made much progress with deadlift at all. In the beginning it was my most favorite lift. But as we progressed, somehow I felt like I was kind of stuck. Back when we tested in July, it could have been at least 110 kgs. Or the very, very worst would have been 105 kgs. But couldn’t lift it up AT ALL. This killed my confidence so much.

Still feel that way but try hard to focus more on small wins now. Watched and read a lot on deadlift tutorials trying to figure out what went wrong. Got lots of tips along the way and I suppose I had my answer that lack of back strength is probably the issue here. So now I really try to focus on technique and slowly work my way up from there.

Good news is, my working set around 80-90 kgs feels pretty smooth. 100 kgs could be a hit or a miss depends on the day though. And my upper back is still rounded. Better than before though. Gotta stay patient and work on it I suppose.

Overall, meh. Not satisfied. But I learned a lot from this as I was down earlier about my failed deadlift. Then tried to relax and get back to it and so on. Good lesson in the end.

Overall / What I’ve learned

Ah, mindset is everything, isn’t it? Good technique is one important part, but though this first year of powerlifting I’ve learned so much more about the mind – how to keep pushing myself, how to stay consistent with training, how to work on your goal and try to get there (your numbers never lied!), how to not give up, how to NOT be too hard on yourself (It’s ok to fail!), how to stop doubting yourself, how you CAN achieve the “unachievable,” how to keep trying again…and again…and again, how to not let one bad day of training get you down, how to believe in yourself.

And so much more. I could keep talking about it for hours, not joking. Feel like this changed my life.

Apart from the mind, I keep repeating it feels amazing to be strong…and get stronger. Love the changes in my body. Feel like this is the best me I’ve ever been.

Definitely going to be more challenging next year as we are no longer beginners anymore. It’s impossible to hit PRs every week or month! Everyone keeps telling me how sleep and eating are SO important to improve your performance. Stress is also another important factor. And I always have issues with insufficient protein intake. Training is fun, what is SO much harder is eating! Hmm…

Let’s see what 2nd year of training will bring!

#ifailtoo

Love this SOOOOO much I have to share it on here, from Sonny an Olympic weightlifter. He posted a series of videos of his failed lifts, many on competition, with the most amazing caption below.

Every. Single. Word. he wrote, you guys. This is one of my most favorites.

Every single one of these hurts and it doesn’t get easier, you just get better at accepting them and know how to improve.

Learn to embrace failures, because how else would you learn if you never failed?

Modern Love and Deadlifting

I have been a long time fan of The New York Times – Modern Love column, back in university days when some friends and I used to share short essays about love to read. One of the famous ones would be the article on an experiment of making two strangers falling in love by answering a list of 36 questions, based on a psychological research on creating interpersonal closeness and intimacy with someone.

Some Modern Love stories were really good, some were okay, some could be quite strange, although I forgot most of the stories by now. Many are deep, personal, and emotional. Well…it’s about love after all, in a wide variety of different forms. I haven’t read as much as I used to back in the days, but from time to time I come across some essays while scrolling down on my Facebook feed.

Today is one of them. Scrolling down, naturally I had to stop and click when I saw the word “Deadlifting”

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Modern Love and Deadlifting!? Who would have thought?

Beautifully written essay, as usual. It’s a very “Modern Love” style story; always have some symbols in there to represent something. And it isn’t only about deadlifting here, but the meaning deep down behind the lift, which I can relate to it perfectly, although I have no trauma of my own.

Funny enough, my best friend just asked this question about lifting earlier today. Our brief conversation, or you could call it my own rambling, went like this.

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I wrote a lot of my thoughts about powerlifting here and there. Will probably write more in the future. In the beginning it was indeed about learning the movements and focusing on the body. The techniques part will always be there as it really is NOT just picking the weight up, but now it’s become a lot more about the mind, and how this mentality can be adapted in my every day life, even at work.

I’m still mesmerized by this whole new world. It is a big deal for someone like me who despised exercise almost my entire life. Never had I ever imagined going from who I was to where I am now; from barely able to pick up a 4kg kettlebell, to someone who loves and looks forward to lifting almost 2X my bodyweight. I’ve learned so much along this self transformation, knowing that I have this capability of doing and accomplishing anything once I set my mind to it.

Review: Muscle Factory gym

FINALLY got to pay a visit to Muscle Factory gym. I’ve heard its reputation for a while, how this huge gym has all kinds of equipments you could imagine for everyone, with an extremely affordable price, only 250 THB for a one day pass. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Simple, straight to the point, what you see is what you get, no bullshit – these would be my short keywords/summary of Muscle Factory gym.

I am so happy to see so many lifting platforms myself – most important thing for me. No need to share with anyone too. And many squat racks! I could even borrow a lifting belt from the reception. And they’ve got chalk! So I’m pretty much good to go.

And lots of machines…

Even Muay Thai ring. And more squat racks and machines. They also have a cardio room of treadmills and bikes on the 2nd floor of the gym.

And really long lines of dumbbells, come in both kgs and lbs.

(Hi, it’s me between sets of dumbbell bench, and wow…just noticed how my arms and shoulder have changed. For sure it didn’t look like this just 6 months ago!).

So I did deadlift today. According to our program, my top set is at 85 kgs for 6 reps. Then working set at 77 kgs for FIVE sets of 6.

I was pretty much minding my own business trying to spot the plates with the weight I wanted. The plates are a bit all over the place, quite messy. Wish it could have been more organized!

Got to chat with a guy on a platform next to me who was practicing Snatch, weightlifting stuff. He saw me do my top set at 85 kgs then commented I’m so strong, wow did you really do 6 reps? And what is your bodyweight? He’s a trainer himself and said a woman my weight (51 kgs) in general would deadlift around 60-65 kgs. He even asked if I’m going to compete!

So I just smiled. It’s funny to hear this kind of comment when you get out of your usual environment, full of competitive people who are powerlifting athletes, where women my bodyweight deadlift 120-140 kgs. My 85 kg deadlift really IS nothing. I swear I never really thought I AM strong, because I’m the weakest one in this environment! Sure thing, I am much stronger now. But when you are surrounded by people who are way better than you, you can’t help thinking you are such a noob and still have a long, long way to go (which you do, of course!).

I suppose from time to time you should think how far you have come and where you started even just a year ago, to help put things in perspective that hey, you are a badass yourself! You made a lot of progress. Have more confidence! Walk in the room like you own it! Pat yourself on the back and celebrate your big and small wins, while push yourself forward and aim for a bigger goal.

Such a tricky thing to balance for someone like me who has self doubts creeping in too often.

Facilities

Apart from all the equipments, it’s pretty basic and simple. Restrooms and shower rooms with lockers are pretty clean and quite empty, but you have to bring everything yourself (towels, toiletries etc). My friend told me they have towel rental service though.

No one is there to mess with you while you train. It’s just the gym and yourself. Forget commercial gyms where there are trainers walking around and salespeople taking potential clients around the gym. It’s got none of those. The reception didn’t really introduce anything to me at all. I had to ask all the questions about the place myself.

OH, there is NO air con, by the way. Probably why it kind of wore me out today as I’m used to training in an air con. Got tired more easily today. It wasn’t insanely hot, though I did go train around noon, as it’s a really big and open air space.

Pricing

Cheap for full equipments gym like this. Love it! My gym at Base is way overpriced, even the open gym there costs 500 THB though you are a member (major eye rolls). Glad to see normal affordable prices like this.

Location

Sukhumvit 56. BTS Bangchak station. The place is quite hidden in their small Soi which 2 cars can’t even pass at the same time! I think it’s quite hard to access the place if you don’t come by car. But the maid told me you can catch motorbike from BTS Bangchak for 25 THB, or call the gym for Tuk tuk service.

Lots of free parking space available.

Feelings/Verdict

I feel like this place is amazing for people who take training a bit more seriously and know what they are doing. Feels like it’s a no bullshit gym.

As a beginner I would feel a bit intimidated by this kind of place though, unless you come with friends or your own trainer. Everyone in the gym looks SO muscular and HUGE. Even I was there having my own program and more or less know what I’m doing, I still felt a little intimidated by the stares when I was in the weight room with all the men.

It’s the kind of place that you go in and out quickly. Very convenient if you have your program to train. I was there at a weird timing (around noon on Saturday) so the gym was quite empty. Not sure if it would be packed on weekday evenings or some other times. So in a way it could feel a little lonely with no sense of community. It was a bit hard for me telling myself to keep going in my last set even though I’ve got a program to stick to. Also did feel a bit lonely and slightly unmotivated. Perhaps I’m used to a group class environment when people are doing the same thing and sharing the same experience pushing ourselves when we lift.

But I guess if you keep going regularly, you will get to talk to people more and get to know them. That’s usually how it is in the gym anyway.

I might go there again as it’s pretty convenient for me, and my trainer/friend also trains there from time to time. Always nice to have a gym buddy! I’m in a situation that some external factors forced me to explore other options outside of my current gym for a bit. Honestly speaking, I am still a little pissed off by this change. But trying hard to stay positive. Maybe some changes could be good, who knows? Stepping outside of your comfort zone, no matter how small, will always feel a little uncomfortable at first, but I try to embrace them as always.

Exploring new things and places could be a cool experience too. For a moment today while resting between sets and watching a guy training next to me, I was even thinking…hey, maybe I should give weightlifting a try some time!? Snatch, Power clean, Clean and jerk and lots more I don’t know. Ah, all the techniques to perfect those lifts. It’s quite intimidating as any movements with weight overhead could easily kill me. But that’s exactly the point. How can you grow if you don’t challenge yourself, in anything, right!?

Good training session today. Now my body feels a little lighter, I feel a little sore, muscles a little tender. Love it. Now here comes the bubble milk tea and foot massage as rewards…

Happy training!

Stop limiting yourself!

Had a tough week. I haven’t been this emotional and messed up since that bad breakup in…2016. Wow. The past week I was consumed by at least 10 different kinds of feelings or more and it got me freaked out. I thought I am immune, I am so much stronger, love and heartbreaks can’t do a thing to me.

Today I learned that, no, it’s not like that AT ALL. No matter how old you are, when you have A LOT of feelings toward someone and it doesn’t work out, it will STILL mess you up. It’s probably even worse because now you fooled yourself, thought you could handle it and it was nothing. Then suddenly all hell broke loose once you realized, shit, feelings are REAL, I’m in deep shit, but I was too busy denying my own feelings all along!

Damn. Why is my weakness always about boys? They bring me down. Some get me so emotional with all kinds of feelings I can’t even exactly describe what they are or how to deal with. And that’s extremely confusing for me. I am, actually, a lot more awesome without them. And definitely more stable. Hmm.

Oh dear, my first intention is to write something positive. Not sure why I started with this confusing emotions thing!

I found this caption of one of the fitness influencers I follow on Instagram. And I LOVE it so much. This is SO me. Reminded me of this blog post I wrote in 2016!

I lived with that for a long time, thinking that “No I’m not a fitness kinda person” and I really, really wasn’t! Until one day I just…got out and kept trying lots of “fitness” things until I found what I love and enjoy doing. And it has been SO amazing ever since.

Definitely have tried a lot of different things since 2015. Could have never imagined one day I would be really into strength training. Wonder how long I will stick to this. I’ve kept challenging myself more and more in the past few years. Right now if it wasn’t a HIIT class or weight lifting, then I hardly felt it was an exercise. For example Zumba and dance classes are fun, but they are TOO light that it didn’t really mean much!?

No matter what, I hope I can keep this habit for a long time though. Made my life so much better 🙂

P.S. Nope, still not a “sporty” person!

It’s NOT a competition. Remember why you started.

Found this from a friend’s Facebook post today, which rings very true for me at the moment.

I haven’t spoken to her since my high school year in the US, but needed to give her a comment. I know she’s been doing CrossFit and lost a huge amount of weight. It turned out that she’s facing similar issue that she feels like she’s not making progress, can’t lift the weight she’s supposed to be lifting. We both took turns saying all those cliche things like, progress is not linear, there are ups and downs, this is a part of the journey, we need to stop feeling scared of failures and keep pushing through, and most of all, don’t give up!

Cliche or not I’m not sure, but I sincerely felt every single word I wrote for her. Truly understand her feelings.

I also spoke to a close friend of mine who was a tennis player since very young and has been playing a lot of sports. She told me to STOP thinking about failures. Just leave it at that and try again. That’s the only way to go. More importantly, she added

“Noey, you exercise to stay healthy and strong. It’s NOT a competition. You are NOT training to be an Olympic weightlifter!”

It hit me then that, hey, I really forgot why I started this! Being in a competitive environment that we keep wanting to hit the new numbers, new PRs, I forgot how to take it easy and enjoy the process. She said, just stop if your body isn’t ready, go do something else, go try other classes that you think fun, you need to RELAX.

I didn’t realize when my goal has shifted to be so, so performance-focused (Shall I blame “Performance Marketing” habit again!?). It’s pretty cool at times to have the exact goal and numbers to look forward to (I’m lost without measurable goals, admittedly), but in return it did make me forget the FUN of it. Didn’t I start exercise because it makes me FEEL better? Gain more confident? Relieve stress? Feel good to sweat it out? Feel good to pick up some weights and be stronger?

Why am I so serious about this whole thing? Lifting weights isn’t my full time job, come on! Didn’t I exercise to RELIEVE stress, NOT ADD stress? Do I not know how to do something simply because it’s enjoyable?

Well, at the moment everything feels so tense, in my physical, emotional and mental state of mind. With a lack of focus. July wasn’t too bad, but didn’t achieve that full focus that I had expected to. But that’s alright, considered the unstable state I’m in, on and off. Let’s start again in August. I’m trying to restart all those baby steps. First of all, start from getting good 7 hours of sleep back, eating enough protein, drinking plenty of water, making small plans…baby steps, one day at a time.

And I will go join other classes for fun. Just do it, simply because I love working out, and post workout feeling really is one of the best.

And remember this…

PR Squat for 2 weeks in a row

Feel like documenting my progress as we are peaking these few weeks, which means we go heavy and all out. Last week really left me exhausted and sore.

Wanna know funny thing? Until today I always looked forward to training in Base Strong class, excited to see what this week program is and what we are doing. Not today. I was on the BTS heading to Thonglor and suddenly felt…nervous, uneasy, scared. I thought I would get to deadlift and last week outcome still haunted me. I was scared of picking up a barbell loaded with plates. Scared my lower back would feel off again. We did trap bar deadlift in class yesterday, and I did 60 kgs for 8 reps which felt easy peasy. But I’m scared of going up to 90 and maybe even more.

Is it stupid? irrational? One setback got me discouraged? Just wow, I thought I was stronger than this. I’m scared of getting injured though, let me repeat that.

Anyway, it turned out I got to squat today and it was another PR! 2 PRs in a row, in 2 weeks. So I’m at 75 kgs for 2 reps now 🙂 So, so, so happy about that. Close to 1.5X my bodyweight. Got some feedback on my form too. Need to keep correcting it. Come to think about it, my squat probably improved more since I started with only 35 kgs. It’s really funny, because from the beginning I was a lot more confident with my deadlift.

Another girl in class who weighs less than me deadlifted around 105 kgs today with ease. I watched her and was amazed. She looked so chill! The coach told me, that’s what happened when you don’t live in fear. Ouch. That hurts 😦

So I googled about lower back pain and powerlifting and came across this long ass guide from Stronglifts about deadlift. Skimmed through it quickly, including deadlift cues and setup, and something kinda clicks in my head. I think I need to lift my chest up MORE to straighten my lower back, and really try not to compromise my form. At the moment I am probably too relaxed (have this problem with bench press too, hmm), but I should get myself in a super, super tight position. Lift my chest up and squeeze my lats more. Take a deep, BIG breath and start pulling. Also need to be very, very patient and NO doubting myself because when it gets heavy it feels like the plates get stuck to the ground. It takes a while for it to go up. You gotta have faith in yourself!

Wish me luck on Wednesday. The program said 5 sets of 2, of 95%. Lots of sets. Heavy. It’s a deficit deadlift too which means you are supposed to stand on an elevated platform to increase range of motion = more difficult. I haven’t done that in forever, let’s see how it feels!

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