Second Cycle Reflection
Much as the first cycle I completed in the gym, this second 4-month-long journey has taught me several invaluable lessons about hard work, health, and the importance of consistency. Shortly after my previous activity update in November, my gym partner traveled back to the United States, where he remained until the beginning of February. During his time away, I focused primarily on building strength without a spotter by training high rep, low weight exercises. Ideally, such an approach would allow me to greatly decrease my reliability on assistance in my lifts by increasing my mental fortitude and ability to push through any sticking points I experience. Ultimately, I have found this to be quite effective not only in increasing my strength, but also my stability throughout each lift.
Reflection on Learning Outcomes
- Identify own strengths and develop areas for growth
- As is made clear in the preceding “general reflection”, I am constantly attempting to identify areas in which I am weakest and devise techniques to improve. Identifying areas for growth also necessitates the identification of strengths, which clearly links the undertaken activity to this learning outcome.
- Demonstrate that challenges have been undertaken, developing new skills in the process
- Despite all of humanity’s disagreements, one universal fact rings true regardless of who you are: maintaining physical fitness is a challenge.
- Show commitment to and perseverance in CAS experience
- It is my belief that remaining consistent in any form of physical exercise over a period of 8 months requires commitment and perseverance. That being said, going to the gym has never been something that I considered a chore, as I truly enjoy being able to spend time improving myself and finding a productive outlet to relieve stress. Regardless of this, however, completing a second cycle has certainly required perseverance on my part.
In keeping with the rest of my training, I have not yet focused on attaining a one-rep max in any exercise; instead opting to focus more on five-to-eight rep maxes. While improving these would certainly correlate to improved single-rep numbers, they also represent a transition in my weightlifting from focusing on building pure strength to enhancing explosiveness. As such, I have also incorporated exercises such as the high pull, the power clean, and the hang clean into my workouts to focus more on such goals.
In terms of qualitative elements, I feel that my bench press has been my most improved lift during this cycle. For example, I was able to complete a set of 225 for five (with a slight spot on the last three), which is equivalent to a one-rep max of 255. Although this is only 10 pounds over my previous max, I was able to push past my sticking points far more effectively and stay strong and controlled throughout the whole movement. Thus, although the quantitative element (the weight) is similar, the qualitative element (my form and how the weight felt) improved drastically.
Although I have not attempted a one-rep deadlift max, I have almost exceeded my previous personal best for sets of multiple reps. For example, in November my 1RM was 335lbs, and in the final week of March, I was able to complete a lift of 325lbs for five repetitions. Similarly, I have completed sets of 300lbs for eight reps and 315 for six. Using an online “one-rep max calculator”, it is possible to see that these lifts all equate to a 1RM of approximately 370lbs, a 35lbs improvement from my previous record.
As with my other lifts, I focused primarily on my maxes in the five-to-eight rep range for squats. My strength in this area has improved significantly, as I was able to complete a set of 315lbs for five repetitions with relative ease and would have likely been able to complete a set of 325 or even 335 for similar reps. All of this indicates a probably one-rep max of about 370lbs, which Is a sizeable improvement over my max lift at the beginning of my first cycle (300lbs exactly).
Although I have written of a transition from pure strength to explosiveness, my initial goal of joining the “1000 pound club” (in which the sum of my max lifts for the bench, squat, and deadlift totals 1000 pounds or more) remains. As such, I plan to complete a final round of one-rep maxes before returning to the United States in July. This max testing will most likely occur sometime in late April or early May but might be later depending on my progress and the condition in which my body is in.