Workout Report: Bench Day 4/30/11

Posted: May 2, 2011 in Workout Reports

Two Words: Pendlay Rows. I’ve been nibbling around the topic of doing them for a while now, raving about 0ff-the-bench rows in my reports, and moving steadily toward the promised land. Well, I’ve tried the genuine article at last, and it is good. And the faithful sighed and nodded as one more heathen began to see the light. But I’m all out of sequence…

I didn’t much feel like doing the elliptical machine on Saturday. I did a short stint on the recumbent bike instead, stretched a little, and went into the “leg” portion of our show.

As I have been doing, I did three sets each of curls and extensions. From there, I moved on to the leg press. Going heavy felt good last time, so I did it again. This time, twice as much, doing six sets of ten with 405. I finished up with the back extension/good morning machine, where I did 3×10 with 305. My legs knew I wasn’t kidding around.

With bench, I’ll admit to being sort of in love with 225 as a weight. In my defense, there’s rarely a workout that sees me doing the same set/rep with said weight. On Saturday, I did a workout that I actually haven’t ever done. 9×3. Yep, nine sets of three. Here’s how it went down: I started with narrow grip, and each rep took eight to ten seconds on the negative phase. This was followed by a dead stop on the chest, and finally a concentric phase that focused on moving the bar as fast as I could. I did three sets narrow, three sets standard grip, and three sets wide. The increased chest recruitment allowed me to keep moving the bar super slow as my triceps started to fatigue. I figure that, because of the very long hold, my 27 reps exposed the muscles to the weight more than most workouts I’ve ever done. I’ll probably go back to a heavier weight next time, but this was fun, and I’ll likely do it again.

Wanting to do something similar with rows, I went with 9×3 again. I decided to try the rows off the ground, and found them to be imminently comfortable. Many people call them Pendlay Rows, after Glenn Pendlay, the famous strength coach and the person behind Pendlay equipment. Basically, the rows start at the ground, from a dead stop, each time. You use a slight pull by your lower back to clear the ground, then row in one movement, and put the weight down again. Hopefully, you stay in control, and the weight lands softly. Pendlay rows have gotten a bad reputation because some dillweeds slam the weight down with a mighty crash with each rep. Don’t do that. It’s perfectly do-able to put the weight down softly. If you can’t, you’re going too heavily.

Like the off-the-bench rows, this is an exercise where your skeletal system is supporting the weight. The longer pull just recruits the back even more thoroughly. Most people list the Pendlay row as an assistance exercise, but to me, it feels like a primary muscle builder. I can’t imagine training to lift stone, flip tires, or do Olympic lifts without including this one. I wish I’d found it and incorporated it twenty years ago. It is the perfect antagonist to bench press. It should be handed around as a free gift with all bench press subscriptions.

Okay, enough of that. I did 9×3 with 225, going from narrow to wide in the same progression as the bench. I went on to doing butterflies and reverse butterflies for three tens, then finished with rope pushdowns and cable wide grip curls, just for kicks.

I probably worked out too long, but chicken fried steak and eggs seemed to put me to rights. Ideally, it would be more efficient to work out more frequently for a shorter period of time, but life being what it is, we have to work around our time and availability constraints. With those things in mind, I’m fairly pleased at how things are going. I think that the rows, in particular, will yield some benefits for my bending and sandbag hoisting.

Five months into the workout push I started, I’ve hit one big goal, and it is very likely that, upon testing, it’ll prove out that I’ve hit at least one more. I’ve gained a little weight (only about five or six pounds), but my clothes fit fine, and I feel all right. I suspect that the weight gain has primarily been muscle. That said, I could benefit from a few weeks of careful diet. I am going to take some steps with the next evolution of my program, starting in late June, to get leaner without eroding the strength gains that I’ve enjoyed. I’m sure that the warm weather will help me in this regard.

Happy Lifting!

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