GAINS: Girl Power

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I’ve always been a big advocate for women going beyond the treadmills and yoga mats and doing some legitimate strength training.  This is Sami, a relatively new member to The Cave.  She enjoys video games, zombies, ranch dressing, and most recently, weightlifting.

I’ve trained a few girls at The Cave, and there really are no major differences between male and female strength training routines.  The girls tend to be less available for workouts, so I usually focus on an upper body/lower body routine split instead of the chest/arms/back/legs split that I use for Brandon and me.

Sami has been quickly improving, perfecting her forms in various movements and making big strides in how much weight she can handle.  She’s always willing to stick to a routine until the end, and she isn’t willing to cut corners.  I have a ton of respect for the ladies of The Cave who choose to better themselves, as well anyone else who makes that commitment.

GAMES: In With The New(er)

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Seth playing Super Monkey Ball 2.

Although The Cave has around 250 games across 10 systems, it’s not uncommon to hear one of us say “there’s nothing to play.”  It’s a strange phenomenon that I believe is brought on by simply having too large of a library to choose from.  To ease this exhaustion, we periodically buy a new game or two.  Since we have mostly legacy systems, these games tend to be relatively inexpensive.

Recently, I ordered Super Monkey Ball 2 for Gamecube as a response to my copy of Super Monkey Ball 1 being completely scratched and unreadable, and it’s become a big hit with everyone at The Cave.  It’s great for challenging yourself to complete solo levels as fast as possible, or for cramming everyone on the couch for some 4-player party games.  It’s a game that’s as frustrating as it is rewarding.

In a time not so far away, Super Monkey Ball 2’s case will be put on the shelf, and the fatique of “there’s nothing to play” will set in once more.  The beauty of having older game systems is that there is such a large catalog of older games that none of us have played, so we are able to experience games that are sometimes decades old as completely new experiences.  It’s not necessarily a case of “in with the new” as much as it is “in with the newer.”

GAINS: Arm Routine & Tips

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Arm day is probably the most fun I’ll have working out during the week.  It involves lots of different, challenging movements that really get your blood flowing.   Many lifters tend to dismiss a day exclusively for arms since they are common to the guys who “lift for the ladies” or those who lack a good foundation, but I think well-developed arms are important to heavy lifting.  Be sure to warm up properly and have a spotter nearby before starting, and concentrate on proper form during each set.

  • 5×10 Random Straight-Bar Cable Pushdowns
    • Grab a partner for this one, particularly one who wants to push you.  Have your partner set the weight to a random amount (within your possible range) and alternate sets.  Use this exercise to warm up for the rest.
  • 4×10 Preacher Curls
    • Free-weight curls tend to give me a lot of wrist nerve pain, so I like to do these on a built-in bar on the edge of the bench.  You can also do these with an EZ-Bar off of the edge of the bench.
  • 4×8 EZ-Bar Skullcrushers
    • Keep your elbows straight on these and go as low as possible.
  • 4×12 Hammer Curls
    • I like to take the hammer curl motion all the way across my body in order to fill out the lower bicep.  Try to go as heavy as possible on these and really focus on sweeping the dumbell across your midsection.
  • 4×10 Standing Dumbell Tricep Extension
    • One of my personal favorite movements, these work your lats as well as triceps.
  • 4xFail T-Curls
    • A bicep excercise from powerlifter CT Fletcher.  These are a great way to finish your arm day workout as it will tax every part of your arm.

Be sure to use proper form and exercise caution throughout the entire workout.

GAINS: Conquering the Elements

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Never too cold for dumbell rows.

For the past couple of years, my training at The Cave has brought on some great challenges.  And though the lack of equipment, occasional lack of consistent access, and general distractions are quite formidable, none are tougher than being at the mercy of nature.  From the bitter cold of February to the melting heat of July, my body has seen it all.

Working out this winter hasn’t been too tough, since it’s been quite mild compared to recent years.  On especially cold nights, I start out with a sweatshirt, hoodie, and scarf, and shed the layers as I progress through my routine.  Warming-up goes from a 2-minute, half-hearted ritual to a 5-10 minute necessity.  Personal best weight drops across all exercises.  It’s very difficult to get started in the cold, as opposed to the difficulty of finishing in the heat.

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Robert having a tough time with Summer 2013.

It’s hard to decide which is worse, the cold or the heat.  With the cold, blood flow is slowed and muscles are much less eager to perform the way you ask them to.  In the heat, sweat pours out of you like the daily South Louisiana summer rain, and fatigue will drag both body and spirit down.  Our solutions to these challenges are hardly enough, consisting of a small space heater during the winter and two window unit AC’s that do their best to stand up to the heat in the summer.  Weightlifting in such raw conditions is the true test of dedication, as well as a great endurance builder.

GAINS: Getting Some Fresh Air

20150211_173541Brandon and I, in our infinite quest for fun cardio, have started taking bike rides every evening before lifting.  We’ll set off in whichever direction catches our attention and ride until sunset.  This week, we’ve been spending some time criss-crossing the freshly cut cane fields of Schriever, which has provided some great sunset views and sore quadriceps.  I’m not a big fan of running, but I can ride for miles at a time on a bicycle, no matter the terrain.  With this year’s winter feeling a lot like spring, it looks like these evening rides will become a staple of our workout routine.

GAMES: Salty Smash Bros.

Salty (sawl-tee) – adj.  To be upset, angry, or agitated as a result of being embarrassed or beaten in competition.

“Yeah, I beat him like 10 times in a row.  Dude was so salty he stormed out of the room.”

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If there’s one game that could define the gaming aspect of The Cave, though it’s probably as hated as it is loved, it’s Super Smash Bros. Project M.  Project M is a community-developed modification to Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Nintendo Wii, and it adds in gameplay mechanics and additional characters from the revered Smash Bros. Melee.

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Salt has become a much-used adage between Seth, Brandon, Robert, and me.  It has been driven into our culture through match after match of Project M and other Smash variants, where there must be a winner and a loser.  After a few matches of friendly competition, saltiness starts to become quite apparent through complaints of the game glitches, the opponent using unfair tactics, choosing not to give a friendly taunt before a round begins, and many other ways.

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There was a time when The Cave had a presence at weekly Project M tournaments held in Houma, and though those days seem to be over, competition lives on between Seth and me.  The game has almost become second nature to play while waiting for the 7:00PM lifting time, even though the matches may end before then as a result of one of us succumbing to saltiness.  I think that as long as the cave exists, Project M will be on one of the TV screens.

GAINS: Chest and Shoulders Routine & Tips

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It’s no secret to anyone who has seen me work out or knows my workout habits–I’m a fan of the chest and shoulder routine.  I’ve seen my best gains in this area, so naturally I tend to gravitate towards such a mass-building group of movements.  Let’s start with an average chest and shoulders routine.  Be sure to properly warm up and grab a spotter before attempting, and consult instruction videos if you’re unsure about proper form.

  • Pyramid set – Benchpress
    • May as well jump right in, right?  Pyramid sets will push your body to its limit and send a lot of blood to the targeted muscle group, and benching is one of the best movements for them.  Start with low weight and slowly move up to a weight that you can only complete 2 or 3 repetitions, then perform 3 more sets where you gradually go back down to the original weight.
  • 3 sets of 12 repetitions – Dumbell Butterflies
    • Nothing too fancy here, just keep your arms nice and straight on the way down.
  • 3 sets of repetitions TILL FAILURE – Dips
    • Go until your arms give out on this one.  As a more advanced lifter, reps till failure becomes a regular thing for almost every movement, but this is definitely one that requires no recommended number at all levels.
  • 3 sets of 12 repetitions – Lateral Dumbell Raises
    • Concentrate on your form here–nice and straight.  Not a lot of weight can be used, so don’t be discouraged.
  • 3 sets of repetitions TILL FAILURE – Pushups
    • The classic chest builder.  Pause for a second at the bottom of each rep for an added challenge.

If you still have anything left in the tank, other movements such as reverse flies, machine butterflies, and dumbell presses can be added.  Don’t be afraid to push yourself, but always remember to practice good form and safety precautions.