Steamed Muscles For Pre-Workout and Recovery

No, I’m not talking about the seafood mussels; rather, I am fortunate to work for a sauna and steam room manufacturer, and l believe in the benefits of heat bathing, so I have purchased and installed an infrared sauna and a steam shower in our home. Though both make me perspire almost as much Frank’s great bootcamp class at Fitness Revolution, they achieve the sweat in a different way, which lends themselves to being used differently.

Most days, I choose to use my Amerec steam shower, as it is integrated with my existing shower. About 15 minutes before my workout is scheduled to finish, the steam generator is programmed to preheat the shower. By the time I make it home, the shower is 110 degrees and ready to soothe my aching muscles and sometimes sore joints. During construction, I added a shower seat to let me relax while in the heat. As I enter the room, I add a few drops of Eucalyptus oil which both invigorates and helps to clear my sinuses (have been having allergy issues the last couple days).

The heat from the steam shower is warm and soothing, much like a hot tub but without the chemicals, need for extra maintenance, or constant drain on electricity. The heated, moist air feels great on the skin, and I feel both physical and mental stress start to melt away in the heat. Because the temperature is relatively low and most of the heat is transferred to the body through the water vapor, the heat doesn’t penetrate too deeply into the muscles, but when I use it almost daily, it helps to keep my body, skin, and mind fresh, clear, and ready to approach each day with vigor.

Amerec Steam Shower with Chromatherapy
My Amerec Steam Shower is my morning refuge after a tough workout.

Today, I will be using the Helo B820 Far-Infrared sauna before I go with Dave to train on strongman events. I have had a very tight supraspinatus which can limit my lifts as it clicks and causes some pain in my left shoulder. I have regular massages, which work wonders on it, but while hot air ballooning the last two nights, I have felt a little extra tension in the muscle, and far-infrared heat, unlike steam, penetrates 1-1/2″ into the muscles and tissue of the body, thus it helps as a pre-workout warm-up to increase circulation to the area and to loosen the muscles without excessive stretching.  Since far-infrared begins working as soon as it is turned on, I can use it for 20-30 minutes without preheating, which helps when on a tight schedule. When my muscles feel a little more fried after a workout, the infrared helps to release tension deeper within the muscle, so I will often fill a couple glasses of water, turn on a movie I can watch on the TV I can see from within the sauna, and spend as much time as I need taking several innings in the sauna until I am feeling like a million bucks.

Helo B820 IR Sauna Ready for Use
My Helo B820 IR Sauna heated and ready to go with a soothing chromatherapy lighting.

I am excited for today’s workout, and I am happy that I get to use both the sauna and steam today to prepare for and recover after the workout. My evening and weekend will finish with another night of ballooning (crewing tonight), so I need to be physically ready for lifting, pulling, and towing everything for the setup, launch, landing, and packing of the balloon for Wicker Basket Balloon Center.

Starting our flight over Milford Memories
Starting our flight over Milford Memories

Focus on Form: A Key to Quick Gains?

This morning, we finished establishing our one rep max lifts for generating our plans.  Today’s lift was the deadlift, and for inspiration, I watched this great video of Jon Pall Sigmarsson:

While I don’t have a strong history with deadlifts, I was more pleased with my performance on the deadlift than I was on the bench press or squat because I actually exceeded what I thought I could do. I topped out at 445 lbs, which was 10 lbs better than my previous best attempt, and it will likely improve with better form, which is true of my squat as well.

Despite having lifted my first weights 25 years ago, two lifts I never did until a year ago were squat and deadlift.  For squat, I was concerned I would hurt myself because of the pressure on the spine. I figured a leg press was a fine substitute.  For the deadlift, it wasn’t taught in the gym in high school, and I was never comfortable just trying it, so I didn’t attempt it until this last year. While I have received excellent instruction, my coordination on compound movements is not great, so I am still working on technique. My weaknesses in form became evident, without being dangerous, in my attempts at max lifts on squat and deadlift.

So what makes me think if I have struggled with coordination that this strength training class will help me achieve better form? Repetition. Lots and lots of repetition with more class time devoted to lifts instead of needing to balance strength with cardio. Yes, there is still conditioning, but the core goal of the class is to improve strength.

At the end of lifts this morning, Dave had already identified parts of my lift that were holding me back from better performance. With more time to work on these kinks in my form, I expect to be on my way to stronger lifts quickly.  Add to that stronger muscles, there is potential for great gains by the end of September. I am excited to see what happens next week.

A Little More Than Diddly Squat

Today, we determined our one rep max on back squat.  Having never squatted before last year and still learning good, proper form, I was nervous for how this might turn out.  Fortunately, Dave took the time to explain the reason for the lift (to help determine our program based on a percentage of our max effort) and there are a couple ways to determine a maximum lift.

For those who did not wish to push their limits to the edge, a multiple rep max could be used to calculate an approximate maximum squat.  Usually, the number of reps used to determine a max is low, 3-5 reps. I was tempted to go this route, as it is what we had used in the Bootcamp classes at Fitness Revolution, but I decided to go the traditional method for determining a max: try until you barely succeed.

For those who don’t know me well, I have very large, muscular thighs. My thighs are between 27″ & 28″ around, which is a couple inches larger than my wife’s waist, so in theory, I should be able to lift very heavy things with my legs, but without proper form, my legs are only as sturdy as an oak tree would be if planted in sand.  Lose any form in the base or support system, and the whole thing can come tumbling down.

My max effort for the squat was 365 lbs, which is only 30 lbs heavier than my bench; however, I have been doing bench press, on and off, for 25 years, and I am comfortable with the technique. I am looking forward to training with Dave to learn techniques to ensure my form allows my legs to realize their full potential.  For bench, I can set a goal of 400 lbs in 7 weeks, because I know I have lifted more than that before; however, I am not sure what to expect in the same period for squat. Are form and fear holding me back more than leg strength?  A couple things I know for sure:

  • Dave will help me realize my potential and will give me the tools to continue to develop
  • I know I will never look as good as Big Z (I am older than he is) when it comes to squatting

Enjoy this snippet of Zydrunas Savickas squatting at the World’s Strongest Man in 2011.

Changing Gears: From general fitness and conditioning to strength training for strongman.

In high school, I was strong and lean (at least by comparison to my body today at 39).  I had a 400+ bench, could run the 40 in under 5 seconds, and I hovered around 200 lbs.

After high school, my weight varied with college years ranging between 210 and 230 (worked on moving trucks, but never worked out). After college, my weight ballooned to 270, but with encouragement from friends and a desire to help a friend reach a goal for his 30th birthday, I dropped weight to 204 lbs to prepare for the Detroit Marathon.  Though I looked much better at 204 than I did at 270, my body composition had changed from the 200 lb range I had in high school.  A bench over 400 was a dream.

With the birth of our daughter, I quit running and largely stopped exercising.  By March 2014, I hit my heaviest body weight of 295 lbs, and I decided I needed to change, so I joined Fitness Revolution of Wixom at the Total Sports Complex.  Between diet and exercise, I dropped about 55 lbs from March to September 2014.  During this time, I met Dave and learned of his classes and his success in strongman competitions.

A year later, I have achieved some goals of physical fitness, but I am intrigued by the strongman competitions, as I have always enjoyed watching them.  I am excited to see what gains I can make with a focused strength training program with Dave over the next 7-8 weeks.

Today, we took body composition numbers, weight, and max bench.

First Day Training @ Pankow Performance Bodyweight: 257.4 Body fat: 26.9% Skinfold Chest: 20 Skinfold Waist: 43 Skinfold Thigh: 20 Max Bench: 335
First Day Training @ Pankow Performance
Bodyweight: 257.4
Body fat: 26.9%
Skinfold Chest: 20
Skinfold Waist: 43
Skinfold Thigh: 20
Max Bench: 335