Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Chaos and Pain, One Month In

...strong as a mechanical bear. If I were a ranger, my Jaeger would be called Kodiak Riot.

A spicy chocolate stout?  I wonder if that's what they mean by "Mexican" style.  Either way, it's freakin' delicious and I recommend you pick up the Clown Shoes Chocolate Stout, if you are in fact, a fan of the chocolate stouts.  If not, I can't say that it's the one that's going to change your mind, but there are many other chocolate stouts.  Mayhap you'll find the one you like and work your way back.  Anyway, I realized that I've (somewhat inadvertently) been on Chaos & Pain for about a month; figured it might be a good time for a check-in, so here we go...

    I say inadvertently because I had originally meant for February to be a draw-down month between the higher rep work I had been doing in January and then I'd start CnP in March.  As you might recall, I came off of 10K Swings in December, so January and February were going to be my ramp-ups back into barbell training.  January went alright; my original plan for February was 8x4 in preparation for CnPs prescribed sets of triples, doubles, and singles.  That lasted for about, oh, 3 sessions before I realized it was a) really damn boring and b) after a month of nothing but kettlebell swings, I really just wanted to crush some plates, especially since I'd felt a little stalled out at the end of November (though I was happy-ish about my deadlift, kinda).  So week two of February came, and away I went...and what a freakin' awesome ride it's been.

...CnP is pretty much the airboat ride of barbell training.

    Ok, so what exactly is "Chaos & Pain"?  Well, in addition to being the blog of one Jamie Lewis, of raw powerlifting fame, it's also the name of his training program, although even Jamie himself admits that it's not really a program or a protocol so much as it's a set of concepts that one could apply to their training.  I guess it's kinda like the Wing Chun or Systema of barbell training, in that sense (my words, not his).  For the full rundown straight from the bull's mouth, I'll point you to his articles outlining the program:
    My own take on Chaos and Pain varies a bit from Jamie's prescription, but if you've read any of the CnP articles, you've probably gotten the idea that CnP is about taking the general guidelines outlined in the articles and making them work for you, and I definitely feel like I've done that.  I've read time and time again from different program authors that if you don't do their program as written, you shouldn't call it that program, but with CnP, I think it's imperative that you do your own thing.

    First, I'm keeping to the idea of a session consisting of a squat, push, and pull at least three times a week.  I also kept the total number of reps to around 30, well actually 30 reps exactly, not counting warm-up sets.  Additionally, I add in two or three days of lighter work on off days, usually consisting of kettlebell work, so it's three days of squat-push-pull, and two or three days of kettlebell work, for a total of five or six sessions a week.  Lastly, I adopted the eating plan outlined in Jamie's Apex Predator Diet series, which I'll touch on in another post.

    As far as changes, they've been pretty minor.  I was mucking around with numbers and I noticed that 3x4+3x3+3x2+3x1=30, so even though Jamie recommends triples and lower, I adopted that as my set rep scheme for this first month.  I like it because it lets me hit different weights and the non-linear loading presented by the different rep counts keeps  The other major-ish deviation I made was leaving in cardio in the form of my martial arts training.  At first I figured I might just drop my kickboxing class since that tends to be the most energy system intensive work of all my training, but then I figured it would give me an opportunity to experiment with caloric intake, which has actually been the most interesting part, and I'll touch on that in my future Apex Predator Diet article (which I've dubbed Cherno Fuel).

...takes a lot of resources to build a fighting machine.

    What, then, does a typical session on my version of Chaos & Pain (called Vladivostok, you may get the reference...) look like?  Well, here's what I usually do on Days 1 and 2 (whatever days of the week that ends up being):

Day 1
  • Squat
    • Warmup: 4x4
    • 3x4
    • 3x3
    • 3x2
    • 2x1, 1x1-3
  • Behind-the-neck Push Press
    • Warmup: 4x4
    • 3x4
    • 3x3
    • 3x2
    • 2x1, 1x1-3
  • Rack Pull
    • Warmup: 4x4
    • 3x4
    • 3x3
    • 3x2
    • 2x1, 1x1-3
Day 2
  • Warmup: Two-hand kettlebell swing (10/15/25/50)x2 16kg
  • Kettlebell circuit with a 16kg bell:
    • One-hand squat x8
    • One-hand press x8
    • One-hand clean x8
    • One-hand swing x8
    • One-hand snatch x8
  • Perform one one side, then repeat on other side
  • Repeat both sides for a total of 5 circuits
    Add in my martial arts training and it's a pretty solid week in general that hits all the bases: Mobility, conditioning, maximal strength, and skills.  Could almost be training for an MMA fighter...or a masked vigilante, I suppose.  Either way, it feels complete, and I'm having a pretty good time with it.

...or training to fight monsters, zombies, or rogue soldiers. The day is coming...

    So my expanded thoughts on CnP one month in go something like this.  To start with, unlike this fine gentleman, I'm am(sic) certainly not waaayyyyyy overtrained.  If you read Jamie's articles, I think you can understand why it's imperative that you figure out how to make the CnP principles work for you.  It sounds to me like the dude in the ironaddicts posts tried to pretty much do the hardest version possible and missed several points which are clearly outlined in the articles, so of course he got overtrained.  Basically, RTFM and don't be a jerk with something to prove to your sycophant forum readers.  You just end up disservicing everyone at that point, yourself included.

    Getting back on track, not only am I not overtrained, I feel great.  One of the reasons I wanted to try Chaos & Pain was because I missed lifting heavy for low reps, and while I won't claim that I'm lifting "heavy" yet, the loads are certainly taxing enough.  I really believe I'll be deadlifting high 400s-500 (though with straps) and front squatting in the 300s again by the end of April, when I switch over to SFG prep.  It's also been great to revisit partials, I can't remember the last time I had them in regular rotation.  Some people aren't fans, but I love them, and I think they'll be another useful tool to help me smash through this plateau.
    As far as side effects, well, for one, I love the post-workout feel I get from CnP.  When I do higher rep, shorter rest sets, I feel gassed, not that it's a bad thing, but the exertion definitely hits right away.  With CnP, it's more like, once I'm done, my whole body is just...not tired, not worn out, but very relaxed.  Granted, if I don't warm up properly, then I feel beatup, but I've never had that feeling for more than a few hours, it usually just gets slept off.  Who would've thought that shouldering heavy loads would be such a great tension manager?

...almost as good as percussive massage. Almost.

    Another side effect, which I alluded to earlier, is that I've had to really go back and rethink my nutrition, everything from caloric intake down to macronutrient breakdown.  Haven't had to futz with timing too much yet, and I'm noticing it doesn't really tend to matter.  Either I get my protein during the day and slam a serious hunk of cow at night, or I'm pretty much screwed the next day.  Speaking of protein, total intake is another thing I've really had to adjust, but I'm glad I did.  I try to stay around ~350-400 a day, and the restorative effects I've been experiencing are nothing short of awesome.  No soreness, I'm sleeping great, getting bigger, and not really putting on much fat, in fact, when I went off 10K Swings, I could sorta see my top two abs in the right light.  Now, almost two months off of it with increased calories and macros, I'm noticeably bigger, but still can see the abs. 

    What about my performance on the mats?  I mean if guys are out there getting overtrained on this, I must be worthless, right?  Quite the opposite, I feel more explosive, more mobile, more flexible, and more focused.  This could be from a number of different factors, but I'm not going to be so arrogant as to say that my martial arts performance is going up in spite of the program.  Like I said, as long as I sleep and eat enough, I'm not having any problems.  No such thing as overtraining, just undereating and undersleeping. a six-armed demigod facing giant space bhuddas. That's how CnP makes me feel.

    The short of it, then, is this:  Next to 5/3/1, this is the simplest, most fun program I've ever been on, so much that I'm extending it one more month through April.  Originally I was going to hit 10K Swings one more time in April and cut a little more, but to be honest, that was more for vanity than performance.  Looking good is not part of my work anymore, and you know, I really don't care if I never get laid again (and that's real talk, not some sour grapey nonsense.  No Ego, Just Work).  Much like I always return to martial arts and strength training, I always also return to the idea that I want to be strong as a mechanical bear, and I can't see how that's not going to happen if I stick to this, eat properly, and sleep well.  I'm making one small tweak to my set-rep scheme going forward, I'm dropping the 3x4 and going 5x3,5x2,5x1.  Still 30 total reps, but more opportunities to muck with numbers.  I imagine there'll be some dietary tweaks required too, which I'll talk about in my next post.  Till then, Eat, Lift, Fight, Live.  Peace.

There'll be this next time. LOTS of this.