Saturday, July 06, 2024

Easy Muscle: Week 6

The Monday calisthenics session prescribed a number of reps per set that was pretty much my rep max in both movements at the start of this Easy Msucle training block. I managed to do 3 sets of each exercise. While doing the 4th set of pullups, I had to stop 2 reps short, rest for a bit, then do the final 2 reps. I also had to pause while doing the 4th set of dips. After the calisthenics session, I once again did a mini circuit of hand-elevated tuck planche and ring-assisted pistol squats. Hand-elevated tuck planche is shown here by Simonster:

Simonster's video inspired me to try the hand-elevated tuck planche and assess where I am in the progression towards the tuck planche. I can get my knees level with my hands. However, I decided to play it safe with my shoulders and stop practicing it. My shoulders have not manifested ill effects from doing it so far, but I will wait until I've gotten strong enough to press the 32kg kettlebell overhead before thinking about trying it again.

The Wednesday kettlebell session went fine. The 24kg kettlebell began to feel lighter as the session went on, which was interesting.

The Friday calisthenics session prescribed a lower number of reps, so I was able to do more sets, and thus a higher total number of reps, compared to the Monday session. I managed to do 7 sets.

Monday, July 01, 2024

Easy Muscle: Week 5

The Monday kettlebell session went fine.

The calisthenics session also went fine. At the end of the session, I got into the top position of a dip on the rings, then attempted to get as close as possible to tuck planche by contracting my abs and pulling up my hips and knees, and held the position for as many seconds as I could. Simonster in this video advises to start working on tuck planche with hands elevated - as they would be at the top of a dip - instead of with the hands on the floor. That's where I got the idea. I then practiced ring-assisted pistol squats. My real leg workout in this Easy Muscle training block is the KB goblet squat, so in this case I only did a couple of reps per leg. I then did another little circuit of regressed tuck planche hold and assisted pistol squats.

The Friday kettlebell session was a bit more challenging than the Monday session, because I had to do 4 reps per set. Each 4-rep set in this session drained more of my energy compared to the Monday session. I managed 3 sets in the prescribed time period. For the goblet squat portion of the workout I managed to complete all sets without letting the kettlebell flop over.

Monday, June 24, 2024

Easy Muscle: Week 4

This week called for pushing oneself a little harder than normal. It basically amounts to taking shorter than usual breaks between sets.
The calisthenics workout scheduled for Monday presented a bit of a dilemma. 6 reps per set were prescribed. Last time I attempted 6 reps per set, I was able to complete all 6 reps for first couple of sets. For the remainder of that workout, I could not complete each set without taking breaks. But per the guidelines I had to push myself for this week. I think I found a reasonable balance in the Monday workout - not resting too long and at the same time doing the 6-rep sets without stopping during the set.

The clean-and-push press workout was relatively easier. I aimed to do at least 10 total reps per arm and I achieved that. I stopped counting reps after that as I wanted to focus on good quality execution during the prescribed workout time instead of chasing reps. I think I did 13 per arm. The squat workout mostly went fine, although my hands tired enough to allow the kettlebell to flop over on one of the later sets. One thing I changed was setting up my feet wider apart, about where the feet would be if I were doing a double kettlebell front squat. I haven't been squatting with the feet this far apart for a while. I figured I'll eventually progress back to double KB front squat so might as well ge used to the foot placement since double KBs require more space between the feet for the double KB clean to set up for the squat, and then the reverse clean to park the KBs on the floor.

The Friday calisthenics workout called for 4 reps a set. I pushed for as much volume as possible, and even raised the training time an extra 5 min. I was able to do 8 sets of pullups and dips. This should help prep me for doing more sets of 6-rep sets.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Red Delta Project on lower back isolation exercise

I just watched this video posted by Matt (Red Delta Project) on his channel a few months ago.

Matt contends that the lower back is more like a joint, so saying "work the lower back" is like saying "work the knees". Just as "feeling the knees working" is a sign that something is wrong with your knees (joints), "feeling the lower back working" is not a good sign either. Matt does teach exercises that target the posterior chain, which includes the lower back, but at the same time, he also teaches that you should engage your lats, glutes, and hamstrings - so that force travels through the lower back instead of being concentrated on the lower back.

One question that often comes up is What calisthenics exercise is an alternative or replacement for the barbell deadlift?. Matt does not mention it in the video but I think the majority of the people who asked Matt about lower back isolation exercises were thinking about the barbell deadlift. The barbell deadlift is believed by quite a few people to be a lower back exercise. The muscles that actually do the heavy work in the deadlift are the glutes and the legs, with emphasis on the hamstrings although other leg muscles such as the quadriceps also contribute. What we think of as lower back muscles are the spinal erectors and transverspinalis groups - both muscle groups just work to stabilize the spine when the deadlift is done in proper form. If you mess up and try to use the spinal erectors and/or transverspinalis to lift the barbell, you'll probably injure your back - I unfortunately learned this from direct experience.

There was a time that I too wondered what calisthenics exercises might be good substitutes for the barbell deadlift. This was when I still believed in the deadlift as the best low back exercise ever invented by humankind. However I eventually realized that the deadlift is really a good dynamic exercise only for the leg and glutes - because if you attempt to use it as a dynamic exercise for your low back, you could very well destroy your lower back instantly. The deadlift is at best a decent isometric (static) exercise for the low back. Some people have a good reason to practice the deadlift. If you care more about "lower back strength" than, say, achieving a double or triple bodyweight deadlift, you probably don't need to practice the barbell deadlift

The Red Delta Project channel and other Youtube channels like Knees Over Toes Guy have videos teaching posterior chain or "lower back" exercises. But if you pay close attention, most of those exercises do not involve dynamic movement of the lower back itself, but instead have you keep the back fairly straight and have other muscles - typically the hamstrings, glutes, hips, and/or lats - do the dynamic work.

One dynamic exercise for the lower back that seems to be in fashion at the moment is the Jefferson Curl - however just about all the coaches that advocate that this exercise advise training with light weight - this is not an exercise in which you should be working towards a double bodyweight lift! In fact, just about all the advocates say you should start with no external load at all. Another dynamic exercise that has always been in fashion are side bending exercises such as the one advocated by Knees Over Toes Guy. Knees Over Toes Guy posted their latest lower back exercise video here, including the side bending:

Monday, June 17, 2024

Easy Muscle: Week 3

I was able to do 5-rep sets of the calisthenic exercises without pausing before the last or 2nd to last rep. This is an improvement over the previous week.

I also noticed improvement in performance of the kettlebell exercises. Still a little slop here and there, but noticeable improvement over the previous week.

Sunday, June 02, 2024

Easy Muscle: Week 2

The first calisthenics day prescribed a number of reps that was very close to my 8 rep max for both pullups and ring dips. I managed to do all the reps for 3 sets for each exercise. For the last couple of sets, I was able to do 4-5 reps, then I had to pause before attempting another rep. I tried to do one more set per exercise when the timer rang, and managed to do 4 reps. I could feel that was it for the day for both exercises.

The kettlebell day prescribed clean-and-push press singles. I thought I might be able to just do singles left and right, over and over without break, for the prescribed number of minutes, but I did end up needing some rest between singles. The prescribed reps per set for squats seemed daunting for bottoms up goblet squat, but my hands were able to hold up, though the very last set required noticeable effort to keep the KB from flopping over. I tried to think of keeping my weight under the KB, which helped.

The 2nd calisthenics day prescribed 4 reps per set of pullups/dips, which was easier for me compared to the first day. I think I managed 5 sets of each exercise within the prescribed period. I didn't keep count because the idea is to do as many sets within the time period as allowed by autoregulation guidelines, rather than to go for a specific number of sets

I started doing these exercises again with the Flexbar because of intermittent elbow pain, which is sometimes manifested during guitar playing or working with the 24kg kettlebell. I'm not sure if the cause was overuse from too much guitar playing or practicing isometric drag curls with the IsoMax.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Easy Muscle: Week 1

Week 1 is now in the books.

The calsthenics day mostly went fine. I was unable to do all the prescribed reps for the last set of ring dips, so I just did a rest pause - about 15 second rest - then finished the set. I have a tendency to lean too far forward on the dip, so I've been working on not looking down so much, and turning the rings out at the bottom of the dip to engage the shoulder external rotators to help protect the shoulders. For the remainder of the week, I had DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) in the chest and anterior deltoids from the ring dips.

The 2nd kettlebell day prescribed a slightly higher number of reps per sets of Clean And Push Press. I realized that on the 1st KB day I was not really doing the Clean And Push Press - I was actually cleaning the KB once then doing reps of Push Press. Doing a clean before a push press on each and every rep ramped up the level of effort. By the end of the prescribed minutes of training, I was starting to fail with my normally stronger arm, because of accumulated fatigue, even though I was resting a generous amount of time between sets under autoregulation guidelines.