Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Elements: Week 1 Day 3

Focus: Frogger

Floating Table Top - Pretty much same as Day 1

Frogger - Was able to practice the full 5 min., taking only a 2-second break to stand up, turn around, and perform the Frogger again. Focused more on initiating an active push, as I transition out of the deep squat into the Floating Table Top, then maintaining the active push - keeping those shoulder blades spread apart as long as possible.  What I need to continue working on is smoothly transitioning from Squat to Floating Table Top, then transitioning back to Squat with as much smoothness and control as possible.  By the middle of my session, I had noticed that I tended to rush through the Floating Table Top or even skip it - slowing down and not skipping it delivers a better workout for the abs, shoulders, etc.

Cooldown - Realized that Cobra and the Bhujangasana I used to practice under the Viniyoga program for low back rehab is actually the same Yoga pose - in fact, the latter is the Sanskrit name of the former.  The difference is that the Viniyoga low back program version emphasized exercising the back, whereas the Elements version emphasizes the stretch of the chest and abs.  So to get a better handle on Cobra, I now use my back to gently raise my head and chest off the ground as high as possible, then use the arms to push the torso further up to stretch the abs.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Elements: Week 1 Day 2

Focus:  Bear

A-Frame - Not much change since Day 1

Bear - As with the Frogger, 5 min. of practice vs. the 1 min. that was prescribed in the original version of Elements makes for a bit more demanding workout.  I probably would have taken a lot more breaks if I still had that gas bubble in my eye.  As it is today, I took it slow, focusing on trying to keep my butt in the air at the same height that it was during the A-Frame practice.

Cooldown - Using the A-Frame as a stretch, I could use it to focus more on the upper body or on the legs.  I decided to focus on the legs.  I managed to get my heels on the ground, which stretched my calves to the limit of their flexibility.  So I'll just work on pushing the heels to the ground, then gradually start straightening the legs.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Elements: Week 1 Day 1

Today is my official first day under the updated Elements program.  The theme for today is assessment, but it was not an easy workout by any means.

Warmup Routine - Been practicing this for a few days now, including the test Frogger session from last Thursday.  One minor addition I've made is the Quadruped Twist To Roll To Plow from the newly published BJJ Mobility Routine.  I just like what this sequence does for my neck.

A-Frame - I wasn't able to hold this posture for the entire 5 min, but my endurance was better than expected.  I'm sure it's not the best looking A-Frame but the pointer to push the butt as high as possible helps a lot.  A new tweak from my previous work under Elements is the direction to keep the knees and feet shoulder width apart rather than hip-width.  This seems to allow me to push the heels closer to the ground.

Squat - Deep squat position has been easy for me. Played a bit rising out of it and lowering back into it with an emphasis on maintaining posture.  The limiting factor is soreness on the insteps of the feet - otherwise I feel like I could sit in the deep squat for the full 5 min.  I guess I could play with the positioning, where I'm concentrating my bodyweight, etc. and thus look for a way to relieve the load in the insteps.  I'll also look into improving the arch of my feet as I'm flat-footed.

Floating Table Top - Pretty much the same experience as in the test Frogger workout.

Cooldown Routine - Same experience as a couple of days ago, except I had the time to do the 3-point Bridge at the end too. Thankfully, my bad shoulder responded fine.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Elements: Test Frogger workout and assessment

Yesterday, I attempted the Day 2 workout from Elements, but because of poor time management, I was not able to practice the A-Frame and Bear for the full five minutes each.

Today, I carved out the time for the full Day 3 workout, which focuses on the Frogger.  The workout starts with the warmup/mobility routine.  Next is five minutes of Floating Table Top practice - a significant update from the 2016 version of Elements.  Holy smokes, the direction to tuck in the hips creates an intense contraction of the abs!  Not surprisingly, I was unable to hold the Floating Table Top position for the entire 5 minutes without a break.  Continuously pushing against the floor with the bodyweight slightly forward is no joke, but the killer for me was the abs.  I took breaks alright during those 5 min.... lots of breaks.  Next is the Frogger itself.  In the past, it was my legs that would tire first during Frogger practice.  With the instruction to "jump" as slowly as possible from the Floating Table Top to the squat to begin the next rep of the Frogger, the load was share more evenly with the shoulders and the abs; so much that it was no longer the legs that was tiring out first, but the abs.  I also took lots of breaks.  Finally, the workout ended with the prescribed cool down stretches.  Because of my shoulder issue, I've been having trouble with the Arm Lounge stretch, but the updated Elements instruction now says to keep the elbows bent and bring them together - before pulling the shoulders back and bringing the chest up.  That initial direction to bring the elbows bent and pulled towards each other is making a huge difference for me.

After reviewing the Frogger instruction video, I realize I need to work more on pushing on the floor while performing the Frogger.  I don't really maintain an active push while my feet are in the air, transitioning from the Floating Table Top to the squat.

I also worked in some Front/Back Scale practice during breaks at work, just focusing on the basic versions of each exercise.  I'd been working on these Scales for a couple of days and I already feel a reduction in MCL soreness.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

GMB Elements - 3rd time around

This week I decided to switch from Rings One to Elements.  The Elements program has been updated quite a bit in the 2 years that have passed since I worked through the entire program.  The warmups look different, and the main exercise routine on a given day also looks different.  For example, I tried the Day 2 routine, and instead of just doing Bear for 1 minute, it's now 5 minutes of practicing A-Frame (the base posture for Bear), followed by 5 minutes of playing with Bear itself.

I've made some strength gains with the Rings but a month or two ago, I may have had my previously-injured shoulder tweaked during open-mat grappling.  The Lounge Chair position, which appears in several GMB programs and exercises, is problematic for this shoulder, especially when the fingers are facing forward.  The German Hang position on the rings is also risky.  Dead hang at the start of pullups/chinups has been a bit painful for a year now and hasn't been getting better.

The 3 basic animal movements of Elements seem to be kinder to my shoulders.  The straight-arm variations should be fine.  I'll monitor what happens if the updated program calls for any bent-arm variations, and substitute straight-arm variations if there are any problems.   I'd already started playing with the Frogger and Monkey movements from Elements anyway because the folks at GMB said those two movements will help me with my hand balancing skills - at least the pursuit of the Crow Pose, and the basic handstand.

Another recent issue is soreness/tightness in my knee - particularly the MCL, which has also been previously injured.  It could have been caused by my less-than-perfect execution of the forms I've been learning from Chen Taijiquan, but not consistently working on my hip mobility could be doing it too.  Reviewing GMB's knee health article confirms that neglecting this mobility work for the hips could indeed be a cause..  In addition, the GMB support site recommends exercises called front and back scales for strengthening the knees.  So my new plan will include the practice of these scale exercises

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Rings One, Phase 1, Level B (modified), Week 4

Oops, forgot to log the results for Weeks 2 and 3.

The modifications are to compensate for my shoulder issue and my strength level almost at the B level but not quite yet (cannot do L-Sit but am close, cannot do Tuck to Tuck Shoulder Stand).

Above The Rings

Dips - 9 reps. Quality: Smooth. Ease: Solid

L-Sit - Still not all the way there with both legs, but one straight leg at a time is doable.

Inverted Push-Ups - 7 reps. Quality: Smooth. Ease: Solid.

Crow Pose - 3 rounds of up to 1-min per round of Crow Pose practice.  This is my chosen substitute for pushups, as it can build similar strength with less shoulder discomfort.

Below The Rings

Inverted Pike Roll Chin-Ups - Started the transition from tuck roll ot pike roll.  I can do 3 reps of the pike roll version with some effort, then switch to tuck roll to finish the set.  Hamstring flexibility is good enough for the pike roll and the added load of the pike position on the abs should help progress towards the full L-sit.

Skin The Cats - 3 reps. Quality: Rough.  Ease: Challenging.  Adding a couple of reps of simply lowering the legs while keeping them straight, then using hamstring/glute power to raise them back into the inverted hang position seems to be improving my hamstring flexibility.

Chin-Ups - 9 reps. Quality: Smooth. Ease: Solid.  Still having intermittent shoulder irritation in the dead hang - so cutting the range just a bit.

I received a recommendation from the good folks at GMB to try practicing the Frogger and Monkey movements, to assist in my progress towards a developing a hand balancing skill such as the Crow Pose or handstand.  The recommendation was to check out this article.