Sunday, December 26, 2021

GSC-Advent Micro Workouts: Week 2

As with last week, I planned this week's training using the GSC template of Workout #1 for push/flexion chain, Workout #2 for pull/extension chain, and Workout #3 for squat/lateral chain and selected Micro Workouts from this years Countdown to Advent Micro Workout series to match.

Workout #1

Pseudo Planche Lean - 4 sets of 3-5 second hold, 20s break between holds at the furthest forward lean possible, acting as isometric warmup as well as continuing progress towards planche.

Ultra-Pump Chest and Triceps Suspension Micro Workout - I was barely able to do the recommended reps for each exercise. Red Delta Project recommends this chest fly variation and tricep press - which to me looks the same as a regular tricep extension - for people having trouble developing their push chain.

I noticed some soreness on the "tennis elbow" side of my forearm while doing the tricep extensions. I found this Red Delta Project video to be very helpful for eliminating this elbow sensation. The trick is to slightly pull the rings or suspension trainer handles from the rear deltoids as shown in the video. Red Delta Project also has a video on 3 tips for better performance, without pain, on tricep extensions while using towels.

On a related note, I once thought that what I perceived as isolation exercises, such as tricep extensions and bicep curls, were unnecessary if those muscles were covered by compound movement exercises. Nowadays, they can have a place in an exercise program. Red Delta Project sums this up in this video. I have found what he says about direct arm work leading to greater awareness of triceps being used for push chain movements and biceps for pull chain to be true.

Suspension Plank Solid Core Micro Workout - This was a better choice for me than last week's choice for flexion chain training, as the shoulders felt fine, while getting a nice stability workout. The pelvic tilt exercise was harder than it looks in the video - I was only able to manage 3 reps at most before my abs felt too much on fire to do more.

Workout #2

Front Lever Hold - 4 sets of 3-5 second hold, 20s break between holds. I was able to move feet further away from my butt for this Frog Front Lever position.

I then did a variation of this bicep micro workout. I did the pull ups as shown, but substituted the regular suspension bicep curl for the clutch curl, because I tried the clutch curl last week and found my elbow to be more susceptible to Golfer's Elbow.

I then did the feet-elevated bridge and hamstring curl micro workout to complete the extension chain training. Doing the bridge felt great, but when I switched to hamstring curl, my grip was fried from the bridge and doing the bicep micro workout. I then rested for a couple of hours and attempted the 2nd micro workout again. This time my grip had recovered enough to put in some decent work.

Workout #3

I started off with the lateral chain stretchout micro workout. At first it felt too easy, then I realized I needed to move my feet further away from the suspension trainer handle. Leaning with the feet completely together was too hard. setting them 2 feet apart made the workout still challenging but at least doable.

I then did the this suspension squat micro workout. I think the idea was to do all the single leg squats first, then do the 2-leg overhead squats. I did 8 reps of shrimp squat per set for 3 sets. I then attempted the 2-leg overhead squats but my legs felt too fried so I ended the training.

I may soon try this full-body mobility routine posted by Eduardo Orihuela. Looks like something fun to try on active recovery days, between my more serious strength training days.

Monday, December 20, 2021

GSC Month 3: Week 4 and GSC-Advent Micro Workouts: Week 1

Training for the week beginning Dec. 6 was mostly the same as the previous week. Workouts 1 and 2 went about the same, except for Workout 2, for the Front Lever Rows with Accommodating Resistance, I worked more towards the "Frog Front Lever" for the eccentric and isometric hold portions of the movement. There are a number of front lever progressions taught by various trainers, but to me it makes sense to progress to the Frog position, then gradually work on moving the feet further and further away from the butt until the legs are fully extended into the Straddle position. I got the idea from a video by Fitness FAQs. Thus, the Dec. 17 session focusing on leg and lateral chain concluded my GSC Month 3 routine.

I had previous planned to begin training under GSC Month 4, beginning Dec. 13. But then I noticed Red Delta Project, who created the Grind Style Calistenics (GSC) programs, had started publishing his annual Countdown to Advent Micro Workouts series on his Youtube channel. The order in which he has published his Micro Workouts generally follow the pattern established in GSC - a rotation of Push Chain-Flexion Chain, Pull Chain-Extension Chain, and Squat Chain-Lateral Chain workouts. Thus, it looked easy enough to pick and choose Micro Workouts to plug into the GSC scheduling template I've been using:

Monday - Push Chain-Flexion Chain
Wednesday - Pull Chain-Extension Chain
Friday - Squat Chain-Lateral Chain

Workout #1

Pseudo Planche Lean - 4 sets of 3-5 second hold, 20s break between holds. at the furthest forward lean possible, acting as isometric warmup as well as continuing progress towards planche.
Suspension Chest and Triceps Micro Workout - I was only able to do 8 reps for the first set of each exercise - probably just started at too difficult of an angle.
Suspension Pike Up Variation and Saw Plank Micro Workout - This was not a good choice as the pike up has the arms reaching overhead for the finishing position, which is still not a good-feeling position for my recovering shoulder. But I stuck with it because I found I could reduce or eliminate the shoulder pain by squeezing the scapula together, even if they are being elevated. I would not pick this again for flexion chain training though, at least for the near future.

Workout #2

Frog Front Lever Hold - 4 sets of 3-5 second hold, 20s break between holds, for isometric warmup and continued progress towards front lever.
Thicker Back And Lats Suspension Micro Workout - was not able to do 10 or even 8 reps per set - probably chose too hard of an angle.
Hip Extension and Hip (Gluteus Med) Micro Workout - The hip extension is part of GSC Month 4 if I had gone with the Month 4 program. The hip abduction exercise was interesting as I'd never done it before.
I had some extra time so I thought I would finish with this Bicep Micro Workout but my shoulders did not like the reaching overhead for the pullups and my forearm (Golfers Elbow area) did not like the Preacher Curl variation, so I did a drop set of the regular suspension Bicep Curl instead as the finisher.

Workout #3

Suspension Rotating Oblique Plank Workout - hoo boy I was only able to do 4 reps per side.
Suspension Single leg Power Workout - Wow this one was also hard - only 5 reps per leg at most because the leg got burned out fast.
I had some extra time so I thought I would finish with this Bicep Micro Workout but my shoulders did not like the reaching overhead for the pullups and my forearm (Golfers Elbow area) did not like the Preacher Curl variation, so I did a drop set of the regular suspension Bicep Curl instead as the finisher.

Interesting movement flow/combinations posted by Eduardo Orihuela. I think it's an example from GMB's new program - will investigate later.

Sunday, December 05, 2021

GSC Month 3: Week 3

Workout #1

Pseudo Planche Pushup (Accommodating Resistance) strength sets: 2 2 2
Suspension RTO Pushup Drop Set

Suspension pushup finisher set

Not sure if it's worth logging the reps I'm doing for Pseudo Planche Pushups with AR, as progress is not measured by reps, but by how far I am able to lean and then maintain an isometric hold in the leaned position for at least 3 seconds. The intensity is so high through all 3 phases (isometric, eccentric, concentric) of the movement that 2 reps is about all I can do per set.

I probably could have leaned forward a little more, because the eccentric, coming out of the isometric hold, was not fully involuntary. Bending the elbows should result in a fall that you cannot stop, only slow down by pushing hard - that is why Mindful Mover calls this an involuntary eccentric. On the other hand, I also have previous experience in leaning so far forward that I could not sustain an isometric hold for even 1 second, and thus immediately went into the involutary eccentric. So I think it was fine to work the isometric at the leaned position that I did. I have no doubt that as I get stronger, I will feel more comfortable leaning forward more and more, and thus working harder and stimulating more strength gains.

Workout #2

Tuck Front Lever Row strength sets: 2 2
Elevated Suspension Hip Extension strength sets: 5 5

Finisher rows on NOSSK: Untimed drop set lat rows, then untimed drop set regular rows.

My workout was cut short when I realized the water service to my house had been shut off. Service was restored in the afternoon, but not having water proved to be too much of a distraction. Later in the week, much-needed upgrade of the attic insulation was done. Because of that distraction and scheduling, I skipped Workout #3

Sunday, November 28, 2021

GSC Month 3: Week 2

Workout #1

Pseudo Planche Pushup (Accommodating Resistance) strength sets: 2 2 2
Suspension RTO Pushup Drop Set

Suspension pushup finisher set

For my last set of Pseudo Planche Pushups, I messed something up and nearly did my first Tuck Planche by accident. I need to remember to do the spiraling pull from the back to the pinkies of my hands at the bottom position, to pre-stretch and activate the chest for the grinding concentric. I recorded a video for self-critique, and was surprised to see I was leaning forward further than I expected. I did not notice any sagging of the hips in the video. I need to be more willing to pull my shoulders back, so that they are not as far forward of the hands, when I get stuck during the grinding concentric.

Isometric holds under loads that are great enough so that more than 5 seconds is next to impossible are known for improving tendon strength. The intense isometric hold in this version of the Pseudo Planche Pushup seems to stimulate greater progress in shoulder stability and feeling generally better..

Workout #2

Tuck Front Lever Row strength sets: 2 2 2
Elevated Suspension Hip Extension strength sets: 5 5 5

Finisher rows on NOSSK: Untimed drop set lat rows, then untimed drop set regular rows.
Finisher Straight Leg Hip Bridge set: Drop set starting with feet on NOSSK, then on ground

I tried to begin each Front Lever Row set by holding the more difficult Front Lever position for at least 3 seconds, to stimulate gains towards the full Front Lever hold, then tuck in the knees, then row up, then untuck the knees for the eccentric. I think it makes more sense to begin the set by just by getting into Tuck Front Lever at the bottom position, taking a moment to check that position is decent, row for the concentric, pause at the top to untuck the knees, lower in the eccentric in the harder position, and then to the isometric hold at the bottom of the movement. And then after the isometric hold, tucking in the knees for the next rep.

Workout #3

Assited Jumbo Shrimp Squat strength sets: 5 5 5
Moving Side Plank strength sets: 5 5 5

Jump Lunge finisher set: about 75s
Side Plank hold finisher set: 25s per side

Jumbo Shrimp Squat quality of movement improved over last week. I decided to just do the side planks on the hardwood floor instead of the yoga mat, which felt fine, as long as I concentrate my weight on the meaty part of the forearm rather than the elbow. I set a new time PR for the Jump Lunge - I should revisit the instructional video to make sure I'm not cheating in some way.

Friday, November 19, 2021

GSC Month 3: Week 1

I decided to skip GSC Month 2 and go to GSC Month 3. It is made up of 2 workouts - a Push-Pull-Squat workout, and a Extension-Lateral-Flexion workout which is focused on isometric holds. I'm sure this program is fine, it's just that GSC Month 3 is more of a continuation of Month 1. I've just progressed to being able to explore Accommodating Resistance in my push and pull movements of choice - the Pseudo Planche Pushup and the Front Lever Row - and want to get in 4 weeks of that. After GSC Month 3, I plan to do Isochain 6x6 which is all isometric.

Workout #1

For this morning, I skipped the blood pressure reading. The levels have dropped from elevated to normal/healthy level for the past several days. I'm not sure what caused the drop. It could have been seeing certain home repairs done and some issues with teh car getting taken care of. It could have been the addition of a little lean muscle mass stimulated by those GSC finisher sets. It helps that I've been taking the readings first thing in the morning, which is when my blood pressure tends to be the lowest. Maybe my understanding is wrong, but I feel like I'd know I'm in trouble if the readings are above normal parameters while I'm sleeping.

Pseudo Planche Pushup (Accommodating Resistance) strength sets: 2 2 2
Suspension RTO Pushup Drop Set

Suspension pushup finisher set

I was excited to try Pseudo Planche Pushups with Accommodating Resistance for the first time. The very first set was awkward because I forgot to turn my hands slightly outward, then I relaxed too much at the bottom position. I started the second set leaning a little too far forward, so that I was unable to do even 1 second of the isometric hold and thus immediately started falling. Fortunately, I was able to exert enough force during the eccentric to fall slowly into the bottom position. The 2nd rep was better, as was the 3rd set. It will take some time to get a feel for the amount of lean. I want to lean forward enough to make me work hard in the isometric hold for 3-5 seconds, but not so far forward that I can't do the isometric hold at all.

The way people typically do calisthenic exercises is to put most of the effort into the concentric phase of the movement, and sort of take a break during the eccentric phase, maybe expending just enough effort to maintain control of the movement. Accommodating Resistance (AR), as adapted by Mindful Mover to calisthenics, involves increasing the load for the eccentric, typically by deliberately introducing more mechanical disadvantage, like leaning forward in the pushup position. What this does is make the muscles work for both the concentric and eccentric phases of the movement, instead of just in the concentric. Because of the harder work throughout the whole movement, the possible number of reps in a set is decreased. Lower number of reps does not matter in this case, because progress in a calisthenic exercise done with AR is not measured by number of reps of the movement. Rather, it is measured by how much closer the trainee is able to get to a target position - in this case, the full planche with toes off the floor, all weight on the hands, arms locked out straight, straight line from ankles all the way to top of the head, etc. The promise of AR is that the harder work will result in faster strength gains than calisthenics done the typical way.

Workout #2

Tuck Front Lever Row strength sets: 3 3 3
Elevated Suspension Hip Extension strength sets: 5 6 6

Finisher rows on NOSSK: Untimed drop set lat rows, then untimed drop set regular rows.
Finisher Straight Leg Hip Bridge set: Drop set starting with feet on NOSSK, then on ground

This was my first Front Lever Row session with Accommodating Resistance, doing the concentric in Tuck Front Lever position, pausing at the top to untuck - that is, to move the knees as far away from my chest as I can to increase load - then doing the eccentric with the increased load, then finally pausing at the bottom to reset into Tuck Front Lever before the next rep. As with the Pseudo Planche Pushup, with AR, I can feel my muscles working harder through the entire movement. I also feel the abs working harder than before.

While reflecting on this session, I got the idea to try to hold the more difficult Front Lever position for at least 3 seconds at the end of each set, to stimulate extra gains towards the full Front Lever hold, in the way the isometric hold, while leaning forward, in the Pseudo Planche Pushup is supposed to stimulate gains towards the full planche hold.

The suspension hip extension with elevated feet reminds me of a similar exercise I did on the Lifeline Power Wheel. Back then I could only do 3 reps on the Power Wheel. I don't have any ideas for doing this move with AR so I was content to do them as demonstrated by Red Delta Project.

Workout #3

Assited Jumbo Shrimp Squat strength sets: 3 6 6
Moving Side Plank strength sets: 4 4 4

Jump Lunge finisher set: about 40s
Side Plank hold finisher set: 20s per side

For my first Jumbo Shrimp squat set, I focused on getting the non-working knee as far below the working foot as possible, which resulted in 3 high-effort, low-quality reps. For the remaining sets, I decided to just focus on good quality reps and not worry so much about going as low as possible. Another change I made was to use the NOSSK for assistance rather than my kitchen counter. I felt I had better support from the NOSSK

Today's Music Discoveries

Monday, November 15, 2021

GSC Month 1: Week 4

I continued the schedule of Workout #1 on Monday, Workout #2 on Wednesday, and Workout #3 on Friday.

Workout #1

For this morning, my blood pressure readings were 118/87 and 61 pulse.

Floor pushup strength sets: 8 8 8
RTO Pushup Drop Set
Suspension pushup finisher set

I might have done more than 8 reps for the first, and maybe even the 2nd set of floor pushups. However, I'd already decided that if I could do 3 sets of 8, I would do a drop set of RTO pushups instead of a 4th set of floor pushups, then do the Finisher Phase with a drop set of regular suspension pushups. By doing 3 sets of 8 floor pushups, I felt like I proved to myself that I could move up to Pseudo Planche Pushups with Accommodating Resistance next week.

Workout #2

For this morning, my blood pressure readings were 113/80 and 57 pulse.

Tuck Front Lever Row strength sets: 7 6 6
Suspension Straight Leg Hip Bridge strength sets: 6 6 6

Finisher rows on NOSSK: 3 min. set.
Finisher Straight Leg Hip Bridge set: 20

For some reason, I felt was I was starting to use more of my upper back - as if I'd been mostly just using my arms on the Tuck Front Lever Row. I'll try to focus more on pulling from the spine and spiraling out to the hands next time. Still, I feel read to try transitioning to Advanced Tuck Front Lever rows next week, using Accommodating Resistance by doing the eccentric portion in the Advanced Tuck Front Lever position, and switching back to Tuck Front Lever for the concentric portion.

Workout #3

I skipped this workout this week, due to circumstances beyond my control. Nothing serious, at least! I will resume this workout next week.

Pseudo Planche Pushup has three movement portions which I hope I will remember next week:

  1. Isometric. At the top of pushup position, lean forward, point your toes away from you, then hold the position isometrically for 3-5 seconds.  You must lean forward far enough so that the isometric hold feels intense.  If you can hold for more than 5 seconds, you're not leaning far enough.
  2. Eccentric. Bend elbows and you should start falling slowly to the ground.  If you don't feel like you're falling, lean forward some more.  Push hard to control your fall.  If despite your best effort you're falling too fast, reduce forward lean.
  3. Concentric. Push up as much as you can.  When you reach a point that you are stuck, reduce your forward lean until you can continue pushing all the way back to top position.

Monday, November 08, 2021

GSC Month 1: Week 3

I continued the schedule of Workout #1 on Monday, Workout #2 on Wednesday, and Workout #3 on Friday. On the morning of Workout #1, I used my newly acquired Beurer BC57 Blood Pressure Monitor and got a reading of 118/96 with an 80 pulse.

Workout #1

For the Tension phase, the isometric pushup was still a struggle, so I just did it standing, pushing hard against the yoga strap.

Floor pushup strength sets: 8 7 7 4

Getting closer to the minimum 3 sets of 8 reps, which is an admittedly arbitrary goal I set for myself to achieve. Once this goal is achieved, I would feel ready to start working on Pseudo Planche Pushups, aka "Leaned Forward Pushups", which is the next major step in the progression towards Planche Pushups.
I once again forgot to time the finisher pushups. I did have the NOSSK straps set long enough to allow me to start the Finisher Phase with sets of RTO pushups, gradually working to greater and greater incline to drop the intensity, then swith to regular incline pushups without missing a beat.

Workout #2

For this morning, my blood pressure readings were 113/80 and 58 pulse.

Tuck Front Lever Row strength sets: 5 5 5
Level 4 Suspension Straight Leg Hip Bridge strength sets: 3 3 6

Finisher rows on NOSSK: 3 min. set.
Finisher Isochain Romanian Deadlift 110lbs: 30s hold

No obvious progress on Tuck Front Lever Row. I think I started to get the hang of Suspension Straight Leg Hip Bridge on the last strength set.

Workout #3

I once again forgot to do the Lateral Push Down as part of the Tension phase and also forgot do the T-Planks as part of the Stability Phase. Maybe I'm still not taking the lateral chain aspect of Workout #3 as seriously as I should.

Assisted Jumbo Shrimp Squat strength sets: 4 4 4
Moving Side Plank strength sets: 5 5 5

Finisher Jump Lunge: Managed just over 50s
Finisher Side Plank: 25s hold

This was my first workout with the Jumbo Shrimp Squat, aka "Elevated Shrimp Squat". I think I may have focused too much on folding my torso forward rather than on just sinking my hips straight down.

Great video by Eduardo Orihuela on progressing from Pseudo Planche Pushup to Tuck Planche Pushup - probably works best with parallettes or 2 sturdy chairs. Great post by Mindful Mover on an exercise that can be used for progressing past the Tuck Planche - starting in Tuck Planche and increasing difficulty on the eccentric portion of the movement, by extending the legs, then setting the feet down and doing a Pseudo Planche Pushup on the concentric portion.

Friday, November 05, 2021

Grind Style Calisthenics Month 1: Week 2

I continued the schedule of Workout #1 on Monday, Workout #2 on Wednesday, and Workout #3 on Friday.

Workout #1

For the Tension phase, the isometric pushup was still a struggle, just like last week. I cut all the extra abdominal work (isometric pulldown, planks, leg raise) from Workout #1.

Floor pushup strength sets: 6 6 6 6

My pushup reps per set doubled from last week. This might be delayed carry over from the work I did in the Isochain Burn Count program. I figured the carry over would not be immediate as the floor pushup, being a dynamic movement, required getting used to the movement pattern again, after spending so much time on static (isometric) exercise.
I didn't time the finisher pushups this time. I just did sets of RTO pushups, then regular incline pushups on the NOSSK, with some time wasted between sets messing around with the strap trying to find good lengths for the straps. Next time, I should set the straps at greater lengths - maybe with the handles at my knee height - and start RTO pushups in the bottom position.

Workout #2

For the Tension phase, a bent-over rows with Isochain was indeed more satifying than seated row with yoga strap and shirt or towel.
For the Stability phase, I found some nice ideas for playing with Crab Walk in this GMB post.
Tuck Front Lever Row strength sets: 4 5 5
Single Straight Leg Bridge sets: 8 8 8

Finisher rows on NOSSK: Not timed. Wasted time in similar fashion to the Finisher portion of Workout #1
Finisher Isochain Romanian Deadlift on link 2: 23s hold

Progress on Tuck Front Lever Row was slow when I worked on it last year. The reps were about the same as last week. I think any progress I make this time around will depend on work on the Finisher phase - both the movement practice itself and any hypertrophy I can get out of it.

Workout #3

My shoulder felt good for T-Planks as long as I did not try to bring up the arm to a 90 degree angle in relation to the torso. Unfortunately I once again forgot to do the Lateral Push Down as part of the Tension phase.
For the Stability phase, I'm thinking of working in some Monkey into the play session with the Shifting Squat. Some ideas for Monkey with tight hips/ankles in this GMB post.
Assisted Shrimp Squat strength sets: 8 8 8
Moving Side Plank strength sets: 4 4 4

Finisher Jump Lunge: Timeed up to 90s but forgot to record actual work time
Finisher Side Plank: 15s hold

Assisted Shrimp Squat improvement was not as dramatic as last week but I still progressed to 8-rep sets. I can finally try assisted elevated shrimp squats next week! The shoulder felt better for all side plank work, compared to last week, which is a big improvement.

Friday, October 22, 2021

GSC Month 1 Program: Week 1

I followed the schedule of Workout #1 on Monday, Workout #2 on Wednesday, and Workout #3 on Friday.

Workout #1

For the Tension phase, the isometric pushup was a struggle as I had to spend extra time finding a good length on the yoga strap. My muscles started to fatigue before I could achieve a decent hold in this position. The isometric abdominal pulldown on the NOSSK suspension trainer was much easier to get into. The Stability phase was easier due to previous experience with GMB style locomotion exercises.

Floor pushup strength sets: 3 3 4
Strap Plank strength sets: 25s 25s 25s

At the start of my Burn Count routine, I was pleasantly surprised to find I could do 3 pushups on the floor, which is is an improvement over not being able to do any reps of this exercise last year. The majority of strength training, up until the start of my GSC training, was isometric exercise on the Isochain, with a few weeks of heavy club work. I had not done any direct pushup training other than wall pushups to warm up for Isochain Promethean and Burn Count workouts. So, I was hoping that several weeks of Isochain Burn Count would carry over to pushups. However, as can be seen, my pushup reps after Burn Count were the same as the start of Burn Count.
Finisher pushups on NOSSK: about 2:30 timed set
Finisher leg raise: about 50s timed set

I should have reviewed the video on RTO pushups, because in the bottom position, my hands were closer to my chest than to my waist. RTO pushups are what I want to practice, as I want to target the chest more, improve shoulder stability, and work towards planche pushups.

Workout #2

For the Tension phase, I tried using a shirt with the yoga strap for isometric row. It felt kind of awkward. Next time I will just use my Isochain for this, without using the Isochain sensor, because the goal here is to turn on the muscles, without exhausting your neuromuscular system so much that you compromise performance during the Strength phase. The isometric bridge was easier to get into.

My shoulder didn't feel good for reaching overhead, so instead of shifting pullups, I did shifting rows on the NOSSK. Crab Walk was fine due to previous experience in GMB's Elements program.

Tuck Front Lever Row strength sets: 4 4 5
Cross-Ankle Straight Leg Bridge set: 8
Single Straight Leg Bridge sets: 6 6

Finisher rows on NOSSK: about 3 min. timed set
Finisher Isochain Romanian Deadlift on link 2: 22s hold

As with the pushups, Isochain training did not seem to make me stronger at Tuck Front Lever Rows. I haven't done cross-ankle straight leg bridge or single-leg bridge for reps before so I don't know what impact, if any, Isochain work had on my performance on those movements. The 3 min. of finisher rows was mostly fumbling with the NOSSK trying to find a good length for them and good body position. I did find that suspension lat rows take more effort than regular - by GSC standards - rows, which have the hands closer to the chest in the top position. I also found that starting the row from the top position saves a lot of frustration, because when I started at bottom position, I often found I'd set the NOSSK to be either too short or too long. Next week, I'll start the Finisher Phase with lat rows, starting from top position, working towards a top position that is closer and closer to vertical, then switching to regular rows after my muscles get burned out on lat rows. I decided to substitute Isochain Romanian DL for Isometric Bridge Hold in the Finisher Phase.

Workout #3

I did a better job with the Tension phase than last week, at least by not forgetting to do the Lateral Push Down. My shoulder was still temperamental for T-Planks but there was slight improvement in execution at least.

Assisted Shrimp Squat strength sets: 6 6 6
Side Plank, feet suspended: 7s 7s 10s

Finisher Jump Lunge: just under 1 min. timed set
Finisher Straddle Side Plank: 20s hold

Biggest improvement was in the Assisted Shrimp Squat, with reps per set doubled. This might be a sign of carryover from the isometric Zercher Lunge when I was doing Burn Count. I reviewed the Red Delta Project videos on Side Plank. The GSC Month 1 Log PDF says to do Level 4 Side Plank (feet on suspension trainer). I think that's too difficult for me to do without irritating my shoulder. For next week, I'll regress to Level 3, which is Side Plank for reps.

I plan to drop the Strap Plank and Leg Raises from Workout #1. Mindful Mover has argued that free gains on abdominal strength can be had by progressing on their Big 5 exercise families (One-Arm Chinup, Handstand Pushup, Front Lever Row, Planche Pushup, Squat). I would like to test this theory, and this is a good enough excuse to save myself the time in working on Strap Planks and Leg Raises in favor of dedicating more energy towards Planche Pushup progression in Workout #1.

I thought about dropping the Side Plank from Workout #3 as well, but then came across claims that strengthening the Gluteus Medius (aka "glute med") will fix back and/or hip pain. According to this Prehab Guys article, Side Plank is one of the most effective exercises for the glute med, with the Side Plank with Hip Abduction variation scoring the highest MVIC. This variation is introduced in GSC Month 3.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Transitioning from Burn Count to Grind Style Calisthenics

I did 2 more sessions of Burn Count then decided to switch to Grind Style Calisthenics. Results:

Day A drills:

Romanian Deadlift Low Angle: 33s, 115lbs
Shoulder Press Low Angle: 32s, 45lbs
Drag Curl: 32s, 25lbs

Day B drills:

Zercher Lunge: 32s, 20lbs
Chest Press: 22s, 30lbs
Seated Row: 23s, 70lbs

I saw modest gains in Romanian Deadlift and Seated Row compared to last week. However, performance in 4 of the 6 drills was unchanged. My understanding of exercise science, based on what I have read in the Ultimate Isometrics Manual, the writings of Thomas Kurz, etc. is that one cannot make gains forever while training under the same exercise routine. This is why we are advised to change something about our routine every 6-8 weeks, otherwise, we will arrive at a plateau. My results show I'm reaching a plateau, so it's time to change.

I feel like Burn Count worked for me as it was designed, at least in the strength improvement aspect. In 5 of the 6 selected drills, I am able to sustain force for at least 20 seconds at a higher load, compared to the start of the program - which indicates that I gained strength. I think my progress in the Zercher Lunge was delayed by starting at too high of a load. I did not anticipate having so little endurance for holding this position. I think my progress would have been better if I set the load at the barest minimum to trigger the Isochain beeper and just worked on endurance, instead of setting the load to 65% of 1RM, failing to hold for 20s, then wasting training time dropping the load by 5lbs every session and still failing to trigger the beeper, until I finally arrived at a load I could work with.

Burn Count is also designed to stimulate hypertrophy. I did not notice any dramatic muscle growth but I didn't take any measurements either. I have a history of not noticing my own muscle growth until being informed by other people.

The next exercise program that I will do will be GSC (Grind Style Calisthenics) Month 1. It was the first free GSC program that Red Delta Project introduced. GSC is a training method that is focused on building strength and muscle, through the practice of muscle tension control. I am intrigued by the workouts being structured by Tension, Stability, Strength, and Hypertrophy phases. I still want to achieve challenging bodyweight skills such as freestanding handstand pushups, planche pushups, etc. However, pursuing those freestanding skills requires spending time on balance. I've come around more to the perspective of Red Delta Project and Mindful Mover in that if the primary goals are building muscle and strength, it is better to remove balance as a factor, if it is an impediment to buliding muscle and strength. I suspect it is easier for a person who may not be good at hand balancng, yet is already strong to progress to a freestanding handstand pushup, than it is for a person who is lacking in both hand balance skill and strength.

The Training Bible PDF for GSC Month 1 has some ideas for scheduling training. I will try the simplest idea, which is Workout #1 on Monday, Workout #2 on Wednesday, and Workout #3 on Friday. This way, I can ease into dynamic exercise, after 7 weeks of static (isometric) training. This Friday I'll do Workout #3, not because the Training Bible had #3 on Friday in the example schedule, but because I made so little apparent progress in my leg strength and muscle development in Burn Count, and thus it would be fun to start off with #3, which emphasizes the Squat and Lateral Chains.

First GSC Workout

I did my first Grind Style Calisthenics (GSC) workout under the GSC Month 1 program this morning. As previously mentioned, the chosen workout was Workout #3 (Squat and Lateral Chain). I thought I was ready to go, then realized I needed to review the Red Delta Project videos on the Tension, Stability, Strength/Grind, and Finisher/Hypertrophy phases of a GSC workout.

Despite my efforts to review these videos and the program guidelines, I still kind of botched the workout by forgetting to do the Lateral Pushdown after the Wall Sit and Table Bridge during the Tension phase. I did the Shifting Squat and T-Plank, then realized I forgot the Lateral Pushdown and thus did the Lateral Pushdown. I then immediately did my first set of Assisted Shrimp Squat and was only able to do 3 reps per leg because of lingering tension in my abs from the Lateral Pushdown isometric drill.

I ended up doing 3 reps for the 2nd set, 6 reps for the 3rd set, then 4 reps in bad form - should have stopped immediately after the first badly executed rep, which is usually a sign of CNS burnout. I supersetted the assisted shrimp squats with a 10-second hold per side in the side plank with suspended feet. Rest was about 2.5 minutes between sets. I'll try a 4-min. rest period between sets in the Strength phase next time.

The GSC Month 1 Bible says to do 90 seconds of Jump Lunge to start the Finisher phase. I managed about 60 seconds. I was able to do all 20 seconds of straddle side plank on the floor.

Later in the afternoon, I did the miniband shoulder rehab workout, minus the overhead press exercise.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Burn Count: Week 6

I completed the sixth week of Burn Count. Results:

Day A drills:

Romanian Deadlift Low Angle: 45s, 110lbs
Shoulder Press Low Angle: 37s, 40lbs
Drag Curl: 35s, 25lbs

Day B drills:

Zercher Lunge: 32s, 20lbs
Chest Press: 22s, 30lbs
Seated Row: 45s, 65lbs

The lower back continues to hold up for Romanian Deadlift. I think straightening the legs to stretch the hamstrings helps.

I decided to increase the Shoulder Press load to 45lbs. despite not achieving a 45-sec. hold time for both reps at 40lbs. I figured that with the remaining time on this program, I should try working at 65% of my 1-rep max load, at least. 65% is, in theory, the minimum stimulus for hypertrophy. I don't remember why I started Burn Count with a 35lb. load, which is just over 50% of 1-rep max. Anyway, I seem to be progressing fine in my hold time at 45lbs.

My hold time in the Drag Curl progressed nicely.

My one Chest Press session was ok, but I have to remember to retract the scapula, as this seems to facilitate activation of the chest muscles.

I tried Seated Row with supinated palms for more bicep involvement. At the start of Burn Count, I felt some tightness in the left forearm - in the "golfer's elbow" area - even while applying the back-driven external rotation technique taught on the Red Delta Project channel. Fortunately this time, using the Red Delta Project techinque, pulling with supinated palms felt fine all around, and thus achieved 45-sec. holds at 65lbs. So next week I can progress to 70lbs. I'm already well into hypertrophy range here, working well above the 65% 1RM threshold.

I decided to do 2 more weeks of Burn Count, because of the ongoing progress in 5 of the 6 selected exercises. I'm not really concerned about how much more swole I could get, but Thomas Kurz stated in his errors-in-training article that it is an error to change to a new exercise routine while still gaining strength in the current routine. Burn Count is designed for both strength and hypertrophy gains. I haven't measured my 1-rep max scores since I started Burn Count, but I don't really need to do that to know that I've gained strength in 5 of the 6 exercises, and proof that is in the increase in loads that I can handle. Because of my lack of great concern about swoleness, I didn't measure my biceps or anything like that at the start of Burn Count, so I don't have measurables for hypertrophy. I do understand though that adding lean muscle mass to compensate for muscle mass lost to aging (starting at age 30) is useful, and may be beneficial to cardiovascular health.

Friday, October 01, 2021

Burn Count: Week 5

I completed the fifth week of Burn Count. Results:

Day A drills:

Romanian Deadlift Low Angle: 45s, 105lbs
Shoulder Press Low Angle: 34s, 40lbs
Drag Curl: 23s, 25lbs

Day B drills:

Zercher Lunge: 32s, 20lbs
Chest Press: 45s, 25lbs
Seated Row: 45s, 60lbs

Finally achieved a 45-second hold, at any load, in the Romanian Deadlift!

For my first rep of Shoulder Press, I did a hold longer than 45 seconds. I should have stopped at 45 sec. because I could not do more than 34s for the second rep.

I finally cracked the 25-sec. ceiling in the Zercher Lunge.

Good progress in the Chest Press. 25 lbs. was more than 70% of my tested 1-rep max load of 35.2 lbs. Next week I will be training at 30lbs. which is more than 85%.

Also good progress in the Seated Row, and still no repeat issue with the Golfer's Elbow.

Next week will be the sixth week of Burn Count. I feel like adding the shoulder external rotator band exercises 3x a week is making a difference. I may switch to Grind Style Calisthenics the week after that. I feel good enough to work on pushups again. The question is whether my elbow and shoulder will feel good enough for dynamic rowing exercise on my NOSSK suspension trainer or rings. I'll probably do a test set of rows with the NOSSK the day after my last session of Burn Count Week 6. If the rows don't feel good, I may switch to the Isochain 6x6 program instead.
NPR article on the benefits of weight training helps clear up some misconceptions, but leaves out bodyweight training, which can also deliver the same benefits, particularly exercises that can impose significant load on the body, such as handstand pushup and planche pushup variations.

Creative ways to get more value out of a Line 6 HX Stomp

Longtime guru of effects usage, production, etc. Craig Anderton wrote a very useful article for getting more value out of a Line 6 HX Stomp. I've barely scratched the surface of mine.

On a somewhat related note, I also found a great article on managing music gear for live performance.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Isochain Burn Count: Week 4

I completed the fourth week of Burn Count. Results:

Day A drills:

Romanian Deadlift Low Angle: 40s, 105lbs
Shoulder Press Low Angle: 40s, 40lbs
Drag Curl: 45s, 20lbs

Day B drills:

Zercher Lunge: 24s, 25lbs
Chest Press: 34s, 20lbs
Seated Row: 45s, 55lbs

I resumed Romanian Deadlift with the spring carabiner attached to "link zero", which is the carbiner assembly attached to the bar. The load was set to 105lbs. The bar height is low enough to get a good stretch from the hamstrings when I pull the knees back a bit, yet the load on the lower back does not feel too dangerous.

Good progress in Shoulder Press and Drag Curl, increasing the hold times to 40 seconds or more at their respective loads.

After my Day A session, I did the club work again, but because of the effort expended on the Shoulder Press and Curl, I did only 4 sets of 5 reps of the Shield Cast, Inside Circle and Outside Circle, because my form dropped significantly for the 4th set.

I lowered the load for Zercher Lunge to 25lbs to make it even easier to focus on holding for time and not so much on applying enough force to set off the Isochain beeper. I may lower the load again next week, this time to 20lbs because my endurance in this position is so low that the load does not really matter.

Progress in Chest Press was pretty good. I held 45-seconds at 20lbs without much trouble. For the 2nd rep, I tried holding the bar with my hands closer to each other, which made the drill harder. In the evening I tried one more rep with my hands at the width I've settled on, and once again did at least 45s relatively easily. I'll count this as meeting the progression requirement, and move up to 25lbs next time.

Seated Row progress is great, hitting the 45-second threshold at 55lbs with little issue.

I continued adding the mini-band shoulder workout I started doing last Friday. I still feel uncomfortable when reaching overhead with the left arm sometimes, but it's early. Hopefully a few weeks of this mini-band workout will produce results. I lack the endurance to hit 15 reps a set on all the exercises, so there's room for improvement.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Isochain Burn Count: Week 3

I completed the third week of Burn Count. Results:

Day A drills:

Romanian Deadlift Low Angle: Aborted (see below)
Shoulder Press Low Angle: 34s, 40lbs
Drag Curl: 30s, 20lbs

Day B drills:

Zercher Lunge: 21s, 35lbs
Chest Press: 45s, 15lbs
Seated Row: 30s, 55lbs

I had to cut short the Romanian Deadlift training for my one Day A session for this week. I tried attaching the Isochain bar's carabiner assembly directly to the spring. Normally the carabiner assembly is attached to one end of the chain, and a single carabiner attaches the chain to the spring. I have color-coded zip tie tags attached to various links in the chain so that I can set the chain length, between the spring and the bar, for each drill without having to guess which link is the correct one for the drill. When I started Burn Count, I had the spring carabiner attached to the link that I tagged for high-angle regular Deadlift. This proved to be too high, in that Romanian Deadlift felt just like regular Deadlift. I wasn't feel much of a stretch in the hamstrings. So I started lowering the bar. For my previous Day A session, I had the spring carabiner attached to the carabiner assembly on the bar, which felt fine. I had thought that attaching the carabiner assembly directly to the spring would set the bar to the same height. However, I did not account for the length of the spring carabiner. Eliminating the spring carabiner actually lowered the bar by the equivalent of about 3 chain links, which for my lower back is actually a significant increase in load, along with risk to the lower back. So for my next Day A session, I'll use the spring carabiner again, attaching it between the spring and the bar carbiner assembly. The load will be set to 105lbs instead of 110lbs because I want to see if I can get closer to a 45-second hold. Burn Count after all is more about holding for time than just force output.

Good progress in Shoulder Press and Drag Curl, increasing the hold times to 30 seconds or more at their respective loads.

After my Day A session, I did the club work again, but because of the effort expended on the Shoulder Press and Curl, I did only 4 sets of 5 reps of the Shield Cast, Inside Circle and Outside Circle, because my form dropped significantly for the 4th set.

I tried lowering the load for Zercher Lunge to 35lbs to see if I could get a better hold time with either leg. The answer was no. Oh well. The position is just hard for me to hold for time. Clearly, lowering the load more is not going to make a difference, because at 35lbs the slightest pressure is already triggering the Isochain's beeper.

For the Chest Press, the decision to lower the load to 15 lbs. turned out to be useful. I could focus more on just sustaining the minimum required effort for 45 seconds, instead of struggling to reach the target load and then also sustain force at that load. Having the display on the bar facing me continues to be a good decision, as the angle of the display helps me ensure the eye bolt on the bar is in line with the chain. Holds of 45s or more were easily achieved for the Friday session, so I'll set the load back at 20lbs. next time.

After the Friday session, I did these miniband exercises for the shoulder to try to strengthen the slow-twitch fibers in the external rotators. I slightly modified the External Rotation and Overhead Press to have the palms facing away from me as that seemed to feel a little better for my shoulder.

The video does not include suggestions for how many sets and reps to do. I knew I wanted to make sure I train the slow-twich fibers as those are better known for stabilizing the joints than the fast-twitch. This article on fast and slow twitch muscle training suggests 3 sets of 15-30 reps. I could not do 15 reps at least one of the drills, even with the lightest miniband. So I'll stick to the 3 sets of at least 15 reps for now. I went for a basic 2-sec concentric, 2-sec. eccentric tempo.
Dragondoor put up a new article by Matt Schifferle, the man behind Red Delta Project, on 3 ways to integrate Isochain into a dynamic workout, regardless of what tools (kettlebells, barbells, etc.) are being utilized, or if the workout is bodyweight-only. This expands the possibilities quite a bit beyond the tempates in the manual for incorporating Isochain with weightlifting, kettlebell lifting, etc.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Today's Music Discoveries

Interview with

Isochain Burn Count: Week 2

I completed the second week of Burn Count. Results:

Day A drills:

Romanian Deadlift Low Angle: 25s, 110lbs
Shoulder Press Low Angle: 23s, 40lbs
Drag Curl: 24s, 20lbs

Day B drills:

Zercher Lunge: 21s, 40lbs
Chest Press: 35s, 35lbs
Seated Row: 40s, 50lbs

Lowered the Romanian Deadlift load from 130lbs. to 110lbs because I decided to try training with the bar at the lowest possible setting, by attaching the rotating carabiner assembly on the bar directly to the tension spring, instead of attaching the chain between the spring and bar. This lower angle increases the stretch on the hamstrings and makes this drill feel less like a regular deadlifht, which can happen when the bar is high enough. The lower angle also increases the load on the lower back muscles. This is one reason I lowered the load, as well as wanting to lower the risk of another low back injury. So far, thankfully, the back has felt fine after training.

Progressed in Shoulder Press working load from 35lbs to 40lbs.

I raised the bar one link higher for the Drag Curl, which put more load on the biceps, and thus dropped my hold time for a bit, but I finished the week with pretty much the same hold time in this drill that I had when the bar was 2 links lower - which had placed more load on the forearms. Having experienced Golfer's Elbow, I'm not keen on the forearms "helping" the biceps again in this drill.

After my Day A session on Monday, I skipped the single-arm heavy club work. My shoulder felt a little too easy to get out of alignment. After my Day A session on Friday, I did the club work and my shoulder felt a lot better. So lesson learned: Do the club work after Shoulder Press for joint traction for the shoulder.

Performance in the Chest Press and Zercher Lunge was about the same this week. I'm still not used to applying single-leg force with the thigh being parallel to the ground, or close to that angle. I'm still experiencing some soreness in the area of the MCL of my left knee when I walk. The knee feels fine during the Zercher Lunge. I'll keep doing at least one set of an easy variation of Shrimp Squat after Isochain work to try to reset the alignment of the hips, knees, and ankles. I will also see if I need to do my hip stretches immediately after Zercher Lunge and Shrimp Squat to prevent the knee soreness.

The problem with the Chest Press is the higher skill requirement compared to all the other drills I'm currently practicing. It seems that all of the following conditions have to be met:
  • Bar should be at a good height so that the pectorals do more work than the shoulders
  • Bar should be at about chest height but does not need to be close to the chest
  • Forearms should be parallel to torso
  • Upper arms should be touching the chest
  • Elbows do not have to touch torso but should be in line with upper arms and hands
  • Think of pulling elbows towards each other, without breaking alignment, then think of elbows being pulled away from the torso and up
  • Anterior pelvic tilt might help, which would make sense as this action turns on the abs for pushups.
  • Angle of the chain will probably be diagonal rather than vertical, because of the bar being pushed both up and away from the body.

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Guitar Strumming Lesson and Charlie Parker Licks
Julian Lage Shares His Advice For Improvisation

Isochain Burn Count: Week 1

I completed the first full week of Burn Count. This is how I did:

Day A drills:

Romanian Deadlift Medium Angle: 25s, 130lbs
Shoulder Press Low Angle: 35s, 35lbs
Drag Curl: 25s, 20lbs

Day B drills:

Zercher Lunge: 21s, 40lbs
Chest Press Low Angle: 35s, 35lbs
Seated Row: 25-27s, 50lbs

Shoulder Press is going well. 30s in for the first Burn Count session last week. 35s this week. Also, I have recovered enough pain-free range of motion to do the "swimming backstroke" joint mobility exercise with minimal discomfort.

After my Day A session, I did 5 sets of 5 of each of the following single-arm drills with my 15lb heavy club on each arm: Shield Cast, Inside Circle, Outside Circle. This was, again, for joint traction for the shoulder - since brachial hang from the pullup bar is stil uncomfortable, and some forearm work to try to balance out the Drag Curl.

After lowering the load to 40lbs, I still struggled to hold for the minimum 20s in the Zercher Lunge. But since I did reach 21s per leg for both reps, I will keep working this drill at 40lbs. After the first session with Zercher Lunge, there was discomfort in my left knee around the MCL whenever I walked, due to the external hip rotator seemingly "turning off" for the day. I had to consciously keep my left foot pointing straight ahead while walking. After my 2nd Day B session, I did a couple of sets of Shrimp Squat with arms forward, to retrain my hips, knees, and ankles to move together without losing alignment. Adding frog stretch to my cooldown also seems to help.

After my 2nd Day B session, I did a couple of sets of pushups on the floor. This was a pleasant surprise as I had not done pushups on the floor in almost 2 years. Last year, I didn't have the strength to do pushups on the floor at all. For my 2nd rep of Chest Press, I tried with the hand closer together and my performance dropped. I took a minute break, then did a 3rd rep wiht my hands back where I had them beofre. I misunderstood Red Delta Project's coaching for this drill in the below video. I thought for some reason that he said the elbows should be close to the rips. No. He said the arms should be close to the chest. Big difference!

So, there are the key points for Chest Press on Isochain or other bar-and-chain isometric device:

  • Bar should be at a good height for pectoral activation, but not too high as the shoulders make take over
  • Bar should be at about chest height but does not need to be close to the chest
  • Forearms should be parallel to torso
  • Upper arms should be touching the chest
  • Elbows do not have to touch torso but should be in line with upper arms and hands
  • Think of pulling elbows towards each other, without breaking alignment, then think of elbows being pulled away from the torso and up, in an arc. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

Linux command line tips and Wizardzines comics

Friday, August 27, 2021

Isochain Burn Count First Session

These are the results for my first Burn Count session - hold times in seconds for the given loads:

Romanian Deadlift Medium Angle: 23s, 130lbs
Shoulder Press Low Angle: 30s, 35lbs
Drag Curl: 20s, 25lbs

2 reps per exercise, per Burn Count protocol. For today, I kept the higher hold time. But now that I think about it, when I reach the 45s threshold for advancing to a heavier load, I want to be sure that I hold for at least 45s on both reps. If do 41s for one rep, and 46s for the other rep, dos it mean I can advance? I don't think so.

After I finished the Isochain workout, I did some whole-body shaking to try to reduce the muscular tension, then did 3 sets of 5 Shield Casts with my 15lb heavy club on each arm. This was for joint traction for the shoulder, and some forearm work to try to balance out the Drag Curl.

Starting with 60% of 1RM seemed to be the right call. The loads were at the appropriate levels for my hold times to be within the 20s to 45s range. The exception was the Drag Curl. I felt a little too much load on my forearms despite my efforts to keep the elbows back and down. So for the 2nd rep, I decided to raise the bar by one more chain link, so that I'd be working at 2 links above the white tag that I used to indicate middle angle of the regular curl. Just this one adjustment was enough to shift a noticeable amount of load to my biceps. Because my biceps are weak, a 20s hold at 25 lbs, at the new chain position, was more difficult. I had to pause around 15s, reset, and hold again to get to 20s. So for next time, I'll do Drag Curl at 20lbs.

Isochain Burn Count 1 Rep Max Tests

Here are the results for the exercises selected for the Burn Count program, following the protocol in the manual, which is to warm up, take 3 attempts, then log the average of the 3 attempts. Numbers are in pounds, rounded to nearest whole number.

Romanian Deadlift Medium Angle: 203
Shoulder Press Low Angle: 66
Drag Curl: 45
Zercher Lunge Left Leg: 92
Zercher Lunge Right Leg: 95
Chest Press: 35
Seated Row: 87

Part of the reason my RDL (Romanian Deadlift) tested lower than when I tested to start the Iron Man program, is I decided to work one link lower on the Isochain than where I had it set for Iron Man, which is the link on which I put a green tag to indicate high angle regular dealift. I just thought it was time to increase the mechanical disadvantage just a little bit more, to work the muscles just a little bit more, without introducing too much more risk of reinjury to the lower back or spinal erectors. Mechanical disadvantage means lower force output. The purpose of the 1-rep max test was just to establish a starting target load anyway for Burn Count. In this program, we are not working on improving our max strength. Instead, we are working on sustaining force at a given target load for enough time to stimulate hypertrophy, as well as get practice at generating muscle tension.

Clearly the low angle (bar at about chin height) is still my strongest angle for Shoulder Press. I haven't trained at this angle since this past February, when I was working at a target load of 65 lbs. After February, I explored the medium (head height) and high (arms nearly straight) angles. For today's testing, there was a jump of 5 lbs or more with each successive 1-rep max attempt. This corroborates with research that suggests that isometric training at any angle has carryover in strength to all other angles, albeit to varying degrees.

To start Iron Man, my 1-rep max in the regular Bicep Curl at High Angle (forearms about 45 degrees from biceps) was 62 lbs. I expected to test quite a bit lower than that in Drag Curl because of the mechanical disadvantage induced by pulling the elbows back to load the biceps more intensely. 45 lbs however is little higher than I thought. For Drag Curl, I decided to set Isochain to 1 link above the link on which I have a white tag to indicate medium angle bicep curl. This takes my hands close to what I estimate to be the top of the drag curl movement, but not quite at the top. I just have to remember to pull the elbows back, then down, to help minimize the load on the forearms (don't want Golfer's Elbow again!) and distribute more of it around the back.

I figured out that the Isochain coil needs to be near my heel for Zercher Lunge. It will take some practice to exert force for this exercise without letting the foot plate move. I had guessed my right leg would be the weaker leg but it's intersting to verify it. I forgot to write down the chain setting for this exercise, so I had to find a setting again - not so low as to cause discomfort, nor so high that I won't feel like I'm making much effort. I decided to got with the same setting I used for Calf Raise in Iron Main.

My Chest Press 1RM is very close to what it was when I tested my 1RM for it to start Promethean Mk II earlier this year.

I expected my Seated Row numbers to be lower than my Bent-Over Row numbers, due to the standing position allowing more extension chain muscles to be used. But wow, what a drop! I was pulling in the 150s in the standing Bent-Over Row. I thought about going with supinated grip, but decided a pronated grip would be better to balance out the supinated grip used for Drag Curl, and thus try to avoid Golfer's Elbow.

I was tentatively planning to start Burn Count with target loads of 40% of 1RM, but then I found this video by Chrys, a professional fitness trainer on the Isochain discussion group. I think Chrys is actually talking about the 3 Days On program, which is a different hypertrophy program in the manual. Still, he's an experienced trainer so if he says 60% of 1RM is the way to start for hypertrophy, that's where I'll start. I'll round down to the nearest multiple of 5, because I'll be at the start of the program, and I'll be spending 6-8 weeks on it. If I do a hold for 45 seconds easily, per program guidelines, I'll just raise the load by 5 or 10 lbs for next time. If I can't make the minimum 20 seconds, I'll just lower the load for next time, no big deal.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Next Routine: Isochain Burn Count

I decided to do the Isochain Burn Count program for my next exercise routine, starting next week. The heavy club training was fun, but I think that in order to help my recovering shoulder progress towards less pain and more stability, it's time to switch back to isometric training with the Isochain again. Isochain training is the one form of training available to me that I know for sure will not bother my joints, and actually seems to make my joints feel better.

So far, I have tried the following Isochain programs:
Promethean and Promethan Mk. II - focused on strength with some hypertrophy Iron Man - Focused on endurance, which may build some slow-twitch muscle, tendons, and fascia, but not likely to build as much muscle as a hypertrophy program
Promethean helped my shoulder regain some strength and feel better, but did not help restore the shoulder to 100%. Iron Man did not seem to improve the feeling in my shoulder, but I only did it for 4 weeks. The next type of Isochain program I want to try is a hypertrophy-focused program. I selected Burn Count because it looked the simplest out of all the hypertrophy/bodybuilding programs described in the manual. I have not been able to find any information on the effects of hypertrophy-focused isometric exercise on joints recovering from injury. So this will be an experiment to find out. From what I could find by Google search so far, hypertrophy-focused training tends to favor fast-twitch muscle fibers over the slow-twich fibers that protect the joints. However, those findings seem to be based on dynamic exercise rather than isometric exercise for hypertrophy.

I've been looking for ideas on what target load values to use for starting Burn Count. I found Pavel Tsatsouline's article on Slow Fiber training. The article says "30-70% 1RM for the lower body and 10-40% 1RM for the upper body". So I will keep it simple - take my 1-rep max measurements per the protocol in the manual, then start with a target load of 40% of 1-rep max.

The selected exercises for Burn Count Day 1 are:

Shoulder Press Low Angle
Drag Curl
Romanian Deadlift Med Angle

For Day 2:

Chest Press
Seated Row High Angle
Zercher Lunge Medium Angle

The shoulder press and chest press are part of the Burn Count program in the manual. The choice of the 4 other exercises as substitutes for the manual version was influenced by Red Delta Project's video, in which Matt explains his exercise choices.

The particular criteria:

  • Low skill - do not need great skill to perform
  • High muscle activation - works muscle hard for given load
  • Light load, heavy technique - body is in technically challenging position to put lot of stress in muscle,  less on body itself.

I kept the shoulder press because shoulder press has been good for my shoulder, as far as reducing pain and restoring some strength.

Friday, August 20, 2021

WRP: Week 5

I started the week with 12 sets of 5 reps of Shield Cast, Outside Circle and Inside Circle with the 15 lb. heavy club. Rest was about 2.5 min. between each of the 3 exercises. My form got really bad for the last couple of sets. So, I'm going to take an idea from the Mark Wildman Introduction to Heavy Clubs program that I bought - drop the exercise volume and go up to the next level fo complexity. The paid program organizes the exercises into 3 levels. Level 1 is all simple movements. Level 2 are a mix of simple and combination movements, and Level 3 is all combination movements. The program rotates between the 3 levels. The idea is that you will progress to more complicated movements, so that when you drop back to Level 1, the simpler movements are easier to do. When the movements feel easier to do, you can do more of those movements. When you have worked up to 10 or 20 sets (depending on whether you're training with a fixed-weight club or the Adex adjustable club) of 5 reps of the movement, you will have gotten much better at that movement, and are probably very close to maxing your possible gains in strength, hypertrophy, and endurance from that movement, at that club weight.

Shield Cast, Outside Circle and Inside Circle are Level 1 of what I call the Wildman Reconditioning Program (WRP) for single-arm heavy club. The exercises at Level 2 of WRP are Single-Arm Pullover, Inside Pendulum, Outside Pendulum. It's not hard to see why Wildman wants trainees to practice at Level 1 before progressing to Level 2.

Single-Arm Pullover - The Shield Cast is more forgiving in that the club pulls your torso upright and teaches you to keep the elbow in line with your shoulder. In the Single-Arm Pullover, you have to pay more attention to squeezing the glutes and tightening the abs. I really like what he says about saying things aloud, by the way.

Outside Pendulum - Outside Circle practice should get you used to rotating your torso and shifing your weight from foot to foot, while keeping your spine straight and upright, not turning your hips that much, and not moving your feet at all - this is all to prevent injury to your knees or back. Outside Pendulum has the same requirements, but adds an additional challenge. The bottom part of the movement will require you to hinge at the hip, but you still have to keep the spine straight

Inside Pendulum - I don't think he has a "for overweight or deconditioned people" version yet but this video is still applicable. The requirements and challenge are similar to Outside Pendulum.

For this week, I did 5 reps per set for each exercise, as before. On Wed. I did 5 sets. On Fri. I did 6 sets. I'll sleep on what I decide to what direction to take my training for next week. I switched from Isochain to heavy club training in the first place to improve the strength and conditioning of my forearms. I feel like I got the gains I could have possibly gotten for my forearms for this training cycle. Another reason was, I wanted to see if the heavy club work would result in my still-recovering shoulder feeling better - since this club work was supposed to traction my joints as well as condition the external rotators.. I felt there was someimprovement but it didn't come as fast as when I was training on Isochain.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

WRP and GMB Elements : Week 4

For this week, I did 9 sets on Monday, 10 on Wednesday, and 11 on Friday for each of the 3 exercises in Wildman Reconditioning Program - Shield Cast, Outside Circle, Inside Circle. I did 5 reps per set. I gave up on practicing sessions of GMB Elements on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays, due to DOMS in my shoulders and upper back. If my body adapts to the steadily increasing volume of heavy club work so that the DOMS subside, I may practice Elements again. My left hand starts to fatigue in the last couple of sets of the workout. I can complete the workout but it's a struggle to keep the club stable. Despite my effort to practice CST style intelligent grip - shifting the load more to the middle, ring, and pinky fingers when the club is in line with the forearm, and shifting the load to my thumb when the club is perpendicular - I wore off some skin on my left thumb. Hopefully I'll remember to apply a couple of coats of liquid bandage on Sunday to try to protect the skin for the Monday workout.

Sunday, August 08, 2021

WRP and GMB Elements : Week 3

I worked up to 8 sets of 5 reps per side in each of the 3 drills in the Wildman Reconditioning Program - aka the heavy club version of Mark Wildman's program for overweight and deconditioned individuals.

On Tuesday, I did GMB Elements Session 11 for 30 min.

On Thursday, I felt soreness in the shoulders and upper back, so I decided to do leg training instead. I opted to do this leg micro workout, because it emphasizes endurance and power to some extent: