Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Isochain Modified Promethean Week 3

Shoulder Press - Shoulder continues to feel better.  I progressed to a target load of 60lbs.  The largest max reading has been dropping for two consecutive sessions.   For the final session of the week, I was only able to get the timer on the Isochain to count off the full 6 seconds twice.  For my other reps, I was simply unable to hit the target load, or sustain the target load for the full 6 seconds.  This may be a sign that I should consider changing the Shoulder Press angle for the next program.  However, the current low angle is the only one in which I feel absolutely no shoulder pain.  When I position my arms at the middle angle the shoulder does not hurt as much as it did at the start of Isochain training.  However, it's not entirely pain free yet.  Since switching angles is not possible yet, I will keep training at the 60lb. target load until I can do 6 reps of the full 6 seconds, then cycle down 15 lbs.  I'm only in Week 3 of a 6-week overall cycle

Reverse Curl -  I was able to work up to 6 reps of 6-sec. holds at a target load 30 lbs.  However I was unable to hit a target load of 35lbs consistently.  I switched to the high angle and dropped the target load to 20 lbs.  I think I need to work on gripping the bar with more authority as I practice this drill.  It simply won't be possible to generate more force without a stronger grip.  Even though I seem to be weaker at the higher angle, there seems to be less stress on the inner elbow than at the middle angle.

Hack Lift - I progressed to a target load of 170 lbs. The largest max reading was over 250 lbs.  I think it will be a while before the gains at the high Hack Lift position stop.

One possible reason for my disappointing performance in the Shoulder Press and Reverse Curl is that my warmup was just carrying laundry to the basement, and moving a few things around the living room.  No wall pushups, Amosov style squats or anything.  So it could be that my warmup was not adequate, even though I did practice the drill-specific warmups as instructed in the manual.

I started following up my Isochain practice with holding the top position of a pushup, working on protracting the scapula and keeping the core tight.  It's just some light isometric work so I can have a little bit of a head start on the elbow lever progression described in Coach Wade's Ultimate Isometrics Manual.

I continued practicing silk-reeling coiling/uncoiling to simultaneously improve my suit usage and to improve tendon circulation, especially for the elbows and shoulders.  

I introduced yet another practice I'd neglected - shoulder dislocate with an elastic band.  I'm not comfortable rotating my arms all the way back and down, so I just worked within the range that my shoulders would allow me, just up and down for about 30 reps per set.  This is giving my shoulder some much-needed traction.

I intend to continue through the current Modified Promethean cycle until the completion of Week 6.  That said, it's fun to think about what direction to take my training after that.  What I have tentatively planned is:

Modified Promethean Mark II - 8 weeks

Day 1 - Hack Lift, Reverse Curl or Curl, Shoulder Press
Day 2 - Front Squat, Bent Row, Chest Press
Day 3 - Off

Combined Isochain and Bodyweight - 8 weeks

Day 1 - Front Lever, Elbow Lever
Day 2 - Straddle Lift, Front Squat,  Sissy Squat,  Curl/Reverse Curl, Shoulder Press
Day 3 - Pull Up, Pike Pushup
Day 4 - Straddle Lift, Front Squat,  Sissy Squat,  Curl/Reverse Curl, Shoulder Press

The hope is that training under Modified Promethean Mark II will continue the rehab and prehab of the shoulder and lower back, as well as continued building of all-round, whole-body strength - particularly the back and lower body - in a way that hadn't been accessible to me for a long time, until I got the Isochain.  

The program in the 8 weeks that follow is for revisiting the bodyweight skills that I still want to explore, while also assessing the impact of Isochain training on my progress towards those bodyweight skills.  I am guessing that my progress towards Front Lever and Handstand/Handstand Pushup will be accelerated quite a bit.  The impact on Pull Ups is unknown because none of the Isochain drills mimic the pull up that closely.

Steven Low's article on programming for advanced isometric movements after a plateau

Mindful Mover's Instagram post about their mobility drills

I found a Youtube channel that shows most of the dynamic drills from Convict Conditioning, featuring the same guy used to model them in the book, who I think is Max Shank

Monday, January 25, 2021

OP-1 Tips

How to loop instruments and other gear with OP-1

Drum loop transitions using Finger sequencer and accelerometer to add glitch

Set up  the OP-1 with some keys for chords and other keys for drums - the OP-1 keys are not velocity-sensitive so there are some limitations but this idea might be useful for some scenarios:

Composing with a minimal setup, by Hainbach:

Old thread on LFO Tips:

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Isochain Modified Promethean Week 2

Shoulder Press - Shoulder continues to feel better. Technique continues to improve. I did 5 reps of 6 seconds at a target load of 55 lbs.  The largest max reading was 82 lbs.

Reverse Curl - Working load is at 30 lbs.  The largest max reading is 34 lbs.

Hack Lift - I did 5 reps of 6 seconds at a target load of 160 lbs.  The largest max reading was 237 lbs.

Based on my understanding of Thomas Kurz' statements regarding high-rep, low-resistance movements for tendon health, I changed my "shell warmup" routine to start with a high-rep set of bodyweight squats, followed by a high-rep set of wall pushups.  According to Kurz, the idea is to strengthen slow-twitch muscle fibers that stabilize joints and to improve blood supply of the muscles and their fibrous connective tissue, which speeds up muscles’ recovery and is needed for increasing structural strength of their fasciae and tendons. So the number of reps needs to be enough to help achieve "shell warmth" as described in Coach Wade's isometrics manual, and also improve vascularization of the tendons, yet not be so high that the body is too fatigued for Isochain training. 

I also resumed a 6H practice that I'd been neglecting - using suit coiling/uncoiling to turn a hammer held in my hand.  This practice was originally introduced as an alternative to Cando Bar silk reeling, for those unable to obtain a Cando Bar.  I still have my own tan Cando Bar but it's pretty demanding on the grip, and with my current golfer's elbow, training with Cando Bar is impractical.  Anyway, there are two positions in the basic "forward arm wave" silk reeling cycle that training with the hammer is useful:

1. At the end range of opening with the arm, with the back of the suit stretched open so that it is no longer possible to continue pulling the pinky of the palm with the suit without turning the palm.  Here the hammer is held horizontally with the head facing inwards.  The front of the suit, especially on the side of the working hand, pulls on the thumb with a coiling action, causing the hammer to rotate to vertical.

2. At end range of closing with the arm, with the front of the suit contracted, the palm up, and the hammer held horizontally facing away from the head.  Here the uncoiling action of the suit pulls on the pinky side of the hand and the little toe side of the far foot, causing the hammer to rotate to vertical.

I have worked up to 25-30 reps per side, per position of these hammer coiling/uncoiling exercises, to improve vascularization of the wrist/elbow connective tissues, and probably other connective tissues, probably involving the back, hips, shoulders, etc.   I try to do more than one set per position, per side every day.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Monday, January 18, 2021

Chord files for Octatrack

Voltek Labs generously distributed a collection of samples of synth chords, as well as chord MIDI files for use with Octatrack:

Voltek Labs Chord Files for Octatrack

Sunday, January 17, 2021


 I recently purchased two instruments from Eastwood - an MRG electric mandolin, and a Warren Ellis 5 5-string tenor guitar.  As an Eastwood customer I recently received an email pointing me to this guide to tenor guitar chords in a variety of tunings, including the 5ths tunings similar to cello or viola.


Sunday, January 10, 2021

Building AUM Acid Groove with Ruismaker Multi-out, Agonizer and Model 15

Logan Smith posted a nice walkthrough on putting a grooving track together in AUM. From the Youtube description: 

Today's track is an upbeat, acid-like groove. I wanted to use Fugue Machine to sequence a 7/4 drum beat at 132bpm, but it took a bit to find the right drum sounds and channeling options. What I ended up with was using Ruismaker in multi-out mode, with only the Kick, Snare, Closed HH, and Open HH channels open. After a bit of tweaking in Fugue Machine, this gave me the kind of groove I was going for. I think used Agonizer and built a bass line in Rozeta Bassline that I was really happy with. After that, I used the Moog Model 15 to create an overdriven lead line, built in Collider. For the actual performance, I started the Collider sequence with just a few Hadrons on a small Grid and slowly increased both parameters to build into a more complex melodic pattern. I think broke it apart in GlitchCore on the fly for a bit of character. Everything is mixed down to a channel that's processed by IK Mixbox. Enjoy! 

Complete Track Starts at 12:31 

Channels 1-4 are Ruismaker split into multiple outputs, all sequenced by Fugue Machine. 

Ch. 1: Kick processed by IK MixBox
Ch. 2: Snare, processed by IK MixBox and BLEASS Reverb
Ch. 3 and 4: Different Hi-Hat sounds, panned Left and Right, and both processed by Kosmonaut and Blamsoft Zero Reverb
Ch. 5: Drum bus, processed by IK Mixbox
Ch. 7: Agonizer, processed by IK Mixbox, sequenced by Rozeta Bassline
Ch. 9: Moog Model 15, processed by IK Mixbox and Glitchcore, processed by Rozeta Collider, and modulated by Rozeta LFO
Ch. 11: Main Mix Bus, processed by IK Mixbox

logan.jacob is a Reverberated Records Artist: https://linktr.ee/reverberatedrecords

Friday, January 08, 2021

Isochain Modified Promethean Week 1

Week 1 under the modified Promethean program is complete.  Ok, it's only 2 sessions since I rebooted Promethean under the modified exercise selection on Wednesday, but who's counting?

Shoulder Press - Shoulder continues to feel better.  Technique continues to improve.  I did 6 reps of 6 seconds at target load of 45 lbs.  I did cause the timer to reset on my first rep, but was able to hold until the timer completed a 6-second count after resetting. 

Reverse Curl - Starting to get the hang of this unfamiliar curl variation a little more.  With straight wrists instead of extended wrists, it is easier to wrap the fingers around the bar for a more secure grip.  Because the bar is not resting on the palms, there are sweet spots on the bar that must be found, for the hands to grip the bar so that the wrists do not feel bent sideways in an uncomfortable way.  Not feeling any of the golfer's elbow muscles firing, so I must be doing something right.

Hack Lift - 150lbs was no problem, but because of the low back scare last Monday, I'm not going to rush advancing in load.  Per the manual's double progression guidelines, I'll do another session at 150lbs but with 5 reps.  Today I did 4 reps.

Because of the low back scare, I took extra time to warm up and ensure the low back is warmed up and not too tight for the start of Isochain training.  Taking into account what I learned about Thomas Kurz's thoughts on high-rep, low resistance movements, I did more reps than usual.  

My warmup included:

  • Amosov-style squats - go up to balls of feet at the bottom of the squat.  About 20 reps.  It was almost 1 min. of work so for next session I'll just set a timer to 1 min. 
  • RMT Club Shoulder to Shoulder Swings - 30s each side grip
  • Front Kick, alternating legs - 30s

The cooldown included:

  • GMB Quadraped Scapula circles - 30 reps each direction
  • Wall Dog - 30 sec.
  • GMB Spine Circles - 30 reps each direction 
  • Hang Pose about 45 sec.
  • GMB Child Pose-Cobra movement - about 20 reps
  • Cobra Pose - about 40 sec.
  • GMB Supine Hip Circles - 30 reps per leg, per side
  • Frogger stretch, but light - not too intense

I omitted the brachial hang to allow those golfers elbow muscles to rest.  I'm also taking a break from playing guitar because of golfer's elbow and working more on keyboard/synth stuff.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Isochain Promethean Reboot: Session 1

 As mentioned previously, Promethean is the training program recommended for people who are new to using the Isochain and isometric training in general.  The three core exercises are the Deadlift, Curl and Shoulder Press, which are all functional exercises, as stated and explained in The Ultimate Isometrics Manual.

Because of my current issues with the low back and the inner elbow, which seems to match the description of "golfer's elbow", I replaced Deadlift with Hack Lift and Curl with Reverse Curl.   Thus I replaced 2 of the 3 exercises in Promethean in Week 5 out of this 6-8 week program.  In effect I have ended my first cycle of Promethean, however early.

I would say only 4.5 weeks of Promethean training is not enough to evaluate training results in a meaningful way.  I was progressing fine in the Deadlift until I decided to try a low position, which aggravated my lower back.  I was progressing fine in the Curl, until I realized I might be developing golfer's elbow.  The golfer's elbow symptoms were already there before I got the Isochain, but every time I practiced the Curl, it would flare up a little.  It made sense to just stop practicing exercises that make any pain feel worse.

Thus, today was the first session of the modified Promethean program.  I felt the lower back working a bit during the Hack Lift, even with the bar set to a relatively high position, but not as much as when I did the Deadlift with the bar in that same higher position.  What was really different was the level of effort.  With the bar behind the legs instead of in front, it took less effort to achieve the target load, which today was 140lbs, As for the Reverse Curl, the grip felt a little awkward.  I felt like the thumbs were taking more of the bar weight than they should.  So I don't think it's worth extending the wrists for this exercise just to try to activate the targeted forearm muscles more and thus discourage the golfer's elbow muscles from activating - better to keep them straight for a more secure grip on the bar.  Narrower grip still works best for comfort in the Shoulder Press - I just have to keep practicing inhaling to pull the elbows down, then protracting the scapula to activate the lats for shoulder support/protection.

One thing I have to watch out for is when I squat down to adjust the Isochain.  I felt a little pop again in my low back when I was in a deep squat, adjusting the load value in the bar.  I will try to prevent the low back from getting too tight in the deep squat by getting on the balls of my feet.  Hopefully the low back will feel less and less like it's made of glass as I progress with my Isochain training.

For the rest of the day,  I used the Ironmind Expand Your Hand bands to continue strengthening the wrist extensors in hope of helping relieve the golfer's elbow, and lots of joint mobility work - preferably higher-rep sets -  especially for the lower body and hips, for the tendon/ligament vascularization mentioned by Thomas Kurz.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Isochain Prometheus Week 5: Back feeling much better

 I didn't get much sleep last night because of the lingering soreness from yesterday's Deadlift practice with the Isochain.  I spent some of the time in bed rereading my copy of Beyond Bodybuilding by Pavel Tsatsoline.  I came across a passage in the book, entitled "Jurassic Training Revisited: Building Tendon and Ligament Strength".  Here, Pavel mentions George Jowett teaching John Grimek that "support holds" (isometrics) will strengthen ligaments and tendons.  Then, Pavel says that  "high-rep work" is the other half of the connective tissue training equation. and refers to his other book Super Joints for details on the high-rep movements.  Super Joints mentions Amosov's joint health routine that included a lot of squats and pushups, then presents Pavel's alternative to the Amosov routine, which are joint mobility exercises.    

The information on Amosov's routine came from the writings of Thomas Kurz.  I searched a bit and found clarification from Kurz himself which states that the purpose of high-rep work, with low resistance, is vascularization of the tendons, so that they are less prone to inflammation and rupture.

So in my case, doing a 100 pushups a day on the floor is not going to strengthen my tendons/ligaments, because for me that is not "low resistance".   That many pushups a day would probably have the opposite effect - damage to those connective tissues via overuse injury.

Anyway, when I got out of bed in the morning, the back was sore and stiff as expected but still not as terrible as when I had my back spasm a few years ago.  I began the day practicing I could remember of the updated GMB Elements warmup routine - a couple of quadraped drills - one for shoulders/scapula, the other for spine, as well as hip mobility with gentle low back stretching.  Then I did the Convict Conditioning Trifecta, with a lot of short sets of N-Holds interspersed with sets of Bridge, Twist, and one "bonus" drill - middle split stretch.  After this morning routine, the back was still a little sore, but not as stiff and sore as when I got out of bed.

For the rest of the day, I occasionally got up, and did the following randomly chosen drills:

2 sets of 15 bodyweight squats

10 minutes of zhan zhuang (standing pole jin practice)

Silk-reeling derived hand-turning drills with a hammer, practicing using the 6H suit to rotate the hammer from horizontal to vertical instead of just turning the forearm with localized muscle.  I tried to do at least 10 reps per hand, per set, per position (closed to open, and open to close).

Silk reeling exercises empty hand

Hip rotation varations

 Later in the evening the back felt much, much better.  That gave me the confidence to reorganize my Promethean spreadsheet to plan out the warmup loads for my modified Promethean program which will focus on Hack Lift instead of Deadlift, Reverse Curl instead of Curl, and Shoulder Press.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Isochain Promethean Week 5: Rough start with Deadlift

I tried the Reverse Curl as a possible replacement for the regular Curl in Promethean.  I have a soreness in the muscles of my inner forearm, including the inner elbow, that acts up when I do the Curl, and occasionally when I play guitar, especially when I apply pressure with the pinky or ring finger to barre across two or more strings.  Last week, I tried the Chest Press as a replacement.  While the Chest Press remains an option, I thought that strengthening the muscles on the other side of the forearm, by training the Reverse Curl, might be a more effective way to address the problem.  This assumes that part of the problem is that there is an imbalance in the forearm musculature.   

I was unable to achieve the same kind of whole-body tension in the Reverse Curl that I've been able to achieve in a good rep of the Shoulder Press or Bicep Curl, because the wrists were not feeling comfortable with the chain set to the same height I've been using for Bicep Curl.  I tried widening and narrowing my grip but to no avail.  Also, I felt the inner forearm muscle(s) - the ones I've been trying to rest and allow to recover from the lingering soreness - get sore.  I then watched this video:

My takeaway from the video is that the wrist should be in slight extension, which activates the Brachioradialis muscle, before applying force.  I then tried Reverse Curl with slightly extended wrists on the Isochain.  This time, I did not feel unwanted soreness from the problem forearm muscle(s).  I'm guessing increased activation of the Brachiradialis deactivates the sore muscle(s) that I want to stay deactivated.  I felt the whole-body tension that I failed to find this morning.

The rougher part of today's session was the Deadlift portion.  I set the Isochain at the lowest possible height for the Deadlift, at least without removing the screw-lock carabiner-revolving pin assembly.  Despite attention to looking up, pressing through the heels, hip hinge, and not allowing the low back to round, I still felt a bit of a pop and some pain.  I then squatted down, lengthened the chain to set the bar several inches above the knee, and finished the Deadlift set with the bar at that position.  Perhaps it was ill-advised to do this, but at that moment I thought, if chain-and-bar isometrics is so great at healing joint pain, why not test it right now?

 I may well have a nasty low back soreness tomorrow morning when I wake up, but I've done what I could for the rest of the day to stand up more often and do a lot of hip rotations.  At least the pain isn't as bad as when I had back spasms while I was in the deep squat - that pain was so bad I was stuck lying on the floor for several minutes before I could finally get up and off the floor.

What I will do for Wednesday exercise will have to be a game-day decision.  If I'm up for Isochain training, I'll try substituting the Hack Lift for the Deadlift.  Compared to the Deadlift, the Hack Lift is supposed to place more load on the quads than on the back, although the back will still get some work, according to the book Ultimate Isometrics Manual.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Isochain Promethean Week 4

 My performance of the Bridge seems to be improving.  Last week, I would occasionally feel a sharp pain my shoulder because I got a little careless with how I was moving my hands back, to position them for the start of the movement.  Now however, there is no more sharp pain.  I used to struggle to hold the Bridge for more than 15 seconds.  Now I can hold it for 20 seconds without too much effort.

I still have a lingering soreness in the inside of my left forearm.  My guess is it was from the time I spent practicing the parts to the duet version "The Place Where I Found Love" on the Geoshred Pro app.  The Geoshred practice itself was not the issue - rather, the issue was that I was holding the iPad with my left arm.  I now practice that song with the iPad sitting on the desk, rather than being supported on my left forearm, but I still feel the soreness when I practice the Bicep Curl on the Isochain, hang from the pullup bar, and play my new electric mandolin or certain guitar.  This soreness was a factor in my decision to abandon ring training - for now - in favor of Isochain training.   So this week I decided to eliminate another possible factor in this persistent soreness, by replacing the Bicep Curl with Chest Press.  I also started training my forearm extensors with the Ironmind Expand Your Hands bands that I bought years ago but have neglected.

It took more time than I would have liked to figure out a good bar height and hand positioning for the Chest Press.  An overhand grip with a straight wrist gets more uncomfortable below a certain height.  I eventually settled on a bar height that seemed to work with an underhand grip, with the hands nearly at the ends of the bar.  It's a good height for me to feel like I can use chest muscles as the dominant movers for the Chest Press, rather than the shoulder muscles.  I used the One Rep Max Protocol from the Ultimate Isometrics Manual to establish my 1-rep max value for the Chest Press.  I did the 3 reps as specified by the protocol.  It was interesting to see that the max value reported by the Isochain go up with each rep.  However, I followed the protocol and took an average of my 3 scores to set my official 1-rep max to 56.4 lbs instead of 60 lbs which was my score on the 3rd rep.  I seem to recall from Power To The People that a suggested starting load for a load cycle is 70% of 1-rep max so for the next session I'll train the Chest Press at a load of 40lbs (rounded up from 39.48).

Because of my frustration at the amount of time and effort it took to establish the bar height and hand positioning for the first session practicing Chest Press, I did an all-out max effort on my last rep of my Shoulder Press working set.  It was around the low 70s.  

I finished the week feeling stronger in the Deadlift and Shoulder Press.  I can still improve my skill in sustaining the target load for 6 seconds.  I still heard the timer reset whenever my force against the chain dropped below the target.  I also still haven't found the best possible groove, set up by hand placement, arm positioning, etc. for either movement.   But I think I'm closer to finding that groove than I was at the start of the week.  

For the Chest Press, I still have to figure out if underhand or overhand grip is better.  For the Wednesday session, I went with underhand, which felt more comfortable at the bar height that I tagged, using a ziptie tag on the chain link, for this drill.  But during the Friday session, I found that I could get a more comfortable overhand grip by allowing the elbows to rest further away from the armpits and pulling the elbows behind the torso.  The manual says to train with the bar up against the sternum, but I don't think this is literally possible.  I think however the manual is correct about direct force to the bar upwards and away, so that the chain would be on a diagonal, instead of perfectly vertical.

Also I misread the instructions for the Drill-Specific Warmup.  It's only one rep per intensity level, not 2.  The manual says the total reps for the warmup should be 2-4.  Only 2 reps if you opt to skip the easiest and hardest intensity reps.  4 if you do all 4 levels.