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.