Sunday, July 31, 2022

Isochain 6x6: Week 2

Monday session - performance was weak, with multiple failed reps. I still worked through the 6 reps per exercise, being mindful of technical cues such as not leaning to the side or forward during Zercher Lunge, squeezing the butt and straightening the legs during the Shoulder Press, and pulling towards the belly button and locking the knees during the Seated Row.

Wednesday session went much better, with the best left leg performance yet in the Zercher Lunge, a max force score higher than tested 1-rep max in the Shoulder Press, and a Seated Row max force 20lbs higher than the tested 1RM score. One change I made for the Shoulder Press was to use a slightly narrower grip, having been influenced by Red Delta Project videos like this one:

Switching to a narrower grip for the Shoulder Press resulted in greater force output. The force output was confirmed by the Isochain, but I could also feel that I was applying more force too. The narrower grip makes it easier for me to engage more muscle along my push kinetic chain.

I finished the Friday session feeling stronger, even though the 1-rep max testing session this coming Monday may not reflect that, due to the first test session being done with the longer and slightly lighter tension spring for the Shoulder Press and Zercher Lunge

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Isochain 6x6: Week 1

Sometime last year, I bought a porch swing spring with 700lb capacity. Isochain ships with a high load capacity spring to solve the zero loading reflex (aka "cortical inhibition") problem - your CNS (central nervous system) will allow you to exert more force on a moveable object, but will limit your force production if it sense that you are exerting force against a solid wall or other immovable object. I'm not sure what the exact load capacity of this spring is but I read it may be around 1000lbs. Some fellow users have observed that it stretches when you apply at least 110lbs of force. Thus, there has been speculation that if you're not strong enough to make the spring stretch - you cannot produce 110lbs of force - a spring with a lower load capacity should enable the load reflex at a lower threshold of force. I have noticed that I made the fastest strength gains in Isochain exercises in which I could generate more than 110lbs of force - such as Hack Lift and Bent-over Row.

So that's why I bought the 700lb load capacity spring. I thought I would use this spring for the shoulder press and Zercher lunge, because my max force is less than 110lbs for both exercises. Unfortunately, I don't appear to be strong enough to stretch this spring either, for either of those exercises, based on my Monday performance. Whatever the minimum force is to stretch this spring, it's higher than 90lbs. If I can't stretch the spring, I won't benefit from load reflex.

So for the Wednesday session, I decided to use the spring that was shipped with Isochain for all 3 exercises, to save the time I would have spent switching springs. I tried to compensate for the greater length of the porch swing spring compared to the factory spring, by setting the chain length accordingly. I think the Isochain bar was still a little lower for Zercher Lunge, despite the attempt to compensate, so the difficulty was greater than with the porch swing spring. The greater difficulty caused my muscles to fatigue more quickly. Thus, I failed to complete the full 6-second hold for 2 out of the first 4 reps of the set. Per 6x6 guidance, I lowered the target load by about 10% - from 63lbs to 57lbs - and was able to complete the set at the lower load. No shame in working at the lower load until the next 1-rep max test session. My shoulder press actually went up after the spring switch. My seated row went down a little, because I was a little spooked by the cracking sound I heard from my spine during the Monday session. I finished the seated row set without issue, paying attention to not letting my lower back round and pulling towards my belly button, which seems to activate the abs.

For the Friday session, I tried to apply a bit less force in the Zercher Squat, so that my muscles would not tire as quickly, and I could concentrate more on my body alignment. The lower 57lb load helped. my last-rep max force readings were actually higher than for the Wednesday session. I was similarly conservative with my force output for the Seated Row, although of course I was just being protective of my lower back. I focused on straightening my legs to stretch the hamstrings, pulling towards the stomach to engage the abs, and keeping the chest up to prevent rounding of the back.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Isochain 6x6: Planning and 1-Rep Max Testing

After several months of calisthenics, with the last several weeks focusing more on hypertrophy stimulus, then a couple of weeks of rest, it's time to go back to Isochain for strength focused training, with my favorite Isochain strength training program, 6x6. The book Ultimate Isometrics Manual, citing the work of Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky, states that 6 repetitions of 6-second isometric holds is most ideal for strength gains. 6x6 is built on that. I like it more than the Promethean programs. Under the Promethean protocol, the trainee is always trying to work towards ever higher target loads, and will eventually achieve a target load that is so high that they will not be able to do 6 reps of 6-second holds, or even have enough strength to hit the target load for a 4th or even 3rd rep. . In 6x6, the trainee tests for 1-rep max for each selected exercise, then trains at target loads that do not change until the next 1-rep max test session. The target load does not get as high as in Promethean, so that the trainee can concenntrate on good alignment, technique, etc. without the temptation to sacrifice those things in a desparate attempt to make at least 4 reps.

The 6x6 exercises in the book are Front Squat, Shoulder Press, Bent-over Row, and Shrug. However, the consensus among the Isochain user community seems to be that you can select any exercises you want, as long as you follow the general guidelines for 6x6. Going by Red Delta Project's chain training terminology, for this program I have elected to select one exercise for each of the 3 movement chains, and none for the 3 support chains - flexion, extension, lateral. Some members of the Isochain community have found creative solutions for working the support chains with Isochain. However, in the interest of saving time, I will focus only the movement chains. Time will tell what free gains I might make on the support chains by strengthening the movement chains under 6x6. The selected exercises are:

Zercher Lunge - The squat chain exercise, which may also carry over to all 3 support chains.. It's one of Red Delta Project's favorite exercises for Isochain, and the linked video explains why.

Shoulder Press High Angle - The push chain exercise. I've continued to have intermittent shoulder issues while reaching overhead. Working at this position should help shore up my weaknesses there, and improve shoulder stability.

Seated Row - The pull chain exercise, and yet another Red Delta Project favorite. I also prefer this over the Bent Row as it is much safer for the low back. I'm working out of a low angle on this one, so that my elbows are in front of my ribs. The biceps seem to get more activated here than at the high angle with my elbows behind my ribs and the bar very close to my stomach.

About 2 weeks ago I tested my strength using the 1-Rep Max protocol from the Ultimate Isometrics Manual, and got these results:

Zercher Lunge - 90.3 (based on weaker leg scores)
Shoulder Press High - 43.2
Seated Row - 127.7

There seems to be some carryover from practicing assisted pistol squats, and maybe the suspension hamstring curls and hip extensions which work the glutes and hamstrings; to my Zercher Lunge. When I last tested my Zercher Lunge 1-RM this past January, I scored 81.9, so this is almost a 10lb improvement.

I have not worked on Shoulder Press at the high position since winter 2021, so I don't have any recent data to compare. I last worked on overheard pressing this past April, when I decided to switch from Accommodating Resistance Pike Pushup to Accommodating Resistance Pseudo Planche Pushup. In retrospect, I think AR Pike Pushups strained my shoulders. I would have been better off training my overhead pressing kinetic chain more for hypertrophy, for at least 6 weeks, before subjecting the shoulders to the very high intensity of AR Pike Pushups. We will see if there is any carryover from the recent hypertrophy-focused training I did on my chest and triceps.

I have not done Seated Row under 6x6 or Promethean, as my pull chain exercise of choice before was Drag Curl. This exercise with pronated palms poses the least risk to my Golfer's Elbow. I can already do Front Lever Rows with the knees partially untucked, so I know this will be my strongest pulling exercise on the Isochain. It will be interesting to get even stronger here, and see how this carries over to my pullup performance.

Random find: GMB Movement Flow for hamstring flexibility

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Today's Music Discoveries

Some background info on Love Info and Takako Mamiya found on Reddit.

Some cute "music for studying" videos featuring Anya Forger from Spy x Family

Monday, July 04, 2022

M8 Tracker: Probably better ideas for randomization for varying drum hits and other instrument behaviors

In an earlier post, I tried an approach for adding randomization for varying the loudness and timbre drum hits. Then I was advised of a cleaner-looking approach. In, say, the FX1 column of the Table, put these commands:


In, say, the FX2 column, put these commands:


These ideas come from Impbox. They also offer this definition:

Unlinked = all parameters are randomised individually. Linked = one random choice controls multiple parameters

So the above technique is for "unliked" randomization. See below picture for "linked" randomization.

Sunday, July 03, 2022

M8 Tracker: The Stickerbush bundle and other studies related to working on my own cover tune

Stickerbush Bundle and what I learned from it so far

This is a cover of Stickerbush Symphony from the game Donkey Kong Country 2, by Princent Vice, one of several prolific and knowledgeable members of the M8 user community.

Princent Vice also offers a bundle, which includes the project file, as well as instrument files used in the song. He says it can be used for studying basic M8 Tracker techniques like chord tables, REP bass line, and bootleg sidechain
  • In Table 40, RET is used to play a repeating bass note, increasing the volume with each repeat.
  • In Phrase 40, which is one of the bass phrases, the instrument table is set to 40 on the first step, then changed to 41 for the last couple of steps. Tables 40 and 41 look identical, but it was interesting to see the possibility.
  • Also in Phrase 40, the first step also has LFO retrigger commands. One retrigs the LFO assigned to volume and the other retrigs the LFO assigned to filter cutoff.
  • One chord technique is used in Track 2. This works with FMSynth. The technique is to use the FM1, FM2 and FM3 commands on the Phrase to set the operator pitches. The MOD parameters for teh FM Synth instrument should be mapped to PIT (pitch).
  • Another chord technique is used in Track 3. This technique is to use the FM1-3 commands on a Table instead of on a Phrase. Not sure what trick was used for the rhythmic behavior.

Notes from continuing to work with the M8 Tracker

Both of the above chord techniques, as well as other techniques, are covered in Impbox's tutorial here:

SHIFT+PLAY in the phrase screen plays the song from the phrase position. This way you don't have to start from the beginning of the song all the time. This is useful for things like figuring out where to insert transitions between song sections. But what if you want just loop one row of a song, so you can hear how your changes to one Phrase in one Track sound with the other Tracks?

This is done by hitting PLAY (or in the case of inside chain or phrase, SHIFT+PLAY) while in selection mode to have the song loop the current selection. For review, selection mode is activaed by SHIFT+OPTION. Alternatively, if the rows before or after the song row you want the loop are empty, it will loop on itself. you can copy the song row you want to loop and paste it somewhere else where it is isolated, that way it'll loop if you play that row.

To add randomized variation in the loudness of FM drum hits, one technique is to go to the Table for that instrument, and enter VOL values in one column. Then in the Phrase where you want the variation to happen, enter THO00 in an FX column for the first drum hit, and for subsequent drum hits, enter RAN commands, in the same column where you put the THO command. The THO will hop to row 0 of the Table the first time the Phrase is played. I think the RAN that follows it will reset the THO so that the next time the Phrase is repeated, the hop will go to a different, randomly selected row.will, I think, Set RAN to 0F (16 in decimal) if you entered VOL values into all 16 rows, if you want the . Now I see it hitting pretty much anywhere in the whole table set a table position on one note (or in an earlier phrase) then put ran on following notes with the range of steps you want as the value on the same fx column VOL00 RAN0F HOP01
Tip from Ess (FM synthesis guru) on drum synthesis from Meetup 9 - use the highpass filter which fairly low cutoff (25) and high resonance (AF) to add some low end. The FM oscillators do not reset on new notes, but if you do want the reset, use a KIL command before the next note. May need to automate filter cutoff

A tip about managing instrument volumes

I never use the mixer. I keep everything at E0 and use individual instrument volumes (the DRY parameter) to mix. This way, my track layout can be a bit more fluid, especially if I have to squeeze other instruments into, for example, the track usually used for the snare.
Snare drum roll technique from the song SLSKERS DEMO: Use the RET command which the manual describes as: Retrigger the current row with volume ramping at a given number of ticks.

NTH command can be used for setting a drum hit to appear only on, say, the 4th repeat of the pattern. Reuse the same pattern in the same change for the NTH command to work as expected
Try assigning an LFO to volume - can use the drunk or random oscillator shapes.I use this for high-hat phrases a lot. Low amount, high frequency, with the random shape
If you need more resolution, say 24 ticks-per-step, just change the 0x06s in your groove to 0x18s. Then, in addition to finer resolution for DEL FX and the like, you can get a very subtle swing with a 0x19, 0x17groove. One thing to add though, changing the ticks per step also changes how some phrases and tables on instruments sound, e.g. when using a RET command. So going back to older projects and changing the groove tables and adjusting the bpm accordingly might play the song in the correct tempo as before, but it might still sound different because of that. The cover tune I am working on is Wow War Tonight, which was a hit in Japan in the mid-90s, and has been covered several times. My cover is inspired by the cover version which appears in D4DJ.

One of the decisions to make is what approach to use for the chordal riffs in the D4DJ cover. Also, keeping everything at E0 means I can use a MIDI controller to mute/unmute by setting buttons to toggle between 127 and 0, and scaling it in the MIDI control screen.