Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Isochain 6x6: Last Session

Another Monday brings another 1-Rep Max Test day. Results:

Zercher Lunge - 90.1 (based on weaker leg scores)
Shoulder Press - 75
Seated Row - 138.4667

Zercher Lunge performance gain so far has been minimal, when comparing to the 81.9 lb. result that was recorded end of 2021. Most of my progress in this exercise has been in mobility - being able to get the the thigh closer to parallel to the floor thanks to improvements in hip and ankle mobility.

Shoulder Press performance, compared to the end of 2021 score of 57 lbs, is almost a 32% strength gain for the current year.

Seated Row 1RM was not tested end of 2021. Strength gain compared to the start of the current 6x6 cycle was only about 8%. I'm ok with that though, as I rarely put in as much effort per rep as I did on the other exercises. I was wary of possibly hurting my low back, even though I was also aware that the body positioning should put the low back at much, much lower risk than the standing bent-over row.

Before the Monday session, I was thinking of training under 6x6 for 8 weeks, then switching to the Geoff Neupert Easy Muscle program. Easy Muscle is said to be adaptible to any equipment, and the clean-and-press is one of the featured exercises. I intend to use a kettlebell for clean-and-press. That all said, my shoulder still does not feel good when reaching overhead, or when I press the kettlebell overhead.

One option was to continue 6x6 for two more weeks, then see if there is any improvment in the shoulder's pain-free range of motion. The 6x6 program for Isochain has received positive reviews from fellow Isochain users for both strength gains and hypertrophy. However, 6x6 by design is meant to deliver mostly strength gains with some hypertrophy. Another option is to switch to a hypertrophy-focused program on the Isochain, and see if 6 weeks of training under that, combined with RMT Club swinging for shoulder rehab, will increase the pain-free ROM. One thing we know for sure is that isometrics, with or without Isochain, poses practically zero risk of further joint damage compared to any dynamic form of exercise.

I chose the hypertrophy program with Isochain. I'm not convinced that I will achieve the necessary pain-free ROM for overhead pressing within 2 weeks, even with RMT club swinging. I think there's a better chance that I'll achieve this goal in 6-8 weeks on another Isochain program plus RMT Club swinging. I think the longer period of favoring isometrics over dynamic training - for strength and muscle - will be more of a factor in shoulder healing than adding muscle mass in and of itself. That said, adding muscle mass is a priority for health benefits such as maintaining blood pressure at healthy levels.
Some finds:

Neck extension against wall for improving posture
Ring face pulls for improving posture
Trap-3 Raise (Y-fly) for improving shoulder mobility and posture
Mobility exercises for preventing/relieving pain from computer slouching

Monday, August 29, 2022

Isochain 6x6: Week 6

Monday session began with a Zercher Lunge set that felt a little tougher than usual. I gradually realized that I had left the Isochain set to the same length as for the Seated Row, which is only 2 links away from the carabiner assembly attached to the Isochain handle. This is the shortest chain length I've worked with yet for Zercher Lunge, which in turn demanded a little more mobility in the ankle, hip, etc. The 1RM scores were surprisingly high despite the slightly more demanding positioning, with a PR of 92 lbs. for the left leg. Shoulder Press performance took the usual Monday dip. Seated Row performance was average.

Wednesday session performance was surprisingly worse than the Monday session's. Seated Row force in particular dropped from 142.2 lbs to 127. Shoulder Press force dropped under 70 lbs. for the first time since the switch from high angle to medium angle.

Friday session performance was improved. Zercher Lunge right leg force was back in the low 80s. The left leg max force was 14 lbs., which makes no sense becuase the target load was set to 63 lbs. - the beeper would only start beeping if I hit the minimum 63 lbs. of force, and only continue beeping until the long beep signaling the end of the 6-second hold if I had maintained that force. I don't know if it is because I pressed the Max button too soon. Seated Row force was again lower than expected at 129 lbs. I don't know if it's because my body was still exhausted to a degree from the Zercher Lunge set. Before this week, the exercise order was Zercher Lunge (alternating legs), Shoulder Press, then Seated Row. This week, I changed the order so that Shoulder Press would be last, because the chain setting is the same for Zercher Lunge and Seated Row. Not having to change the chain setting saves some time. The primary purpose of the Zercher Lunge is to train the squat muscle chain, but it also works the upper back, because upright posture is required to support the load in the elbows. It could be that the upper back and perhaps even the lats had not recovered sufficiently from the Zercher Lunge set, by the time I started the Seated Row set. So, changing the exercise order to save a few seconds of time to change the chain setting does not seem to be working out. The Shoulder Press force was back in the low-mid 70s.

I have a lingering issue with my right shoulder, which I suspect was caused by training Pike Pushups with Accommodating Resistance on the parallettes. I remember some sessions in which I really strained to push myself up, even with the attempt to shift body weight to my feet to reduce the resistance (accommodating resistance) so that I could push. I did not feel shoulder pain during the exercise. However, my shoulder started to feel sore sometime after the workouts. Over time, the soreness started to accumulate, to the point where reaching outward or towards my opposite armpit started to hurt. That was when I decided to stop practicing Pike Pushups with AR, but it was too late.

Shoulder Press on the Isochain under the 6x6 protocol seems to be helping. However, since I already have an RMT Club, I thought I would try this exercise to see if it helps

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Isochain 6x6: Week 5

Monday session was the latest 1RM test session. Results:

Zercher Lunge - 90.2 (based on weaker leg scores)
Seated Row - 135.8

I set the chain 2 links lower for Zercher Lunge, because my hip and ankle mobility improved enough to get into the lower position, with the thigh closer to parallel. The chain was also lowered for Seated Row, by one link, because I felt confident enough to position the elbows a little further forward without curving the lower back. I don't think these chain setting changes affected my 1RM scores that much. The scores show improvement over the last 1RM test session. I did not test my 1RM Shoulder Press becauase I already did that last week. Instead I just practiced a normal 6x6 session for that exercise.
Wednesday session performance was my strongest for the week, with a PR of 76.4 lbs. in the Shoulder Press.

Friday session performance was, of course, not as good as Wednesday's but it was a solid session.

Youtube find of the week - what Dan John thinks are the exercises nobody does but should:

I understand that not everybody agree with Dan John, but his reputation as a fitness trainer is well-earned.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Isochain 6x6: Week 4

Monday session - Zercher Lunge performance was decent, despite one failed rep on the right leg. Seated Row performance dipped from Friday. My right shoulder felt fine during the 1st 6-second hold of the Shoulder Press, but immediately felt sore as soon as I released pressure.

That afternoon, I decided to test my 1-rep Max in the Shoulder Press at the middle angle, following the 1-rep Max protocol from The Ultimate Isometrics Manual. My official score, after recording the 3 attempts and calculating the average, was 69.9333 lbs. Compared to my official 1RM of 57lbs. which was recorded on 12/31/2021, the strength improvement is about 22.7%.

The reason I was training the Shoulder Press at the high angle was to see if it would relieve the pain in my right shoulder that can appear when reaching overhead at certain angles, and sometimes when I try to lie on my right side in bed when I'm going to sleep. The verdict so far is that it doesn't seem to be working as a pain reliever. I felt some shoulder irritation after some reps at that angle. I did not feel any irritation in my shoulders, after any rep at the middle position. So, I'm going to train at the middle angle for the remainder of this 6x6 cycle. It's a more satisfying angle to train at as well, because I can feel my muscles working harder and applying more force than at the high angle.

I forgot to set my alarm clock for the Wednesday session. I woke up just in time to get ready to go to work. So I did the 6x6 session in the evening instead. As part of the warmup, I practiced ATG-style split squats to try to improve my Zercher Lunge technique, as the Zercher Lunge is basically the same movement but with a load supported in the crooks of the elbows. I scored 79.6lbs max on the last rep for my right leg on the Zercher Lunge. I was not able to record a max force score for my left leg because I forgot to press the Time button to activate Timed Mode. After a few seconds of effort, I pressed the Time button, then pressed the AVG button by mistake. When I pressed the MAX button, the display read about 14lbs. The target load was set to 60lbs, so I should not have been able to initiated Timed Mode with only 14lbs of force. Hopefully I won't screw up next time! The Shoulder Press and Seated Row sets went better for me. It just felt good to feel my push chain working at 6x6 intensity for a full set.
I felt like the Friday session was a strong finish for the week. Right leg Zercher Lunge performance was ok, but my max on the last rep for my left leg was 90.6, which is a PR. I also hit a PR on the Shoulder Press with 73.8lbs on the last rep. My Seated Row performance was relatively more modest, but the max force was still nearly 10lbs. over the 1RM.

I've been trying a variety of hand placements for the Shoulder Press. I've settled on setting the hands at roughly shoulder width. Part of the technique is protracting the scapula, which activates the serratus anterior muscles. This hand placement seems conducive for the serratus anterior contracting harder and contributing more to the Shoulder Press.

Friday, August 05, 2022

Isochain 6x6: Week 3

6x6 program guidelines in the The Ultimate Isometrics Manual say to re-test 1-rep max scores every 2 to 4 weeks. The test results would set the target loads to work with until the next 1-rep max test session.

So Monday session was the 1RM test session. Results:

Zercher Lunge - 84.9333333 (based on weaker leg scores)
Shoulder Press High - 42.4
Seated Row - 131.2667

The lower numbers for Zercher Lunge and Shoulder Press, compared to the 1RM test before the start of the program were not a surprise, because of the switch from the longer, lighter tension spring to the heavier spring that was shipped with the Isochain. Applying the 70% of 1RM guideline, the target loads for the Zercher Lunge and Seated Row will be a few pounds higher. The Shoulder Press target load will remain at 30lbs.

For the Wednesday session, Zercher Lunge was down for the right leg, with the target load being 3lbs higher. Left leg performance was more solid. Shoulder Press performance was about the same as last week. I beat my 1RM score in the Seated Row, but I've been careful about not straining too much, for fear of hurting my lower back, even though this exercise is known to be safer for the back than the standing Bent-over Row.

Finished the week with another decent session. No breakthroughs, but the results for the legs were closer to even in the Zercher Lunge. After the session, I did some drills from GMB Recovery, and some Elmements-inspired locomotion practice with emphasis on hamstring mobility and shoulder rotators.