Friday, November 11, 2022

Easy Muscle: Week 1

I chose Schedule C because of a shoulder issue limiting my range of motion when reaching overhead with a straight arm.

Following Schedule C, I did the pullup-dip session on Wednesday. Because of the shoulder issue, it hurts to get into the hang for a pullup, even with depressed scapula, because the hang pulls my arm... overhead. So for a workaround, I started each rep by positioning my body as if I were going to do a row, with feet on the floor in front of my hips, then pulled myself off the floor.

I hadn't done dips for almost 2 years, and my ring dip rep max, even with both shoulders feeling healthy, is well short of 10. So, I set my NOSSK suspension handles about hip height. Then I warmed up with 2 sets of 5 dip shrugs, then 2 sets of 10-second top position holds. Then I started the 20 min. timer, doing the dips with feet on floor to lighten the load. Turning the palms slightly out helps to engage the shoulder external rotators, which help stabilize the shoulders.

I should try some knee raises as part of the warmup next time.

Dip shrugs for warmup

I studied this video to review how to do assisted dips

I found doing the dips after the partial pullups - done carefully - stretches my shoulders nicely enough to wash away any irritation from doing the partial pullups. So going forward, I'll make sure my last set on Pullup-Dip sessions will be the Dip set.

The schedule for this week had Monday and Friday as my 2-hand swing days. I tore some skin off of my ring finger when I tried 2-hand swings on the 24kg kettlebell last week. This particular kettlebell has a handle that does not allow a comfortable fit for all my fingers, so in the past I had to squeeze my hands a bit. The tear happened because I was gripping the handle too hard. So to avoid reinjuring the finger, I tried leaving out the ring fingers when gripping the handle, and instead rest the ring fingers on top of the middle and pinky fingers, and not grip the handle too hard, just letting the fingers be hooks

I think it's a decent first week of Easy Muscle.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Akai MPC One

While I've enjoyed using the Roland MC-707 groovebox, I've always been curious about the Akai MPC (Music Production Center) platform. From the introduction of the MPC-60, the first MPC model, and onwards, the Akai MPC became known for its impact on hip-hop and electronic music. My only previous experience with the MPC platform was trying out an Akai MPC Keys 61 at the store, along with a friend who had previous MPC experience. Having a friend show me how an MPC could be used to build up a song - drum track, bass track, etc. - was helpful.

The MPC workflow for building up a multi-track song, under the hands of an experienced user, looked pretty fast to me. Another appealing thing to me was the drum pads. The MC-707 drum pads feel fine. The MPC pads feel nicer - I'm not sure exactly why, but maybe the very slightly lower height of the MPC pads as well as the materials have something to do with it. Also, no matter how much I tweaked the MC-707 settings, I could never get its drum pads to be as responsive to light finger strokes as the MPC pads.

Another attractive feature is the autosampling feature, for easy sampling of my Moog Matriarch or Moog Subharmonicon - both synths that do not have patch memory, but do have MIDI input.

So when I realized the Akai MPC Live 2 and MPC One models were on sale, I decided to buy an MPC One.

First impressions:

The drum pads feel just as nice, and are just as responsive to light finger strokes, as the MPC Keys 61 drum pads. The feel is so pleasant that I'm motivated to work more on my finger drumming. The default color-coding is red for kicks, yellow for snares, amber for hi-hats, etc.

Volume knob is in the back of the unit instead of the top panel, which is a strang location for those of us used to the volume knob being the top panel on synths, drum machines, competing grooveboxes, etc.

The level meter is very useful for gauging how loud drum parts might sound in a mix. I've often been fooled before, by recording something that sounded loud in my headphones, but then it sounded soft in the mix when played back through monitors.

It was easy to learn how to load a preset drum kit for a track on the Roland MC-707. The process is less intuitive on the MPC. For a while I started to believe that preset drum kits do not exist on the MPC, and that if I wanted a new kit, I had to manually assign samples to each and every drum pad, every time. Then I learned that in the MPC world, a drum kit is called a "drum program".

This 5-hour tutorial for beginners is really good. Besides the generous amount of content, there is a lot of useful details like which buttons do what, the default colors of the drum pads and what they represent, etc.

The MPC One reportedly has bugs related to using external MIDI controllers. Video with advice on avoiding the bugs:

Some advice from a more experienced MPC user:

Sequences are your best friends on the MPC! Use them! Get an idea moving in one seq and duplicate it 4 or 5 times, have fun going in different directions with each Seq, then move between them to experiment and get used to this way of performing. This stops you getting locked in one loop, which is the fastest route to feeling irritated and frustrated IMO.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

Easy Muscle and Manly Mobility

I was pondering what exercise program to do after the 3 Days On cycle on Isochain. After 2 cycles in a row of Isochain training, I wanted to do a dynamic exercise program again. I enjoyed Accommodation Resistance calisthenics as taught by Mindful Mover, but my shoulder injury showed me that my body is not ready for that. I'm not sure if the injury was caused by not allowing enough time to deload and/or rest, because I did transition from high-load isometrics on the Isochain to Accommodating Resistance calisthenics without taking at least one week off.

Easy Muscle is a training program created by Geoff Neupert, who is a respected fitness coach, especially among kettlebell training enthusiasts. The title "Easy Muscle" implies that it is a training program for stimulating muscle growth, but it also promises fat burn and strength gains. I put off buying Easy Muscle at first because I thought it was mainly a program built around the kettlebell Clean-and-Press, and my shoulder felt painful whenever I tried to reach overhead.  I then realized it actually contains 3 different training schedules, including Schedule C which was designed for people like me, who currently have trouble pressing weight overhead. I figured any hypertrophy-friendly progra is not going to subject my body to as heavy a load as a strength-focused program. So I went ahead and bought it.

Schedule C has you practicing the 2-hand kettlebell swing on one day, and two other exercises on the other day. Those 2 other exercises are the chinup and dip.

When I bought it Easy Muscle, I was given the option of also buying Manly Mobility, also created by Neupert.  I went ahead and bought it. It's billed as a mobility program for guys who hate stretching. Inedeed, there does not seem to be any emphasis on holding a stretched position for longer than a second or two.

For the Tuesday session, I focused on Manly Mobility. I tried all the Phase 1 exercises taught for each of the 3 body positions. Since I'd already used up time taking measurements to get the results of my Isochain 3 Days On training, I limited myself to 10 reps of each exercise. The exercises are simple to learn, as promised, and I did notice some reduction in tightness, although I don't remember which muscle groups because I didn't write dowm my impressions right away.

For the Wednesday session, I tried the chinup and dip workout. I tested my chinup, which is pullup with supinated palms, but I felt some unwanted tightness in my previosly injured forearm - the "Golfers Elbow" arm, so I substituted pullups (pronated palms). Because of my problem reaching overhead, I could not start/stop a pull-up in the dead hang or the active hang (scapulae pulled down). I trained pullups by beginning and ending each rep with my arms straight and in front of me, at around a 100-120 degree angle to my torso, smy legs stretched in front of the torso and feet on the floor. This may not be the ideal range of motion for gains in strength/muscle from pullups, but it was the best ROM I had without irritating my shoulder.

I used my trusty NOSSK Twin Trainers for the dips. I set the handles fairly low so that my feet on the floor could reduce the load. I turned my palms forward in the bottom position to try to add a bit of stretch for my chest, but I was careful to not do anything to the shoulder.

I took Thursday off from training. Because I hadn't practiced pullups or dips in a while I had some DOMS in the pecs lats, and triceps.

For the Friday session, I tried the 2-arm kettlebell swing workout with a 24kg kettlebell. I took it easy since I hadn't practiced this exercise for almost 3 years. Afterwards, I practiced the Manly Mobility exercises. The following morning, I had minor DOMS in the hamstrings and calves.

Next week, I will begin Week 1 of Easy Muscle, Schedule C. I suppose the 2-hand KB swing day is for fat-burning, and the pullup-dip day is for hypertrophy. It will be interesting to see what the results will be after Week 8.

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Isochain 3 Days On Results

The goal of the 3 Days On program is to stimulate hypertrophy - muscle growth. Before I started the program I took some measurements of various body parts, using a sewing tape measure, so I could measure any changes in size that may be due to muscle growth. I watched this video to see how bodybuilders have their measurements taken:

I tried not to squeeze the tape measure, and avoided flexing the muscles. The results:

Forearms - No change
Left Arm - About half an inch for 4.167% increase in diameter
Right Arm - About 3.2% increase in diameter
Shoulders - No change, despite training the Shoulder Press. This was a tricky measurement, seemingly impossible to take properly
Chest - No change. I did not train the Chest Press or any other exercise that could have stimulated chest hypertrophy
Calves - Actually shrunk a little.

There were other measurements mentioned in the above video, but I didn't take those because I just didn't care. Going forward, I'll probably just measure my forearms and arms for tracking hypertrophy progress, because they're easy. I'd like to see my shoulders grow but there's no easy way to measure them. Just about everyone measures only the shoulder-to-shoulder width, which does not take into account the size of the deltoids, which grow in multiple directions, not just outward.

So ends my 3 Days On training cycle.

Isochain 3 Days On: Weeks 5 and 6

I lowered the bar again for the Drag Curl, which lengthened the biceps more than before. The increased muscle length seemed to allow for stronger contraction. My grip muscles (forearms) still fatigue before the biceps do, but at least the biceps feel like they're working harder.

I've found body positioning for the Triceps Kickback that feels comfortable for the low back. With only a slight bend of the knees and hips, I would not doubt that mechanical advantage allows me to produce more force in this drill, but safety to the low back outweighs using mechanical disadvantage to increase load on the triceps. Being able to produce more force also imposes more load on the triceps anyway.

For my latest Zercher Lunge session, I increased the number of sets from 3 to 4. Perhaps bumping up the volume will lead to improvement in endurance at this position. Simply holding the position without hardly any force output is already a challenge for me.

My strength in the Rear Shrug jumped.

Rear Delt Row with torso perpendicular to legs is getting a little uncomfortable for my low back. I might try leaning back a little.