Tuesday, July 18, 2023

IsoMax Bruce Lee: Week 4

For my first full week of practicing Overhead Tricep Extension, I switched between loops 22 and 23 on the strap to try to decide which strap number to use. At loop 22, I can get the best stretch on the triceps while still be able to stand up with straight legs. With the target load in Timer Mode set to 20 lbs., I can trigger the timer by standing up, which feels a little bit like cheating. At loop 23, I can stand up straight with my arms set up for the exercise without triggering the time, so that I have to press the bar upward to trigger the timer.

To set up for loop 22, I hold the bar behind my head with my elbows bent - so that the triceps are stretched a little - squat down a little, pull my elbows back towards my head to stretch the triceps more, then stand up while trying to keep the elbows pulled back. Standing up registers 20-25 lbs. of force on the IsoMax, which is enough to trigger the timer. When I hear the timer start beeping, I try press the bar upwards

I'm leaning more towards training overhead tricep extension at loop 22 rather than loop 23 Loop 22 stretches the triceps and back muscles more, creating more tension, and thus higher force output, compared to loop 23. Higher force output allows faster progression to heavier load settings, making the triceps work harder, sooner.

My overhead press max force has gone up from mid 70s to low 90s - about a 20% strength increase after just 4 weeks of training. In the past, my max force increase was about 15% after 6-8 weeks of Promethean or 6x6. It's a shame I didn't try the Bruce Lee with the Isochain in the past so I could compare and see if the faster progress is just the result of higher frequency of training (5x a week vs 3x a week on 6x6 or Promethean) or the difference in loading reflex on the IsoMax strap vs. the Isochain's spring. Another factor besides the loading reflex is the hypertrophy of the triceps and a bit of the chest from 8 weeks of high-volume clean-and-press under the Easy Muscle program. Strength increase will be faster if you have more muscle mass at the start of the training block.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

IsoMax Bruce Lee: Week 3

I did not skip Week 2. I did not have anything to report about it, although I did record my data as usual.

I found out about recent research on isometrics published around 2020, which found that isometric training with the targeted muscle at a long length produces the greatest carryover to dynamic performance, compared to training with the muscle at a short length.

This latest research inspired me to change the following exercises in my Bruce Lee routine:
  • Replace Zercher Squat with Zercher Lunge - Because of my low back injury history, I was reluctant to train at the lowest possible position. I can get into a lower position in the Zercher Lunge, compared to the Zercher Squat, without worrying about my lower back. The lower position stretches the muscles of the quads, glutes, hamstrings and hips, thus lengthening them for isometric strength training.
  • Replace Medium Overhead Press with Standing Overhead Tricep Extension - The medium angle of the overheard press does not put any of the overhead pressing muscles at a long length. The Standing Tricep Extension puts more load on the triceps, which are among the weakest of my overhead pressing muscles, compared to the chest and shoulders. Strength gains for the tricpes should lead to pressing strength gains. It is also easy to find a position/angle for the Standing Tricep Extension that sets the triceps at reasonably long lengths. Thus, the combination of low-angle Overhead Press, which works all the overhead pressing muscles at long lengths, and the Overhead Tricep Extension, which works the triceps at long lengths, is likelier to stimulate strength gains with the greatest carryover to my kettlebell pressing.
I was used putting my working foot as close as possible to the chain when I trained the Zercher Lunge on the Isochain. The IsoMax baseplate is not shaped like a rectangle but actually narrower in the middle, presumably to help keep the IsoMax strap from sliding to either side. As a result of the narrower width in the middle, there is less surface area for contact with my foot.

My performance of Standing Overhead Tricep Extension this week was unsurprisingly week. I just haven't practiced this exercise very much in my life. I might have been shown it once as a dumbell exercise by a trainer when I was going to a commercial gym for exercise, or maybe it was the supine version, aka "skull crusher", which requires a bench. In any case, not only was my force output only 17 lbs., I felt some pressure in my elbows. In this video, fellow IsoMax user Chrys Johnson, who is also a fitness trainer, says that the elbow pressure is not a bad thing, but rather a sign of connective tissues tightening up. In fact he reports it fixed his elbow tendonitis.

I looked up overhead tricep extension Youtube but did not find clues to why my max force was such a low number, other than simply being weak. What bothered me more than being weak was not being able to get that feet-to-hands whole body tension that I can get with other exercises. I knew that the forearms should be moving up. But what I'd missed was that if I were doing this exercise dynamically, the weight should be overhead with the arms straight. The weight should not be in front of the head, because that would be bad for the shoulder joints. For this to happen, the elbows have to be pulled back as the weight goes up. To pull the elbows back, the upper back muscles must be engaged. Once I figured this out, I got the whole body tension I was looking for and my max force jumped from 17 lbs. to 35 lbs.

I continued doing only one rep per exercise, which seems to be the majority interpretation of the Bruce Lee/Bob Hoffman isometric routine. Performance has fluctuated from day to day as expected, but seems to be generally trending higher in the low overhead press, seated row, and a few other exercises. The Lee/Hoffman routine was created long before the Isochain was invented, so there's no particular guidance on using Isochain/IsoMax for progressive overload. For my version of this routine, I've been using IsoMax in Timer Mode, at the default setting of 6 seconds. I do this to use the built-in timer, and to ensure that I produce a particular amount of force at minimum. I've tried to set the target load at about 70% of where I think my 1-rep max might be, and increase the load if I'd been working at the same target load for more than a week, or if I'd logged max force numbers at a higher level for 3 consecutive sessions. This is obviously a much looser approach compared to the Promethean program, in which you raise the target load every session until you can't sustain force for at least 6 seconds, or the 6x6 program, which requires you to spend one session every 2-4 weeks on just 1-rep max testing.

Sunday, July 09, 2023

MPC One Learning Update

I bought MPC Bible from the MPC Samples website and have been using it to learn how to use the MPC One. I bought the Revision 17 version a few months ago. I just downloaded Revision 18.

So far it has been an excellent resource. However, it does leave out some vital pieces of information. Two that I found today:
  • A keyboard controller plugged into the MPC's USB port will not produce any sound unless you enable Global in its Input Port settings in the MIDI/Sync section of Preferences, or arm it for recording in the Track View.
  • The instructions to get to the Key Ranges view is totally wrong. MPC Bible mentions a "left hand pullout menu" that does not exist in Track View. Instead, follow the example in this video, which covers the same topic in MPC Bible too, which is setting up layers and splits.
To be clear, I do not intend to use this blog to only post complaints about MPC Bible. I still think it has been worth the money and time spent reading it and working with the tutorial projects, samples, etc. provided with it. I just thought it would be useful to log my experiences as I learn.

I do like electronic drum sounds, but I also like to have a sampled acoustic drum kit on the MPC that both sounds great and are responsive to finger drumming on the pads. The 1977 Session Kit looks promising, with 45 different articulations and 12 velocity layers. It also comes with multiple "snapshots" which tailor the kits to various genres such as neo-soul, funk, reggae, etc. and over 120 MIDI patterns.

Some interesting tutorial videos: