Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Guitar lessons

Soumia Ghechami breaks down how she composed the original track, her approach to chord voicings and progressions, and how she incorporates chords into heavy riffs.

Beautiful guitar chords recommended by Ichika Nito

I've been working through the Jazz Guitar Pathway on Pickup Music. Most recently, I worked through lessons on the major and minor 2-5-1 chord changes and how to practice for them. One of the practice ideas is to practice scales, changing the scale as needed as you play through the chord progression. The practice ideas taught in the pathway are ok but I think the Barry Harris method might be a little better for reinforcing the sound of the chord changes in your head while practicing the scales. Nice lesson on the Barry Harris approach to practicing scales for a jazz standard and practicing the chromatic scale

If the above lesson is too challenging, this is a more basic intro to the Barry Harris way of practicing scales for chord changes:

Not really a lesson, just a fun backing track for practicing funk guitar riffs, stylings, etc.

Another video that can be used for practicing soloing ideas

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Low Back Rehab: Week 4

My low back healed enough so that I could practice all the movements in all the Phase 1 positions of Geoff Neupert's Sore Joint Solution mobility program, aka "P3". P3 practice includes the Dead Bug exercise. While the Dead Bug has a specific role in P3, it just so happens to be the same exercise Neupert recommends for improving your reflexive core stability. So while one obvious way to prevent a repeat back injury is to avoid exercises that caused that injury - the deadlift, bent-over row, and seated row in my case - another approach is to also improve that reflexive core stability. I don't want to find out the hard way, what other exercise might also be harmful to my lower back. So I'm going for Neupert's performance standard for the Dead Bug - either 4 sets of 25 reps, or 3 sets of 30. I've been making good progress towards this standard, achieving 3 sets of 25 reps.I tend to run out of time before I have to get ready to go to work, so I'm going for 3 sets of 30 rather than 4 sets fo 25, because that 4th set just takes time.

After my P3 practice, I do the chest expander exercises to try get my upper body strength back to where it was before the back injury, while waiting for the back to finish healing. Before the injury, my overhead press was in the 105-112 lb. range, which in theory is enough to press double 24kg kettlebells overhead at least once. My drag curl numbers were also high, though I have yet to test how these gains would carry over to my chin up performance. If I can get back to being ready to press a 24kg KB overhead with one arm for 3-5 reps, and be able to do 10 chinups, I'd be satisfied. The KB clean-and-press and the chin up are both part of Easy Muscle Schedule B, which is the next exercise program I plan to do after my back has healed.

Squatting is also part of Easy Muscle. I guess if you cannot do more than 10 bodyweight squats, then you could just do bodyweight squats. Otherwise you would squat with a weight that not too heavy nor too light - just enough so that you can do 10 reps at most with this weight. Before I can figure out what weight is right for me - single 16kg KB, single 24kg KB, or double 16kg KB - I need to make sure my low back has healed enough to tolerate the squatting motion. During the first couple of weeks of recovery from the injury, my low back was sensitive to certain movements. If it didn't like how I was moving, I would immediately feel stabbing pain. Reaching forward while flexing the spine was an obvious no-no move. Squatting down was ok, unless I did one slight thing wrong, and was punished for it with that sudden acute pain.

Days later, my back is not as sensitive to movement but I still have that fear of squatting. So before I can do high volume weighted squats, I need to eliminate that fear. After that? I think a reasonable next milestone would be to work up to 20 consecutive reps of unweighted squats. By the time I achieve that goal, my back should be able to handle 10-rep max testing with the kettlbells.

The condition of my low back also improved enough that I regained the confidence to sleep in bed again. I'd been sleeping in my armchair because it was easier to get up from the armchair without back pain. It feels so good to sleep in bed again.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Low Back Rehab: Week 3

I continued the low back rehab routine that I settled on last week. The low back continued to heal nicely. As of the end of the week I no longer have to constantly monitor my body positioning and movement to avoid triggering that acute, spine-about-to-snap pain.

I also started using the Baraban chest expander as part of my morning routine. The chest expander workout, as influenced by the Alex Leonidas video:
  • Overhead press and curl in 2 antagonist sets. 3 springs for both exercises
  • Overhead tricep extension and reverse curl in 2 antagonist sets. 2 springs for both exercises
  • Vertical Pull Apart w/ Underhand Grip, then Vertical Pull Apart w/ Overhand Grip in mechanical drop sets

6 tips for appreciating art

Tips for appreciating art

Friday, September 01, 2023

Thoughts on Chest Expander video by Alex Leonidas

After my first shoulder injury, I went to physical therapy for as long as my medical insurance would allow, which I recall was roughly a month. Afterwards, I was on my own to figure out exercise programming to bridge the gap between rehab and regular strength training with the shoulder. Part of the answer was to get a Lifeline Chest Expander, then choose exercises utilizing it. I chose some exercises that were published in a Reg Park book of chest expander exercises. Chest expander training did bridge the gap as I had hoped, then I transitioned to ring calisthenics.

I got so into ring and parallette training that I gradually forgot about the chest expander. Years and couple of repeat shoulder injuries later, I randomly found some chest expander videos on Youtube featuring steel-spring chest expanders.

I've experienced the effectiveness of 2-4 second eccentric exercise for relieving elbow tendonitis. Apparently this type of exercise might work for tendons in general, including those that are part of my repeatedly injured shoulder. Every chest expander exercise has a decent eccentric load because it can be dangerous to suddenly relax and/or let go after completing the concentric movement.
Another aspect of chest expander training that I appreciate is how it can be used to target the rear deltoids and upper back for improved shoulder stability.

Here is one of Alex Leonidas's videos on steel-string chest expanders. It's interesting because his perspective is informed by several months' worth of personal experience training with a steel-spring chest expander, as well as his experience with contemporary bodybuilding methods. He is not just repeating what was published in an old chest expander book.

These are the exercises he likes:
  • Vertical Pull Apart w/ Underhand Grip - thickness builder, developers upper traps and rear delts
  • Vertical Pull Apart w/ Overhand Grip - targets same muscles as above, with more triceps. Suitable as a drop set after the above.
  • Horizontal Pull Apart - Rear delts and great for posture
  • Archer Pull - targets small muscles of upper back, injury prevention and relief for achy shoulders.
  • Curl - of course targets bicesp
  • Violin Extension - targets triceps long head
  • Sideways Extension - his favorite triceps drill
  • Back Press - Compound pressing exercise, great for behind-the-neck mobility
  • Overhead Press - Shoulder press alternative that hits the triceps harder

Programming Tips:
  • 5-10 rep range. Move up a spring after doing 12 reps for all sets, or 15 for one set
  • 2 exercises per targeted muscle.
  • 4-6 total sets per workout
  • One set per exercise might be enough, especially when doing drop sets - either dropping a spring or the mechanical drop set approach
  • If not doing drop sets, 2 regular sets will be enough
I tried most of the above exercises - the one exception being Sideways Extension as it just didn't feel comfortable. I settled on Overhead Press, Curl, Violin Extension, Reverse Curl, and the Pull Apart variations as my exercises of choice. I do like the Archer Pull, but my left shoulder feels a little uncomfortable when I hold my left arm out to the side while my right arm does the work. It will probably feel more comfortable after I've added a little more strength and muscle to my rear delts and upper back. I'll probably alternate between Back Press and Overhead Press as the compound pressing exercise of choice