Friday, October 20, 2023

Improving mobility for reaching overhead (lat mobility)

I want to be able to press 2 kettlebells overhead at the same time. In order to do this without risk of shoulder injury, I need to be able to lock out both arms overhead.

I am currently exploring the Geoff Neupert P3 protocol, which aims to cure movement dysfunction by restoring motor control. From what I've observed so far on the Strongfirst P3 discussion thread, the "side lying" position seems to be the hardest to progress through for the majority of participants. I can do about 20 breaths, and 30 reps of each of the head movements, on each side. It took me a while to work up to these numbers. The next step in the progression is quite a jump in difficulty for me, so it's best for me to be patient and let my CNS and body develop at its own pace.

P3 practice so far has indeed seemed to loosen some muscles, including the lats. However, P3 is somewhat promoted as a mobility method for people who hate stretching, whereas sometimes I do get a nice satisfying feeling out of a good stretch once in a while. Tightness in the lats is one of the reasons I"ve had trouble reaching overhead. I found these suggested lat stretches.

In the past, I've explored flexibility/mobility exercises taught by GMB Fitness. Locomotion exercises are key components of the GMB way of achieving fitness goals, including flexibility/mobility. GMB trainer Adele Jackson posted four recommended locomotion exercises for improving mobility for reaching overhead, and general shoulder mobility, along with the recommendation to practice each movement for 1-4 minutes. These same exercises are mentioned in GMB's article How to Fix the 4 Most Common Shoulder Restrictions. The article recommends practicing the locomotion exercises after stretching. This helps consolidate the mobility gains from more isolated stretching exercises.

First session of Easy Muscle Prep Week 2

I did a 20 minute session. The change from Week 1 is doing 3 reps per exercise instead of 2 reps. In the 20 minute period, I managed to do only 3 full rounds of the 3 exercises. I wonder if it is because I needed more rest after each set of assisted pistol squats. I did manage to squeeze in a 4th set of ring pushups.

Before the workout my quads were still sore from last week's assisted pistol squatting. I was able to get through today's training without feeling like I damaged anything in the legs. However, I'm thinking of splitting up the workout into a 10-minute upper body session and a 10-minute pistol squat session, with rest times between sets determined by autoregulation. There would be a rest period between the two 10-minute sessions that would also be determined by autoregulation. I believe that by doing this I can increase the training volume for the upper body exercises, since there wouldn't be any pistol squat sets taking up time between the ring pushups and bar pullups. Practicing the pistol squat in its own 10-minute window would allow me to train this movement at its own volume. For example I might end up doing 5 rounds of the 2 upper body exercises and 3 rounds of the assited pistol squats - thus training at volume levels appropriate to each exercise.

For cooldown I did a session of P3 mobility. I decided to do P3 five days a week instead of just in the recovery days, between the strength training days. I am close to achieving the requirements to pass Level 2 of the Side Lying position, which is 30 breaths, 30 nods, and 30 neck rotations. I figure I'd be able to graduate to Level 3 sooner with more frequent practice.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Completed Easy Muscle Prep Week 1

Completed the training week without further setbacks - no pun intended - to my lower back.

Feeling DOMs every day in my quads from practicing assisted pistol squats.

Out of the 3 selected strength exercises, I'm feeling the strongest in the Pull Up. I've been doing them with my hands slightly closer together than shoulder width. I currently don't have anything on which to hang rings or suspension trainer at enough of a height to do pull ups or chin ups without having to hold my feet in front of me, which adds extra effort per rep. So I've been doing pull ups on my trusty door pull up bar. I still use the shoulder external rotator muscles and back muscles to generate a spiraling action with my hands, as taught here:

t Even though my hands do not rotate during the pull up, I try to use the spiraling action of those muscles to bend the pull up bar between my hands. The tension, generated by trying to use the spiraling force to rotate the pinky side of my palms towards each other, seems to add more power to the pull up and protect my elbows and shoulders.

Monday, October 09, 2023

Low Back Recovery setback, but not entirely derailed from Easy Muscle prep

I woke up Sunday morning with low back soreness, as soon as I started getting out of bed. It was just like how my back felt every morning, during those first few days after my back injury this past August. The back felt tight and painful. The pain diminished as I started walking around.

I'm not a medical professional, so I can only speculate on possible causes:
  • Back spasm during sleep, which apparently could happen
  • Not enough hydration during the day and evening before going to sleep
  • Somehow tossed and turned in bed, while sleeping, into a position awkward for the back
  • Cumulative injury from training with the 24kg kettlebell before the low back had healed enough to tolerate the load
  • Combination of the above
I did some yardwork, which involved some squatting down. My back held up fine. I later did a P3 mobility session.
Come Monday morning my low back was mostly pain free when I got up out of bed. I had a "mini spasm" accompanied with some pain, when I was sitting on the toilet. This scared the bejesus out of me but the pain quickly subsided after I was standing again and walked for a bit.

I practiced the Easy Muscle prep routine, as planned last week. The back felt fine until I did a set of goblet squats with the 24kg kettlebell. I did not feel a back spasm or acute pain, but there was just enough discomfort to make me reconsider the KB goblet squat. I quickly decided to replace it with assisted pistol squat, which felt much better.

I decided to work on pull ups (pronated palms) instead of chin ups (supinated palms). Last year I did partial chinups on the Eleviaa rings, which was ok because my shoulder did not let me drop all the way into a full dead hang. But now that I can work out of the dead hang again, I find the rings too low for my taste, even at the highest setting. To do pullups/chinups with these rings out of a dead hang, my knees and feet in front of my torso, which adds difficulty to the movement. For some scenarios this may be ok, but if the goal is to get in as much volume as possible in each session, you don't want to add unnecessary difficulty to the movement.

The DOMS in my lats from the first couple of sessions of Easy Muscle prep subsided. I've made steady progress in the P3 mobility method and continue to practice it on my recovery days. But I've gone back to stretching, instead of doing an abbreviated P3 session, for cooldown from my strength/hypertrophy training sessions.

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Easy Muscle Prep: Week 1

My low back is feeling about as good as it did before this latest injury, although I still exercise some caution in getting out of bed.

The next exercise routine I want to do is Easy Muscle, Schedule B, which is one of the three schedules included in Geoff Neupert's Easy Muscle program. Schedule B is the one which has alternating sessions of kettlebell exercise and calisthenics. However, my performance in the two calisthenic exercises - dips and pull ups - is not even close to where I need it to be. Doing one pull up took a lot more effort than I remember, and my technique was rusty. My dip performance was worse, as I felt shaky and needed to use my feet for assistance. Even with foot assistance, I needed a lot of effort to push myself back up.

So, I'll be starting a preparatory program to improve my performance in 3 key exercises for Easy Muscle:
  • Ring Push Up
  • Pull Up
  • 24kg Kettlebell Goblet Squat
The inspiration to substitute Ring Push Up for the Dip came from this Red Delta Project video:

I'll follow the Red Delta Project recommendation to include Ring Reverse Shrugs and Ring Knee Raises in my warmup routine. The rest of the warmup will be scapular pull ups (called "pulling prep" by GMB) and ATG split squats on the stairs.

For this week, I will set a timer to 20 minutes, then do 2-rep sets of each of the above exercises, resting for as much time as I need between sets. This follows the autoregulation principle used in several Neupert programs. So I would do 2 dips, rest as much as I need, then 2 pull ups, rest as much as I need, then 2 goblet squats, then rest as much as I need. Then I'd continue rotating between the 3 exercises, doing one set of each, and resting between sets, until the timer rings to indicate the end of the 20 minutes.

I will try to practice the RTO variation of the Ring Push Up, since it's the variation that is closest to a Ring Dip. If I lack the strength to do RTO push ups, then I'll practice the regular variation with the ringsa at an appropriate height, gradually working towards the lowest possible height before switching to

Over the course of several weeks, I will gradually increase the number of reps per set. Barring any unexpected setbacks, practicing this preparatory program should lead to improved technique in these 3 exercise, as well as improved strength and work capacity. Hopefully I'll be able to perform 10 consecutive reps of each exercise with good technique by the end of this program, and the start of Easy Muscle.