Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Easy Muscle Schedule B: Day One and Chest Expander accessory routine

Day 1 of Schedule B is a kettlebell day. First exercise is the Clean-and-Press. Second is the lower body exercise of choice.

The recommended weight for the C&P is a weight which is heavy enough that you only do 5 reps with that weight. If the weight is too heavy to press, you are allowed to push press it. Despite having a couple of weeks to practice the double-clean with 16kg KBs, I was still pretty bad at cleaning a single 24kg KB for the first few sets. I eventually got more comfortable with cleaning the 24kg KB. However, push press was a struggle with my left arm. Out of the entire Clean-and-Push Press session, I managed to push press the 24kg without assistance from the right arm just twice.

I had much better luck with the lower body portion of Schedule B Day 1. The instructions seem to prefer the goblet squat or the double KB front squat. However my fear of leaning forward while working on assisted pistol squats several weeks ago left my knees feeling sore, and not in a good way. So I opted for the double KB clean instead. The knees don't have to flex as much in this exercise. Another reason is it works the posterior chain, which my low back needs, without as much risk as the KB swing, and gives me a lot of practice of the clean.

My failure to consistently push press the 24 kg KB with my left arm might be due to a mental or emotional block - that is, the lack of confidence that I can actually do it. Another possibility is that the left arm/shoudler is just too weak. The 16kg KB is just too light for the Schedule B guidelines. I did Easy Muscle Schedule A earlier this year with a 16kg KB, and I worked up to 7-rep sets. This is why I know the 16kg KB will be too light. But the main problem is if I can't consistently push press the 24kg KB, I'm not really stimulating muscle gains for my arms and shoulders.

So the solution I decided to try is to use my nice Baraban Chest Expander for assistance exercises to stimulate strength and muscle gains to improve my left arm overhead pressing. These exercises would be done in the afternoon after the Easy Muscle KB sessions, and are mostly taken from Alex Leonidas' workout video:

Overhand Vertical Pullapart - 2 sets

Underhand Vertical Pullapart - 2 sets

Horizontal Pullapart - 1 set, followed by mechanial drop set of Underhand Vertical Pullapart

Horizontal Pullapart (1 spring less) - 1 set - All these pullapart exercises should stimulate strength and muscle gains in the upper back to improve shoulder stability, as well as stimulate some gains in the delts and triceps.

Back Press - 2 sets - improves behind the neck pressing mobility, as well as working the shoulders and triceps. Whether the mobility gain translates to improved mobility for double KB press, double KB jerk, etc. remains to be seen.

Sideway (Tricep) Extension - 1 set, followed by mechanical drop set of Overhead Tricep Extension - works triceps which have been pre-exhausted by the Back Press, to increase pump in the triceps

Bicep Curl - 1 set

Bicep Curl (1 spring less) - 1 set

Reverse Curl - 2 sets - All these curl variations are for stimulating strength and muscle gains for the biceps and forearms. There is no direct benefit for pressing but these exercises should help improve elbow health and performance in the kettlebell clean, as the biceps help control the descent of the KB out of the rack position into the bottom position.

Lateral Raise (scapular plane/Y raise) - 2 sets - Finish off delts which have been pre-exhausted by the earlier exercises, to stimulate muscle growth.

When I got to lateral raises with the chest expander, I noticed a strength gap between my right and left side. Just like in Leonidas' video I was down to one spring on the chest expander. My left delt was noticeably weaker than my right delt. I had no trouble raising my right hand above my right shoulder, while I was unable to raise my left hand above my left shoulder. I worked the left side first, then did the same number of reps on the right side

M left elbow tendonitis flares up when I play guitar so I've started using the Theraband Flexbar again. My grip strength improved to where I could use the blue Flexbar for the Tyler Twist exercise. This video shows the Tyler Twist but also recommends an exercise in which you bend the bar into a U shape and then slowly release for the eccentric exercise benefit.

The following day, I had some minor DOMS in my left tricep but otherwise felt fine. Easy Muscle comes with a generous amount of info in the form of a manual, schedule, training videos, etc. However it does not include instruction on the Push Press. However I also bought another program by Geoff Neupert called Kettlebell STRONG which does include video instruction on this exercise. As I reviewd the videos, I realized how bad my Push Press technique was. So on the next kettlebell day of Schedule B, I'll try the Clean-and-Push Press again with the corrections in mind. If I'm still unable to do the Push Press, then I'll try substituing the Jerk for the Push Press. On the one hand, the Jerk is is more technically demanding than the Push Press, especially with double KBs. On the other hand, the Jerk is next exercise to attempt, when the KB is too heavy to Push Press. This is because the Jerk practically eliminates any pressing activity from the arm. In the Push Press, you use the legs to launch the KB upward while pressing at the same time with the arm. In the Jerk, you also launch the KB with your legs, but immediately after launch, you drop your hips while straightening your arm at the same time, so standing up from this hip drop is what carries the KB to the top, instead of your arm pressing it up.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Completed Easy Muscle Prep Week 3

Being able to execute full ROM ring dips again feels good. Turning the rings out (i.e. thumbs pointing away from the torso) at the bottom of the dip is more challenging for mecompared to RTO (rings turned out) at the bottom of a ring push up, but I'll keep working on RTO at the bottom because it engages the shoulder external rotators to protect the shoulders. Working to maintain RTO as I start pushing my body out of the drip also seems to protect the shoulders although the movement eventually forces the rings back into parallel. Sets of 2 were no problem, aside from the effort trying to improve the RTO.

I have mild DOMs in the obliques and low back from doing 3 reps of 1-min. 16kg kettlebell suitcase carries after the upper body exercises. It's a different feeling from low back spasms, which is a more acute kind of pain and emotionally alarming.

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Easy Muscle Prep: Week 3: Did my first set of full dips

The original plan for this week was to do 15-20 minutes of alternating sets of 4 ring push ups and 4 bar pull ups with autoregulation then 3 rounds per side of 1-minute 16kg kettlebell suitcase carries.

During the Monday session I felt like I was in danger of setting off a back muscle spasm on the last (4th) rep of a ring push up set, unless I squeezed my butt as hard as possible. All of my back spasm/spine popping pain problems happened on a pull rather than a push, but after experiencing minor, but still somewhat disturbing back spams while sitting on the toilet or lying on the floor in supine position for a P3 mobilty session, I've been paranoid about threats to my back.

So for the Wednesday session, I decided to try doing ring dips instead of push ups. I've been warming up before my strength sessions with reverse shrugs and knee raises as recommended in the below video. I just did a few reps of each exercise, stopping well short of failure, and 2 sets. The Red Delta Project advice to warm up with these two exercises, and practice ring push ups with rings turned out at the bottom of the movement - proved to be on point for working towards a full ROM dip on the rings.

I,ve planning to do 3 reps of each of the these exercises next week - ring dips, pull ups, and double 16kg kettlebell front squats. So for today I did 2 reps per set of ring dips and will do that again Friday. I was pleasantly surprised that the amount of effort per rep was lower than expected.

Completed Easy Muscle Prep Week 2

I set the timer to 16 minutes for practicing the upper body exercises - ring pushups and pullups - instead of 10 as originally planned. I arrived at this number by arbitrarily picking a total workout time between 20-30 minutes, and dividing by 3. The idea was that the time allocated for work and rest for each of the 3 exercises would be evenly divided between the 3 exercises.

My body felt fine doing 3 reps per set of each upper body exercise, with rest determined by autoregulation. I didn't record exactly how many sets I did, but recall doing at least 5 sets per exercise, which is an improvement over the 3 sets I did on Monday.

The soreness in the quads from 2 weeks of pistol squat practice never really went away. The knee started feeling uncomfortable as well. I think it's because of fear of any forward lean of the torso. My low back still seems susceptible to muscle spasms, so I've had a fear of allowing the low back to flex in any vulnerable position, such as a deep squat. So I think this fear is throwing off my form in the assisted pistol squat, and thus impacting the knee.

So for the Friday session I decided to do suitcase carries with a 16kg kettlebell, instead of assisted pistol squats. I was thinking of adding KB suitcase carries to my routine next week, to start conditioning my back to work with external load again. But with my knee starting to feel suspect, I figured I'd take a chance with the suitcase carries. I did 3 sets of 40-second carries on each side. The back held up fine.

As it turns out, the suitcase carry is recommended by some for low back rehab. This person said he was a back pain sufferer himself when he started doing suitcase carries 3-4 times a week: