Sunday, March 31, 2013

Short Easter Workout

Nice short workout today (to make use of all that food I ate at the family lunch).

A1) Weighted Chins w 20kg KB: 5 sets x 5 reps 
A2) Weighted Eccentric-only Single Leg Squats (SLS) w 20kg KB: 5 sets x 3 reps (each leg) 

I am really loving these two exercises at the moment.. basic moves refined to a high art equals solid gains.  I've read many a great program over the years that consisted of two or three lifts as the main bulk of the workout.  I'm thinking of adding swings in next time for a triad.   No agility in between sets today.

The temptation to round the back on the weight chin-ups got a lot higher the further I got along in the sets - but I managed to keep my chin-ups to 'sternum-ups' for all five sets.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sandow Site

Just in case you haven't found it yet - Sandow plus has *heaps* of great free books on physical culture, well passed their copyright.  Great resource. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Article on using the Breath as a Tool

Here's a great article by my colleague and like-minded explorer in Canberra, Craig, about different aspects of using the breath as a training tool.  As Craig explains, learning to use your breath properly is an extremely useful and practical skill - with lots of performance and health benefits associated. 

I have been playing around a lot with the use of the breath to enhance several of the long chain myofascial stretches from the RollStretch curriculum (among others) recently, and will post about this in the coming weeks; as you can really enhance some of these stretches with the skillful using of specific breath direction techniques.

Here's a video of a partner stretch that is really good to practice directing the breath in.. sorry about the length ~10 minutes.  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Great interview on Parkour philosophy and basics

A great interview, and one of the funnest gyms I've ever seen.  There's also a whole host of instructional videos at the parkour visions youtube channel. 

The explanation of the differences between Parkour and gymnastics was excellent.  My favorite quote:

"we take the very basics of human movement – the ability to move on all fours, the ability to run, the ability to jump, the ability to swing from our hands and climb – and we apply those to increasingly complex environments." 


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Yesterday's 'Tonic' Heavy chins workout

Pink sky sunset, full moon rising. Yesterday evening's 'Tonic' Heavy chin-up workout at the local park:
A1) Weighted Chin-ups w 20kg KB: 3 x 5 reps
A2) Weighted SLS w 20kg KB (10 second eccentrics): 3 x 3 rep
Long rests between sets, workout time: ~20 mins
There's a picnic table at the park where I work out, so I do different basic agility and Parkour based moves on that during the rest period between sets. 
Keeping chin-ups (weighted and various isometric variants) and single leg squats (SLS) as the regular core to my strength work at the moment is working well.  Both exercises offer so much sensory refinement, as well as the usual progression by adding resistance.  

I've been playing with the subtle differences in the preference in finger and intrinsic hand muscle contraction and general hand and finger sensory awareness and proprioception - what you feel and how you contract the fingers and hand influences what proportions of what muscle you use further up the chain.  It's quite interesting to follow the channel of contraction from one hand up to at least the lats - then compare to the other.  

For doing this in the chin-up you need to be able to do enough of them so that for the first few reps you can really slow things down and listen.  Ball park figure would be 8+ rep max, then at least the first 3 reps should be pretty solid.  

Same for using the one legged squat.  Eccentrics work particularly well when comparing symmetry between the sides.  Again, playing with toe pad and ball of foot awareness can change what happens up the limb.  Play around with it, but remember to actually lift some heavy weights (safely!), too. 

Timed Static Contraction (TSC) protocol

Hello and welcome, I thought I'd kick off my blog with a piece on the TSC method that I, and others at The Monkey Gym (TMG) in Canberra have been playing around with in recent months. 

At the beginning of this year I was introduced to the Timed Static Contraction (TSC) protocol of isometric strength training by Steve Maxwell (who kindly put me through a brutal 8 minute workout, using a handful of very basic holds).

I've been playing around with this, and other, isometric methods for the first quarter of 2013, and have to say I'm getting some great results.

Training circa late March/early April finds me adding some heavy, low rep strength work back in to my training - with one workout heavy weight/low rep, one workout medium weight but high intensity (TSC and long hold (60 seconds plus)) isometrics.

My feelings are that this mix (one day heavy; one day high intensity iso's - and the other days medium or light) will work very well and produce some new PB's.

I have already PB'd in chin-ups this year (17 reps being the most in my adult life).  One of my goals for this year's training is 20 reps by June.  This new record came after doing extremely low volume of actual chins - but using TSC and embedded statics to work on weak points.

The basic premise for the TSC method is you pick a medium level resistance (bodyweight or weight or whatever), and apply this formula:

30 seconds of holding a moderate contraction (some authors say a perceived 50%). 

30 seconds of squeezing near maximally and as whole body as possible.
30 seconds of all out maximal contraction.  

Followed by 5 reps of only the eccentric portion of the movement pattern you held the static contraction in - so if you held an single leg squat, you do eccentric single leg squats (SLS's); a push-up hold, push-up eccentrics, etc..  oh yeah, and the eccentrics are 10 seconds slow and controlled in perfect form. 

The 90 seconds alone is pretty hard if you pick an exercise at the correct level of progression for your body - but with the escalating contractions it is *intense*!  The first time I tried it with chin-ups (held at that point just above 90° know the place) my lats got the most amazingly full contraction and the muscle irradiation in the final 30 seconds was huge.  My triceps (especially long head extending the humerus) were pretty much cramping, as were a lot of other adjacent muscles. 

This method produces quite nice DOMS in some people (as indicate in my own body and via the amount of hate mail I got from people in Canberra after people tested it at TMG there!).  The TSC protocol is not really a beginner method, and needs to have the correct level of exercise progression to work optimally and safely.   

I find the protocol works really well with body-weight rows; crocodile push-ups; single leg 'Skater' squats (double leg for people if single leg work is too hard, or knee/ankle/hip issues) - and other 'medium' level exercises.  For non-bodyweight exercise I have tried a 28kg kettlebell for bent over rows, which worked well, too. Chin-up holds are too hard for most people to do well (i.e keep form).

One final aspect that Steve stressed that I thought was super cool, was the equanimity aspect.  Whilst the natural urge in this method is to grimace; cuss; groan and panic breath - Steve stressed the importance of breathing nasally, or in the Systema replenishing way when the sensations became too intense; and to keep 'happy face' (aka no grimacing).. this is harder than it sounds when the muscles feel for all intents and purposes like they are going to spontaneously combust!