Friday, October 17, 2008

Unexpected results

It's been a long time since I've done weight-lifting strength training. The vast majority of my strength training has been bodyweight exercises over the past 2 years. I have done the occasional squat or deadlift, and dabbled with weighted dips and pull ups, but that's about the extent of the actual "weight" lifting I've done in the past couple of years. I'll probably start ramping up the squats and deadlifts at some point since I find it a little difficult to find similarly challenging bodyweight equivalent for those exercises.

Anyhow, what has all this bodyweight training gotten me? Well, it's given me a good amount of strength gains. I can actually do certain weighted exercises better (like weighted dips and pull ups) just because doing the rings has given me a lot of strength gains. I've also gained a good bit of functional strength so that I can do some exercises that give would make the regular gym goer wimper in pain. Dragon flags are a good example of such an exercise. Even most dedicated weight lifters simply don't have the core strength and neuromuscular control to pull off that exercise. And now, I can flaunt in the gym with clapping pullups. After banging out 40 pull ups in a day without a problem, I wondered if I had enough explosive power to clear my hands above the bar to clap. To my surprise, I could. Lots of hanging exercises are the reason I have enough strength (and acceleration) for clapping pull ups.

My least expected and most welcome result from the ring training and other gymnastic skills training has been the increase in my bicep size. I know it's a vanity muscle that meatheads in the gym work way too much, but I think I've earned the right to revel in my vanity a little. I read that straight arm gymnastic skills required strong biceps to stabilize the elbows. I didn't actually expect to develop noticeable guns though. My biceps never looked this good from dumbbell curls. I should have started the rings earlier.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Grippy rings

So, I taped my rings with climbing tape and tried muscle ups tonight. I can now say that the grip on my rings is not holding me back anymore. My hands didn't even come close to slipping out of position. In fact, the glue from the climbing tape started seeping through from the adhesive side to the grippy cloth side, making for a truly sticky hold. The first set of muscle ups felt really awesome. But then the 15 minutes of hard jump roping for my cardio warmup and the weekend pull up fest on my new home pull up bar caught up with me. The next few sets really sucked, and my anterior serratus(?) and abs didn't have enough left to keep my shoulders from floating, which made the transition of rolling my shoulders over my hands really hard. At least that's the story I tell myself as to why my muscle ups started sucking even after taking the grip factor out of the equation.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Raising the bar

With my abundance of free time, what do I do on the weekends? Why, I build myself a pull-up bar so I can bang out some pull ups at home. I don't always make it to the gym since my boss seems to think it necessary to keep me working until past 8 p.m. Not a great way to get workouts in when the gym closes at 9. Anyhow, here's what less than $20 worth of parts gets you:

That's $7 for the 36"x0.75" steel pipe, $6 for the rug pad to provide scratch protection and prevent sliding on the door frame, and $4 for the climbing tape to provide some grip on the bar. The wood is scrap that I had lying around, so it's free. The rug pad and cloth tape (climbing tape in this case) really added up, but those are actually reusable for other projects. I'm going to use the tape on my rings since I'm starting to find that sweaty hands are making my grip slip and limiting the number of muscle ups I can do. The rug pad has already been used as a makeshift solution for keeping some speaker wire and telephone cord firmly on the carpet and not wrapping around our ankles as we walk in and out of my home office. At any rate, $17 sure beats $40+shipping I'd have to spend on one of those fancy cantilever door pull up bars, which I'd have to put up and take down all the time anyhow.

So, I know you're wondering (or maybe you're not): does it work. Of course it works! I've already done over 50 pull-ups on the bar so far this weekend.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Handstand and planches

I'm mostly recovered from my weeklong cold and started getting back into my gymnastic skills training. Mostly, I'm back into the handstand and planche practice because I have no other choice with my crazy work hours. I can do those two exercises at home on my parallelettes. Anyhow, I did manage to hold a handstand for nearly 5s. As usual, my technique needs improvement. I need to keep my core tighter and get my leg and shoulder alignment better. I can also hold the arched handstand a little easier than the fully straight version for some weird reason. I got myself into an advanced tucked planche relatively easily today, and I was all excited until I realized my arms weren't straight. Oof. Straightening the arms made that exercise a whole hell of lot harder.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Getting over cold

Well, this past week was a wash. I managed to get a cold, so that's taken me out of commission for the past 5 days. The plus side to all this has been that I've had some more time to focus on my meditation training and to do a little research. I came across this fabulous site about DIY home bodyweight workout setups. I particularly dig the doorway chinup bar, wall mounted multi-purpose rack, and the pipe rowing station. I don't have the time (and quite possibly spousal approval) to make any of those things, but it did inspire me to look around the apartment for places to put a pullup bar. I was about to spend the money one of those cantilevered door gyms, but that I decided that I could just put a dowel or pipe over the door frames between the bedroom and bathroom in our hallway. A 0.75" to 1" diameter dowel or pipe about 34"-35" and some padding/gripping material will make a cheap and simple way for me to add more pull ups into my daily routine.

My October logs are now up. I still can't believe I've been keeping logs this long.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Damn work interferes with workouts

Well, I've really been slacking on keeping my training blog up to date. As the title implies, my long hours at work have been slowing down both my training and my blogging. I have been managing to keep up some semblance of training. I started logging my training since the beginning of the year, and oddly enough, I'm still at it. I've been very tempted to stop logging all the food I eat and my training regimen. In fact, I have forgotton to log a couple of days these past few weeks. Oops. But even as nuts as I am for logging everything, I'm glad to know that there are other people out there at least as nuts (and probably crazier) than I am. I just read this article on T-nation about a guy who has 4 years worth of logs. I haven't even made the year mark yet.

Anyhow, it's now October, and I'm beginning to think I may not achieve some of the fitness goals I had set out to accomplish for this year. I've done the muscle up thing, and I can easily jump rope for 10+ minutes at a pretty heart racing pace. The handstand is coming very slowly. I can only hold a dragon flag for 7s at best, which is still pretty far from the 20s goal I had set. The front lever is really hard. I can only do a 1-leg version of it at the moment. To be fair, I did originally state "progress towards a planche" and not a full planche as a goal, so I've made pretty good progress on that one. I can almost hold an advanced tucked planche on the parallelettes, but it may be a while before I can hold a full planche.

I guess some of the goals will likely carry over into the next year. I've determined that next year's feat of strength should be an iron cross. It feels like it'll be pretty hard, and I'm sure it will be difficult training for it. Did you know that an iron cross is only a "B" level gymnastics skill. The skill levels go up to E, I believe. That means my big feat of strength aspiration is something that's easy for the average gymast. Boy does that make me feel weak.