Saturday, December 26, 2009

Making progress with the old man

My dad was never a big fan of my avid interest in physical fitness and physical activities. His attempts to turn me into a nerdy bookworm were only half successful. I did turn out to become a nerd, but he fortunately never succeeded in making me forgo all physical activity to study more. In fact, his constant badgering about me not studying enough probably caused me to rebel and become even more interested in physical fitness. But last night, he didn't poo-poo my fitness expertise like he usually does. Finally, after decades of criticizing me for wasting my time training too much, he finally listened to my advice about exercising.

What happened? Well, my dad retired. You have a lot of free time to fill when you go from college professor to retiree. He took up repairing the house, and like everything else he tackles, he took it up with single-minded vigor. But he neglected to consider that he doesn't have the body of a 20 year old any more, and years of professing while not exercising had taken quite a toll on his physical conditioning. He gave himself tendonitis from gripping and using his tools for too long without sufficient rest.

Then he starts exercising, doing mostly pushups and modified squats. That would be ok, except my dad ignored my advice on correcting his pushup form. He managed to overdo the pushups and strained his shoulder. I suspect (from my attempt to play PT) that he wasn't using his upper back and lats enough to stabilize his shoulders, so he overused his rotator cuff muscles to compensate (guessing he strained his supraspinatus? gotta ask my PT friends to be sure).

After two bouts with injuries, he finally listened to me as I instructed him to do band pull aparts and scapular wall slides to restore proper shoulder mobility and muscle activation patterns. I may try getting him to do a scapula push up and some lat pull down variation, but I don't want to push my luck quite yet. From past experience, my dad doesn't always take too well to having to listen to his son instead of barking out the orders. But I'm pleased I've made this much progress with him. Maybe in another few years, I'll also be able to correct his hip movement dysfunctions.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

2009/12/16: Back on the rings, medicine ball core work

Hopped back on the rings yesterday afternoon after a few weeks off. It's been a little cold, so hanging the rings outside hasn't been happening. At some point, my Floridian senses take over and tell me that freezing temperatures and stiff winds are not good for an outdoor rings workout.

  • wide supports: 3 x 15s

  • iso hold false grip pull ups: 2 rounds

  • archer dips: 2 x 4-6 reps

We also attracted some unwanted attention in the gym for this workout. Hanging the rings seems to always bring people over. Sometimes you meet interesting folks who are curious, and sometimes you run into the people that don't like you doing things that they're not used to seeing. Today was the latter. Fortunately, we weren't being unruly and I can't be kicked out of the campus gym for merely working out. Whew! Saved by the campus ID.

After the main rings workout, we did some core work on the medicine balls. I planned on doing Swiss ball step offs, but we ended up playing around with different medicine ball variations. That ended up being more fun than the step offs.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Freak warm December day = Outdoor Leg Workout

It had been unseasonable warm through November here in PA, then it turned cold. But we still had one last warm-ish day in December. We broke out the weight vests and took advantage of the cinder blocks and tires outside for an outdoor leg workout:

  • Lunges:

    • 20 x bodyweight

    • 20 x 20lb vest

    • 20 x vest+cinder block

    • 20 x vest+2 cinder blocks

  • Side lunges: 2 x 20 x vest

  • Tire Pushes: 2 rounds pushing 40 yds (or failure)

Our legs were pretty wobbly after the tire pushes. I don't know why I thought tire pushes as a finisher was a good idea. I had trouble walking for the next 20 minutes. Next time, I'll also keep in mind not to do this exercise after a rain. Slipping while pushing really sucks. You lose pushing power and the tire can come to a grinding halt. Then you have to expend extra effort to start the tire moving again.

I've been enjoying the outdoor workouts I've been doing from the summer and fall. Of course, it's getting quite a bit colder now, so we're moving indoors for our workouts soon. I'm already scheming on what fun exercises can be done inside.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Random notes

  • Deadlifted 205 lbs again.  It's been a while since I went past 185 lbs since I've been working on my technique.  Technique felt pretty clean this time around, but my grip is still weak.  My grip failed long before everything else.
  • On that note, I watch other people do deadlifts in the gym.  I cringe at the sight of many rounded backs.  It must be good to be young and not feel any pain from poor lifting form.
  • You'd think that college athletes would all be fantastically fit and strong.  You'd be wrong in that thought.  I've never witnessed such terrible plank form than during a team strength training session.  I saw butts up in the air, holding on to benches, bracing against the wall, and apparent trouble holding even half-assed planks for a minute.
  • Eating well is important in our household.  So, we prepare a lot of our own food.  That in itself takes a lot of planning and food prep which I don't enjoy.  Add in the fact that I'm vegetarian and it adds even more planning and food prep.  Then I have to be a physically active vegetarian who needs to eat constantly, which makes for yet more planning and prep.  Finally, I have to prepare food for my wife who's still junior faculty and who is also vegetarian and physically active, doesn't eat dairy, and who wants low carb, low fat meals.  I spend entirely too much time doing food preparation.  I'm beginning to detest all the chopping and cooking.  Some days, I wish I could call the pizza place down the road and get something delivered.
  • Burpee pull ups... royally... suck.  Yet, I keep doing them.
  • Burpee squat jumps across a football field... also... really... suck.  And yet, I keep doing them.
  • If I'm ever mad or annoyed for some reason, a session of pounding the #$%$*(!@ out of a tire with a sledgehammer makes me feel a lot better.
  • Getting closer to holding a real handstand.  I'm close enough that I can actually see myself crossing out that goal sometime in the near future.
  • I've grown increasingly disenchanted with most gyms, especially blatantly commercial gyms.  Why the hell would you buy 8 foot, 100+ lb heavy bags and only allow weak women in a kickboxing class to punch them with bad striking mechanics?  "Kicking" the bags is strictly out of the question.
  • I'm still amused at the fact that the regular "fitness center" on campus only has dumbbells up to 50 lbs.  I don't often lift weights, but the fact that I can run the rack and clear a lot of the weight stacks means that Gen and I work out in different gyms.  The athletes gym may smell, but at least I don't get frustrated by being surrounded by inadequate equipment.
  • Finally, there's a policy at the campus gym about "sleeveless shirts."  You can't enter the gym with them because it's unsanitary; you might drip sweat.  Apparently, an extra few inches of cloth over your shoulders magically makes you stop dripping sweat.  My faith in common sense gets eroded more and more every year.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tai Cheese: A Case Study

What do tai chi and dairy farming have to do with each other? Normally nothing, but in the case of Rob Taverner, tai chi helps keep him and his dairy cows happy. I applaud Rob Taverner for his organic dairy farming and his dabbling with tai chi to soothe his cows. I however can't say that his movements (as far as I can tell from the still photo) adhere to tai chi principles.

Tai Cheese?

While Mr. Taverner may achieve a degree of relaxation and calmness, he does not appear to have the same relaxed physical grace associated with tai chi practice. Why is that? If we do some postural analysis, we can see where his movements do not match tai chi principles and why the picture does not look like an example of relaxed body movement. Mr. Taverner is going to serve as our subject for a case study in body mechanics, balance, and relaxation.

The first thing to notice is that the body weight is not dropping through the structure to the center of the feet. The knees are pushed well past the toes. The positioning of the knees that far in front of the toes results in the knee joints bearing more load than necessary (i.e. bearing weight that should be passing through the joint down to the lower leg and feet). The quads are firing like mad to compensate for the knees being at a suboptimal load bearing angle. Also because the knees are too far forward, the heels are lifting off the ground so that the body weight is falling to the balls of the feet. The muscles of the lower legs and the feet are engaging just to maintain weight support on the forefoot.

We can also see that Mr. Taverner has a distinct forward lean in his stance. With the balance skewed forward, the back muscles will fire in an attempt to pull the body back and prevent falling forward. Likely, most of the posterior chain muscles (neck, upper and lower back, glutes, and hamstrings) are engaging to counteract the forward leaning posture. With so many muscles engaged just to remain standing, we can safely conclude that Mr. Taverner is not rockin' the relaxation.

Examining the arms and torso, we can observe another departure from tai chi principles. Harmonizing the yin and yang in terms of the body can be roughly understood as coordinating the flexors and extensors to balance the structure of the body. For the torso, this translates to harmonizing the muscles on the front (yin) and the back (yang) of the arms and body. Ideally, the front of the body should be slightly closed, and the back expanding open. To borrow a common tai chi phrase, Mr. Taverner needs to "hollow the chest and pull the [lower] back." Or, to put it in I-Liq Chuan terms, there's no suction at the dantian and sternum, and the mingmen (acupuncture point in the middle of the lower back) is not expanding open. What we see in the picture above is an overemphasis of the yang: the wrists are overextended (too dorsiflexed), the elbows are nearly locked out, and the chest is opening and floating up.

As a farmer, Mr. Taverner is likely significantly stronger than the average bloke. That may be why he doesn't notice the amount of muscular effort needed to maintain an off-centered stance. Fixing the misalignments of his structure would bring physical relaxation in addition to the mental relaxation.

My apologies to Mr. Taverner for being chosen as a case study for my body mechanics analysis.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Rocking the Relaxation

"Relax!"  It's a phrase you're bound to hear if you study an internal martial art, especially any of the tai chi variants.  But what exactly does it mean to relax?  According to the dictionary definitions,
relax (verb) is
  1. to make less tense, rigid, or firm; make lax
  2. to diminish the force of
  3. to slacken or abate, as effort, attention, etc.
  4. to reduce or stop work, effort, application, etc., especially for the sake of rest and recreation.
None of those definitions sound congruent with studying a martial art.  A key to effectiveness in any martial art is generating power.  The ability to generate force is highly desirable from a martial perspective.  So then what gives with all the emphasis on relaxing and diminishing force?

Not the type of relaxation we're discussing.

To answer this question, we can examine the first exercise from the I-Liq Chuan (ILC) 15 basic exercises: rocking.  The rocking exercise illustrates the first three points of the six physical points in ILC:

6 Physical Points

  1. Relaxation
  2. Center of gravity
  3. Alignment
  4. Center of mass
  5. Spheres of offense and defense
  6. Spinning force of coordination
As the balance is rocked forwards and backwards between the toes and heel of the feet, the tension felt on the body changes.  Gravity pulls the body differently as we rock back and forth, causing the muscles to activate differently as the balance shifts to the different parts of the foot.  As the weight shifts towards the toes and the balls of the feet, tension rises up from the front of the ankles to the shins, quads, abdomen, and chest.  Likewise, when the weight shifts back towards the heel, tension is experienced on the body starting from the back of the ankles and rising up the calves, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and upper back.  The further off balance you go, the more the muscles must fire to compensate and the higher the felt tension rises in the body.

As the weight shifts towards the center of the feet--i.e. the center of gravity--the tension felt by the body reaches a minimum.  At this balance/center point, the body's weight is being pulled straight down to the feet through the structure of the body.  The structure of the body is stacked up such that the bones, ligaments, and tendons bear the brunt of the gravitational force pulling the body.  When the structure of the body stacks into alignment at the center of the feet, the body is minimally tensed and maximally relaxed.

It is important to note that this state of relaxation is achieved by understanding the center of gravity and the alignment of the body's structure to drop the weight to the center of the feet.  This simple rocking exercise contains and illustrates the first three principles of the six physical points.  Without alignment (stacking of the body structure), you cannot achieve the center of gravity; gravity will pull the misaligned body structure such that the weight does not fall on the balance point in the center of the feet and some joints will bear disproportionately more weight.  Without the center of gravity (body structure stacked over the center of the feet), gravity will pull in the body in the off-balanced direction.  To keep the body standing upright, muscles will need to activate more (i.e. the body becomes tensed) to compensate for the off-centered balance.

Returning to the original question, what's so important about understanding relaxation?  What is meant by relaxation is indeed the lack of tension or the lessening of force and effort.  But the lessening of tension is relative to the muscular effort needed to maintain and move the body structure.  If the center of gravity is achieved, the muscles can relax more as the body structure bears more of the weight.  The relaxed muscles result in more potential force being available to move the body.  With an off-balanced structure, the muscles are already engaged in compensating for the balance; the amount of potential muscular force available for body movement is diminished by the muscular effort necessary just to keep the body upright.  The more off-balance you go, the more tensed the muscles become and the more pronounced your reduction in movement power will be.

Relaxation from the training perspective is the ability to use as little muscular effort as necessary to maintain the body, such that maximum muscular force is available for use.  When dealing with either just gravitational force or the force of an opponent, misalignment of the body results in tenser muscles and less usable muscular force.  Proper alignment allows the relaxation of the muscles.  With relaxed muscles, it is far easier to move the body and generate power.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Training Gear Update: ladder, rope, belt, hammer, oh my

It's been a while since I've made any notes about my training gear. In fact, the last time I've discussed training gear was my post on my cheesy pull up bar solution. So, here is my long overdue training gear post.

Buddy Lee Aero Speed jump rope

It's been nearly two years since I bought my Aero Speed rope. I really liked the rope when I first bought it, and I still really like it. I've read some people complain about the cord snapping or the rings on the swivel bearings breaking. I haven't experienced that sort of equipment failure, but I've only used my rope indoors on either rubber mats or sprung wood floors. I'd be pretty annoyed if my $40 jump rope broke on me under those conditions.

That being said, the rope cord has thinned in the middle. I thought I'd never wear out the cord, but apparently two people (my wife and I) doing numerous speed skipping sessions has taken its inevitable toll on the rope cord. Replacement cords are reasonbly priced ($4-5ish + shipping), but I'm cheap. I decided there's got to be a hardware store solution to this. After wandering into the plumbing aisle, I found it: 1/4" polyethylene tubing.

At $0.11 per foot, it's a very affordable way to put a sleeve over the rope cord and extend it's useful life. Just cut lengthwise down the middle of the tube, and wrap it around the rope.

Another issue I had with the rope was that you're not supposed to kink the rope if you want to turn it quickly. That rules out hanging the rope on a hook or just cramming the rope into my gym bag. Again, my years of experience as a poor engineering grad student came to my aid. My solution: a cardboard cutout holder. Just cut four notches into an ~8" square piece of cardboard, wrap the rope around it, and toss into gym bag. Easy, cheap, and functional.

Homemade Agility Ladder

For a period of time, I was recovering from one of my bouts of wrist tendonitis. Jumping rope wasn't exactly speeding up my wrist recovery, so I had to do an alternate exercise for my plyo/interval training cardio. So, thus began my adventures with the agility ladder. This is one case where I probably would have been better off just buying a commercial ladder, but I decided to save the cash and spend too much time building and debugging the homemade version. With some 1/2" PVC pipe and some nylon rope, I concocted my very own agility ladder:

I was proud of myself, and I was pretty sure nobody was going to steal it because of its pink rope and ghetto PVC rungs. I quickly discovered one major problem with my ladder though. Stuffing it in a backpack to transport to and from my workout locations ran the serious risk of creating a holy tangled mess. By the third untangling session, I decided to copy something from the commercial versions. A threaded rod rammed through drilled holes in the middle of each rung would keep the whole mess together without becoming tangled. A wing nut at the bottom keep the rungs from sliding off.

Now, I can look totally cool as I saunter into the gym with my pink corded agility ladder and makeshift carrying handle.

Ironmind Dip Belt

Gen gave me a dip belt last Christmas, and I've loved the belt. I'd be using it more often if doing weighted dips and pulls didn't flare up my wrists. It's rated for some absurd amount of weight (1000 lbs?), which I'm not even close to doing. I only got up to 65-70lbs.

Undoing the webbing from the buckle to change weights works ok. I prefer the carabiner and loading pin solution myself since it's more convenient. But I didn't want to buy the loading pin, so I just searched the internet until I found someone's suggestion of two carabiners and a chain. Works for me.


The sledgehammer is my latest toy (is it bad that I consider workout equipment "toys"?). I didn't think 8lbs could be so tough. I can't yet do the sledgehammer walking finger strength drills, and I'm definitely not going to attempt any sledge levering exercises which bring the sledge anywhere near my face (at least not for a while). I could swing the bad boy at a tire, and that was hella fun. If I had any stress aggression before my workout, it was gone by the time I finished my sledge swing workout.

I've heard talk from one of my buddies about a 20 lb sledge. I don't think I'm ready to jump much beyond a 10-12 lb sledge (and then only for swings, forget levering). It seems like such a puny jump going from 8 lbs to 10-12 lbs. But then again, a weight on the end of a stick makes things a lot more interesting, and 2-4 lbs more weight is still a 25-50% increase. I think I'll be sticking with my 8 pounder for a while.

Friday, July 24, 2009

New killer exercises

I've added two new exercises to my repertoire. They were much harder than I originally anticipated. I guess everything looks easy. The reality was that the exercises were far from easy.

Offset barbell side bends (or lateral flexion as this vid calls it):

I actually held the barbell closer to the end. Three sets of six (each side) destroyed my obliques. I'm still feeling it two days later. Add the fact that I did deadlifts just before this exercise, and my entire midsection is sore.

Burpee pull-ups:

I don't know why I thought this exercise wouldn't be too bad. I could only do 20 reps my first set before getting gassed. Subsequent sets were down in the 10-15 rep range, and I was definitely breathing hard at that point.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

back to deadlifts

After taking about two months off from deadlifts to give my wrists a rest, I tried them again today. I'm not back to where I was, but I'm also not that far off from my prior progress. I got up to a solid 4x5 at 165lbs. My grip still gets pretty tired from deadlifts, which is to be expected. I felt like I could have gone up to 185 without too much trouble. I'll stay at 165 for another week or two and then start slowly ramping up.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

1.5 minutes to nausea

Over the past month or so, I've managed to pick up some new workout toys. They're nothing fancy, but they sure are effective. What did I get? A stopwatch and a round/interval timer. I've been keeping track of my rest/work periods during my workouts to do a little energy system training during my strength training. I though I'd go a little conservative with 1.5 minutes of rest between sets of pull ups and dips. Oof. That was tougher than I expected. By the time the 4th set rolls around, I'm not feeling so great. Fortunately, I'm pretty good about not actually working out hard enough to hurl, but boy do I feel queasy by the end of the workout.

As an added bonus to training my anaerobic capacity, timing my rest periods has made my workouts significantly shorter. That's a decidedly good thing since I only have access to a gym which closes at 6:45-7:00ish (damn summer schedule, there's one downside to going to a college gym). We may only roll into the gym a little before 6. That doesn't leave a whole lot of time for an extended workout. So, it's a quick 20 minutes of cardio, and a timed 15 minute strength workout. Even with just 30 or so minutes for my complete workout, I feel like I've had a good session and my muscles certainly feel mildly sore/tired the next day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Crunches suck

Not only are they completely boring, but they also apparently aren't good for your back either. All that flexing puts unnecessary strain on the back. People usually do crunches to tone their abs and get closer to the six-pack stomach, but ironically lots of crunches don't accomplish that. Nutrition and total body exercise (i.e. dropping your body fat percentage) play a bigger role in the ab aesthetic than tons of crunches. Plus, overdoing crunches just overdevelops the rectus abdominus relative to the other ab muscles. The result of a rectus abdominus being a lot stronger than the transverse and obliques would be? Right. Poochy belly. If the other abs are too weak to hold the hypertrophied rectus abdominus in place, you may get that great looking six-pack from the front, but from any other angle you'll have the distended gut.

I stopped doing crunches ages ago mostly because I got bored with them. The last thing I want to do at the end of a workout is 100+ crunches. Now, having my workout partner throw a medicine ball at me while I'm on a situp bench and then proceeding to swear to high heaven while throwing the medicine ball back... that sounds a lot more fun to me. It hits my abs harder and takes a whole lot less time than crunches. Swiss ball planks, leaping push ups, dragon flags, L-seat chin ups, L-seat dips, front levers, etc. are all better choices for hitting the abs. There are plenty of other core exercises which are more effective, efficient, and just plain more fun.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Injuries Galore

Well, my wrists feel a little better after basically a month off. Granted, I did cheat on my "no gripping exercises" policy just a little. Not much though. Just the occasional set of pull ups and dragon flags. I started doing the agility ladder to offset my lack of time on the jump rope. The ladder was a heck of a lot more of a workout than I was expecting. I also started doing medicine ball throwing exercises. Three rounds of varying exercises using of 30s effort and 30s rest pushes me to the edge of feeling queasy.

On the down side, I've been having on and off pain in my left foot. It's sharp pain for a few days, which then disappears. But it's recurred twice, which is not a good sign. After a bit of reading, I think I have a sprained ligament in my foot. My foot only hurts when weighted and in certain types of motion. There's also the fact that I've been doing more unfamiliar plyometric type exercises, which is probably stressing my feet in new ways. All I have to say is "bleh." Walking around gimpy puts a real damper on my conditioning. But oddly enough, it doesn't prevent me from teaching my I-Liq Chuan classes. I can still demonstrate applications while gimpy.

Friday, May 1, 2009

bleh, wrist tendonitis

My wrists have been hurting for the past week. After some research and consultation with friends, I'm guessing I have inflamed tendons. I have to lay off for a week or two from exercises involving my grip. That really sucks. What exercises do I usually do for my upper body that don't involve my hands? Not many. I'm going to have to be pretty creative for the next several workouts.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

woot! 75 lb weighted dips

We didn't make it to our regular gym today, so we had to go to the campus gym today. I'm not a huge fan of the campus gym. It looks nice, but it's not exactly a gym set up for people with above average training goals. Anyhow, I lugged along my dip belt and 3/4" rope to the gym in an attempt to get a decent workout. Folding over the rope two times gave me 4 strands to imitate a 3" rope for rope pullups. Oof! That was a serious grip killer. I barely got 8 reps before my forearms were telling me to let go.

Then it was on to weighted dips. I banged out 50lbs with no trouble, so I thought I'd try 75lbs. Surprisingly, those weren't as hard as I thought they would be. I managed one set of 4 and one set of 5. I guess the muscle up and iron cross training on the rings has been helping my dip strength since I haven't done any weighted dips in over a month.

Finally, I have decided to take grip training more seriously since my wrists are starting to bother me again and my grip is starting to become my limiting factor in doing deadlifts. The rope pull ups will be a regular part of my training for the next month. Today, I tried pinching 5 lb plates together. That sounds easy, but I could only pinch 3 plates together (for an 18s hold). I didn't make it to 4 plates. My attempt at 4 plates embarassingly clanged to the floor.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Squats hurt

They really do. I just started getting up into the 115-135 lb range on my front squats. I know that doesn't sound like much (and it probably isn't), but I am doing them pretty deep. I squat down until the tops of my thighs go about 15-20 degrees below horizontal. Anyhow, I'm finding that the first night my quads are really tired, and then my glutes and hamstrings are sore for the next two days. Sore and tired legs make stance training a lot more interesting. I'm really aware of my legs for a couple of days because doing things off alignment means I have to work harder with my already tired legs. It's a good incentive to make sure I pay attention so I don't wobble and fall over.

On the plus side, I think the squats and deadlifts are finally paying dividends for my weight. I'm up to 145 lbs now. That was my original weight gain goal. I think I'll shoot for another 3-5 lbs before I start leaning down again.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Biceps on fire

I dropped the weighted dips and pull ups this month in favor of muscle ups on the rings. Happily, I'm still able to bang them out, though I'm still not quite up to a solid set of 10 muscle ups yet. I realize now that my abs and core aren't quite strong enough for me to make it through 10. I was strong enough to force myself through a 7th rep using mostly my arms. I paid for it later though. My biceps have been sore ever since that muscle up workout a couple of days ago.

And today I went on with my iron cross practice as usual (what could be more fun on a Friday night?). My biceps are burning even more now. Why exactly do I do this to myself?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

February wrap up

February wasn't my best month for keeping my training goals. But that's ok. It was a short month, and I was in NY for 4 days. Traveling tends to screw with my daily routine, and it takes me a day or two to get back into my groove.

I didn't practice my handstands nearly enough, though I did make an important discovery. Since I've been training on the parallelettes, I've been gripping the bars so that the bars rest on the base of my palm. I adjusted my grip a little bit so that the weight was resting closer to the center of my palm, and all of a sudden the balancing got easier. The adjusted grip was closer to where I would bear weight if my hands were just on the ground. That little change gave me some more wriggle room at the wrists for balance adjustment. That was a smack the head discovery moment.

I have been pretty good about doing my solo I-Liq Chuan practice. I haven't made my daily minimum every day, but I've done it almost every day. I'm starting to feel a little more coordinated with my butterfly form, and after the workshop, spiral force started making more conceptual sense to me. Of course, I have to now deconstruct the form yet again to try to incorporate my refined understanding. It's a rewarding process to feel that improvements are happening, but at the same it's also frustrating to realize that I've spent a lot of time practicing without certain pieces of understanding. Oh well. I guess that's just part of the training process. If it were easy, I'd already be grand-ultimate-sigong master.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Back on the rings

Well, after two months of training, I think I'm just about ready to get back to the rings. Weighted dips and pull ups have improved my strength, but I feel like I'm losing a little core strength. That could be an unwarranted misgiving since my dragon flags actually feel better now and I had no trouble holding a support on the rings with my hands turned out and my arms 45 degrees out to the sides (getting closer to that iron cross, yeah!). It might just be that I'm itching for a change and want to see if I can finally hold a decent back lever and bang out a legitimate 25-30 (over a few sets) muscle ups. So, I think it's back to the rings for a few weeks. I'll keep up the deadlifts and squats though since I'm not doing much else for lower body strength conditioning.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Back from training in NY

After my 4th I-Liq Chuan intensive, my brain still feels oversaturated after 3.5 days of training. This time I at least made it to mid Sunday before my brain felt overwhelmed with information. Now I just need to find a way to get in the necessary practice to physically manifest the concepts I learned.

On another note, I returned to my strength conditioning routine today with weighted pull ups and dips. All I can say is that my lats and upper back must be tired from the workshop because my pull ups totally sucked today. Even though I made it up to 70lbs, I was already feeling it on the warmup 45lbs set. But surprisingly, my dips felt a lot better today. I managed to get a full 5x5 set at 70 lbs on the dips. That's some encouraging progress.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Strong abs???

So, I read a T-nation article today about ab strength. I was all excited that there might be some new exercises which I've never seen before. I tried their ab strength assessment and passed the hardest level without much effort. I won't say it was cake, but it wasn't that hard. Maybe they should have added another level and made the test subject do a front lever, dragon flag, or a crank on the rings.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Training thus far

We're just about 3 weeks into the New Year.  My training has been going ok.  I've been consistent with my goal for this month of getting in at least 5 minutes of I-Liq Chuan solo drills training a day; most days, I've been getting up to 15+ minutes a day.  Sounds pretty measly right now, but I'm developing the daily habit.  And believe it or not, 15 minutes of concentrated training actually takes real effort.  I'd much prefer that I get those few minutes of attentive mindful training in rather than hours of mindless, rote training.  Add in the 10-30 minutes of meditation I've been trying to get in every day, and I'm slowly getting back to a respectable practice regimen.  All I need now is to find consistent training partners for the partner work.

My strength conditioning has been going well.  I can almost hold a front lever now; my butt still drops a little and I can't hold it much longer than a second or two.  But hey, it's a start.  I finally realized that I wasn't clamping down on my lats (and rest of the posterior chain) hard enough, which was making the front lever harder to hold.  I can almost hold a handstand on the parallelettes for 5-6s.

My deadlift and squat form is improving.  I realized that I was underutilizing my glutes (especially on the left side), which was throwing my form off a little bit.  After two weeks of correcting that, my deadlifts feel much better.  I blasted through 165lbs.  I'm still at measly 65lbs on full R.O.M. front squats for the time being until I can correct a movement imbalance.  I can feel my hips tilting just a little because my left hip/glute is not activating right.  Once I correct that, I think my squat numbers will jump pretty quickly.

I'm also really enjoying the Ironmind dip belt that Gen gave me for Christmahanukwanzikah.  I'm still stuck at 70 lbs max on the weighted pulls (60 lbs for my 5x5 sets), but I've upped my dip weight to 60 lbs.  Those 60lbs on the dips were easy today, which means I'll need to torture myself by upping the weight next week.  I think I'm struggling a bit with the weighted pulls because I just do so many pull up type exercises, and I do weighted pull ups the day after deadlifts.  My posterior chain is probably still tired from that workout when I get to the weighted pull ups.  It's hard to do them on any other day though since I need to get in my iron cross practice on the rings, and I like to have two days off from weighted pull ups and dips training the iron cross.  The iron cross is a little tough on the elbows, especially after doing weighted dips and pull ups.  Gen wisely suggested that we sit down and rejigger our workout schedule.  I need to figure out how to space out deadlifts, weighted pull ups/dips, and the iron cross training, all while trying to minimize our workout time because Gen is now teaching a heavier load this semester.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Gift of Strength

So Santa/Hannukah Harry brought me a pleasant surprise this year. Ok, maybe it wasn't a huge surprise since I did write a letter specifically requesting this gift. Anyhow, though Santa may not be in great shape, he sure does deliver on the fitness gear. I'm now the proud owner of an IronMind dipping belt. Rated for up to 1,000 lbs, I (nor any other mere human) should ever be able to break it without a chainsaw, blowtorch, and similar device of destruction. Considering that I'm struggling with a piddly little 70lbs weighted pulls/dips, it'll be a while before I'm even within an order of magnitude of straining the straps.

I've started my January logs. I know I've said it several times, but I still can't believe I've been keeping relatively complete logs of my diet and exercise for this long. I've also got my fitness goals for the year planned. I'll be getting around to writing them up at some point, but probably not tonight. I may be a little ambitious, but I think I can pull off all of my fitness goals. More later.