Jasper Roberts - Blog

Thursday, March 29, 2012

2012-03-29 Understanding The Bounce Back

The what? Ok, I'm talking about the two steps forward and one step back idea. I've written about this before, but I'm starting to get a really solid understanding of it and I now see it as an inherent part of CC training. You see, I got to a certain level on half-HSPU and hit a wall. I had been doing three-quarter HSPU challenge work all along a little bit, so I transitioned to the three-quarter work before I could pass the progression standard for half-HSPU (legitimately). Then I just used half-HSPU as a warmup and worked hard on three-quarter HSPU until I recently hit another wall. I decided to 'bounce' back to half-HSPU and hit them hard and try to pass the progression standard. I can confidently report that  I did two sets of 16. The felt way stronger than before, and no kidding, why wouldn't they because my strength level is higher now from working the three-quarters. My endurance will now be working a little more, but with my increased strength, any increase in endurance should put me at the level necessary to do two sets of 20 half-HSPU.

From there it's a bounce back to three quarter HSPU with full HSPU challenge work. I am also investigating doing early steps as challenge work- meaning that the challenge lies in the endurance part of it more than the strength part. Gotta be something there, still need to validate it though.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

2012-03-28 Grey Areas and Super-Strong Mutant Babies

So there's this bizarre story I found out about that only one or maybe several babies in the world recently born, have some sort of irregular myostatin blocking genetics ( http://tinyurl.com/89yqqfl ) which causes massive increases in muscular development (no word on whether that includes connective tissue and tendons, etc though I am assuming it does). One youngster is named Liam Hoekstra, and there were some documentary videos on him awhile back available on Youtube. However, I suspect that a couple of those "Worlds Strongest Toddlers" you see doing high reps of HSPU are also likely "suffering" from the same genetic condition. If you've ever seen that picture going around the Internet of the super-jacked black dog, it is real, and has actually be genetically modified to have the same condition with as much as 40% more muscle mass than an average dog of the same species. ( http://tinyurl.com/64tfcw7). I'm not exactly excited about this, because although it could be used to look for cures to diseases like muscular dystrophy, there's no doubt it will be abused by many people and athletes. Be that as it may, perhaps one of these toddlers will grow up to be the first to demonstrate a quality one-arm handstand pushup.....

Grey areas are everywhere in life. One thing I've always loved about Convict Conditioning is that it takes a lot of the grey area out of strength training and lays down a very systematized and methodical way to progressively increase strength. The "Big Six" and Ten Steps is pretty far from grey area...at least at the beginning. As you progress however, you will likely find that there are challenges moving up to higher levels. Hopefully, the knowledge you've gained about your own body will help you by the time you reach this point. This will help you through the grey areas that start to show up, even within a fairly air-tight approach like Convict Conditioning.

Monday, March 26, 2012

2012-03-26 Come Back to It (Some Thoughts on CC Progression)

Let's say you're able to do only 10 repetitions of step 7 of a particular Convict Conditioning exercise. It's hypothetical, so don't worry about what specific exercise I'm talking about. Now, let's say that for kicks you try some challenge work and find you're also able to do one solid rep of the next step (step 8). So you continue working step 7 and after what feels like a good number of weeks or months you increase your reps on step 7, but are just never able to pass the progression standard of 20 reps. What now?

Well, I'll tell you what now. If you're always doing some challenge work you are getting stronger, not only gaining more endurance. You want endurance, but you also want strength. Granted sometimes you aren't even able to do one rep of the next step, but there are always intermediate steps you can find or invent. Point is, if you reach a wall in reps, start working the challenge work more. Then come back to the work step more intensely after your strength has increased. You're increased strength is not endurance, but it will help give you a bump. Working your endurance with the bump in strength may be just what you need to allow you to reach the progression standard, and officially move to the next step. This has been one of my secrets of progression. I spent months on horizontal pulls and though I felt 'pumped' after the work, I didn't feel much stronger. So I began challenge work, and kept coming back to the lower step. Now I'm able to do more reps of the lower step. If I focus on it, my new-found strength and a return to the higher endurance levels should put me in a position to pass the CC progression standard.

I'm currently working an intermediate step on pushups- it's a one-arm pushup from 39". I'm up to two sets of 12 and considering that maybe 15 reps is enough to start on the next intermediate step. I did uneven pushups and then found I couldn;t come close to doing even one half-one-arm pushup.

I think it's a balance of strength and endurance. Warmup, do your work sets, then do some challenge work. Then come back to the progression standard you found impossible months earlier.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

2012-03-24 Get Off Your Ass !

Taking the day off from training I think, due to a few too many drinks last night. It's a rare event at my age, but even so it was pretty tame.

This is a picture of my new setup at work. They say obesity, diabetes, back problems, and joint problems are at ridiculously high levels in a country that supposedly is at the height of technological innovation. We're killing ourselves by sitting so much. A relatively new trend is the "sit/stand" desk, but they tend to be expensive. Here's a cheap alternative, with my laptop up high for when I feel like working standing up, and a regular setup for when I feel like sitting down. Really looking forward to seeing how it goes. With my one hour commute each way to work, followed by a full day at the office, I'm absolutely sick of sitting so much. Even with CC and walking around a bit, and martial arts, and teaching, I still feel like it's not enough to combat all the sitting I do. Hence, I present the stand up work station for my office.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

2012-03-24 The Fraction of a Percent

Convict Conditioning is not for everyone. Rather, I should say that it IS for everyone, it's just that not everyone is willing to commit to something so austere. What I've learned in the roughly eleven months of Convict Conditioning is that progress does come with diligence, but it is slow. If you stay with CC for a year in a committed fashion then you are undoubtedly among a very small percentage of people out there.

Today I worked HSPU and BRG. I did sets of  three-quarter HSPU: 3/3/3. Even a couple weeks ago I was doing sets of 5/5 so it seems like I've lost strength, however I'm not convinced it's that simple. The human body is non-linear. The human body is not a lifeless machine. The human body is multifaceted and in direct connection to the mind, and it actually does work in mysterious ways. Looking back over my training log it's easy to get discouraged until you examine the details. I'm beginning to see some little secrets of progress, such as when I hit a wall with a step, I can back up to the previous step and hit that one even harder. After all, I'm working three-quarters partially because I hit a wall on max reps in Half HSPU. So now I'll go back and try to break the Half HSPU progression standard. We'll see how that goes.

I worked sets of walk-down bridges: 7/7, and my back feels pretty strong. Just read about an 89 year old guy who did a one-arm pullup. Yeah. Long way to go. Shout out to my CC brother Wes....

Thursday, March 22, 2012

2012-03-22 Dig In And Face It

If you have never been five feet from a lion getting ready to feed, then drop everything and buy tickets to your zoo, or go on a safari or something. Words cannot even begin to describe the feeling of staring at a living, breathing, massive, muscular animal pacing back an forth baring it's teeth and looking around in anticipation. The look in it's eyes let's you know absolutely and unequivocally that you are NOT the most powerful creature walking this earth, at least not right here and right now, the only time it ever counts. It's visceral and it is truly awesome, and you thank God for those inch and a half diameter steel bars separating that majestic creature from you.

An odd prelude perhaps for today's workout blog, but it's form my heart.

Today was pullup/neck/squat day, one of the harder days- although it's getting to the point where every workout is hard. Pullups are tough, unless you're 25 years old, ripped like a maniac, and work pullups all the time they are at least challenging on some level. For me they evoke memories of trying to pull ,myself up a 25 ft. rope as a kid and leaves a pit in my stomach.

I felt strong on my pullup work today, every single warmup pullup was chest-above-bar. When I got to my work sets (archer pullups) it was slow go. I did however manage to get in some uneven pullups grabbing my biceps instead of my wrist. try those, they are harder than normal "unevens". And they feel soooo close ot the one arm pullup, it's a little ego boost. Uneven squats coming along- banged out sets of 6/6 today.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

2012-03-21 Pushing Past Boundaries

Sometimes the only thing driving me in this big Convict Conditioning experiment is seeing myself move past boundaries that once constrained me. As you've seen from previous posts, it's not all progress all the time every time. You take them as they come and you keep going anyway. Today I worked one arm pushups from at 39" bar. My work set felt about the same as last time (not encouraging), but when I leaned over and did my 35" challenge set it was way easier than before (encouraging). And I guarantee I could not even do one of these some months ago. Proof positive of pushing past boundaries. (Almost a full alliteration there). Gotta post video soon to show this exercise. I also worked LL and calves. Coming along, especially on calves- my calf size has definitely increased and it's interesting.

By the way, I started working a challenge exercise which I highly recommend: The one-arm pushup position hold. Get down into pushup position, ankles touching, body straight as a board, and put one arm behind your back. Now hold that unwavering perfect position for as long as you can without losing form. I'm progressing and working at 0:35 right now. Give it a try and let me know what it feels like. Better yet, post video or pics.

Monday, March 19, 2012

2012-03-19 Hitting a Wall

Feel like I lost a tournament. Feeling humbled and mildly depressed and I have low energy today. I'm hoping it's because yesterday was psychologically draining (got some business stuff going on at home), and because I didn't eat enough this morning, and because I didn't get enough sleep. Still, I'm sort of making excuses. Whereas last week I did work sets of three-quarter HSPU: 5/4, today I could only squeeze out 3/3. Pathetic. What can I do though? It is what it is, and I definitely feel human today. At least on walkdown bridges I was able to put my hands flat on the ground before touching my head- never did that before.

Still, my cardio sucks. Jumping rope for a few minutes feels like crap. Something to start working on I guess.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Taking A Moment For Some Inspirational Words...

Occasionally I look online for inspiration, sometimes to see what other CC folks are doing or what other bodyweight athletes are into, tips, ideas, etc. While browsing reddit the other day I came across a post by "roughneck". He replied to my  message and it blew me away at how awesome it was. This applies to more than Convict Conditioning, it applies to life. I asked him for permission to put his words up on my blog and here they are. Take note.

"From my perspective, it's a tough step but one people have to make. Without honestly knowing where you're at, you can't know where to go or how to get there. I believe some people are scared of that knowledge because it's contrary to there self image. Or maybe they're afraid they might not pick themselves up from the experience, I don't know. I do know that it's hard to really look at yourself, warts and all. What I hope people understand is that you can have bad habits and it doesn't make you a bad person. You're just candidly human, frail and fallible.
After the reality check, the questions become simple: Are you going to do something about it? Will you try? That's all you have to do, try. Those three little letters are the hard part though. You have to truthfully try, not kinda try. And you have to be honest about it. You are going to make mistakes, it will happen. Hell, I screw-up all the time. But you don't quit. You get up and try again. You haven't actually failed till you quit.
Finding this tidbit of awesomeness randomly on the internet is quite simply, magical. thank you roughneck. Keep doing what you're doing and inspire others my friend.

2012-03-15 Lowering of The Bar

If you train Convict Conditioning you know that at the upper level steps of pushups you are supposed to go from uneven pushups to half one-arm pushups. This is a mighty, might task and one I found almost impossible. If you've followed this blog you also know that I created intermediate steps which involve doing one arm pushup work at increasingly lower and lower levels, with the hope of eventually reaching the ground. I am now including some new static holds which I'll discuss later, but suffice it to say that I usually use a surface or a bar of some sort, positioned at a specific height to do my work.

Doing my pushup routine today which involved pushing one-armed from a bar set at 39" I noticed how much easier it had become. Lowering of the bar is one tactic in an arsenal to master the CC pushup Master Step.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2012-03-14 Positioning is Crucial

Yes, that's a yoga block. It could just as well be some other inanimate object but I like the block because it has different heights depending on how you lay it on the ground. If you want a definitive distance for some level of HSPU you can use the block. I call Half-HSPU using the tallest position of the block. For consistency it aint a rep unless my nose touches that block. What you see in the video is what I call Three-Quarter HSPU. I am working these with the hope of  completing the Half HSPU progression standard and eventually the Full HSPU standard. From there I may use the blocks on both hands to allow an even further range of motion. The applicability is crazy.

What I noticed today was that hand position is crucial. If the hands are too wide, the exercise is easier and you don't go down as far. If they're closer it's harder. I solved that dilemma by using a sharpie marker on the floor. Otherwise it gets frustrating.

Today was HSPU work, bridges, and some CoC grippers. They seem to be helping my golfer's elbow get better. Go figure.

Monday, March 12, 2012

2012-03-12 Staring At The Bar

Go ahead and look up at it. Face it. Stare at it. Feel that pit in your stomach grow as it laughs at you, knowing you'll crumple after only a handful of repetitions lifting yourself up to greet it face to face. The doubt and the weakness. The pain. The fear. These are the images and feelings that often go through my head. The one arm-pullup represents mastery of this fear in my opinion, which is part of the reason I seek the accomplishment. Maybe I should stare back and yell at that bar. Sometimes all I have is my faith. Faith in my consistency. That through consistency I will triumph over my weakness.

Today was slow going on pullup progression, but small steps are still steps. I warmed up with 8 full and 8 close. Then did archer pullups: 2 full/3 half/3 half. I did one rep of one arm negative (hard), and finished with 18 horizontal pulls. Did neck work, then did sets of uneven squats: 6/5.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

2012-03-11 Hurry Up!

I had a limited time window to train today because of things I had to do today, but I made it work. Finished my routine in about 30 minutes. I tried going from one exercise to another with almost no rest in between and it worked ok. I did 10 full pushups, 10 close, then sets of 35" bar pushups: 5/4/6. each leg. I finished with a 30 second one arm pushup position hold each arm. Went on to 10 flat leg raises, then did a set of 30 second single standing leg raises. For calves I did sets of bent and straight leg raises: 45/45. I would do pushups, then right after I did calves, then leg lifts, etc. Working different parts of the body it's easier to have much shorter rest periods.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

2012-03-10 Bridges Strengthen the Knees

A lot of people only work part of the Convict Conditioning "Big Six". That's too bad because even three or four reps takes almost no time at all, and done consistently WILL give returns. On the occasions that I've worked bridges a little too hard I feel it in my knees....or my hamstrings. Point is, bridges are very good for you and they don't just strengthen the spine. They work a lot more. If you're leaving out bridges, simply go to step one or two and do five reps, one set. Do that for two months and then up it with a few challenge step repetitions. You might get addicted when you start feeling your back muscles buried deep near the spine.

Today I warmed up with 10 pike pushups and 10 half-HSPU. I did sets of three-quarter HSPU: 4/4. I finished with a 45 second HS hold. Going forward I'll need to back down on the warmups so I have energy for the three-quarter HSPU. This exercise takes skill and sick strength done properly. I warmed up for bridge work with two sets 10 full bridges then did sets of walk-down bridges: 6/5. Same thing here, I need to back down a bit on the warm ups so I have more energy. This is however, an opportunity to work the warmup exercises more slowly, deliberately, and mindfully. On the advice of Paul Wade I am resting my grip to help my Golfer's Elbow heal....mostly. I find that using CoC grippers doesn't hurt at all. If it doesn't hurt it can't be that bad. Plus, I'm not pushing it hard just trying to stay in the game.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

2012-03-08 It's in the DOWN.....

Today I warmed up with two sets of 8 full pullups, then did sets of archer pullups: 2/3/2 going full/half/half. I finished with 16 horizontal pulls. Did some neck work a la CC2, then worked squats. Warmup: 10 full SQT, 10 close SQT, then two sets of 5 uneven squats. Let me say that again- I did two sets of five uneven squats. When I began I could maybe possibly do one and it would be dangerous and hurt. Now I own them, or at least 2x5 of them. The key, the trick is in the down portion. To master one leg squats you MUST control the movement down as well as up. This is how Convict Conditioning is key to one leg squat development. This is the secret. If you bounce, you cheat. If you cheat, you risk injury. Don't risk injury.
For those wanting extra challenge, try doing a one leg squat (uneven squat) with you arms outstretched to your sides and back straight.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

2012-03-07 Super Busy

At work it has been ridiculously busy- I have multiple critical jobs which are impossible to do in time. But I still need to eat.... and I still need to get in some exercise a la CC unless the company wants to pay for my admission to a psychiatric hospital.  Enjoy the walkdown bridges. Today was actually pushups and LL. Coming along, seeing my strength increase....I can see that one arm pushup with perfect form happening in another year or two.

By the way, I challenge you to try HOLDING a perfect one-arm pushup in the 'up' (arm extended) position for 30 seconds and get back to me on how easy it was (no twisting, ankles touching, body in perfect form). Cue devilish laugh.

Monday, March 5, 2012

2012-03-05 Magic and Feats of Strength

I was listening to a radio program about magic. The speaker (a magician) was listing a bunch of different books available on tricks and methods and it occurred to me how silly it is that people are astounded by tricks. Because if they really wanted to know how to do the trick, they could just go to the bookstore and read about how it's done. Of course that's not the point, I think maybe people on some level enjoy being surprised and don't want to 'ruin' it by finding out how the trick is done.

It seems a little bit similar for doing things like one arm pushups and one arm pullups, planches, stand-to-stand bridges and hand stand pushups. Only a minority of people can do these things and sometimes they appear almost magical. The training methods and tricks of the trade are out there but very few people pursue the secrets, research them, practice them and master the 'tricks'. Others can sit back and be astounded.

Today I worked HSPU and bridges. Coming along slowly. I do not recommend pushing it too hard on HSPU unless you want a broken neck. I dabbled with the hanging grip work again but then backed off-not ready yet since the elbow is still sore. Decided to do three minutes of jump rope, that is killer let me tell you.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

2012-03-01 Establish Your Rules

I was speaking with someone a number of years ago and I was saying how if I brought donuts into my office every Friday for a few weeks, and then stopped, that nobody had the right to complain because I was doing something very generous and I had no obligation to do so anyway. My friend said that this was not the case. He said that the fact that I had established the practice of bringing in donuts was sufficient enough reason for people to expect it every Friday. At first I argued vehemently against it. Later however I relented and now I agree with my friend. The fact is, for better or for worse, what you set down as rule by your actions is what people will come to expect. They may hate you for it or love you for it depending on what it is, but you have established that behavior. The same goes for working out at lunch, or after work, or whatever. Many people say they "don’t have time". In fact in one poll thta was taken, I read that "having no time" was the number one reason why people did not exercise. People who regularly train know this is silly. You find a way to make time for things in life that are important. If they are not important to you, then you will not find time for them it's as simple as that.

I say, establish the seemingly impossible. Eventually people will come to know you as the guy who goes for a run at lunch, or the person who does pushups on his coffee break, or the guy who does pullups for fifteen minutes before work. As long as you are respectful and humble and responsible, there won’t be a problem. People respect those who establish rules for themselves and stick to them. Sticking to them being the most important part.

Today I warmed up with  two sets of full pullups 7/7, then did archer pullups: 2/2/2. The last two sets were half pullups. I did CC2 neck work and then squats: uneven squats 5/4 and one set of squatted pistols.