Jasper Roberts - Blog

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

2012-06-27 Periodization...

I re-read an article on strength training from just before I found Convict Conditioning, and it was talking about periodization. During the late 20th century the Soviet Union learned a tremendous amount about human performance. Most of the "secret techniques" of endurance training, strength training, etc. are all based on research coming out of this era. A lot of gold medals are due in good part, to scientifically planned out training regimens.

It occurred to me that perhaps much of my recent  progress has been, unbeknownst to me, due to accidentally using periodization methods. Much of what I changed involved increasing or decreasing intensity and volume, and varying these factors. Granted, my approach was completely blind and not planned out, but I think the fact that I have been varying both intensity and volume in a particular and consistent way, makes a lot of sense.

This has motivated me to study the principle more, and perhaps revisit my training plan in more detail. There are macro cycles, meso cycles, and micro cycles. I think there's something here...just need to find it. Applying the periodization to bodyweight will be very difficult, because increasing intensity is not as simple as adding another 10lb plate to a bar.

Monday, June 25, 2012

2012-06-25 The Journey and Pains...

"The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Single Step."
-Lao Tzu

If I may be so bold as to add to this wonderful quote, I would add: "...and that journey is traversed exactly one step at a time." In common language: getting your ass off the couch is the most difficult and important step, and the good news is that you need only take small steps forward consistently in order to progress.

It's interesting- today was my first day back to training after a four day rest, and I took a break from jiujitsu as well because I'm in the process of moving (up the road a bit). I've been feeling some aches and pains I haven't felt in awhile and I attribute it to simply being inactive compared to my normal. Even after my workout today my body feels much better...which led me to think......

What if there IS a downside to fitness? I mean, not a serious negative one but a downside nonetheless. That downside is that we become adapted to, and in someways, reliant on continuing in the way we do? I mean if you are a couch potato for decades you can probably feel ok unless you tweak something. Maybe that's why sedentary people are so disinclined to begin a fitness program, because it HURTS! At leats at first. The you get used to it. then you feel heavy and like something just isn't right when you DON'T workout. Anyway, these are some of the thoughts that go through my mind.

Today I worked  pullups:  6/6, 35lb weighted pullups: 5/3/3/3, 39" horizontal rows: 12/6/5. I worked squats: 15, assisted pistols: 7/6/5, 25lb weighted pistols: 2. Did neck work on the wall and also wrestlers bridges: 20

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

2012-06-20 Why?

This is bench press world record holder Ryan Kennelly, putting up 1,075 lbs. This guy is clearly a beast, and I'm sure he trains hard for these record breaking events. I'm wondering though- If a man can press more than three times his own bodyweight, then why hasn't anyone yet posted a video of a perfect one-arm pushup? In theory at least, a one-arm pushup entails pressing approximately one half one's own bodyweight with one arm. Seems like if people are pressing more than three times their bodyweight, someone should be able to press double it (equivalent for one arm pushup).

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

2012-06-19 Yes, You Can...And You Will.

So I went back and looked at my March training video and I did five three-quarter HSPU. Today, three months later, I only did four of these. Should I be depressed that I'm not making progress? Well, it's tempting, but you have to compare apples to apples. That day in March I only did one set of warmup pike pushups instead of two, and only 8 half HSPU instead of 10. Also, I finished today's HSPU work with more sets (4/3/2/1) rather than just (5/3). In addition, my rest times back then much longer and my form was worse (I bounced more and had less control). So comparing a number, it looks bad. Comparing the overall progress, in addition to how I feel, I'd say it's progress.

Regarding the power of positive thinking and those people who claim that it's a bunch of hooey I'll ask this: Tell me, using only negatives (don't, never, not, etc) how to accomplish something. You'll soon find that using only negatives, it's virtually impossible to create something. If you want to build a bridge, you'll have to start with something like "Throw the wires!", and then perhaps "Carry the lumber!". If you just started saying what NOT to do, you have one hell of a time building that bridge..."Don't throw the braided ropes!", "Don't touch the steel pipes!", "Never push the tool carts backwards!"

Think positively deep inside no matter what- even if you use sarcasm and humor to blow off steam it is critical to maintain a mindset of positivity. Research indicates that merely holding a negative thought in your mind momentarily about an undertaking is enough to throw you off.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

2012-06-16 Three Necessary Pieces of Equipment

Can you afford a $0.37 pencil and some paper? What about a used watch for $1 at a yard sale? Ok, I use a mechanical pencil, custom made spreadsheet, and a stopwatch but you get the point. Don't flounder around doing random sets of exercises in Convict Conditioning and then give up two months later because you can't get past certain hurdles, or don't see any results. This also applies in life by the way. Have a plan, man.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

2012-06-14 Try New Things

Ever know someone who, when they ate ice cream, would only eat chocolate ice cream and would never try any other flavor, ever? Not strawberry, not vanilla, not rocky road or anything else? Pretty sad way to live, in my opinion.

Convict Conditioning bodyweight strength training principles are awesome, but what's wrong with occasionally trying out some other exercises once in awhile to learn some things? Nothing, that's what.

Today I worked pushups, leg lifts, and calves. I tried some dragon flags and was shocked at how easily i could do them (not the most perfect form mind you). I remember trying this exercise a couple years ago and it was impossible. I'm not convinced that they optimally work the areas I'm trying to work right now, so I'll put this flavor on the back burner for a while.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

2012-06-13 Convict Conditioning "Gear"

The beautiful thing about Convict Conditioning is that aside from a pullup bar, you really don't need any "gear" or equipment- at least not for the first year of training. Even then, we're talking about maybe adding weight, but you certainly don't need to.

One topic I've mentioned many, many times is consistency. Consistency is king, and if you don't have a way to measure your progress then you're just sort of randomly working out-and that's ok...but you won't know what your progress is.

Enter the lowly yoga block. This thing kicks ass as a consistent way to monitor and measure your progress on handstand pushups. It's lightweight, cheap, transportable, and durable. Many "Handstand Pushups" that you see on youtube (not all but many) are closer to half HSPU, or if the head touches, then the hands are very wide. I advcoate simply being consistent in what you do so you kow if you're getting stronger or not....and you will when you're consistent in your methodology.

Monday, June 11, 2012

2012-06-11 A Solid Foundation

They say that the most important part of any structure is a good, solid foundation. This applies to almost everything in life, perhaps because if you have poor foundation and you later encounter problems with a different component, then repairing the newly found problem doesn't fix your more fundamental problem. In the case of strength training, building a weak foundation consists of developing poor technique and poor training practices which increase the likelihood of injury and also slow the pace of potential progression.

If you've never lifted heavy weights before and you wanted to start, I think it's safe to say that you'd be smart to start off with weights that aren't so heavy and get a feel for that first. Then as you learn how to use them safely and effectively, you can start adding heavier weight. It's just the smart thing to do.

With bodyweight training, we're also building a foundation- a base. Sure there is muscle development, prime movers getting stronger and bigger. But there is a lot more going on with calisthenics. You're developing balance and all the smaller connective tissue elements associated with integrated body movement that just don't come into play as much with non-calisthenic exercises. If you can military press your bodyweight, why can't you walk on your hands? If you already can, what's different?

The foundation is important, but it is just the beginning. There is more to build on top of that base. I have learned and digested the most important elements of the Convict Conditioning approach and will continue on the path. However, as I mentioned before I am adding the use of weights as needed, to help progression in the program. The primary exercise where I am implementing this is in pullups. My goal by the end of the year is to do a one-arm pullup. The bottom line is that getting there from what I can see, will be easier if I use some weight (which I do happen to have access to).

Another sidetrack of help is what I call associated exercises. For example, I am now doing dips on my pushup days. I am quickly transitioning to weighted dips too. I believe these will help me in reaching the goal of the one-arm pushup (strict CC style).

I believe it's important to make the bodyweight progam the major focus, and use weights and associated exercises only as add-ons to your normal calisthenics training.

Today I did full pullups: 8/8, then 35lb. weighted pullups: 4/3/2/1, then 45 degree horizontal pulls: 20/20/20. I reached my goal on this step which is more high endurance work, so I'm moving the bar down from the #5 slot on the Smith machine to the #4. My plan is to keep moving it down until I can do three sets of 30 horizontal pulls from hip height (CC step #2), which I have yet to see anybody post on youtube.

I worked squats: full squats: 15, then assisted pistols: 7/6/5/5, and finished with one free-standing pistol on each leg holding a 30lb weight. I recommend doing assisted pistols with a rope and handle attached to a wall. What I've found is that assisted pistols allow for greater volume. One-leg squats are a lot of damn weight to press while you're maintaining balance and engaging a hundred other body parts. The assist allows for more presses. Don't do them exclusively, but implement them as needed to build volume.

A new approach I feel good about is to do a fairly easy to moderate warm-up, rest 2-4 minutes, then hit the hard resistance work in a LaFay approach of minimal rest time (30 sec.) between sets, rest 2-4 minutes, and then move to lower resistance higher rep work. This method is working really, really well for me.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

2012-06-07 Surprising Yourself

This video is an example of a "Dragon Flag", not perfect but I just pulled it off Youtube to illustrate the exercise for those who don't know it. And it's probably more exciting for most readers of this blog to watch some girl in tight pants doing the exercise than to watch me.

I remember trying to do a Dragon Flag last year and forget it. Not even close. I forgot about this exercise for a long time, and then tried it today. I did three pretty easily. That surprised the crap out of me. And it's proof positive that Convict Conditioning ab work is effective.

I did pushups today and blasted through things that were difficult only a couple weeks ago. I'm still lowering a bar and doing one arm work off that. It's working. I also switched up some volume, so that I did a moderate to easy warmup, then hit the hard work with low reps and a bunch of sets with minimal rest (30 seconds), then finished up with easier steps (lower stress) but higher reps. So far this approach is pushing me into amazingly successful territory.

Finally, I couldn't help laughing at this (this one's for you Mrs. Bednar):

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

2012-06-06 Major New Intermediate Step

I've spouted the positive benefits of bridges for a year now, and I've diligently worked the bridge steps. I've completed (or nearly completed) the Convict Conditioning bridge steps 1-6, and began walkdown and walkup work. Those are killers. But I've been feeling stalled lately and not feeling like my back has really been getting stronger or that I've been making real progress on getting to the CC Bridge Step 10.

Enter the Back Extension (see picture above). This (like other calisthenics) are cautioned against doing incorrectly. So please do your due diligence in researching the parameters and safety aspects of this exercise. For me it's like night and day. My back is fired up and I just know this is the bodyweight exercise to get me through to stand-to-stands. I'll continue bridge work, probably mainly with holding the bridge pose. Perhaps test a walkdown or walkup here and there. Bridging has been rough on my knee so I'm concerned something weird is going on there. Plus, bridging just isn't working my back anymore like it used to. Therefore, I'm inserting the Back Extension into the steps.

Today I went for a progression standard pass on Half HSPU, but failed. I'll come back to them some day, but I'm moving forward with 3/4 HSPU work and still playing with static holds. I was able to do four 3/4 HSPU which is the highest number I've ever done. Sounds like progress to me- especially considering it is not an exercise NOT to do to failure. I'm seeing that the hardest part of a HSPU is at the lowest position where you head is just barely off the floor.

Monday, June 4, 2012

2012-06-04 Personal Discoveries

From the beginning I loved the Convict Conditioning approach to bodyweight strength training because of the simplicity, the progressive nature, and the Zen-like quality of minimal equipment. As I slowly rise to the higher levels, it becomes increasingly difficult to continue consistently progressive resistance- especially with one arm work.  Intermediate work exercises become much harder to find and perform. Going from pullups to one arm pullups for example is extremely difficult. You are doubling the force. Yes, there is the archer pullup and the uneven pullup, etc. The simple truth for me however, is that while I love the simplicity of no equipment, I am not limited to no weight or equipment. I'm not actually in a jail cell. I bring this up because I've read that weighted pullups are the way to go if your goal is a one-arm pullup. I do have access to weight at home and work so I'm going to experiment with this. I'll still work other stuff but I want to try this and see what happens. I've been stuck doing 2 or 3 archer pullups for a couple months. I need something else.

I also found out that having just a slight assist on pistol squats is a humongous help in doing more reps per set. I'll be using this key find a lot more. I used a gymnastic handle attached to the wall and it made one leg squats so much easier, which I suspect is partially psychological because I barely pulled on the rope at all, and when I did it was perpendicular to the wall which doesn't buy you anything for vertical help- just balance.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

2012-06-03 Avenger Strong

Had a decent workout today even though it feels like it's slow progress and feels like I'm missing sessions. I did three hours of Aikido Saturday and then taught my two hour Combat Systema class. After a burger and a beer (and a milkshake) I almost passed out suddenly from exhaustion.

I warmed up with two sets of 10 full pushups, two sets of 10 close pushups, then sets of lever pushups: 6/5/4/3. Then sets of dips (feet on a chair): 16/10. I did calf raises: bent double and straight double: 35/35, then single bent and single straight: 10/10. Finished with flat leg raises: 10, then hanging knee raises: 10, and sets of hanging full leg raises (CC step 10): 6/6/6. Got some new ideas for Convict Conditioning in the future. I think dragon flags are harder than leg raises so I'll be starting on those soon no doubt. Also, holding weight with pistol squats looks interesting. And static holds....oh yes, lots of static holds (at several ranges of motion). That is another secret, and one reason why going SLOW in the work has such value. I'm also doing some plyometric stuff, but have to keep coming back to slow work.

Went to see The Avengers tonight. If a movie is entertainment, I was entertained. Amazing special effects. A little better than what I had growing up.