Jasper Roberts - Blog

Thursday, January 31, 2013

2013-01-31 Time For Goal Setting and Review

It's almost February 2013, and if you haven't done so already you should have some goals set. For this blog, I'm specifically talking about bodyweight training, though you'd be a loser if you had zero life goals outside exercising.

In early 2012 I set goals to accomplish by the end of 2012, so let's see how they turned out and what I learned:

-Lever Pushups (1). On this I kicked ass, because I'm doing two sets of six. however, my understanding of the lever pushup is different. It's more realistic I think. I still haven't made it to half one-arm pushups yet...those are coming soon. My goal for end of 2013: one full CC style one-arm pushup.

-One-Arm Pullups (1). I failed hard on this, but I underestimated the time it takes to train for it and the degree of difficulty. I'm re-setting my goal to do one by the end of 2013.

-One Leg Squats (2x10). I failed on this goal but I also dropped my motorcycle on my ankle in September. I am back on track though, and yesterday I did two sets of 6. I'm close. End of year goal for these is 2x20.

-Half One-Arm HSPU (1). Failed on this too, but again underestimated how difficult it is. plus let's be honest- this is a little too ambitious. HSPU work is feeling strong again, so my goal for end of 2013 is one set of 10 full HSPU. I'm only doing like 4 max now, so this is tough. Also highly depends on hand position. We'll see.

-One arm towel hang (60 sec.) Big fail here, but also too ambitious. I'm not convinced that hanging for time alone is enough to increase grip strength. Therefore I will be looking to do other grip methods this year in addition to the hanging work. Goal for end of this year will be 20 seconds one arm towel hang.

-Closing bridge into HS hold (1). Failed on this too, and yet again I was over-ambitious. I'm still working walkdown and walkup bridges plus inverted leg raises, so I'll need some time. Also need to up my HSPU level. I'll keep this same goal for end of this year, but I'll have to start trying the closing bridge. I want to do it safely and not land on my head.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

2013-01-30 Making Gains, Busting Plateaus

I've been suspecting that another way to bust through plateaus is to focus more on range of motion. I got a tip to try using my parallets to improve my reps on the HSPU. And guess what? I'm feeling gains with this approach immediately! I know it sounds crazy to say immediately, but it's true. There is something very useful here.
Yes, there's still the half-HSPU and the three-quarter-HSPU, but using the parallets to do pike pushups allows a much larger range of motion for the general HSPU movement. Feeling strong today. I was able to keep my body from falling over backwards in the HSPU position. I'm pretty confident that when I begin honestly doing unsupported handstand work I'm not going to have much trouble (also because I'm doing inverted leg raises as my main bridge work).

Monday, January 28, 2013

2013-01-28 Helping Others

A co-worker in the gym asked to "follow along" with what I was doing today- we'd seen each other in the gym three times a week for like a year or more. I said "sure, but I'll give you easier exercises to work the same body areas because I've been doign this for almost two years." To his credit he has been cosistent and active, and doing a lot of stretching- keeping his body in motion. Of course, with Convict Conditioning, it's much stricter and you have to be obsessive about record keeping. So I sent him links to the CC book and to my article (http://tinyurl.com/bcgxp83). We'll see how it goes!

Today felt pretty easy. I rested a lot over the weekend and it felt damn good. This may mean that I'm ready to kick the intensity up a notch. I'm also feeling better in my ankle and shoulder almost immediately after doing some amazing new stretches last night. It's work some call "Somatics", healing exercises based on fascia lines, and in my estimation it's like magic. I'm sure to return to talking about this stuff later on.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

2013-01-24 Human Achievement

While you and I sit comfortably in our office chairs, body slowly wasting away into nothingness, other humans demonstrate the extreme strength and capabilities that exist within all of us at various levels.

I have it on good authority from one of my martial arts teachers that there indeed exists men who can do the one finger handstand hold. This video I found shows what that looks like, if the video is real -which I believe it is. Absolutely awesome.

Meanwhile, today I did my meager workout of Pullups, HSPU, Neck Work, and Squats. I'm doing pike pushups to warmup, then three-quarter HSPU, then full HSPU, then half HSPU (Sound familiar from my last post on non-linear training?) I'm doing the same thing with pullups: regular full pullups, 50lb weighted pullups, 25lb weighted pullups, Horizontal pulls. My main work is in the middle, and I finish with slightly easier work. Seems to be working so far, though everything has limits. It's then a matter of navigating around those new obstacles.

By the way, I made a huge realization in pistol work (one leg squats), and today I did two sets: 6/5. I'll probably have to post a video to explain it fully, but it is much easier and (I believe) safer to do pistols if you first bend the squatting-leg-side hip back and extend the knee forward a bit, rather than simply dropping straight down as you would for barbell squats or body weight squats. Pay more attention to what your damn knee is doing throughout the exercise! There are some mechanical tricks to this exercise....but it still requires strong legs and knees, no way around that.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

2013-01-23 Non-Linear Progressions

What is non-linear progression? Well, LINEAR progression would be something like this: Jan1 - lift 50lbs; Feb 1-lift 60lbs; March 1-lift 70lbs; etc. It's a relatively straightforward concept. With linear training you keep slowly adding resistance (and/or repetitions) and hope to get stronger. Overall it's a wonderful approach. I've used this basic concept for a while....until I started to hit plateaus.

You may reach a point where you're finally able to do two pullups (let's say), but then five months later you're still only able to do two pullups, even with consistent training. It does happen, though this example of regular pullups is a little silly. You may reach a plateau, and in fact likely will if you train long enough.

I started doing something I call Non-Linear Progressions, which is a fancy way of saying that I work up linearly in an exercise, but I am also working lower level exercises. No, not just warmups. I do sets of high tension work and also higher rep sets of slightly easier tension exercises. This works. I have broken through many plateaus using this method. The other interesting thing is that when you end up going back to some lower level exercises, it is surprisingly easy to maintain excellent form and hit nice, high reps.

Give it a try if you get stuck.

Monday, January 21, 2013

2013-01-21 Something is Better Than Nothing

I had a big meeting at 1:00pm today so I had to cut my workout a bit short. I considered not training today....but then I figured something was better than nothing. I'm not really injured and I'm not horribly tired, so why give up?
Instead of three sets I just went through two. And I'll talk in greater detail about my approach...it's "non-linear"

Thursday, January 17, 2013

2013-01-17 Navigating Around Injuries

I've been very lucky with injuries. While friends around me in various martial arts have endured near-death illnesses, knee surgery, shoulder surgery, stomach problems, knee surgery again, hip surgery, fractures, and concussions...I'm happy to have only separated both my shoulders, taken ten stitches to the forehead, and sprained the hell out of an ankle. All in all, I'm grateful.
This blog is about progressive calisthenics- slowly building up your reps and resistance over time. You must give your body time to deal with the micro-trauma that you impose upon it by this kind of training. As it heals it gets stronger. If you push it too hard, or fall, or just make a mistake somehow then you need to take a step back and re-evaluate.  Ignoring your body, hoping to just "tough it out" can have bad consequences for your long term training. Perhaps in a tournament, and certainly in a life-and-death situation you may need to ignore pain and injury. But day-to-day training? Ignoring pains in this case is stupid.
Experiment and read and learn. You may need to take time off completely, or you might be able to continue training a particular exercise, just modified.
Today for example, I did pushup work with a sore right shoulder. As I moved slowly down and slowly up I paid strict attention to the offending body area. Going slowly and breathing helped a lot. Instead of a quick warmup and then getting down to business with lever pushups today, I decided to do twenty regular full, two-handed pushups from 33" (incline pushups). These are only CC Step 2 but they are excellent for pumping blood and fluids into the shoulder and for working through the exercise at a lower level of intensity. I did do a few lever pushups for my main work, but watched myself carefully- taking care not to exacerbate the offending tweaks I felt inside the shoulder. I finished these sets with another twenty rep set of incline pushups, this time at 22".
My advice is to do what you can if the injury is just peeking it's head up, and be patient. If it gets worse, then rest. If it starts to go away, ease back into higher stress slowly.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

2013-01-16 Misconceptions

I got this video from "My Mad Methods". What I love about the dude in the video is that he's not what you'd call a "big" guy. In fact, he's more on the skinny side. So yeah, it may be easier for him to do things like HSPU, but checkout the THREE kettlebell press. The guy is STRONG regardless of size.
So in general, while being bigger usually means stronger being smaller is not the limitation you may think.
Today I worked HSPU, pullups, neck, and squats. Kicking ass. I did two sets of five pistols. You read that right! :)
I will be selling some cool T-shirts on the blog soon, keep an eye out.

Monday, January 14, 2013

2013-01-14 Current Status, Plus the Ultimate Secret of Martial Arts

After completing two sets of 15 full bridges many months ago, I have been doing the walkdown and walkup bridge work. It's going well. Slow, but well. I experimented today with something that I think may hold real value- not only for CC and bridging, but for other things too. It's called the inverted leg raise. This is a gold nugget.

Onto other things on my mind...I attended a seminar last weekend, let's call it a martial arts seminar although it's sort of "bodywork". It had to do with "internal power", etc. Before you dismiss it as nonsense, I'd say it's a semantics problem and a language barrier this 'internal' and 'external' stuff. Developing proper structure for doing whatever it is you are doing with your body is important. So is proper tension, strength, and relaxation of the various parts of the body at correct times and in correct sequences to achieve your goals. And that's basically what I've been saying all along.
You also need some strategy and some skills (attributes). You need to be physically healthy and strong and have a calm mind under stress. When you know your body well and understand how to move all parts of it with perfect efficiency you pretty much understand the "secret" to at least the physical part of martial arts. Of course, getting there is the difficult part. You're on your own there. But I believe that if you have an open mind, just start looking and you will eventually find what you're looking for.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

2013-01-10 Fun From Vacation

After a 3.2 mile hike, above the Napali Coast in Kauai, HI.

Truth be told, I rested a lot on my vacation. I did do some photo-ops for the blog here but I wasn't really doing anything too difficult. The views and scenic wonders were incredibly beautiful. 

Way-back situp.

Halfway up.
All the way up and chilling.

If you fall off that railing you have about 3,000 feet to go before you hit ground. Then there's the ocean and the nearly inaccessible beach below.

How convenient. A tree with a pullup branch. Check out that view!

Earlier on, checking my V-sit capacity. I'm looking a little too relaxed on these.
Maybe some weights next time?

And I wouldn't be a proper blogger without some video. I asked my beautiful, patient, and loving wife to shoot some video of me fooling around with some calisthenics. Here on the hotel balcony...

And the best of my best, this HSPU. After about a week and a half of sitting on my ass relaxing, I managed my BEST headstand-to-handstand yet! Complete control, easy press-up, and controlled descent into a roll. Check out that rainbow in the background!

Looking forward to another great year of training, learning, teaching, and growing.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2013-01-09 Very Excited For This New Year

I am finally back from vacation, and back to work. Vacations were meant to be savored, not last forever. It was a wonderful and exciting and relaxing time. Eventually however, without the struggle of life things begin to become meaningless. Life, in my opinion, is about growth and the building of things (relationships, objects, thoughts, enterprises, etc.) From time to time we also need time and space to reset and rest. My wife and I really enjoyed our first REAL vacation together. I'll be posting some pictures and video from my trip in the next few days so check back- there are some absolutely amazing shots of Hawaii. In the meantime, I have two important notes regarding CC training to mention now that I'm back:

1) I took nearly two weeks off from training during my vacation (didn't do any workouts other than some hiking) and today I did essentially the same workout I did before leaving with very little trouble. In fact I sped through it faster than before. The idea that you lose strength quickly is, in my experience, bullshit. Maybe if you are working elite level one arm pullup work, and take a month off, yes you will probably be set back.

2) Folks from the online magazine Breaking Muscle contacted me several weeks ago to write an article about Convict Conditioning and my experience with bodyweight training. It is up on their website, so please go give it a read. LINK HERE