Jasper Roberts - Blog

Monday, April 29, 2013

2013-04-29 Little By Little

One of my favorite thought experiments goes like this: Take a large pile of sand and take away a single grain of sand. Now ask yourself- Is it still a pile? Continue taking away a grain of sand and asking yourself this question over and over. The salient point of this exercise is that you must determine when your "pile" is no longer a "pile". At some point, at some fixed number of grains you must decide whether you have a pile or not.

Life is like this. It's rarely so black and white that problems have obvious solutions. Sometimes you must simply take a stand on some issue in your life, when the pile has "x" number of grains. Otherwise nobody will take action, and the grains of sand will continue to be thrown away until there is no sand left at all.

Today was all about pullups, HSPU, and Squats. I'm almost ready to bump up from 60lb pullups to 70lb. I'm also about ready to transition from pike pushups on parallet bars to something harder...not sure what that is right now, probably just adjusting my form to make them harder. And squats....already doing pistols while holding two 10lb dumbbells, so I may go down in weight but change how I'm holding that weight. Sometimes weighted pistols can be easier in certain ways than non-weighed pistols.
Neck is feeling strong- I keep wanting to transition to CC2 style floor work, but I keep getting lazy and staying on the wall.

Friday, April 26, 2013

2013-04-26 Forcing Up Against Artificial Barriers

I had a very interesting revelation the other day. I'm currently working weighted pistol squats with very little trouble, and no pain or discomfort. And yet, in my normal day, if I need to bend down to pick something up I kind of go into a 'moan and groan' and worry about my knees popping. I realized recently that I am now at a point in my body where I was not at in a long time. I have strength and flexibility and capability that I haven't had in many years, but my mind hasn't caught on. Almost out of habit, my body follows the lead of my brain. Therefore, I have been trying to slowly re-teach my mind that my body is safely capable of what it previously was not. This is likely not a common thing, as it's in the popular consciousness that over time you are "supposed to" get weaker or experience more pain, etc. This is a work in progress, but important if I want to reap the maximum benefits of training.

More on this point- I can understand why it is that many people don't feel how truly weak they are (myself included). It's simple. Over a very long time (decades) without movement and strength training you lose range of motion, flexibility, and strength sloooooooooowly. So slowly in fact, that the loss is literally unnoticeable...until some crucial event occurs, like reaching to pickup a heavy item. Perhaps this is why many people are injured seemingly "out of the blue". The body had been weakening for many years, and then suddenly it was asked to do something it was incapable of.

Today I had to deal with an oddball work schedule week, so I decided to take today to play and experiment. I learned that I still cannot do a one arm pullup,m which is no surprise, ad also that holding a one arm half pullup position is still damn hard. I also learned that holding a one-arm handstand (against a wall), while moving back and forth from arm to arm is doable but requires intense mental concentration. I'm getting better at holding freestanding handstands, but realizing the importance of body alignment and fingertip strength for this exercise.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

2014-04-24 Bridging the Bridge Gap

The stand-to-stand bridge is the Master Step for CC bridging, but I do not believe it is the be-all, end-all of bridge work. Try doing a one-arm bridge with perfect form. Good luck. And it isn't all about arm strength either, but that plays in. Bridging with motion? Yes, this is ideal and moves you outside the standard bridge....but you need to be able to bridge like a mofo before you start any of that stuff to avoid injury.
My standard full bridges feel very strong these days, and it's only taken me two years. My ultimate goal (other than Stand to Stand) is something akin to this:

I've worked on the beginner's version of the beginner's version of the above, and I'm now doing what you see below, and what I call the "Low Rotations Into Arch on Wall".

Monday, April 22, 2013

2013-04-22 My Chin-Up Secrets

Ok, first of all you should know that I'm a fan not of quick-fix workouts, but of slow and sure gains. There are three main reasons for this: 1) Accelerated workouts put you in a higher risk bracket for injuries; 2) You spend more time feeling sore and tired; 3) Changing the fascial structure and  building tendon and ligament takes a lot of time because these are avascual body elements. Slow and sure sets the proper foundation for stronger muscle. Whether you want to argue against it or not, you WILL build tendon and ligament as well as muscle as you appply stress doing calisthenics or lifting weights, and I guarantee that the muscle can get bigger more quickly. Why do you think people "pump up" before bodybuilding tournaments? I have a friend who built muscle quickly, Tried and did a one arm pullup, and promptly snapped their arm tendon in two. Took several years to come back after that.

If you are in your 20's just ignore my advice and do whatever you want, you'll bounce back if you end up in the hospital. If you are over 40, slow down pops and take a knee.

I followed the Convict Conditioning pullup approach religiously for some exercises, but not for all of them (on purpose). I did start from the beginning on each exercise though. Yes I know you can do five pullups so you want to start on step five...well just see if you can do the prior steps. just see if you can. THEN start in on a higher step if you want.

The progression standard for Door Pulls (Step 1) was completed, then I worked on Horizontal Pulls (Step 2) for a long time before realizing that it was holding me back. So I kept working on Horizontal pulls in some fashion for the next year and a half BUT I continued a parallel path of also working the higher level exercises. I spent a little time on jackknife pulls but never completed the progression standard on those either. I began working one-arm PULLS (not pull-UPS) at about 45 degrees from the wall using a gymnastic handle. I eventually moved on to half pullups (Step 4) and completed the progression standard for that. I worked on full pullups (step 5) and passed that progression standard. then came close pullups (Step 6) and uneven pulls (Step 7) passing the progression standard for each of those. I then spent some time trying archer pullups because the half one-arm pullup was impossible at that point. Since then I have been diligently working weighted pullups and will try the half one-arm pullups soon, though I have no plans to stop doing weighted pullups until after I complete my first set up full one-arm pullups.

My "secret sauce" for making gains lately in this exercise has been to use the 2-pronged approach. When it comes to pullups I do my warmup (2 sets of full pullups, typically 8/7), then I do two sets of intense work (heavy weight) working toward a goal of two sets of 5. I then do two sets of HALF the weight I work for the intense session. I work toward doing two sets of 10 on these. When I complete this (2x5 at "x" lbs. and 2x10 at "x/2" lbs.) I move onto heavier weight. This works. Right now I'm at 60 lbs. (5/4) and 30 lbs. (8/7). When I reach 5/5 and 10/10 I will begin using 70lbs and 35lbs respectively.

The goal is 90% bodyweight before any serious attempt at a (safe) one arm pullup is warranted. In the meantime I may try a few half one arm pullups. We'll see.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

2013-04-18 Weaknesses Will Find You

Both Coach Wade and Ido Portal are quite vocal about how the weakest areas of your body will reveal themselves when you begin intense calisthenic strength training- especially when you are working unilateral exercises. When doing QDR pushups today I really felt my left side struggling to keep up with what my right side was doing. In many ways this made sense because I have been feeling some discomfort in my left shoulder form time to time.

So take note and take care of yourself. Don't push so hard that you continue to aggravate an injury.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

2013-04-17 Hidden Fringe Benefits

Climb down the hole into calisthenics and body movement deep enough (with an open mind) and you will certainly discover some interesting things. In the past, if I didn't get enough sleep then I was useless on training day- especially with the intense work like pullups, handstand pushups, and squats. Gotta say though that the more I've been doing this work the easier it has been to not only perform the exercises, but also do more with my body when I'm tired. Your body has a way of adapting, and the efficiency factor MUST increase when you are tired. Otherwise you will quit, get injured, or gas out completely.
In fact today I felt this efficiency benefit firsthand again. Doing weighted pistol squats (20lbs), I managed to meet my goal: 7/6. (This means a set of 7 and then a set of 6). From the very first descent of the first pistol squat I could tell I didn't have a lot of juice. I felt my body immediately and almost automatically position itself into a form allowing more efficient movement. My hips bent, quads engaged, knee structure tightened around the knee for protection, ankle tensioned for balance with the ground, spine straightened...all instantly without thought. This allowed the remaining energy to be used for willpower to execute: BREATHE!!! PUSH!!! Doubts crept in for a half of a second, before being beaten out by my mind with continued repetition of the exercise to completion. Job done. Now go home and sleep hard tonight. Tomorrow is another day.

I found some examples today of people who kept blogs about their calisthenics training, but only for awhile. I watched a bunch of their videos and learned some excellent new movements and exercises that I will be employing soon. Also thinking about adding a little more time either in the morning or evening to help my progress a bit. Not impatient, just excited about all the ways to move out there!

And for all the folks who have emailed me lately, thank you. It is always an honor to get your compliments and I am very excited to see what you are up to out there. I have so much still to learn and practice...

Monday, April 15, 2013

2013-04-15 Gains Are Personal

True or false: Someone else out there can already dead-lift five hundred pounds, therefore me being happy that I can do ten pushups is stupid and meaningless. My answer to this: False.

If you had to rehab an injury and were finally able to walk again...simply walking would be a major victory FOR YOU. Others are out there running marathons, and still others will never walk- ever. Therefore you should be happy that you are improving. What others have done is only meaningful in lessons and as inspiration.
Today I had a massive gain in my tuck planche. While others are doing planche straddles and elite movements...I'm very happy to go from a (barely) two second planche tuck hold to a FIVE second hold. Big gains for me today. Felt awesome (and surprised me!).

Here's an example of a Tuck Planche: (not me)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

2013-04-10 Get Your Mind Right !

Mental determination...the longer I do calisthenics the more I start to see how a big part of the skills are mental, not just physical. Obviously there is a huge physical component, but that can only get you so far. And his fact is very often overlooked because nobody really understands it completely. I feel like I am developing both the physical and mental together along this journey. Doing Convict Conditioning or advanced calisthenics we are imprinting new neurological pathways. We are building bridges between the mind and the body, through the brain. When we slowly teach our brain to signal our body to act along neural pathways, we are doing construction on the brain. So if it's the mind directing the the building of the brain, and hence the body....what is controlling the mind? Something to keep you thinking for a while.

Meanwhile, over at Ross Enamait's website, he posted amazing footage of an 84 year old man do chinups like a champ. Go check it out!
You mean to tell me that you are a 40 year old "athlete" and you can't do 15 chinups like this grandpa? Better get yer' mind right, son.

Monday, April 8, 2013

2013-04-08 Solitary Training

I've written about this before, but for some reason it struck me again today. After the other people leave and the tv goes off...it's just me doing my pushups and handstand work and gutting out L-sits alone. The tough work with no distraction, just your inner voice. That inner voice often tells you to quit for some reason. The trick is to shut it out. The more you shut it out, the lower its volume over time. Eventually that inner critic is almost invisible.

News: I have a couple guest bloggers that will be posting here in the next few months so keep an eye out....Oh yeah, one of them is Convict Conditioning author Paul Wade, so you might want to check in to see what he has to say!! Stay strong.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

2013-04-04 Get Busy Livin' or Get Busy Dyin'...Plus Secret Breath Techniques

I had an interesting thought while working out today. It seems that so many people want to keep making excuses for everything in life. Not enough time, too hard, too expensive, too difficult, too confusing, too complicated, too weird, takes too long, etc. There comes a time when you reach a certain threshold in many different aspects of life, a sort of tipping point. Many people can go through their whole lives and never be at that place, sometimes simply from lack of placing themselves outside of their comfort zone from time to time. This scene from Shawshank Redemption is classic. It's about making a decision- an important one. Do or do not do. Sitting in the middle is akin to just wasting away.

An unrelated thing happened to me today which caused me to realize something about my body and my breathing. From studying Russian Martial Arts I knew the value of favoring the exhalation over the inhalation when you begin to get stressed and tired. The idea is that if your body is relaxed, the elasticity of your abdomen will pull in only as much air in as you need if you've sufficiently exhaled (my interpretation). If you try to suck in air, it can lead to over-breathing (hyperventilation) and other problems. The idea that you need to exhale (get rid of carbon dioxide) more than you need to inhale (intake more oxygen) has been corroborated for me by a very smart trauma surgeon friend of mine, though I don't remember the exact details.
My point is that when I do weighted pistol squats (2x7 for example), it's intense enough for me that I end up getting ridiculously winded for about ten seconds after I finish, sometimes getting mildly dizzy and nauseous. What I found today is that if I make an effort to exhale DEEPLY when I'm pressing up with a lot of force, I will end up exhaling far more deeply than I normally do or even CAN when resting. This deep exhalation literally kept me from even getting winded or tired. It was almost like magic, and weird. Granted, I need to repeat this technique a few more times to convince myself, but I definitely felt something different and strange (but positive and helpful).

Monday, April 1, 2013

2013-04-01 Meet Paul Wade !

So many of you doing Convict Conditioning have been wondering about Paul Wade. Who is he? Is he real? What does he look like?

Well, finally you can rest because here is Paul Wade. This is the retired Australian football (soccer) player, who is best known for his long-term role as captain of the Socceroos, Australia's national football team. Now you know........April Fools !!!

You thought I was talking about Paul Wade the author of Convict Conditioning didn't you? Well, for that my friends you may have to wait a good bit longer. But do not fret! Keep doing basic calisthenics and become your own trainer just as Mr. Wade (the author) suggests.

In other news, let's talk about "Functional Fitness" shall we?

I will now confirm for you any suspicion you had that CC and intense calisthenics are good for building the body necessary to sustain lots of shoveling. I spent about five hours over two days shoveling four and a half cubic yards of soil, moving it with a wheelbarrow, and dumping it and spreading it in my beds. My wife was kind enough to help out a good bit as well.
Surprisingly, my body today was feeling as if I had...well, sat around watching a few movies. I'm not sore, or stiff, or uncomfortable at all after all that manual labor. I also ripped out a ten feet section of six-foot deep vines by hand. In fact, aside form needing just a bit more sleep, I feel pretty good. Even had a good workout today.
So there it is. Proof positive (at least for me) that CC bullet proofs your joints and back.