Jasper Roberts - Blog

Thursday, May 30, 2013

2013-05-30 Go Easy on That Shoulder

I've been slowly working the one arm pushup closer and closer to the ground. Recently I worked to a level below the Smith Machine bar height of 22". Now, in case you're not aware, this is not a linear route. If you do the math, the pushing force you encounter as you approach the ground roughly follows a trigonometric formula (sine or cosine). Point is- as you begin coming off the wall with your one-arm pushups, it starts to get extremely difficult very quickly, and continues to get hard until you're close to the ground- in which case the difficulty only increases mildly. There's not a whole lot of difference between pushups off the plyo box and those off the ground EXCEPT that you get full range of motion with the box. This is key. You do not get the same ROM on the ground though the push itself is a little bit harder. I believe that a fuller ROM movement is at least a part of getting stronger in the exercise. Not all, but an important part.
Now in my video, I'm obviously not holding to very strict CC form- I'm twisting and bending and my legs are apart. However, I still reserve a less difficult height pushup for perfect (or near perfect) form. So I do these, and then I also do one arm work on the Smith Machine at about 37", and I finish with regular two-arm pushups on the ground (and begin with them for warmup). Doing ONLY perfect form work is limiting in my opinion, so nowadays I work in some more difficult pushup exercises where I am allowed to spread the feet and twist, though I do try for smooth movement.
Today I finished with two-arm pushups at about 40" because my left shoulder is acting up a little bit. Staying injury free isn't too hard with this type of work, but you still have to be careful and develop tremendous body awareness to avoid the injury.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

2013-05-29 Too Busy at Work Today

Chaos today at the office, took a very late lunch and obviously had no time at all for my normal CC workout. Luckily, there is tomorrow.

Monday, May 27, 2013

2013-05-27 Memorial Day

In my cramped little garage with motorcycle and hay for the chicken coop, and miscellaneous items, I still find space to train. Someone once said that when he and his wife bought a house, his wife decorated the house following the concept of "Feng Shui". He said that he later found out that "Feng Shui" is an ancient dialect of Chinese which translates to English as: "put your husband's shit in the garage". Luckily my wife is much more accommodating and I actually have a lot more space for my stuff.
So today I broke a PR (personal record) and completed two sets of ten of what you see in the video. Now the challenge will be for me to find a way to make pike pushups more challenging. I completed two sets of half HSPU a long time ago, but yet my full HSPU plateaued around 4 four. So a friend said I should try fuller range of motion on the exercise and I am quite hopeful.
Currently I'm working these full ROM pikes, and also half HSPU as well as three-quarter HSPU holds. There is no doubt in my mind that when I get good at this stuff, my regular HSPU will go through the roof.
Most peopl I see doign HSPU on the web are either not going down far enough, or their arms are spread too wide. Get real people.
Hope everyone enjoyed their time off from work today and took at least a brief moment to think about some dude sitting in a fox hole scared as shit, and then was thankful it wasn't him. I know I did.

Friday, May 24, 2013

2013-05-24 AuxiliaryTraining

Had to work late last night and missed my lunchtime training, so I opted for 'after work' and also conveniently missed rush-hour traffic. A couple things- first I am demonstrably stronger than a year ago and even several months ago because I could not even hold this position for one solid second before. Now I'm almost at ten seconds and feeling nearly ready to begin working on straightening my back. Second, I upped my weight load on chinups yesterday to 70lbs. A couple months ago I was barely even able to do one rep with this weight, but yesterday I cranked out three with no problem.
This is the benefit of accurate record keeping. Take notes, use your notes, and look back at your notes from time to time- otherwise you're relying on memory, and we all know how crappy that is.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

2013-05-22 Just A Regular Happy Day (Why Not?)

Almost forgot to post today. Had a great session- I was worried since it had been awhile since my last training session on my new regime. But no. Everything felt quite strong. Today was pushups and Leg Raise day. I'm working progressively lower to the floor with one-arm pushups both perfect form and non-perfect form. I've also transitioned from standard leg raises to sideways leg raises, in hopes of working the obliques more.

If you are not sad or angry, then be happy. Choose it. Damnit.

Monday, May 20, 2013

2013-05-20 Camera Malfunctions and Research

I've been using my iPhone more, but of course I'm having problems getting videos off of it. So even though I have new videos of me doing "Parallet Pike Pushups", it will have to wait.

Now, I do have a new development in the handstand pushup progression (and there are many). It came to me suddenly today and it's embarrassing how simple yet effective it is. Step 2 in Convict Conditioning is the Handstand Hold. Meeting the two minute progression standard is tough, and something I actually haven't done (yet). Granted, I have moved on and have been doing much more advanced work. This is because I don't believe two minutes was necessary for me in order to move on, and I have some confirmation from a pretty legit coach.
I may have to test this out and see what I can do almost a year after trying for 2:00. I think my max at the time was about 1:10. Pushing to max often on the HS hold isn't too smart if you value your neck and brain.
So what's my new intermediate step? It's genius if I can say so myself, here it is: The half-HS hold. Now unlike most "half" things it is NOT easier than a HS hold. You basically get into a HS position, then lower yourself down to "halfway" to the floor and hold that. This requires what's called "bent-arm strength" and is different from straight arm strength. Don't believe me? Get into a pushup position with perfect form, and hold it. You can probably go for minutes without a lot of trouble. Rest up and then try again, this time instead of holding a pushup position, drop down so that your elbows are bent at about ninety degrees. Hold a perfect form without touching your body to the ground of course and see how much harder it is.
This is the concept. We must develop straight arm AND bent arm strength to effectively move up and down in the HSPU, and this is one simple tool.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

2013-05-15 Learned Two Things

First, I need to be tougher on myself in certain areas (Don't we all?). Specifically, Ill be trying to push a little harder on each exercise, squeeze just a tiny more from each movement. Second, I will occasionally allow myself to consider a milestone passed even if I don't pass it. What ?!? Yeah, here's the thing- it's not a milestone unless you understand the milestone well. If you've never done a one-arm pullup then you may not have a clue what is required and if you have sufficiently prepared. For me this is ALL new ground and I'm learning as I go.
For example- today I was trying to pass a goal I set for myself on chin-up progressions. I wanted to do two sets of five with 60lbs added weight, and then two sets of ten with 30lbs added weight. I managed 5/5, 10/9. I missed the last rep by one. But then it occurred to me that I only chose "10" and "5" because they were nice round numbers. But life isn't always nice or round or even linear- few things in life are. The more important question to answer is whether or not I was truly ready to move forward and up the weight. Well, I haven't had elbow issues in a really long time, and I've definitely progressed. So who cares if it's 10 or 9 ? Ultimately the test will be how my progress goes moving forward. I say I'm ready. I feel ready.
So get the most out of an exercise, and be honest with yourself. If you shortchange yourself you will end up paying for it later. If you are honest, then you will have gotten out of the exercise what you needed. If you're focus on some arbitrary and dogmatic standard is holding you back, then wake up and knock it off.

Monday, May 13, 2013

2013-05-13 The 1,000 Mile Journey

You know how they say "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" ? Well, I've added a second part to it which goes, "and the journey is completed one step at a time."
By this I mean that yes, you must begin a massive endeavor with a single, tiny movement and this movement is the most important one. However, the endeavor is only completed by continuous movements forward over a long consistent period of time. There are no short cuts.

I'm back to training this work-week. This past weekend I taught a martial arts workshop with my good friend Matt Lucas, so even though I trained I did not do a strict CC session as per my notes.

I'm finding that pistol squats done for reps are incredibly exhausting. There is so much tension required for them that immediately after completing my two sets of eight (each leg) holding two 10lb dumbbells I want to almost pass out. I'm going to go for two sets of 10 and then change up my weight. Not MORE weight, but a change in how I'm holding the weight. In fact, I'm actually going to go DOWN in weight. I'll go from two 10lb dumbbells held at arms length, to a single 15lb dumbbell held racked on my shoulder like a kettlebell. Gonna be harder, I guar-an-tee!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

2013-05-08 Big Changes...(Part 1)

For quite a while my CC training regimen has been setup so that I train three times a week (M,W,R) and do three of the big six (Day "A") one day, and then do the other three of the big-six on the next training day (Day "B"). I'm also doing stuff form CC2 (neck, calves, and grip), plus mobility and movement work I got from Ido Portal, so my workouts are getting too long and too difficult for my lunchtime at work.
Therefore, I'm going back to my old training regimen. Two of the big-six on Day "A", two more on Day "B", and the last two on Day "C". Then just cycle through on training days: A,B,C,A,B,C,A..etc.

Today felt pretty light consequently, so I'm adjusting. this also means that I am now required to train one day on the weekend. My workouts are shorter but my days per week is up. I'm also doing handstand and planche practice every training day.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

2013-05-07 Got Me Some CC Students !

So I now have four guys signed up to learn progressive calisthenics. They are office and Lab guys, three have PhD's. Everyone is over forty I think too...
I'm stressing slow progress and attention to body awareness. Building up the body from the inside out, slowly. Not even starting pullups or HSPU work for a few months. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, May 6, 2013

2013-05-06 Why Start From Step One ?

So you find out about Convict Conditioning and get all excited. Good for you. Then, as if following a script which has held you in an operational prison for your entire life, you craft an optimized way to fly through CC steps- getting from step 1 to step 10 as quickly as you posisbly can. You start at step six. Faster equals better...right?

No, not always.

Is a back massage better when it's faster? How about a visit with your best friend from far away? Is eating faster at a nice restaurant better? What about a good movie, is it better getting through it faster? Clearly, not everything is better when done faster.

And even if you could become an elite level gymnast in six months, zero to hero instantly...then what? What have you missed out on? What did you fail to uncover? What did you neglect to try? Who did you never connect with during this very brief journey? In what ways did you not have the time to grow and develop?

This is in fact partly why I named this blog "My Convict Conditioning JOURNEY", because I knew from my many years in martial arts that training the body and mind is something that takes a long time to do. Sure, youth and natural skill play a part in things, they always have. But for the average person, these are not options. The average person must do things the old fashioned, time-tested way...by doing hard work consistently over a long period of time. There are many paths but this path always works.

So, if you can already do one arm handstand pushups and then decide to start in on Convict Conditioning you're probably going to be disappointed with your progress. If you're like me however, and have another thirty or forty years to spend on it (God willing), then enjoy the journey and learn lots of amazing things along the way. Meet wonderful people and learn new things about yourself.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

2013-05-02 Being OK With Quitting (for the day)

"The power of patience is unknown to many but the aged". -Neil Bednar

You know that guy who talks and talks about being super-excited about some new workout plan or martial art or sport, and then signs up but quits not after one class but after three weeks? Yeah, well I'm not that guy. At least quitting after only one class, you can say it's not for you.
Actions always speak louder than words, and when your actions are a perfect example of consistency it allows you some wiggle room. If you train consistently month after month after month, you are allowed to take a day off for any reason at all and nobody will even tell you you're wrong. You only have to give permission to yourself.
Consistent training allows you to get to know your body and your mind pretty damn well. You know when you're bullshitting yourself, when you are being lazy, and when you are legitimately tired and simply have no gas in the tank. Earn it and then own it. That's power, and it's power developed through consistency and patience. It's also smart and keeps you away from injury.

Here's some footage from last week. Working the pushup progression toward one arm. Form is everything on the one arm pushup, and those who say it's irrelevant don't know what they're talking about. Enjoy the weekend- spring is in full effect here.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

2013-05-01 My First "Guest Post" !

Folks, this is the first of invited guest postings on this blog. This first one today is by one of my first followers and a guy who has continued to stay in touch with me, work CC, develop new exercises, work through and around injuries, and basically find a path to strength in mid-life. He asked to remain anonymous since he has stirred up a few hornets nests in the past, and is also ex-military. We'll call him "R".

I think you will really enjoy his story.....

Oh, by the way- my next guest post is going to be from none other than famous Convict Conditioning author Paul Wade. Yes that's right. And I'll have Dragon Door do a post soon to prove I'm not making this stuff up. Expect this to come sometime late May.

Now to our friend R....

Another article on fitness (and from an apparent nobody at that!). Sigh. Who needs it, right? I agree, so instead I'll tell you a story.
Rather than give you a chronological account of all the abuse I took as a kid, I'll simply list some of it:
Born into an abusive home. At the tender age of 3, one day I was beaten so severely that when my startled and shaken young self came back to reality, I was unable to speak properly (and would not for another 14 years).
Being a stuttering “moron,” not to mention being a frail, socially awkward and shy kid (I couldn't speak properly, remember?), virtually guaranteed abuse (from a variety of sources).
At 7, I had my head cracked open with a metal spoon (think BIG spoon). At 11, a couple of kids in the park waited for me after my Little League game ended and then set their Doberman Pincers set upon me (that day, I learned to fly). In high school, two older kids thought it'd be fun to bump me with their cars in the parking lot (parking lot was the length of a football field and the width of two), this really scared the piss out of me (quite literally, I'm afraid). A woman in my own family sexually abused me (name left out because though I forgave her long ago, many in my family would be upset if word got out), but I'm now okay with who I am. And, my past does not define me. I've been beat up, even hospitalized, and suffered broken ribs and bruised vertebrae. Once in a while, for sheer amusement, some bigger high school jocks, or the “cooler” kids, would walk behind me and then push me into someone else, and then egg on a fight between me and the other kid. It might be hard to picture, but one of these guys is a State Senator now. So, Whah! Poor me. Who doesn't have a sob story?
Today, my past does not define me, but it helped set me up for success.
You see, even though I was a wrecked on so many levels, all I can remember thinking about when I was a kid, was being “normal.” No, what filled my dreams and desires were girls. And, I readily admit, I've always loved 'em. What also occupied my thoughts was my speech, as inside I was mortified and appalled at my inability to effectively communicate. You see, I desperately wanted to be able to speak (like seemingly everyone else was able) because I wanted to meet girls!). Rounding out the final third, I was thin, and weak, and decidedly non-manly, but I harbored the craziest idea. I dreamed of developing myself into a a physically-powerful man. I wanted these things to allow me to communicate strength and not weakness. I wanted people to take me seriously (maybe even consider me a threat) and I wanted the physical abuse to end. I felt being in shape, and able to use my voice in a powerful way, would help me gain confidence.
At 17, I learned to speak again. And I haven't shut up since then, either!
At 18, I graduated high school and two days later was in a Navy Boot Camp (Great Lakes, ILL) and it was soon after this period in my life that what follows becomes a fitness story.
Soon after Boot Camp, I found myself in a scholastic training curriculum. Despite the demands of learning the basics of electricity and electronics and then going through additional training as was trained in my new rate, I still had enough free time to explore the base and soon enough, the base gym became the focus of my attention.
I wanted to be “BIG,” so I started eating much more food and began working out. I mean, I wanted to be big yesterday, so I was asking some of the guys in the gym how to work out properly, what to do, etc. You know, typical gym rat stuff. In 4 years, I went from 5'11” and 135lbs to 6'2” and 245lbs. Now, you do the math. Yes, I worked out like a fiend and put my all into my workouts (they became my life, really), but I also took performance enhancing drugs. Sue me. My only goal then was to be bigger, at any cost.
Now, short side story here. I did come back home after a 4-year break and yeah, I was a big freakin' dude. Turns out I hooked up with a Korean foreign exchange student who just happened to be the girlfriend of one of the guys in high school who was sort of a dick to me. And, the girl I really like in high school, who would just tease me, ended up hooking up with me (and we've developed a long-term bond, lasting to this day).
The previous paragraph is mentioned for a specific reason I'll make clear later.
So, in this early phase of my development, one of the things I did was read Arnold's classic book, “The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.” A bit before this, I had begun martial arts training (had to learn to stop the abuse...remember?) and it was at this time I began totally re-making myself as a man. Total mental and physical fitness became my one constant, my main pursuit. Of course, during this time, the main thrust and focus was bodybuilding, but not flexibility. Yes, I did some stretching, but not seeing the benefit (neglecting what Arnold refers to in his book), I must admit the attempts made were less than stellar. I just wanted to be big, remember? I didn't have the time to read up on “stuff” like flexibility. Yes, an error on my part. But, not as bad as it could have been. ;) Turns out some of the things I was into was giving me enough training to not become stiff. Still, hindsight is...
I also tried gymnastics (just the exercises, not really the stretches), swimming (later becoming competitive) and running (5k in under 18 minutes wasn't amazing, but was good enough to beat most), rock climbing, ocean kayaking, bicycling, and a host of other stuff just to see what I might be good at. As it turns out, I'm pretty damn good at whatever I set my mind to (and I bet you are, too).
I simply continued pushing my ectomorph body to endomorph proportions. And, guess what, that shit takes its toll on one's body, especially when that particular body, that'd be mine, is built to be a long-distance machine. Since I'm vain, meaning my appearance is actually important to me, I don't care for the natural look nature deemed fit for me. I've pushed from 5'11 and 130lbs to 245lbs. I've leaned down to 150lbs and then was able (naturally this time) to bump back up to 230lbs. Finally, my last big change was from dropping to 160lbs and then shifting back to 220lbs. All this was done using a variety of fitness programs and diets, but you can imagine the damage I did to my body. Two years ago, I was a skinny fat guy. Ugh. Fucking hated it. Titties are cute on a girl, but let's face it, friend. Titties don't do no man no justice.
Topping this off, my knees, esp. my left, were sources of tremendous pain and discomfort. My back was severely injured and until just recently plagued me daily with truly debilitating pain and immobility. Both of my shoulders are damaged, with arthritis and bone spurs in each. My right elbow was nearly destroyed one day in 2009 while doing gorilla chins (one-arm pull-ups). That last injury took nearly three years to heal and re-hab (Prolotherapy proved to be instrumental in my TWO injury sites being repaired).
So, without continuing, you can see pain and I were well-acquainted. And, it was getting hard to perform fitness. And even though I was eating fairly well, work demands added to the toll and after nearly 20 years of fitness, I retired with a body that looked (at least to me), like I'd never worked out. As you can imagine, I was very dissatisfied with myself; however, I did not see a way out.
The one thing to do was continue searching for answers. I'd learned about Scott Sonnon in 2007 while stationed in Iraq and found his Flow-fit program to be quite unique (and at the time, it certainly was) and physically comprehensive. After remembering him, I started researching him and quickly latched onto his breakthrough book, Free to Move, and companion piece, Intu-Flow (a video series taking you from totally locked up, to as limber and strong (in these movements as you ever care to be). Very quickly, a good deal of my pain and discomfort was radically (the relief came as joy for the lessening of the intense pain felt in my hands, feet, knees, and shoulders. I wasn't “cured,” but my mobility increased by a measurable degree, along with decreased, blessedly so, pain. Enter TacFit, also by Scott Sonnon. Listen, if you want to learn to move around on the ground, and become very fit in the process, then get ANY of his programs. You'll burn fat, gain muscle, and develop a very strong body. Someday I might even go back to this program. Included in his programs is a recovery program, but in my case, I could feel my injuries getting slightly worse each workout, so I wasn't able to stick with these programs. Looking back, I may have failed to really push myself as these really are fantastic programs offered by R-Max, Scott's company. I know it probably seems like I'm a salesman for this guy, but it's not like that at all. His stuff is just that good and following any of his Tac-Fit programs WILL propel you into shape. For me, I realized I needed to get deeper into healing and since Intu-Flow worked like it did, I went back to “Beginner” and did it very slowly. Then, using YouTube I re-did “Intermediate” and felt pretty good. I've been doing Advanced for over two years now and have yet to even try Master (I watched them and was just floored by how advanced some seemed, so as I'm working toward OWNING Advanced, I'll keep Master as that goal ahead (which I will attain...as soon as I can).
Sure, it was a bit hard at first, even on Beginner level, but for free (it's on YouTube), I found it to be a godsend.
So, Sonnon's program opened my mind, and body, to the idea of gaining solid joint fitness while using solely bodyweight exercises and stretches. However, even though I was careful, I kept re-injuring the same areas and this, naturally, kept saw me seesawing between gains and losses along the way. Injuries were keeping me from making any long-term gains. Or, so it seemed.
So, what to do? know, continue searching, that's what we do.
In 2011, I came across Convict Conditioning (CC) and the rest, as is often said, is history (well, not really history. No one gives a rat's ass about this article, UNLESS this little piece is found amusing. Or, how to side-step some issues or possible mistakes while one undertakes their journey toward ultimate fitness. That is the ability to control your body through the application of your developed mind and brain (which are not the same thing, now are they?).
By following the CC program (the exercises AND stretches, along with proper technique and rest), which I cannot recommend strongly enough, then here's a few things that will happen:
Injuries will become diminished, if not healed. Performing Step One of all the exercises preps the body for later, more demanding work. When combined with the dynamic stretching explained in CC Volume II, the body's joints will slowly become very structurally sound and intact. Furthermore, the body will begin functioning as an integrated unit (again, this is IF the protocols are followed).
I've only been doing CC for 18 months now and what has it done for me? For starters, ALL my joints are better. Not healed (not yet), but much, much better. Everything is more solid, more secure, and more planted. Next, my body moves in a more concerted manner. There's more of a natural grace (where before there was a bit of clumsiness), but, am I stronger?
As an example, I'm currently at 17 reps on Push-ups S5 (this after already reaching S6 once before, but going back and over a period of 6 months, ENSURING I developed the internal integrity before resuming my assault on The Master Step). During this second run up to S6, I paid strict attention to my back being board straight (and stiff), along with having tight abs. My form is now picture perfect and I'm able to perform all reps under strict control and tempo. So, yeah, I'm loads stronger. I'm also on S6 for legs (with a similar retreat to earlier steps in order to really lay down a super solid foundation).
When I tell others about CC and watch them get involved, they ALL seem to want to assert “I'm already good with (whatever exercise), so I'm just going to start at Step 5.” Listen, if that is you, then my humble suggestion is to pass on CC. If you fail to do the prep work, all you are going to do is run up into the higher steps, too quickly and without proper physical preparation of your muscular system, and greatly increase the likelihood of getting OR, worse, fail to progress (over-training, perhaps? To top it off, even if you do manage to reach the top three or four levels, your form will be crap because you just will not have the internal structure of the system that connects your muscles to their various connection points.
On the other hand, if you can check your ego at the door and just put in the time to move from step to step (it took me over a year to move from S2 to S3 with Pull-ups), you'll find your joints become (almost as if by magic) SUPER strong and secure. Additionally, you'll have developed some new ability to absorb and use pain. Finally, you'll have laid the proper groundwork for your body to be able to handle the future demands of much more intense training (or otherwise unexpected demands).
I'd say stick with New Blood for at least six months, if not a full year. REALLY learn to LOVE each rep and each set.
The BEST way I can describe CC is as follows. Imagine your body is a 1250-page book. Think of each page as being worth one single day on which a CC session is performed. One day, not very much...right? It hardly matters, but yet, it does matter.
IF intent becomes form, along with proper application of the established exercises and protocols, you cannot but help improve. If proper rest and nutrition are also applied, here's what will happen.
EACH day a new page will be filled and slowly the book (the body) will begin to form and take shape, gaining in depth and sturdiness, until one day, about three years later, THAT book will be “nearly” finished and the body (your body) will look, feel, and perform like a masterpiece. And that's because it will be. I'm not saying your journey will be over, but in just that short period of time, you'll accomplish more than you ever really thought was possible and you will truly be in the top 1 percentile of humans on this planet. At least from a physical perspective. Rest assured, CC gives you even greater challenges then the listed Master Steps, but one thing at a time.
At 46, I'm 6'1”, 185, solid, and though I've still got my physical challenges, I feel more structurally sound than I've ever felt in my adult life. I owe it all to Convict Conditioning. May it serve you just as well.