Jasper Roberts - Blog

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

2013-10-30 Ignorance Is Bliss, But Stupidity Is Ecstasy

"Damn, I wish there was a better way to block the sun!"
Maybe I'm just getting old and grumpy, but lately there have been some real idiotic things being said out there. Typically on pages like facebook groups, et. al.

Here's the thing- when someone has more experience than you do, and I mean A LOT MORE experience, you (at the very least) shut up for a minute and listen to what they have to say. Chances are that they actually do know more than you do. They don't know everything, but you can learn something. That's my rant for the week...

In other news, I'm finding that when I have success in one area- pullups feeling strong, then I'll feel like crap in another area- bridges feeling weak. The good news is that this is dynamic. I will have success in every area eventually, just not every single time- kind of like life overall I suppose.

By the way, I have a new exercise in the bridging series I'm playing with: sit down in seiza (like a Zen monk). Raise your arms to the side and lean forward keeping your back perfectly straight until your head touches the ground in front of you, and sit backup. Don't cheat, you know if you are!

Good times.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

2013-10-29 Keep Working

Twenty second free-standing handstand today.
Not against the wall.
SOLID, no wavering or bending.
Now get to work.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

2013-10-24 How CC and Progressive Calisthenics Change Your Body

A lot of CC followers and newbies to Progressive Calisthenics ask if they'll get "big" from doing bodyweight exercises. Yep, after only two weeks you will go from looking like this guy:

to looking like this guy:

And if you believe that ANY exercise program will make that happen, then you are either an idiot or poorly informed. The bodybuilder in the picture above is photo-shopped. Even he weren't, the guy has freak genetics that you do not. And on top of that, he's almost certainly on steroids. Ok, no let's come back down to Earth and talk about reality.

First of all, if you work hard at something consistently for a long time it will change you. If you're eating well and resting sufficiently and putting healthy stress on your body, it will respond by getting stronger. If you push it too hard you'll injure yourself. If you take it easy you can take care of your joints and reduce risk. If you get stronger you're body will accommodate the strength in the form of larger muscles and increased soft tissue. If you're younger it will be a bit easier, but it will still happen regardless of age. take a look at this badass of a man: Jordan Jovtchev of Bulgaria The dude is forty years old and can hang with Olympic gymnasts half his age. That's careful consistency and dedication right there. Probably a little bit of luck as well.

As for looks, PC (Progressive Calisthenics) is not about looks at the expense of performance. The idea is to get strong and flexible, with strong healthy joints. What else can you ask for as you age?

In my experience, there are definitely particular body parts in which I have noticed the most change.

Your lats will gain big time. In fact, your whole back complex layer will thicken noticeably. If you're religious about CC and CC2 you're back muscles will really develop to protect the spine. When I lean over a little bit my vertebrae don't stick out like they used to a couple years ago. They're now buried inside a thick layer of tendon and muscle.

Your triceps will grow. Forget the biceps. You need to understand that the idea of instantly getting huge biceps (the thing everyone always focuses on) is fantasy. Biceps don't really do that much anyway, and they are a much smaller muscle set than the surrounding muscles. They are the last to get a whole lot bigger, even doing chin-ups. They are more for show than for function.

Your calf muscles will grow noticeably if you're working CC2 exercises. It makes you look less like a pathetic skinny guy.

Your neck complex will also get bigger. This protects your head and cervical vertebrae. It's a good thing.

Your forearms will get bigger. This come from grip work and pullup work. It's required.

Your frontal chain (abs, etc.) will grow like a thick carpet over your front and up over your ribs. Another good thing.

Your shoulder complex will grow noticeably and you'll get more of the "gymnast" look to your shoulders, especially with all the handstand work. Please remember to be consistent in your stretching and flexibility work using elastic bands or whatever. Don't become stiff.

And finally, be prepared for a buildup of the Gluteus Medius and the muscles supporting the hips. Less bulk and more of a solid build up and fill-in. you'll notice it though. Helps when you need to kick someone through a window. Remember- you're going for slow, solid build up to support joints and body elements necessary to sustain stress of intense, integrated physical movements.
Then again, you can always go lie down on a bench and isolate your chest from the rest of your body...sounds kind of dangerous long term though.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

2013-10-22 My Regulation Toes-to-Bar vs. "other"

I'm going to complain about Crossfit in this video so prepare yourself. Go to Youtube and search "Toes to Bar" and you will find a million videos (many Crossfit videos). The problem is that virtually every person demonstrating what CC enthusiasts call "Leg Raises" but where the feet come to the level of the bar, is dong them half-ass. They are doing them with (often) severely bent legs, not all the way up, and way too fast.
Look, you can take any advanced exercise, destroy the form to the level of a non-advanced crappy exercise, and then just do a thousand of them to get pumped and tired. What does that prove? That you can do a thousand crappy exercises? I understand the concept of endurance but endurance doing what?
Let's break down the Advanced Leg Lift, or what some people call "Toes-to-bar". Lock your legs out and never bend them again during the reps. Slowly raise your legs at a constant speed up to the level of the bar (not necessarily touching the bar), PAUSE for at least half a second, and then at the same slow rate lower your legs completely. Repeat.
And by the way, I challenge anyone reading this to post their own video right here (below) showing me and everyone else your ten reps of toes-to-bar at the same slow rate I'm doing them, legs locked out tight, with at least a solid half-second pause at the top. No pause, legs bent, fast moving... means WAY TOO EASY. Do the hard work first to show you're body is ready for dynamic work.
Rant over.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

2013-10-17 Working Toward Beyond Step 10 of Bridging

Many CC followers have reached Step 10 of the Bridging Series (Stand to Stand Bridge), far quicker than other exercises. This, along with my own sense of the human body, tells me that Stand to Stand Bridge is not the be-all, end-all of back exercises. So where do you go? For one thing, it is too linear- there's no rotation. Second, it does not stress the shoulders nearly as much as rotation based bridging does- and that's mainly because with rotation based bridging you are forced to engage in one-arm work as you transition your weight from legs, to single arm, to both arms, to other single arm ,to legs again. Bridging on one arm is damn hard. If you haven't tried it, do it now. And if you suck at one arm bridge work, you'll have a hard time jumping into advanced rotational work.
As I've said before, you need a certain level of strength to begin even attempting certain exercises safely. The normal CC Bridge Series is good for that in general, but I began implementing many different bridge exercises a long time ago. Rotational bridge work is part of that. Here's Mr. Portal demonstrating some beginner work- note the incredibly high quality of his movement.

So I've been working the beginner stuff for a while now, and I'm getting close to my goal of rotations onto the ground. You know me, always looking for some method of slow progression. Maybe one day I'll be ready for Portal's beginner work from the ground. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

2013-10-14 My Way

There are people out there who refuse to follow not just good advice, but full-on scientific fact. Good luck convincing THEM that your opinions matter. There is a lot of good information and advice out there if you know what to ask, how to look, where to look, and how to listen. There's also some crap, but you may not know it unless you're already wise, and therein lies the problem. You need experience to know if the stuff you're learning is legit...but you need to learn it in the first place in order to get the experience.
Much has been written on the web and elsewhere about the pros and cons of bodyweight training versus training with weights. Many people hand wave and say it's all about your goals- which is fine if you know what your goals are. Most beginners do not even know enough to know what goals are possible or realistic, or have enough experience to understand the many minute details and complicating factors involved in the world of strength and fitness. Thing like injuries.
Now, I'm not claiming to be an expert on anything except what I've found for myself though hard work and diligent, first-hand, consistent study. Since I'm a human being though, I suspect that much (but not all) of what I know can be extrapolated to others similar to me if they were so inclined.
I started CC at age 42 after many years of martial arts, and joint health is imperative to me. I'm not interested in knee surgery, shoulder surgery, or back surgery as a consequence of getting stronger to protect my body- that would be counterproductive to say the least. Unlike many 20 year olds, I've experienced enough time in life to get a better feel of what time is, what it means, and the relationship of time to my life as part of a larger picture.
This is a long way of saying that my method of calisthenics training involves movement culture, CC, gymnastics, and elements of various martial arts. Most importantly, my way is an extremely progressive one. It's slow. If you want "six minute abs", don't waste my time or yours (certainly not yours because your time is so incredibly valuable apparently that you don't have more than six minutes to spend on developing a strong anterior chain).
I know that there are ways to get results quicker, but I also know that in my life there are other aspects which put constraints on my training. I happily accept these constraints as part of a full life however.  Training is important to me, but there are other things which are more important. I have a full-time professional job, I have a wife, I have a child, I have a mortgage payment, I pay lots of taxes, I am a member of a wonderful neighborhood community, and I also have a long commute to and from work. I have to work my training into all of this, and nobody cares if my training falls apart except me. It's on me, not anyone else.
That said, you might be quite surprised at how strong you can get training a body element only once a week....

Monday, October 7, 2013

2013-10-07 Misunderstood and Ignored Dimension of Strength Explained

I'm back from vacation and no, I did not work out during my vacation. I wanted to give my body a complete and total time period of healing and rest. If a solid week and a half of doing no physical activity doesn't do it, then nothing will. I'm not recommending this for everyone, but I wanted to try it to see what happens. I trained today and damn, I feel strong. I also feel how all the tiny annoying little pains and tweaks have pretty much gone away. Rest is good for you once in awhile.

Now that I'm back I am having new thoughts and realizations about some physical issues, so I thought I'd elucidate the topic here and now.

Muscles have only two states (though there is of course a continuum): relaxed or contracted. If you look at a pulling motion like a biceps curl and contrast that with a pushing motion like a bench press it's not hard to see that these are functionally different movements. Tell me- how much can pulling muscles help you in pressing? Answer: Not at all. So then why do you contract them? In fact you may not have really thought much about this. Most people I suspect simply "press" or "pull" and don't give much thought to what's ACTUALLY happening in their arms or their body. This is unfortunate because if you are activating pushing muscles and pulling muscles at the same time then you are effectively trying to push and pull at the same time, which is, well, useless. At best you're being inefficient, and at worst you're counteracting yourself from doing the very thing you're trying to do.

As an example, feel your right arm's biceps muscle with your left hand. Feel the relaxed state of it.  Now with your hand still on your right arm biceps muscle, stand up and gently begin pushing with your right arm on a surface like a wall as if you're pushing it away. Is your biceps completey and totally relaxed throughout the push? Why not? We've already established that you cannot utilize a pulling muscle to help in any way with a pushing action so why are you doing it? I submit to you that it is because you really haven't thought much about what's specifically happeing in the arm or body. Without thought and awareness, your body will naturally try to recruit other muscle sin the area as inefficient as they may be. This is also the reason that many people don't know how to punch hard....I mean really hard. Often a punch is "hard enough", but it's actually possible to hit hard without a lot of effort. Most people are extending and pulling the arm at the same time, effectively the gas and brakes are being punched simultaneously.

So then what is this hidden dimension of strength I'm talking about? It's the middle ground. It's joint protection accomplished by the simultaneous application of opposing forces (pushing and pulling), done statically. This is the isometric hold. It's stupid to do this dynamically for some goal (in general) because you're fighting yourself just like I was mentioning in the paragraphs above. For joint health however, it's perfect. There is no need for movement because by definition the static hold is...static. Also important to point out is that the ideal static hold employs the notion of torque. See below picture for understanding of torque.

Think of torque as rotation of a long bone on its axis. If you grab hold of a broom at the center and your friend tries to rotate it like he's the captain of a large boat, you'll experience torque. Understand that torque should be used statically for optimum benefit. Torque protects the joint, whether it's the shoulder or the hip. Even the knee, ankle, and elbow are protected y the proper application of torque in the joint which remember- is activating all of the musculature in the joint complex. Again, this is exactly what you do NOT want to do when you are moving the appendages to accomplish a push or pull. Some will disagree with me and when it comes to moving very heavy items I will capitulate that it's probably safer to employ some torque to stabilize the joint on heavy lifts. You'll be inefficient but safer I guess. When it comes to fast movements with light weight however, it's highly inefficient. Speed of movement is simply optimum use of contraction and extension. Anderson Silva and Muhammad Ali are great examples of incredible speed. I guarantee their biceps are not firing very much when they punch.

So the takeaways are:
1) Learn control of your musculature in its particular state (contraction or relaxation) relative to the specific action (pushing or pulling).
2) Learn to employ torque in joints for static support and for joint health.