Thursday, December 31, 2009

It has been 2 weeks and one day since I started the Convict Conditioning GTG program I've developed. Generally, if you are already working out and switching to a beginner level regimen you wouldn't expect a lot of change in that period of time.

Yet- in 15 days I've gained a noticeable amount on arms and chest, and somehow managed to drop some body fat - this was my real concern going in to such a light sounding beginner program. I'm still needing to focus on fat loss hard for another 20 to 30 pounds.

One thing I've found is that the program isn't as easy as it looks- it's dead simple, easy to motivate yourself, and not terribly time consuming. But it's not easy in the muscluar sense. The key to this is the speed and tension of the repetitions.

We all want speed, but paradoxically, up to a point, the way to gain speed is to move more slowly. That's because, as explained in Naked Warrior, up to a fairly advanced point, the explosive strength is going to go up hand in hand with maximum, or power, strength. (there's also endurance strength, which is another approach from the initial goals I have in CC)

So, go slow. Go slower. Go slower still. I am probably going to hang and milk the simple pushups steps of my progression (half and full pushups) for a bit longer than necessary because I can't go as slow as I can with squats. A set of ten 'half' pushups (really close to what most people think of as a full pushup) is 35-40 seconds depending on how fast I am with my stopwatch buttons. So I may milk these progressions for an extra few weeks until I can use a gymboss timer and do full 5 second repetitions in 2 sets of 25

So here you are, laughing at wall pushups, then, you really start taking 5 seconds for each one....150 times for the progression standard (in 3 sets). It's a bit of work, now!

The kneeling pushups in step 3, same thing. One of my friends was laughing at me doing "girl pushups", but she can't keep up with my gtg set of 15 done for my slightly speedy 3.5 second time.

On squats I'm not timing with a watch, but with my breath. very slowly down, a shorter pause since full squats aren't under a lot of tension at the bottom, and very slowly up. A set of ten runs me 55 seconds according to a friend. That's about right.

Leg lifts are running 39 seconds for 10 reps, nice and slow for the movement range. The next level is the last level before it moves to hanging work, and I'd like to let my pullup work catch up before I switch to that so I may work the straight leg rasises to 60 or even 80 second sets of ten. (Ten is purely arbitrary in all cases, being at this level a decent in-between the beginner minimum standard and the intermediate standard as a working set for multiple daily grinds)

With bridging, I go up at a fairly quick rate, controlled but not lingering. It's the clench at the top, holding that for a 2 count, that I'm looking for. It's crucial in all bridging work to control the motion coming back down, as well. The range of motion at my current level isn't tremendous, either. I'll likely start milking the meditative speeds at the half or full bridge level.

Pullup work is my weak point. To some extent, all upper body work is weaker on me, I have far better development in my abdomen and legs. I'm moving a bit too quickly on my jacknife pullups, though I'm still controlled and not ragdolling, and I have a clenched pause at the top. I've been considering getting some bands to use with the bar and modifying the step progression so I'm doing 50 pound bands instead of jacknifes, and then 25 pound bands instead of halfs. My only concern there is that standing on bands can have an impact on the tensing of the abs.

Slowing down the pullups is the hardest part, and the only realistic thing to make it easier is to rapidly drop another 20 pounds of body fat off. Even if I gain 5 or 10 in muscle, the strength gains will offset the 'lack' of weight loss.

I'm working at one quarter, possibly one fifth, the pace I have worked out with pushups and crunches and bodyweight squats in martial arts classes and military PT. I'm developing a desire to slow down my repetition pace at certain levels.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sample day

I'm not intending to log all my workouts on the blog here, but I'm going to post today since it gives me some meat for explanations of my system using the Convict Conditioning book.

Workout 1 - 09:30
Half pushups, 2 sets 10
Squats, 2 sets of 10
Straight bridges, 2 sets 10

Workout 2, 11:00
jacknife pulls, 2 sets 5
frog leg raises, 2 sets 10
Headstand- up once for 20 seconds.

Workout 3 - 12:15
Half pushups, 2 sets 10
Squats, 2 sets of 10
Straight bridges, 2 sets 10

Workout 4, 15:00
jacknife pulls, 2 sets 5
frog leg raises, 2 sets 10
Headstand- up twice for 20 seconds.

Workout 5 - 17:30
Half pushups, 2 sets 10
Squats, 2 sets of 10
Straight bridges, 2 sets 10

Workout 6, 18:00
jacknife pulls, 2 sets 5
frog leg raises, 2 sets 10
Headstand- up for 20 seconds.

As I posted previously, I have 2 basic workout, which I'm doing 3 times per day each.

When done with proper tensioning techniques as Described in Naked Warrior,these exercises are non isolating and very much full body, though each one targets a given area of the musculature harder.

Tensioning involves irradiating muscle groups by tensing the groups around them, and generating power throughout your whole body. So while doing 10 half pushups may nt seem like much, doing them slowly and with full body tension makes for a harder workout- but with more power (so the individual reps seem easier in one sense)

In Naked Warrior, Pavel describes Greasing the Groove - it boils down to doing a limited set of exercises, often, with limited repetitions so you never approach failure points. The rep counts in my workout are currently higher than he recommends, but will go down as the intensity of the steps progress.

I'm currently, this week, working on not increasing repetitions, but increasing the length of time per rep, tension, and improving form.

The one exercise here that has no repetitions is the headstand- it's static. Generally speaking the inverted work, working towards the one armed handstand pushup, isn't something you need to start until you are around step 6 on every other technique. For purposes of acclimatizing myself to inverted work, and training my balance and comfort, I'm taking this really slow and just getting up and holding a headstand a few times a day. I'm purposefully not pushing this one, though I intend to get to some form of partial handstand pushup before March.

I often squeeze my last two workouts of the day into a shorter timespan, often with a walk or jog in between. I do almost all of my eating in the evening, as per the Warrior Diet regimen, and find that I feel better after if I go to the table with a bit of muscle burn.

2 weeks in review.

I started this blog late, since I wasn't sure if I wanted to track myself this publicly. So we're still playing catchup over here.

I started the Convict Conditioning program on the 16th of December, and yes, I've noticed gains over the past couple of weeks.

My start was with a few rounds of trying out each of the step one moves, then progression testing anything I was comfortable with. for example, the step 1 in pushups is wall pushups, for 3 sets of 50.

The step 1 progression tests are all similarly easy, and hard. One of the focal points of the program is doing each rep dead slow, smooth, and with a high tension pause at the "bottom" of the movement.

As I posted on a forum:

"CC has a progression, a plan. It's mentally dead simple. Do this exercise. Do it slower. Do it again. When you can do enough of them, slow enough, move on."

From there I needed to design a daily workout program. The programs in the CC book are all good for people who are either adding on a bit of bodyweight strength training to an existing program, or looking for a classic "work hard, rest for a day or three" workout plan.

For example, the New Blood and Good Behavior routines would work in well with Pavel's Program Minimum from the excellent book Enter The Kettlebell. Doing a twice weekly 15:15 cycle from Viking Warrior Conditioning would match up perfectly with the Good Behavior plan, as well.

I'm doing neither, and I have a few reasons. First, I need a daily system or I'll fall off the wagon. Second, I want to focus on the early progressions and get my body used to doing the particular types of work involved before I (possibly) scale back the workout days at more advanced levels where I'm going to hang out for a while. Third, some of my goals are very specific in bodyweight areas and I want to focus n those for a while before I add back in a VWC snatch protocol.

I've devised a plan where I grease the groove- do several light sets each day- of all exercises.

What I'm doing is

workout 1:
2 working sets of pushups
2 working sets of squats
2 working sets of bridges

workout 2:
2 working sets of pullups
2 working sets of leg raises
2 practices of inversion.

Each workout 3 times per day.

The inversion is at a level where I think for the next several months I'll be doing static head, crow, and handstands without doing any reps of pressing. I'm building a balance and awareness in this area.

The number of reps in any set is somewhere between the beginner standard and the intermediate standard.

For example, using half pushups (my current level on the one arm pushup progression) the beginner standard is a set of 8, the intermediate standard is 2 sets of 12. This week I'm doing sets of 10, 6 times per day.

As I progress, the reps get fewer on the standard, and I'll get closer to the true Pavel style repetition counts. By the time I'm doing the half one armed pushup, I'll be aiming for working sets of 5-10, and might possibly lower than to 3-5.

Monday I do an extra light pair of workouts and then the rest of the day is dedicated to progression tests.

this past Monday I progression tested pushups, squats, and leg lifts. I did a max test of pullups, but knew I wasn't ready to progress. This is done for tracking. I decided against testing the bridging section because I know I need to milk the current level a bit longer, and I'm not progression testing inverted work for another few weeks.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Looking for something new

Well, not really something new, but when I started this, my goals were pretty small. Just getting to a point where I could have realistically athletic goals was a bit of work.

I'm at a point now where I can choose a lot of things- VO2Max protocols with the kettlebell, bodyweight feats, powerlifting, even long distance running.

Several weeks ago I was hunting for a new set of goals and the forums suddenly were aflame with talk about a new book- Convict Conditioning. At first, I thought the description and hype was a bit over the top, but also... kinda moving.There's something to all that macho hard core stuff that appeals to me, my goals.

After reading threads and some reviews by people I trust, I went ahead and ordered it. It's not what I was expecting, but it's more than I was expecting- while being fairly simple.

Now, I'm not setting aside my goals with snatch progressions, but I'm putting them down for a bit while I work through the first parts of the Convict Conditioning program. My kettlebells aren't collecting dust, but maybe this program deserves a chance at center stage.

The Big 6 master steps are pretty intense stuff, but the progressions all start off almost painfully easy. Painful to your ego, going from working out inclined one arm pushups to.... standing up wall pushups?!?!?

Couple weeks ago:

Here I am, reading up on this book and it all sounds good, it's got plenty of meat to it, but my ego really doesn't want to give up my one arm pushup practice to lean on a wall. Still, I'll go ahead and try doing some reps on step 1 exercises to see how I feel about the range of motion.

Well, lo and behold, I'm actually needing to be on step 1 on a few exercises- bridges and inverted work especially. I give it a few sets on everything and then follow the directions.

The directions do not say you have to stick with any given step for any set length of time. So I'm going to do progression tests on anything I'm comfortable with tomorrow.

A few days pass:

No problem doing the progression tests in a few areas, don't feel like I'm cheating myself, I can definitely feel the burn from some exercises I never thought would have worked me out!

Now, I need a workout plan. I don't function well on 2 or 3 day a week programs. I need daily work or I stall out. The plans in the book are all fantastic- for traditional work/rest cycles of bodybuilding. I'm gonna have to roll my own Grease the Groove style plan.

Still, there's a fire in this book, it's got a method to achieve some serious results. I'm committed. I may have to mess with reps and cycles a bit, and I may not be willing to milk something on the first 3 steps of any given area just because I passed the progression test after a day or a week. But I'm going to own this program.

2010, a few days early.

Back in June of 2009, one of the regulars on bladeforums started a contest. Quoting his post:

"I feel that maintaining a healthy active lifestyle, and staying in shape, close to your ideal body weight, is one of the most important survival skills. I see far too many folks on my ambulance that are trainwrecks and younger then me. (28)

I am by no means a picture of the perfect level of fitness, but im getting where I want to be. Its an uphill battle. I lift 7 days a week, jog, hike, and am an avid mountain biker. My diet is also 95% flawless. I work really hard to keep it that way, constantly adjusting things, reading books on nutrition, etc....
Well, I know some guys here want to get there too. Its sad when statisticly 95% of american adults havent lifted weights in the past month. Heres what I propose. A 6 month physical challenge. Post your starting weight and pics, (please no nude shots, I dont think I can handle that ), and make a commitment to change your diet and lifestyle."

Well, I signed myself right on up and starting hitting the ...internet. Looking for something to do that would work. I stumbled onto Kettlebells and took off.

Here's what I looked like in July of 2009: (It's pretty bad)

I weighed in at a max for the year of 238 pounds, with a 46 inch gut.

My body fat percentage was 34% according to the circumference method.


Doing even a half pullup was impossible, and forget about running until I'm under 200 pounds!

6 months later, after thousands of swings, snatches, getups, some running, and some diet control, here I am, at 20% body fat. I can do pullups. Plural. And I'm running nearly every day.

I met all my goals for the contest early, and I found myself in good enough shape in December to focus on my 2010 goals.

Adding to that, a new bodyweight conditioning book came out, and it's a serious winner. It's title is Convict Conditioning and despite the hard core title and marketing, it has everything from beginning physical therapy to world class feats of strength. All packaged in a nicely readable, simple, information dense form. For once, a real workout program that is truly do anywhere, anytime- and the most expensive thing is the book- no add ons or hidden marketing!

The exercises are divided into the "Big Six" moves- all graduated from very simple (like wall pushups) to the master class extremes:

1: one-arm pushups
2: one-legged squats (pistols)
3: one arm pullups
4: hanging straight leg raises
5: stand to stand bridges
6: one arm handstand pushups

So here's my goal set for 2010:

I intend to achieve the one armed pushups, pistols, and straight leg raises. I will get as far in bridging as I safely can, but I'm still exploring the movements and can't set a firm year goal for it. Number 6 is the big kicker, you can't find but a few people out there who can even approach doing this. My goal for 2010 is to get to doing regular handstand pushups.

I have a few other goals, because I want to get my running improved and finish changing my body composition:

I want to get to 14% body fat or better. I'm at 20% now - and after losing 40 pounds I think I can stand another 20 or so before I start getting that six pack definition.

I want to get my 1.5 mile run time to under 12 minutes, and my 2 mile run time under 16. Easy enough goals if I stick to running several times a week.

I started Convict Conditioning just before Christmas, I'll post some catching up on my logs and thoughts in the near future