Sunday, December 21, 2008

Perfect Rep Quest Con't: Insane Improvement - from Breathing?

Ça me surprend.
It's been one more week of the mc variant of the KJ Beast Hi/Lo volume program. I hadn't planned on writing up until next week as i didn't anticipate having anything compelling to report, based on Light Weight/ High Rep day - just steady progress. The change on the low volume/heavy weight day seems, well, absurd: it's a six fold increase on last week. What's that about? Let's recap:

Light/High Volume day (dec 18): steady progress
Good improvements, more in line with what i'd call normal increases with a kind of EDT approach.
  • In the first 15 min PR Zone, 13 sets of 5 reps with 12k. fine.
  • In the second 15 min PR Zone, 4 sets of 5 with the 12, followed by 12 sets of 5 with an 8.
That's two more sets with the 12 over the previous week (a 16% increase with the 12). And an additional set as well over the previous week. So (17*5*12 =1020) + (12*5*8=480) =1500, up from 1420 last week. That's a near 6% increase over the previous week. That's ok. A 6% increase is just not going to happen every week. So progress. Good progress.

That said, the what was supposed to be low reps / high load day kinda blows this progress out of the water. You won't believe this. I don't know why i'm writing it down. It's too insane. You'll see.
Low (ha!) Rep/ Heavy Day (Dec 21): well that's a surprise
Just to recap, this is my saga to get up to the 24kg. An impossible seeming dream considering i could maybe press the 16 once on the left (my weaker side) and that only on a very very good day. To recap with the sixteen pressing, starting with the right, but gated by the left.
  • 1st week: 1 Rep
  • 2nd week: 2 Reps
  • 3rd week: 6 reps
  • all of these going to failure.
  • this week: 36 reps. I *quit* before failure, and with perfect form.
That's a 6 fold increase over the previous WEEK. SIX! That's a 500% improvement.

Recovery: Less =more reps?
Last week i'd said how important full recovery was. That i was taking my 3 mins, and failed after 6 good reps. So this week, again, i focussed on full recovery, z health drills during those 3 mins.

After i hit 11 reps, which was already one shy of doubling my last week's progress, i decided to cut the recovery back - surely that would nip this progress in the bud. It didn't. So after a few more reps, i just kept cutting the recovery time back: 2.30, 2.00, 1:30, 1:00, 0.45, 0.30, till it got to where i was just C&P'ing, putting the bell down, marking down the rep and time, and repping it again.

Just for ref, here's the times from after rep 11. - a rep is C&P right; C&P left; recovery. The times mark the END of the set - after i've scratched a | for the rep.

12 - 13:03:53
13- 13:07: 02
14- 13:04:40
15- 13:12:15
16 - 13:14:34
17- 13:16:49
18 - 13:18:54
19 - 13:20:55
20 - 13:22:05
21 - 13:22:59
22 - 13:23:57
23- 13:24:40
24 -13:25:32
25 - 13:26:16
26 -13:26:16
27 - 13:27:42
28 - 13:28:18
29 -13:28:56
30 - 13:29:30
31 - 13:30:09
32 -13:30:45
33 - 13:31:20
34 - 13:31:50
35- 13:32:23
36 -13:32:50

Ok, i personally have never ever had a change of this magnitude in a week. Last week, i was SURE that it was because i had rushed recovery time just a bit (from 3 mins to closer to 2min30sec) that resulted in failing at rep 7. This week, after 35 reps, i couldn't fail with as little as 30 secs rest. So what's different this week? I had a shot in my left (weaker) arm Friday which still hurts, so thought i was really gonna suck this week. Other than a virus coruscating through me? It may be breathing.

Breathing - Part of Efficiency and the Perfect Rep
As part of a convo with breath master Will Williams, we got looking at the difference between the specifics of the Valsalva maneuver and Power Breathing as Pavel has decribed it. This exchange caused me to go back to anywhere Pavel's discussed breathing in ETK, Power to the People and Naked Warrior.

The version that resonated with me the most? Naked Warrior, where Pavel recalling what he'd learned from Mas Oyama about forcing the air down. But fundamentally, Pavel writes "As long as the contents of your stomach are compressed—you are power breathing" (p.82). That really resonated with me. There's lots more in that chapter of NW and i strongly recommend it, cuz i'm just saying that of ALL the parts of the technique, that is the aspect that really was Ah Ha with me rereading it. I still don't have Will's hiss down (see his front squat vid), but i was able to get that stomach compressed, sinking the breath down. grr.

So what's coming together here? Form of the C&P - it's getting smoother, and i suspect that's coming a lot from the high volume/light days. And that 6 fold improvement over last week? Is that down to the breathing?

You may ask if so, what on earth was i doing before? On the light loads, i'm inhaling when pressing up, and exhaling when bringing the bell down. On the heavy day last week i tried to have enough space to inhale a bit pressing up; exhale on the down.

This time, taking that power breathing of not to inhale or exhale completely, but to hold that compression, i got my air down, held it through the up phase of the C&P, getting a proper park/pause at the shoulder and press up. Most of the time, i still had the breath in me with the bell coming down; other times it was shhh'shd out coming down.

I've become a convert as well to the notion that a good clean sets up a good press. It's not like i didn't believe this before, but with all this practice, i feel like my clean really is becoming smoother - and easier with the 16 - a challenging weight- which is nice. I'll be intrigued to see how this smoothness with the mass translates - or if it does - to my 5min snatch test.

Whither Next with Heavy Day?
Today's practice feels like some kind of breakthrough. I don't really feel any different, but i can't deny the numbers. Many things to check out at any point in the future. Based on these 36 singles, it may be time to start thinking about giving regular ETK ladders a try with the 16.

As for the Bête quest, and since Kenneth's heavy days are supposed to be 5 - 15 heavy presses, requiring that full recovery, it may be time to go for KJ's double bell pressing and partials. That is, use two KB's rather than one. A 16k with a 5 pounder (see, those GNC/Everlast suckers can come in handy) is 18 and a bit kg, so more than 16 and not quite the 20. Kenneth also suggests that the requirements to balance those two bells really pushes on correct form.

Is this a Great Big WTF Effect or am i Dreaming?
Of course a big part of me says that today must have been some mysterious fluke, since i haven't gained pounds of muscle in my shoulders, i'm quite sure (i don't think it's possible within a month for a gal to do that). If there was any doubt before, i'm here to testify: strength sure does seem to be a skill. So here's to neuromuscular adaptation, form, breathing, and lots and lots of perfect rep practice.

1 comment:

Casey said...

Very cool, especially the part about Power Breathing. Of all the tricks out there to amplify strength, Power Breathing seems to be the strongest as well as producing a lot of WTF moments.


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