Wednesday, November 16, 2011

And this was just right Easiness - Progressing Easy Strength

How keep progressing the weight of a kb press when on the road without weights? Last post presented a set up for a 40 day easy strength program to take on the road when i’d be away from the KB’s for over a month, and still wanted to keep progressing my press especially. The approach i decided to try used headstand push ups, pistols and one arm push ups as ‘easy strength’ variants.

ten days in:one hand work: so
much easier facing the wall
for this on 
Today, i’ll go over what progress was like in what i think of a Road Blocks - the chunks of time at various sites on the road that
broke up the practice.

The First Go at Easy Strength: Too easy?
The first time i had dabbled with easy strength, i had heard that one should use only 40-50% of one’s max on a lift. So i used 8kg on doing press work, and felt like it was making zero difference. Probably it was helping rebuild my shoulders but perhaps too impatient i didn’t feel like anything was happening - and i could measure no difference. After just under three weeks i thought i’m just not getting this. I posted my experience on the RKC forum - that i had not had success - is this a gal thing - and was told that, no, women had had success with it, but a couple of folks said that they had had to nudge up the weight a bit from what they’d initially thought the 40-50% was - for it to kick in. More like around 60-70%.

The First Ten Days
: getting the Load the Right Kind of Easy
That thinking of making the protocol a little more effortful - not much but a little bit - kinda pinged with me. It was a deep “hmm” moment. So this time, i thought, ok, this time, i shall adjust the level up just a touch. As it turns out, in the book Easy Strength there are two versions of the protocol where Even Easier Strength is the 40-50% version with somewhat higher reps; easy strength is indeed closer to the 70%+ zone. Alright.

That nudging the load up a bit from 50 to 70 turned out to be very easy to do and control with all bodyweight work. In the handstand press, in order to get two good reps, it became obvious immediately how far out from the wall i needed to be to get a little challenge to each rep, but not so much that getting in 5 pairs felt overwhelming.  
first time with face the wall headstand presses

Likewise in the pistol. Initially i started by attaching some stretch bands to a hotel door handle and pulled on them as needed to get up. That was cool in terms of finding something new for me about the explosiveness out of the bottom of the pistol. Not that it will look fast but i felt i was getting a kind of a “snap” at the bottom with that little bit of assist. Especially on the stronger side. And i’d focus on finding that on the weaker side. Technique attention when building strength. Makes a gal feel like she’s at least doing something.

The terra incognito here was the one arm push up. I  started from my knees, and i have to say that each of those two was not exactly what i’d call easy - using all the instructions from Naked Warrior about hand position, corkscrewing into the lat, hand by chest etc. My intent was to do only what i could with perfect form. My happiness has been that i could get these reps in, from my knees, without having to find another elevation from which to practice: this meant i really could do this workout anywhere.

Face the wall presses getting closer to the wall for two, ten days in

Bonus: weighted Pull Ups. Also, where i was working these first two weeks, i did have access to a pull up bar and 12kg loads. With some climbing slings and a couple caribiners i was also able once a day to do a couple singles with a 12. I really really appreciated this access as i knew that i was not going to have it for the last part of my trip. Every day then greasing the groove with pull ups, a couple loaded singles, and the easy strength program.

The first ten days  of this approach was really a learning process for me. I had no real way to sense progress. To borrow another expression from Dan John about workouts, these were mainly “punch the clock” workouts: get up in the AM, do my easy strength; get to the office, pull up when going through the doorway; find a time to gear up and do the singles with load.

Unexpected Benefits:The one thing i did notice during this time is that my shoulder seemed to be feeling better - the more regular awareness i would have that some ranges of motion still felt a little hinky seemed to be diminishing. That’s a surprise.

Getting some balance with a headstand and getting a little deeper on the wall handstand

The Next Seven Days
I’m breaking up the time sequence by weird intervals, just because of the shape of my travel, and the seeming correspondence to noticing changes.

So around day 15, in my third state and as many time zones of the trip, there were some seemingly noticeable effects: the reps i was doing started to feel a wee bit easier. I seemed to be getting closer to the wall in the headstand work; the pistols i was using both hands on a band for getting up and down became single handed. Indeed, a single hand on a wall was becoming sufficient for reps.

I took some time to start playing with headstands as well - the real type where one hinges at the hips and the legs lever up. I am SO not there yet. But i saw a cool vid on technique really emphasising arm and hand position that helped.

Pit Stop
At about 15 − 16 days in, i was back home for 2 days. I checked two things: the 16kg bottoms up; the 20kg press. No on both. THe 20 did seem to leave the shoulder to a slightly greater distance. But still - i used to be able to do this for reps - so not what i’d call happy. Onwards and upwards with the 40 days.

Back on the Road: The Next, Next 7 days.

This trip took in two countries and four cities. This was the first time i found myself able to put into practice some of the ideas from  Easy Strength the book. Dan John rifs on the importance of playing around with reps. 2*5, 3*3, 5,3,2

Imagine my surprise at finding myself able to do 5 reps of headstand presses. And five knee level one arm press ups.

As DJ puts it, there’s a feel: 5,3,2 is not what i’d want to do every day with this, but it ya, made sense in my body. Towards the end of this road trip - 3*3’s were explored a few times. Why? well sometimes i had to get to a meeting and i could get in three sets more readily than five. If the difference is between getting a workout in or not, it’s nice to have an option to get the three sets in. With the 5,3,2 the happiness there is just feeling in the zone enough to pull off the five and still feel submax. Mind you, not a whole lot sub max, but sub max.

I will say that doing OAPU’s from knees on bare wood floors is a kind of challenge one might not prefer. Carpet is better. A folded towel where not possible.

Oh, the other thing about OAPU’s from the knees?  It regularly cracks my lower back - especially from the right side. A fringe benefit? Not sure if folks who do these full on from the feet have this effect?

Friday nov 4, 32 days in: the next pit stop: semi-retest

The 16kg Bottoms Up:
I was back in the office, between meetings at work, and thought, hmm. And went to bottoms up a 16 (yes the office floor is i won’t say “randomly littered” because that would be unsafe but “coherently decorated” with KB’s). And i think i had an out of body experience: the dam thing slowly - i mean SLOOOWWWLLLLYYY - went up. Like there it was: in my fist; upside down, and my arm extended. I think i was a little stunned. Pulled off a record number of pull ups on leaving that day too. And that’s after zero PU bar access for around ten days. Gosh.

Something seemed to have been happening with this road work. Next episode, we’ll check in on the Pretty Big Idea that occurred Nov 5, day 33, and from there wrap up the 40 day experiment, reconsider the hypotheses and hopes and whither voyager.

Hope you’ll check back.

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