Sunday, May 30, 2010

Managing fatigue with a change to a circuit routine

I am fast approaching a rest week in my usual training cycle, and I slept lousy Friday night.  I had scheduled a 16kg Rite Of Passage Heavy day on Saturday but expected to complete around 2 5-rung press ladders, a set of 5 chinups, and maybe 250 swings.  That's the state I was in.  I was sore, I was tired, and I had carried a crick in my neck for nearly a week.  Instead, I broke personal records in total number of swings, Military Presses, and weighted pullups (my first ever 5 reps +15lb).  These were significant increases in total volume on the worst practical day I could have tried it.

I had been reading mc's fine columns on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness lately, trying to approach both the pinch in my neck and the soreness that was scheduling my rest week.  The research strongly endorses cardio acceleration before exertion both to quicken recovery and to minimize strength loss, moreso than massage or stretching or cool-down, even more than contrast water therapy afterward.

I remember discovering, quite by surprise back in January, that I could do more pullups in circuit training than in longer sets of pullups, nearly twice as many total in a workout.  I didn't have an explanation at the time, but the familiar way my lats simply freeze up on me when they've had enough has led me to believe it was an issue of recovery and not capacity or strength.  What follows was an application of circuit routine design to manage fatigue and recovery.

My usual cycle in an ROP press day works as follows.

Turkish Get-Up: 1-3 on each side during warmup
Begin circuit -
+ 5-rung MP ladder
+ 5 Goblet Squats
+ Pullups if they are on the day's schedule
+ 2-3min active recovery, including overhead walks with each arm

Repeat circuit until 5 total
Swings: 24/min 2H alternating with 20/min 1H for 8-12min total

I made a change this weekend after reading the research on cardio acceleration before heavy lifting.  I was really concerned about pushing long when I could feel the onset of a rest week.  All I originally intended with this design was to raise circulation before lifting so I could complete 2 or 3 ladders without wearing out.  Keep in mind that, at each single step in this schedule, I expected to complete about half the total volume that I eventually logged.

Turkish Get-Ups: 3/3 during warmup
5 weighted pullups +15lb
Begin circuit -
+ Swings: 24/min 2H, then 20/min 1H (2min)

+ 5-rung MP ladder
+ 5 Goblet Squats
+ 60step overhead walk on each arm (roughly the perimeter of my gym's rooftop)

+ 1-2min active recovery (shorter than usual)
Repeat circuit to 6 total
Swings: 24/min 2H, then 20/min 1H for additional 4 sets each

When all was said and done, this was the first time I had completed 6 ladders of 5 rungs apiece.  I had also completed a total of 440 swings @16kg in 20 discontinuous minutes; my previous best was 400 @12kg in 20 straight minutes almost 5mos ago.  There was a rotation built into this routine of lower pull with cardio, upper body dynamic press, lower body press, upper body static press, and walking for recovery.  After adding 8min of traditional swings at the end, this was accidentally a pretty well-balanced workout.

Completing consecutive sets builds conditioning and stamina, where a full recovery between sets trains strength; this is common knowledge.  I cannot say I felt "rested" between 2 sets of swings and a press ladder, but each ladder did stagger less from fatigue than usual.  I actually found a second wind and a smoother form after the third complete ladder.  The grip failure I usually struggle with in long sets of swings did not come up until the last minute or two of the entire day.  The intermittent swings kept my heart rate up, kept my muscles perfused with blood, and managed the single limiting factor in most every movement in my routine.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wrapping a 16kg RoP for a Heavier Routine

I've been working a steady ETK Rite of Passage routine for 15 weeks now, following 6wks of the Shoulder Shock protocol.  I finished the 5x5 press ladders several weeks ago and finished the RKC  pace of 100 snatches in 5min at my 16kg training weight.  I'm nowhere near ready for the SSST's 200/10min.  Just not even enough to call myself "working on it" with a straight face.  That's 5mos of press ladders and swings at roughly the same weight.  Need to move on, lift heavy to lift heavier and swing longer to swing longer.

Did something new today, a full circuit workout with 24kg.  Loved it.  I've been thinking about a few different, very useful goals and routines people focus on.  KJ's Beast Pressing program, the Titan Challenge and Jordan's hour of get-ups, and some different cardio training.  A high volume swing day, a heavy weight swing day, and a max VO2 snatch day.  They're really disparate, but they have common threads in volume vs weight.  I'll be feeling this out until mid-June, at least.  I've also read some studies on DOMS and interspersed swings with heavy lifting for cardioacceleration, with encouraging results so far.  For my schedule, Sunday was my ROP "Heavy" day and is the day I have time for the longest session.  Love working out on the gym roof in the afternoon, but there's nowhere up there to do pullups... yet.

Sunday: 16kg ROP Heavy circuit
Clean & Press, 5-rung ladder
+ Pullups, 3-5 per ladder
+ Goblet Squats, 3-5 per ladder
+ the above done as a circuit 5+ times
Pistols or Tactical Lunges, depending on my knee
Swings, 300 or so (which is long for me)

Tuesday: 24kg circuit
Swings, 15-20 x3
+ TGU, 1-2 each side
+ 2H Clean + Goblet Squat, 3-5
+ Clean & Press, 1-2 each side
+ the above done as a circuit until presses wear out
Swings, 15-20 x6-9 at the end

Thursday: 12kg or 16kg get-ups and snatches
TGU, 5 each side
+ Pushups, 10
+ Pullups, 6-10
+ the above done as a circuit 3-5 times
Snatches, :15/:15 sets, done 10+ minutes for endurance

Considered doing the long press day with 12kg for 200+ reps, true Beast Press Protocol style, but 16kg is just right on that edge between conditioning and strength.  May do 12kg snatches and BU-TGUs for endurance instead of load, at least for the first few weeks.  I'm hoping this new focus on swings will enhance my snatches with 16kg.

Monday, May 17, 2010

When you least expect it.... 'poof' up in the air

I've had a goal of completing a strict Military Press on each arm with my 24kg kettlebell.  I own a pair of 12kg and 16kg that I nicknamed Frik and Frak some time ago.  When my new 24kg arrived, I was briefly out of four-letter "F" words for training equipment.  I had one other suggestion that didn't "fit", so it's been "Frank the 24" ever since.  That title phrase has been on my lips for some three months now.

When you least expect it, Frank... 'poof' up in the air.

I managed to snatch Frank a couple reps on each arm about 10 days ago.  That was barely unsafe, but it was fun beyond measure.  I pressed Frank with my dominant right arm on March 25.  The last two months have been swings, snatches, and left arm therapy.

  • Waiter Presses: could barely do one with 12kg the first time.  Can do sets of 5 @16kg now, and have even done some ladders.  Military Presses got cleaner and quicker, but not all that much stronger.  Arm is more mobile and healthy for the experience.
  • Bottom-Up Presses: still can't BUP 16kg left-handed, but that may be neurological instead of muscular.  Long-term goal.
  • Overloads:  I started adding incremental weight last weekend, which is doing me a world of good.
Tonight, just screwing around, I completed the following.

2 @18kg (41lb) on each arm
2 @20kg (46lb) on each arm
2 @24kg (53lb) on each arm
2 @24kg later with less warm-up




I lowered each rep slowly, like there was a cup of water on top.  The last time I tried that on the left, the bell didn't come off my shoulder.  Literally.

I've been watching Rif's technique of progressively loading his swings and presses for some time now.  I'm liking what this does for me.  I'll try some sets of 5 and 3-rung ladders at 20kg for the next 2 weeks, pressing 24kg in singles as the mood strikes me.  The goal is to condition up to a set of 5 straight @24kg by May 31.

What a relief!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Programs" and Record Keeping

Yes, I have a spreadsheet.  An honest-to-goodness spreadsheet of all my training the last six months.  Here's the problem.  I've been in "programs" all this time, scheduled days or weeks in advance.  One sick day, one poor night of sleep that cuts my volume in half, and I'm off schedule.  Mark Reifkind does sets of swings of different lengths, with different weights, and fits it all in a square inch of blog.  There's something very liberating about that.

I need to let go of the giant table of the same 3 exercises every day, get myself a moleskin journal and a waterproof pen, and get comfortable with my training.  The table meant something to me when I was charting progress and following Fighter Pullup and Shoulder Shock.  Not so much anymore.  It's less important to me right now whether I can do 9,8,7,7,6 pullups than if I can do 15 straight or do them with hand changes across a set of grips.  Can I press 24kg?  Can I do the SSST?  I can't do enough pistols to lose count, so "can I do good pistols?"  I also want to do more bodyweight exercise, but I don't have space for five more exercises.  Here's what I have in mind.

  • Plan A = 16kg TGUs (5/5), One Armed Pushups (2/2), Pistols (2/2), 16kg Swings/Snatches in alternate sessions of THIS routine.
  • Plan B = Pullups (Fighter Pullup or Ninja Warrior style), 24kg Cleans to Goblet Squats, 24kg Swings
  • Tu - Plan A, Th - Plan B, Su - Plan A heavy
  • Tu - Plan B, Th - Plan A, Su - Plan B heavy

    Train probably three days a week.  Make every Sunday "heavy volume day", so whatever plan I'm on that day gets extra volume.  I can't just do an extra 10 pistols, so the extra volume would look more like 1 extra pistol and 40 extra snatches.

    Get-up, press, pull, two different squats, two different ballistics (three if you count 16kg and 24kg swings as different).  I like this.  Frankly, I'd almost just do this to a comfortable stop or a managed fatigue and not keep numbers every single day.  At least for a while, that seems like it would be nice.  I need to go to the little moleskin journal store in the mall, find something that matches my Vibrams.

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Lessons learned during an ROP

    I've just reached some ROP milestones with a 16kg bell at 65kg bodyweight, and I learned a few things along the way. First, do not try to train when you're sick. I pushed through a stomach ailment and found my soreness and fatigue never went away. I was sore for three days because my body didn't actually FEED on anything I put in it. Big mistake.

    Second, not every move works for everyone. I have a minor elbow alignment issue and some ulnar nerve binding. My Military Press is a little funny on the left side. I learned Waiter Presses, which helped some, but I cannot do BUPs on the left to save my life. I just discovered the Single Leg MP from the ETK bonus releases. My left SLMP got halfway up and paused, then crept up the rest of the way. No hip shifting, no side pressing, no ballistic launching from the rack. It was hard and scary and tiring, but it was the cleanest left arm MP set I've ever done. I just had to find the right alternate press to train with. 

    Third, I've been trying to raise my swing density to improve my conditioning. The long-term goal was a snatch test. I'd have been happy with either the RKC numbers (100/5min) or the SSST (200/10min), but I wasn't ready. The last few weeks, I've tried :35/:25 and :40/:20 swings with surprising results. My fingers went numb at 6 or 8 minutes because of my nerve impingement. The new muscle mass during the ROP only made it worse. I had to regroup. I found that one-handed swings at :30/:30 suit me best. This isn't hardstyle and I may catch flak for it, but I can release briefly at the top of a 1H swing to keep the hand fresh. Each arm gets 20 quick releases and :30 off every minute, and I can do 1H swings at a reasonable weight all day again. I did almost 300 this week before acknowledging that I was sick. Similarly, I've managed my snatch rhythm to my hand fatigue, with great results. 

    To wrap things up, I hit 5-rungs x 5 presses a couple weeks ago and have repeated it for good measure. I finally snatched 100/5min this week . I may continue on for 200/10min, or I may prep to move up a bell. Not sure yet, but I learned a lot on the way here. I think that I'll set what my company calls "stretch goals" for the month of May. See if I can make 200/10min snatches at 16kg. Use SLMP ladders on the left to train to press 24kg for 5 singles. If not by the end of May, then I order a 20kg and make baby steps. Nothing wrong with that.