Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Summer Shoulder and Snatch Sessions

Got the new 20kg and 8kg bells in last week.  Ironically, I've hardly handled the 20kg yet. The 8kg has been great for my arm bars and concentric isometric presses. Every non-workout day last week, I would start at my 8kg with 5 regular presses and 2 with isometric pauses on the way up.  Then repeat with the 12kg, then singles with the 16kg until I felt any tiny change in my form.  Usually my right arm and hip start to drift out into a sort of bent press, and the left side of my neck tenses up.  I've done this nearly every day, plus rehab movements. I finally pressed my way up to 20kg singles with each arm, and my press motion is more vertical and contained on both sides. This is such great news, it's hard to really express clearly.  I've been fighting with this motion for over 6 months.

I'm escalating two new priorities for the month of August: hi vol 12kg presses and hi vol 16kg conditioning.

  • 12kg ROP presses, maybe short sets 16kg on heavy day. Heavier singles once or twice a week.  I am really struggling to keep myself on the 12kg...
  • Repeat 500 16kg SW/20min. Work up to 1000/45min by month's end on a fresh day.
  • Repeat 12kg SN 200/10 and work toward doing it with 16kg. Work toward 20 or 30 min @12kg, VWC style.
My programming the last 6mos has been roughly the Rite of Passage from "Enter the Kettlebell". That's changed since this nerve pinch.  I'm pressing lighter, doing more get-ups and arm bars, and doing various rows instead of pullups to work on shoulder extension.  More light shoulder movement, fewer heavy presses and pullups.  Also, I put up around 1100 swings and 275 snatches each of the last few months.  I'm on pace this month for 3 times that.  I realize that's what Tracy Rif did by 9am this morning, but it's a significant increase for me.

I think it's accurate to say that I'm working from the bottom up now.  Swinging a bell heavier than I'm pressing and snatching.  Really heavy swing volume, heavy snatch volume, more get-ups, moderate press volume.  I've been focused on my upper body, but my lower body has always responded better.  We'll see where this goes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

253, 142.4, 7.0%, 200

Six years ago, a routine physical and blood workup showed I was 20lb overweight and had a cholesterol of 230.  I changed my diet and exercise and dropped 20lb, 100 triglycerides and 50 cholesterol over the next year.  Six months ago, I was exercising with Russian kettlebells regularly and another 5lb lighter.  A cholesterol screen in a bloodmobile reported 253, and I was just beside myself.  I should have gone right to Quest or somewhere and gotten retested, but I was just outdone.  I wanted to come back for one more blood screen with a point to make and an axe to grind, to leave no doubt that I had done my due diligence.

Today, I'm another 5lb lighter (lighter than high school graduation).  I'm flinging kettlebell 3 or 4 times a week.  A local gym brought a machine by the office today to do BMI and body fat measurements.

Age = 40
Height = 5'8"
Weight = 142.4lb
BMI = 21.7
Body fat = 7.0%
BMR = 1551kcal

This deserved a celebration.  A few get-ups, a few presses, a few pullups, and a snatch test.  The Secret Service Snatch Test (SSST) is 200 reps in 10min with 24kg.  I'm not up to 24kg yet, but I snatched 12kg for 200 reps in 10min today for the first time.

I'll get my blood lipids retested again by the end of the month.  If my cholesterol's still high, then it's genetic and I'll deal with a doctor who knows more about exercise and nutrition than prescribing statins to perfectly healthy people.  I've known two people on statins.  They both suffered liver damage and chronic muscle pain.  I'd almost rather take my chances with cholesterol and 7.0% body fat.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Snatching as therapy

In my last post, I was doing rehab on a nerve pinch in my right arm.  I've been doing upward isometric presses with 10lb and get-ups with 12kg and 16kg, plus lots of arm bars and windmills.  I've also found that I can snatch well, and my weekly snatch volume is 2x or 3x what it was a season ago.  I can press 12kg for sets and 16kg for singles and pairs now, which is improvement... and I need to pause on that for a moment.

In May, I had finished a 16kg Rite of Passage.  In June, I was doing double presses with 16kg and 12kg bells for 5 sets of 5 on the weekend and pressing 24kg for singles during the week.  I did that for two weeks before I felt a little trap pain at Whitley's grand opening on June 26.  I did another 5x5 double MP session the next day.  By the end of that week, I was in constant nerve pain and seeing a Z Health therapist.  I'm in no pain now, and I can finally press 16kg again.  I need to buy the 20kg and re-purpose the 24kg.  It was just too big a jump for my frame.

I lost easily 6 months progress on presses, pushups, pullups, everything upper body.  I am pretty sure that I can trace it back to a 24kg floor press and get-up on June 15 or June 22.  I was just barely over my head doing double presses, but they only taxed my left arm.  It was the floor press on the right arm that did me in.  I am re-learning the motion with lighter weights and isometric pauses, which is greasing the sticking points in my motion.  My left arm press is cleaner than it's ever been, if not yet as heavy.
Wknd 16+12 outdoors
Done as a circuit, 4-5 times depending on presses

+ 16kg Swings: 20 2H, 5/5/5/5, 20 transfers
+ Clean + Front Squat: set of 5 with both bells
+ 12kg Military Press: 3 presses + 2 upward isometrics (pause at 6, 4, 2, and 12 o'clock positions)
+ Double rack walks: 60 steps with both bells
Groups of swings as above until at least 240 total
Snatches: sets of :15/:15 seconds or 10/10 reps


2 Wkdy sessions
Circuits as above of swings, TGUs, and Pistols
Windmills and arm bars
Snatches: mostly sets of 10/10 each minute
This is working well so far.  What's odd is that the snatches are allowing me some terminal elbow extension without requiring a long push.  There is a small tolerance for a poor lockout at the top of a strong snatch, so I am able to practice locking out and stabilizing overhead without having to press the weight up there.  I would not even consider this if I did not already know how to snatch and have a strong swing.  I started with 12kg for safety before trying this at 16kg.

My swing volume is up.  My swing height is up.  My grip endurance is good.  My back feels great.  Last but nowhere near least, my snatch grip can finally do snatches 3 or 4 times a week without peeling my hands.  If I cannot press 75 reps each arm for the present time, at least I can learn to press properly and double my swing and snatch volume in the meantime.  Swings, get-ups, pistols, and snatches, and I can almost do pullups.  I'm actually excited about this.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I lift like a kitten

I've spent the last week-plus working on mobility drills and resting from right arm pressing motions.  I'm not in pain anymore, which is good, but I lift like a kitten.
Regular RKC arm bars and lightweight (12kg or less) Turkish Get-Ups
Z-Health R Phase drills from the floor up
camshaft shoulder drills at varied angles
radial and ulnar nerve glides
isometric military press drills at 10lb and 12kg
I can press 16kg cleanly with the left arm, but not at all with the right.  I've just managed a 16kg get-up on the right with an unassisted floor press.  I also cannot do a strict pushup without the right arm flaring out and getting weak on me. There's still so much work to be done with the nervous control and  movement patterning on that arm.  I cannot believe I did this to myself after being able to press 24kg for singles on demand.

Obviously I need to get back into exercising in general, but this changes the plan.  I won't be pressing double bells or pressing 5-rung ladders anytime soon.  Keep up the therapy above at least daily.

Sun 16+12 outdoors
16kg swings in volume 2-3 sets per interval of lifts
16kg or 28kg cleans and front squats sets of 3-5
12kg presses 5+iso, work on chest and shoulder stabilization, quit when the right hip shifts out
Test 12kg snatches


Tue and Thu 16 indoors
16kg swings, 2-3 sets per interval
16kg get-ups with rachets and alternate middle sections, 2/2
pullups, sets of 5 per interval
pistols, 2/2 per interval

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Insight from a Kenneth Jay Workshop

Saturday was spent with Master RKC instructor Kenneth Jay and about 15 comrades in iron.  The title "Presses, Pistols and Pullups" became a bit of a back-story in favor of a discussion of movement therapy and nervous system behavior.  The techniques applied toward PP&P were deconstructed with the idea of training the brain to accept these movements as "safe" instead of "threatening".  Little hitches in my normal motion are actually unfamiliar movements where the brain briefly blinks or hesitates, and those hitches must be re-learned until they can be completed without stuttering.  It's time for me to scale back to a lighter weight and do my reps slower, fewer, different, "right".  I have read this on two or three other trainer's blogs in the last few months, Rif, Jordan, and others.  Now it's my time.

I've been fighting an inflamed radial nerve for about two weeks now.  It just happened, almost overnight.  My armpit and tricep ache all day, and I occasionally lose some sensation in my hand.  I've seen two different trainer-therapists, and the exercises and drills prescribed have given some relief.  There was no attempt to explain how this happened, and rightfully so.  Something KJ said yesterday, at least 3 or 4 times, finally clicked with me this morning in hindsight.  Asked about putting on muscle mass, he answered, "sure, there are guys who put on huge muscle and got really strong, but they're walking around in pain".  It's about muscles getting thicker, either by inflammation from a workout or growth over time, and pinching the nerve bundles that run through them.

That statement of KJ's didn't click with me until this morning.  Check my last couple posts.  I started a program about a month ago that's designed to put on muscle mass.  Lots of two-handed overhead lifts and lifts from hang to shoulder, heavy lifts, with really short rests.  I've definitely put on bulk, such as it is on my puny frame.  I have to wonder if I caused my own neuritis?  I've scheduled a few days of rest and a return to more movement-drill training to perfect my form. Some of the bulk should go away because of the change.  It'll be very interesting to see if this nerve condition tracks my size.