Friday, October 22, 2010

Practice really does make permanent

I've been experimenting with two new things lately, high-volume overhead presses from Kenneth Jay's "Perfecting the Press!" and bodyweight exercises from Paul Wade's "Convict Conditioning".  Working near my personal "long session" limits has taught me a few things first-hand that I've only previously seen in books.  Everyone else already knows this, but it has been interesting to me.

Practice what you want to do - I'm doing long sets of CC squat progressions as part of my workout instead of weighted squats to recondition my pistol.  A month ago, these were stretches for me, and weighted front squats were workouts.  The change has improved my endurance and mobility some, but it cut my weight-bearing squat strength almost immediately.  I struggled today to squat 5 times with a weight that I routinely press overhead.  I have squatted twice this amount in the past. I need to practice both volume squats and heavy squats going forward, like I do with swings and presses and get-ups. (brilliant, huh?)

Practice success, not failure - I've pressed 5x5 ladders and sat there on the plateau like most of us. When I have tried additional ladders or variations with longer rungs, I have fought fatigue and even injury. I clearly have endurance limits at this level of strength.  As part of this new program, I have pressed as much as 20x3 ladders without injury.  That's 50% more volume than 5x5 ladders, but programmed to avoid exhaustion.  The program does have a high-density module with 4 ladders and 5 ladders, but that will follow weeks of training 120-150 reps instead of the ROP standard 75.  The important point is that I'm now practicing high volume instead of fatigue and failure.

Practice progress - Lastly, I've been pressing a heavier weight in 4-5 sets of 1+2 reps on my Heavy Press Days.  That has become almost "easy" because I was already doing this a few weeks ago. It's much cleaner now, more confident. Since the heavy day workload hasn't changed in maybe 5wks, I tested 5 straight reps this morning. All good. Start lifting 5 reps more often, and start training 1+2+3+4 ladders right away.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Perfecting the Press, wk 2

10/17 16kg Volume
warmup, incl upper body
** knee popping a LOT, be careful of squats
- try 3-4 circuits
Jackknife SQ: 10
High-Pulls/SW: 5/5/5
SC C&P: 3r (1-2-3, 2-4, 3-3, 4-2, 6)
HP, 1-2-3, HP, 2-4, HP, 3-3, HP, 4-2, 2HSW, 6 Half-Kneeling
- did 4 circuits in 63min

Totals = 40 SQ, 300 SW, 120 CP @16kg

10/19 20kg Heavy
warmup, incl upper body, 1/1 TGU (easy)
- goal = 5 sets
Inv Row: 10 (sternum height, mostly OH)
SW: 15x2 (mostly 1H)
LC C&P: 1+2
- 5 circuits in about 40min
SW: 20 2H, 15 1H, 15 1H to finish

Totals = 200 Swings, 50 Inverted Rows, 5x3 ladders (15) long cycle clean & press @20kg

I had serious blisters coming out of last week. Did high pulls Sunday because I can actually tight-grip them to reduce sliding friction. Worked well. "Athletic tape" didn't last two sets. Grip itself is improving with the extended 20kg 1H work, though I did hit fatigue today.

Pressing well.  Whitley advised bringing a "heavy, near PR" bell to HSV, so I'm putting off the 24kg for now.  Maybe a few swings and get-ups, but that's it.  Back is a little stiff, right lats tight enough to give me some minor ulnar nerve irritation even now, but no tingling or grip loss.  Monitor super-closely.  3 days rest between VS and HS would be an improvement, even if not mandated medically.  Now then... Saturday morning, followed by pizza and video games, or Sun-Wed-Fri?  Saturday would get in the way of motorcycling, but Elwood's would make a great recovery meal.

I have questions about this lump-sum design, but I performed better this week than last. Do not yet "own" 5x3 ladders @20kg, do them again.  Start with 3x1, set the bell down between reps if needed.  These same numbers with greater confidence before moving on.  I might try 150x12kg for a weekend with pauses on the ones and half-kneeling sixes.  More volume, less soreness.  I like this escalating ladder design, very "Tracy" in style.  The ease of record keeping was a happy accident: reach "6" and mark a circuit done, instead of tracking 30 identical sets.

4 x (1,2,3 + 2,4 + 3,3 + 4,2 + 6) = 120 @16kg
3 x (2,3,5 + 3,7 + 5,5 + 7,3 + 10) = 150 @12kg
fatigue module, same sets, less rest
density module (1,2,3,4,5 + 3,5,7 + 5,5,5 + 5+10) = 60

Monday, October 11, 2010

Kenneth Jay's "Perfecting the Press!"

I got Kenneth Jay's "Perfecting the Press!" recently, a deep study on kettlebell press mechanics and corrective drills. The program design chapter caught my attention: one day at 120-150 reps 65% 1RM, one day at 10-20 reps with near-1RM. That's it. Corrective drills specific to high- and low-volume days are provided, and each month a small adjustment in work/rest is made and a 1RM test attempted. There's an impression of "Back and Shoulder Day" in the design's single huge workout that runs counter to the frequent "practice" training espoused by so many in our discpline. It still holds the idea of training high volume to develop neural patterning and good form, but that volume is organized for hypertrophy and probable soreness. (Even 20 reps/session at 85%-100% 1RM could be considered "high volume" in another program.) Not saying it does or doesn't work, but it's the first program I've tried that crosses the three-digit mark on a grind.

My first session was today. I just had a back-off week, with swing and get-up sessions using a heavy bell Thursday and Saturday that felt GREAT. As usual, today was out in the sun. Sweat, chalk, last week's calluses... I screwed my hands up. I should have known better.

10/10 16kg Volume presses
warmup, incl upper body
- goal = 90 reps + swings
- Short Cycle Clean & Press, 2 x "6 reps", alternated with 2 x 20 swings

1-2-3CP, 2-4CP
3-3CP, 4-2CP

3 circuits/45min, 30cp + 90sw ea
Total = 90 presses, 250 swings

The presses felt good, and I did not let my form slide. I like the way this incorporated ladders. Doing 1-2-3 15 times would have gotten boring and would have ingrained that short-term volume into me. I did the middle 1-2-3, 2-4 sets in a half-kneel position, which firmed up my torso and hips for the remaining ladders. 20kg short session Tuesday or Wednesday, based on my recovery. I have already done 5x1-2-3 at 20kg, so this will be 100-120 reps next weekend.


At the time KJ's book was released, a Dan John program (credited to Pavel for the design) called the 40-Day Workout was making the rounds. "High volume" strength training laid out as 10 reps x 5 exercises x 5 days a week. The 5-10 rep practice principle is broadly applicable to strength training and can be seen in other program designs. Personally, I'm intrigued by the regularly spaced schedule, as this would probably have a much lower DOMS and recovery burden. By contrast, KJ's 100-rep/low-rep protocol has been in the RKC manual as a heavy-bell program for years. Interesting.

Here's what's in motion. Delaine Ross started the 40-day workout after her return from the recent Dan and Pavel workshop, and I started the Perfecting the Press program this week. I've arranged 3 training days so each movement (press, swing, pullup, get-up, squat) gets 2 sessions, 1 heavy and 1 long, and a single day for snatch practice. She's a couple weeks ahead of me and has a more refined sense of her own training and development. She will probably thrive. I've already got 3R/2L in my biggest bell, so my goal will be either to finish 5/5 @24kg or to finish 1/1 @28kg stacked. That gives me both a benchmark with a single bell and a reason to work on combinations stacked or hung from one another. This should be fun.