Friday, February 27, 2009

2009/02/27 - Day 22: High intensity

Today's session:

Max rep drop sets:

2x elevated push ups, ellipses, screw presses

2x 1 legged squats, supported 1 legged squats, trinity squats

Isometric holds:

2x crow left, right and full

2x superman, bent superman, plank

15 minutes rest followed by:

Kettlebells / 16kg / 4 minutes work / 1 minute rest:

LCOAJ: 20/20

Half snatch: 20/20

LC Push Press: 20/20

It was a great session. The bodyweight stuff felt strong and smooth (or as close to that as I can get at the moment). The AKC kettlebell sets also felt great, in particular the LCOAJ. I used to struggle a lot with long cycle sets but today everything flowed nicely. Now for a relaxing weekend with just a bit of Intuflow and yoga thrown in. On Monday I'll start the last micro-cycle of the current 4x7.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

2009/02/26 - Day 21: A little bit more volume

My session today consisted of:

Slow eccentrics:

4x3 Quad Squat

4x3 Trinity Squat

3x3 Spinal Rock (sit up version)

Eccentric / Isometric contrast:

4x3 Rocca

4x3 1L SLDL

3x3 Spinal Rock (Pike version)

I added one set per exercise for the four main exercises. Funnily enough this didn't seem to make the session much more taxing. I definitely feel ready to explore some other challenges, which will happen with the start of my next cycle next week Friday.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

2009/02/25 - Day 20: Yoga

Today was mainly a yoga day and consisted of:

Kettlebell specific joint mobility

Kettlebell specific compensatory yoga

4 rounds of the Prasara Cricket flow

The session felt really good and it was nice to revisit the Cricket flow (my favourite Prasara flow). This particular flow just seems to contain about everything that I need from a mobility and compensatory point of view.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

2009/02/24 - Day 19: No intensity day

Like on Friday I worked through the Intuflow intermediate sequence nice and slowly today. I am enjoying focusing on the movements and making the session almost like a kind of moving meditation. Good stuff. Tomorrow is yoga day.

Monday, February 23, 2009

2009/02/23 - Day 18: High intensity

My training for today consisted of:

Max rep drop sets:

Elevated push ups, ellipses, screw presses (twice through)

One legged squats, supported one legged squats, trinity squats (twice through)

Isometric holds:

Crow left, right, full (twice through)

Superman, Superman bent, plank (twice through)

After about 15 minutes worth of rest time I did:

Kettlebells / 16kg / 4 minutes work / 1 minute rest:

Long Cycle OAJ: 20/20

Snatch: 32/32

Press: 24/24

I again dropped the bell a couple of times during the last minute of the last set. It really is amazing how much muscle fatigue the bodyweight routine produces. Maybe I should start doing the kettlebell sets on my moderate day so that there will be less pre-fatigue to deal with. I'll see how I feel on Thursday.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

2009/02/22 - Day 17: Moderate day

My session today consisted of the following:

Slow eccentrics:

3x3 Quad Squat

3x3 Trinity Squat

Eccentric / Isometric contrast:

3x3 Rocca

3x3 1L SLDL

Things are feeling good with this format. All the exercises are feeling solid and I think it is about time for a new challenge. I'll have to see where to take my bodyweight conditioning at the end of this cycle (in about two weeks from now).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

2009/02/21 - Day 16: Low intensity

Just a bit of joint mobility and yoga today. I worked through the Kettlebell foundation's joint mobility and yoga sequences. Like yesterday I took things slowly and focused my attention on the physical sensations produced by each exercise. My sessions yesterday and today brought to my attention the idea that the biggest weak spot in terms of my physical abilities has to do with my general mobility. My training over the past year or so definitely made me stronger and fitter but when it comes to moving freely I have a long way to go. Some of the immobility issues have to do with tension patterns that built up over time and some are related to specific injuries over the years. I will really have to think carefully about the way forward because I'm becoming increasingly aware of the fact that my general physical wellness seems to have more to do with my ease of movement rather than only strength or endurance. I will definitely have to build my training programme on a solid foundation of mobility work in order to reach my full physical potential.

Friday, February 20, 2009

2009/02/20 - Day 15: Intuflow

I worked through a slooooow and relaxing Intuflow intermediate session today. The aim was to work slowly and deeply with all my awareness focused on the working areas. This method of working feels a lot like doing TaiJi or QiGong and actually left me feeling warm and relaxed. It also allowed me to notice some interesting links between tension spots on my body. One example that comes to mind is that doing shoulder circles with my right arm raised seems to hit a tension spot on the left side of my lower back. I suspect I have been doing Intuflow too fast before. It is almost as if I have done it just because I know it is supposed to be part of a healthy exercise regime rather than allowing myself to get as immersed in the practice as I have been with kettlebells and bodyweight "workouts". I think the same thing might be true for my Prasara practice. This is so typical of me; rather than building a solid foundation I try and fly before I can even lie down comfortably. CST guru Scott Sonnon and his faculty of coaches have always proclaimed that mobility and the release of tension patterns comes before effective sports performance and is not merely there for rehab of sports (or other tension related) injuries. I think I'm starting to GET the truth in this. I guess if you really tune into your body (like I did today) these discoveries will eventually flow into your conscious awareness. I just need to listen more. For more on self-discovery through mobility work check out this great post:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

2009/02/19 - Day 14: A bit more sophistication

My session today went like this:

High intensity bodyweight hypertrophy:

Max rep drop sets (twice through):

Push ups, ellipses, screw presses

1 Legged squats, assisted 1 legged squats, trinity squats

Isometric holds (twice through):

Crow left, right and full

Superman, Superman bent, plank

To give my muscles some recovery time I took a 15 minute rest and then did:

Kettlebells: AKC fitness protocol / 16kg / 4 minutes work / 60 seconds rest:

LC Jerk: 20/20

Half Snatch: 20/20

LC Push Press: 20/20

In the bodyweight section I upped the sophistication a bit for the push ups and ellipses (doing level 2 as opposed to level 1 variations now). I also cut 30 seconds of rest from my kettlebell sets which means that 5 minute sets are starting to loom on the horizon.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

2009/02/18 - Day 13: Moderate intensity

Here is the session for today:

Slow eccentrics:

3x3 Quad Squat

3x3 Trinity Squat

3x3 Spinal Rock (basic version)

Eccentric / Isometric contrast:

3x3 Rocca

3x3 1L SLDL

3x8 Pike

The session felt good. I didn't change much except for upping the sophistication for the SLDL by 1 level.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

2009/02/17 - Day 12: Bit of yoga

I did the kettlebell specific joint mobility sequence today followed by the compensatory yoga postures and some work on the Prasara Flock of Pigeons flow. I'm beginning to realize that yoga is currently one of the weakest links in my training program. Although I have made good progress since starting yoga again it is not on par with the progress I've been making with the Intuflow, kettlebells and body weight training. I simply don't feel supple or graceful enough yet when I do yoga so this is definitely something to focus on in a future 4x7. Maybe I should start including yoga on my moderate days as well and not just on the low intensity days.

Monday, February 16, 2009

2009/02/16 - Day 11: Back Intuflow

I'm happy to report that the tummy bug seems to be something of the past. For my session today I worked SLOWLY and DEEPLY through Intuflow at the intermediate level. The focus was on integrating breath and movement as fully as possible and I must say that things felt pretty good. I am also noticing that I'm still getting leaner and that my body is gradually changing shape for the better. Clearly the bodyweight training as well as a slightly cleaner diet lately is making a positive impact. Yay!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

2009/02/15 - Day 10: Training on a sick day

Today was supposed to be my high intensity day but I've got some kind of tummy bug that started on Friday night. It was particularly bad last night but luckily I'm feeling a bit better today. Not wanting to totally miss out on my training I chose to just do the bodyweight section today and leave the kettlebells for Thursday. Here is how it went:

Max rep drop sets (twice through the circuits):

Push ups, ellipses, screw presses

One legged squats, supported one legged squats, trinity squats

Isometric holds (twice through the circuits):

Crow left, Crow right, full Crow

Superman hold, bent Superman hold, plank

I'm glad I forced myself to do the work even though I was feeling under the weather. The session went pretty well but I definitely noticed that my strength and endurance were not up to par.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

2009/02/14 - Day 8 & 9

Day 8:

Yesterday I worked through the kettlebell specific joint mobility program and the kettlebell specific yoga cool-down sequence. I was a bit pressed for time so I didn't do any additional Prasara work.

Day 9: Moderate session

The work today consisted of the BER moderate program. I did:

Slow Eccentrics:

3x3 Quad Squat

3x3 Trinity Squat

3x3 Basic Spinal Rock

Eccentric / Isometric contrast:

3x3 Rocca

3x3 1 legged SLDL

3x8 Slow Pikes

The session actually felt pretty easy. My pressing strength in the Quad Squats and Roccas definitely went up a few notches since I started this cycle. The Trinity Squats and SLDL also felt almost too easy. I will probably add some complexity or up the volume when I start micro-cycle 4 next week.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

2009/02/12 - Day 7: Intuflow

I just worked through the Intuflow intermediate sequence today. Everything felt pretty good. I am also amazed at how quickly the body adapts to new training stimuli. After the moderate and high intensity days of my first micro-cycle I had pretty severe DOMS. Having done the high day of micro-cycle 2 yesterday didn't leave me with any DOMS today. That's great news because it means I can push things a bit from the third or fourth micro-cycle on.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

2009/02/11 - Day 6: High intensity

Today's session was pretty tough and really worked my muscles to the point of feeling a nice burn. I can feel that the bodyweight work has a solid impact on raw strength as well as the potential to pack on some solid muscle. Here is the session:

Max rep drop sets (twice through):

Push ups, ellipses, screw presses

One legged squats, supported one legged squats, trinity squats

Isometric holds:

Crow right, Crow left, full Crow

Superman hold, bent Superman hold, plank

I took about 15 minutes rest after the bodyweight work and then proceeded with:

Kettlebells: AKC fitness protocol / 16kg / 4 minutes work / 90 seconds rest:

Push Press: 32/32

Half Snatch: 20/20

Long Cycle Push Press: 20/20

The muscle fatigue produced by the bodyweight exercises are quite extraordinary and makes the kettlebell sets a lot harder than they normally are. Like on Saturday this became especially apparent in the last kettlebell set. As a result I missed my target rep range for the last minute by 5 reps. I dropped the bell briefly after the time ran out and then cranked out the last five reps as fast as possible. I think I should probably do a test set with the bells after a few weeks of this training schedule to see what my performance is like when I'm totally fresh. My next two days will be pretty easy and focused on joint mobility and compensatory work.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2009/02/10 - Day 5: Moderate intensity

I did:

Slow Eccentrics:

3x3 Quad Squat

3x3 Trinity Squat

3x3 Spinal Rock (basic version)

Eccentric / Isometric contrast:

3x3 Rocca

3x3 Single leg SLD

3x3 Spinal Rock (basic version)

Like the first time I did this I felt practically no cardio impact but a pretty nice pump in the muscles. I also feel quite focused and alert which probably indicates some positive stimulation for the CNS.

Monday, February 9, 2009

2009/02/09 - Day 4: Low intensity

My session today went like this:

Intuflow beginner level

Kettlebell specific compensatory yoga

Flock of Pigeons flow

That's it - short and sweet.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

2009/02/08 - Day 3: You've gotta love the DOMS

I woke up this morning with some of the most significant DOMS I've experienced in quite a while. My legs felt a bit tired but my abdominals, triceps and pecs really felt pretty fried. Clearly the drop sets and isometrics yesterday made a bit of an impact. Being a no intensity day I just worked through the Intuflow intermediate sequence. Hopefully it would help to get some of the tightness out of the sore muscles.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

2009/02/07 - Day 2: High intensity

My bodyweight work today was based on max rep drop sets and isometric holds. On paper the session didn't look like much but I assure you I feel pretty worked right now. This is what it looked like:

Max rep drop sets (twice through the circuits):

Push ups, ellipses, screw presses.

One legged squats, assisted one legged squats, trinity squats.

Isometric holds (twice through the circuits):

Crow right, Crow left, full Crow.

Superman hold, Superman hold (bent), plank.

At this point I took about a 10 minute rest and then continued with:

Kettlebells: AKC fitness protocol / 16kg / 4 minutes work / 2 minutes rest:

Jerk: 32/32

Snatch: 32/32

Half snatch: 20/20

The session was as a whole very enjoyable. I like the burn created by the drop sets and isometric holds. The muscle fatigue caused made the kettlebell sets tough going though. The jerk and snatch sets actually felt fairly easy but the last set was hell. I actually dropped the bell twice for a couple of seconds to let my grip relax a bit. Luckily I still managed all my target reps within the time limit. I'm quite curious to see how I feel tomorrow morning.

Friday, February 6, 2009

2009/02/06 - Day 1: At it again

Having just finished a 28 day cycle on the BWER fatloss program I started the next cycle today on another BWER program; this time the focus is hypertrophy. I'm a pretty big guy so I don't need major size increases but I guess the broader theme at the moment is of an aesthetic nature; I want to look good naked. OK, I'm not planning a career in adult movies but a part of my overall fitness plans include to have a body that looks a bit more like it did years ago when I was really fit. Being a student of CST and Steve Cotter's approach to kettlebells and fitness does help keep things in perspective though. Although my current goals are more oriented towards physique improvements these goals still fit into a broader framework which puts health, fitness and well being before any other objectives. Anyway, enough rambling. My moderate day session today went like this:

Slow Eccentrics:

3x3 Quad Squats

3x3 Trinity Squats

Eccentric / Isometric contrast:

3 sets of Roccas

3 sets of 1 legged deadlifts

Slow Eccentrics:

3x3 Spinal rocks (basic version)

Eccentric / Isometric contrast:

1 x set of Spinal Rocks with holds

This program is a totally different beast compared to the fatloss program I followed in my last cycle. I hardly got out of breath with the sets today but I can definitely feel a significant CNS impact as well as a sense of fulness in the worked muscles. I may up the volume on the next moderate day depending on how I feel tomorrow morning. Tomorrow the focus will be on drop sets, isometric holds and, of course, the kettlebells.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

2009/02/05 - Day 28: And I'm done!

I just finished my first "official" 4x7 cycle in the sense that I stuck to the format strictly rather than somewhat loosely as I did in the past. I did the kettlebell specific joint mobility sequence, the compensatory yoga for kettlebell lifters and a short session of the Flock of Pigeons flow. Everything is coming along nicely including the plow posture and some of the (for me) more challenging compensatory movements like the cossack shift.

I guess now that I'm done it is a good idea to reflect on my experiences with this 4x7 cycle and some of the things I've learnt.

One of the things that struck me first was how quickly progress came following this format. On the bodyweight work I moved up to level 2 difficulty after three or four microcycles without much increase in effort. The hybrid cycle (combining strength and metcon) that came in the last three microcycles was a different story though. There is still a lot of work to be done with the more sophisticated movements.

In terms of specific improvements or changes I noticed the following:

1. I am definitely leaner (although using the word lean in the same sentence as my name is probably not a good idea). Trousers that fitted comfortably when I started are now slipping down and have to be held up with a belt.
2. I packed on some muscle and tightened up areas that were already quite bulky. For example, shirts that used to fit me well are now too tight around my shoulders and biceps. How the bicep hypertrophy happened is a mystery since nothing I did specifically targeted them. I guess this proves that well balanced full body training can create hypertrophy anywhere.
3. I move better in general. My wife commented on the fact that my posture has changed and that I seem to move with more fluidity.
4. Following on from 3 I can also say that the addition of bodyweight work improved my performance in both Intu-Flow and the Prasara yoga I've been doing. My crow posture for example became much more solid and under control.
5. As far as the kettlebell work is concerned I moved up from level 5 of the AKC fitness protocol to level 8.
6. I experience more of a general sense of well being and mental calmness even when feeling a bit stressed.

The focused protocol also allowed me to discover certain areas that defintely need work.

1. I still need to sort out the tightness in my lower back. I also discovered that my shoulders and upper chest is pretty tight and dense which stops me from easily getting into the wheel posture. As a result of this I will be adding deliberate practice of the wheel posture in my next cycle.
2. My endurance and recovery ability needs attention, particularly when it comes to high intensity exercise. My endurance and recovery is OK when it comes to kettlebell sets but the high intensity of the bodyweight work (especially the hybrid routine) leaves me blasted every time. This would explain while I always gravitated towards low rep strength training rather than endurance sports or sports requiring sustained speed.
3. My pelvic area, hips and groin need to loosen up. I used to be able to do a full side split between two chairs so I'm a bit dismayed at the loss of mobility in this area. Various injuries and long hours of sitting obviously contributed to this problem but I will work on reducing the tightness and regaining full mobility.

All in all I really enjoyed the cycle and I am itching to get started with the next one. Luckily I only have to wait until tomorrow.

As a last thought the bodyweight work I've been doing also got me thinking about the value of bodyweight only training. I recently read an article somewhere (I think it might have been by Steve Maxwell) that mentioned that bodyweight training consistently leads to more fat / weight loss than other methods. The author based this observation on years of results attained by his personal training clients. Inevitably the people who mainly followed bodyweight methods lost more weight than those who chose weight training, kettlebells, or whatever. He came to the conclusion that there seems to be something inherent in bodyweight work that is just somehow good for the body. From my experience the past 28 days I think this phenomenon may have something to do with the SAID principle: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. When you require the body to do something difficult like for example a hand stand pushup it will try and find ways to lessen the stress imposed. Obviously one logical way of achieving this would be to enhance the neurological signals to the muscle, resulting in greater strength potential. Another way would be to produce some muscular hypertrophy. A third way, which I think is equally logical, is to shed excess weight. The lighter you are the easier it would be to do the work. Anyway, I'll be exploring more about the way the body adapts to being placed under stress via its own weight in my coming cycles.

Stay posted!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

2009/02/04 - Day 27: No intensity day

Short and simple today: Just did the Intuflow intermediate sequence without the 4CBD and floor work. Tomorrow is the last day of this cycle and then I'm moving on to the next cycle which will again be based on bodyweight and kettlebell work.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

2009/02/03 - Day 26: Last high intensity day

I'm very glad to have finished the last high intensity day of my current cycle. The hybrid routine that I have been doing since micro-cycle 5 really kicks butt and it feels good to have seen the last of it for now...well, I'm actually going to miss it and will probably revisit it sooner rather than later. Anyway, this is what I did today:

BWER Hybrid routine / 5 supersets / 45 seconds per exercise / 90 seconds rest

Quad squat / Rocca

One-legged squat / Lateral leg swoop

Pike / Crow

Reaching arch / Jump squat

Kettlebells: AKC fitness protocol / 16kg / 3 minutes work / 30 seconds rest

Push Press: 24/24

Half Snatch: 15/15

Long Cycle Push Press: 15/15

The bodyweight session was fast and intense and I'm pretty sure I'm going to wake up with some DOMS in the morning. The kettlebell set went pretty well and I'm glad to have made my target reps even though I was pre-fatigued by the bodyweight work. I'll probably move up to four minute sets for my next 4x7 which I'm planning to start on Friday. The next two days will just be some light joint mobility and compensatory postures and flows.

Monday, February 2, 2009

2009/02/02 - Day 25: Starting the last micro-cycle

My current 4x7 is drawing to a close and I have thoroughly enjoyed the incorporation of bodyweight exercises into my routine. I'm hoping to post some thoughts on the results of the cycle on Thursday.

Today I did the final moderate intensity day of this cycle and this is what it looked like:

BWER hybrid routine / 4 supersets / 90 seconds rest

Quad squat / Rocca

One legged squat / Lateral leg swoop

Pike / Crow

Reaching arch / jump squat

I concluded the session with some more slow practice of the Prasara Flock of Pigeons flow.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

2009/02/01 - Low intensity compensatory work

I worked through the Kettlebell Foundation joint mobility and compensatory yoga sequences today. Like my previous low intensity day I did just about the whole sequence of compensatory movements except for the last three. I followed this with a short practice session of the Prasara Yoga Flock of Pigeons flow.

I really find the compensatory movements very valuable not only in terms of the benefits for kettlebell lifting but also for overall fitness and wellness. I have always known that I feel better when I move better and the joint mobility and yoga makes a big difference in this respect.

One posture that is still giving me trouble (even though I could do it with ease years ago) is the plow posture. I don't know if it is a flexibility issue in the lower back or whether the size of my belly and thighs interfere with my ability to go deeper into the posture. Anyway, I'll be sure to work on this extensively. Here is a cool video with some excellent instruction that my just help me to master this illusive posture. The clip is from my friend Howie Brewer from Kettlebells New York.
You can visit his site here: