For those who care about buffness

Exercise

the legend of the human flag!

In November last year, a friend asked me to help him achieve a flag. So we started working diligently towards a workout plan which would lead him there. In all fairness it didn’t take much adaptation from my own workout, merely slight modifications for the most difficult series in the early days, and less weight. A progressive levelling to harder and heavier series.
The friend in question had a reasonable level of base fitness already, an awareness of his own body and muscles, and had already clearly experienced workouts and boxing stamina regimens. And prob had a reasonable BMI (not that I care about BMI bs but am trying to say the kid was ripe for a buffness academy intensive workout!).
So we started with the basic upper body exercises, in circuits. Pulls/chins, push, oz pulls, dips. The bread and butter of calisthenics. Progress was steady and I was lucky he was very keen and motivated.
We started with difficulty achieving 8 x pulls 4 times, and an exhausted client. We built him up and ~6 months later we have a fluent pull upper, (I think he is at ~10kg extra on all sets, and could do much more if he dared!) who does half flags on the pole for breakfast and in his sleep. With perfect form.
The grip used to teach him the human flag was the trad grip on a normal street pole (with tape added for better grip). We started practicing them every other day as soon as he developed awareness for his half flag skills, and alongside rigourous front planche practice, after circuits.
Great emphasis was put on proper form, proper grip and the initial tip toeing phase before any lift off was attempted. After a few months, he was able to briefly hold a tucked flag, and decided to start practicing the ladder grip. This grip imho is a bit easier to handle for most people due to nicer wrist angle and a feeling of safe grip, not to diminish his hard work, as 6 months ago he could hold neither! It is a remarkably hard feat for either grips, and this makes me really proud:

Congrats to him and to all of you out there working on the flag! Work your upper body hard, with compound exercises like pull ups that will work your core hard too, you will need it for this. And one day, you too can achieve the legendary human flag!



new year, new illness, new resolve

so as january rolled in and i was cruising nicely w training, along came a spider. in the form of a brutal cough virus.
after getting coughing fits which were so violent i’d practically pass out, i was told (by the doctor! not google!) that i had broken a rib, and that the whole area on the back/right hand side of my ribcage was really bruised due to crazy coughing.
tough. very tough. i was doped up on some morphine based cough mixture which would knock me out most of the day, and have no idea pretty much what happened for most of january it’s all a blur.
training was completely out of the question for the obvious reasons. at first it was just i couldn’t breathe, but then the pain hit suddenly (i know exactly when i damaged the rib, it was a thursday night! and so painful) and not only i couldn’t breathe, but i was also crippled. even getting out of bed hurt. sneezing was the worse thing next to death.

so now i think i am on the other side of that crap finally.

i am not 100% yet. i still get pain in my rib area. sneezing is still unpleasant. and that’s over a month after. i also lost about 5kg.
on the plus side, i am training again at almost full speed. slowly rebuilding the strength i lost. i am back to 64 pull/chin combined sessions with dips and push ups. and to practicing technique like flags, muscle ups, planches and even crucifix. but my old injuries are showing up again, like an inflamed wrist and biceps, as i guess i am pushing harder than ever.
nevertheless, nothing can stop this buffness train so with the help of modified moves and wrist guards/compression sleeves, we will make it. the rib is almost not bothering me much anymore. i can feel the lats are protecting the area alongside the bruised intercostals.
my back is a little painful as i was unable to stretch it fully for so long. so now to get the area between my shoulder blades released will take ages as the whole thing stiffened to the max to protect the damaged rib.
the road will be long and i am having to hack my nutrition again to make sure i don’t lose even more weight due to intense training.
until recently i was taking arnold’s iron mass by muscle pharm. slightly annoyed that they don’t really mentioned the amounts they use for stuff like creatine and all, but that’s fine because it worked well despite a sickly sweet taste. but lately, something strange had started to go on. i had this constant sweet taste in my mouth. like from first thing in the morning on an empty stomach to the moment i fell asleep. at first i didn’t think much of it. but then it started annoying me. so i looked it up. google mentioned cancer, diabetes… etc
after days i saw a post on a body building forum. someone complaining of the same thing. turns out that sucralose can do that (and other sweeteners). guess what muscle pharm use. yup.
so i stopped. and after a week or so, the weird taste went away.
unlucky, now am left w no supplement as i refuse to take this shit, god knows what it does to my insides.
so i resorted to making my own mix. am still waiting to receive my order from myprotein.co.uk atm, but i ordered whey protein and some oat powder. no flavours for either, as any type of flavour involves sweeteners.
atm a friend lent me their “macro:meal” mix which is in effect a meal replacement:

Unflavoured: Carbohydrate Blend (38%) (Ground Oats, Aktivated*®* Barley Starch Powder), Protein Blend (34%) (Whey Protein Concentrate (Milk), Milk Protein Concentrate, Whey Protein Isolate (Milk), Egg White Powder), Flaxseed Powder (Cold Milled) (6%), Emulsifier (Soy Lecithin)

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 19.02.40

apart from its gritty texture (which i think might be due to the barley powder), it’s not too bad provided that you use a blender of sorts. i mix it w whipping cream, full fat milk, coconut oil, almond or peanut butter and chocolate powder. not sure how many calories it adds, but am pretty sure i wouldn’t advise it for someone trying to slim down put it that way.



new year delays

happy new year to you all.
well lucky i didn’t have any resolutions to start exercise, i have now been sick for 2 weeks.
nasty nasty dry cough that wont go away, and i had fever all of last week. only thing that vaguely worked was to take morphine based cough medicine to cancel the coughing reflex. lovely. now am left w a lingering cough, and what feels like a torn intercostal muscle on the right of my ribcage probably due to coughing.
how. fucking. annoying.
so no workouts for me for almost 2 weeks. i did some tuck planche holds a couple of days ago, and holding for 15 seconds felt like the end of the world already when you’re holding back from coughing.
am not sure what to do w that intercostal situation. my thorax is sore generally from all the coughing and i have lost about 3kg due to inactivity and water loss. but am not sure working out right now is a very good idea.
and that is assuming it is an intercostal muscle issue. and not pleurisy. time will tell.
meanwhile, i am dreaming of when i can get back to training… i hate being off sick.
speak soon with some new training ideas for 2016 to share with you all!



a journey of a thousand steps

it’s been a long time since i last wrote.
many reasons for not writing, surgery, work, life, moving to sweden, many things.

as i hopped back on the training band wagon, i was privileged to find some company on the way this time. currently, i am helping a friend to train, on his own journey to the human flag. and beyond… i hope.

the human flag is king among strength feats and one of the most elusive moves i have been given to train for. (well except that sodding floor planche which still eludes me)
i temporarily lost my flag after surgery, due to lack of tone, puny training etc. but it’s coming back. once you train obsessively for 3 years or so for a move, your body doesn’t forget. even if your strength goes away, there is always a way to get back at it with enough discipline and hard work.

so how does one teach such a difficult move? how does one teach something which feels so impossible when you start off?
it’s such an effort on the body due to the many requirements: shoulder strength, stability and flexibility, core strength, biceps strength. it also takes a bit of luck and genetics to get it right quick.
i was never one for listening much to the gurus. i think the one size fits all approach doesn’t really work for that move. for example, the flagman himself, dominic lacasse, would preach simple frog lifts ad nauseam to get started. but for me that didn’t work. i had much better success kipping myself over the horizontal line as if i was to do a pole dance hand spring, and then holding back/slowing down my fall. until one day i could hold it straight.
sure the frog lifts might work, but i think it’s up to the individual learning the move to also be clever and figure out what works for him/her, and for the trainer to pick up on clues. for example, my friend hasn’t done much pole and presumably the hand spring for him wouldn’t mean anything. because i was already training to do hand springs, in my case it made sense to carry on with this as i was having some success and felt i could achieve something that way. so we’re trying to just get the hands right first, learn to get comfortable with the position. understand which is the stronger side. experience all the parameters. hand position, finger position, wrist position, slight bend in the elbow vs straight arms, head position, shoulder position, where is horizontal, tip toeing to a lift, gravity centre, balance, grip. like i said, it’s a tricky move!

so atm, i am focusing on building my mate from the ground up. the way i would have done to myself if i could start again w hindsight. sequences of complex series involving pushing and pulling motions. pull ups/chin ups (always! this is also a king of moves!) combined w antagonist movements, all targeting the shoulder girdle, arms, back and core. he has a good dishing posture so i have good hope that some oblique work and leg lifts will get him up to scratch with his core strength fast enough.
it’s brutal, and these are workouts that i myself do, and which kill me too with heightened intensity.
and i admire his resolve and the fact that he puts up w it, diligently still turns up to the park come rain, shine or snow as we are now almost in the heart of scandinavian winter.
today we did his very first flag position test. the first step to getting some muscle memory going and also the step that makes every flag n00b humble. when you’re first faced with the seemingly impossible task of lifting your body horizontally, holding just by your upper body and core strength from a pole… defying gravity.

as usual i pray that he won’t be put off and will be stubborn enough to keep on coming back. day after day. month after month. possibly year after year. until the magic happens.

tbc!



old age…

long time i haven’t posted anything, i wanted to post this before the end of the year. but here we are in feb. better late than never.

after speaking to a dear friend of mine recently, i started thinking about the impermanence of our stay here.
2 shoulder surgeries later, i have managed to extend the lifespan of my shoulders for a little longer, but now the rest of my body has also started to fade.

it’s unavoidable. age damages our bodies. we lose strength, bone density, lose hair and get wrinkles. not much can be done but resigning ourselves to the fact that we won’t get out of this alive.
but i find that am not ready to just lie down and wait yet.
at the ripe age of 37, i feel like my body mends a lot slower than it used to, but still mends. just i have to pay more attention to what it tells me. and rest a lot more.

nowadays i workout a lot less. for various reasons, my schedule was very tough until recently. i would have to get up at 6AM daily, and before i even got to work i had done some other type of work for one hour.
then as i got home i had to face the joy to organise my meals for the day after, and to have my workout before 9:30PM when i’d have to be ready for bed. bring out the violins right?

needless to say, this became dull and old very quickly.

now i am back to getting up at 8, w a lot more relaxed a schedule that allows for a little fantasy in the evenings, and even leisurely watching a documentary on Netflix.

however, i did bulk up. this started late last year. i settled in a 3 times a week training routine. most of it upper body, using intervals and KB. and the 10/1 system. (more on this in a new log post soon)
because i was using my motorbike to go to work, no cardio was harmed…
so the weight settled. in a good way. mostly muscles.
i seem to have tipped over the edge of reversing my natural body shape trend, and finally have a top heaviER body.

it is all still a work in progress. i struggle with injuries most of the time. nagging chronic ones. tennis elbow keeps on flaring up if i practice the floor planche too much.
right trap keeps on getting stuck and fucks my neck.
but overall, for 37 am pretty good.

i look at ppl like Kane Sumabat. he is 47. and going strong.

impressive heh? i hope i can be like him when am 47. hell i hope i could be like him now!

so for those reading this who might be slightly older, check this interview and check the man himself out, he is a very prolific tweeter and is on instagram too, and i believe he is also a PT:

http://www.cutandjacked.com/CutAndJacked-Interview-Kane-Sumabat

he has a rather juvenile sense of humour, maybe that’s what kept him young. but most of all, he is hungry. and he will not stop.



no more supplements… yet weight increase? you go figure!

been a while since the last post I apologise but I have been a busy bee .(I know I know, aren’t we all)

so hell, I started having stomach probs about 3 months ago maybe? issues with the latter part of my digestive tract (if you think this is TMI, well go read the daily telegraph then for all I care!) which I suspect affected nutrients absorbtion, resulting in a state of tiredness. to this day I am unsure what caused this, but suspect it’s a combination of stress due to having to live w a remarkably difficult housemate for a bit, and probably some food intolerance of sorts.
the interesting part is how I amended my diet in an attempt to sort things out.
first I stopped having chillies altogether as my voiding process had become like shitting fire! then I quit eggs for a couple of weeks, but that really didn’t help and made having breakfast a dull experience.
most crucially I think, the difficult housemate left, I started drinking a ton of water… and I quit protein shakes.

initially I was concerned about the immediate calorie deficit I would face from not taking my min 1 shake a day @ ~ 400 cals.
but lo and behold, as my stomach was on the mend, so was my buffness!

my stomach has been better for the past 3 weeks now, not a single shake ingested yet i have put on 2kg. not much I know but quite incredible for being me.
sure I eat a lot more regular food, but the type of meals has also changed.
I reduced the amount of carbs quite a fair bit. I still eat a lot of bread and the occasional rice or potato and sweet potato things, but my meals consist atm mostly of salads w meat, and a lot of saturated and unsaturated fats. I haven’t had pasta in quite some time. I haven’t been having dairy stuff too regularly either.
(of course I have a burger and fries once a week 😀 gotta take care of these macros)
the idea came while watching the documentary “Cereal Killers” which I highly recommend watching. but more about that movie in a future blog post.

here’s a sample of a lunch meal I would have:

FB_IMG_1405264840179[1]

yes this time there is feta in there, but also ground flaxseeds, a nice amount of bacon and croutons fried in the bacon lard. olive oil and lemon juice too. all in all a very fat/protein dominated meal (oh w fibre too)

I find it remarkable that my health has got so much better since I stopped w the shakes and that am progressing with the fitness pretty well.

a pic I took last night:

IMG_20140804_192851[1]

and one from the other day:

IMG_20140503_193852[1]

I am slightly less ripped but that is prob due to water intake. yet again, maybe so is the weight increase who knows.
then again, and I almost forgot to mention it, I quit cycling altogether and ride my motorbike to work.
this means I don’t do very much cardio from a training perspective. HIIT is all I do, mostly on core days and/or using Tabata stuff.
not cycling involves -11 miles a day of intense sweating + cardio, which prob contributed to this weight increase.

like I always said, CARDIO IS BAD FOR YOU! 😀

(DISCLAIMER: I am thriving to put on lean mass, those who need to lose weight might want to do some cardio at some point and watch their food intake differently.)

this is all a big experiment and I can’t wait to see what results I get from the combined diet/workouts.

more reports soon!



NY pure gym resolution!

pay less get more! i basically decided to cancel my fitness first membership and get one with pure gym instead. since i got made redundant i do not fancy having to cycle 20mins to farringdon for the sake of going to my old crappy overcrowded fitness first gym. let’s see if they will let me cancel my membership early with a redundancy letter!

so well, i registered to pure gym online, found a promo code and waived the registration fee so am only paying the £19.99 pcm basically. after 12 months apparently the monthly fee goes up to £25.99 but well, by then i might cancel (only one month notice) and re apply for membership to keep the costs low. also this branch is in holloway road but they have been promising a branch would open in finsbury park for almost 2 years now.

anyhow registration process was dead simple, it’s literally all online. you get sent a pin code and that’s about it. for £6 extra you can also use any other pure gym you like. the upgrade can be done online!

this is truly the way every gym should be nowadays. noone cares about fancy towels or tvs or wifi or the like. everyone wants the freedom to cancel their contract whenever without being tied for a year or more. ppl want cheap gyms which are open late and early. if they want assistance they know where to find ppl and do not need to be nagged.

i will see how i get on with this gym but quite frankly, i think dinosaurs like fitness first will slowly become extinct or have to adjust to new demands. ppl are sick of these bullshit lengthy contracts designed to extract money from them.

the gym is spread over 3 floors, here are a few pics.

the free weight area was by far the busiest (sunday at 2.30pm) but  near it was this area with a lot of resistance machines (the “resistance” room) entirely empty:

IMG_20131229_141001

 

a nice array of (light) kettlebells:

IMG_20131229_141036

 

a trx frame. what surprises me is that they have trx classes, doesnt seem like that many ppl actually join it, not that many pairs of straps there:IMG_20131229_141043

 

 

top floor consists of a large studio:

IMG_20131229_141407

 

all in all, the kit seems pretty new, the gym is clean and really did not feel crowded, but who knows this might just be a xmas time thing where everyone is too busy stuffing their faces still!

the classes aren’t too groundbreaking, not much in terms of combat classes sadly (box fit :() but they do the usual zumba, aerobics, spin, circuit, tabata, trx and some KB level 2 (though no level 1 on the schedule?))

i will go for upper body day tomorrow and check it out!

 



friday 13th update. more circus buffness!

it’s been a while since my last update and i have been a busy bee w my qualifications (complete!) and getting to an even higher level of buffness before the shoulder surgery (more about this in the next post).
we organised another photoshoot recently and i think the results are fairly good and show an increase in lean mass and strength. i am very proud of my walking planche!
enjoy!

as usual pics are copyrighted (thanks to the super skilled photographer Phil Spencer at www.philspencer.org. do not use without permission and for the love of buffness do not remove the watermark!

 

5D3_2212 5D3_2214 5D3_2241 5D3_2412



Generation Iron

new film coming out!

i am very curious to see this film.
i don’t dig body builder’s bodies. i find it’s too much personally. so no, i do not wanna look like them thanks!

but one thing i will give this guys, it’s the amazing dedication and hard work that goes into achieving their goals.
day in, day out, these guys go to the gym. they spend their lives working out, regulating their diets, cleverly arranging their workouts for maximum effect. sometimes they even take steroids.
but one thing they all do: they thrive for perfection. their work ethics are second to none.

body builders are a big inspiration for me. Arnold Schwarzenegger in particular. he was the first to take the sport into the focus of the general public, the one who made it the sports we now know. his work inspires great respect.
he might be a moron irl i have no idea and i couldn’t care less. what he means to me is that w the right drive, you can achieve goals and thrive.

anyone that knew me when i was a kid would prob not believe how far i have gone w this body physically. and how far i am intending to go still. i have big plans for the future.
because this is a daily commitment. it’s not just a “i wanna lose 2kg and that’s it am done” effort. no. it’s about perfection. it’s about bettering yourself. it’s about rising above mediocrity. your own mediocrity.
it’s about ditching all these pitiful excuses and just fucking getting off your arse and going for it.
i will repeat this til am dead, money will not buy you fitness, money will not buy you drive, money will not buy you motivation.
source it deep inside you. how much do you want it? make a difference. now. not in 10 mins. not after that tv program. NOW. go out. workout. play. run.



Flag at last

so after about 2 years coveting that one move i can finally manage. sure it’s not perfect and i don’t always get it right.
but it just goes to show that sometimes w persistence and a some inspired moments, you can reach that elusive perfect instant.

flag2

so how did i do that?

i tried various techniques. w varying success.

initially i was trying to swing higher up and tilt my pelvis up as i went. this was recommended by an ex of mine who did chinese pole. to my knowledge she can’t do a normal flag but perhaps a straddled one? turns out this wasn’t that good a plan. first of all, proper form for a flag is w your body straight, none of that pelvis turned upwards shit that we all too often see. second, it’s very hard to hold back from falling down when you have to compensate for the swing.

next i tried the “Dominic Lacasse” approach which consists in placing your upper body and arms in correct position, closer to the floor, w one leg in flag position but perhaps bent to lighten things up and the other leg completely bent under, and you try to lift up. very boring approach if i may say so. and also far from successful i think. my main prob w this approach is that it requires a lot of upper body strength to even feel like you’re able to lift by 1mm, and involves a certain body type (light microscopic legs and huge upper). also, i suspect our friend Dominic was always able to do flags. if he reads this, i am happy for him to correct me, but i reckon am right (tho perhaps not to world record standards w the nice walking into it bit). it’s like me trying to help ppl w chin ups. i don’t know their struggles because i was able to do them out of the box 🙂 but i sympathize!
anyhow, all this to say, that didn’t help me at all. Arnoldcat sacrificed herself and went to a workshop and was able to show me the way to the flag according to Lacasse, am v grateful i didn’t have to pay for this 🙂

so what did it? well i just did as i thought was best. light kip up, and try to hold. and lo and behold, just like planches, i started to hold the half tuck version w lower leg bent, and eventually, one glorious day, i was able to straighten my lower leg out and stay there!
not for long. but it’s a start 😀
on the side i went to the gym religiously everyday and bumped my food intake. i focused on the obliques which were lagging. i also focused on lats as best as i could despite what felt like an injury to my cuff, brought on by overuse i suspect.

so how am i after holidays? i just took 2 weeks off when i was supposed to train but only managed to do so a handful of times on rings. well the flag is still there. i have dropped the weight i use for chin ups from 16kg to 14kg and find i have less stamina. but give me one or 2 weeks and we shall see. also keeping in mind i haven’t done chin ups for over a month due to previously mentioned rotator cuff prob.

and tomorrow my right shoulder is getting an mri, w arthrogram. happy days!

and back to the flag, hard work ppl. practice practice practice. be intelligent about it. adapt things to your own need. and never give up.



dish hold

one of my fave exercises is the dish hold.
it uses no fancy equipment and is dead effective. provided you can keep good form, namely “dish” properly. it requires good core stability.
the key thing is that your lower back absolutely must be in constant contact w the floor, or you will compromise form and increase the potential for injuries.
i do rounds of 60 seconds moving my legs up and down, and if i feel very energetic i spell the alphabet w my feet. if you have a partner make him/her push your feet back down as you reach the top of the leg up motion to give a variation to the load on yr abs.
to make it a bit easier, you can cross arms on yr chest or hold them above your stomach, and you dont have to move your legs, you can just hold them there.
be sure to be able to hold proper form before you start increasing difficulty. the more of your back is in contact w the floor, the better it impacts the abs.
have fun!

 

 



dragon flag

after attemping proper flags tonight and pulling a lat a little too much i looked for something easier to do. and remembered another type of flag, the dragon flag!
it is a completely different move obv!

after trying many different ways of doing it and bruising my right clavicule on the pole, i decided to use a sling and a couple of pillows to pad my head. it isn’t as hard as one might think for core, but it’s a lot more arm intensive than i anticipated.
proper form is what i was after here. and am not too far off.
i get annoyed at all these kids doing dragon flags on youtube, and as much as i respect the dude, Frank Medrano’s video isnt that great in term of form. he goes all banana shape and just doesn’t point his toes!

so kids, when doing a dragon flag, it’s important to dish. keep the core braced at all times and your body must remain as straight as possible. otherwise it’s a banana flag. not a dragon flag!
check out Al Kavadlo who has some cool vids of himself doing it on sturdy benches. (and lo and behold he actually points his toes!)



increase numbers of pulls

while waiting for my right shoulder to be less tender so i can resume buffness training, i came across a “BarStarzz” article about increasing the number of pull ups one can do.
i must say, i am now interested in trying this regime. not so much because i am desperate to increase my number of pull ups. i do an average of 4 x 10 every workout i have. but more because i would like to see what happens.

so basically this is how they structured it, it’s based on the armstrong program, used by the marines (find out more here http://manlypat.wordpress.com/2009/02/24/armstrong-pull-up-program/):

    1. day 1: max reps sets

– as you wake, 3 sets max rep push ups w 5-10 mins rest in between.
– 3-4 hours later rest you can then do pulls. 5 max rep sets w 90 secs rest, STRICT FORM ONLY.

    2. day 2: pyramid sets

– as you wake, 3 sets max rep push ups w 5-10 mins rest in between.
– 1st set 1 rep, rest 10 secs
– add one rep every time til you hit the max you can do. pause 10 secs and redo the max reps set again.

    3. day 3: training sets

– as you wake, 3 sets max rep push ups w 5-10 mins rest in between.
pick a number of reps that will allow you to do 9 sets, no more no less. adjust according to your findings.

consists of 3 sets of shoulder width pulls, 3 x narrow chins and 3 x wide grip. 60 secs rest between sets.

    4. day 4: training sets and beyond

– as you wake, 3 sets max rep push ups w 5-10 mins rest in between.
try to go over the 9 sets according to what you did on day 3. you then know you need to readjust for the following week.

    5. day 5: repeat the day you found hardest

– as you wake, 3 sets max rep push ups w 5-10 mins rest in between.
– repeat whichever day

check out the barstarzz video:

so who knows, perhaps when my shoulder is back on track i will do this for 6 weeks and report back! 🙂



new injury! ffs!

yes again.
so this time, torn right triceps. to what extend we just dont know. “not too bad” is what the physio says but obv it needs absolute rest…
to top it up i have a nasty impingement on the right which keeps on getting worse w training (just like my now operated and fixed left shoulder). so my right shoulder is buggered at present.
physio says “NO TRAINING FOR 2 WEEKS AND THEN WE REASSESS”.

i say we shall see about that!

it’s not about being stupid however.
i havent trained the right shoulder since friday. the actual shoulder itself is impinged, no doubt about that, so it doesnt feel much different from last week. but the triceps does feel slightly better i think. so rest seems to be the way. so what will i train you ask?
well how about my left hand side?

here’s the current plan:

training for one arm pulls on left on bar w either negatives or actual 1.5 arm pulls (assisted on bar w other arm, it’s ok not much stress placed there). i will also try australian one arm pulls but working from straps i think.
one arm push up? my left side is really weak so this will be a challenge. am gonna try it semi assisted w a raised right grip on a kettle bell or the like.

AND CORE.

so dish holds, v sits or the like
erector spinae exercises (w weight if i can get hold of the incline bench style machine at the gym, not sure how this will work out at home w free weights but i will try later tonight)
oblique work, i was thinking of doing the usual oblique crunches w weight straps on my ankles. at the gym perhaps some cable crunches will work out. depending on how the shoulder takes it.

oh but apparently i can work my lower arms. errm. i guess i will do some of that too!

as a side note i have been wearing a compression sleeve from 2xu for the past week most of the day. it compresses my triceps and actually seems to have worked really nicely. keep in mind i have to cycle to work too, so my triceps is recruited for daily crap which is the dangerous stuff that you dont watch out for.

IMAG1246

in any case, for any pulled/torn muscle injuries, i can recommend these sleeves. provided you get one your size, and not arnold cat size. or you might experience a major loss of blood in your limb. for triceps, the ideal position is slightly higher than the way you would normally wear a compression sleeve, it goes over the delts basically.



strength balance in opposing muscle groups

i was asked a very good question by ArnoldCat:
“why are my pushing muscles so weak compared to my pulling ones”.

so as much as i thought the answer could simply be “well you are an aerialist, you mostly have pulling power”, it raises a new question.
can the pushing muscles in question ever match the strength of the pulling ones?

take the triceps as an example. it’s larger than the biceps. yet the bicep is the one who develops fast and hard, and atm my biceps are pumping twice the weight the triceps can. moreover, the triceps are dog slow to respond to traditional training methods.

so since the muscle is larger, why isn’t it matching the biceps more easily? and will it ever match the strength of the biceps?

there isn’t much acurate research on the web. but i did find a couple of good pointers:

“Muscle balance ratios differ between muscle groups and are affected by the force-velocity of these different muscle groups at specific joints” (Bell, 2007, p.1)[2]. In an ideal situation, isokinetic dynamometers would best facilitate for measurements, but from a practical perspective most trainers will employ a 1-RM testing for each individual muscle group (Bell, 2007)[2].

As cited by Bell (2007)[2],the current standard for muscle balance ratios, recommended for the agonist-antagonist muscle groups are:

Muscle Groups
Muscle Balance
Ratio Weight(example)

Ankle Inverters & Everters
1:1
25::25

Ankle Plantar Flexors & Dorsiflexors
3:1
75::25

Elbow Flexors & Extensors
1:1
25::25

Hip Flexors & Extensors
1:1
25::25

Knee Flexors & Extensors
2:3
50::75

Shoulder Internal & External Rotators
3:2
75::50

Shoulder Flexors & Extensors
2:3
50::75

Trunk Flexors & Extensors
1:1
25::25″

Balance checks

For each of the following exercise the right and left limb 1RM scores should not differ by more than 10%.

Hamstrings (leg extension)
Quadriceps (leg curl)
Arm Curl
One arm military press
Single leg press

The following table (Dintiman 1998)[1] is reported values for joint agonist-antagonist muscle ratios at slow isokinetic speeds.
Joint Movement Ratio
Ankle Plantar flexion/dorsi flexion 3:1
Ankle Inversion/eversion 1:1
Leg Extension/flexion 3:2
Hip Extension/flexion 1:1
Shoulder Flexion/extension 2:3
Elbow Flexion/extension 1:1
Lumbar Flexion/extension 1:1

Where there is an imbalance then you need to devote more training attention to the muscle group of the weaker limb.

and again here, a more simplified version from men’s health (please use w caution, these ppl have no idea what they are talking about most of the time!):

Use the general guidelines below to check your muscle balance. The strength ratio for each set of muscle groups represents the amount of weight that the first muscle group should be able to lift compared with the second muscle group. If one group is proportionally weaker than it should be, you have to hit it first in your workouts until it catches up.

Muscle group: Quadriceps (front of thighs)
Opposing muscle group: Hamstrings (back of thighs)
Ideal strength ratio: 3:2
Sample exercises: Leg extension, leg curl
Sample weights (lb): 90:60

Muscle group: Biceps
Opposing muscle group: Triceps
Ideal strength ratio: 1:1
Sample exercises: Arm curl, triceps extension
Sample weights (lb): 45:45

Muscle group: Front shoulders
Opposing muscle group: Rear shoulders
Ideal strength ratio: 2:3
Sample exercises: Cable front raise, cable bent-over rear-shoulder raise
Sample weights (lb): 20:30

Muscle group: Internal shoulder rotators
Opposing muscle group: External shoulder rotators
Ideal strength ratio: 3:2
Sample exercises: Cable internal rotation, cable external rotation
Sample weights (lb): 30:20

Read more: http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/get_more_muscle/You_Play_to_Your_Strengths.php#ixzz2I2hIqHJj

what ppl have to realise, is that yet again, this will not work for everyone. these are merely rough GUIDELINES as far as i am concerned. we are all physiologically different, so a single program will not work for everybody.

i guess the muscles and their relative strength compared to their antagonist will vary depending on many factors, such as mechanical advantage, origins/insertions, geometry of the muscle etc. so perhaps even if a muscle is larger, it might not actually lift as much as its antagonist purely because it’s at a disadvantage in terms of movement and mechanical action? there are no hard rules here i don’t think. just individual cases.

my tip to remain balanced would be to work muscles in opposing pairs. so biceps/triceps etc. making sure that if you’re targeting your 1RM you do so for both muscles and give it all your might.
then you have to take into account whatever strength is gained from functional training outside the gym. for an aerialist whose strength resides in pulling and w tight pecs, i would adjust the workout to target back muscles at 2:1 (for number of reps, not weight) in an attempt to rebalance and improve posture.

oh and stretch these pecs man!



Gym routine

I’ve recently started going to the gym every lunch break. It makes working full time a lot more bearable. So I got Zaki to put together a short gym routine for me. My goal was (and still is) to work on my upper body strength as that is what I need most for my straps training. Zaki gave me five exercises working mostly my delts, lats and pecs. At this stage I’m only using the machines for the following exercises:
Shoulder press
Lateral raises
Chest press
Pull down (wide grip)
Seated row

To that I’ve added the arm extension, which works the triceps. Just for fun. As I’m working for strength I’m only doing 5 reps for 3 sets but I’m trying to go really heavy. My starting weights were:

Shoulder press 35
Lateral raises 17.5
Chest press 40
Pull down 50
Seated row 55
Arm extension 25

After a month on this routine, doing it most days apart from Christmas and New Years and not on weekends, I’ve made quite decent progress. Generally, it’s not recommended to train the same exercises every day but I ignored that. I did some other training namely handstands and straps training as well, sometimes on the same days and sometimes at the weekends. Today is the end of the first month and my weights were as follows:

Shoulder press 45
Lateral raises 27.5
Chest press 40
Pull down 80
Seated row 85
Arm extension 50

I find it most useful to look at the percentage increase from the starting weights to determine my progress. These are as follows:

Shoulder press 28%
Lateral raises 57%
Chest press 25%
Pull down 60%
Seated row 54%
Arm extension 100%

I’m really happy with most of those but the shoulder press and the chest press is lagging behind. The exercise might need tweaking a little to improve those areas.



a word about volume, load and rest

according to my PT training notes, these are the official figures for goal driven workouts. depending on what goal you have, these should be more or less respected, as usual keeping in mind that what works for one person might not for the next.
these are merely guidelines, and need to be adapted in function of the person’s metabolism and genetic abilities.

i put in bold the areas that interest me, and to show that hypertrophy training is very different from strength training.

volume:

Goal Rep Range Set Range
Strength <6 3-4
Power 6-8 2-3
Endurance 12-15 2-3
Hypertrophy 6-12 4-5

load:

Goal Rep Range Workload (%RM)
Strength <6 80-100%
Power 6-8 30-70%
Endurance >15 30-50%
Hypertrophy 6-12 70-90%

rest period:

Goal Rest Period Duration
Strength 4-6 minutes
Power 4-6 minutes
Endurance 30-60 seconds
Hypertrophy 1-2 minutes



Straps Conditioning part 1

Straps are great for conditioning your upper body and core. I’ve made a video of a few of my favorite conditioning exercises on straps. After a ground based warm up I usually start with skinning the cat as a warm up for my training on straps. I do about 5 repetitions, when I’m only doing a conditioning session I aim for 3 sets, when I’m doing other training as well I might only do one. The first part of skinning the cat is just a leg lift, then you take your legs over your head and lower on the other side as low as you can and then reverse the whole motion.

The next exercise I show on the video is what I call middle to middle. From your legs on either side of one arm, lower your bum and lift back up so that your legs are on either side of the other arm. This exercise really work your core. I usually do 10 repetitions (5 on each side) for a conditioning sessions I aim for 3 sets otherwise I might just do one.

The next one is lowering from middle. Another great exercise for the core as you have to keep your body balanced while you’re lowering your legs. Eventually you can work up to lifting back up.

The last exercise in the video is sideplanche to sideplanche. This exercise takes some getting used to as you lower to the side with your arm behind your back. This really works the back muscles as well as the obliques on the way back up.
 

Straps Conditioning

 

 



neglected rear delts

after reading a little about this on the web, i decided that my rear delts had been neglected in favour of the more prominent and visible front delts.
for those unsure of the anatomy here’s a little help:
 

 
all too often, athletes will favour the front and middle delts but miss out on the rear delt. which is hidden behind the shoulder joint.
the front delt is involved in a lot of exercises involving abduction. it’s a synergist to the pecs and even to the triceps when performing dips. it’s also extremely easy to target when doing front raises.
the rear delt however is harder to target, also because everyone is so obsessed w isolating lats. rear delts will rarely engage if lats are involved.
for ppl who know about skinning the cat, rear delts are the primary hyperextensors for the shoulder.

so i found a couple of exercises to make sure rear delts are targeted during workouts:

– barbell rear delt raise. a very interesting exercise, tho i find you need a lot of weight to feel anything and the rom is deceptively short. it seems impossible also to avoid elbows flaring out while doing it.
yet it works, here’s a picture:

-seated dumbbell lateral raise. very hard but oh so satisfying. this move is king for rear delts. it can also be performed standing while leaning the upper body forward, or even lying on a bench. however i prefer this version, mostly because a magazine once described it as “the move which will make you more 3D than avatar”.

-for those who have access to a pec deck machine and can do reverse flies, this is also a very good exercise. however be very careful to keep elbows up to avoid involving the lats! if this is a problem, the trick is to use a thumbs down grip, that will force the elbows to be at the same height as the shoulders.

and what about the lateral (middle) delts then? we shall see in the next blog post…



lats exercises

As i was told my lats are too small in my last straps session, i guess it’s time to punish these babies!

so  what exercises are good for lats, and furthermore, what exercises can you do without having to go to the gym…

well the very first thing that comes to mind is pull ups. if you dont have a pull up bar then get the hell off my blog because quite frankly, you missed the buffness train. it costs £10 at Argos, no excuses!

pulls of any kind are good for lats, but i found the narrow ones target them more than wide ones which focus more on upper shoulder muscles like the teres.

here’s an old video i made:

as for the grip, it’s good to experiment to find out which targets your muscles best and challenges you more. once you’re comfortable w doing 3 x 10 reps (if you’re looking for volume like me, not to failure), then you can add weights. no need for any kit there tho a belt is nice and plush. a simple backpack will do, load it up and feel the burn.

before i get on to using a little more equipment, i found this exercise online:

if you skip to 2’20 you can see he is doing a version of the barbell ab roll that doesnt actually involve a barbell but merely a towel. i will try this one and report. generally this exercise is used for flexors/abs and core more generally, so am curious to see how it involves lats. (tho i guess lats are synergists in this move always, but perhaps the slightly different angle and fact that you have to press down on the floor might help)

so what next then?

– barbell pullovers: all you need for this is a loaded barbell and a (hopefully solid) coffee table or similar that can act as a bench. the key thing is to work w arms as straight as possible, tho a slight bend in the elbow is acceptable, depending on shoulder flexibility you will be able to go lower.
to give you an idea until i get my own video up here:

this can be done w bent elbows too, tho i found my triceps engaged more w bent arm, and thus the lats weren’t as isolated.

– no name band lateral pulldown of sorts (it hasn’t got a name yet): an interesting exercise was suggested to me: using the chinup bar, swing a theraband over, kneel under the bar, grab each end of the band w arms extended straight over head, and pull down to your sides, keeping arms in line w the body in the frontal plane.
i will upload a video of this move tonight. however, i found that my teres muscles engaged a lot more than my lats while i did that exercise, to the point where i am not even sure that the lats engage at all! so i’d say, try it out but check what muscles you are working.

so then, that’s a couple of things to try out without having to pay the dreaded gym membership.

but. the gym does bring a couple of exercises that are fun and give a bit of variety:

– cable straight arm pulldowns:

self explanatory really. to make sure the lats are as isolated as possible, try to keep correct form the whole time. a similar exercise w bent arms is used for triceps isolation so keep these arms straight!

– cable pulldown:

there again form is important do not arch and lower the bar til it touches your chest. i find it hits harder if i dont let my arms go back to 100% full extension and keep everything under tension throughout the whole set. narrow grip can be used too, i find wider is harder!

that’s it for now. just a few lat basics to keep us going. i will update when i think of more exercises.



More core exercises

I have a few exercises to add to the core section:

Dish:

There are variations to make this exercise harder. For example you can write out numbers with your feet, but keep your legs straight. Or you can rock in that position, it’s very important to keep your body as rigid as possible.

From this position you can also do leg lifts, lift your legs all the way until they touch your hands without using momentum.

Hip raises:

Lie on your back with your legs straight at a 90 degree angle and then without using momentum lift your hips of the ground, you can have your arms next to your body or to make it harder extend them over your head.

Seated leg lifts:

Sit on the floor with your legs straight and your hands on the floor about mid-thigh, lean slightly forward with your back straight. From this start position lift your legs a few inches off the floor. To make this harder move your hands closer to your feet. Some people might struggle with this due to poor hamstring flexibility, so if you can’t lean forward with a straight back you might not be targeting the right muscle group.

Plank:

In addition to the pose that zaki has posted about you can add a few variations to make it harder, like lifting one arm and opposite leg, or you can keep your hands and feet on one line as if your balancing on a beam (this makes your base smaller and you’ll have to work harder to stabilize your body)

Jackknife on a gymball:

Start in a plank position with your shins on a gymball, then bring the ball towards you (keeping your legs straight) until you’re in a pike handstand position, as in this picture

then roll back until your in an arched position and repeat.

Other exercises including handstand positions:

Stand in front of a wall with your arms extended over your head, push tall, take a few steps back and lean your hands against the wall while maintaining a straight body line and hold. The further away from the wall you step the harder it gets.



core exercises

so i was asked recently what core exercises would be good for an aerialist w a core that is already very very trained.
most of the exercises targeted at “normal” ppl will not do anything to a seasoned aerialist. the reason being that core is so essential to the conditioning of aerialists, that they have trained their muscles beyond belief. (i am the exception, my core is actually rather weak despite my 4 pack)

first things first. what is the core and what are the muscles involved?
a simplistic definition of core is all that isn’t legs and arms. that encompasses A LOT of muscles!

but it’s kinda true.
mostly you have your abs (all of them, lower and upper, obliques…) and the spinae type muscles of the lower back.
these muscles can be tricky to activate in isolation (i.e. lower vs upper abs) but respond rather well to “global” exercises in the region.
some ppl would say muscles like lats and traps are part of the core, but to me, and for the purpose of the person who asked me about these, we will stick to the core muscles of the “waist” section (forget pelvic muscles and diaphragm too, we’re not here to do sodding yoga).

why build up your core?
many many reasons. for aerialists, core strength is the life source. without it, a flier is limp and a base is useless. most advanced moves require huge amounts of core rigidity to achieve. (planches etc)
for regular gym goers, it will prevent injuries. not very glamorous i know but it’s the essential base if you want to develop strength and bulk. often underlooked, ppl will then get injured and wonder why they cant deadlift more because their lower back gives way.
finally for the yoga freaks among us, think of the valsalva maneuver and pelvic floor exercises. or i don’t know go hug a tree. (i really dislike yoga as you can tell, but not half as much as pilates)

so go on then, what exercises?

– leg lifts are king. an amazing core hardening exercise.
correct form makes them harder. STRAIGHT legs (and point while you’re at it), straight back and go for it.

the exercise is illustrated here w very bad form i would like to apologise but it isn’t my pic:

check this video where i show off a little:


for those who cannot quite cope w the full straight legs type, you can also do knee lifts which are just that, w bent legs!
this will give your lower abs a major kick as well as your lower back.
for me since i am really not flexible in my hamstrings it also destroys my quads!
there are countless varieties of leg lift type exercises. they kinda require a chin up bar, or something to hang from. you can even use a medicine ball squeezed between your thighs to make it a bit more vicious.
some ppl would like to talk about chin ups/pull ups for core strength but to me, they target mostly the upper part of the torso/back (at the exception of the lats perhaps, which have their origin rather low down, but i don’t include lats as part of the core combo).

PLANKS! for those without a chin up bar, don’t give up just yet am not finished! there is a lot you can do w just your bodyweight!
various types of these: side plank, star side plank.
planks are remarkably efficient, yet remarkably boring sadly…

– jackknife: this will target upper and lower abs in a nice way. enjoy the burn. (also called in some places v up)

– superman: for a lower back workout. a variation of this is to alternate opposite leg/arm.

-crunches: oh yes there again simpler is better. sadly to get to feel a burn you will need to do more and more and more… and it gets boring after 60!
there again countless variations. obliques can be targeted in better isolation by doing specific crunches. (look them up on www.exrx.net)

– press ups: surprised? well you shouldn’t be. rigidity is well required to dish properly for good form. but mostly you can slightly amend them to target core areas. for example, T press ups will also work your core:

 

and these ones i like to call the pissing dog press ups (press up w knee lift i think is the proper name?):

– barbell rolls: just as the name suggests, they engage both “back and front” muscles of your core. beware, high risk of faceplanting!

– deadlifts: the king of all body building exercises. it will not leave any part of your body unharmed!  always do this w perfect form as much as possible to minimize risks of injury. lift slowly and increase the weight as you feel comfortable. there are some variations to this exercise, feel free to explore them and pick the ones that take your fancy!

for safer deadlifts, use a “cage” bar like this (not the greatest form on this but i was merely doing shrugs to target my traps):

 

well that’s it for now. am sure i will remember some more moves overnight. and i will make my own images to illustrate this post soon. exrx pwned me.

for now the foam roller is calling my back.

enjoy your workout!