Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Infamous TRX Workout: Final Thoughts

I need to preface this by saying that I did not do the Infamous TRX Workout as it was intended to be done. As originally conceived by Berardi, Cosgrove and Quelch, participants were meant to do no more than two strength workouts plus two metabolic sessions on the TRX per week, plus activities of daily living. Or maybe you could say that I did do the workout as intended, except that my activities of daily living include kettlebell practice 3-5 days per week, spinning classes at least once per week, and ballet classes 2-3 days per week :)

Frankly, this was too much even for me, particularly during Phases 3 and 4 of the program. If I'd done the program exactly as written, however, it wouldn't have been enough, simply because I was already doing a lot more. If you're accustomed to working out 5-6 days per week and you cut back to 4, you're likely going to lose fitness in at least some respects. Not absolute strength, necessarily, but endurance and cardiovascular fitness most likely, particularly at my age. It's worth noting that the test sujects on average were in their mid-thirties, while I am in my late forties. Realistically it's harder to make positive changes at this age. It's highly doable, but it takes a little more effort.

If I wasn't trying to focus on kettlebells at the moment I probably would've tweaked the Infamous TRX workout by doing three strength training sessions and three metabolic sessions per week, simply because that's more in line with what I'm used to doing. Had I done the program that way I'm sure I would have been very pleased with my performance gains. I did see some nice gains in strength on several of my lifts in the course of the workout, which just goes to show that Alwyn Cosgrove is a freakin' genius but you already knew that :)

I'm still not entirely sure I think metabolic resistance training on the TRX is "better"--at least for me--than high intensity interval training in the form of hill sprints or stair sprints. But I definitely think that metabolic circuits on the TRX will be a great way for me to get in some additional energy systems work without increasing the frequency of my HIIT sessions, which can sometimes be a little hard on my joints. I've long been a fan of what Craig Ballantyne calls "bodyweight cardio"--total body circuits involving a combination of fast paced exercises (jumping jacks, burpees) and unloaded muscle conditioning exercises such as bpdyweights squats, lunges, pushups and pull-ups--and I can anticipate having a lot of fun adapting some of Craig's circuits to incorporate the TRX.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Last "Infamous TRX" Workout

This was my last time through Phase 4 Metabolic Workout B. I'd like to say I finished strong, but that would be a lie :) The main thing is, I finished, and at this point that's good enough for me.

When I have a little more time I'll sum up my thoughts about this program, what I liked about it, what I didn't like, and what I think I got out of it.

In the meantime, if you're curious, John Berardi has posted the results obtained by his test group:

As you may recall, the test group was divided into 3 subgroups. Each subgroup did the same strength workout (designed by Alwyn Cosgrove); however one subgroup supplemented with steady-state cardio, one subgroup supplemented with interval cardio, and one subgroup did metabolic circuits on the TRX. All three subgroups lost slightly over 3 pounds over the course of the 8 week experiment, and all three showed similar improvements in performance. The only real difference across the three groups was the dropout rate. The steady state group had the biggest dropout rate (well over half the participants!) while the TRX group had the smallest.

So I guess the takeaway message is: all methods of energy systems training work for fat loss and enhanced athletic performance, at least if you make yourself do them. So pick what you enjoy and think you can stick with, whether it's metabolic resistance training on the TRX, high intensity interval training, or steady state cardio--and be sure you don't neglect your strength training!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday afternoon lower body workout

Last time doing this one, thank goodness!

superset: DB deadlifts, 5x5x50's, BB front squat, 1x5x95 (to parallel), 4x5x75 (full range of motion)

superset: BB split lunge, rear leg elevated, 3x12x75; BB step-up, 3x12x65

Triset: SB back extensions, 3x10; BB SLDL, 3x10x95; BB torso twist, 3x10x35

I didn't sleep well last night and was also pretty fatigued after ballet, so never really felt great during the workout. I might've put it off to another day but won't have a chance to lift weights tomorrow or over the weekend, and I really want to be done with this program so I can focus on my kettlebell training.

Thursday morning kettlebell practice

5 cleans each side, 1 TGU each side, 5x

5 snatches each side, 10x, beginning each set on the minute. So, 100 snatches in 10 minutes. Was not happy with my form, though.

Limp wrists at a Gay Pride event=good.

Limp wrists during kettlebell training=bad.

My inner coach was screaming at me to woman up, lock out, pull and punch, and so forth, and it helped, but fatigue was an issue and so was hand pain. Even a week away from the kettlebells was enough to soften them up to the point where I felt my grip was affected.

Must keep practicing. Must also endeavor to write in complete sentences. This is not Twitter.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Weary Wednesday

I did TRX Metabolic Workout A, Phase 4, for the second time this morning. I got through it, sort of. With the jump lunges and 1-leg jump squats I managed about 25 seconds on each leg before having to regress the exercise to finish out the set. I also struggled with the feet-elevated low rows. I felt as though I was working very hard, but according to my heart rate monitor I only burned a couple hundred calories and my heart rate never got higher than 155.

I also did an ETK workout. This was Week 7, "medium" day. I did clean & press/pullup ladders, 5 x 3 rungs, plus sets of swings, 25 x 12 kg with 10 sec. rest between sets, for 7 minutes. I actually went a little over 7 minutes because I was partway through a set when I ran out of time, and it seemed silly not to finish. No new bruise marks but my cleans are still not consistently smooth and pretty the way I'd like them to be. I'll try to get in some extra practice tomorrow. Cleans and getups, I think.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday upper body workout

I didn't finish quite as strong as I would have liked, but considering what the last week has been like I think I did okay.

superset: BB incline press, 1x5x75, 1x5x80; 1x5x85; 2x5x90; BB bentover row, overhand grip, 5x5x95

superset: DB chest press, 3x12x40's; recline rows, wide underhand grip, 3x12

tri-set: T-raises, 2x10x8's, 1x10x5's; BB curls, 3x10x35; pushups, hands on SB, 3x10

Then I taught a 1-hour cycling class. It was a pretty challenging class; my heart rate topped out at 172, although that's a little misleading because it was warm in the studio and I'm still not feeling absolutely 100 percent.

Total calories burned: 742, which is a lot considering my age and size.

Last night in a moment of weakness I ordered a 16 kg kettlebell from, plus the DVD version of Providence. The AOS kettlebells have been getting very good reviews, are reasonably priced, and are made in the USA if you care about such things. The shape of the handle is similar to what I'm used to, and by all accounts it's nice and smooth. I've heard not-so-great things about the latest generation of Dragon Door kettlebells, which is why I didn't order one of theirs. I have very mixed feelings about Art of Strength, but am hoping the kettlebells turn out to be one of their better offerings. Will be sure to post a review once I receive my order!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Heat Exhaustion: What You Need To Know

On a gorgeous sunny summer day I can think of few places I want to be less than the gym. Who in her right mind would want to do bench presses and deadlifts in a dingy weight room when she could be doing pushups and kettlebell swings on the beach? Outdoor workouts are not only fun, they're at least as effective as traditional training in a gym, particularly if you happen to own a TRX suspension trainer and/or a kettlebell.

But if you choose to exercise in the great outdoors, you need to be alert to the signs of heat exhaustion. These may include:

  • heat cramps
  • cool, pale, moist skin
  • profuse sweating
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • low-grade fever
  • dark urine
  • low blood pressure

If you or a workout buddy experiences any of these symptoms, get yourself or your friend into the shade, loosen or remove clothing, drink water, lie down and elevate the feet, and sponge or spray cool water onto the skin. And be on the lookout for signs of heat stroke, a more serious condition. Red, hot skin, fainting, seizures or confusion, and a fever higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit all warrant emergency medical assistance. Do not delay: call 911!

Prevention of heat exhaustion and heat stroke is mostly a matter of common sense. If it's a warm day, drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout. If shade is available don't stand in the direct sun (it's bad for your skin anyway), and if you're taking a medication such as Lisinipril that affects your body's ability to cool itself during exercise either workout indoors in an air-conditioned facility or skip the workout altogether on very hot days.

The elderly are particularly susceptible to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, so if you have older relatives keep an eye on them at family picnics, barbecues and such. Make sure there's water and shade on hand, and be prepared to get them into an air-conditioned environment if need be. And when in doubt, call 911, because heat stroke can be fatal.

Getting back on track

Sort of.

Not much working out has happened since last Tuesday, when Grandpa died. On Wednesday I was supposed to do an ETK workout but went for a run on the beach instead. I didn't sleep much on Tuesday night--too busy making plane reservations, calling relatives, cancelling appointments and so forth--so I went into Wednesday feeling too drained for anything but a no-brainer workout, preferably one involving fresh air and loud music on my iPod.

I spent all of Thursday either on a plane or waiting for one, so I had no time for the TRX workout I otherwise would have done. I actually thought for about two seconds about bringing my TRX trainer with me but decided against it in the end. I didn't think I'd have the mental or physical energy for anything more challenging than maybe some restorative yoga or Pilates.

Friday was the day of the funeral. This is a fitness blog so I'm not going to go into great detail about it other than to say that religion can be a great comfort at times.

Saturday was another travel day, during the course of which my throat became increasingly sore. I woke up feeling feverish on Sunday, so decided to take another rest day instead of attempting the TRX metabolic workout I had planned.

Today I felt a little better, so restarted ETK Week 7. It seemed smarter to me to repeat last Monday's workout instead of waiting until Wednesday and trying to pick up exactly where I left off.

Tomorrow I will teach cycling and do an upper body workout. Wednesday I will do a TRX metabolic workout, an ETK workout, and a ballet class. Thursday I will take ballet again and do a lower body workout, and Friday I will do a TRX metabolic workout. Not sure about Saturday since my MIL will be visiting. Hopefully I will have a chance to do my ETK workout but if I can't I can't.

Next week my training will change some since I will have reached the end of the Infamous TRX 8-week program. I do plan to keep using the TRX for metabolic circuit workouts but will also be doing more kettlebell and bodyweight training on my ETK "variety days"

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rest in peace, Grandpa

He would have been 105 on June 28. His final illness was mercifully brief, and his passing was tranquil. Until the end he enjoyed remarkable quality of life for a man of his years, which I believe is directly attributable to his lifelong habit of excellent self-care.

He never smoked, drank to excess, or took drugs, and he had a varied diet rich in vegetables and lean protein. Although he had a sweet tooth and enjoyed a dessert after dinner most evenings, he kept his portions small: a few pieces of candy or a small bowl of ice cream, no more.

As a young man he was a runner and welterweight boxer, and in midlife he became a devotee of calisthenics after an injury to his hamstring made it impossible for him to run without discomfort. His pushups were legendary: every day of his life until he was 80 he did 100 of them, followed by 100 situps.

He had an active intellectual life as well. After retiring from the University of Chicago, where he was a professor of veterinary medicine he remained active in professional organizations and at the age of 99 was honored with the title of President Emeritus of the American Association of Laboratory Animal Science, of which he was a founding member. While I disagree philosophically with the use of laboratory animals for experimental purposes I do believe that my grandfather was sincerely concerned with the welfare of the laboratory animals in his care and I honor him for that and much else.

He was a social man who enjoyed parties, receptions and family gatherings. His Jewish faith was important to him, particularly in the latter part of his life.

Good nutrition, regular exercise, active intellectual pursuits, family, friends and faith: if that's not a formula for longevity I don't know what is.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Infamous TRX Workout: Phase 4 Metabolic Workout B aka The One With The Suspended Burpees

Actually, this one turned out not to be as bad as Workout A, probably because the exercises weren't too terribly much of a progression from Phase 3. In Phase 3, you may recall, some power exercises were included in Workout B thought not in Workout A. Phase 4 tweaks the power exercises a bit but not enough to make them significantly harder. In fact, I actually found Phase 4's suspended burpees to be slightly easier than the suspended plyo lunges of Phase 3 because there was less of a continuous demand on the working leg.

Unless you're a TRX devotee who's been following Fraser Quelch's blog on the Fitness Anywhere site for a while, you probably have no idea what a suspended burpee is or why it would be considered a progression from a suspended lunge. I'll do my best to explain, but your best bet is probably to go to Fraser's blog (see my blog list) where there's a video clip of Brave Test Animal Brad (I think it's Brad) doing the entire workout while Fraser stands helpfully by and makes encouraging noises along the lines of "You suck! Go faster!" I'm only kidding, of course. Fraser doesn't do anything of the kind. He's Canadian after all and Canadians, even the ones who are personal trainers, are way too nice to tell people they suck.

Anyway, the start position for a suspended burpee is much the same as for a suspended pushup, except that the TRX is in single-handle mode. Your nonworking leg is in the foot cradle where it (hopefully) will remain throughout the exercise. Your working leg is floating alongside, and most of your bodyweight is supported by your hands and core musculature. You initiate the burpee by contracting the core so the working leg comes in and underneath you. Once it touches down, your hands come up off the mat, and then you jump up. At this point the exercise is identical to the suspended plyo lunges from Phase 3. Once you land from the jump, the hands come down and the working leg shoots back until you're in your starting position.

It's even more fun than it sounds, trust me.

Other exercises were the sprinter's start from Phase 2, only with power, the low chest press, the single arm power pull, and the pendulum with pike and hold. For the sprinter's start you begin in a staggered stance, arms supported by the TRX and body at about a 45 degree angle. The back leg pushes off and the knee of that leg comes in toward the chest, while the front leg straightens (no power) or does a little hop (power). For the single arm power pull, the setup is the same as for a single arm row, except that you begin with your torso rotated so that the free arm is hanging toward the ground. As you pull with your working arm, your torso rotates in toward the TRX and your free arm reaches up toward the attachment point. If you're training with a partner you can have him or her push you back in the direction of your starting position so that you'll need more power to initiate your next rep. Fraser helpfully demonstrates that variation in the video. Brave Test Animal Brad, however, refrains from demoing the equally valid "torso rotation and trainer punch" variation, which makes me think he must be Canadian too.

Parameters for the workout are 45 second work intervals, no rest other than whatever time is needed to transition from exercise to exercise, 2 minutes rest between circuits, 3 circuits total. In Week 8 I will be adding a fourth circuit but nothing else will change.

And then I will be done with the program--woohoo! Frankly I'll be glad to move on, not because I've disliked it but because my ETK sessions will be getting longer and more demanding, and I will be wanting to include kettlebell work on my off days as well.

In other semi-related news, I took some check-in photos yesterday for the first time in forever. I try to do this periodically because I find photographs to be more informative than the scale or even the calipers when it comes to gauging fat loss, muscle gain, etc. That's a pretty secondary concern for me right now, but for my clients it's their number one priority. So, when I change up my training I like to keep track of the effect it's having on my physique as well as my performance so I'll know whether the changes are anything that I might want to implement with clients.

Anyhoo, on looking at the photos I was surprised to see that I have somewhat less visible muscle mass than I've had in the past, even though I'm probably stronger than I have ever been. I don't regard this as particularly a good thing, but given how many of my female clients are deathly afraid of bulking up it's probably good that I can reassure them from personal experience that it won't happen if they train for strength and improved function using a combination of free weights, the TRX and kettlebells. I was also pleased to note that I have NO cellulite on the back of my legs and almost none on my butt, which is unusual for a Caucasian woman in her late 40s who likes to eat. That would be the kettlebell effect.

If anyone is curious I will post the pics but probably won't leave them up for long. I'd like to say it's because I am modest but actually it's vanity: I took the photos first thing in the morning and you wouldn't believe how hideous I look without lipstick!

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Infamous TRX Workout Phase 4: This Time It's For Real

I did TRX Metabolic Circuit A for the first time yesterday. Almost 24 hours ago, in fact. And only now can I bring myself to speak of it, which tells you something right there.

In a perfect world, here's how the workout would have gone:

Single leg jump squats, 45 sec. each leg
Atomic pushup matrix, 45 sec.
Elevated low row, 45 sec.
Crossover balance jump lunge, 45 sec each leg
Side plank with hip drop and reach through, 45 sec each side

No rest between exercises, 2 min. rest between circuits, 3 circuits total.

In practice, there's really no way to keep working continuously for 6 minutes straight. Even if you're pretty good with the TRX you inevitably are going to need a few seconds to shorten up the straps for the rows and get your feet in the cradles for the side planks. The idea here is simply to try to keep that transition time to the absolute minimum.

(Note: if you need to take time out to vomit at any point, that's going to add to your transition time as well. Just sayin' :))

Here's what I thought of the workout:

This was brutal. No two ways about it. I'm pretty tough, don't especially fear plyometrics, and can handle a good bit of pain. But 45 seconds straight of single leg jump squats was frankly too much for me. I did my best, then transitioned to regular single leg squats to finish out the work period.

I also had to modify the atomic pushup matrix a bit. In a perfect world this would have consisted of an oblique jackknife to the right, a pushup, an oblique jackknife to the left, a pushup, and then a jackknife to the center and a pushup--and that's all one rep. The suggested modification is to leave out some of the pushups, and that's what I ended up doing. The other possibility would have been to slow down my tempo, but I chose not to do that because I think it would've made the workout less "metabolic"

The suggested modification for the elevated low rows is to do them without the feet elevated, and I did some of that as well. Again, I was choosing to keep up my tempo rather than stick with the most difficult version of the exercise; if this had been a strength workout I would've chosen differently.

With the jump lunges I ran into the same problem as with the jump squats, but you knew that.

The side planks were tragic, but they always are. I think my hip drops were a quarter-inch max ... and I may be giving myself too much credit! Also, for some reason when I'm changing sides my feet always seem to get twisted up in the cradles so I can't just move seamlessly from one side to the other. It only takes a second or two to get myself straightened out again, but it definitely adds to the general feeling of physical incompetence that I'm usually experiencing at this point in the workout.

Oh, and the two minutes between circuits went very fast indeed. After the first time through I really did not want to do it again, but of course I did. And after two times through I only had one more to go, so what the hell.

I wish I'd thought to wear my heart rate monitor because I definitely felt as though I was sucking wind at various points in the workout. Lactic acid buildup during the jump squats and jump lunges was an issue as well.

Can't wait to do it again next week. Okay, that's a filthy lie.

Workout B promises to be even worse. Can you say, "suspended burpees"?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The week in workouts

I haven't been so good about logging them this week. But I've been doing them, never fear!

Monday was an ETK day: clean & press/pullup ladders, 3 rungs to the ladder, 4x, followed by 7 minutes of snatches (10 R/L, rest 1 min, repeat until 7 minutes is up). I felt pretty good about how the practice went, and didn't get any new dings on my wrists so I think my technique is getting more solid.

Tuesday was a lower body strength day:

superset: DB deadlifts, 3x5x45's; 1x5x50's; BB front squats, 3x5x65; 1x5x75

The 50's were no problem on the DB deadlifts, so that's the weight I'll start with next time. Wasn't crazy about my form on the front squats with the 75, so I'll keep my weight where it is for now. I hate that thing you always see in CrossFit vids on YouTube, where they squat below parallel using too much weight, and have to do this weird little tailbone wobble maneuver to come up from the bottom of the squat. I'd be so much happier if they lightened the weight and used perfect technique, though of course I applaud their desire for an intense, challenging workout.

Next superset was BB split squats, rear leg elevated, 3x10x75; BB step-ups, 3x10x65

Then, a triset: back extensions, 3x10; BB SLDL, 3x10x85; BB standing torso rotations, 3x10x45

The torso rotations are a little hard to explain; the set-up is kinda like a T-bar row, except you're standing up straight, and instead of pulling the bar in you rotate it from side to side, keeping the torso square as if you were doing a Russian twist sorta kinda. Anyway, it's not actually a stupid exercise, even though that's not obvious from the name. I just wouldn't want any of you to be thinking I was slinging a barbell across my shoulders and twisting from side to side the way you sometimes see people doing.

(What just kills me is when I see women at the gym doing all kinds of heavy weighted side bends and torso twists and crunches and so forth, using way more weight than they would ever dream of using for, say, a lat row or chest press. I tend to think most people are much better off being very selective about what weighted core work they do. Mostly they want to be smaller in the midsection, not bigger, so why do routines that'll cause the muscles in that area to hypertrophy? Not saying there's anything wrong with that as a goal, just that it's not what most people seem to want.)

After my leg workout I taught my cycling class, and that was it for the day exercisewise (as though that wasn't enough!) Well, except for my clients' workouts, but you knew that.

Today was another ETK day: same clean & press/pullup drill as Monday, followed by 8 minutes of Death-by-Swings. 50 swings, rest 20 seconds, keep going until time is up. I sorta lost count of how many sets I did, but since my usual cadence is about 40 swings per minute, that means I did a set every minute and 35 seconds, roughly, so about 5 sets? Of course I think my cadence was somewhat affected by the fact that I was listening to music during the workout, which I don't usually do during kettlebell practice because I find it harder to focus on my form when there are tunes going in the background. It certainly made the time pass more pleasantly, but all the same I think I will get more out of my practice if I skip the soundtrack for now.

Also, while I love music and moving to music, I also enjoy the way a workout can become a moving meditation of sorts when you skip the music and tune in to the sensations in your body. I think that comes from my yoga practice. Yoga is, in essence, a moving meditation, a meditation on the breath, and it's about learning to be equanimous in the face of physical discomfort. As you work deeper in the poses you learn to remain calm and focused on the breath even though you're balancing on one arm with your right foot behind your left ear. You acknowledge the sensations of discomfort in your body, and then you let them go. And if you can't let them go, you don't go quite as deep in the pose. It doesn't matter. The poses don't matter. What matters is finding that edge where you're aware of but not distracted by what your body is doing.

That's my take on it, anyway. I actually think it has a lot of carryover to other body disciplines, including kettlebell training. In fact, it's a good life skill, being able to acknowledge discomfort without letting it throw you.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hot damn! I may have to do this!

Pavel Tsatsouline and Dragon Door are offering a new entry-level kettlebell instructor certification option, the Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification. It's a one-day workshop designed for athletes, trainers and coaches who want to be able to incorporate the most essential elements of kettlebell training into their programs but aren't necessarily willing or able to commit to the full RKC certification, which frankly is demanding and not for everyone.

You can read more about it here:

For me, what's great about this option is that it will give me a set of tools I can start using with clients right away while building my own proficiency to the point where I feel ready for the full-monty RKC certification, which remains my ultimate goal. The focus at this workshop will be on only three exercises, the swing, the get-up and the goblet squat, but those really are the essentials & the ones I anticipate using the most. There's an initial test of strength designed to weed out the truly unfit candidates, but it's nothing like the 5 minute snatch test horror show required of aspiring RKCs: men must do 3 pullups from a dead hang, and women must hang with flexed arms, chin over the bar, for 15 seconds. And, of course, to get the certification I will need to demonstrate technical proficiency in the swing, the get-up and the goblet squat. But I think I can be there by late September.

Of course there's a cynical little part of my brain that's wondering whether this new certification is really worthwhile or just Pavel/Dragon Door's response to the current state of the economy. For all his "comrades" talk, Pavel strikes me as no mean capitalist :) Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.

I need to think about it a wee bit more, but I'm 90% sure I'm going to go for it.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Strength Workout A (upper body) plus kettlebell practice

plus whatever else wanders into my mind as I write this post. I call my blogging style "stream of semi-consciousness."

Which is better, I suppose, than stream of self-consciousness. I wasted too many years of my life being self-conscious. It wasn't until I was well along in my 30s that it finally sunk in that most people are far too preoccupied with their own concerns even to notice what others are doing let alone think harshly of them for doing it. And those who do get off on judging others ... well, let's just say they've got Issues, so really it's not worth worrying what they think. Unless of course they happen to be related to you, but that's a subject for elsewhere.

Anyhoo, here's what yesterday looked like:

Alternating sets: incline BB press, 5x65; bentover BB row, 5x75, 5x80, 5x85, 5x90, 5x95

Superset: flat DB press, 8x40's, 2x10x40's; wide underhand grip recline row, 3x10

Tri-set: DB rear delt T-raise, 3x10x8's; BB curl, 10x30; 2x10x35; pushup, arms on SB, 3x10

I also did more cleans and getups, 5x5 cleans each arm, alternating with 5x1 getups each side, all with 12 kg. I'm feeling a bit more confident about my cleans. My wrist doesn't flop, my upper arm is staying pinned to my torso, and the bell isn't swinging as wide. It's still very much a work in progress, but progress is happening.

I'm going to see if I can get my husband to practice the shoulder-packing drill with me. That's the one where you lie on the floor with one arm extended overhead as if you were about to do a get-up, and your workout partner pulls on your arm to bring you to a sitting position. If your shoulderblade is properly depressed and retracted and your lats are firing, your shoulder should stay in place and you should come up "all in one piece." If that doesn't happen it means you've got some work to do before you'll be able to press heavy loads safely. This is one of those drills that's useful whether you're into kettlebells or not because we all need to be able to stabilize our shoulders so we can lift stuff (laundry baskets, luggage, moving boxes, offspring) safely.

So, that was yesterday. Today was an ETK Rite of Passage day, meaning more clean & press/pullup ladders and swings. Mondays are "light" days in terms of volume, and Wednesdays are "medium" days. Saturdays, therefore, are "heavy" days, but since I'm still in Week One the volume isn't all that horrific. The clean & press/pullup ladders today were still only 3 ladders x 3 rungs, and the timed swing interval was only 4 minutes long. It was an intense 4 minutes, though: 50 swings, rest 10 seconds, repeat until time is up. My usual cadence is about 40 swings per minute, so it took me roughly 75 seconds to complete a set of 50. All told I got in almost 3 complete sets in my 4 minutes. 140 reps total, I think.

I'm also thinking I should start watching my diet a little more, just to make sure that when I go to the RKC instructor certification course I weigh in at less than 123. I'm around 118 at the moment, which in itself is fine but the upward trend together with other hormonal weirdness makes me a little nervous. My other alternative is simply to plan on using a 16 kg kettlebell for the snatch test, but considering that I've never snatched a kettlebell heavier than 14 kg in my life it's a daunting prospect.

Not that daunting, though. I can do it. It's not that long ago that I was only using 8 kg on snatches and not feeling very good about them. Last Monday I did 60 in 5 minutes using a 12 kg kettlebell and easily could have done more if the program had called for it. I'm pretty sure they were all quality reps, too. My lockout at the top looked convincing to me, I felt in control of the bell throughout, and there were no bruises on my forearms afterward.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

TRX Metabolic Circuit A, Phase 3: The Revenge!

I've already described this one: 1-leg squats, oblique atomic pushups, low rows with feet elevated, 1-leg crossover balance lunges, side planks with thread-through, 45 seconds per exercise (or 90 sec. if a unilateral exercise), 20 seconds rest/transition between exercises, 3 minutes rest between sets. Last time I performed 3 sets; this time it was 4.

It was vile, but you knew that.

Actually, a big part of the problem for me was that because of my schedule I ended up having to work out at the end of the day, after training clients, taking a 90 minute ballet class, and in odd moments attempting cleans and getups with a 14 kg kettlebell (more on that later). I didn't really have much of a chance to eat during the day, so gobbled a larger than usual pre-workout snack before getting down to business, and that turned out to be a mistake. I was also dealing with some late-afternoon heat in my workout area, and the combination of the heat and the full stomach made me feel a bit nauseated at times. This is good, though. Now I know what my clients go through.

Anyhoo, I got through it but definitely had to regress some of the exercises toward the end. The feet-elevated low rows in particular were not happening, and my tempo slowed a bit with each set on the 1-leg squats.

I sweated buckets, but that could've been due to the warmth of the room; not sure how high my heart rate actually got, although I certainly was breathing hard.

Oh, and today's kettlebell practice consisted of cleans, 5 per side, and getups, 1 per side, supersetted, using a 14 kg kettlebell. I think I got through about 3 supersets instead of the 5 I had planned, but it was just as well because I wasn't happy at all about how my right side was performing. My wrist just would not stay straight, no matter how much I yelled at it! I hadn't really eaten, and I think that may have been an issue. The kettlebell was also a nasty thing with a rough handle, which certainly didn't help matters although on another day I don't think it would've been an issue.

I am seriously tempted to get a 16 kg kettlebell from Shipping is free right now, and I think I'm ready to go a bit heavier on certain exercises. Also, if I gain weight I'll have to use a 16 kg bell at RKC for my snatch test, and given that I'm perimenopausal I think it's probably smart to prepare for that possibility. My 12 kg kettlebell is from Perform Better and it's okay. Certainly I prefer it to the kettlebells at my gym. I was planning to get a Dragon Door kettlebell but apparently there have been some quality issues since they switched manufacturers, and while I have every confidence that the bugs are going to get ironed out I'm not sure I want to wait that long to get a 16 kg bell.

In my perfect world there would be something like San Francisco Dancewear for kettlebellers, where we could get "fitted" for a kettlebell with the help of experts familiar with all the different models on the market. Finding the right kettlebell isn't quite as involved a process as finding the perfect pointe shoe but only because there aren't as many possibilities.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Strength Workout B Phase 3

Lower body this time. I ended up going kinda light on the weights because this is the first week of the program and also a couple of the exercises were either new to me or ones I hadn't done in a while.
Here's what it looked like:

superset: DB deadlift, 1x5x35's; 1x5x40's; 1x5x45's; BB front squat 1x5x65; 2x5x75

superset: BB split squat, rear leg elevated, 2x10x75; stepups, 2x10x25's

tri-set: SLDL, 1x10x60; 1x10x70; 1x10x80; SB back extension, 3x10; standing vertical barbell twist; 3x10x35

On the front squat I opted to go very light and focus on full range of motion, as I would if I were performing the exercise with a kettlebell. In the context of the other training I'm doing I felt as though that made more sense than using heavier weight and stopping at parallel.

On the dumbbell deadlift ... eh. Next workout I'll go heavier. Ditto on the SLDL. I'll probably keep the same weights on the second superset but add volume.

I also taught my first 1-hour cycling class in forever. A few of my regulars are training for endurance events this summer and have been wanting a longer class, and since the studio was free it was no problem to extend the class time by 15 minutes. Everyone hung in there and did very well, including me :) Long cardio is so not my thing, but it was fine. It's easy to pace yourself when you know exactly what's coming next.

Tomorrow will be my second ETK Rite of Passage practice. Same 3x3 clean & press/pull-up ladders as Monday, plus swings, sets of 25 with 10 seconds rest between sets, for a total of 6 minutes. Thursday I will work on cleans & getups, and probably also do TRX Metabolic Circuit A Phase 3 for the second time. (Oh, rapture!) Not sure what Friday will look like--possibly Strength Workout A again. It doesn't involve any overhead pressing so I don't think it'll interfere with my ETK Rite of Passage practice on Saturday.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sunday TRX workout & Monday kettlebell practice

Sunday's workout was Metabolic Circuit B from the Infamous TRX Workout program. As mentioned below, now that I'm on Phase 3 the work periods within the set are longer (45 sec. per exercis, or per side if it's a unilateral exercise, or a total of 6 minutes per set since there are 5 exercises per set, 3 of which are unilateral ... and did you really follow that???) and the mid-set breaks between exercises are shorter (20 sec.), but the rest periods between sets are longer (3 min.). Oh, and now there's a power element added to two of the unilateral exercises, thank you Fraser Quelch, like I really needed that extra challenge.

So, here's the exercise breakdown:

Swimmer's start, with power, 45 sec. each side
Deep chest press, with tempo, 45 sec.
1-arm row with rotation, 45 sec. each side
suspended lunge with power, 45 sec. each side yeah right
pendulum with hold, 45 sec.

I knew I was in trouble when even Brave Test Animal Vanessa in the demo video couldn't do the power moves for the entire 45 seconds and had to modify in order to finish out the set! Actually, I was glad the modifications were demonstrated, because I certainly had to avail myself of them! I did okay with the non-power moves and I actually made it most of the way through the swimmer's starts with power, at least my first two times through the circuit, but I never really found my rhythm with the suspended lunges. I felt as though I was sacrificing form to speed--it would have been helpful if there'd been a mirror on hand to see whether that was really the case. The pendulums with hold weren't really so bad because it's really not much of a hold, more of a halting the momentum, And the chest presses with tempo wouldn't have been bad either if I hadn't had major DOMS from the upper body workout the day before.

Later in the day I attended a workshop the purpose of which was to hone my skills as a "Bodyworks" instructor. "Bodyworks" is sort of like a poor man's BodyPump, meaning that you lift weights to music, but it's not a licensed product so there are no real standards and no quality control other than what individual gyms choose to impose. The way it's taught at my gym ... well, let's just say that I reallyreallyreally don't want to do that. Biceps curls before chest work, simply because biceps curls are performed standing up and chest work is usually performed either supine on a bench or prone on a mat?? It's perfectly true that the class will "flow better" if you do it that way but, hello, shouldn't that be a secondary consideration in a class that's meant to provide muscle conditioning benefits? The only rationale I can see for doing it that way is if it's a class of seniors for many of whom a lot of up-and-down would be inappropriate. For a class of supposedly fit adults the more up and down the better as far as I'm concerned. Use it or lose it.

I need to lighten up a little, maybe. I mean, if the only way a gymgoer can be persuaded to lift weights is by attending a class with "flow," then such classes certainly serve a purpose. Sort of. They tend not to do much good either, and I hate to see people wasting their time. My way would be more effective ... but not if people didn't want to do it ... I totally go around and around on this issue, as you can tell. And it's sort of a moot point because doing it my way is not an option.

On to more pleasanter topics. After a great conversation yesterday with RKC Sandy Sommer of (thanks again, Sandy, for taking the time!), I spent the evening giving some thought to what I need to be doing over the next few (or not so few) months to prepare for my goal of RKC certification in 2010. I reviewed Enter The Kettlebell, and I think that for now at least my plan is to do the workouts outlined in Anthony DiLuglio's companion workbook. I completed the RKC Minimum a while back, but I think I want to keep on doing at least one workout per week consisting of 50 swings/1 minute active recovery, lather rinse repeat for 12 minutes (or more), and one consisting of 5 minutes (or more) of Turkish getups, alternating sides. It just seems like it'd be a good idea.

Today I did the Day 1 Week 1 program from the Rite of Passage section of the workbook. Clean & press/pull-up ladders, 3 rungs to the ladder, 3 times through, all performed with my trusty 12 kg kettlebell. Then, 5 minutes of snatches, 10 to the right, 10 to the left, rest 1 minute until 5 minutes is up. Took me about 50 seconds to do 10 snatches per side, so I was able to get in 3 sets in the five minutes. Taking the 1 minute to rest annoyed me but I made myself do it so I could concentrate on my form without fatigue being an issue. Still, 60 snatches in five minutes (about 4 1/2, really) is not so bad, especially since I felt as though I comfortably could have done quite a few more.