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Shaped up (steady state reached)

Disclaimer: This post is about physical training and is not meant to explain the whys and hows of what I’m doing to those who aren’t already familiar with gymnastic strength training. If you aren’t, but would like to know what I’m talking about. YouTube searches will most often give you a good idea. The forums over at GymnasticBodies is a veritable gold mine of information, check it out! If you want to see some of my long-term goals, check out the Project page.

Ten weeks ago, I said that I would start what Coach Sommer at GymnasticBodies call a “steady state cycle”, which sounds fancy, but in reality simply means designing a strength program and sticking with it for eight weeks, without increasing any sets or reps. This means that after a while, a steady state is reached where the body has adjusted to the demands of the programme. I have now, with one exception, reached a state where I think the exercises I started doing ten weeks ago are quite easy (ten weeks rather than eight because of illness and final exams). This means that it’s time to start a new cycle, but before I can do that, I need to evaluate where I stand now.

There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad attitude.

In short, the programme (see the initial post for details) has two basic exercises which are present at all times, meaning four times a week: planche and front lever progressions. Regarding the planche, I have made progress, but very slowly. At the beginning of the cycle, I had to work really, really hard even to complete 6×10 seconds of advanced tucked planche, and then the hips where far below the shoulders. Now, I can hold the first three sets with really good form, but still feel the last three sets are killing me. Thus, I will probably keep this exercise exactly as it is, but will add the PPPU (pseudo planche push-ups) to the program to make it a little bit harder.

Front lever is a lot easier and I reached a steady state many weeks ago. To be honest, the biggest problem for the last set is my forearms, which tend to be tired after both planche and front lever workout. I will try to move forward here, either by going for the straddle front lever or for some variant with one leg still tucked, because straddle requires flexibility I don’t really have.

Monday and Thursday has meant upper-body workout, in addition to the exercises above. I have established some sort of basic strength for chin-ups, which means I will move on to continue work towards the one-arm chin-up I’ve worked towards before. The road is very, very long, but I’ll get there in the end, just you wait and see. The steady state for the chins was reached almost immediately, but yet again, grip strength was lacking. In addition to this, I’ve done handstand push-ups, 5×3, which have turned out to be really easy the last three weeks or so. I might replace these with other handstand-related exercises, but I might also keep it. Hm…

I’ve also done specific finger/hand strength by doing fingertip push-ups. I need this and will do the same thing next cycle, just ingrease the reps. It took a long time to reach the steady state here, which is expected since tendons take longer to strengthen. The last exercise is dips, which is a great exercise when done on parallel bars, but which will be difficult to do practically next semester. It will be replaced by the PPPU I mentioned above. This concludes the upper-body routine.

This is my advanced tucked planche as it looks right now.

On Tuesdays and Fridays, I planned to do legs and core (in addition to placnhe and front lever, of course), but most of the time I only did the general exercises. Why? Mostly because I didn’t have good exercises, but also because I was lazy. It took me around eight weeks to find good exercises I can do at home (I usually do all these exercises on the university campus, i.e. outdoors). This means I will stick to the exercises I’ve found and use the next cycle to reinforce them.

In short, this means two pairs of exercises. The first is L-sit, which will be 5×12 seconds or something like that. This will be paired with headstand leg raises (it’s a bit tricky to explain, but imagine standing on your head and then, with straight legs, lowering your feet to the ground and raise them up again), which target the lower back. The second pair is pistols or SLS (single-leg squats), probably 5×2 or 5×3 on each leg. together with ab wheel (oh, yeah!), but I haven’t been able to specify a certain number of sets or reps here.

In addition to all this, I plan to add some general handstand training. I’ve seen many people recommend extended static training here, so I will give it a try. I’m not sure exactly what to do, but it might be something like 10×1 minute with 30 seconds rest. Because of this, I also intend to reverse the order of the two routines. I should add the handstand to the upper-body days, otherwise the muscles won’t get time to rest, but that will make me more tired. I’d rather be exhausted on Wednesdays and Saturdays when I can rest, so I’ll simply switch days.

I will spend the two weeks still remaining to the start of the next semester experimenting with these exercises. I will also try to go all out on some of them to use as some kind of benchmark. When I’m done with all this, presumably in two weeks, I’m going to write a new post introducing the second cycle. It’s time to round this off now, and I’d like to do that by saying that even though it’s hard to compare ways of exercising, I’m very happy with this method so far and it feels great to be able to plan and start a new cycle!

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