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Ab wheel

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A couple of weeks ago I finished the second steady state cycle (read more here if you don’t know what a steady state cycle is) and thus the time has come both to evaluate the results from that cycle, as well as introduce the next cycle. First, let us have a look at the exercises from the second cycle, which can be found is this document.

Evaluation of the second cycle

I’ve made significant progress with these exercises, moving from an average performance of 1.5/5 (meaning that I could finish around half of the exercises properly) to 3.5/5 (between “barely made it” and “very good”). Some exercises have seen little progress, such as planche and l-sit (no change at all and one point respectively). The performance of other exercises has changed drastically, most notably front lever (from 1/5 to 5/5) and headstand leg raises (from 1/5 to 4/5).

I also took the opportunity to do some benchmarking. There are two problems with these figures, and it’s very likely that they should be somewhat higher than shown above. Firstly, I had been ill for about a week before these exercises were tested and I had not recovered one hundred percent. Second, the weather here in Taiwan is getting hotter all the time, thus making it more and more demanding to do physical workout. As for the planche standstill, this might be explained by the fact that the form is gradually improving, resulting in a more demanding exercise and thus shorter times. Here are the numbers for this cycle (and the two cycles prior to this, within brackets):

Chin-ups: 21 (24, 16)
HS push-ups (wall)l: 13 (11, 5)
Adv. tuck front lever: 58 (51, N/A)
Adv. tuck planche: 36 (36, 24)
Handstand: 186 (N/A, N/A)
L-sit: 36 (N/A, N/A)
One-arm hang (right): 27 (N/A, N/A)
One-arm hang (left): 15 (N/A, N/A)

Presentation of the third cycle

As before, a detailed version of the program can be found here, along with notes I make continuously noting my progress over the weeks.

The third cycle will be similar to the second in many regards, mostly because I have the same goals as before. Planche and front lever proceeds according to plan, albeit very slowly to avoid injury. Chin-ups and and handstand push-ups look very much the same as before, but with increased difficulty and increased repetitions respectively. There is a greater focus on handstands, since I have added ten minutes of free handstands per week (accumulated time, usually in sets of one minute or something similar).

Regarding the legs/core section, things will change a bit more, even though the pistol remains the same (but with increased repetitions) as does the standing ab wheel, which I haven’t fully mastered yet. The two new exercises are the middle split hold, a progression towards the manna (which feels about one lifetime away) and wall climbs. These are here because I wanted to increase back flexibility and because I was bored with l-sit. I’m not sure if I like any of these exercises yet, but I should know in a couple of weeks.

In addition to this, I have added dynamic stretching to the leg/core sessions. Nothing fancy, but I want to start developing flexibility again and I feel that the time is now. I will also do static or isometric stretching in connection to the same sessions. I have also increased the dynamic stretching in the warm-up, which should at least maintain current flexibility in the upper body.

As I publish this, I have finished the first two weeks of the program and I can tell you it’s a lot harder than I thought. I’m considering backing down on the chins and some of the other exercises, perhaps going from five sets to three. It takes me ages to finish a complete session, not because I’m lazy, but simply because I need the rest.

A problem with efficiency

Although I’m in general very satisfied with my training right now, there is a specific problem that have grown inexorably all the time, namely that of efficiency. If I do my workout at home, there is a tendency to increase resting times, especially as the exercises grow harder and harder. Having a computer nearby makes it easy to procrastinate, which sometimes means that a session may take as long as two hours. It’s not the case that I rest too much between sets, but rather that I take too long breaks between completely different exercises.

I see three ways to get around this problem:

  1. I can simply disconnect from the Internet while studying, since this will enable me to do more useful things when resting (such as revising Chinese characters, an excellent choice because it works just fine even with intervals of just a few minutes.
  2. I can try to contract the entire session, leading to a much more demanding workout, perhaps too demanding.
  3. I can try to practice more outdoors, which means that there are less distractions and it’s easier too focus, but which is impractical if it rains heavily or it’s too hot.

Of these three solutions, I think the first one has by far the most potential. I don’t mind spending a long time on my sessions, but I hate wasting an entire evening without getting anything else done. Making sure I do something useful would remove the frustration, although the problem with protracted sessions would still remain.

Conclusion

Things are moving in the right direction, but somewhat slowly. I feel that I should focus more on exercises I enjoy, such as handstands. The good thing with having a wide variety of exercises is that there is always some area that develops rapidly, even if others might slow down temporarily. I feel that planche and front lever are moving very slowly, but that might also be an advantage and a way to avoid injury.

I have said it before, but I want to reiterate that this form of training program suits me very well. I think this is the first time in my life I’ve been able to stick to a fairly regular schedule for more than six months. I feel that I can keep on going like this for a very long time, because the separation into cycles makes it easier to verify progress and break the monotony that otherwise might creep in after a couple of months. If you haven’t already tried it out, do so!

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