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Chin-ups

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I’ve been fairly lazy recently and haven’t made much progress at all with my gymnastic strength training. I blame the lack of motivation partly on the fact that I don’t feel I’m making any progress. Therefore, I have decided to do an all round benchmarking now, before the summer, and then use this as a guide for what to practise during the summer. Then, after the summer, I will do the routines detailed below once again and see how much I have improved.

If I haven’t provided a video myself, YouTube typically gives you an idea of what kind of exercises I’m talking about. If you really want to know and can’t find anything, just ask.

Strength related

The following tests were made. Time for each cycle is given for each session. Note that the number of repetitions are often pre-determined, i.e. I decided to do 9 12 9 9 10 pull-ups before I started the session. The final set in each session are always a maximum (until failure). Exercises performed in isolation (i.e. not as part of any routine) are found after the others. I have provided video clips when available, sometimes old ones simply to show what I’m talking about. All exercises are done fairly slowly and with full range of motion when applicable.

Routine A

Advanced tuck planche / front lever progressions:

  1. Warm up (at home)
  2. New cycle starts every 3:00 minutes:
  3. Advanced tuck planche: 10 20 20 20 20 (final sets very hard)
  4.  Front lever cycling: 10 15 15 15 15 (okay)
  5.  Light leg work in between


Straddle planche is still quite a long way away.


This is a complete failure. At best, I can maintain the horizontal position for one second, no more. Straddle is cool, though.

Chin-ups / handstand push-ups (against a wall):

  1. Warm up
  2. New cycle starts every 3:00 minutes:
  3. Alternate pull-ups / chin-ups: 9 12 9 9 10 (final set very, very hard)
  4. Handstand push-ups: 8 10 8 8 10 (okay)

Routine B (with at least 48 hours rest after A)

Dips / body lever / back lever

Warm up (one hour gymnastics)

  1. New cycle starts every 4:00 minutes:
  2. Dips (in rings): 5 5 5 5 8 (can be increased)
  3. Body lever: 9 12 9 9 13 (can be increased)
  4. Back lever: (can hold the position no more than a few seconds)


Routine C (with roughly 24 hours rest after B)

Weighted chin-ups (30% body weight) / L-sit

  1. Warm up (at home)
  2. New cycle starts every 3:00 minutes:
  3. Alternate pull-ups / chin-ups: 3 4 3 4 4 (final set very hard)
  4. L-sit (in rings, seconds): 20 20 20 15 17 (hands outside hips)

Miscellaneous

Human flag: 13 seconds facing right, 11 seconds facing left


Wall run: Completed 5 minutes in 9 minutes and 12 seconds

Sargent’s jump: 45 cm with hands on hips

Press to HS: Have almost managed two from handstand position

Skill related:

Front flip


This is where I’m at currently. Need more height!

Back flip


The sad thing is that I did this much, much better a year ago. :(

Front handspring


As you can see, I’ve never practised this at all. This is merely meant to define how much I suck now so I can be proud later. :)

Back handspring


I can do this slightly better on a good day, but not much better.

Conclusion

As you can see, I do some things fairly well, others not so. I’ll post something similar to this in about three months, hopefully there will be some significant improvements!

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Four weeks ago, I wrote a post (read it here) describing two new physical challenges that I would undertake, both related to vertical pulls and presses, namely handstand push-ups and ordinary pull/chin-ups. I also said that I would report regularly, and seeing that exactly four weeks has passed, this seems to be as good an opportunity as any.

Adding a horizontal component to the same workout

Over the past four weeks, a steady exercise routine has been established, which is performed three times a week (twice before ordinary gymnastics practice and once before diving on weekends). I do the following four exercises in the following order.

  1. Planche
  2. Front-lever
  3. Handstand push-ups (HSPU)
  4. Pull/chin-ups

The first two should be familiar to anyone who has read anything about what I practice during the past three years or so, but I still have quite some way to go before achieving planche, but a significantly shorter time before I get the front-lever. I’m currently focusing more on form for the planche, meaning that I’m doing five sets of 15-20 seconds with what I consider to be almost perfect form. When I have increased this to around 25 seconds, I will start moving out into straddle planche, which still seems a long way away.

Building strength in the vertical plane

I started out four weeks ago with a maximum of 19 consecutive pull-ups and 14 consecutive handstand push-ups. I have followed the exercise program over at 50 pull-ups, both for pull/chin-ups and HSPU, starting from level 5 for chins and level 4 for HSPU. In general, things are going quite well, or at least better than I thought it would. Let’s look at chin-ups first. Considering that my maximum before starting was 19 and what week four looked like, I’m quite satisfied. This is what the progress looks like so far:


Green crosses for completed sets.

Starting with week number four, I have doubted that I will be able to finish one or more sets on any given day, but so far I’ve been able to do the required number of repetitions. Week 5 looks quite daunting, with starting repetitions of 22, 24 and 26 respectively. That means personal records three times in one week with a considerable number of reps to do after that. It’s doable, I think, but not easy. It’s interesting to note that from now on, the strain keeps increasing on the first set, but is actually reduced on the middle three. It’s usually a very demanding first set, then relaxing for three sets and then maxing. I have no idea if this works, but we’ll soon see.

What about the handstands push-ups, then? Admittedly, starting from week 4 for HSPU has been quite easy and I have never been close to failing any set during these four weeks. However, I haven’t jumped ahead in the program simply because I know the perils of advancing too fast with heavy handstand workout. It’s worth to take a few extra weeks to be on the safe side. This is what it currently looks like:


Green crosses for completed sets.

Some final remarks

The best thing with all this is that I feel that the combination of vertical and horizontal components cover almost everything except leg strength. These four exercises are very efficient and can be done four five sets each in less that forty minutes. I feel that the only thing I need strength-wise apart from this is some leg workout and perhaps some extra core, but that’s about it. Managing all the strength training I crave in one program done three times a week. Actually, it feels great!

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Do 25 chin-ups

I am frequently asked why I practice and exercise so much (I average more than two hours of physical activity daily), and the pure and simple reason is that I enjoy it. Therefore, do not make the mistake of thinking that I included “Do 25 chin-ups” on my 101-in-1001 list because I had some higher goal. I just wanted to have reasonable aim for a strength exercise I could perform at home. What I am talking about here is pulling myself from dead hang to a position where my chin is above the level of the bar, using a supinated grip (palm facing towards my body). Repeat 25 times.

To give you some background, I am 178 centimetres tall and weigh a little bit over 80 kilos (81.5 yesterday evening), which is probably not ideal for performing lots of chin-ups. Furthermore, I have always been inclined towards strengthening my lower body and legs, so arms, shoulders and back have not been in focus until recently (starting serious handstand practicing last autumn).

During the past six months, I have been doing chin-ups regularly, but without a clearly defined regimen (it included varying grips, using fewer fingers on each hand, adding weight, etcetera). I think that this has managed to give me the technique necessary, but that it did not give me the strength and endurance to perform 25 in one set. I decided to change tactics and make my body used to performing a lot of chin-ups. During January, I performed 500 chin-ups weekly, which, with days of rest interspersed, means that I did 100 some days, but most often 200, and then rested from 48 to 72 hours in between.

My original plan was to set a record Wednesday next week, after resting for roughly 96 hours straight. However, I am sometimes impatient, and, feeling fairly certain that I would make it, I tried yesterday instead (then having rested 48 hours since the previous 200 chin-ups). As expected, I achieved my goal of 25 and was even able to make an additional two with extra slowness and correctness, just to prove the point. The last one was not even done until failure and there is a slight chance that I would have managed another one (emphasis on slight here, I might have managed if my life depended on it, but not otherwise).

If I would have been more rested and not performed this attempt at two in the morning, I probably would have been able to chin a couple of extra as well. In any case, I can now tick off this goal as finished and move on towards walking 100 metres on my hands, which will be quite a bit more challenging, believe me. I also have plans of working towards a one-armed chin-up, but more on that later.

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