This is part 2 of Thursday’s training recap.
There is this weird feeling of liberation sitting on the floor at the foot of a cable machine. I am not crazy in love with the climbing back to my feet part, especially on the FreeMotion machine when there are 2 handles and weight stacks to be managed, but even in this simple endeavor (that seems ridiculously complicated to me) I am showing improvement.
Chest flys are hard. All of them. It seems like I have been doing some version of them for months and months still have some level of struggle with something on each. I comfort myself that if they were easy everyone in the gym would be doing them.
While push-ups remain my arch nemesis, the chest press – all of them – are my friends. I have recently read the Marie Kondo’s book on organizing, and like the KonMarie method of “sparking joy” from items (but I honestly do not find it does much at all for me), I find it true of exercise. While it might be that I am competent at the chest presses and that alone makes me like them thus far, I have a much better understanding of the objectives for them and a genuine appreciation for that aspect of the exercise. My inner exercise nerdette finds more satisfaction when we go full circle, and I suspect that is why we like them so much. They are neat, tidy, complete, and most importantly: they make sense.
Not sure what it is, but triceps seem like they are either really lazy or superpower strong. I go along doing tricep exercises wondering if I am actually doing them right because no particular sensation is overcoming me and then boom, burn baby burn. Counting reps on these seems pointless because I could be well beyond the upper range before that kicks in.
Really digging the scapular plane these days and am completely besotted and obsessed with the upper back arch. Everything we do where arch has come up in cueing or crosses my mind, I’m thinking about it and working to recall if it is applicable in this application. Same with the scapular plane. If it is an overhead and shoulder-related exercise, I am closely examining my arm to see if it seems to be in the right position in relation to my diagram. Written down like that, it sound a little ridiculous. In actual practice, though, it makes a huge amount of difference in how things feel.
I am contemplating an “egomaniac” warning sign to wear around my neck, particularly in the gym. But not really, because while my present and expanding level of confidence is new and a little scary, I not believe it approaches caustic or toxic levels. My engagement with the exercise and better health process is much like any other meeting or work-related project; no way do I want to show up for appointments unprepared and not done my homework and background research. The result is J and I always have something to talk about, some of it even fitness related. Of late, my biggest issue is not enough time to just sit around and read. Work is such a hindrance to my fitness and better health education.
What We Did
On the List this week:
A1 Decline Chest Press
A2 (Floor) Lat Pulldown
B1 Straight Arm Pulldown
B2 Abel Chest Fly
C1 (Floor) 2-arm Row (option: 1-arm Standing Row)
C2 Horizontal 2-arm Press
D1 Rear Fly Cable Cross
D2 2-arm Overhead Press
E1 Dual Cable Triceps Pressdown
E2 1-arm (scap plane) Concentration Curl
F1 Low 2-arm Biceps Curl
F2 Triceps Kickback (or Overhead Extension)
How It Felt
The last couple of days, I have been enjoying the chest press process. Yesterday was on the bench, this week’s training was the decline chest press using the FreeMotion cable machine.
The (floor) lat pulldown is interesting. Sitting at my desk and trying to emulate the movement and work my upper back arch. Break myself of the habit of leaning forward and getting the complete upward, full-on shrug and pull down with the shoulders. It is interesting to me how close or how far I am away from the machine and the ways it feels to my arms and shoulders.
There is a new cue with the straight arm pulldown: think of the up, down, and sideways keys on a computer keyboard – stand tall, pull arms down, chest forward/shoulders back. So now I am seeing that shape in this exercise and trying to keep remember to keep it together. For an exercise that is so familiar, this one remains elusive and challenging. Maybe too complacent that I have it down cold? I do know in warm-up with the bands as well as doing these with the cable machines, I will be thinking about it and trying harder. This is not to say I am doing terrible with these, but my spidey sense says I need to pay more attention to what shoulders and back are doing in the process.
As noted above, one of my key takeaways this week: chest flyes are hard. The Abel chest fly is maybe just a smidgen less hard than the rest of the chest flyes in my repertoire. On the FreeMotion machine, the set-up seems simpler because there is a hand hold that rests just below the waist/above the hip and lets me rest my head and shoulders against the machine in arch-worthy positioning. The tricky part with this version, though, is how low or how high to position the arms when pulling hands/handles together. J says just high enough to clear the rib cage. But for women, breasts tend to complicate things. But after sort of shadow practicing them as I am writing this recap, I mostly think I have them figured out. Mostly. If I get a shot at the FreeMotion on Saturday, I will give the whole List another try.
For the row, we did the (floor) 2-arm row on Monday and the standing option today. Doing these from the floor reminds me of the row machine in the big boys room. As always, trying to remember to lean forward to a full stretch and then row by pulling from the shoulders and doing more arch from the shoulders rather than pulling back with the arms and from the waist. Using an indoor rowing machine was my exercise of choice for several years, it the motion and habits of that practice has been a habit to overcome, but it seemed that was only surpassed by my desire to shrug up my shoulders. After doing on the cable machine or with the bands or TRX for 20+ months, I have mostly conquered my shrug issues with them. J had me try to do them the former way that once seemed so natural – now, not so much. I do still have the script in my head that plays every time “row” appears on a List or is said out loud to me, but hey, whatever works.
Like the decline chest press, I am really enjoying the horizontal 2-arm press. I actually like the 1-arm version as well. Ever since we added the “invisible arms” cue, I find myself enjoying the challenge of pressing with my shoulders and reaching for that contraction in my chest muscles.
As noted, flys are challenging for me. All of them. Including the rear fly cable cross. While I am determined to get better at this exercise, progress and improvement happens very slowly. Remember to keep my arms parallel with the floor. Remember to reach out far and wide. Remember that I am looking to feel it in the back of the shoulders, that little tiny area that seems so difficult to dig out and light a fire under it. But I am persisting with these. I will get more competent and confident with them.
The 2-arm overhead press was kind of ingenious in its set-up and execution.. While J wrote the List as 2-arm, we tried single arm as well. Feels different than when we use dumbbells, yet not so dramatically different that I have this strong preference for the dumbbells versus the cables if I happen to be using a cable machine. There is a stronger sense of pulling with the cables, but other than that, I feel the muscle working the same way as I do with a dumbbell in my hand. More practice, more data gathering. Right now it feels novel and different. I wonder how long it will take for me to feel more confident in where I stand, how this all works.
On Monday when we did dual cable triceps pressdown I did not feel much difference between the dual cable versus the single cable with a rope or some sort of bar. J indicated that if there one side or the other was stronger or more dominant, it tended to assume more of the workload with the rope. I did not notice it then, but I most definitely felt it today. When that buildup to burn baby burn finally hit, my right arm felt a lot more impacted than my left. With legs and hips and lower body, the opposite is nearly always true, in that my left side feels weaker and as if it fatigues faster.
My new favorite thing is the scapular plane. The small details that capture and hold my attention are unpredictable, yet the emerging pattern seems to be the tiny changes that yield the most direct feeling impact. In another non-session conversation I last week I had been explaining to J how I figured out how to stand and set-up for certain exercises, kindling the 1-arm cable concentration curl. Monday when we did these, J asked me to demonstrate how I set up for them, so I did, going through my facing the machine and then turning some mysteriously predetermined angle away from it in relation to where the cable in my hand was. Once I got into the general ballpark of correct position, he tells me to look at my arm … and the coin and the angle in reference to the diagram falls into the exercise knowledge bank. Cha-ching. Now if I can just get to the point of not reminding myself 10 times in 12 reps to keep my arm elevated I will be golden.
The low 2-arm biceps curl seems controversial in my head right now. Monday it seems like we were facing away from the machine, but today it seems like we were facing the machine. In my head I believe we were facing away, just because I stand up and pretend to be at the machine and try to remember where the cables were in relation to my stance and body. In my imaginary pretend world of writing session recaps either way seems workable, but I think there is something not as efficient or as effective with the angle of the cable when facing the machine. Next I have time with the FreeMotion machine I will run through this again and see what feels right to me.
Monday we tried both the triceps kickback and the overhead extensions, but today we seem settled on the overhead extensions. There was nothing wrong with the tricep kickbacks when we did them on Monday, except the range of user error possible. The overhead extensions are challenging, but I feel like there is more control involved. I am still working on getting completely comfortable with my stance of leaning forward and keeping my arms positioned overhead. Watching J demonstrate, I have to remind myself that he has these extraordinarily flexible shoulders and arms, and that mine do not bend and flex that way. I also realize this week is the first time we have done them with 2 cables versus one cable and the rope. It is supposed to feel different, and I probably need to accept that it feels just different enough to have me a little off balance in performance.
Practices between Now and Monday
Friend and tribe sister is joining me in the gym tomorrow morning for a lower body List, so I am very excited about that. While I went through the machine-based List on Tuesday, I have a second work-from-home day tomorrow and will run through it again with her if she’s up for it.
Saturday I am hoping to get some quality time with the FreeMotion machine, but if not, I will adapt this List to another cable machine. Or if that seems too crowded or unworkable, I have other choices available.
Sunday is either a gym play day or an on-the-beach type rest event. We shall see how it goes.
Kitchen Sink Thoughts
Find it here.