Monday morning, training with J. And despite my saying this every single week, today was so much fun. I really mean it this time. Of course, I really mean it every time I write it, so whatever. I probably need more life or at least hobbies because I enjoy my training days so very much.
J has new uniform shirts, and in this replacement style, the large seems to mean for a much bigger, bulkier, longer-torso-ed person. I think the dress I’m wearing today might be only slightly longer than that t-shirt kind of big. Between the sizing and the training and the teaching aspects of today’s List, the post title was born.
My new nemesis bodypart: hamstrings. Or hamstrings on stability ball. I cannot make them go that extra inch and get the last little working bits from them, even though I feel like I should be able to bend them to my will. Alas, they seem to operate on their own range of movement schedule and go this far, no farther, and openly laugh in my face if I have any expectations of changing the status quo.
Other exercises I have learned months and months ago were made new by reintroduction and trying to unearth old cues and muscle memory. Muscles plainly forgot that stuff, though, and it feels like a brand new exercise, even though mind recalls doing this, that, the other thing once upon a time.
After a few months of doing sets of two or three exercises, it seems strange to be back to full-on blocks of four, five, six exercises. It was not an issue so much as a change of pacing, once I had not anticipated would even be a blip on my radar. Creature of habit that I am, it will just take a few practices with this to get the new groove and transition tempo a more in hand.
Today might have day of the floating foot. While my single-footed exercise balance is vastly improved in 22 months, it is still a challenge, one I now relish rather that look upon with anxiety and a short track to frustration. Fall out, try again. Fall out, try again. Lather, rinse, repeat. At some point the weeble-wobble becomes less and I am more successful than not. My confidence is now that my primary concern is doing it correctly; balance will happen.
The blocks of exercises today can be describe as challenging, new favorite block, huffy puffy, and working abs (not a fan). ALL good things. Very good things. And while the List seems longer than usual, it feels like time and practice will shorten it to 3 sets doable in my usual block of practice time. And as this is the first new List J has written for me in awhile (we have been doing quite a bit of review since the first of the year), he truly outdid himself. Red shirt madness at its finest.
What We Did
On the PHA (peripheral heart action) List today:
A1 Anterior Reach
A2 SB Bridge
A3 SB Hamstring Curl
A4 SB Toe Bridge
A5 SB Reverse Hyperextension
B1 Flat or Incline DB Press (20 lb. DBs)
B2 Bent-over Row (20 lb. DBs)
B3 Seated Shoulder Press (12 lb. DBs)
B4 Standing Uprights (not “High Pulls”) (12 lb. DBs)
B5 Lying Triceps Extensions (10 lb. DBs)
B6 Seated Biceps Curls (10 lb. DBs)
C1 Speed BW Squats
C2 Alt. Small Step Reverse Lunges (Prisoner)
C3 Squat-Pops (less depth easier)
C4 TRX-supported Skater Squats
D1 Abel TRX Back Extension (leaning back squat to Y)
D2 Shoulder-safe Fallout
D3 TRX Leaning Resist Rotation Press
How It Felt
As noted in my key takeaways, blocks were longer and different today, each with it’s own characteristics. The first block was challenging. One-footed exercises continue to vex me. Exercises that have always been difficult for one reason or another resurfaced. I am still making friends with the stability ball and having only some success. All these things contribute to this first block being taking the prize for most challenging today.
My one-foot challenges with balance continue, and I have become philosophical about it for the most part. One cannot be good at everything right out of the chute, or even almost two years out of the chute. If I improved that rapidly and muscles never forget, J would not have much job security. Anterior reaches with the floating foot are like a whole new ballgame of new ways to balance. New visual feels cue – chest in line with hip at the top – makes a lot of sense. Now, to just get the floating foot to actually float and not weeble-wobble me off balance. I have gotten accustomed to these with the rear foot (now floating foot) as a kickstand; readjustment started today with the floating foot instead. In the ideal world, foot will float all the way through the rep and in the really ideal world, float all the way through the set. Apparently my version of paradise includes standing on one foot indefinitely. While I have little strong feelings one way or the other about anterior reaches in general, I can already feel the difference between this floating foot version. It forces me to not be lazy and really work that stationary leg.
Stability ball glute bridges make their return this week. New cues remind me that press up to bridge with the hips, not by arching the back. What that means to me: tighten glutes and abs on the upward bridge, rib tuck, rib tuck, rib tuck to keep chest in line with hips. So much easier said than done. But I have my magic “rib tuck” cue pounding in my head, so when I actually listen and follow along I keep abs tight and do not let my lower back arch up. Key words here – when I listen. I do believe this one might be kind of like riding a bike, in that once I get back into the groove of the general shape I should be within the ballpark of correct execution and form.
Then newest body part nemesis – hamstrings – got their stubborn on with the stability ball hamstring curls. Like their brethren the hamstring curl machines downstairs, that last inch of muscle contraction does the most work, and apparently it is my hamstrings’ last stand and a bridge too far. I know they can do it with brute force, but mind is apparently unwilling to be that much of a controlling asshole to them and insist upon blind obedience. Combined with maintaining the shape of hips elevated off the ground while pulling the ball toward body – hamstrings go so far and stop. These do not remain in my nemesis stable for nothing, apparently. But I’ll keep working. Maybe I can trick them into go the last inch somehow. Or maybe I just need to get tougher with myself and make them do it. Ugh. Every List, there’s at least one exercise that I see as my dislike of the day.
But if I thought the hamstrings were stubborn and the hamstring curls were challenging, the calves gave me pause and the hamstring curls a run for the money for least favorite on the List with the stability ball toe bridges. These are like glute bridges only legs are extended and toes rather than heels are resting on the ball while pressing upward with hips. Result is big giant
cramp contraction in the calves. These were new, and the yowza factor in the calves completely unexpected. Second set muscle had settled down a bit, and I did not have to resist the urge to yelp with every single one of them. Rest, yes; calves are wimpy little girls who would openly weep with the work if they could. Surprisingly, there was no after burn throughout the afternoon and into today; calves feel perfectly normal. As someone who has endured lower leg cramps (until fabulous M introduced me to a magnesium supplement that mixes with water and stops the cramps like magic), I suppose I was anticipating a spasm to flare up. Nope – all is well in my calf land. Kinda sorta strangely looking forward to Thursday and having another go with these, to see if I can maybe gain some mastery over technique.
The stability ball hyperextensions brought forth this new cue. While it seems to be kind of universal (or possibly that’s merely wishful thinking on my part) that everyone has a head-bob form issue upon first learning these (or going away from them for a few weeks), J remarked that he remembers to keep his head down by looking at the crack between the stability ball and the floor to maintain positioning. I like that so much better than my mind’s thinking of it as “kissing” the floor – the mere idea of it tends to gross me out so completely I don’t want to pursue them any further. And like the bad penny, now I cannot get it out of my head. But watching the ball on the floor, that works for me. After that I did much better staying low in the push-up position, although I feel like the hyperextension part could use some focus and some additional work. As we only did 2 sets today – teaching days tend to take longer because I am asking question, watching him demonstrate, trying it myself, asking even more questions – I do feel like it will be better and pacing will be more normal on Thursday. For the most part I like hyperextensions; there is a challenge there that I am cresting and any minute now will be overcoming.
The B block – oh my, this was the fun block of the day. Hard, sweaty-and-gross kind of work, but still so much fun. All of these are long-term favorites, so doing them simultaneously alternating is different than just doing regular two arms at a time. Yep, exercise nerd here; there are worse things in life.
I usually like chest presses of all stripes, but today we did single arm simultaneous and I fell in love all over again with the simultaneous flat bench dumbbell press. We went slowly the first set, so I could get a sense of the feels and the difference in motion and tempo of going one arm up, one arm down, both arms moving at the same time. I caught on fairly quickly, and I have to say, I just love it. There is the challenge of moving both arms at once in opposite directions, but there is a tempo in my head that coincides with the rep count and the way my chest and shoulder feel with the movement. What always surprises me is the difference in the way the weight feels when we go from doing a two arm anything to one at a time. In this we used a 20 lb. pair, and it felt very much like the usual 25 lb. pair I use for two arm presses. Not sure why that is, but suspect it is something about the way mind perceives body managing the workload distribution.
I absolutely love the simultaneous bent-over row. In truth if I have to pick a row exercise that I like best with dumbbells, it’s probably the single arm row because of the way my shoulder and back move together. Doing this version of the bent over row mimics that feeling, and I can focus on the feeling in one side and one shoulder at a time versus what the whole shoulder/neck/back apparatus is doing all at once. If I were a dancer, I think the thrill I get from doing these simultaneous dumbbell things must be what other people who do like to dance enjoy about it. There is a tempo, rhythm, and synchronicity to the simultaneous movements. It feels different from the standard bent over row, and I really like it.
B3 Seated Shoulder Press (12 lb. DBs)
The standing uprights were new to me. I got the basic shape – slight lean forward, pull dumbbell up like a one-sided V toward the chest, elbow high and back behind the ear and shoulder. Going through these right now in my office clothes and while at the office, I can feel it in my shoulder and rear deltoid (I think that’s what it’s called). Not really sure what “high pulls” actually are, so I have no reference to whether or not I could potentially be drifting into high pull territory, but I tend to think not. We did these with the 12 lb. dumbbells, and once I got the basic shape down, I felt okay to good about going through them. There was no upbeat or escalating tempo; this was purely learning tempo slo-mo and trying to ensure I am feeling the work in the proper places.
We have done lying tricep extensions for a long time; these are a staple on many Lists and not unfamiliar to me. However, today was the first time we have done these single arm simultaneously, and like everything that I typically do with both arms at once, it feels very different. It feels like the triceps are working harder, although I suspect it is primarily a mind game where mind is focused primarily one the work in one arm at a time. Even using 10 lb. dumbbells (versus my usual 15), these felt like triceps were working hard. Plus I found them to be just a lot of fun. My mind apparently likes the novelty of doing things I know in different ways.
Looking for over-the-top excitement about seated bicep curls? Unfortunately, I’m not that blogger. Even simultaneous seated bicep curls, I don’t love bicep curls. However, I will say they are better than they were once upon a time. Mostly when we do these, I am thinking posture: sit up straight, shoulders back, arms at my side, elbow stays slightly bent and in front of torso. Curl, curl, curl. Maybe it’s a guy thing? I dunno. My biceps seem quite pretty, but my vanity is apparently not contained in their bulgey-ness. Maybe that happens when I can use the 20 lb. dumbbell competently and without a genuinely pained expression? A girl can hope. It did make for a nice finish on this block.
This week’s C block is where the huffy meets the puffy, for sure. Not difficult, only one new-ish thing, and a new term – prisoner hold (describes putting hands behind your head during squats and reverse lunges).
J calls these speed bodyweight squats, and for him, the pacing is fast and furious. For me, the pacing is more like rushing through some strange grocery store trying to find items on your list. You want to go faster, but under the circumstances – you just can’t. They are not difficult, although it did take the first 10 to 15 to get used to having my hand behind my head that way without interlacing my fingers so tight my fingertips started going numb. No, mostly they are huffy-puffy kind of fatiguing and inspire this feeling of “is it over yet?” I made it through the first 25, but second set – I am the model of consistency in the tribe, not the model of toughness and keep going until I drop or J says stop, your face is turning some unnatural shade. Nope. During session, I go until I feel like I have had enough and let’s move along to the next thing. On my own, I am more inclined to take a break for a second and finish up on my own timetable.
We did the alternating small step reverse lunges with the prisoner hold. I will say – getting better at my lunge technique the more frequently they appear on various Lists. What I do notice about them – besides my not tipping over sideways every other one – they do cause the huffy-puffy reaction we are seeking in all this stuff. Again, not quite the pepped-up pacing that J urges, but Mondays everything feels kind of new with the difference sequences and order and whatever has gone on before. While I do not exactly feel guilty for not trying harder, there is some part of me that recognizes that I could put more focus on tempo and less on feels. Not sure exactly, but the thought did occur to me with these in particular. But the new hand-hold thing had me contemplating what shoulders and upper torso was doing – kind of a nice little stretch going on there – which distracted me for a nanosecond. Which was plenty of time to feel the weeble-wobble try to creep in.
Squat pops – I do kind of loathe you. The squat part I have down pretty well. The small jump/pop part does not seem that difficult. Yet, I do kind of loathe these. Possibly it’s because I seem to travel forward somehow. Or because they just feel unnatural. Jumping – or in this case, popping – does not seem like normal, typical behavior to me for me. I mean, I see others doing these all over the gym, some on top of the boxes and other equipment, and I admire their ability. Form me, all sorts of scenarios run through my head, none of them where I emerge as squat pop champion in the training tribe olympics. But they do add a lot to the huffy-puffy aspect of this List, so I’ll just give myself a wide berth just in case I evolve into the bunny hopping tribe member.
If I kind of loathe the squat pops, I have much stronger feelings about the TRX-supported skater squats. It’s been quite awhile since we did these, and in that time the rear foot kickstand has been upgraded to floating foot instead. It is because they are new, difficult, and like lunging without a rear leg. Invisible arms are one thing, but invisible legs and floating foot are a lot harder to learn and to implement successfully. At least on the first introduction. I got through them, but little professor the lives in my head is dissecting the whole exercise to figure out where I think I might be going wrong with these. For the most part, it is probably a function of practice and mind and body adapting to the movement without the foot resting on the floor for steadiness and balance. My forward lean also may have been off; another tribe member came up to chat with J and I right as I was starting on these and distraction could play a part in that. Not sure as yet; on Thursday when we review I will be gazelle-intense on my focus and take note of everything that feels weird. For now, they are hovering over the nemesis stable. Too soon to say whether they get admitted or not.
The final block was all about abs. We do not do a lot of core work, there is no dedicated List for that. But all the huffy-puffy List have some ab work on it, which somehow makes it more bearable. Still far from my favorite and definitely don’t love it, but it’s bearable. Besides, it’s huffy puffy; it does not get much better (or worse, if you’re not an exercise nerd) than this.
The Abel TRX Back Extension (leaning back squat to Y) is kind of fascinating and for the most part felt pretty excellent. The leaning back in the squat took/takes some adjustment, but coming up into the Y – the stretch in the shoulders and back is worth the seeming awkward start. I have not done the TRX Y in quite awhile, and with recent shoulder tightness it was probably past due time to reintroduce it.
Not a big fan of planks, but the shoulder-safe fallout is at least a more active version. Now I have rib tuck, and know how to tighten glutes and abs and keep feet together during them, so all that makes these make more sense to me. Does not make them easier to execute, but I am closer than last time we did these, and I have the feelings in the abs to prove it. That pressing up and then back down just a couple of inches packs quite a punch in the core.
The final big mystery in a day of new stuff, old stuff, and fun stuff – the TRX leaning resist rotation press. And truth is, I suck at these. It is the deceptively simple things that always trip me up and make me scratch my head in wonder. Sideways lean or the press straight forward from the breastbone and voila! Feel big crunch of muscle contraction in the obliques from hold body in that position during the forward press. At least this time I don’t feel like bursting into tears because they baffle me so completely. This time, it’s more grit my teeth, glare ominously at the TRX straps, pick them up and try again. And again. And again after that. Always anymore it’s the ab exercises that give me such grief.
Practices Between Now and Thursday
It is officially Tuesday, and one practice down, at least one more between now and Thursday. This morning, I went through last week’s huffy-puffy List in the big boys room. My chops continue to be a work-in-progress, felt GREAT about my heavier goblet squats and incline chest presses, pretty amazing with my stretch rows. The lat pulldowns worked pretty well, as did the overhead presses and the forward and reverse lunges. Even at my present slo-mo pacing there was plenty of huffy-puffy working for me.
Tomorrow will be another older huffy-puffy List, probably. I think I need the distraction of something that requires a lot of dedicated focus. Lots of stuff going on in my life right now. but things are balancing out