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I've always valued the feedback I get at Nerd Fitness. I've tried challenges, though, and haven't done well with them -- they take too much of my time, which is already pretty limited. I also tend to use them more as progress logs than habit-building tools. I don't really have a lot of trouble with willpower at this point: if I'm writing about my experience and have the perspective to pick my goals, I'll build the habits I need. So with that in mind, I thought I'd start a workout log so I'll have a lower maintenance way to track my progress and get feedback.


Right now most of my goals for the next 4-6 weeks are based in my gymnastics and strength training, so the majority of this thread will be my workout logs. I may shift or add more types of notes as my goals shift.



Since my training is primarily bodyweight, I use a notation that allows me to log a lot of variables. I log weight (if used), sets, reps, my rate of perceived exertion, and my form quality.


a: high-quality form maintained throughout the set. No issues or very minor issues

b: one form flaw, which I was able to notice and correct during the set.

c: one or more form flaws which I noticed but was not able to correct during the set.

d: crappity crap. Ended the set because form broke beyond margin of safety or my quality standards.

I have certain form standards for each exercise I do. It's not always "perfect" form, it's a matter of what I know I need to work on or what I consider a minimum for safety. I'll try to note them down for posterity.

RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion):

I shamelessly stole Waldo's system for grading his RPEs, which he outlined in his blog post. For that matter, my form quality notation is also based on his.
Waldo being something of a pioneer of bodyweight training on these boards, I've also borrowed a few other aspects of his notation:

/: denotes left/right reps in a set of a single-limb exercise. For example, 5/3 reps on a pistol squat means 5 reps on my left leg, 3 reps on my right.

(): used for my eccentric exercises where I need to note both reps and time under tension. For example, a set of pull-up negatives shown as 3(6s) is 3 reps of 6 seconds each.


That's about it. Any notation keys I might miss will go up here.

Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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The Log and My Goals

I have been keeping a log of my workouts since April of this year in a small notebook, and I'm going to continue doing that. I intend this log to grant me a little more perspective by making me re-digest my experience as I go. Hopefully that extra level of detail will mean I train that much more effectively.


Improving Pull-up Height:

As I start this log, I'm also starting a new phase in my training. I've recently been accepted into high-level parkour classes at my gym, Parkour Visions, and this is prompting me to get serious about muscle-up training. However, I'm having a lot of trouble getting a nice high pull-up -- until now, all I've ever trained was chin above bar -- and I know this is the first thing I need to tackle.

I know my primary weakness is in my posterior shoulder, the set of muscles that depress and retract the scapulae in that final chest-to-bar part of the pull-up. I've been training pull-ups with a goal of clavicle to bar, and it's helped, but I'm not moving as fast as I'd like. And my lack of progress is stalling all my pulling exercises at this point.

After compiling pointers from lots of people, especially Waldo and Donar, I've decided to begin a 4-week experiment with pyramid training bodyweight ring rows. The goal is to quickly develop a much stronger posterior shoulder. If everything goes well, the training should put boost my pull-up height (to a point) and I can start training my pulling exercises more effectively.


Tracking My Skill Work:

I also practice parkour on a regular basis. I have been bad at logging that aspect of my skill work, but for the next 4 weeks at least, I plan to make short notes on my parkour classes and whatever parkour I do in my free time. Hopefully it will help me keep track of where I’m improving and how I can structure my practice.

Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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Workout 11/30

Skill Work: 1.5 hours

Backrolls and backfalls
- Had some fun with this one. Hung off a box at the gym while a friend sat on top and popped my hands off the edge. About a 2-foot fall into a backroll.

The goal of falling drills is always to start out practicing the desired movement in a safe manner, whether a roll or a breakfall, then slowly introduce new factors to increase difficulty and complexity. In this case I practiced the roll on a mat, then moved to hanging off the box, then made conversation with my buddy so I was less cognizant of when he would start my fall. I'm going to remember this particular drill -- I found it really useful and challenging.

180 deg cats
Rolls on narrow obstacles
Dash vaults
Playful dolphins
- From sitting on a vault box, cartwheeling backwards to my feet.

- For not training leg strength, I feel like I've got decent explosive power in them. Training jumps from a cat position off the edge of a wall, I was able to get lots of height -- enough to land on another wall of the same height from 5 feet away. Need a better way to track this, but no need to train it regularly.


- Dash vaults, on the other hand, need work. Continually clipping my feet on the obstacle, which is a big problem at speed. Need to practice it more on something squishy, then move it to a vault box.


Strength Work: 40 mins

Chest-to-Bar Pull-up
3bbb-y, 3bbc-y, 3bbc-y, 3bbc-y

- Using a slightly different form notation for pull-ups since I made chest-to-bar contact my form goal. Right now my minimum for a good rep is contact with the bar about an inch under my clavicle. For pull-ups only, I'm tracking my form quality for each rep. a means I exceeded that goal for the rep. b means I met the goal. c means I didn't get my chest to the bar and usually I'll terminate the set at that point. So a set of 3bbc-y means 3 reps; the first two I contacted the bar, the last one I didn't, and I ended the set.


Wall HeSPU Negative
4(5s)a-y, 3(5s)b-y, 3(5s)c-y


1-Leg RDL
BW: 5/5b-e

15kg: 5/5b-x, 4/4c-y

Ring Dips
4c-x, 4b-x, 4a-x
- Pain in shoulder after first set, but fixed in later sets by concentrating on tucking elbows in and rings out while going into the hole.

Ring Row Pyramid
(Rings level with top of abs when standing)

More Ring Rows To Burnout
2b-y, 1d

- 5 breaths between each set, 30 second rest at top of the pyramid.
- Yep, these are a killer. Also need to move up a rung. This is my first time trying the pyramid method. Writing this the day after, I can attest that I fatigued the crap out of my scapulae retractors, which is exactly what I wanted.

13sb-y, 11sc-y, 12sd-y
- Pyramid training has burnt out some of the L-sit muscles. Need to move burnout reps to end of the workout.

Cooldown: 25 mins

Self-massage: hip flexors, glutes, quads/IT band, anterior deltoid, T-spine, scapulae

- Really need to get my leg work under control, I have no system at all right now. About a month ago, I pulled a hip flexor, talked to a couple coaches, and took it as a sign that my glutes were chronically weak and my hip flexors extremely tight. I stopped my usual leg work (barbell squats and deadlifts) entirely to work on mobilizing my legs and strengthening my glutes with 1-Leg RDLs. It's been working pretty well, but I have not been doing a consistent enough routine to really drive big changes. I'd like to start doing barbell work again, but I'm not sure if I should put the RDLs before or after. This is the kind of time it would be really nice to have Kelly Starrett on speed dial. I think I'll ask the head coach at my gym, he is very good with these kinds of things and he's treated weak glutes in other athletes before.

Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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No workout today -- my schedule is Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday -- but I have some notes on mobility I wanted to get down.


Spent some time at the desk job getting in some quality self-massage with a 2-lb dumbbell sandwiched between my chair and my back. The little metal heads on that thing are great for working out knots around my scapulae -- and I've got plenty to work on in that area. I don't know whether my posture at work is bad or what, but my posterior shoulders are the worst-feeling area of my body, hands-down. My traps and rhomboids seem to be the tightest and knottiest bits.


For posterity, my target areas for mobility as of now are:


  • shoulder internal rotation
  • shoulder overhead flexion
  • hip extension
  • hamstring/hip compression

Not 100% sure if I'll get improvement on all these over the next month, but right now my shoulders are top priority.


I probably won't post every time I do mobility work since I do at least some just about every day, but for now, I think the best way to track my mobility progress is with some photos.


So for a little more posterity, it's photo time!


Shoulder internal rotation:




Shoulder overhead flexion:




Next workout is tomorrow. Time to catch up on some protein for today.

Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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Workout 12/3


Skill Work: 20 mins


Dive rolls over obstacles

- The "obstacle" being a stack of box jump boxes at my gym. Thank god for college gyms, no one bothers you about what you're doing.


Strength Work: 55 mins

C2B Pull-ups
4bbbc-y, 3cbc-y, 3bbc-y, 3ccc-y

Wall HeSPU Neg
3(5s)b-x, 4(5s)c-y, 3(5s)c-x + (4s)b-y

20lb: 6/6y, 6/7y
- Heart racing by end of last set. Weird. Time to restart leg work for real.

Ring Dips
5b-x, 5a-x, 5b-y

- Again, shoulder pain following the first set; again, resolved in the following sets by concentrating on form. Felt a lot more pushing power this time than last. Possibly due to less exhausting skill work, but hey, it's progress. It's been a long time since I did 15 ring dips in a workout.
-Crazy tough. I reached failure just a second after lockout of my very last rep, shaking like mad. Probably should have terminated the rep, but I got a little gung-ho. Extra shoulder rehab tonight.

Ring Row Pyramid

- Hit failure on the way down the pyramid and you can see where I tried to recover. Sort of recovered, not really though. Last workout must have burnt up my shoulders more than I thought.




- Terminated the workout early to spend the evening with my girlfriend decorating the Christmas tree. Would have liked to get a few L-sit sets in, but what can you do.


- Pleasant surprise on pull-ups: my pulling height appears to have improved. It's gone from 1 inch below my clavicle to around 2-2.5 inches below. Don't know if this was the case last workout. My pull has also evened: I'm tapping the center of my sternum tonight where before I was pulling a little closer with my left shoulder, thus rotating slightly to the right.


- Restarting leg work Thursday. I wanted to start tonight, but couldn't find my exercise shorts, wound up wearing a pair of nice-ish cargo shorts and did not want to split the crotch -- I've done that the last three times I've tried to barbell squat with non-stretchy pants. No more. Thursday I'll start deadlifting again. Trying to figure out whether I want to return to barbell squats or try my hand at a pistol squat progression -- I think the single-leg work would feed well into the jumping and balancing I do in parkour. I'll keep in my one-leg RDLs as an accessory exercise for my glutes, since they are still weak.


Okay, that's my second workout posted. Shoulderblades feel fried. Time to chug a protein shake and foam roll while I watch The Life Aquatic. (Never seen it before.)

Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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Okay, I just have to share with all of you (and myself -- posterity!) how amazing was the mobility work I did the other night.

As I often do, I drove a lacrosse ball into my back between my spine and shoulderblades tonight. However, where usually I try to intensify things by bringing my arm over my head, this time I put my arm behind my back. I didn't think it was doing much at the time, but...

This is after the stretch (as in p244 of Starrett's book), 6 minutes to each side:



Which is shockingly better than my usual mobility:




I think this is going to become a go-to mob for my shoulders in the future.


In other news... ugh, belly. Gotta fix that at some point. I've never had to cut before and I'm not looking forward to it.

Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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Workout 12/5

Warmup and Skill Work: 20 mins

 Handstand (taps away from wall), 3 mins


Strength Work: 90 mins

C2B Pull-up
3bbc-y, 4bbbc-y, 4bbbc-y, 3bbc-y

- 10 pulls touching my chest is a new PR for me. Hell yeah!

Wall HeSPU Neg
3(6s)a-x, 3(6s)b-x, 3(6s)+(5s)b-y
2(7s) of these

BB Squat
- Did hip flexor and quad stretches before, and glute activations between sets.

Tuck FL Pull-up
Adv. Tuck 2c, Tuck 5a-x

Ring Row Pyramid
- Failure city! Perfect.

Ring Dips
6b-y, 4c-x, 4b-y, 2b-y
- Right arm started shaking and took several seconds to stabilize on 2nd set.
- Constant effort to stabilize and keep rings parallel on last two sets.

- Again, glute activations between sets. Need to keep my butt in the game on these compound lifts.

20lb: 5/5a-x, 5/2b-y

- Think I may have an imbalance between my glutes that needs a little extra volume on the left side to correct. Took it easy overall because the squats and deadlifts gave my glutes plenty of volume as well.



- Perceived load on my dips seems to be inconsistent. Last workout it was easy to add 3 reps to my workout, no problem; today I struggled to add 1. This happened to me last time I made it to around 5-6 per set, my muscles and stabilizers just started crapping out and I couldn't hold it anymore.

- Experiencing slight pain in my right shoulder post-workout and occasional twinges 24 hours after. Probably connected to dips on rings. Irritating. I'm just bumping up against a previous PR of 6 dips in a set and I'd like to break it, but I also don't want to screw up my shoulder. Massage of the chest, anterior shoulder and rotator cuff helps. If the pain lasts into next week, I'll move most of my dip sets to parallel bars.

- Think I'll add 10 lbs per workout to deadlifts for the next couple weeks a la Starting Strength, really milk this (sadly uncontrolled) caloric surplus I'm eating currently. At least I've got my protein under control and I'm starting to cut back to maintenance. Soon I'll cut to rid myself of the slight belly I've been growing. Probably starting in January; I just really want to get some goddamn real headstand push-ups and a good foundation for a muscle-up first.

Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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I've decided to begin a 4-week experiment with pyramid training bodyweight ring rows. The goal is to quickly develop a much stronger posterior shoulder. If everything goes well, the training should put boost my pull-up height (to a point) and I can start training my pulling exercises more effectively.


Not sure if you have access to the equipment or not....or if you want to be 100% bodyweight....

....but almost nothing with build raw/pure pulling power like barbell rows.


In the spring I struggled to get 3 chin-to-bar pullups.

After crushing BB Rows for 16 weeks, the next time I tried pullups, I could rip 12 sternum-to-bar pullups.


Not only that, but you will build some nice thick lats. :)

Sculptor - Warrior

LVL 4 | STR 10 | DEX 8 | WIS 12 | CHA 8 | STA 1 | CON 6


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Not sure if you have access to the equipment or not....or if you want to be 100% bodyweight....

....but almost nothing with build raw/pure pulling power like barbell rows.


In the spring I struggled to get 3 chin-to-bar pullups.

After crushing BB Rows for 16 weeks, the next time I tried pullups, I could rip 12 sternum-to-bar pullups.


Not only that, but you will build some nice thick lats. :)


Cool. I do have access to the equipment, the college gym I work out at has barbells, and I enjoy using them for squats and deadlifts. When I was first settling on a path to my higher pull goal, I considered barbell rows (I think you mentioned them to me earlier). Honestly, the reason I went with ring rows was simple laziness. I tried BB rows a few times last year in my Starting Strength days, but I never felt very sure about my form. Going into this, I didn't really want to learn a newish exercise, so I just stuck with what I knew.


FWIW, I wouldn't be surprised if the row pyramid turns out to be similarly effective. It's only been a week, but I'm already seeing a difference in my pullups. My height's increased since I'm able to train a greater ROM than with pullups -- before my upper back just gave out close to my clavicle and wouldn't pull any more. Now I'm roughly 2 inches below my clavicle, and a lot of that was gained since I started the pyramid just a week ago.


My reps are increasing too -- I've PR'd twice in the past week and I'm now in the range where high pulls will start driving a big adaptation (10+ reps per workout, if I'm reading Prilepin's tables right).


So... yeah. Very happy with this week in review. Maybe it's too soon to start making predictions, but my hope is by the end of the month I could be pulling to mid-chest or lower. Maybe in 8-12 weeks, sternum-level? A man can dream...

Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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Workout 12/8

Skill Work: 3 hrs

Front flips

Precisions to rails

Dive rolls through narrow openings


Split-foot takeoffs

Turn vaults at height (6')

Transfers from climb-ups to running

- Coolest move ever, running up a 6' box and being able to sprint out of it at the top feels badass.


Tried Bar Muscle-up

- Managed to get to transition point, with forearms horizontal -- that in itself is a victory. To really get the rest of the way, I'll have to start adding in Russian dips... Once my shoulder isn't impinged.

Strength Work


3, 3, 4, 5, 4, 5

C2B Pull-up

4bbbc-y, 3aab-y, 3abc-y, 4abbc-y

Ring Row Pyramid


-From 4 on my way down on, I hit failure halfway through the last rep of every set. I call that a win.

- Pyramid itself was sloppy, I lost track of what I was supposed to be doing as I started. Also lost track of when I should hit failure, I didn't intend to add rung 6 at all but had to add it in to hit failure.

- Did not do leg work, figuring that I gave my legs about all they could handle with the insane amount of skill work I did. My instinct was right: all today, my abs and lower body felt like someone worked me over with a baseball bat. If this isn't causing an adaptation I don't know what is.

- Oh, and PR'd pull-ups... again. Honestly came as kind of a shock after all the skill work. 11 good reps in a workout now, and I'm excelling at the just-below-clavicle form goal regularly.

Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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Had to share just for the sake of my own ego:

My gym just put out a video of the obstacle course competition we did on Halloween. You can see a bunch of athletes in superhero costumes, a special-made slide for the courses, a pit of zombies... and I'm the guy in the black t-shirt at 1:54.

Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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So I have been tracking my sleep with an iPhone app called Sleep Cycle since mid-November. It was recommended by Steve in his recent blog post on quality sleep. Good sleep has been a lifestyle factor that’s messed with my training progress in the past, and I’m terrible at keeping a regular sleep schedule. So with the app priced at $1, I figured I had nothing to lose and it was a cheap experiment anyway.

I had no idea when I bought it, but it’s turned into an invaluable data tracking tool. Before, I didn’t track my sleep for crap, I didn’t care. Now, with next to no effort, I’ve got data on the amount of sleep I’m getting, how often I go into REM sleep vs. other stages, and (my favorite) the effect of things like alcohol, workouts, reading and stretching on my sleep quality.

All this is leading into… lately my sleep has been crappy. Going to bed too late, not stretching or massaging before bed, and drinking too late has been screwing me up. Add to this mix that lately I’m waking up 3-4 times a night as my cats crawl around on me, and it’s turning into a problem for my workouts. I think my sleep plays some part in why today was somewhat disappointing...

Workout 12/10

Skill Work: 20 mins

Dive rolls through narrow passages
- Got a few stares doing this one. Probably because I pulled out the yoga ball rack, which is just a long frame made of PVC, and dove through it for 10 minutes. There were multiple openings, so I was diving through openings about 3’ wide, ground level and about 3’6†high respectively. This is a new skill and I’m having trouble pulling my legs through in the dive without clipping either the top or bottom edge.


Strength Work: 40 mins

C2B Pull-Up
3bcc-y, 3bbc-y, 3bcc-y
- Don’t know what happened. As soon as I pulled into my first rep I knew it would not be a good day. By the third set I was flagging so hard that I decided to pull the plug on them and save my energy.

Wall HeSPU Neg
3(6-7-6s)b-x, 4(6-6-5-4),
- I superset HeSPUs with pull-ups and had the same crap-out effect with them, to a lesser extent. The real reason I pulled the plug here was they were upsetting my shoulder.

Pistol Squat (Power Rack Assisted)
4/4b-y, 4/4b-x, 5/5a-x
- Not bad for a first try. Saw a little lateral knee wobble, which worries me. I might cut down reps next workout to make sure my form is rock-solid in that respect.

Ring Push-ups
- Plan was to have these replace my dips, but one set of these left me with the feeling my shoulder can’t handle rings at all. Chose to cut all pushing movements for the workout and rehab my shoulder tonight.

Ring Row Pyramid
- Oddly considering my crap pull-up performance, my ring rows have actually improved a little. Took until partway down the ladder to hit failure. Might be adding another rung within another week or two.

4/4b-x, 4/3c-y

- Overall, tired going into the workout, unhappy coming out of it. Need more sleep. Need a PT for my goddamn shoulder.

- At this point I strongly suspect impingement syndrome in my right shoulder, caused/aggravated by ring dips. Hence why I pulled them from the last two workouts. I’m icing my shoulder intermittently and doing some self-massage to my posterior shoulders, but I need a PT. Been exchanging emails with one who worked on a fellow traceur friend of mine with similar problems, apparently she’s very experienced with gymnasts and aerialists. I suspect her diagnosis will be early-stage impingement and an imbalance in the strength of my external rotators and scapular retractors. AKA: my back is weak in bad ways that will require some rehab and prehab, and will likely set back my strength somewhat. Hoping to see this PT before Christmas. This could screw with my pull-up goals, and I’d really like them not to — I just got back into the groove of working out, dammit!

Anyway… my workout notes are turning into more of a rant. That’s about all I got. Time to dig into my shoulders with a lacrosse ball and eat some late dinner. Chicken with shallots and red wine vinegar tonight… delicious.

Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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Dinner: steak with mushrooms and onions in red wine sauce, side of caesar salad. I'm milking this lack of diet tracking for all it's worth, folks.


Haven't updated in a while. I took yesterday off strength training to research some rehab exercises and try them out. Last night I did external rotations and LYTPs: a few exercises to isolate the back and rotator cuff. Hopefully this will help stabilize my shoulder. I'm just using a soup can right now (~1lb), but I can feel the burn after 15 or so reps. Still taking it easy to give the shoulder some time to calm down. And of course, trying to see a PT. Unfortunately, the one I want to see (who has experience with gymnasts) might not be in my network -- trying to see if I can wrangle a visit with a referral from a sports orthopedist. We'll see. I'd really like to see someone before Christmas.


In the meantime... lots of mobility work. I hit just about everything on my back with a lacrosse ball today: scapular retractors, external rotators, posterior delt, lats... took almost an hour, and the only thing I didn't hit was my pecs. Time to put in a little more work while I watch a movie.

Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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That's the medical bell. I didn't go up a level -- just got myself an appointment with a sports orthopedist. I'm hoping to be referred to the PT I want from there.

I've also got an appointment to get a referral to a good massage therapist I've found recently. VERY excited about the prospect of getting some help with my soreness/flexibility issues.

Have been largely pain-free since Friday. My plan now is to do a pared-down workout today without any pressing movements.

Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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Workout 12/17

C2B Pull-up
3ccc-y, 3abb-x, 3bbb-y, 3bbc-y
- Crapped out hard on the first set. Glad that wasn't the norm.
- First rep of second set I got a huge explosion and topped out at mid-upper chest, about 1 inch above my nipples. About 2 inches better than usual. Crazy. I think the isolation exercises I've been doing for my upper back have helped drive some extra adaptation. Or maybe the rest week just did me good.
- All
'b' reps after that were a good 3 inches below my clavicle, which is about an inch better than I was getting before my break. If I can do that again next workout, I'll make it my new form goal.

Assisted Pistol Squat
5/5c-x, 4/4b-x, 4/4b-x
- Last 2 reps on left leg done completely unassisted. Sweet!

- Bad pyramid. Did not have my head in the game and as a result my wonderful pyramid just... looks weird.
- Did not hit failure for a while, and with the extra reps thrown in weird places, I think I'm ready to move up in difficulty. However... instead of adding a rung, I think I'll drop my rings a few inches and work back up from a 5-rung ladder. Lean more toward raw strength and hopefully build some real explosive power.

1 set each arm, 2.5x10 each exercise
- Shoulder feeling tender. Stopped there.

Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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Day After Notes:


Despite my shoulder feeling tender yesterday, it felt fine today, no twinges at all and just a little strain in the lower trap that I resolved with a lacrosse ball massage.




Trying to show the kids how to stem (climbing by exerting pressure between two walls with hands and feet)... I got a little ahead of myself and tried it myself. Insta-pain. Not good. I'm glad I've got an ortho appointment tomorrow.


In other news, here's a sample shoulder rehab workout for posterity. I did this tonight, but I've been doing it nearly every day for the past week, increasing reps and weight as I go.


Rehab Workout
















External Rotations



External Rotations (60deg shoulder)


Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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Hey Paul!

Looking good! Shame about your shoulder though. I hope it gets better soon!

Thanks! Appointment's in an hour... fingers crossed. The PT I want works on a few friends of mine and has a ton of experience with gymnasts and aerialists. With Group Health insurance it's hard to find that kind of specialization, so I'm hoping a referral will work out.

Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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So... not great news. Not terrible, but not great.

My sports orthopedist ran several tests, did an ultrasound, all the good stuff. Here's his diagnosis:

I have a tiny bit of impingement syndrome, but it's quite minor. However, I have another problem... bad form in dips has been irritating the labrum of my right shoulder. Ortho said it might be bruised, possible slight fraying if I'm not lucky.

This is not generally good: the labrum is cartilage vital to shoulder health. I like my cartilage and want to keep it for a good long time, so the doc recommended I cut off all strength training and parkour for now.

On the bright side, he gave me a referral to an excellent PT who works with dancers and a massage therapist who specializes in athletes, so I should get good care during my recovery. He put me at about 6-8 weeks, maybe more, before I can consider myself fully recovered. It all depends on when the pain stops and when I can make sure my form on pressing movements is rock-solid.

So, what do I do in the meantime? I'm not really sure. Rehab workouts and rest, I guess, and maybe some new goals. I've been planning to start cutting once I met my short-term strength goals, and this seems like the perfect opportunity... but I don't want to lose a lot of muscle along with fat because I can't strength train. So I'm not really sure. You can bet it will be on my mind for the next few days.

Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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Yeah, that's the plan. Appointment with the PT on January 7th. Now that I've been off for four days, I've got a ton of energy. I've been itching to run around or try some tricks on a rail all day... I went to see the new Hobbit with a friend today and I was dying the whole time, bouncing my legs in my seat.


Still, this gives me the opportunity to focus on some other things... regularizing my sleep schedule, for one. Maybe spend a little time learning French, that's been an ambition of mine for a while. And of course, bum around on the forums when I should be doing dishes. ;)


Oh, and for your viewing pleasure: my friends at my gym put together a showcase to advertise our space in Seattle. A lot of our best athletes are in this one. Enjoy.


Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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So I've been doing some reading now that I can't actually train. Picked up Building the Gymnastic Body, since I checked out their forums and I thought they were a great resource for bodyweight stuff. I haven't checked it out much (though I pored over the dip progressions), but I have read the programming info on "Steady State Cycle."


 Basically, the concept is that your body needs periodic "breaks" even at the beginner level, and that if you progress too fast it can lead to injury. (Familiar much?) To mitigate this, SSC mandates that you stick to the same progression, sets, reps, etc. for 8-12 weeks without changing anything. This helps to make your gains "permanent" and allows your muscles/connective tissue time to fully rebuild themselves (which takes something like three months, depending on the exact tissue) before you move on.


Is it a miracle program, or a load of BS? Hell, I don't know. I certainly see their point about hanging out in one place for a little bit to give your body time to "rest." It's true that moving too fast can cause injury. And the idea that injuries can be avoided simply by building a little rest into your program... the idea seems obvious to me now, though of course moving too fast with no rest is exactly how I injured myself.


Do we really need to hang out in one spot, with no progression, for three months to avoid it? I'm thinking no, not if you're smart enough about deloading and backing off when the bad pain starts. It's totally possible to make progress on a workout-to-workout basis as a novice, and when those gains slow, a deload week often solves the problems. I think this SSC concept takes the possibility of injury out of the equation, but does it by slowing gains to a crawl, especially as a novice.


I think the happy medium lies somewhere in the middle. A concept like SSC is a good reminder to go forward with an eye to your body and health instead of just your numbers. If I'd deloaded my dips back on 11/30, when I first started feeling pain, I wouldn't be off right now. I might even be back on the rings.


Overcoming Gravity (which has been my bodyweight bible this year) suggests that "beginner gains" -- that wonderful period where you make progress from workout to workout -- don't necessarily slow until you're at the level that you're approaching a full back lever, a straddle front lever, a bar muscle-up. But I don't know anymore that this means that you're necessarily going to be adding, say, a rep every workout for six weeks straight. As the fast progress of your muscles begin to outpace your connective tissues, or as you start to stall I'm beginning to think it's reasonable to "reset" every once in a while -- hold an exercise back from progression for a week, or even drop down a progression to give yourself time to rest.


I'm definitely going to be approaching my next training cycle more cautiously. I can see now that a lot of my sticking with ring dips for three weeks, when they hurt for half that time, was because of my ego. I wanted to do them and I thought I could force it out of my body. It seems obvious now that wasn't gonna work. Next time around, I'll be keeping an eye out for my ego getting in the way -- I know now instead of pushing me forward, it's been holding me back.

Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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Random thoughts on dips for posterity:


rough plan to work up to ring dip strength


a. Dip negatives on P-Bars up to 3x10-12(10s), focusing on improving ROM

b. Rings Support Hold up to 3x30s


Supplemented by holds in the bottom dip position to further improve ROM.



Weighted PB Dips up to 35x5x3

RTO (Rings Turned Out) Support Hold up to 3x30s


Progression: nice 'n slow until I'm ready to move it to the head of the workout. Would love to get a nice high pull (nipple height or below) before I get serious about dip progression again.

Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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So I'm continuing to do reading on flexibility and shoulder rehab. In particular, I found some stuff on Gold Medal Bodies (they have some excellent shoulder flexibility articles) and I've collected the full videos of Crossfit Journal's "The Position" series, which is basically Carl Paoli and Kelly Starrett talking their way through common gymnastics exercises and how to not kill your shoulders. I'm amazed by how much easier it is to understand what the hell Starrett is talking about when Paoli is there to help. I think Starrett tends to get lost in his own made-up terminology and gloss over things when he doesn't have someone to rein him in.


Rehab goes well. I've incorporated some extra work into my daily routine:


Upper trap massage (lacrosse ball, 1 min each side)

Wall slides (I can now get my entire back, scapulae, and the backs of my hands against the wall, though it's somewhat difficult. Yay!)

LYTPs (high reps, 10-20)

External rotations (0 & 90 degrees, high reps, 10-20)

Active wall slides (pulling down with a theraband -- hard to explain in writing)

Shoulder hyperextension, upper trap and chest stretches (~30 secs each side)

... Followed by bench dips with my feet on the ground under me (just attempting to get some light work in that new range of motion)


That's pretty much it. I've been experimenting a little with the order of things depending on how I feel at the time: eg, sometimes I'll stretch my upper traps first if they feel too tight to comfortably depress my shoulders (which has always been a chronic problem for me).


My lower traps have always been weak, and my upper traps far too tight. I'm starting to feel that change: my upper traps still feel tight, but the LYTPs and wall slides have made my lower traps much stronger in comparison. I'm able to depress my shoulderblades much more comfortably (essential for dips, L-sits, just about everything really). And the shoulder pain is pretty much gone -- just a little tickle today, which is a sign for me to go easier on the rehab work.


I need more rehab work for shoulder flexion and internal rotation, so I think I might have a few more exercises to do soon... but I'm encouraged so far. My first PT visit is on 1/7, and hopefully she'll tell me I can start to work in strength training soon. Fingers crossed.

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Cowardly Assassin
Training Log | Challenges: Current8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st

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