Saturday, April 25, 2015

My Current Calisthenics Routine Part 3 | Handstand and Strength Routines

In previous posts I presented my daily limbering routine and my hip and squat mobility and stretch therapy routine.  In this post I present my handstand preparatory routine and my calisthenics training principles, format and current routines.

Handstand Preparatory Routine

Through 2013 and 2014 I worked on handstands primarily by doing wall handstands.  I progressed to the point where I could hold a brief handstand with one leg tucked, but when I started trying to do some single arm support work, I found that my shoulder girdle was not adequately prepared.  I already knew that I had shoulder issues due to previous injuries.  The mobility was improving in my left shoulder, but one day I tried some handstand wall walks and shoulder taps.  I found that I literally could not support myself on my right hand, but my left was capable.  When I tried to transfer my weight to my right, I felt as though my shoulder would collapse if I lifted my left hand.  

I decided I needed some expert guidance so I purchased Handstand 1 from  I was not able to adequately perform some of the shoulder girdle preparatory elements prescribed in the course, so I decided I needed to master those elements before going forward with handstands.  I am currently working on the shoulder strength and mobility elements prescribed in that course as prerequisites for doing wall handstands, and won't be doing wall handstands until I master them.

Combining this training with Fascial Stretch Therapy has greatly improved my shoulder mobility and stability, but according to the progressions in Handstand 1 from I have some other elements to master before I will qualify for practicing wall handstands.

Antranik has put together a comprehensive handstand tutorial that includes a section on shoulder mobility and strength.

If you want a gymnastics quality handstand while avoiding shoulder girdle, waist and wrist injuries, I highly recommend that you follow the progressions typical for gymnasts.  I think that many adults attempting to learn handstand need to develop shoulder girdle mobility and strength using preparatory elements before getting up on their hands (even against the wall) or else risk serious shoulder girdle injury.  

I do my handstand preparatory training thrice weekly, Monday and Friday before my full body strength routine, and Wednesday before my hip and squat mobility routine.  Currently this training consists of the following:
1. Wrist flexor stretch with shoulder in external rotation 1 x 20 sec
2. Wrist extensor stretch with shoulder in internal rotation 1 x 20 sec
3. Wrist flexor stretch in planche position 1 x 20 sec
4. Wrist flexor stretch with shoulders in internal rotation 1 x 20 sec

After these warmups I proceed to the following in four tri-sets, 

5. Prone shoulder flexion static holds with weight x 30 sec
6. Shoulder circumduction with weight  x 5 repetitions
7. Standing weighted shoulder extensions x 5 repetitions

So, I do one set of the flexion holds, followed immediately by the circumductions, followed immediately by the extensions.  I then go back to the flexions, and repeat the cycle 4 times. I rest as little as possible between the cycles.   The following videos I demonstrate the elements of this handstand preparatory routine.

As you will see in the prone shoulder flexion static holds video, my greatest challenge lies in achieving full shoulder flexion without arching my lower back i.e. while maintaining a posterior pelvic tilt.

Precision Calisthenics

On Mondays and Fridays I do my full body strength training.

I use so called high intensity training methods, as follows:

1.  Only one set of each movement
2.  Slow, controlled movement speed
3.  Full range of motion, emphasizing slow movement in the most difficult ranges of motion
4.  Move as quickly as practical (without resting) from one movement to the next
5.  Progress in small, manageable increments (either resistance/difficulty, hold time, or repetitions) as often as possible, preferably every training session

I call this Precision Calisthenics.  I use precise form, the precise amount of stimulation required to produce an improvement (i.e. one set), and a precise progression scheme that uses as precise increments of progression as I can manage to define.  

The following table shows the layout of my current routine with regard to end goals. 

Each routine is performed in the order listed from top to bottom of each column.  Each cell of the table names an end goal, e.g. 1-arm pull up, front lever, side lever, single-leg squat, etc. Elsewhere I have laid out precise progressive steps for each goal.  In any given routine, on any given training day, I will be performing the progression or step that I need to master to make another step toward the goal.

At time of this post, my routine contains these specific movements:

For example, I currently perform tuck L-sit pull ups as a step in progression to the 1-arm pull up.  When I master those – signified by correctly performing 5-6 repetitions in approximately 60-70 seconds – I will go to the next step in the progressions I have laid out.  

For upper body movements, leg curls, and bridges, I aim for about 60 seconds time under load, whether dynamic or static.  For squats and rise-on-toes I aim for 90 to 120 seconds of time under load, depending on the continuity of tension. 

In late 2014 I injured my right distal bicep tendon and broke or sprained my large right toe.  In 2014 I also re-injured my left knee (which I first damaged more than 40 years ago).  This set of injuries set me back a bit.  My right arm lost a good bit of strength and size because I was unable to pull my weight in pull ups until just this past week.  The large toe injury made push up and planche training difficult because I could not put weight on the toe in a plank position until about 2 weeks ago.  

In the two videos below I demonstrate the two routines.  Each video shows the whole training session, each of which takes about 15 to 20 minutes of actual exercise time.  I excluded transitions involving changing equipment or station, which adds 5-10 minutes.  When I add the handstand prep routine the whole training session takes 35-40 minutes on any training day.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

My Current Calisthenics Routine Part 2 | Stretch Therapy & Hip Mobility Routine

As I discussed in a previous post, I started my calisthenics journey with some significant deficiencies in my hip and shoulder mobility as consequences of previous injuries.  Consequently I currently devote a significant portion of my calisthenics training to correcting these deficiencies.

Since the beginning of this year, I have gotten a series of passive Fascial Stretch Therapy sessions from Pippa Frame.  These biweekly sessions have greatly helped to increase my shoulder and hip mobility.  Every session has resulted in noticeable improvements in my functional ability.  I highly, highly recommend FST and specifically Pippa to anyone who has long-standing joint mobility issues.

Aside from my daily limbering routine, I devote one of my three weekly structured training sessions primarily to hip and squat mobility.  In this routine I use the some of the principles and movements taught by Kit Laughlin's Master the Full Squat video series available for only $10 on Vimeo.  

I highly recommend this tutorial to anyone who wants to improve hip mobility.  The instructions are especially valuable to adults who are developing flexibility in ranges they may not have enjoyed since childhood.  Kit and crew have insights on this path not to be found elsewhere because they themselves only started developing their mobility and flexibility as adults.  

I do my calisthenics routines on Mondays and Fridays, and I perform my dedicated hip mobility/stretch therapy routine on Wednesdays, after doing my shoulder mobility and handstand preparatory routine (which I will present in my next post).

The following lists the components of my hip and squat mobility training sessions: 
  1. Ankle/calf stretches
  2. Sumo squat limbering
  3. Full squat limbering
  4. Lunge “box the compass” limbering and stretching
  5. Cossack squat limbering and stretching
  6. Baby Flop
  7. Piriformis stretches
  8. Frog/ adductor stretches
  9. Diamond stretch
The whole sequence takes 30-60 minutes.  I want to emphasize that I only do this intense stretching once weekly.  Kit Laughlin reports that in his experience, this is the best frequency for increasing mobility and flexibility without overtraining.  Intense stretching of this sort is essentially a type of isometric strength training; training too frequently will impair progress by interfering with the adaptation process.  

Below you will find videos showing me doing each of these stretches.  For detailed instructions I recommend that you invest $10 in Kit Laughlin's high quality Master the Squat video series.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My Current Calisthenics Routine Part 1 | Daily Limbering Routine

I got a request from Marcus Nylund to give an update on my calisthenics training routine.   Check out his website.

I'm going to respond in several parts dealing with different aspects of my physical training:  first, in this post, I present my daily limbering routine; in the next post I will detail my once-weekly intense mobility/ flexibility training session and ancillary stretch therapy; and in the third post I will give the details of my biweekly high-intensity calisthenics routine.

Keep in mind that my current routine is based around my current goals, which are:

  1. Rehabilitate and increase the mobility of both my shoulder and pelvic girdles.
  2. Lay a solid foundation for handstand training.
My daily limbering routine addresses the first goal.  I invest about 30 minutes in this routine every day of the week.  This is a relaxed stretching routine that I do in the morning, before other activity.  I have

  1. Open blood flow and release stiffness from the night's sleep.
  2. Find out where I have increased or decrease muscle tension as a result of the previous day's training or work.
  3. Keep myself comfortable with going to the edge of my range of motion and gently relax into and slightly beyond that edge.
It is important that this routine is not strenuous.  I do not attempt to vigorously push beyond my current flexibility limits when doing these movements.  Rather, I ease up to the limit and then relax at that limit.  The purpose is to train the nervous system to accept that range of motion as a normal everyday occurrence.

Relaxed Limbering Series 

  1. Shoulder circles: 20-50 each direction
  2. Gravity drop (10s to 1 min)
  3. Downward dog (1-2 min)
  4. Parsvotanasana (1-2 min each thigh)
  5. Shoulder flexion with traction  (10s to 1 min)
  6. Butterfly pose (1-2 minutes)
  7. Piriformis release (1-2 minutes per side)
  8. Psoas lunge  (1-2 minutes per side)
  9. Full pike (1-2 minutes)
I often do the shoulder flexion between the shoulder circles and the gravity drop, and the butterfly and the piriformis stretches can be switched in order.  Otherwise I recommend performing them in the order listed, because each pose benefits from those done before it.  

These videos demonstrate the movements. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dave Asprey's Diet Logic: Bulletproof or Bogus?

Is Dave Asprey's Diet Logic Bulletproof or Bogus?

This is my response to and analysis of Asprey's presentation:  "Dave Asprey: Why the Bulletproof Diet Works":

Here's a good site on informal logical fallacies:

Meat not needed during pregnancy: "It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy..."

Here's the study that produced the Satiety Index.

Here's the study on Dietary Components that affect Leptin Resistance.

And the earlier study by the same lead author.

Here's the page on PubMed from which you can access all the studies I looked at on vegetarian diets and leptin in this video.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Research: Your Ethics May Affect Your Health

Scientists find that those who have a hedonistic ethical orientation (aimed at self-gratification) have increased expression of CTRA genes that increase inflammation and reduce immune function, while those who have a eudaimoic orientation aimed at meaning and purpose beyond self-gratification have decreased expression of the same genes.  This provides objective evidence that morality affects biology, making ethics a branch of medicine.

Friday, March 20, 2015