GMB Integral Strength: Week Three Review

Week three saw a change of format (here’s week one and two’s write-up).

Three weekly sessions became four, while a tad of cardiovascular training, in the form of skipping and sprinting, was added.

Two sessions were designed to emphasise strength and power, while the remaining two were labelled strength endurance. Although technically this holds true, the disparity between the two session types was minimal.

So. What did I learn?
  • Single leg training is underestimated and under-appreciated.
    • As I continue to chip away at shrimp squats, it has become increasingly apparent how poor my hip control is. This has illuminated the lack of carryover from bilateral movements, where you can clearly get away with not only poor single leg hip control, but significant asymmetries.
    • I suspect that with continued training and progression of single leg movements, bilateral movements, such as squats and deadlifts will improve, though this will be difficult to quantify.
    • Evidence is mounting, indicating that single leg training could perhaps replace bilateral training altogether in athletic endeavours that don’t require the squat (exluding powerlifting and weight lifting). This is because of the comparable strength and hypertrophy gains coupled with the greater athletic carryover and supposed reduced injury risk.
  • Vary your movements often, including the use of novel movements.
    • Including novel movements helps to boost body and spatial awareness. Furthermore, this will likely have carryover to other movements, allowing you to recruit muscle groups more efficiently.
    • The caveat here is, don’t aim for progression as you would your ‘regular’ programming, but rather, treat it as ‘play’. Admittedly, I’ve found this concept difficult having always approached physical training with a regimented approach.
  • A lower volume schedule allows quality to be emphasised.
    • GMB’s allotted time blocks per movement initially left me with the sense that it would be difficult to progress with such low volume. As the circuits have rolled on though, I’m beginning to grasp the value that low volume has when it comes to focusing on quality. If the sessions followed a more ‘traditional’ plan, the mindset would inevitably shift to getting the work over and done with. Cleverly, GMB has forced participants to work on quality and as the weeks continue (and volume increases) the quality habit will be instilled within.
  • The body’s response to training in not linear.
    • At the conclusion of the fourth and final circuit of the week, it was apparent how much more difficult I had found this workout relative to the equivalent session earlier in the week. This highlighted to me that variables such as training time (morning versus midday in this example) can have an impact on how the body responds to physical stimulus.
    • In addition, this ‘aha’ moment illustrated that you cannot base your performance or progression on a single session of training. This, no doubt, leads to program hopping, destroying long term progress.
Summarising

As I alluded to last week, I was interested to see GMB’s responsiveness when it came to asking for feedback. I sent a video of my inverted press asking for critique. Sure enough, a GMB accredited trainer responded swiftly with feedback (aim to keep my elbows tucked). I thought highly of this. Knowing that a support system is in place is a nice touch.

One concern I will raise is the push-pull balance. At present, there is a large bias towards pushing movements. Whether this is a result of equipment restrictions or not, I don’t know. Perhaps the team at GMB know something I don’t.

My thoughts were, too much pushing can lead to overload of certain musculature (such as the anterior deltoids) predisposing an individual to the likes of impingement. By utilising movements in the opposite direction (i.e. pulling) this imbalance can be offset.

Time will tell! My body (and shoulders) have been tolerating well thus far.

Stay tuned for next week’s summary!

GMB Integral Strength: Week Two Review

Perhaps I was a little critical of GMB’s Integral Strength (IS) program in my week one review

I wouldn’t consider this week’s programming to be supremely difficult, though I’m beginning to see, and better understand, the underlying IS framework.

Week two is a continuation of phase one, the focus of which remains on a short ‘practice circuit’. Over the course of the 3 sessions, the exercises are made progressively more difficult, until you reach a level that is appropriately challenging for your expertise.

For example, the L-sit on day one required a ‘tuck hold‘, meaning knees are held in to the body. Day two progressed to a single leg out, increasing the leverage requirements. Finally, day three’s version asked for both legs extended.

I found this movement particularly humbling. Although I could complete the 20 seconds with one leg extended, I felt my form was inadequate. With the GMB maxim centred on quality, I decided to focus on nailing the tuck hold before moving on.

Can you rate quality?

I understand GMB’s inclusion of a rating system (whereby you gauge how the movement felt in terms of ease and quality), though am unsure how effective this is. In my opinion, this is less of a failing of the system and has more to do with the question, ‘How do you quantify quality?’

GMB offers a novel rating system including descriptors ‘challenging’, ‘solid’ and ‘relaxed’. I understand their approach in putting a unique spin on a method, though feel a more traditional and proven protocol may have been more effective.

In autoregulation for example, a score of 10 would indicate maximum effort with no capacity to do more. A score of 8 is indicative of a movement which is about right in terms of difficulty, or perhaps a little on the challenging side, though with the ability to progress (though form may be compromised).

To progress, or not to progress?

I appreciate the thought of the progressions, coupled with instructions to perform a lower level exercise if difficulty is too high. GMB do really well in offering a graduated scheme to build select movements.

However, stricter guidelines would be helpful here. An individual may be able to complete an exercise, though with sloppy form. Placing more emphasis on self-assessment based on the rating system, could be implemented.

Feedback and form

As the drills became progressively harder, I found myself filming my form and comparing it to the tutorials. This enabled me to check if I was on track, or perhaps needed to tweak an aspect of the exercise. The inverted press was a good example of this. The aim is to create a vertical descent of the torso  (emulating a deconstructed handstand push-up). I noticed I was adopting something in between the ideal and the traditional push-up, and consequently made the appropriate adjustments (hello triceps DOMS!).

In terms of feedback and optimal form, I wonder how responsive the team at GMB would be if I were to send them the aforementioned video asking for a critique? This week, I’ll aim to carry out this little experiment to gauge their responsiveness.

Change in the brain

On a personal note, my mindset shift to quality, is beginning to consolidate. This is a refreshing change from the traditional reps and sets scheme.

I’m excited to see how week three unfolds in terms of structure, intensity and programming in general. From all reports, things step up a notch and a daily undulating periodisation model is adopted.

Stay tuned for week 3!

YouTube Review: Tom Merrick

Tom Merrick is a young and affable lad from the UK with a holistic approach to health and movement.

His training style is predominantly bodyweight-based, though he does incorporate traditional weight training into his routine, particularly for lower body development. He describes his diet as Paleo, erring into the Ketogenic realm. I.e. lots of whole foods, plenty of healthy fats and low carb.

Tom’s current skill level is impressive given his tall build. This post looks in to the content covered, the quality of production, Tom’s overall presentability and the value of Vitality & Agility (Merrick’s brand) as a whole.

Content

Merrick’s channel combines an autobiographical approach with useful tips and strategies learnt along the way. A great example of this being his most recent holiday vlogs.

The 4-part series demonstrates Tom’s efforts to balance a healthy lifestyle with the freedom of being on holiday. Merrick’s catalogues his day, how he plans to incorporate training, while also taking a glance at the nutrition side of things.

He offers up free minimal equipment training routines which are hugely practical. Indirectly, Tom’s honesty about his weight gain while on holiday provides viewers with reassurance that no one’s perfect, and even those with the best intentions are fallible.

Other content includes recipe ideas, skill development tutorials and Q & A’s.

Production Quality

Production is well thought out with sections chopped to keep videos concise. The most recent catalogue of Merrick’s holiday illustrates his artistic side, as he integrates nature seamlessly into various shots.

Merrick also utilises time-lapses which adds a surreal effect when applied to the gymnastic techniques he is displaying.

Occasionally I found myself straining to hear when Tom presents outdoors, though audio overall, including music selection is solid.

Presentability

Tom’s approach is conversational, with no bravado. He comes across as an authentic individual passionate about health as a whole. His demonstrations are tidy, and this is complimented with on-screen text where necessary.

He also utilises humour nicely, such as when a dog or background noise ruins a shot!

Value

It’s difficult to quantify the value I’ve gained from Vitality & Agility.

From a practical point of view, there are many resources out there with more compact and precise demonstrations of technique, including progressions and regressions.

Having said that, I’ll continue to watch Tom’s tutorial videos. They possess a sort of personality in which you can easily relate to what he is saying, including lessons he’s figuring out along the way.

Furthermore, his willingness to give away well-thought out content for free is a huge tick. I’ll certainly be giving his traveling routine a go when I hit the road next.

He also puts a tremendous amount of effort into his video notes, optimising the viewers learning experience.

Overall, Merrick’s channel is in my opinion going under the radar and is certainly worth the subscription for individuals on their own health and vitality journey, particularly if calisthenics and gymnastics is something that interests you.

Rating – 4/5 avocados!

Evening Routines

Take a look at your typical evening, and you’ll often find a general pattern. Maybe you watch TV and carry out other tasks at certain times before heading off to bed.

Over the past month, I have been experimenting with a regimented evening routine aimed at optimising my sleep and therefore recovery.

The basic idea is to gradually turn down the stimulation dial to prepare the body for rest. Sleep is a vital component in developing strength and resiliency. With sleep comes adaptation and repair.

A evening routine may look like this…

7.30pm – Finish eating for the day (ensure meal is not too heavy)

7.30-8pm – Final chance to watch TV and check social media

8-8.15pmLight stretching or foam rolling

8.15-8.30pmJournaling and planning for the next day. During this time I clear my mind by writing down any and all thoughts floating through my head. This could range from a significant event or lesson learnt from the day passed, to something as mundane as a shopping list.

Over time I have developed a structure to my journal entries to make my brain as thought-free as possible. I also use it to review occurrences of the day – what I did well, and what I can improve on.

8.30-9pm – Fiction reading. Steering clear of non-fiction is important as we don’t want the mind churning over concepts in a book. Chipping away at a novel is more relaxing and less thought provoking.

9-9.15pm – Meditation. Whether sitting quietly, focusing on your breathing or utilising one of the many apps on the market. Meditation is making a comeback, and rightfully so. Although it can often be misconstrued as mumbo jumbo, it is what you make of it. By this I mean, meditation or mindfulness is an umbrella term for many different practices. Finding what works for you might involve some searching, but it’s well worth it.

9.15-9.30 – Give yourself 15 minutes to fall asleep.

Benefits –

The major benefit to employing an evening routine is the improved sleep quality as your body is appropriately prepared for sleep.

Another positive of this strategy is it allows you to tick some useful boxes to end the day, such as mobility, mindfulness and journaling. This will compound over time, resulting in significant improvements in these areas.

Downsides –

How could evening routines possibly be to your detriment?!

For me, and my personality type, I found that once I found a solid routine, I locked myself in to it rigidly. Socially this can be very limiting!

Furthermore, if you’re in any sort of rush, the anxiety of missing the correct timing of your routine can in fact hinder sleep.

Optimising Evening Routines –

For the most part, adopting a regular routine will have positive pay-offs. Having said that, I have some thoughts to prevent you from falling prey to my mistakes.

  • Rather than specific times, give yourself time ranges. Reading, for instance can start anywhere from 8.15-8.45pm and duration can vary from 15 to 45 minutes.
  • Give yourself the weekend off. Don’t blow off social engagements purely to stay in check with your evening routine.
  • Develop a condensed version of your full routine to combat surprises and increase your overall flexibility. An example might be, 10 minutes of journaling and 5 minutes of meditation then bed.

Do you have an evening routine? What have you found to be most effective in producing quality sleep? Leave your comments below, I look forward to reading them.

 

 

In Review: Overcoming Gravity by Steven Low

Bodyweight training has been at the forefront of my mind for the past 6 months. Having had the opportunity to experience different disciplines within this style of training I became fascinated with the ability to develop certain skills, such as the ring muscle up.

Although I continue to learn lessons during classes at Movement Co, tailoring a program to the specific skills I wish to develop appealed to me.

Scouring the internet brought Overcoming Gravity by Steven Low to my attention. This was consolidated by the good ratings and reviews received, coupled with a recommendation from Tom Merrick of Vitality and Agility.

My hope from reading this text was to gain an appreciation of the progressions within bodyweight training, as well as the practical know how of devising a personalised, strategic and progressive program.

In Summary –

Overcoming Gravity is divided into three main sections. The first of which, ‘How to construct your own workout routine’ takes a look at:

  • The fundamental principles of bodyweight training, such as the importance of understanding leverage (and how this dictates progression)
  • Goal setting
  • Ensuring structural balance
  • Developing an optimal workout hierarchy
  • Programming and advancement
  • Overtraining versus overreaching

Part two of the book deals primarily with injury management and prevention. Steven Low uses his Physical Therapy background in covering topics such as:

  • Pain versus soreness
  • Acute injury versus chronic injury
  • Evaluating injury severity
  • Programming around injury
  • Common injuries
  • Prehabilitation, such as joint preparation

The final part of the book offers reference material including:

  • Sample programming
  • Exercise progressions from basic to complex (including key things to keep in mind, as well as diagrams to represent correct form)

The final section of the book (part 3) is not something you would read through, like sections one and two. As the name suggests, it provides a useful reference point when you’re working on developing the planche, for instance, and want to know what regressive movements will help you get to your desired goal.

Key Lessons Learnt –

There are certainly some nuggets within Overcoming Gravity. My key takeaways included:

  • Programming for bodyweight training is hard! Compared to traditional weight training, progressing as a bodyweight athlete is far from linear. Leverage is a very important variable as Steven explains, and is one key component in progressing through a movement.
  • The importance of establishing balance. Low makes the point that many gymnastic movements are push dominant, which could lead to over development of certain areas of the body. He then offers useful tips to counteract this issue. For instance, goal setting should incorporate an equal number of push and pull goals. Another point is the value of working towards manna (beginning with L-sit variations).
  • Combining compression work with lower limb mobility was a tip I found to be valuable. This stresses the importance of first establishing the requisite flexibility (stretching), then working through your newly established range to improve mobility.
Criticisms –

Overcoming Gravity does has its flaws. I took issue with…

  • The constant grammatical and punctual errors. They are an annoyance, slowing down reading time and fluency. I am by no means an English snob, and completely understand if English is not Low’s first language. However, if you’re selling a product for nearly $50, you’d expect a pretty polished article. I suspect (hope) the second edition, which is nearing release, will remedy this.
  • After completing the first section of the book (creating a routine), I didn’t feel I possessed the necessary tools to create my own program. Although the author covers topics like desired reps before progressing, the lack of practical examples left me confused and frustrated as I tried to build my routine. This came as a huge disappointment. I’m sure I’ll improve my understanding upon reading through this section again, though my desire to do so is curtailed by the poor readability and verbose nature of the text as a whole.
Who Is This Book For?

Intermediate and advanced bodyweight athletes.

As a beginner, Overcoming Gravity left me wanting. The second section of the book (relating to injury prevention, management and prehabilitation) is a solid resource for novices. Though what I deemed to be the crux, i.e. programming and progression, was not easily digestible and applicable.

As I gather experience, I feel this resource will become more valuable. Though for the time being, I lack the skills and confidence to devise my own routine (hence why I have recently commenced GMB’s Integral Strength program).

I’d love to hear about your experience with Overcoming Gravity. Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

GMB Integral Strength: Week One Review

Light.

As the guys at GMB state, the early stage of Integral Strength (IS) is low-intensity and designed to give you a good gauge of an appropriate starting point.

The week commences with an assessment involving a collection of movements, which will form the backbone of the IS program. I’m still unsure as to how the results of the assessment will be used. My initial impression was that the findings of the assessment, such as chin-up competency, would then be used to dictate future training sessions. However, this doesn’t appear to be the case.

The following two sessions of the week are ‘Practice Circuits’. These sessions involve regressed versions of the main exercises performed in short bouts. This confused me somewhat given the assessment protocol.

If, for example, you demonstrate good chin-up competency, what is the benefit in taking the exercise right back to a ‘jump to controlled lower’? In my opinion, based on how one fairs with the assessment, this should give the individual a starting point. This would cater for both complete novices, and others with some experience.

The allocated time to perform each exercise is 20 seconds. I understand the rationale of selecting a time limit rather than specific reps and sets, as this allows one to focus on optimal form. Though 20 seconds is incredibly short!

My other major qualms with the IS program thus far include:

  • Working through the videos while performing the circuit is a slow and disjointed process. This is necessary and unavoidable in the earlier phases. My issue stands with the drawn out nature with which exercises are described. Ryan Hurst, the presenter, comes across as an amiable character, though it is at the detriment of creating concise videos.
  • The assessment guidelines are not 100% clear, in terms of the desired outcome. The print out asks for a subjective rating, “At what level can you perform the chin-up with good form?”, while the video asks for the number of reps completed with near-perfect form

The positives which I have taken away from week one include:

  • Forgot sets and reps – focus on quality. This is a nice step away from the traditional approach. I had to regularly remind myself to focus on good body posture and breathing, rather than making it to the 8th rep any which way.
  • The movements selected provide excellent balance in terms of overall development. Furthermore, the deconstructed exercises make this applicable for green thumbs.
  • Unfamiliarity. IS includes movements which I wouldn’t consider and thus has me moving out of my comfort zone. This is important for all-round strength development.

I’m interested to see how week two ramps up. I wouldn’t consider myself particularly well-versed in bodyweight training and thus suspect this week may provide a bit more of a challenge.

Stay tuned!

 

Gold Medal Bodies – In Review

Over the past 6 months, I have become intrigued with bodyweight training, mainly thanks to joining a new, innovative gym called Movement Co.

The classes offered, ranging from handstands to gymnastics, gave me a good taste of a bodyweight regime, highlighting some serious deficiencies in my strength and mobility.

In recent months, I have been working to incorporate the techniques I have learnt into my usual training practice with mixed success. I began reading Overcoming Gravity by Steven Low to help me better understand the programming side of things.

However, as the saying goes, “If you coach yourself, your coach is an idiot”

So, rather than build a sub-optimal program, I decided to give the guys at Gold Medal Bodies, or GMB, a go.

I had already been subscribed to their YouTube channel and had scrolled through their website, picking up many useful tips. The way the team at GMB presented information resonated with me, and lead me to select their Integral Strength and Focused Flexibility program over one of their competitors, Gymnastic Bodies.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll provide a weekly summary of my thoughts, analysis and feedback on the programs I have enrolled in.

Program Selection

GMB offers numerous programs. So why did I choose Integral Strength and Focused Flexibility?

Having stumbled around trying to self-program specific skills, such as the ring muscle-up, I decided that a better option would be to establish a solid baseline level of bodyweight strength and awareness. From this point, it would be much easier to develop gymnastic-type skills.

Integral Strength appealed to me due to the promise of developing quality movement patterns, functional strength and control. This would be complemented by Focused Flexibility, one of the programs they advise you to utilise alongside Integral Strength.

My review will also address how transparent GMB’s promises actually are (relative to my experience).

What has your experience been with GMB? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

The Origin

The Strength Scout – The pursuit of strength and movement efficiency.

This blog serves to track my strength journey along with the lessons I learn along the way. From books to programs to YouTube channels, I plan to document the resources I have found most useful, and others not so much.

I’m unsure when my interests in strength and movement began, though I can remember as a small child gravitating towards the likes of Hercules, Jackie Chan as well as powerful animals like Rhinoceroses.

There appears to be very little congruency between the names mentioned above, and hence this spurred me to believe that being strong can be represented in different manners.

The strongman possesses unparalleled absolute strength, shifting planes and trucks. The Martial Artist demonstrates speed, power and lightning agility. While the gymnast excels when it comes to relative strength, performing incredulous manoeuvres on different apparatuses.

So where does this leave me?

Like Frankenstein, I’m in search of building the best version of myself by utlising tools, techniques and strategies from all facets. Whether it be daily undulating periodisation as it relates to Powerlifting programming, to Ballet foot strengthening protocols.

The first topics I plan to cover include:

I encourage you to join me on my journey! Follow me on Instagram where I may from time to time post a somewhat relevant picture of video of my escapades.

With my first post complete, I’ll leave you to ruminate on your own strength and movement journey. What’s driving what your doing? Are you after general fitness, development of specific skills or self-fulfillment?

Until next time,

AC