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Little Signs of Progress

Updated: Apr 8

Since we moved into our new house, I decided to take advantage of a school track across the street. I decided that it would be great to enjoy the morning air before that high dessert sun gets up in the sky, and cooks the earth. I get to see the sun come up every morning, and I rarely listen to music anymore. I prefer the sound of the birds waking up. It has become a totally different experience than training in the gym. I am by myself, with the exception of a dedicated track walker. The only noise that I hear is the sound of the birds or the wind. I have been able to dial in my focus even more.

It’s been great. Not that I use very much in terms of equipment except my jump rope, push-up handles, and maybe an ab-roller wheel occasionally, but I have had to get creative on my pull ups.

As luck would have it, the track has bleachers and a few soccer goals that I can hang from. It’s been amazing. I can do all kind of hanging leg raises as well as pull-up variations. An added bonus to using the soccer goal is that I have to jump up to grab it, so I get some explosive jump work as well as coordination and grip work.

It has also added a slight fear factor. If I jump up and miss, or slip on the wet bar, or my grip gives out, I am slamming flat on my back with no one to hear me except the birds.

Sure enough, something happened.

I have been practicing more high-volume training with my push-ups and squats, but more on that in a minute. By the time I get to pull-ups, I am already a few hundred squats and push ups deep into my training, so my body is less than fresh at this point.

On my last set of pull-ups, I jump up and my right-hand misses the bar that is wet with morning moisture, but my left hand is able to hold its grip. In a split second of missing with my second hand, I go from the thought of “I am going to fall “to my left hand engaging like an iron claw. I am able to focus, engage, hold on and get my right hand back up on the cross bar, and finish my set!

At first, I didn’t realize what happened until I jumped back down after finishing my pull-ups. I finished my session with leg raises, my ab roller and rounds of jump rope.

However, the full extent of what happened didn’t completely register with me until I was walking home.

I realized how functional my strength had become.

Every since I was in middle school gym class and the P.E. teachers tested us on pull-ups, I was told to always do pull-ups with an overhand grip. Their rational made sense to me: “If you fall of a ledge or a cliff, you will use an overhand grip to pull yourself up.” Made sense.

Fortunately, I have never been in such a dramatic situation of survival. Even my little near fall on the soccer goal this morning doesn’t come close. What’s the worst that could happen? I slam hard on the wet grass, get the wind knocked out of me, catch my breath, and get on with my day? Probably.

But my point is that if I WAS in that situation, my grip strength has progressed to where I would have a chance to catch hold and pull myself up.

That’s an example of functional strength in action

I am calling that progress.

I love seeing progress, no matter what area of life it shows itself. It’s the little signs of progress that keep me motivated and fired up.

It is so important for me to keep a training journal, in which I record my exercises, reps and sets. It becomes especially important when I feel like my training is going stale, or I just feel beat up. When this happens, I automatically go to a place in my mind where I don’t feel like my training is working. However, more times than not, when I hit this point, I am able to look at my journal and see that I still am making progress. The numbers don’t lie.

Recently, I decided to do more high-volume training.

For a while now, I was doing harder versions of exercises and doing lower repetitions with more rest between sets. I was doing resistance training every day. The results have been amazing as far as strength

I wanted to dedicate some months to some high-volume repetitions. I picked standard push-ups, pull-ups, and squats with a few abdominal exercises, bridging, jump rope, burpees, and handstands in there. Very minimalistic. The idea is to do a high number of repetitions of each exercise for a high number of sets, and rest less between sets. I still will not go to muscular failure, but instead I will add sets and decrease the rest between sets. I will train three days per week. I will walk or swim and go through my mobility routine on my off days. I will only do these exercises.

I wanted to mix it up and shock my system a little bit. I want to tap more into my primal side and be a little crazy in each session. Not only will this challenge my conditioning and endurance but it will also challenge my mental toughness.

I will still do something every day, but I want to see how my body responds.

I think the added recovery time will be good as well.

In the beginning, my body could not have handled the high-volume work.

It was more important for me to learn the movements and build the daily habits.

Now that my body is used to the workload, and the habit of being active daily, I feel like it’s important to challenge it in a different way.

My goal is to increase my weekly training volume considerably while also increasing recovery time.

Volume is calculated by pounds times sets times repetitions. The total pounds are the total volume.

Volume has always been a great way to track progression.

I will say that since I primarily do bodyweight exercises, my bodyweight is the resistance. I do have to monitor my bodyweight because if my bodyweight changes by either gaining or losing weight, it will change the total volume. I weigh myself once a week so that I can more accurately track my training volume.

If my bodyweight is down, I add in more reps and sets.

Its another way of monitoring progress.

There are many ways to make progress. Do more reps. Increase the number of sets. Rest less between sets. Train more frequently. Move from a standard push-up to a feet elevated push-up.

Its endless how to make progress.

For me however, given all the variables of progression, the most important factor in making overall progress is consistency.

It doesn’t matter what I am doing or what my volume is I have found that the most important thing I can do is do something every day. Showing up every day, even if it is just some stretching, walking or mobility exercises is progress in itself.

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