Overcoming mental blocks: value of conditioning and progression.

Just so you can get on board with the injustice of it all, in April 2013 I did my 1st  ever unspotted  back flick at the age of 52. It was clunky, legs bent etc, but it was a back flick. Throughout the rest of the year, while working on my Tucks and P bars and round off and muscle up and up rises ( the list is endless), and in between back injuries, Elbow tendonitis  and adductor tear ( in both adductors at different times). My back flick slowly improved it, but became dependent on an emotional spot. I had to have my coach by me, to lightly touch my back before I “went”. There was no actual spotting, but my mental dependence grew and grew.

We started solving this last week: ie my coach started  stepping back.
Boom!!

My form collapsed totally and my back flick, when I can pluck up courage to throw one, is  now heavily twisted to one side or the other and is “dangerous”.

In catastrophe theory, I hit my bifurcation point. This is that teeny change that collapses the whole structure  and from which there is no going back: imagine counting from 1 to 5. And you do it well.

“1.2.3.4.5”

Now your teacher say, ok this time  count to 6… you go

“7, 2, sob, london , kitty cat”

So your teacher goes, ok, ignore the 6, lets stay with the 1-5. You go, great!

“ paris, 4, hiccup, moon beam”.

Hitting a bifurcation point, destroys everything you have built up, its not a question of taking  one step back to where you were: everything gets demolished.

You can try charging at the back flick  ( go to a pit and throw  your self in, time and time again)  but , bearing in mind that a back flick involves jumping backward upside down and landing on your hands and is 100% technique based, a temper based solution isn’t the way.

This brings me to some observations which is based on  the Crossft London teaching method, some of  Grigori Raiport’s work and gym bunny rumour.

An interesting bit of advice is to “keep your mind tight”. Everyone talks about abs and glutes: maybe you need to keep your mind focused too. Just throwing yourself backwards doesn’t work.

That said, what does that mean.  I know many  gym goers who pronounce the value of special thinking  and of special mind techniques, but frankly they normally deal in simple moves.

I offer several approaches to solve and maybe avoid  blocks

1)    Practice the basics

Where possible, base your skill  training on proven progressions, build these progression  into your warm up.  You never know when you will injure yourself or have a brain  malfunction and need to retrace your steps

The moment you hit a  (new) problem your brain goes into an emotional overdrive. Many solutions  are quite basic, but in my opinion, panic, combined with laziness and a wish for drama  makes finding the  solution difficult.

I once (back in 1979) had a friend who was really nasty ( and abusive and violent) to his girlfriend. She eventually kicked him out. He decided to win her back. His strategies, as I recall,   ranged from  expensive romantic dinners, to  getting a  violinist to play while he begged under her  bedroom window, I think he even thought of (a mock) sucide. “then she’ll be sorry…..”

Never did it occur to him to be truthful, loyal, loving, sober ,patient and kind.Basics!!!

2)    Get your mind to control your body.

Its  a bit of a negative view, but there are streams of thought that say, left to its own devises, you will be lazy.  In short the body will get away with whatever it can if the mind lets it.  If the mind gives up, or goes soft, the body wlll auto pilot for a while, then it will do what the hell it likes.

You must have been in one of those classes where you mucked around. You could sense the teacher wasn’t in control, and off you went.

So with these models in mind I re-looked at what happened running up to  my failure.

I tore my left adductor  about 12 weeks ago then, screwed my back in a  deadlift workout,  and then we  had  a  lovely time in Madrid.  I had planned a lull to write a bit more and over the last few weeks was able to stay in bed longer,  ( certainly later) and stay up late. I was able to lounge around on a soft sofa.  In short a long way away from my normal  regime.   In short I let everything go.   My routine went, my focus and drive went with it.

My mind surrendered authority,  my body lost strength.

So why the hell would any animal throw itself backwards ( upside down…onto its hoof presumably)  for a   lazy master.

Here then is the value of underpinning conditioning. No matter how good you do the big skills, do the progressions and your under pinning conditioning   often and well because,  not only are they useful rehearsal , but its is  a message to your body that you, not it, is in charge.

3) that said, it takes a while to re establish control, so there’s nothing much wrong with laying off  a hard skill for  a short time, while you re-establish control

If its10 push ups, a run, or  a WOD drive yourself to do it regularly,

Allegedly, repetition works

But, please stay in control

Coaching the Muscle-up: introducing “the angle”

There is a danger in learning only the strength elements of gymnastics: Sure levers, muscle ups are cool, but so much of the lessons of gymnastic rely on you understanding how to efficiently use gravity, angles and lean the achieve movement.

To learn the muscle up, you must at some stage use the kneeling muscle up drill: but there are 2 set ups. A crude, arm strength builder, is with the knees under the rings where the pull is straight up. This is a great starting point as it improves arm strength, although the ideal movement pattern isn’t trained. Another variation of this exercise moves the toes under the rings and brings in a larger lean back. Here the pull is, in theory. to the hips, meaning the shoulders have the space to be swooped over the rings by a drop of the feet. This drill requires no break at the hips. Ill try and do a video later.

in the meantime, think about what a lean in certain circumstances can achieve

The lean, can direct energy
The lean, can direct energy

Starting the straddle

The move that most people hate is the straddle. Some call this the middle split, others the side splits, others, names that cannot be published.

It is one of the key positions in gymnastics (along with others).

Just as a test, Im going to trial several types of Straddle development .

Before I start, for a matter of record  on the floor with my legs wide apart , my straddle angle was 145 ( 31st January 2014)

35 Degrees to go.

The 1st thing I did was to lie on the floor with my bottom against the wall and let my legs open. After 2 sets of 30 seconds, I re-measured the angle and it was 160.

For the next  30 days ,  Im going to do 3 x floor holds of 1 minute trying to keep my heels down and edging my hips forward, and 3 sets of wall straddle. Static stretching (like this)  is very unpopular in therapy circles.

so over the next 3 weeks, I laid on the floor, with my bum against the wall, and pulled my legs down.

UPDATE!!

On the 18th of February , after warming up and doing  several 3 step run ups to a front tuck, my adductor popped. The damage was deep into its attachment to my pelvis. It was so painful that it took  6 days for the  bruising to appear. Im still hobbling

adductor bruise

So, stretching, especially if you are old, needs to be gentle…..

scapular strength

I had a nasty injury last week so this blog fell quiet.  I did however get to spend some time with the world famous Stuart McGill, so I’ve had some time to think about back posture and to merge those thoughts with gymnastic practices.

Over the weekend, I saw compulsive evidence that the lordotic posture is ideally protective of the back. In gymnastics we  often use a kyphotic posture, but this posture may not be the best for back health. Sports are frequently fun: they are not necessarily healthy.

At this stage, Ill accept the kyphotic posture is essential, but, why not try and train as much as we can in a lordotic posture to promote back health. At the time I was thinking of training straddle lift to handstand,  This is often trained as  a vertebrae by vertebrae pull. Coach Sommer argues for  a “jefferson curl” where the trainee lowers a bar by flexing through the spine.

One of the factors in  the straddle lift is a strong shoulder pull, so I slung this exercise together to train shoulder strength, while maintaining a neutral spin

finish
you can start with the arms further back
front
If you load with dumbbells , you may need your arms to go a bit wider

start

Drills that substitute weights for gymnastics are not ideal, so this is an extra, cannot get to the gymnanstic gym, drill. it does strengthen the shoulder and preserve the back