Another 4 weeks + have passed in seemingly no time at all and true to my word, I’m staying consistent with bringing you up to date with my journey, step by step, phase by phase.
As I mentioned in my review of phase 2, I was excited for phase 3, as phase 3 appealed to my experimental nature. Phase 2 appealed to my ego with the big step up in movement difficulty and complexity, whereas phase 3 was full of opportunities to see what different training styles would do in terms of progress.
As a brief outline, phase 3 is still the same as the last 2 phases in terms of structure:
- 4 separate workouts per week
- Spanning 3 working weeks with test weeks in between
- The key differences between phase 2 and 3 are the exercise selection and the volume changes.
Phase 3 sees the introduction of some high volume supersets for the upper body – with the total volume being quite high and all in a short space of time. This is workout density at its finest.
One Arm Chin Ups & Handstand Push Ups
This world famous pairing saw some nice breakthroughs in this phase as I went from struggling for 2 reps per side on the rings archer chin up (with an index finger assist) in phase 2, to comfortably repping out 2-3 reps per arm with a third or sometimes LITTLE finger assist on the non working arm!
I also found my legs staying under my body far more as well on every rep and even started adding in a set or two of one arm chin up eccentrics from the second week onwards, that went surprisingly well; 10 second+ eccentrics each side!
(We have to keep in mind the legs staying under me more is probably more to do with all the recent shoulder mobility/restoration work I’ve been doing as of late, as opposed to any specific programming within the routine).
The handstand push up also saw some of my best reps to date in this phase also! I was able to keep a better posterior tilt of the pelvis throughout the move (no arching) and drive the head further ahead of the hands – and as anyone who knows handstand push ups knows – this is KEY for freestanding reps and advanced freestanding reps.
Again, the improvement here will be down to both factors; the program working its magic and my new found shoulder function. But it’s exhilarating being able to confidently descend up and down without breaking the body line through a full range (nose to floor), if even only for low reps. This is the eternal grind of those of us with shitty shoulder mechanics and no natural overhead strength…….
Aka controversy hour! This was the interesting question from last month’s review: would my opinion on static holds be altered after spending a few weeks working on high volume static holds for skills – skills being front lever and planche in this case?
While it’s hard to say yet what the static holds have done for me at this point, I will say they were tough to do, mentally and physically. 7+ rounds of 20 second front lever and planche supersets had me really having to hang in there to maintain the shape I was using on each. Advanced tuck front lever with a flat lower back was no joke at all for up to 10 rounds at times!
Even planche leans had me shaking towards the end as I was marking my distance by having my head lightly brushing a wall each set, and I kept an eye on this distance over time and aimed to increase it gradually.
And of course there were dynamic exercises for the planche and front lever in this phase too, so it’s still tough to say, yet at least, how effective the static holds were for building the overall front lever and planche hold.
Rest assured though, I will update you on this topic in the very near future!
VOLUME, VOLUME, VOLUME……..
This is where the high volume supersets come in again, but not only statically this time, dynamically also. High volume front lever rows and ring chest flyes made for a crazy pump and a decent mental challenge. As the weeks went on, the sets went up alongside to a peak. For this reason it was crucial not to get fancy with the progressions and let the volume do the progressing instead.
I will say I had to revert to ‘arc rows’ for the high rep front lever row sets, as repeated sets of 8 reps+ with a good range of motion was a tough ask! If you’ve never tried or used arc rows, you’re missing out for sure! They’re a great way to get lots of volume with the front lever row pattern, through a FULL range of motion too.
The arc row is essentially a regular row only now the hands track towards the waist/belly button region. It’s virtually an identical pull pattern to the feet-off-floor version, only you have the feet on the floor and can modify the resistance to suit your needs!
The main selling point of this phase for me was the simplicity of the sessions. You only ever had 3 exercises to do thanks to the higher volume. What this meant for me was being able to add in some specific supplementary moves for areas I’m personally lacking in. When you do 6+ exercises in a full session you rarely ever have the desire or energy to do any mobility work or isolated drills.
The main drawback of this phase for me was the high volume work towards the end of the phase; as the sets reached 10+ in some cases. This was both a challenge to stay focused for all those sets and to not be seriously sore from all the reps. There were a few times where my pecs felt more tender than a new mum after breastfeeding.
While soreness in itself isn’t inherently bad, it just makes it awkward to train again and can sometimes hinder performance. Funnily enough this happened on week one where I went crazy with dragon flag progressions – trying one arm and weighted versions (shown below courtesy of my Instagram)…..
They left me sore for 5 days! And I know, I know, they didn’t tell me to do these but you’ve got to try this stuff sometimes.
Peering into the crystal ball; what’s in phase 4?!
As I cheekily turn the first few pages over of phase 4 I immediately take to the return of the one arm push up and the one arm ring row. I began really enjoying them in phase 2!
There’s also more training days now – 5 days per week instead of the usual 4 thus far. Although the days are shorter and simpler to account for this.
I’ve also seen more dynamic planche exercises than ever before in this phase – both bent arm and straight arm.
I think the higher frequency will suit well, as I do like training regularly and often feel rusty pretty quick if I take more than say 2 rest days. But obviously there’s a balance that needs to be struck here, as overreaching/overtraining can easily creep into the picture. I’m actually toying with the idea of combining some of the days (sensibly of course) to suit my training schedule at the moment but I’m yet to decide exactly here………
‘Handstand practice’ is at 3 times per week interspersed with a day in between (Monday, Wednesday & Friday), and I intend to do 30 minute sessions with these where possible.
One last thing to mention is the long static holds become even longer static holds! There are planche & front lever holds for 30-40 seconds per set! This will be grueling but again, very interesting to see what it does for the positions.
As is tradition, I will be back in 4 weeks time with another write up and mini-review of phase 4 once it’s done. And the next one will be the grand finale, the FINAL wrap up! I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoy creating them!
Thanks for reading. Check out my previous articles on CaliMove’s Level 5 Mastery Program, if you haven’t already:
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The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.