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Journal of an American Dragon

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  • Journal of an American Dragon

    I was born in the Year of the Dragon and I'm a 14+ year martial artist. Hence the thread title.

    Fitness Goals

    Gain 10 lbs. of muscle
    Build maximal strength and strength endurance
    Improve my conditioning

    Exercise Preference

    Current Physical Stats
    24 year old male,178 lbs., 6í0Ē

    Current Training

    Iíve been using Overcoming Gravityís template for about 7 months. Essentially,two supersets of bodyweight exercises: vertical push/vertical pull/leg and horizontal push/horizontal pull/leg. These are my numbers from the last cycle I finished:

    Ring dips: 3x6, pullups 2x7,1x6, pistol to bench 3x4/leg, ring wide pushups 3x7, ring wide rows 3x6, and box step-up 3x4/leg

    Planned Training

    Iím about to start using Alistair Ramsayís Gymless protocol. It fluctuates volume weekly: 1 week low rep/low volume (3 sets/exercise),1 week low rep/high volume (5 sets/exercise),1 week high rep/low volume (2 sets/exercise,to failure),and 1 week high rep/high volume (4 sets/exercise, to failure). Use exercises I can do <10 reps of for the low rep weeks and >10 reps for the high rep weeks. Iím making the switch so I can work on max strength and strength endurance without completely ignoring either. Iím more interested in being all-around fit than just strong. And I need strength endurance to pass the military PFT when I get in.

    I toyed with the idea of using Ross Enamit's protocol from Never Gymless, where I train ABA, BAB style every two weeks. I decided to use Ramsay's template because it makes it easier for me to know when to adjust exercises (every four weeks, change exercises). I am using the progressions from Overcoming Gravity when I need to progress exercises.

    Schedule: 3/week resistance, 1/week sprint (I really need to start doing these), 1/week muay thai class, and daily joint mobility/slow movement (I plan to buy Supple Leopard when I return to Chicago).

    As I get stronger, I will start working isometric gymnastic holds and explosive plyometrics into the programming. Maybe I'll start supersetting isometrics+dynamic or explosive movements. But that's for the future.

    Current Diet

    Paleo with occasional dairy. 2000 cal/day non-workout,3000 cal/day workout (2500 cal/day average)

    Macros: 60 % fat/28% protein (175 g/day)/12% carb (100 g/day from vegetables)

    Future Diet
    I want to gain 10 lbs. of muscle mass using bodyweight training while keeping my carbohydrate consumption about the same (basically all from vegetables, because I like them). Using the IF calculator at IF Calculator, I find I need to eat 2564 cal/non-workout day and 3419 cal/workout day (set to ďLean Massing (-10%/+20%)Ē). I will eat about 190 g protein/day (eating for the weight I want). The calculator tells me this will take about a year to hit my mass gain goal. I'm okay with that.

    I bought lots of cheese today to increase my intake to 2500/3500. I'm willing to let my calories drop a little on non-workout days (2000-2500), but I'll keep protein the same. After I eat through the cheese, I am going to drop dairy. I want to try stricter Paleo: meat, fish, vegetables, fats, occasional fruit and nuts. I'll even cut butter and cook using animal fats and coconut oil. That's an experiment to see if I can handle pure Paleo.

    Current Resources/Limitations
    I have gym access for another month as part of my internship, then Iím back to school. I have no gym access there because I cannot afford it, particularly with the increased food budget I anticipate. I have a pullup bar, gymnastics rings, and a weight vest that goes to 100 lbs. in my apartment. Time is not an issue; I prioritize my workouts.

    I will try to keep this thread limited to my food and fitness stuff, and maybe the occasional adventure-post. No talking about law school or career plans or any of that. This will be a purely non-law escape for me. Please talk back! I've tried doing the challenges at Nerd Fitness and inevitably it just becomes me posting my reps for the day and no responses ever. I'd like this to be an ongoing conversation with like-minded people. Thanks!
    Journal of an American Dragon:

  • #2
    Copying some of the advice I got in the other thread, the one that inspired this journal:

    I would suggest slowly increasing calories to the point where you're gaining weight steadily. If you're not gaining weight or even losing weight, it's a sign that you need to up the calories. If you gain weight with 2,500 calories, stick to it. Making drastic jumps in calories is a great way to gain the wrong kind of weight.

    Don't eat until it hurts, don't do GOMAD, just steadily increase calories until you're gaining weight steadily. No reason to take extreme measures.
    Paraphrasing jakejoh10: eat more and progressively overload to build muscle

    You can sure build muscle on a high rep bodyweight program, but it is important to go close to real failure on a few sets, concentric & eccentric, and make progress on what you are doing! Pyramiding up to an ALL OUT set on an exercise with negatives after concentric failure is a method that works for muscle building. You must also be in a calorie surplus with enough protein, carbs and fatÖ
    Journal of an American Dragon:


    • #3
      Before pictures (taken 08 Jul 13, immediately after waking up)
      The bathroom mirror was the best I could do.


      The workout
      I'm trisetting the first three exercises, with about 1:30 rest between each exercise. I leave one rep in the tank every set, and I'm going to aim to beat my totals with each workout. And there's a warm-up and cool-down every time.

      Pistol to bench: 4/leg, 4/leg, 4/leg = 12/leg
      Ring dips: 6, 5, 4 = 15
      Pullups: 6, 5, 4 + 1 three-stop negative = 15 + 1 three-stop negative

      Tuck L-sit: 2 x 10 seconds (on bench)
      2/1 plank: 5/leg, 4/leg

      Finisher: max sprinters in 2:00 = 47/leg

      It felt really good. I like that I'm focusing on three primary exercises now instead of six. It lets me be more mindful when performing them. I decided that I'm going to throw in isometric negatives on the pullups because I really want a strong back.

      The food
      A can of coconut milk blended with cocoa powder and left in the fridge (coconut chocolate mousse) for breakfast, just because I made it late last week. That was before I had committed to this "build moar muscle" plan and was going to do my usual high-fat PWO meal.

      Short rib chili for lunch. A pound of steak, cooked in butter, with a sauteed onion (cooked in the drippings), and 8 oz of raw blue cheese for dinner. It managed to hit protein and calories pretty much spot on (190/3400). I had a small epiphany though. I really like vegetables. If I am going to be eating lots and lots, I'm going to focus on hitting my protein and calorie requirements. Aside from that, vegetables should make up a much larger part of my diet than they do presently. I can't keep slamming high-fat stuff and be happy. Sauteed and roasted vegetables are damn tasty, and they'll bring some attendant fat along with them. So I'm not going to try to restrict myself to 100 g of carbs every day. I'll just eat veggies, fill in the blanks with fat, and if I go over 100, so be it. It'll be vegetables. Who can go wrong with eating their fill of vegetables? I'll still be hitting my protein and calories, so th' heck with it. That'll take one variable off my mind.
      Journal of an American Dragon:


      • #4
        Kickboxing yesterday was un-fun (or as not fun as kickboxing can be; it's a great time, really). We did a bunch of isometric kicking drills that were brutal on my hip. Clearly I've lost some flexibility. And then we did a drill where one person had his back to the wall while the other punched at him for two minutes. You were allowed to parry and/or slip. I just wanted to follow the first punch back and start hitting or grappling! My evasion abilities are terrible, and I just had this panic surging up when punch after punch kept coming at me. It was all good though. Steve (the other student) and I had a good time with it.

        The kickboxing workout left me too drained today for a finisher. I think, as long as I'm kickboxing, I'm going to do a finisher every other workout instead of every workout. But everything else went great.

        Pistol to bench: 5/leg, 4/leg, 4/leg = 13/leg total
        Ring dips: 6, 5, 5 = 16 total
        Pullups: 6, 5, 5 = 16 total (no negative because I improved my total)

        Tuck L-sit (bench): 2 x 15 seconds
        2/1 plank: 5/leg, 4/leg

        And I've got a pound of ground beef simmering in a can of tomatoes and italian seasoning for my PWO meal, with some Comte cheese. Buying the cheese was unwise; now I have to eat it all! And the fat is displacing vegetables. Eck. I'll deal, I've only got 2 blocks of cheddar and one of gouda left.
        Journal of an American Dragon:


        • #5
          Pistol to bench: 5/leg, 5/leg, 4/leg = 14/leg total
          Ring dips: 6, 6, 5 = 17 total
          Pullups: 6, 5, 5 + 1 three-stop negative = 16 + 1 three-stop negative

          Tuck L-sit (bench): 20 sec, 15 sec
          2/1 plank: 2 x 5/leg

          Finisher: crab walk across the gym and back. It took me one minute. My wrists were pretty sore (it's a concrete floor and I don't know how great my form was), so I called it instead of going the full two minutes. I think I might start taking my gloves in and doing a few hard rounds on the heavy bag as a finisher. Or alternating between that and a burpee progression every other workout.

          Next week I start my low rep/high volume work. Same exercises, just five sets instead of three. Once I get back to Chicago, I might go to consistent volume across weeks by doing four sets every workout. My tentative plan is to switch to ABA format: A = maximal strength and B = strength endurance. And I would have a sprint day in there, probably on Saturday, with joint mobility on every other day. I need to start shoring up my weaknesses, which are conditioning and strength endurance. Following the PBF guidelines, I'll stick to one sprint/week for now. Jason Ferruggia also recommends four days of hard training with joint mobility on off days, which ties in perfectly. I'm toying with the idea of adding a vertical push (handstand pushup progression) and a horizontal pull (inverted rowing progression), but I'm not sure if that's too much volume or not. If I went to that, I'd do three supersets (four sets/exercise). When I stop kickboxing and get more recovery on my non-lifting days, I might be able to handle that kind of volume.

          We'll see.
          Journal of an American Dragon:


          • #6
            First of all, kickboxing today was great. We did our usual 3 rounds of jump rope, pushups, and crunches, but then we did 3 rounds of shadowboxing, followed by 3 rounds of just beating the tar out of shields laid on the ground (from the mount). And then rounds of pad/bag work. Holy awesomeness. I love going nuts like that.

            I had a long talk with sahbumnim Jeremy after class. He wanted to know how I found his school, so I told him that story, and then we started talking about the business of running a school. He really encouraged me to open up shop somewhere if that is my dream. It's certainly something I've been thinking about. I think where I stand in relation to martial arts is this: I want to teach tang soo do as a part of the WTSDA. I would teach the curriculum I was taught to gup students, but I want to explore the old ways of the martial arts. Before they went mainstream, they were used in combat. They were used to kill or do great bodily harm. They had to get toned down for mass consumption. I want to learn and understand how the techniques were performed in the old days. I love the hyungs and the self-defense and the sparring, but I want to step deeper than the mass consumption curriculum. The hyungs can be the key to that deeper understanding. I think that is what Mastery means to me; not just teaching the Art to others, but connecting with the Art on its terms. And I want to train in judo to shore up the deficiencies of tang soo do.

            After a week of increased calorie eating, here's my breakdown: 3033 calories/day (average) and 188.9 g/day protein (average). That's pretty good, considering the amount of cheese I bought. I'm about 200 calories over TDEE and 500 calories over my pre-mass gain average daily consumption. That's a pretty good step up, I think. I'll see how it goes before I decide if I will tinker more. I think I am going to do the ABA format when I return to Chicago. I want to work handstand and L-sit progressions every workout, and I'll do a dip/row progression on A and a pushup/pullup progression on B. Unless I can get good surfaces to work hip extension progressions on, I'll stick with pistol progression on A and B days. The handstands are going to be my shoulder work until I can do freestanding handstands. Then I'll start working on dynamic handstand pushup progressions. I think dips are too valuable to switch out for pike pushups.
            Journal of an American Dragon:


            • #7
              This was my first low rep/high volume workout. It nearly smoked me. I felt weak going into round 3, but I persevered.

              Pistol to bench: 5/leg, 4/leg, 4/leg, 4/leg, 3/leg = 20/leg
              Ring dips: 6, 5, 5, 4, 3 = 23
              Pullups: 6, 5, 5, 4, 3, = 23
              Tuck L-sit (bench): 2 x 15 sec.
              2/1 plank: 2 x 5/leg

              I'm finishing my cheese today! No more cheese! I can stick with meat, which makes me oh-so-happy.
              Journal of an American Dragon:


              • #8
                I took a much-needed rest last night. I felt really spacy all day yesterday and decided not to go to kickboxing. Good thing too. I slept from 2100-0610 without getting up once. It was wonderful.

                Pistol to bench: 5/leg, 4/leg, 4/leg, 4/leg, 4/leg = 21/leg
                Ring dips: 6, 6, 5, 4, 4 = 25
                Pullups: 6, 5, 5, 4, 4, = 24
                Tuck L-sit (bench): 20 sec., 15 sec.
                2/1 plank: 2 x 5/leg

                I also decided to do a high-carb PWO meal today. So I have two large acorn squashes baking right now (about 4 lbs.) and a flank steak coming to room temperature. Mmmm... steak and squash.
                Journal of an American Dragon:


                • #9
                  I got home from kickboxing tonight and decided to have a Ritter Sport bar (71% dark chocolate). 100 grams of tasty, but I think the dark with whole hazelnuts is better. Anyway, that put me at lifting-day calories. And I gave in and got a Snickers at work today. Ugh.

                  I'm clinging to the knowledge that, in the long run, my average intake isn't going to be affected. Heck, it might even be good for my bulking goals. I may make the high-carb/low-fat PWO meal a weekly staple. Once a week, knock out one of those. Although I keep hearing I need at least 250 grams minimum to see real muscle gain. And that's on the Nerd Fitness boards, which I have a lot of respect for. Too much conflicting information! And of course I'm afraid of gaining fat or damaging my long term health for more muscle.

                  Sigh. Chin up and move along.
                  Journal of an American Dragon:


                  • #10
                    I took leave today, so I was able to get an early-morning workout.

                    Pistol to bench: 5/leg, 5/leg, 4/leg, 4/leg, 4/leg = 22/leg
                    Ring dips: 6, 6, 5, 4, 4 = 25
                    Pullups: 6, 6, 5, 4, 4, = 25
                    Tuck L-sit (bench): 10 sec., 15 sec.
                    2/1 plank: 6/leg, 5/leg

                    My dips did not advance, but I don't feel bad about it. They jumped by two last time. I decided to do the tuck L-sits on my knuckles. That made it easier for me to activate my upper back and shoot for a packed shoulder position. I didn't get it perfectly, but it felt a lot better. I'm going to need a pad or cushion when I get back to Chicago so I can keep doing it that way until I'm more comfortable with that shoulder position.

                    And because I'm on leave, I'm going to Land's End today to see the Pacific Ocean again.
                    Journal of an American Dragon:


                    • #11
                      Tonight's dinner: pineapple mole chili (
                      It was delicious! I find that I'm enjoying recipe-less cooking. So far all my experiments are working pretty well.

                      Rambling thoughts
                      After two weeks of this training/eating regimen, I really wish I had a scale and measuring tape (both of which are in Chicago, and I can wait two more weeks to measure). I'm averaging 3105 calories and 204.2 g protein per day, so I'm about 300 calories over my TDEE (and 600 cal over my old average intake). I just want to be tracking my measurements weekly so I can gauge if I need to tweak my diet.

                      Getting the calories and protein are easy, but keeping myself within the 190-200 range is hard. I'm packing in a lot of vegetables as much as possible, which is fantastic (great collard greens today). In order to hit my calorie targets without going too far overboard on protein, i bought a jar of almond butter. When I get back to Chicago, I'll switch my gap-filler to a jar of coconut butter. Avocados are a great fat source, especially because I'm in California. I'm not really tracking carbohydrate and fat ratios. I just try to get vegetables in at every meal, and one of my PWO meals every week is going to be a high carb/low fat meal. That's as far as I'm going with monitoring those. I try to make up the difference with fat because I'm running a $100 weekly grocery bill with meat and vegetables, which is about where I want to be. I can't imagine making up the difference with carbohydrates; the vegetable bill would kill me!
                      Journal of an American Dragon:


                      • #12
                        I decided to stay on a five-set plan because I don't see the value in fluctuating from low to heavy volume every week. I did adjust my exercises slightly so I can get horizontal pushes and pulls in. Here goes:

                        Pistol to bench: 5/leg, 5/leg, 5/leg, 4/leg, 4/leg = 23/leg
                        Ring wide pushups: 7, 6, 5, 5, 5 = 28
                        Pullups: 6, 6, 5, 5, 4 = 26

                        Tuck L-sit (bench) 2 x 15 sec.
                        Prone cobra: 10, 8

                        And today is my weekly high-carb PWO meal, so I have pork chops and sweet potatoes going right now, with an onion and pepper ready to hit the pan when the pork is done!
                        Journal of an American Dragon:


                        • #13
                          Pistol to bench: 5/leg, 5/leg, 5/leg, 5/leg, 4/leg = 24/leg
                          Ring dips: 6, 6, 5, 5, 4 = 26
                          Ring wide rows: 6, 6, 6, 5, 4 = 27

                          Tuck L-sit (bench) 2 x 15 sec.
                          Prone cobra: 10, 9
                          Journal of an American Dragon: