4 Months 4 Moves: (Phase 1) Progress, Plateaus, and Adjustments
It’s been a long time since my last movement update. Since late August, I’ve moved out of South Korea and traveled around China and Japan for a month. The change in diet and environment made keeping to any sort of regimen a bit of a challenge. Add to that the feeling that I was “on vacation”. I tried to eat clean (staying Paleo for almost all my meals) and get some training in where I could. But alas I can say without much guilt that September was my month off.
It’s now the end of October as I write this. I’ve been back in the U.S. for almost a full month and have used that time to get some much needed nutritional rehab and steady exercise. I’ve also acquired some new gear and found some nice places to train. All the preparation has been coming together pretty well and I’m about ready to start my next phase. More on that soon.
Here then is Part 3 of the first phase of my Pursuit of Movement. It was intended to be written in between months 3 and 4 but unfortunately life and travel caused a delay.
It’s one of the most beautiful laws of nature and an essential motivation for us to continue with any pursuit. That feeling of getting better at something is immensely rewarding and can generate incredible momentum. And the good thing is that it’s all a natural consequence of your efforts. What you practice, you improve. Pretty simple.
Even learning this as an adult, my progress came. Certain movements improved quicker than others, but nonetheless everything eventually fell into step. Those first few months of learning something new is probably the most exciting because you basically just have to show up and the results will come. Put in the grunt work, and even if your technique isn’t refined yet, you’ll see jumps in your ability.
At some point, that once straightforward formula for success starts getting a bit tricky. Progress slows and your gains in ability begin to taper off. Congrats, you’ve hit a plateau.
Don’t worry. Plateaus are not the finish line but a check point. They are a way for your body (and mind) to signal that it needs a reevaluation and a set of new challenges. Sometimes it’s a change in frequency or intensity, but most often it’s a change in the variety of your training, possibly even a reassessment of your current technique. Examine your regimen closely and see if there are any holes. Perhaps you’ve missed a crucial transitional step in learning a technique. Or maybe there are a set of complementary skills you can work on to help you improve your current skill. Do a bit of research and make your tweak accordingly. Just remember to listen to your body and not overtrain.
My own plateau came with the planche around the middle of month 3. I had developed a pretty strong tuck (step 1 of the technique) but tried to jump right into straddle (step 3) without working much on the advanced tuck (step 2). Whenever I did try the advanced tuck I could barely hold it for more than a few seconds. It was such a drastic step from the tuck which I could hold for 35 seconds! I felt as if I was growing weaker or that my technique was regressing. Luckily I did some reading and made some adjustments.
The adjustment I made involved a diversification of my static holds. I needed to engage my planche muscle groups in different ways. Just holding the tuck planche position would not be enough. One of the holds I looked to was the back lever. A pretty standard hold in gymnastics, it’s a technique that gymnastics coach Chris Sommer says is crucial towards learning the planche. It targets many of the same muscles as the planche, and gives you more room to engage your lower body without the floor getting in the way or the threat of toppling over from leaning forward. It’s also a different sensation of pulling versus pushing, but getting the same muscular benefits.
(Image by Arthlete)
That’s what it’s supposed to look like. Here’s what mine looks like:
Still a work in progress.
In addition to learning the back lever, I also focused a lot more on the forward lean of the planche. I had been so caught up in just keeping my legs elevated in the tuck planche that I was neglecting the other key areas (shoulder, namely anterior deltoid) of the technique. After working on these two areas for a while, I made a small breakthrough with my planche right at the end of month 3.
When things are going well, it’s easy to just show up and reap the benefits. But it’s when you hit a snag that your dedication is tested. Taking a step off the progress train isn’t easy to do, but making that effort to find out what you’re doing wrong and then fixing it is what will expand your growth to the next tier.