Thursday, February 13, 2014

P90X3: Eccentric Upper Review

Another major winter storm hit New England today and is keeping me inside. With my extra time, I decided to try the first two workouts in P90X3 block 2 from the classic calendar. The first of these workouts was Eccentric Upper, an upper body resistance training focused workout. I really enjoyed Eccentric Upper with it's nice mash-up of weights, push-ups, and pull-ups. All the moves in the workout were done eccentricly, meaning that you contracted the muscle fast and released it slowly. For practical purposes, this means that you brought the weight up (or did your push-up or pull-up) for one count and then released for three.

Because the workout had you doing push-ups, pull-ups, and work with dumbbells or bands, you're going to need a lot of equipment. Also, be sure to bring many different sizes of weights. In Eccentric Upper, you do all of the moves ten times each. You will be working small and large muscles and doing short and long lever moves, so having a wide range of weights is key. I used five, eight, and ten pound weights. If I had a set of twelves (which I really need to get), I would have used those too. You are not doing a lot of reps, so go as heavy as you can while still keeping good form.

Here's the moves list for Eccentric Upper. Remember, for all moves, you contract for one count and then release for a three count. Tony provides a brief rest of around thirty seconds after each two or three moves. There are ten reps per move. Descriptions are listed after each move as needed. My comments are in parenthesis. A lot of the pull-up and push-up moves are the same as in The Challenge.
  • Standard Push-ups: (Tony strongly recommends doing push-ups in full plank and limiting range of motion, instead of going to the knees, to modify. This is, of course, way harder. However, because you only have to do ten reps here, Tony's philosophy works fine. I would still encourage people to go to their knees if your form is starting to suffer.)
  • Standard Pull-ups: (Straight off I found it hard to do a pull-up on one and release for three. I'm not that strong at doing pull-ups, so it was tricky to keep pace and get in all ten pull-ups. I did the best I could and did as many reps as possible, trying to keep pace and tempo.)
  • Military Press: Do a push-up with arms in tight against your body. When lowering, have your elbows go back, scraping the sides of your torso. This works the triceps more.
  • Chin-ups
  • Deep Swimmer's Press: Overhead shoulder presses. At the top of the movement, turn the weights so they face each other. Lower to chin level. (I did these with eight pound weight but because there are only ten reps, I probably could have gone heavier.)
  • Fly Push-ups: Do a push-up with your hands a few inches wider than your shoulder.
  • V Pull-ups: Do a pull-up bringing your chin to your left hand. Lower. Do another pull-up bringing your chin to the right hand. Alternate side to side. (This is definitely one of the more challenging pull-ups. I had to use a chair for support a lot here.)
  • Upright Hammer Pull: Do a front row, perform a mini bicep curl with elbows lifted. Lower. (It was a bit tricky to do the mini bicep curl at the top of a shoulder row. I had to really concentrate of keeping my elbows lifted, as they had a tendency to drop as I moved the weight around in this position. Mastering this part, seems key to the Upright Hammer Pull move.)
  • Staggered Push-ups: In plank, have hand staggered. The hand that's close to you will go down along your body (like in a Military Press) when you lower. The hand out in front will go out to the side. After five reps, switch which hand is out farther.
  • Rocket Launcher Row: Stand in a wide lunge, leaning forward with arms in front, and pull arms back into a classic lat row. (I do lat rows all the time, so this was a move where doing ten reps with the ten pound weights didn't really fatigue the muscles enough. This would be a good move for me to get a larger weight for.)
  • Lateral/Anterior Raise: Do a side raise for the shoulders with your thumbs towards the ceiling. Lower to your sides and do a shoulder raise to the front, again with thumbs up. Each set of two raises, front and side, is one rep. (Five pound weights were good for me for this move. It's a long lever shoulder exercise, so I wouldn't recommend going too heavy.)
  • Plyo Push-ups: Do a push-up and then explode off the ground with hands and feet. Land and bend your elbows for protection. (This is one of the hardest moves in P90X3. It's very challenging to jump the hands and feet off the floor, maintain plank, and come back down. I definitely tend to hand hard and feel it vibrating through my body. I think I need to figure out a way to land more gently.)
  • Vaulter Pull-ups: Do a pull-up with one hand facing out and one facing in. After five reps, switch the directions of your hands and do another five reps.
  • Pterodactyl Flies: Lean forward with arms towards the ground. Raise the weights up out to the sides and back, keeping the arms straight and at shoulder level. (This works the back and rear shoulder and is a wonderful move for posture. I did this with an eight pound weight because I do this move frequently, but we're working small muscles here, so keep it light.)
  • Rocket Launcher Kickbacks: Leaning forward with elbows against your sides and bent, do a tricep kickback extending the weights to the ceiling. (I do this move a lot, but find it to be the most challenging of the tricep moves. It's very easy to let your elbow drop, which is not the goal. I tend to do this with a lighter five pound weight to ensure good form.)
  • Flip Flop Combo: Do a bicep curl. At the top of the move, rotate to hammer position and lower. (Another move where I wish I had a heavier weight since we were only doing ten reps.)
  • Tricep Skyfers: Tricep dips with one leg in the air. Change which leg is lifted after five reps. Make sure to bring your hips up to tabletop position after each tricep dip. (Love tricep dips! It was great to have time to really work through the range of motion and make sure to bring my hips high.)
  • Kneeling Preacher Curl: On one knee with the torso forwards, do bicep curls. (I did these with the ten pound weights, which was fine since the positioning -- on one knee -- was kind of awkward for this move.)

I really liked the Eccentric Upper workout. It had great variety, including push-ups, pull-ups, and weights. I liked that we did most of the pull-ups in the first half when we were still a little bit fresher. I think we hit all the major muscles in the upper body: chest, shoulder, triceps, back, and biceps.

Had it not been a snow day today, I would have had a weight training class at Smith. I think that doing Eccentric Upper was a great substitute. This is a dynamic and complete upper body workout. It will be great a great one to do whenever I have a day that I want to do a little bit extra strength training work. At thirty minutes, it's the perfect addition to a cardio day.

This will be a nice workout to add into my routine both during P90X3 and after. It's probably most like The Challenge from block 1, but the fact that it's not all push-ups and pull-ups makes it a little more fun and easier to manage.

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