In times of great stress, we possess “inhuman” strength. All the governors that limit are strength are removed. We are capable of so much more. In strength training the we learn how to remove these limiting governors and get strong. In other words, we learn how to control and flex a higher percentage of our muscles voluntarily.
I will briefly go into these techniques, but I urge you to buy Power to the People by Pavel Tsatsouline to learn more. Think about the message you send to your brain when you learn these techniques and transcend your previous limitations? “Holy cow! I can do more than I thought!” That is a very powerful message, one that echoes throughout all areas of your life.
Pavel Tsatsouline points out that strength is a skill. It amounts to generating muscular tension, and that is where the mind-muscle link comes in. So when we work to develop our strength, we will do low reps to keep our mind on what we are doing.
Why Develop Strength?
You may still be wondering: why emphasize strength? I view it as a kind of insurance policy. Friends view it as someone to help them move! Strength is part of our birthright.
Beyond that, getting strong and learning to use your body will help eliminate back and knee pain. You’ll develop more confidence, and physical tasks will seem easier. It makes your daily life more pleasant. Learning your body also helps with health in general as you realize things that impede your strength impede your health as well.
You can also avoid being the guy who is in and out of the chiropractor because his back is going out. “I have a bad back” can many times be explained more accurately by stating “I’ve been doing relatively nothing to strengthen my back and whenever I do something that puts any stress on it, I hurt it.”
Strength Principles: Using the Nerves
This manual is about a practice of lifting weights that will get you stronger by training your nerves to activate more muscles. Most lifting books neglect to talk about the engines that drive the muscles—the nerves. If you want to be strong without getting huge you will be thinking about training your nerves to fire more muscles, with greater efficiency. It’s the intellectual approach.
Here you will discover information which well help you squeeze out more power. Here is what will make you stronger than you ever thought possible.
Strength training is learning how to flex more of the muscles you already have. It’s learning how to use your body more effectively. The advantage of training for strength is that you will have lasting gains. Your strength won’t abandon you if you miss a few sessions or if you happen to be stranded somewhere without food. Why? Because your strength is not being developed by bloating your muscles. It is being developed by contacting existing muscles that your body wasn’t allowing you to contract before.
Your body only lets you have access to a certain percentage of your muscles. But by doing things like controlling your breathing and flexing your butt, you tell your body it is OK for it to let you have access to a greater percentage of muscle.
Flexing All Your Muscles
One way to improve your ability to contract your muscles is to flex them all at a few points throughout the day. Consider muscle tensing practice. It gives you more control over your body. I recommend starting from your feet, curling up your toes, arching your feet, the tension spreads to your calves and then you consciously contract your quads, then your hamstrings, then your butt, stomach, back, lats, chest, and the tension pours down into your arms as you flex your biceps and triceps and forearms and your hands turn into tight fists.
This process happens over the course of a few seconds. Hold the tension for awhile and then gradually let it all go, slowly. You can do this in the morning, especially in the winter because it warms you up. Doing it three times throughout the day yields the best results for me.
Practice Vs. Workout
Strength training can sometimes feel like you’re not accomplishing much because you feel more fresh after the session. Strength is a skill like throwing a ball. You do not go out and throw a ball until your arm falls off your shoulder. You get in as many good reps as you can and quit just before you become fatigued. This prevents you from training bad nervous system firings. End your lifting session—practice—before you are tired. Leave reps in the bank for another day. Don’t train till the muscles fail.
Train the Body as a Unit
Don’t think muscles. Think movement. One, it’s simpler. Think of your practice in terms of:
This will help you target the entire body. I learned this from Steve Cotter of FullKontact.com who is the strongest athlete I have ever met. This tip helps keep your exercise session short and focused, which is what you want.
Develop Strong Hands
Having strong hands will give strength and control to all your other lifts. Kettlebells develop strong hands because they have a thick grip and you pull against their weight ballistically. If you want to step it up a notch, buy Captains of Crush grippers from IronMind.
Shake Out Your Muscles
When I run my classes, I always have my students shake their muscles out between sets. This relaxes them and psychologically prepares you for the next set. The key to movement is muscle tension mastery. When you lift a weight, get as tight as possible. After you do that, it only makes sense to rinse the tension off through shaking out your muscles.
Doing this is simple: pretend you are a dog who has just had a bath and you want to shake the water off. Instead of doing your whole body at once, focus on your arms then your legs. After awhile, you can learn to get your entire body in on the action—but this is something that is best done in the privacy of your home.
Keep Your Reps Below Five
Strength is developed by lifting heavy things for a small number of repetitions. In any exercise where the goal is strength, we will not do more than 5 repetitions. Because strength is a skill, we want the focus of our reps to be quality, not quantity.
Focus on BIG exercises. Exercises that work a lot of muscle all at once. Think squats, deadlifts, presses, and pull ups. These are the money exercises. Work up to a respectable weight in these exercises and you will not worry about “exercises” like leg extensions.
Flex Your Butt
This is a great technique that Pavel teaches in his book Power to the People. If you want to instantly have more strength, flex your butt. Do it when you shake someone’s hand and feel the surge of power. Warn the person before you do this! (This is a great conversation starter!)
Breathe Out as Though Breathing Through a Straw
This technique helps you to recruit your stomach muscles. Flexing these muscles makes you stronger.