The majority of fitness and even strength training is focused on the muscles and also the cardiovascular system. But that’s not all there is to having a strong and fit body.
If you only focus on your muscles, they may be strong but what about everything else? Injuries can and do occur in the tendons and ligaments, when you have strong muscles, while the connective tissues aren’t up to par. What would happen if you actually focused on the connective tissue?
I’m not sure when the idea first popped into my head. Strengthen Your Structure.
If you read about the oldtime strongmen, as well as many modern strongmen too, there is much more of a focus on the connective tissues, and for amazing feats of strength like supports, even bone strength. This is the structure of your body. But your average training, doesn’t build up these areas as much as certain rarer forms of training do.
If you’ve been watching any of my videos over the past few months you’ve likely seen a number of short range partials and some supports too. These exercises, among others, build your structure.
On the videos, hosted on Youtube, I get a bunch of people saying ignorant things like “That’s pointless” or “That won’t carryover to squats or deadlifts”, and even calling my sexual orientation into question for no real reason. Here is one of those videos:
What these people are ignorant of is the reason why I’m doing these lifts. Because they fall outside the paradigm of muscle training and full range lifts they are labeled as stupid.
I’m all for training the muscles. I do mostly full range exercises. But that’s not all that I do and I don’t think it should be for you either. Let me tell you why…
Why Should You Strengthen Your Structure?
One of the major things that clicked for me and made me realize how important this training was, was when I heard Bud Jeffries talking about the sports and martial art benefits of partials. Think of a football lineman blocking the defense. Or a martial artist throwing a punch. Do these guys go into a full squat before making a move? Although most of the strength comes from the legs and hips, the answer is NO!
Instead there is usually only a little bend in these joints as they work. They need power in the ending range of motion, and then to translate that through the body and the arms.
This is similar power as is used in a quarter range of motion deadlift or squat.
Yet these Youtube idiots don’t understand that. Just because it is a quarter squat (and sometimes even a smaller range of motion) doesn’t mean I’m doing it in order to build my squat.
Will it have some carryover? A little bit, especially in the psychological aspect that the weight used for full range lifts will feel light in comparison. Of course if you do longer range partials the carryover to full range becomes more.
By maximizing the power you have in these smaller ranges of motion you won’t just be limited to the power you generate in a full range of motion. BOTH are important.
And sometimes you don’t even need to move at all. Zero range of motion. Just your body supporting a huge load. That’s what my wrestler’s bridge was about.
That’s also what many oldtime strongmen did in their shows. Why? Because it looks amazing. In a support you can handle more weight than with any range of motion. Of course to do this requires tremendous strength, and must be built progressively like in any other training. The great thing is this kind of strength can be built without having a dancing troupe on top of you.
And what’s going to happen? Your bones will become much stronger and dense. You’ll have the opposite of osteoporosis.
The Yoke Walk Destroyed Me…
As you may have read I did my first strongman competition a couple months back. I had been doing lots of deadlift training at that time. In the deadlift medley and the farmer’s walk I performed well.
But the yoke walk destroyed me. I finished the event just before the time limit but it took everything I had. I hadn’t been squatting much at that time, not until I transformed my beliefs about it. If you’ve never tried a yoke walk it can be a humbling experience. Not only is it a heavy load on your shoulders but it is unstable AND you must walk with it.
Most people don’t have a yoke but there are ways to replicate this training that will build powerful legs. And by doing this non-yoke walk I plan to perform much better the next time I need to compete.
This alludes to an important part of having a strong structure, something that is different than just doing partials and supports. I’ll be talking more about this in my next article.
Join the 1000 lb. Club
Hitting big numbers is fun. I can remember back when I was a teenager and I deadlifted over 100 lbs. for the first time after training for about a month in my back yard on a program my older brother made for me. Yes you read that right. One hundred pounds and I felt like a man! I was getting to the big weights then, or at least that‘s what it felt like.
I guess the number is 1000 lbs. now to create the same feeling.
With partials and supports you can handle massive weights. And the truth is, after building up to it, these are probably even safer than full range lifts. And they build your body in a way that can make it more injury proof, in addition to being more solidly strong all around.
I hit my first 1000 lb. goal with the rack pull.
Then came the wrestler’s bridge support. I got that one too.
My next 1000 lb. goal is the top position of a squat, with the barbell on my shoulders. I should be achieving this one pretty quickly.
Just lifting 1000 lbs. in any manner would be a fun goal for anyone to go after if it interests them. Then you too can join the 1000 lb. club. Whose in?
For a challenge on another level you can try to replicate John Grimek’s 1000 lb. overhead support. Now that’s a strong structure!
More to Strengthen Your Structure
I’ve discussed partials and supports but the truth is there are other exercises along these lines. These ones are lots of fun to train and give benefits hard to replicate in other ways.
This course takes some of the ideas in Deceptive Strength and takes them to a deeper level. As this training doesn’t focus on the muscles, it is a great way to build tremendous strength, without becoming any bigger.
The first part covers partials and supports in full detail. In addition are carrying exercises which are a whole other ball game. Included in this are some fun variations you’ve probably never seen anywhere else.