Tuesday, March 16, 2010

People have asked me to make things shorter and not so technical so I will try.
Strength comes from tension.
The more tension that you can generate the stronger your body will be. Notice, that I did not say get stronger. You are already stronger than you allow.
Most humans don't try and contract as hard as they can when they try and move something. They try and contract only hard enough to do exactly the amount of work that is required. This is efficient for a survival scenerio but it sucks for trying to become as strong as you want to be. I am not talking about bulky I am talking about strong. Long strong dense muscles.
This happens by:
  • teaching the body how to recruit harder.
  • recruiting as many muscles as possible to do the work.
  • ensuring that your trunk is tight.

Recruiting harder
The average human only recruits about 20% of the muscles total contractile ability. A olympic caliber lifter will recruit between 40 and 50%. (Pavel Tsastsoluine, the kettlebell guy has a great book on all of this.) This means that just by training the nervous system you will be able to pull, push, jump, run, etc. faster, stronger, higher etc.
If you can get 5% more recruitment now, without adding bulk or weight, then you are going to be much stronger and faster.

Recruit more muscles
When you contract a muscle, the ones surrounding it also contract. Most people don't use their trunk properly or at all. This is the center of you and so many of your muscles run through your trunk, if you don't use it you are missing alot of muscles.
If your trunk contracts your movement will be stronger.
So, if you squeeze your glutes or calves for that matter, the movement you are trying to perform with your arms will be stronger.

Tight Trunk
There are a few reasons for being stronger when you tighten your trunk:
  1. Hyperirridation (recruit more muscles, paragraph above)
  2. Intraabdominal Pressure
  3. Transfer or transmission of power
Intraabdominal pressure
The more pressure you put into the trunk the harder all of your muscles can contract. The body feels more protected so it allows you to move something heavier because the "stop it receptors" haven't been triggered.

Think of the desk toy of steel balls hanging by wire and when the end is lifted and dropped the sort of see-saw back and forth. If one is slightly out of balance the see-saw action wont work well. The body does the same thing. If something is not in the correct place you wont be able to transfer power in a straight line. This will cause an injury.

Lastly if more muscles are recruited to do the required work no muscle gets overly taxed. They all share the brunt of the work. This means more work can be done. "many hands make for small work" or whatever the exact saying was, you get the point.

In summary, when you decide to train recruit as many muscles as possible and you will get stronger, faster with no bulk, and you stay in alignment. This means you have a faster road to better overall health.


  1. okay, first... love how you've taken pretty technical information from kinesiology, biomechanics and exercise physiology- - all fields of study that can stand alone - - and put down in laymen's terms your approach while maintaining the integrity of the scientific & evidence based information. NOT an easy task.

    but my main reason for commenting is that i'd not heard the term hyperirridation before. had to look it up. then a curious thought flitted across my mind and a light it up in my head: hyperirridation and more efficient muscular recruitment would theoretically improve & increase flexibility as well as strength. I like this!!! it makes sense to me that a stable trunk (or tight trunk as you call it) would allow for greater appendage freedom or flexibility and i get how increased intra abdominal pressure is utitlized to create a stable trunk. i even get the idea of transmission of power thru the "chain" but NOW i think i get what you've been saying about hyperirridation (although you never used that term before) and how it's subsequent effects/actions both increases strength and flexibility. i see said the blind woman!!! yes, i am a three year old and it has to be broken down that simply!! SO!! i will stop being stubborn, learn some new techniques and be happily amazed with the result from now on!!! I'M GONNA FLY LIKE A BIRD WHEN I JUMP, RUN LIKE A GAZELLE, HAVE THE STRENGTH OF A PANTHER AND THE GRACE OF SWAN IN 2010!! BRING IT!!! WHOA HOA!!!

  2. So is this why deadlifts with more than yr bodyweight, if done with correct form and hella abdomo contraction, start to transform the body so fast, probably faster than any other one thing you could do?
    I would like to see an article explaining deadlifts to the total novice esp the novice woman - using kind of the style you write in this post. This post definitely starts to translate to the non-tech person but I would like to take some of the info and make it for people I know who still couldn't understand this but could maybe be persuaded to go to Play it Again Sports and get some equipment and learn the form.

    Gareth the other day said: If i were stuck on a desert island and could only do one movement/exercise it would be deadlift.
    Do you agree?

    But then we'd miss the joy of burpee/high swing/walking lunge over and over and over to the point of barfing and shaking legs, including the excitement of nearly getting run over by my neighbor's Land Rover as I had my ipod on and was in his parking spot on my knees. Good times.