Whole Movement Strength Training vs. Braced Training

Title is confusing I know but what I am talking about is strength training that trains your muscles as well as your nervous system. By whole movement strength training I mean Strength Training that requires the use of many small stabilizing muscles like that of the rotator cuffs in the hip and shoulder. This training is training that focuses on movements that require balance, constant monitoring of joint position and stabilization of the joint. Exercises like a handstand, chin-up, L-seat, dead-lift, squat and standing military press all have many things in common. The body weight exercises all require constant concentration on balance and use proprioceptive feedback to a high degree, they are also able to train the joints through a complete range of motion and cause a large amount of strengthening in the connective tissue of the joints. The weight based exercises also do these things but, I believe, that they do not provide as much nervous stimulation (relating to less balance and constant monitoring of joint position required) and that the nature of leverage in gymnast style exercises place more stress on the connective tissues of the joints. However, less balance required also means that more muscle force can be applied, making weight-based exercises superior for maximizing muscle motor recruitment and is therefore more effective to train absolute muscle strength.

This is in contrast to training with the body braced against something, where there is usually little nervous stimulation required (There are of course exceptions as all training is on a continuum for intensity of nervous stimulation) and train mostly muscle strength through a specific range of motion (again, ROM varies on the exercise but i’m talking about exercises like bench press that require a rather specific movement pattern). Bodybuilding is definitely the best example of this type of training. This type of training gives you big, strong muscles but without the improvements in the nervous system and connective tissues. I am going to relate the human to a machine, a car for example. Cars have axles, tires, and an engine. This makes them go. They also have a lot of shit like ball joints, tie rods, suspension and many stabilizing metal braces. The human machine also has these in the form of muscles like the rotator cuffs, anconeus of the elbow, and the numerous small muscles of the hand. Connective tissues are similar to those metal braces in cars. So you see, training using only these movements will produce an athlete who is strong but lacks the important stabilizing tissues to prevent injury and use the muscles to their best ability.

That is all I have to say on this matter and will only add that the human body will adapt to any stimulus you provide it, if not too intense or weak, and in time will reshape itself to best adapt and co-exist with that stimulus. Or in less scientific terms a quote by Bruce Lee – “As you think, so shall you become!”

Chimpanzee Strength vs. Human Strength

This article will answer the question of exactly why chimpanzees are so much stronger than modern humans are in detail. Prepare yourself.

Okay first things first. Chimps are animals. Because they are animals and they move around a lot because they must find food to feed themselves. This makes it pretty unsurprising that chimps are vastly stronger than the average human. Most humans are fat and lazy these days. Chimps are also social animals though and there is a lot of feuding to be the alpha. This means epic scraps and beating the shit out of each other on a daily basis. Did I mention they live in trees? So a very active lifestyle plays a huge part in explaining why chimps are vastly stronger than most humans. We are fat and lazy.. mostly.

Chimps are also extremely muscular, check this out.

But even being as muscular as they are, that is not what makes them so much stronger than humans. It has to do with muscle insertions. See, chimps have muscle attachments that are located farther from the joints point of rotation. We all know what crowbars are here, this is similar to the concept of comparing a longer crowbar to a shorter crowbar. The longer handle allows a person to apply more torque at the point of rotation. It is the same with chimpanzees. Just check out this diagram.

If you are insightful you will also realize that this would make chimps move slower because the muscle must shorten a greater distance to produce the same amount of movement that it would if the muscle attachment was closer to the joint. This is the same as having to apply force for a greater distance on a longer crowbar than a shorter crowbar to have the same affect on whatever you are prying. To explain why this just does not happen in chimps is simple but requires a little knowledge of muscle physiology. There are many types of muscle fibers and they all have differing characteristics that suit the organisms lifestyle. These are called slow twitch and fast twitch fibers and from slowest to fastest they are Type 1, type2a, type2b and type2x. Type2x fibers contract the fastest and hardest and use different fuel than slow twitch fibers. Humans have some type2x fibers but mostly slower fibers. Animals, however, have a much greater percentage of type2x fibers than humans. So if you think that a chimps muscle insertions will make it slower, you are mistaken.

The nervous system is the next think that should be touched on. The nervous system plays a much, much larger role in strength than most people realize. An untrained person will not be able to activate all their muscle fibers in unison because they simply aren’t equipped to do so. There are reasons for this. First, We have many more small motor units than animals do. This differs across the body but humans generally have neurons that are “hooked” up to a smaller number of muscle fibers. This is of course for fine motor control, without it, writing would be very difficult. In animals, fine motor control is of very little importance so they contract many more of their muscle fibers with less effort. So why can’t humans just activate all their muscle fibers you ask? Well we can, but only under special circumstances such as times of enormous nervous stimulation in fight or flight situations. Everyone has heard of people who lift cars off of people with a huge adrenaline rush, this is very similar.

That is a pretty full explanation of why chimps are stronger than humans, although more could be said about the nervous system differences and of course the animal instinct. If you take only one thing from this article let it be this..

Don’t fuck with apes.

Do Bodyweight Training

The myth that you cannot gain muscle mass or significant strength from body weight training is bull-shit. Just look at guys like hannibal for king or barstarz on youtube and you will agree. Sure their legs may be a little under developed but nothing that some deadlifts or squats can’t fix. Anyway you can go extremely far with body weight training. You just need the right equipment and a lot of variety. Ya. A school yard is by far the easiest and cheapest way to get the right equipment and variety.

The main exercises are of course chin-ups, dips, handstands and push-ups. These can be done weighted or with a rainbows worth of variety. The number of variations of body weight exercises are literally limited by your imagination. There are an infinite number of variations if you think about it. Each one can transition to another and body segments can be altered to make it easier or more difficult. Impressive skills that a person can work toward are the muscle-up, one arm chin up, free standing hand stand, superman dips or really whatever your heart desires. I believe that the best upper body training always incorporates core stability at some level. Body weight exercises accomplish this.

Road to the One Arm Chin-up

So it’s been a couple weeks since I last posted progress and I’ve been getting a little creative lately and only been using one finger to assist. Good hand work-out to, my fingers are still sore and this was on the 3rd.

I think it may take around 6 months to own the chin-up, it’s probably one of the more difficult feats of strength out there.


A Waste of Your Time.

This is a rant. If you don’t want to hear it than fuck off it’s not for you it’s for me. I’m going to rant because I’m pissed about the lack of intelligence of my fellow man. Fucking idiots everywhere I go. For every intelligent person that steps into my circumference of existence there is usually another 10 drop dead fucking morons. Most of the people I interact with live their life in a fucking fog. I should call it a dream actually, there is no life in these people. Completely oblivious to everything around them, basically the walking dead. Than theres the angry people, the ones always in a rush, rushing towards… what? Shit, I don’t know why there even is a 5 o clock rush hour. Seriously why is everyone rushing at top speed to get home? To park their fat ass on the couch so they don’t miss the start of their favorite tv show or whatever? It can’t wait an extra 30 seconds to a minute which is probably the amount of time you’ll save by cutting people off and tailgating every person who is going slightly slower than you? Oh wait, yes you have a career and your busy. You work 10 to 12 hours a day and have 3 kids. Trying to give them a better life than you had I get it. Wait… what? let’s consider that logic for a moment. You spend most of your waking and coherent hours working.. so that when you get home you can care for your child now that your totally drained from work? So.. a better life for children is one in which they have tons of material possessions but no parents home to care for them? I think that’s pretty fucked up.

I have no faith in humanity. Nobody cares about interesting shit anymore. Society is driven by a few intelligent and or corrupt motherfuckers who lead everybody else, i.e. the mindless sheep. I don’t know why people don’t find a hobby or a skill, most of the people I talk to are only interested in the weekend where they get to pay upwards of $80 to drink themselves into a coma and forget everything by the time they wake up. Fuck. Wheres the drive? Wheres the enthusiasm? Why is it so hard to find people interested in learning new things, achieving awesome shit or just hanging out with friends while not drinking ourselves to a coma? Are we all so busy? Or is it that nobody really gives a shit about social interaction outside of facebook/ shitfaced with a drink in their hand? This culture is too focused on cheap thrills and throw away possessions. Maybe it always was. I don’t know anything different. Maybe I’m the one that’s fucked while everyone else is normal. Wouldn’t be the first time I was told that and not by one person either.

Motivation part 2

Motivation is significantly affected by lifestyle factors. I am sure of this. Unless you have unusually strong willpower, a shitty lifestyle will get ya down. Sleep, nutrition, soreness and laziness (lack of will) are the main things that derail my train. There is a direct correlation between how well you control these factors and your motivation to exercise.

The problem with these factors is that they pay off later, not now.

This picture sums it up pretty good although it depends what you consider hard work. Example: Damn I know I should avoid mcdonalds because it will make me feel like garbage later but it’s sooooo good. I should get sleep now because it will giveĀ  me energy later but I am stuck in this trance on facebook and can’t seem to click the x in the corner. Likewise with going overboard lifting weights. If you strain too much you will be sore as fuck and this is going to affect how you feel later.

These factors can also be seen as limiting factors for achieving self-actualization or your ultimate potential. Think about it. Sleep affects tomorrows energy levels, nutrition affects tomorrows (or today) metabolic rate, energy levels and long-term health and soreness affects the consistency at which you can lift. There is no doubt more factors than these but these are the ones that I find affect me most often.

Sleep is the one that I have the most problems with and it affects everything else. If you are tired you will not have energy, you will not grow strong as quickly, heal as quickly, make good food choices (tired people like sugary snacks) and it negatively affects your willpower. Anyone ever heard that “knowledge will set you free”? It is 100% true. But knowledge is not enough! I have heard people quote GI Joe that “Knowing is half the battle”. It is NOT. Action is all the battle! Knowing is shit that you do before you start the battle. It is totally up to you whether you take control of your strength training and use the knowledge you have acquired. Get sleep, eat real food, don’t lift like a gym idiot and motivation will follow. But you need the willpower to set the wheels in motion. Without willpower you, me, everyone is destined to fail.

Biofeedback and Musculoskeletal Longevity

One of the reasons I feel that biofeedback is important is the long-term health of you musculoskeletal system. If you train with great effort with focus on pulverizing your muscles to encourage growth I think you are making a grave mistake that you will likely pay for later rather than now.

In my last post I wrote about the tissue system and how tissue irregularities will form from abuse. Well abuse from exercise will also create tissue irregularities. Most people are familiar with scar tissue, it forms on skin wounds during the healing process but usually remains after the healing is complete and is left as a reminder of the incident that caused it. Muscles and fascia are no different. Scar tissue is formed inside muscles and fascia when they sustain significant muscle damage due to intense exercise. There is evidence of this from electron microscope pictures or whatever the fuck its called that were taken after intense exercise and showed severe damage to muscle cells. Scar tissue acts as a cast to prevent the muscle from being re-injured during the healing process. This makes sense as muscle fibers are elastic and if damaged they would pull apart and make for a tricky healing process. Consider your bones for example, broken bones don’t heal so well if they are not properly aligned and immobilized after the break.

Now, we know that scar tissue does not simply disappear after the injury is healed (think scars on your skin), so basically we get a build up of scar tissue inside the muscle and fascia, limiting the function of these tissues and making them less elastic. There are of course many reasons why people may lose fluency of movement as they age but by training like a master by avoiding excessive tension and making all training look easy, I think that it could be a huge step in the right direction.