Feats of Strength

Acrobatic teamI’ve never really been much for New Year’s Resolutions.  I don’t really see the need for waiting for a date on a calendar to make some sort of positive change, whether it’s losing a few pounds or quitting a bad habit or just trying to be a better person.

Nonetheless, this year I am going to challenge my clients (new and old) to spend 2014 working towards a feat of strength.

Long story short, my client, Mark F., and his brother Charlie, introduced me to feats of strength.  Mark originally came to train with me so that he could bolster his strength for such feats as the human flag.  Mostly the feats Mark and Charlie were interested in were old time hand balancing feats.

Well one thing led to another, and I decided some time last year that I was going to accomplish 3 feats by the end of 2013.  I had broken my wrist in October 2012, and remained protective of it.  So naturally two of my feats involved wrist strength.

One was bridge pose, as they call in yoga, or just the final back bend position. That turned out to be a good one because much to my surprise, I sprang right up to it immediately! I had spent quite a bit of time being afraid of using my wrist, afraid of re-injuring it.  I did not *know* that I could trust my training, that my bones had healed, and that I was strong enough to do what I wanted to do.

If I had stopped there, it all would have been worth it.

The 2nd feat of strength was a 10 second push-up from lying on the floor.  That may not sound like much, but I had always had trouble with push-ups.  There was a point in it in which I seemed unable to hold it together.  By practicing one or two pushups every other day or so (never the day before, of, or after my once a week workout) I became accustomed to the way the weight of my own body has to load down the kinetic chain.  I could then understand how the positioning of my feet and locking my knees out enabled me to use the strength I had to create a smoother muscular load down the chain.  There was no more sticking spot.  Mission accomplished, 10 second pushup – check –  after just a month or so.

The final feat of strength was a 10 second chin from hanging position.  That has always eluded me.  I’d had trainers that tried to explain the ratio of shoulder width to whatnot and my arms were too long giving me a mechanical disadvantage as to make it near impossible and blahbadiblah.  All I knew is if I could figure out a slow pushup (btw, I can do several now), I could figure out a chin.  This one took me a lot longer to accomplish.  In the end, it was pretty much the same way as learning a pushup.  There was a point, a transition, that I had to figure out.  Mostly it was all in my head, but it took practicing it as a FOS to figure it out.

I do want to be clear about one thing:  I NEVER mistook feats of strength for strength training. Quite the opposite.  I get my strength in the gym.  The feats allowed me to use the strength that I had worked so hard to accomplish, along with balance, control, guts and the intelligence to figure out the mechanical advantage, in order to accomplish a task that I didn’t think possible.

Strength training, on the other hand, uses concentration, strength, power guts and intelligence to forgo the mechanical advantage in order to weaken my muscles so that, over time, they will recover stronger.  Again, that’s why I did not train the day before, of, or after my once a week strength training sessions.  I did not want to interfere with strength training.

The feats did have a positive affect on my training sessions.  Because I had these goals in mind, when I was training muscles I needed for the feats, I had a keener awareness, a calmer mind, and a greater willingness to go to higher intensities.

In the end, I feel like the strength training and feats of strength go together perfectly.  So now I’m thinking about what I’m going to do in 2014.  And what can I challenge my clients to do?.  I mean, certainly feats of strength will inform and enhance their workouts as it did mine, right? As for me, I’m thinking maybe a hand stand pushup and, as a feat of flexibility, a full split.  I don’t know, the possibilities are endless.

What do you think?  Do you have a feat you want to accomplish this year?  And if so, what’s stopping you?


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