Secrets of Strength #1 Integrated movement.
Are there really any secrets to strength? Is there more to know about becoming uncommonly strong then showing up and putting in the hard work? Is there anything I’M going to reveal to you here that will fundamentally change the way you train? The answer depends wholly on your ability to reflect on and integrate the things I’m going to share in this series of articles.
If you search the internet for strength training tips you’ll likely find a plethora of great articles with exercises and programs for building strength with compound movements like deadlifts and squats or progressive bodyweight exercises. I’m not going to tell you anything otherwise, these exercises are not secrets but the standard in developing the kind of strength you can feel and others can see. The real question one might ask is how or why these exercises confer so much strength when practiced?
The answer is simple, these exercises are opportunities to practice integrated movement.
Integrating your movement is not the sort of quick tip that once gleaned is forever expressed in your training, but an understanding of the power of practicing finely focused conscious awareness through your entire body and of course your mind. It’s the ability to synchronize and orchestrate the various disjointed parts of your body into a unified masterpiece of functional precision. I will also refer to it as core integrated movement. The core for those unfamiliar is the collection of muscles which join the lower half of the body to the upper half and manipulate the spine. The core generally refers to the abdominals, obliques, spinal erectors and other muscles of the trunk. They also act as the main structural stabilizer for every joint in your body without which there is no strength. Mid-line stabilization as it can be referred to in fitness physiology circles is as it sounds the fixing of your mid line, the skull, spine and pelvis into a solid immovable frame.
Imagine yourself floating in space, there is no gravity and everything flows loosely. In your hand you have a dumbbell which you have decided to throw over head but in doing so launch yourself in the opposite direction. Without a surface to push off of your ability to manipulate your body or other objects effectively is nearly impossible. This is what it’s like applying yourself without your core stabilizing you. Pressing a weight toward the ceiling would crush your insides without the ability to create this structural stability.
One distinction I want make that is rather important is the difference between mid line stabilization, and integrated movement;
Mid line stabilization is the cornerstone of all loaded strength training movements, because it stabilizes and prevents the spine from making any movements while under load and instead sends movement to the shoulders and hips. Moving like this is strong and looks rather mechanical
Integrated movement which includes mid line stabilization as a situational specific function, like lifting up your child; allows for spinal freedom as an essential part of fluid natural movement. We don’t want to move through our lives like robots, because rigid movements are inefficient, and too much rigidity creates restriction. The body adapts to whatever postures it experiences repetitively so movements that build mid line stabilization that don’t include other more fluid expressions can and will likely lead to stiffness and loss of flexibility throughout the system. This is why an integrated movement practice is so essential for building the kind of versatile body necessary to fulfill our varying needs and desires over the long course of our lives. To practice integrate movement, simply start by moving in a very slow focused and concise way, this could be as simple as bending over to pick something up off of the ground and doing it a way that is so slow and conscious that one has to bring all of their awareness into the practice.
Mastering all the nuances of being in and willing our body to express our whims is a direct result of integrating the parts of our body. If you want to look at this in a more esoteric way, think about your mind , becoming more attuned and in sync with your physical body. The better able you are to direct the movements of your body with your mind, the more capable you are of expressing what you want in life, whether that’s lifting a boulder, dancing on a stage or making love like the god eros. As Tony Robbins said in his book unlimited power, true power comes from focusing all of the aspects of yourself on a unified point or goal. If you are of two minds with regard to which way you would like your life to go you are spending your energy in two different directions and likely getting nowhere. When your mind and body are honed in on a unified message you are moving towards your goals powerfully.
Increased awareness towards the body also helps us identify our weak points as well as the places we hold unnecessary tension. This is why I am so confident in saying that this is a true secret of strength. Learning to integrate our movements requires us to understand intimately the relationship of your bodies to the laws of physics, and to grow our conscious awareness of our world of sense awareness. Your awareness of your bodies limitations grows out of your movement practice the way your limitations in life can only be observed by interacting with the world around you, the acknowledgment of such limitations allows for us to expand on either front, and the attitude of exploring and expanding our boundaries are not mutually exclusive.
Alright, enough talk. Here’s the basics, your core is weak, yes you, and you’ve no business researching how to become strong any further until you have prioritized the fundamental strengthening of this aspect of your body until it is an order of magnitude stronger then it is right now. We need a core that is super sayinly strong if we were going to blast incredible forces and loads through our body. The fact is, that every exercise is a core exercise but, only to the degree which you are aware of and can activate your core musculature. Once you have this awareness you will forever train differently because the core will disperse forces through your entire body so no matter what your doing you will be channeling the muscular powers of your entire being into your actions...sounds cool right?
I’m only going to share 2 exercises today, because in truth practicing a few things well is far more important than skimming your way through 10. There is no end phenomenon of perfection here either because the longer you practice conscious movement the more nuance you can find in the simplest and most mundane of actions.
Exploring the plank, mid line stabilization mastery.
-Begin on the floor with hips over knees and place your hands on the floor under your shoulders, let all the bones in your hands spread.
-Engage against the surface you are touching slowly, lightly and evenly as you find a nice equilibrium.
-Slowly rotate your upper arms externally, that is biceps turn away from your midline.
-Spread your scapula away from you spine to push yourself away from the floor.
-Draw your sternum in towards the middle of your abdomen and tuck your tailbone (exhaling while doing this can be beneficial for core engagement).
-Step your legs out into a plank and engage your glutes to press your hips toward the floor, but do not, allow your lower back to arch. Remember the concavity, this is key.
-All of the above movements described are progressive, and should be done slowly and continuously. They can also be continually dialed up with intensity so long as the form remains.
-Direct all of the end points of your body reaching out away from one another. This is called oppositional pull.
This may be plenty of work for some, and is the proper form for the plank and push ups but this is merely the beginning. Keeping the mid line, that is your entire torso rigid, allowing no movement in any direction, begin slowly lifting one limb off the ground an inch or so while preventing all other superfluous movements. Place the limb back down just as slowly and repeat a few times. Try this with each limb. Spread the feet wide for ease of control. When you can execute this exercise with no movement in the mid
line you are ready to explore a greater range of motion with each of your 4 limbs. Imagine you are inside a sphere and you would like to paint it, each of your extremities has a brush at its end, see how much of the sphere you can paint while maintaining the posture.
Roll up, core integrated movement practice
-Lie on your back on the floor and relax completely.
-Take a breath in and on your exhale begin rolling up very slowly off the floor from the crown of your head towards your feet.
-Allowing your arms and shoulders to lead you up while you tuck your tailbone, flex your quads and extend your feet and toes, make your way slowly to a seated position and elongate your body into a stretch.
-To roll down, tuck the tailbone underneath you and once again feel the counter balancing and stretching of your limbs, instead of folding your body, imagine yourself telescoping in both directions.
-As you make your way down place one vertebrae at a time on the ground beginning with the lower back and finishing with the skull.
-The slower this exercise is practiced the more valuable and nuanced it becomes.
-Repeat and explore until your core is made of plate armor!
I cannot express enough the value of slowing down movements of any kind for developing your self awareness and control of your vessel!
One of my workshops offerings is called core mastery and if you would like to gain insights into utilizing your body to its fullest then send me a message an inquire about offerings. Otherwise stay tuned for my core mastery video series.