Strong from Head to Toe

Last blog you saw this video of some amazingly fit young English guys doing some very unconventional, non-gym strength training. This TOJ suggested that much of it would look like the familiar stuff, e.g., push-ups and pull-ups, but to watch for differences. Those differences are the reason they're much stronger and fit than most guys their age.

So why would TOJs care about this? They're young, right? Yes, but they demonstrate some "secrets" that are really important to a TOJ because they promote physical resilience.  

The more experts understand human movement the more they are beginning to understand that it's not just muscle and bones that enable us to perform the range of motion we enjoy. Your entire body is is linked together by connective tissue (myofascia) that transmits dynamic energy from head to toe. This tissue, just like every other in your body, is constantly renewing itself - or not, if it's inactive.  

So here are a few of the secrets the English parkour artists revealed to us in the video.

Periodic Asymmetry - Notice how they shifted sideways during their push-ups, pull ups, and still ring exercises. They get slightly off-center. This places unusual stresses on the muscles and myofascial tissue because they must respond to additional gravitational forces as they  move away from their center of gravity. The guy presses a rock, not perfectly shaped, hard to grip.

Multi-Directional - They don't just move forward, they also move backwards and sideways. They don't just work on a flat surface, they climb and descend. All this multi-directional movement engages the muscles and anatomy trains in new and challenges ways. These guys aren't building isolated muscles like the guy in front of the mirror at the gym doing biceps curls, but building total body strength - the most useful strength there is that enables the body to safely perform a variety of tasks and adapt to unexpected forces, like breaking a fall on ice .

Non-Repetitive & Adaptive  - Their bodies, whether hands or feet, must adapt to a broad variety of surfaces, textures, and planes. They are developing incredible kinesthetic awareness of what their world feels like and how to adapt to it.

Whole-Body - They recruiting multiple muscles and anatomy chains by constant, variegated movement from head to toe, as opposed to sitting on a weight machine doing isolated calf presses. Nothing is more important than what you can do (or not) with your own body weight.

Bounce - One interesting discovery is that connective tissue is elastic. Much of our power results from loading and releasing energy stored in connective tissue, including ligaments and tendons, not just muscle. In the video, you see principle at work in the burpees and when the guy in a push up (plank) position climbs the steps doing a rapid downward then upward movement that "bounces" him from one step to another.

So here are some ways TOJs can start incorporating myofascial training into their exercise.
- When you do push-ups, slightly lean toward the right and go down, then repeat with the left.
- Stand with your feet flat on the ground and lightly spring up and down, keeping the ball of your foot in touch with the ground. Progress to jump roping off the balls of your feet.
- Do single arm swings with the kettlebell.
- Do push-ups with one hand or both hands on a medicine ball.
- Spider walk (crawl face down on hands and feet only) in all directions, sometimes lifting up onto a small step, box, Bosu, or sturdy coffee table.
- Crab walk, on hands and feet, facing up. Forwards and backwards.
- Hold a medicine ball with both hands and bend back (like a soccer throw-in) then slam the ball into the ground as hard as you can (you can also do this with a sledge hammer into the dirt).
- Hang from a bar and lift your knees towards your right shoulder, then your left. Repeat.

By incorporating some unusual movements, you literally strengthen your myofascial tissue. You get "bouncier" and less vulnerable to injury. Read this excellent article by Divo Muller and Robert Schleip about remodeling and rebuilding myofascial tissue. Note the importance of good hydration!

It only takes a few minutes of this a couple of times a week to get results, but because connective tissue develops more slowly than muscle, you need to be patient and persistent.

At first as you ad these elements to your exercise, you'll feel weaker and awkward. But not for long. Pretty soon, like they say in the TV ads for fancy men's clothes, "You'll like the way your feel. I guarantee it."

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