Developing Real Core Strength
*** I'm confident that almost all readers of the PDA newsletter are interested in developing strength by moving big iron, big rocks, big implements, 'big whatever'. But have you ever thought about moving some big weights with the middle of your body? I mean real strict, real heavy sit-ups; holding a 150 pound dumbbell high on your chest - actually holding it just under your throat (and keeping it there) - while you raise up to push your elbows into your thighs and hold that position for a slow 'one thousand and one' count. Then to slowly lower yourself back to the floor using your abs - where you take a big breath just like you would a PR squat attempt before knocking off rep number 2 of a truly gut-wrenching set of 10.
What I have just described is one exercise that ***I have been practicing, and teaching for a majority of the 33 years that I have been under the iron. It blows away anything that can be performed on one of those cute little stability balls for thousands of reps (and of course 'feeling the burn') when it comes to building real strength in the middle of the body. And if you want the ability to get a 200-pound Atlas stone overhead, or rise up from the bottom of a squat with 500 pounds you are going to need real strength 'in the middle'.
Think about this for a minute. If you have been performing your core strengthening work for many, many reps - why? Probably because you have been mistakenly taught, read, or heard that the abs need to be trained for 'lots of reps'. Because the muscles of the abdominals are made up of a different fiber composition (more slow-twitch) than that of the quads for instance - well this is just flat-out wrong. How can I make such a bold statement? Experience.
Think about how you define strength for a minute. Not a complicated college physiology text definition. I want a 'from the trenches' definition.
It's how much weight you can lift - period. Now before all you exercise fizz majors get your shorts twisted I know that you can define strength in a number of ways. But what I want to do is to point out that absolute strength (one rep strength) carries over to all other qualities of strength - even endurance strength. And the reverse - endurance strength - like that which is developed with the "feel the burn by doing 500 reps on the cute ball routine, doesn't carry-over when you have 400 pounds on your back.
*** Let me run with this example for a minute to make my point.
*** Endurance strength is the ability to perform an activity for a long duration and maintain initial strength abilities - like a marathon runner. Do you realize that the winning marathon runner is the one who produces the most average force per foot contact throughout 26 miles? How do you increase the potential for more force production? Increase strength - absolute strength. I know you're thinking: "Wait a minute John, you're telling me that if a marathon runner increases his one-rep max on the squat he will run faster? How?" Because the marathoner will then have the neurological ability to profuse more force. Now to get this new strength/force to work for him, he will have to practice running - running very far. The bottom line is that performing strength training that increases you absolute maximum strength is one of the best ways to improve your endurance activity. Track coaches have become aware of this. They now have their 'distance runners' work on sprinting as they realize that it is one of the fastest ways to improve their VO2 max which makes the distance work easier.