My buddy is strong! I mean he is built to lift, I think his ankle bones are as big as some people’s thighs! The funny part is that he only works out maybe once a week and yet has improved how much he can deadlift by about 100 pounds in a very short amount of time. With almost no effort he can deadlift over 300 pounds and is over 50 years old.
The feeling he gets from that over 300 pound deadlift is one of empowerment, confidence, and like he can conquer anything!
So, why in the world would I want to do anything to change these wonderful emotions that come from building what seems to be functional strength?
Ironically, my friend experiences a great dilemma of his fitness. On one hand, lifting big weights comes rather easily to him. However, at the same time when it comes to anything that requires movement or stability, his strength fails him quite a bit. When it comes to standing on one leg and performing the same deadlift movement he literally falls over! Yes, with just bodyweight.
I love that he tries hard, but it has to be a struggle. Are you strong? Obviously he can lift some good weight when he is in a balanced position, when we challenge him to produce strength in other positions, the strength disappears. What does this mean?
Legendary sports scientists, Dr. Michael Yessis, gives us a little insight to why we often don’t have the overall type of fitness we look for…
“It is also more accurate to say that strength, not necessarily absolute strength, is the basis for improvement of other strength abilities. Understand that there are different kinds of strength, all of which play an important role in athletic moments. For example, in addition to absolute strength, which is typically concentric strength, there is also isometric and eccentric strength which can be absolute if measuring the maximum possible. There is also starting strength, acceleration strength, speed-strength, strength endurance, relative strength, limit strength and so on. Thus absolute strength is only one aspect of strength that the athlete needs. The exact amount and kinds of strength depend upon the sport, the level of sports mastery, fitness levels of the athlete and so. These factors are typically left out in the arguments presented.”
The above may leave you scratching your head, but the point is that training isn’t as simple as “just getting stronger.” The reality is if we want to be really “functionally strong” we have to learn to train in all types of angles, positions, and postures.
Why is this important? We won’t lift the same amount of weight that we do in our more stable positions, but being able to lift a minimum of 1/3rd of the weight is important. Otherwise what this shows us is that we are not really able to keep our bodies connected during movement.
In our DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training world, functional strength is about how we connect all the parts of our body in order to produce strength and force no matter the pattern we move.
Unfortunately most people realize that they suffer from this “functional deficit”, yet, instead of trying to improve on their weaknesses they simply keep working on their strength. Ever hear of the definition of insanity?
This is due to the fact that the body must be trained in angles that are similar to the demands we place on it. For those sports scientists that could break down the biomechanics of sport, this became sport-specific training. However, how does this relate to most of us?
Since our body gets stronger not in a universal sense (because I can lift a lot up and down doesn’t mean I am strong when I have to lunge, reach, etc.) we have to have far more diversity in our training than the typical up and down exercises that most programs provide.
I want you to be strong in our stable positions, but this is our foundation. Where most people stop is where we just begin. This does mean that a fitness program is more than squatting, deadlifting, and pressing. It may take a little more work, but not a lot.
For the extra effort to challenge yourself to not just lift, but to move has many rewards. Whether it is getting stronger at almost anything, more fit, or more resilient to injury these are all great reasons.
Yet, my favorite may be a feeling you get. A feeling that you really are strong, you are confident that you can do many different things. That to me is the real empowerment of functional training and the DVRT system.