If you look at the resistance training methods used by 99% of gym goers, regardless of goal, you will see a movement with a lot of tension, and repetitions making use of what I call “grinding strength”. This is what you would associate with traditional strength training and powerlifting: shifting weight so heavy that it forces you to move slowly. There is certainly a role for this type of training, but it neglects some very important principles of athleticism and day to day movement.
Outside of the gym environment we generally don’t want to have to move with too much tension. We want to be able to use the minimal tension necessary to produce the outcomes we seek. This is for two reasons:
- Firstly, it is far less tiring. Just try walking around and breathing while squeezing every muscle you can. Not easy.
- Secondly, it allows more free movement for more joints. This means that stress and load can be distributed more evenly across more space which is a good thing for injury reduction and retaining movement variability.
One of the forgotten aspects of athleticism is not the force a muscle can produce, or even the speed it can contract, but the speed with which it can relax. Strength as we think of it in terms of moving heavy loads has very limited application in sports or nature. Strength in terms of controlling momentum in unpredictable, or at least freely changing, directions is far more applicable. This is why I have produced what I call the “fluid strength” model of training.
“Fluid strength” model of training
This model takes typical training movements like squats, presses, and rows and makes slight adjustments to their execution in order to promote greater movement options. The movements within the programme allow joints to move more freely, and for compression to be dispersed in three dimensions rather than in repeated, reinforced lines of traditional training. It makes use of momentum to provide a large muscular stimulus without having to resort to placing enormous weight through the spine. This approach teaches muscles to be strong under a time constraint and teaches a feeling of elasticity. It also promotes a better understanding of dynamic balance, connected coordination throughout the body, and joint stabilisation through co-contractions. It trains muscle together rather in isolation which not only provides better transfer to reality, but also saves time. The movements strongly resemble those seen during sport and natural patterns and so while different exercises target certain specific muscles in preference, almost every exercise is a full body exercise.
Using this approach has remedied many of the compressive issues I have caused myself through powerlifting, and I have seen it have a strong rehabbing effect on clients with joint pain for a number of different reasons. After this form of training clients typically report feeling connected but not tight. Stretched, but not loose. Strong, but not heavy. Worked, but not tired. As a culture we are right to say that movement is an essential part of health, but just look at how many gym goers deal with pain and injury on a constant basis. This programme uses the principles of natural human movements such as sprinting as blueprint for training and therefore provides an ideal stimulus to elicit positive adaptations from the body without the pain. We have conditioned the training population to assume that pain and injury are normal parts of training, but this shouldn’t be the case. We should consider the fact that animals in nature move with very high intensity and don’t need to warm up, never stretch, and almost never tear muscles or tendons. They do not need to separate movement practices into different categories like strength, mobility, power, and skill. They achieve all of the above with the natural movement. Humans are the only animals on the planet that can choose to move in ways unintended for their structure. Straight line grinding strength done to excess is really trying to put a square peg in a round hole. The fluid strength programme is the solution for both health and performance.