Is sharpening your strength something you are interested in accomplishing? Sharpening strength requires you to perform functional movement which needs to go beyond the bench press and barbell from time to time.
This is exactly why I decided to pull today’s article from the archives. The original publishing date of today’s article was back on December 3, 2015. I think you’re going to enjoy this one!
So you look at your training partner come Monday and the same old question comes up…“Are we training on the bench press today with barbells, or with dumbbells?” Now there’s certainly nothing wrong with this question, but if this the only question that ever comes up on your typical Monday training session then you need to start looking to make some upgrades. If it is then today you’re going to want to read this and expand the horizons on your iron game!
Sharpening Strength: Throws
The beauty of strength is that it can be developed in a number of different ways and there are different types of strength that can be developed in a number of different ways on top of that! The thing is that I think people generally tend to lose sight of what the human body is designed to do.
Yes, it’s definitely cool to attack a bench press and throw up a truckload of weight. There is something very appealing about that very act and being able to see the weight continue to go up as the plates slap together on the way up. After all the sound of iron is the sound of physical progress.
However, your body is a machine and throwing around weight needs to be the focus…literally! You see as far back as the beginning of mankind throwing and propelling objects has been an essential part of human performance.
Whether it involved throwing a spear, throwing a rock, chopping wood with an axe, or wielding a sword the ability to throw an object in a controlled fashion has been at the center of man’s functional level of strength for thousands of years. Doing this requires practice and the development of skill. You must hone your muscles in a way to control them in a specific pattern of motion.
In the world of strength and conditioning I’m always encouraging the development of more explosive and functional movements. One great way of doing this is by utilizing medicine balls.
As you can see this particular single arm version of the drill is more advanced than the double arm throw, but it’s great for developing a level of control while honing your hand/eye coordination, reaction time, and speed as well.
Sharpening Strength: Totes
In terms of the human body the ability to do work involves being able to carry shit. Yep, it’s as simple as that. Most of us with two arms and two legs need to be able to utilize them in order to transport things from point A to point B.
I know that may be a hard concept to grasp for a lot of people in today’s society, but the body is built just for this reason. As a strength coach I am frequently getting my students to perform farmer’s walks and various other totes to teach them how to produce intrathoracic pressure while stabilizing an external load as they transport it from one location to another.
This anti-pattern stability is great for building a strong body which in turn will help you to maintain a level of control during moments that might challenge you in an unstable environment. The more you can create force and stabilization the better you will perform…and you will be much less likely to fall victim to injury.
I believe I was little caffeinated prior to this workout. Anyways, give these tote variations a try and you’ll develop some serious grip, core, and overall total body strength. If you don’t have dumbbells or kettlebells you can substitute other objects such as sandbags or even a weighted wheelbarrow.
Sharpening Strength: Runs
After being able to train your muscles to cohesively function for the act of throwing and toting you still have to learn to move in a way that demands more natural speed. This is where the act of running comes into the equation.
Now to be specific when I talk about running I’m talking about performing running type drills that emphasize a more quality development of athleticism. I’m not just talking about your average light jog around the block. This is essential because sprinting and higher intensity running related drills will help to foster the development of your athleticism.
You want to stimulate your fast twitch fibers. When you combine this along with the throws and totes I’ve specified here you’ll be well on your way to developing a more well rounded body that will be ready for most any physical demanding situation.
Of course your good ole fashioned sprints are great for emphasizing the running portion of this plan. However if you don’t necessarily have the room for sprinting you can easily substitute some intense lateral high knee runs on the agility ladder.
As you can see the focus here should be on the quality of the run. For the purpose of this drill each direction down the ladder counts as a half repetition. So when I advance to my left that’s a half repetition. Once I advance back to my right side the full repetition is completed.
If you look closely the purpose of the ladder drill is to emphasize both quality and intensity. Lumbering through for the sake of finishing is not the purpose of this drill. The purpose is to hone your skills of coordination and reaction time. You want to develop speed and speed conditioning for your performance.
Drive your hands from your hips (or pockets) to your chin while keeping your elbows locked at 90 degrees. Your elbow drive should be linear in nature. Your elbows should be driven back behind your body as if you are trying to elbow somebody that is chasing you. Additionally your knees should be driven straight up and down like a couple of pistons in a car engine. The balls of your feet strike the ground and recoil with each stride.
Sharpening Strength: The Takeaway
When the suggestion for doing the bench press comes up from your training partner on a typical Monday afternoon you can take the bull by the horns. Suggest taking the day’s training in a different direction. Add in a series of throws, totes, and runs into the equation. You don’t have to replace the bench press with these. However you can certainly use these on the tail end of your bench pressing days from time to time.
Are you including any of these in your current strength training model?
What functional movements do you include in your training on a regular basis?
Feel free to post up in the comments below.
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