Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Challenge Training for Different Kinds of Strength Development - By Robert L Libertine PhD

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on June 3, 2006

Big Sky Strength & Conditioning Group


Training for sport specificity can be predictable in its mode of venues. There is this machine, that bar, this program their program and choosing one that may or not work well for you is a challenge even for experienced strength enthusiasts. We can go on and on with the different philosophies of the many trainers and coaches who have achieved results with all of their programs. But, when we are not able to train at a facility that might have everything that we are looking for in our desired programs I go back to the simple things I did in my youth when there were few gyms and the local YMCA was one of the few choices we had. With few funds available we had no other choice other than to be creative! So, we sat down with my grandfather and our dads who were a weight lifter from the forties and prepared to beg borrow or steal anything that would aid us in our quest for strength! It was to be crunch time way before it was a catch phrase of today. Those were the days when we made our own equipment and some of it was rudimentary at best! One of my uncles was a welder at the ship yard in Boston and he volunteered his services to us, we now were ready to go and start our projects. So, the quest began and as I might add we did not think of the repercussions of our acquisitions when we “borrowed” manhole covers from our local streets for added weight. Recently my mother called me and asked me what she should do with the manhole covers I and my fellow lifters absconded from our local streets. First of all I couldn’t believe that she still had them and how I had forgotten about them was another issue. Those manhole covers made me think of my next point of interest which was how I got started on this form of insanity. I was fourteen when my Dad brought me to an exhibition put on by the reverend Paul Anderson. As Paul lifted and talked I walked away from that day walking on air as I had just witnessed the strongest man who would ever walk the planet. My mind was filled with new ideas and even more questions that were to be answered over many years of successes and failures, oh what a journey! So off we went to salvage yards railroad yards, construction sights and the best of them all the fouriver ship yard where my uncle was a welder and we attempted to emulate the great Paul Andersons back yard approach to strength enhancement. Those methods worked for Paul so why not us and we were so right on! So indulge with me in my new or old methodologies for the youth of today have so much to learn as they require elaborate gyms and sound systems and cool attire that only distract and do not encourage a focus of improvement, because in those days all we had was one pair of jeans and converse all star black of course sneakers to get us through the year. We didn’t have any gloves we just used old rags and wrapped them around our hands to quell the pain or stop the bleeding from a torn blister.

We used old or new steel oil barrels, from junkyards and gas stations or farms and mortuaries. We filled them with sand, or discarded bolts and screws, nails or whatever we could find. If you knew someone in the concrete business, you could have them drop off the left over concrete from a pour and put it in the smaller barrels. A 15-gallon barrel full of concrete weighed somewhere around 300 lbs. 5 gallon bucket weighed 100 lbs. We even filled up coffee cans, old paint cans, you name it and we filled it with something that made a varied weight for lifting functionality. We were beginning to see that you didn’t need the York Barbell set to do what came from simple ingenuity and the mind of my Grandfather who came from the depression and made use of others discarded treasures. This was our nirvana and we relished in its challenges.

We would spend hours pushing, pulling, lifting, rolling, spinning these barrels, which we had names for all over the place. We then came up with a new way to torture ourselves. Sand! We lived on the beach for the summer and why not? It’s hard enough to do this on solid ground, now add the challenge of soft sand! Then we rolled them into the water and that added a new resistance we had never felt before and also new scrapes and bruises. Now we really came up with some new names for our newfound torture activities and a few crushed fingers and toes and shins to boot. We did these activities in a variety of ways; we lifted, pulled, spun and often rolled with the weight. The more we worked them, the more new angles we found. We did theses exercises in conjunction with our traditional core lifts which consisted of the squat, bench press, military press and cleans. Those lifts we the backbone of our core lifting of the 60’s. Now we were getting somewhere! We saw strength gains that we had one time to only dream about and we were thrilled with the results! We all had different sports we were playing and now I see that the barrel manipulation was so well suited for so many different types of sports due to the way it affected the entire body and its core development. This now brings me to wrestling where a man is basically pushed, pulled, lifted and thrown in angles that are difficult to emulate with weight training machines. There was not a machine or an exercise designed that I knew of that could engage the muscles in a way that would challenge different kinds of strength aptitudes. This barrel training was so well suited for this and other sports.

This was truly a training of perseverance. We conquered by simply continuing! The world then did not have video games and we did not own our own cars and we were required to work for any spending money that we required so there were few if any distraction other than girls to tear us away from our goals. There are close to seven hundred different muscles in the body. To challenge them all is a feat of not only great fortitude but of an almost and impossible nature. I have only seen one man in my lifetime who could ever be called the Strongest Man ever and that was the late great Paul Anderson. His methodologies rivaled the best-laid plans of today. And these training philosophies came from Paul and his friends just as ours did and what a mentor Paul has been for all strength athletes. I was blessed to have seen Paul when my Dad brought me to one of his exhibitions in the early 60’s. I was in awe of the shear power that this man possessed not just the physical power but the mental and spiritual power that he derived from his burning love of God. A god who spoke to him before he made his world famous lifts at the Olympic Games in Australia.

Functional core strength is something that I believe is over looked today by many coaches and trainers. I find this to be especially true as I have observed that most coaches assume that the core strength is already there and this is where the true injustice to the athlete occurs, it is my belief that many of these coaches have never even tried these varieties of programs and were never a functional or current lifter to begin with! General physical preparedness is and has to be the foundation for further development that progresses into special physical preparedness and then supra strength phases. There are so many variables to consider; body morphology, bone density, muscle thickness, and so on. So where are we going with this? I would recommend that different sized barrels be used to begin these programs. I would recommend that this is begun in early year development as soon as 12 years of age. To begin with core strength enhancement ensures the young athlete of a greater chance for future strength gains without debilitating injuries that we are seeing today! These barrels can be found at most grain and feed stores, breweries, railroad yards as well as mortuaries that use epoxies for their burial vaults and discard the barrels or quick lubes often can be useful in obtaining this and several different sizes. This type of lifting will work the young and older lifting athlete in ways that can only be imagined. Each time you take on a new position the trainee engages his eccentric and concentric phase from a new and challenging dimension this then exposes their weak areas. As you get more creative with the angles, new awareness becomes evident in your attempts. You can do these standing, kneeling, one leg up switch legs, use different angles with varied angle in tipping the barrels. Sit down and push with your back, legs, feet. Use a full range, a partial range. Stand the barrel up, place it on its edge, and roll it. Flip it end over end (lighter barrel) to begin with pick it up with a bear hug and carry it a short or long distance. For added aggravation, get in the sand, push it with your shoulder driving and kicking your feet. Then put it in the water a barrel partially filled will float and this aids in lifting functionality from a partial range of motion for a new torture experience. This is only the beginning, use your imagination and run with it. This type of training along with your traditional training will augment your program in a way never before imagined. I used these types of programs with young athletes before they began their core lifting. I never assumed that they were ready to begin the traditional lifts that often were the request for the mirror image. That will only bring on weak areas that will make the trainee regress rather then progress.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. You can achieve so much through imagination and tenacity. Our true strength lies in our tenacity. Now get with it and go visit the junkyard. There is treasure in those piles of discarded iron. I want to thank all the pioneers who came before us who have inspired me to teach and encourage those who now come after us. There is so much the human mind can come up with, so those come after us get going with the creativity that will follow. “For those of us that have come before us can not settle the unrest for those who will follow”.

Adapt this to each and every sport that you desire and get lifting and pulling. Good luck! Luck is when opportunity meets preparation. For once you are full prepared you can not fail!

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