And How to Get Better
by Chris Peil T-Nation
Being big and muscular is great, but we all know guys who look like world-beaters yet can’t actually do anything. Size and strength take time. If you’ve done the hard work, it’s time to unlock your performance potential in any situation.
Here are five common problems and how to solve them:
1 – You Can’t Stabilize Enough to Use Your Pressing Strength
There’s no point in having a massive bench press and back-supported shoulder press and not being able to use that strength for anything else. You need enough standing, rotational, and lateral stability to act as the foundation for your pressing ability. Without that stability, your press will never cross over into the real world.
The Fix: The landmine press
It’s not unstable in a circus-trick sense, and the way it loads you is perfect for teaching you to transfer your static pressing strength over to real life situations. You can go quite heavy, so program it as assistance on pressing days.
2 – You Can’t Stand Up Straight
You look like Superman, but your kryptonite is just having to stand up for a long time. Really, it’s not uncommon for otherwise strong and muscular guys to get crampy back pumps from standing in long lines. That’s not okay.
The reason? Often it’s a loss of hip extension. The big guy can’t actually get his pelvis all the way forwards under his ribcage, so he instead hyperextends his lower back to stay upright. It’s like a lower-back extension against gravity. Very quickly his back will get pumped up and exhausted from standing.
The Fix: A slow, controlled upright split squat
Keep your core braced and your pelvis neutral. Keep the weight on your front foot and squeeze the glute of the trailing leg.
This will act like a loaded stretch. Over time, it’ll improve your hip extension so you can stand like a human.
As with any eccentric (negative) loading, take care. You don’t want to tear anything. Do your normal warm-up first, then do these. You can do them before every workout if needed.
3 – You Can’t Move Fast
When it comes to moving, your nervous system is in charge. It needs training like everything else. If you only lift slowly and under control, you only teach your body to move slowly.
Sports and real life happen fast. You don’t get a lot of time to recruit all those muscle fibers like you do in the gym. If you miss your window for recruitment you end up kicking, punching, jumping, or throwing with a fraction of the fibers you have. Performance sucks and all that muscle goes unused.
The Fix: Jump and throw
Jumping is moving your own bodyweight fast. Throwing is moving external objects fast. You need a bit of both.
There are tons of options, but simple is often best. Jumping can be high risk if you’re heavy and not very strong relative to bodyweight (in some ranges), so ease into it. Just do a little explosive work at the end of your warm-up to fire up the nervous system before lifting.
4 – You Can’t Change Direction
There’s not a single real-world movement where you express force statically. You’ll never really use your strength with both arms or both legs symmetrically. And you’ll probably never be perfectly balanced either. It just doesn’t happen. Luckily, you don’t need time-wasting, circus-trick exercises to fix this.
The Fix: Lateral and rotational lunges
Just use your bodyweight on these and do them as part of your leg-day warm-up or as assistance work. They will bridge the gap from gym lifts to the outside world so you can use your mass to kick ass.
5 – You’re a Turtle on Your Back
There’s nothing funnier than watching a big man make getting off the bench look harder than pressing the 400 pounds he just repped. It’s not unusual though.
Improving your ability to get up is going to be a hell of a lot more useful than adding a another 10 percent to your already-massive bench press. The best part? The tiny bit of work you need to improve won’t hinder, and might even help, your bench press.
The Fix: Full-body flexion work, like Turkish half get-ups and toes-to-bar
You’re probably big on loading full-body extension: deadlifts, squats, cleans, good mornings, etc. That’s fantastic, but just a little full-body flexion work will balance things out.
Both half get-ups and toes-to-bar involve big hip flexion. Half get-ups involve hip flexion with upper-body rotation and shoulder elevation. Toes-to-bar involve hip flexion with shoulder flexion.
Train both. Do half get-ups last on pressing days; do toes-to-bar last on pulling days.