Articles - Gentle Strength Training - an article by Tim Anderson, the author of Becaming Bulletproof.
Gentle Strength Training - an article by Tim Anderson, the author of Becaming Bulletproof.
The words gentle and strength training don’t normally go together. In fact, when you think of strength training, I’m willing to bet that you NEVER think of anything gentle. Most people probably envision barbells, dumbbells, and machines when they think about strength training. Other more progressive people may envision olympic lifting, pull-ups, kettlebells, and workouts of the day. In our “fitness” world, strength training is not seen as gentle.
In my mind, gentle strength training is the idea that simple movements, movements we were designed to do like crawling and rolling, can encourage reflexive strength and stability thus laying a solid foundation for any activities we may want to engage in. The very movements and patterns we used to developed strength from as a child are also the very movements and patterns we can use to develop strength from as an adult. In other words, spending time on the floor and acting like a child by exploring movement is gentle strength training.
Let’s look at crawling for an example. Crawling is a great way to strength train, and it is gentle.
It is no secret, one of the major keys to health and strength is a strong midsection, or a strong core. A solid center is necessary to be able to protect the spine, connect the body, and transfer force efficiently and powerfully from one end of the body to the other. Without a solid center, we expose ourselves to risk of injury, lack of energy, and inability to generate power.
Believe it or not, crawling can build a very solid midsection. When we crawl, we are reflexively stimulating our core muscles as well as the muscles of our limbs. This reflexive stimulation is caused by mechanoreceptors, or nerves, in our hands and feet. When these receptors receive pressure, our muscles contract reflexively. Spending some time on the floor crawling around can “encourage” some good reflexive strength and stability.
The body operates on the “use it or lose it” principle. Conversely, the body also operates on the “use it and gain it” principle as well. If you regularly engage in an activity, skill, or pattern, you will gain it and keep it, if not cement it, into your nervous system. Crawling regularly can really tie the muscles of our core together through this “sharpening” of our nervous system and our reflexes.
If we have reflexive strength and stability, we are more able to readily handle the changes that life throws at us. We are also better suited to handle the demands that we place on ourselves. All too often in training people try to add strength training to bodies that don’t really have a solid foundation yet. Crawling is an easy, gentle way to lay a solid foundation on which to add strength training.
Think about it. Children grow and develop by exploring the world through movement. They build amazing strength through patterns like crawling. By crawling, a child literally ties his body together and prepares himself to walk, jump, pick things up, and run. He is preparing his body to transfer force powerfully and gracefully. Your adult body works much the same way today as it did when you were a developing child. You can take advantage of the way you were created to re-establish, or reinforce, your reflexive strength and stability. You can establish a solid foundation on which you can add strength, speed, grace, and power.
This may seem a little too easy, or just plain weird. But give it a chance, start crawling a little bit every day and watch the changes that happen to your body. If nothing else, use crawling as a warm-up before you train. You can crawl on your hands and knees, hands and feet, or forearms and belly; each style is good and each offers multiple benefits far beyond reflexive strength and stability. To be honest, there are other benefits to crawling that are even more amazing than what I have discussed here, but they are best saved for another article. The bottom line is that you were made to crawl. The benefits of crawling did not stop just because you grew up.
So go ahead - no one is looking - go for a crawl. It is a gentle way to build strength.