The gym is full of all sorts of people, doing all sorts of things. We’ve seen every variation of the deadlift, the squat, and we’ve seen some weird sh!t like bunnyhopping and some kind of a cartwheel that took up a lot of room and annoyed a lot of people.
You won’t be alone if you have looked at a guy benching 350 lbs who has legs like a malnourished chicken and you’ve let a chuckle or two escape.
Nor will it surprise you if we too have enjoyed the sight of someone doing dumbbell curls in the mirror with weights that are clearly too heavy, so they swing them behind them to get a good old momentum going.
The first of the problems above is an issue of balance, or harmony, if you like. Why do so many guys put stock in the look of their upper body without considering how silly it looks without the legs to match?
The problem goes way deeper than aesthetics though. Overall inconsistency like upper body versus lower body imbalances, or chest versus back muscle differences is an injury waiting to happen. And not a small one either. It can create chronic problems that you can carry with you for years if you don’t continue down the same path.
The second problem above – the man swinging his dumbbells in order to complete his curls – is a case of him trying to run before he can walk, and as a result, never learning to do either very well.
Without a solid trunk, a tree can never grow strong branches…and another fifty metaphors I’m sure there are for this.
People all too often think the more visible muscles are the key to real strength. Big arms can be a sign of big strength, but strength is not grown from your arms inwards, it is grown from the inside out.
5 Pillars of Total Body Strength
The 5 Pillars of Total Body Strength is more about getting the basics of strength and muscle mass building before complicating things with what could be currently superfluous goals.
Believe it or not, some men and women go their whole adult lives as regular members of a gym, practicing their strength routines without ever realizing a third of their potential for strength, power and muscularity.
Dedication is not their problem, effort is not where they are lacking, physical constraints are not their issue.
It is a simple case of executing the basics.
A person like yourself could have been going to the gym for 10 years and still not have done this. However, there is good news; no-one is ever past the point of fixing the problem.
There are 5 lifts, movements, exercises…whatever you want to call them, that can together condition – or re-condition – your body to be as strong as oak.
These are the 5 pillars of total body strength:
- Military Press (shoulder press)
- Bench Press
- Core Isometric
#1 – The Deadlift
Why is it a pillar of total strength?
You will see that all of the 5 pillars have practical applications in everyday life. The deadlift, probably the movement by which you will lift the single biggest weight of your life – if not now then in your future – is the perfect place to start.
Unlike most other free-weight resistance exercises the deadlift is generally completed without a rack position for the weight to be taken from and returned to. It’s literally dead weight, hence the name.
However, people who are looking to start doing deadlifts without any prior experience, or people with flexibility / range of motion / injury issues might use a squat rack but with the pins down near the floor, just so they have a little elevation at the beginning.
Deadlifts, when done properly, use so many muscles that if there was only a single pillar of total strength to choose from, it would be the one.
Your core, all leg muscles, glutes, lower back, upper back, traps, shoulders, arms….they are all engaged. Many of them are on an isometric (i.e. non-dynamic / not contracting and extending / bending at joints) but as you will come to realize, strength built from isometric resistance is the biggest benefit of these pillars.
Depending on how many days you get to the gym in a week, the deadlift can take up basically a whole session, or can be split with the military shoulder press. Given that we are advocates of no more than 45 minutes on the weights, these should fill the time and then you can do your 20 – 30 minutes cardio.
Perhaps the most important point on timing is the actual set structure you follow. For brute strength, it is much better to follow a low rep, many set structure working towards a maximum or near-max single lift as the long term goal.
Warm up with some body squats and then deadlift light weights for 3 sets of 10, gradually increasing to something of 50 – 60% of your maximum weight.
Then the real sets begin. If you haven’t done this ever then it will take a bit of tinkering to find your weight.
What you want is to do sets of 3 reps, where you still have good form and technique during the 3rd lift, but you could not really do a 4th without losing some form.
Do 5 of those sets with 2 to 3 minutes rest in between.
(Video Credit: Bodybuilding.com)
Deadpool would be proud, you have done several weeks and placed whole additional plates on the deadlift bar (depending on your level when you started of course).
It might be time to alter the set structure a bit to work at your maximum weight, so when someone asks – a friend, a coach, a girl (wink) – you actually know the answer.
NOTE: Just kidding about the girl. Don’t tell girls how much you can lift at the gym. And if they do ask, and care about the response, DO NOT marry them.
Max lift days should only be done once in a while, because in a way they are a distraction from the progress of multi-rep sets.
The idea is not to burn through too much energy before your single-rep maximum lift. Again, this will take a bit of trial and error over lots of time, but you will ultimately be able to get it so that you are warm and limber enough to not do yourself an injury, but you are brimming with explosive power.
IMPORTANT: NEVER try a maximum lift if you are feeling stiff, tired, sore, or you have even the mildest of twinges anywhere on your body. You absolutely need to be loosey goosey and in peak form.
Good Luck and Safe Lifting