When you think of strength, what comes to mind? Most of us picture a big, burly man with huge biceps picking up heavy objects. While that’s certainly one kind of strength, how applicable is it to the real world? Real, functional strength is more than being able to lift a heavy object—it’s being able to manipulate that object for an extended period of time without injury or loss of stamina. I would argue the man or woman who could lift a heavy object, walk with it, and place it somewhere else is stronger than someone who could lift a slightly heavier object once, but couldn’t move it about.
Functional strength differs from superficial strength in that functional strength requires every strap of muscle on the body to be strong and have exceptional endurance, whereas superficial strength only requires some muscles to display strength. We’re going to discuss functional strength and a simple, albeit difficult, way of obtaining it. Before moving forward, make sure to ask your doctor if your physical constitution allows for exercise—and that you don’t have any disabilities or diseases that would prevent you from engaging in physical activity.
Now, let’s move onto the three steps for developing superior functional strength.
Step 1: preventing injury
This first step is most important because you can’t expect to commence any exercise regimen without first preparing your body for the task. This involves learning how to warm up, stretch, and cool down properly. A warm up should typically be 5-10 minutes of cardiovascular exercise like jogging or biking, and transition into dynamic stretches of 10-20 repetitions each. To cool down one need only go through a static stretching circuit, rub topical CBD oil on their joints (or use an ice pack), and then massage their muscles.
Do the above every time you exercise, even if you are short on time. It is better to stretch much and exercise little than to exercise without stretching at all. I also suggest doing static stretches every morning and night to make sure your muscles do not get tight. If your joints are ever sore or swollen then you want to reduce inflammation, which is one of the benefits of CBD oil (and plain ice, but ice only reduces local swelling and topical oil reduces swelling in the entire body).
Step 2: developing core strength
Next, you need to build a strong foundation—starting at the core. Your core is going to largely determine how much weight you can carry and manipulate with your body. Someone with strong legs and a weak core could not squat any heavy amount of weight or lift any weight overhead, but someone with a strong core need not ever worry about those problems. The most superior core exercise is the Turkish get-up (click for pictures).
The Turkish get-up is normally done with a kettlebell, but any object that can be held in the hand could be used. You commence the exercise by laying on your back and pressing the kettlebell or weight away from your chest at arm’s length. Then, you place your other arm at a 45-degree angle from your head and roll towards that arm. From this position, you push yourself up into a sideways crunch with your free arm, throw the leg on the same side as your free arm behind you so you’re in a lunge position, and then stand up, continuing to hold the weight overhead.
By performing the Turkish get-up every day for 15 repetitions on each arm, you can expect to have a very solid core in just a couple months. After doing this exercise for several years you’d have an abdomen of steel. I practice this movement every morning upon waking, and I suggest you choose to do so either in the morning or night, so you don’t forget. In addition to building the abdomen, the Turkish get-up also teaches good muscular coordination and poise.
Step 3: developing functional strength
Now that you’re protected from injuries and have developed a strong core and balance, it’s time to actually build the strength we’ve been talking about. There are three movements I recommend for doing this: the yoke, farmer’s walks, and log press/clean and press. These movements are often carried out by strongmen, and for good reason! The yoke involves getting under an apparatus, hoisting it upon your shoulders, and walking as fast as you can with it for some 20-40 feet. This can also be done with a squat bar or by carrying a friend atop your shoulders.
Farmer’s carries are where you pick up heavy objects with each hand and then walk as quickly as possible for 20-40 feet. It is similar to the yoke, but the weight is carried by the hands and not the shoulders. Once this is done, you grab either a log or a barbell, clean it (bring it up) to your shoulders, and then press the weight overhead. It is okay to push with your legs in order to get the weight up, and you’re encouraged to do so. An example program would look something like this:
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday:
- Yoke: 10 bouts of 20 feet each.
- Farmer’s walk: 10 bouts of 20 feet each.
- Log press: 5 sets of 3 repetitions
There you have it! Follow these steps and you’re sure to be incredibly strong in just a matter of months.