What does ‘Real World Strength’ stands for? I often like to use this term but I feel like it needs some rephrasing so everyone can understand the thought process behind it.
Similarly, functional training has the same bad rep and often referred to training for life. Which is very loose and doesn’t really say anything about principles, methods and how that training is going to help and even why we use some tools for certain exercises. If we try to replicate what we do daily, then might as well sit down and keep using machines in the name of fitness.
Functional training however, improves how the body functions. This is very different than what we do in every day life. The latter represents more of the modern culture we live in and our inability to move the way we humans are designed to move.
We are meant to move all three planes of motion with fluidity. If we look at how we walk, run and jump or even the small daily things we do in life are far more complex and require lot more movement than what most people do in the gym.
Most fitness professionals and the average people know that core training is important. However, many think core training means ‘ab’ exercises and ‘feeling the burn’. Real core training is about integrating the trunk, pelvis and working on the kinetic chains of the body. The 35 core muscles work synergistically together to make things fluid and reactive and they also have a very important task: prevent unwanted movement.
Resisting movement is actually far more important than producing it. Most injuries occur because of the inability to do that. That’s why holding endless planks are pointless, as planking is really about learning how to brace and when to brace. Timing is really important to create that tightness. It’s called reactive strength or we can say real world strength. Have a look at the below picture and see that synergistic effect of core muscles that goes way beyond the transverse abdominis.
‘Okay, you just said you talk about real world strength… and now you bring up something else…’
‘Bear with me for a second…’
Deceleration simply means the lowering phase of certain lifts and I refer specifically the ability to ‘catch’ the weight. In other words absorb force. It’s important as many people have issues with injuries because of the inability to absorb the force that is coming down.
Deceleration plays a big part in drills like kettlebell swings. In fact, the success of a kettlebell swing is predicated upon our ability to correctly absorb force. That is especially true when we add some instability in our sprinter stance and have to react to forces laterally and in rotation that are trying to alter our ability to be strong!
This brings me back to that reactive core strength (real world strength) to keep bracing at the right time and maintain ground engagement with the feet and keep tension to make this alternating swing fluid.
3 Dimensional Strength
There is a real value of training deceleration and not just focusing on how much weight we’re able to lift. This is key for building up injury resilience, however there’s a couple of principles you might want to keep in mind before jumping straight into it any of these cool looking exercises.
-Learn the movement pattern first (sagittal plane – most stable position)
-Keep the load close to the body (use it as feedback – Front Loaded Good Mornings are great example
-Resist unwanted movement (Sprinter Stance Hip Hinges)
-Add speed to the pattern (like High Pull)
-Then introduce different planes of motion (frontal and transverse after) following the same first 4 steps as above
Continuing building strength and power in 3 planes of motion the high pull gives us both power, acceleration and deceleration. Using a slider helps to learn how to load one side of the body whilst hinging through the hips. As I outlined the principles to progress, start with the load close to the body and resisting unwanted movement before producing movement moving laterally. The best example to this a Sliding Lateral Deadlift, which is safe and easy to pattern as it’s more controlled. Following our DVRT System, then move the weight up to the crooks of the arms to do a Good Morning which is a lot more force on the trunk however the perfect drill to learn to brace.
Have a look at how to build that lateral hip hinge in the video below:
Progress Step By Step
Once foundations are established then we can start adding faster, more powerful drills like the High Pull. The load stays close to the body in the High Pull as it’s going vertically, however it still requires movement accuracy to ‘catch’ the load with the hips and keeping a good plank throughout. The power comes from the supporting leg initiating ‘Pushing The Floor Away’ as opposed to using the arms too much.
Same thing happens with the Rotational High Pull where this catch happens on both sides of the body, doing a pivot and also extending the hips with the High Pull.
Following a system of progressions and regressions take the guesswork out of the equation and our training becomes more purposeful when the whole body work together as one to prevent unwanted movement and create wanted movement with intensity.
Greg Perlaki / Master Trainer