Using 100% of Your Muscle
What does it mean to maximize your muscle? Well, when you witness incredible strength from someone with the average man’s amount of muscle, how is it explained?
Let’s take, for instance, Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee is probably the most recognizable figure for a lean man whose strength far surpassed the sum of his parts. He was and is heralded for having sinewy strength, or powerful tendons and ligaments, which boosted the strength of his muscle.
Now Dennis Rogers is known as the Grandmaster Strongman in the physical culture world, and is pound for pound one of the strongest men on the planet.
After displaying his incredible strength on Stan Lee’s Superhumans, despite weighing about 150lbs and possessing overall average muscle mass, the researchers determined that he was able to activate more of his muscle strength than most of the population; they came to the same conclusion for Chad Netherland, the man with more Guinness World Records in martial arts than anyone else in the world.
Finally, Shifu Yan Lei is a 34th generation Shaolin monk who opened a training facility in the UK. Compared to many of the other rather lean monks, Shifu Yan Lei appears muscular, albeit well into his 30’s. The power of his Iron Shirt technique (which allows his body to absorb powerful blows with minimal damage) was tested by researchers, and the results were quite interesting: although he had roughly the same muscle mass as an Olympic rower, his muscle had much more elasticity than the rower’s muscles.
Knowing this, I can’t help but relate his technique to that of Maxick (145lbs), a 20th century strongman and hand balancer who would have 200+lbs men climb a 7ft ladder and jump onto his abs. Court Saldo, who trained with Maxick and wrote a muscle control course with him, said of jumping onto his abs: “I bounced as if jumping on solid rubber!”
Handstand Training to Maximize Muscle
Sinewy strength, muscle activation, and elasticity. Maximizing your muscle means accomplishing these three things in your training. Accomplishing these three things means having muscle control.
So addressing the main point, how will a handstand increase muscle control? Let’s break down the anatomy of a handstand: it involves your hands and wrists, forearms, triceps, shoulders, scapulae, chest, upper back, traps, neck, lower back, lats, core, and even your legs.
In order to maintain the handstand, all of these muscles have to be tense. Static contraction will progressively increase your muscle control, as will daily training, so to maximize your muscle strength with handstands:
- Daily Training: you will need to dedicate a bit of practice to your handstand training daily. Sinewy strength doesn’t develop as quickly as muscle strength, as the blood flow to your tendons and ligaments is smaller than the blood flow to your muscles. If you want to truly develop the strength of your sinews, you’ll need to train the handstand progressively and daily.
- Static contraction: You will need to focus in order to contract your entire body as you are training your handstands. A good way to build up to flexing your whole body is training progressions with dynamic tension. For instance, practice doing pike presses while flexing your shoulders, abs, traps, upper back, and chest. Flexing through the movement will not only increase the speed of your myelination (muscle memory), but also improve your muscle control for those groups.
- Elasticity: Maxick was a strong advocate of having elastic muscle, saying that even a flexed muscle should be somewhat rubbery. That will come with developed muscle control in your handstands. What is just as important as learning how to tense your whole body is also learning how and when to relax your muscles. The greater and deeper relaxation of your muscles will boost their true strength when the time comes to fully tense them.
Logan Christopher is a big advocate of handstand training, and as a strongman he personally knows the benefits of handstand training for overall strength, which is why he wrote a fantastic guide on learning to do handstand pushups for overall strength.
Check it out and watch as your strength reaches new heights!