Lately I’ve been doing a lot of overhead supported lifts. Things like the Turkish get up, the windmill, and standing overhead holds.
Today walking out of the store carrying a bag of heavy groceries in each hand, I felt particularly strong and stable. The reason for this, is that all the muscles along my spinal are strong. Really strong. That’s what those awesome overhead holds do.
My core is really strong, too, and I haven’t been doing hardly any ab work except for breathing leg raises (leg raises with intense focus on the breath).
It all started after I hurt my left elbow. Stupidly, I think this injury is from the way I was getting up at work after plugging in my laptop cord. Well, that and I was doing high rep push ups at the time so I was asking for trouble. But the silver lining is that I’ve been focusing on one of my weaknesses.
This is a different feeling than just doing military presses or other overhead work. Any time you hold a position for an extended period you become intimately aware of the muscles that are required to hold that position.
This has been a missing component from my training and it feels really great. It might not be as gratifying as a military press, but there is a challenge of holding your core and spinal column tight while supporting a weight overhead.
You keep your should tucked down. Your tail bone tucked under. You draw you abs up toward your solar plexus (“shortening” your stomach) and you “zip” up all the muscles into their joints. As you hold the weight for a longer time (I’ve been holding the weight overhead for up to a minute) you become aware of each muscle along your spine, and really dial into the movement.
Then, you do something like pick up a kid, some grocery bags, or open a door or start a lawnmower and you feel it—that interconnectedness.
The back is important. Man, you mess that up and life is miserable. Exercises like the Turkish get up and overhead holds (and of course swings or deadlifts) are super important for a feeling of total body strength.
These type of holds, as mentioned, give you incredible awareness along the spine. So, when you’re doing something like picking up a heavy object or shoveling, you know how to contract all of your muscles in all the right places to be strong and stable and properly transfer the force from your lower body to your upper.
The purpose of lifting weights is to be strong, and when you develop strength along the spine, you’ll have strength in spades—a type of hidden strength that makes you look super-strong when people see you throw kids in the air, jump up on trees, and easily move heavy objects.