Man, I was watching Bruce Lee the other day. It’s been years since I’ve indulged. He was so small and powerful—it’s incredible.
He’s been an inspiration since 1994, which is when I started working out.
The thing about Bruce Lee is that he had amazing neurological strength. He knew how to contract his muscles. “From the thought to the fist, how much time is lost” he would say. He was all about speed and power.
I remember being confounded by his amount of strength versus his size until I read Pavel Tsatsouline’s Power to the People.
It’s all about the nervous system.
Let’s talk specifically about strength, flexibility, and sports skills.
Strength – the percentage of your skeletal muscles you can consciously control. Pavel says that most people are around 20% and elites approach 50%. Big difference in your strength if you can learn to consciously contract twice as many muscles.
Flexibility – muscle tension is governed by your nervous system. The stretch reflex fires because your nervous system is afraid to allow your body to go into a position where there is insufficient strength to get your body out of that position. This mechanism is set up conservatively, so by learning various stretching techniques, you can give your nervous system less conservative instructions.
Sports skills – For fine motor skills, such as throwing a ball, you don’t want to practice while fatigued. You want to be fresh and get your best reps in and stop before you’re fatigued and your skill deteriorates. Perfect practice makes perfect, as they say. This is why skill training precedes other more fatiguing training, such as strength training.
In terms of strength, which is my particular interest as a 165 pound ectomorph, there are some quick ways to elevate yours. To get more strength instantly:
- Flex your abs
- Squeeze your butt
- Employ a crushing grip
- Breathe out as though breathing through a straw
Pavel Tsatsouline recommends doing this in a handshake test with someone else. First shake their hand, squeezing as hard as you can. Then, do it again, employing these methods above. Make sure you let the other person know you’re doing this.
Back in my 20’s in my drinking an arm wrestling days, I remember losing twice to someone who said he was an amateur arm wrestler. (Who knows whether or not this was the truth.) On the third round, I remembered the techniques above and beat him handily.
There is a more practical application to this stuff as well, especially the “flexing the abs” part.
Here it is: picking up kids. When you pick up kids you constantly put your back at risk because you pick them up a lot and at weird angles and often in the middle of the night when you’re half asleep. Flex your abs and keep them flexed the entire time. This forms a protective barrier for your back.
Bruce Lee said some philosophical things about making himself stronger and did some interesting things too (think running electrical current through his body). Pavel swoops in with typical Russian practicality. Do those things above and instantly be stronger.
A few more thoughts on practicing these skills. My personal take on fitness is to develop fitness consciousness so you start doing things throughout the day to improve your health and strength and make these things default settings.
During the day, you can try these techniques in a variety of ways. When you open a door, flex your abs and butt and employ a crushing grip and seek to employ all your muscles in opening the door. It should feel light as a feather and if you’re talented, you can do this without nearby people knowing your doing it.
On conference calls, I like to do isometric push up holds. These are obviously make more effective by employing every technique here except for the breathing. I’m OK with being seen doing weird stuff, but I try to avoid having people in the office hear it—they don’t need to hear a “hissing” breath!
So there you have it, instant “wiry” strength. Practice this stuff in your lifting (using lower reps, no more than 5) and watch your strength and muscle coordination and feelings of power take off!
P.S. There is a whole method for working out to develop your nervous and develop wiry strength. It’s a bit of a philosophy really. Because the same methods to develop wiry strength can be used effectively in other areas of life. Like in the kitchen for meal prep. If you’re interested in more, check out the Lean, Healthy, Strong System.