- May 13, 2016
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Develop These Skills, Lift Forever
To live a long, healthy life, you need to do more than lift heavy weights. You need to develop these eight athletic skills.
Most people hope to live a long life. Instead, we should be actively pursuing one. That means focusing first on health. After all, the outcome of a healthy life is longevity.
Working out, getting stronger, and building muscle all contribute to an extended health span. But if you want to go beyond regular health, certain skills should take precedence.
If you saw a 70-year-old with all the skills we’re about to discuss, you’d be looking at one fit, capable, functionally balanced individual. Hell, it’s rare to see a 30-year-old with all these skills. Regardless of the number of candles on your birthday cake, master these skills and give your body the gift of youthfulness and vitality.
Skill 1 – Rotational PowerStrength is directly correlated with a reduction in all-cause mortality, but power output has similar effects. According to one study, men and women with low relative power have an increased age-adjusted risk of hospitalization and a greater risk of all-cause mortality.
Most average lifters aren’t training in a powerful or ballistic way or doing much rotational work. Why not? Well, most people don’t see how rotational power will help them improve their physique. Also, it takes coordination and stability to create power while rotating. That skill doesn’t come naturally, which makes it a perfect skill to develop and keep.
Your ability to coordinate your body in space is crucial for better gains. Rotational power allows us to transfer power from the lower body into the upper body while also improving trunk stability in dynamic movements like catching yourself if you lose balance, weightlifting, and sprinting.
Rotational medicine ball slams are a relatively simple exercise to apply this. Prioritize control and force production. Then slam the ball as hard as you can through the ground as you dip into a slight bend at the knees and hips at the conclusion of your rotation.
Perform 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps per side. Rest one minute after you’ve done this on both sides.
Skill 2 – SprintingSprinting is one of the most functional exercises you can do to build muscle, burn body fat, and develop resilience. But if you haven’t done it in a while, you’ll risk muscle strains 8 and pulls if you push too hard, too soon. Introduce sprinting slowly with short 5-10 second sprints using equipment like a stationary bike.
Over time, as the body gets stronger and your tolerance to all-out efforts increases, move to regular ground sprints. I only have my clients sprint uphill, ideally on soft terrain. This mitigates the injury potential and naturally slows down their speed, but it doesn’t hold them back from sprinting close to max effort.
Once you develop this skill again, don’t ignore it for months or you’ll quickly lose it. Use it economically but consistently, even if for short bouts once every week or two. Once the season or phase of programming calls for it, dial up the frequency, distance, and intensity.
Skill 3 – Dynamic BalanceBalance is vital as we age, and it’s generally helpful in life at any age. Stability is often a neglected aspect of weight training due to the connection, engagement, and control requirements needed, hence why machines are so popular.
A single-leg Romanian deadlift 159 is a go-to exercise to establish genuine control and stability of the body while moving dynamically. It forces your body to work hard to stabilize the pelvis, hips, and trunk.
A perfectly executed single-leg RDL indicates a high degree of basic strength, proprioceptive control, and stability, all of which are fundamental to long-term strength, muscle building, and health span.
Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps per leg. Lower slowly. Rest 30 seconds between legs and 60-90 seconds between sets.
Skill 4 – Carrying Heavy StuffCarries should be in everyone’s program. They are that functional, versatile, and effective. Loaded carries are perhaps the most complementary exercise to real-world strength. Learning how to stabilize the entire body harmoniously while moving with heavy and potentially awkward loads is a wise skill to develop.
You can add elements of counter loads (one side heavier than the other) or position the weight differently side-to-side. These adjustments will make you more conscientious of moving your body through space, as you can see in the video above with the combo front rack and suitcase hold carry.
Do 3-4 sets of 30 yards per side. Rest 90-120 seconds between sets. Add these to the end of your workout or on strongman endurance-conditioning sessions between foundational strength workouts.
Skill 5 – Getting Off the Ground with LoadThe Turkish get-up 168 might not put slabs of muscle on your body compared to traditional bodybuilding exercises, but it unquestionably creates a strong foundation. It also highlights any deficits and weaknesses, like shoulder, hip, trunk, ankle, and thoracic mobility and stability.
It also teaches the fundamental skill of getting up from the ground with strength, control, and stability. Does “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” ring a bell? Don’t worry, Granny, once you learn how to Turkish get-up, you’ll never have to utter those words again.
Break the movement down. Own each transitional movement by holding the new positions in place for 2-3 seconds before moving on to the next sequence. This allows you to dial in form, lock in strong technique, and create tension and stability throughout.
Do 3-5 sets of 1-3 reps per side twice per week, adding load once the movement sequence is locked in.
Skill 6 – Pulling Yourself UpChin-ups are one of the best demonstrations of true upper-body strength. We should all have the relative strength to pull ourselves over something if we ever need to. We’ll most likely never have to climb over a six-foot fence while being chased by a dog or pull ourselves up from the edge of a cliff, but damn, it’d be nice to know you can.
Chin-ups also develop a resilient, strong posterior chain that counters the sedentary, slouched-forward societal norm.
Here’s how to keep developing your chin-ups as you get stronger:
- Start by using band assistance. Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
- Include low or no-assistance negatives: Do 3 sets of 5 with a 3-5 second eccentric.
- Apply additional isometric holds. For example, hold 1-2 seconds at the top.
- Slowly take away the band assistance.
- Hang regularly. Do 3 sets of 30-second dead-hangs a few times per week.
Skill 7 – Absorbing ForceThe primary benefit of learning to absorb force is to reduce the stress and impact placed on the joints and ligaments of the musculoskeletal system. Also, the greater our ability to absorb force, the more force we can produce. Learning the skill of force absorption allows you to change direction more efficiently, improve firing rate, and reduce overall injury risk.
Depth jumps are the perfect force-absorption exercise. The key is to land with control and stability in an athletic position. Don’t land stiff-legged since this can leave you vulnerable to knee, hip, and ankle issues.
Drop into a quarter squat as your feet make contact with the ground. As you do, allow the glutes, hamstrings, and quads to absorb the force, not the joints and ligaments. Land softly and with stability.
To advance the depth jump, use a taller box or add a ballistic movement after landing, like a depth jump to vertical jump or broad jump.
Do 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps as a primer before squatting or in conjunction with the squat as part of a superset.
Skill 8 – Overhead SquatThe overhead squat 99 places a great deal of demand on the hips, thoracic spine, core, ankles, and shoulders. It requires tremendous mobility, strength, and stability, as well as insight into dynamic posture.
It’s an incredible tool for finding deficiencies and unveiling overactive and underactive muscles. Any assessment exercise that leads to most people failing is an exercise that should be worked on consistently.
As you become stronger in this position, you’ll notice a major difference in how your body moves, feels, and functions.
Here’s how to do it:
- Grab a dowel with a snatch grip.
- Place feet in a comfortable starting squat position.
- With a proud chest, neutral head, braced core, and cemented feet, perform the best squat you can while maintaining a neutral spine, strong overhead position (biceps inline or behind the ears), feet flat, and knees driven out.
- Film your overhead squat or have an experienced coach take notes for you, highlighting any weaknesses, breakdowns, or limitations.