Posted: October 2, 2021 at 3:26 pm

As a teenager I drove a Jeep Wrangler.  Although the car unfortunately turned out to be a bit of a lemon, it was fun to drive while I had it (and when it wasn’t at the mechanic).  Jeeps are iconic for their off-roading ability – the strong 4WD systems paired with a short wheelbase gives them with a winning combination of traction and maneuverability.  Although I didn’t really partake in off-roading, I did know that it if you were serious about it then it was important to have a tow winch to help pull you out if you got stuck.  The bigger your vehicle the more powerful your winch needed to be in order to pull you out if you got stuck (or if you were trying to pull out your buddy’s vehicle).  In strength training you can think of your muscles a lot like a tow winch – read on to see why.

If you were to use the winch you would attach it to a fixed object (like a big tree) and then start pulling the slack out of the cable – it is a crucial concept to understand that no productive movement will happen while there is still slack in the cable.  The actual towing will only start once the cable is fully taught, and at that point the motor on the winch must be strong enough to actually pull the vehicle.  Quick recap before moving on: 1) you must pull the slack out of the cable, and 2) the winch must be able to produce enough force to actually move the vehicle.

Your muscles work in a similar way.  When you go to lift something there initially will be some “slack” in your muscles.  Step one of effective lifting is “pulling the slack out” of your muscles, just like you need to pull the slack out of the tow cable.  After all the slack is out, THEN lifting (or towing) can happen in a safe, controlled, predictable, and efficient manner.  Once the slack is out, then the amount you can lift will be largely dependent on how much force your muscles can generate.  

Both pulling the slack out of your muscles and getting them to generate high levels of force are trainable skills – some people are naturally better than others, but everybody can get better with practice.  Keep in mind these are skills, and getting initial exposure to them is one thing, but in order to get truly good at them they require consistent practice. It absolutely SHOULD BE your goal to train your muscles to be able to generate higher and higher levels of force – in fact it is one of the primary objectives of strength training. Just like your tow winch will be ineffective if it isn’t strong enough to actually move your vehicle, you need to train your muscles to generate enough force to actually lift some heavier weights. Lastly, just like you are never too old to learn a new skill such as playing the piano, you are never too old to learn these strength training skills either. Do not leg age be an excuse.

One of the reasons that many people get frustrated at their lack of progress in their fitness program is because they have never been taught these skills; and without these skills the limit on how much progress you will be able to make is pretty low.  If you think of most types of workout programs (even those that do include weights) the participants are typically thrown right in, and there is never much in the way of an in-depth instruction phase to it … they certainly never get taught these two important skills.  I can think of tons of examples:  bootcamp classes, BodyPump classes, or even the Peloton commercial that just aired (I’m writing this while watching college football), and so on.  All of these throw the participant right into “high intensity” workouts and do not include any instruction on these essential skills.

Short tangent: one big myth in the fitness industry is that light weights for high reps are just as good as heavier weights that are more challenging to lift. To be blunt, that is garbage … it is entirely not true. Unfortunately a lot of programs with large marketing budgets hammer this message to consumers, so a lot of people end up believing it. It is my opinion that a primary reason for this is because these companies don’t think people are patient enough to actually learn how to do things well, so they just create programs where it doesn’t really matter if you do it correctly or not because you’re never lifting anything difficult anyway. Said another way, workout programs that emphasize light weights for high reps are ABSOLUTELY NOT better, or even equally good (far from it) … they are simply emphasized because you can lift light weights WITHOUT THOSE SKILLS. On the contrary, if you want to build real strength then you absolutely HAVE TO develop the skills of pulling slack out of your muscles and creating high amounts or force.

When you train with us at Industrial Strength the very first thing we teach you is how to pull the slack out of your muscles, in particular in your stomach / core area (this is true both for in-person training and for our online programs).  Once you understand how to do this and you spend some time developing those muscles, it will make every single thing you do stronger.  We also make sure that our programs develop your body’s ability to tense your muscles harder, e.g. training them to produce more force (again, this is true for both in-person and online options).  The result?  You will have the SKILLS you need to take on a legitimate strength training program, and you will be able to build more muscle and get stronger than you ever thought possible.

If you can’t train with us in-person, you can still learn these skills (and many more) with our online options.  The best place to start is with our Kettlebell Virtual On-Ramp program, which is an 8-week course that will go in depth on strength training, kettlebell skills / technique, and give you 6 in-depth instructional classes and 18 full workouts.  If you do not own kettlebells yet, HERE are my recommendations on which ones to buy specifically for that course.

-Tony Gracia


Tony GraciaView Posts