Saturday, April 10, 2010

Long, hard and 5 cm thick

The newest addition to my collection of bodyweight training toys is a dancing pole. It is an order of magnitude more versatile than a pull-up bar - that's why there's no such thing as pull-up bar dancing.

It is also much heavier. If you don't exert any force against the pole, you will be sliding downwards. By contrast, to stay on a pull-up bar you only need to keep your hands curved.

Thus far, I've been mainly climbing the pole upwards - and it took months before my hands learned to use the force they already have for this purpose. As expected with new moves, I've found some 'pole dancing muscles' from my body, which don't get much exposure during regular gym training and get sore when gripping the pole puts disproportionate stress on them.

My weightlifting book is written by a coach, whose profession is to train university athletes in the weight room. The book aims at thoroughly strong, functional physique. During training, 'realistic' moves like shoulder press or pull-up are preferred, so that the strength is functional. The point is not to get as strong as possible, but to get moderately strong and train away all weak points. This brings resistance to injury when your body is strained from an unusual angle. The main ingredients of it's recipe are:
- Favor free weights and positions, where you don't get too much artificial support. This way, you can exert comparable force in real situations. For example bench press is just barely kosher - it is good for training strength but has too much artificial support to be a valid measure of strength. Practical situation where your back is against a wall and you press with hands are extremely rare. Shoulder press or squat are paragons of functional strength.
- Upper body exercises are not divided by muscle groups, but into 4 categories - vertical/horizontal push/pull. The individual muscles will get trained on the way. If weightlifting is not you main sport, exact muscles don't matter. What does matter is that the muscles are used to working together.
- Exercises are variated, for example between narrow and wide grip, between pronated and supinated grip, and between dumbbells and barbells. This way, choosing a wrong basic exercise does not leave any point of your body untrained.

If I manage to avoid all injuries with the pole, I can thank this piece of advice afterwards. Now they are just hypotheses which sound reasonable. In one year, I'll have experimental data about the validity of the hypothesis in one case.

1 comment:

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