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Ryan Jawad

Frequency Of Exercise In Legs Vs Arms

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FREDERIC DUPONT
(...) kicks have almost no strength (...) 

 

ROFL... You obvioisly have never been kicked by a strong person... :D

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AlexX
ROFL... You obvioisly have never been kicked by a strong person... :D

Been kicked by strong/big people plenty. But the most devastating kick I have ever received was from a 130 lbs. little Thai guy (professional Muay Thai boxer). I thought I got hit by a truck despite the fact that I was wearing padding. 

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Philip Chubb
Been kicked by strong/big people plenty. But the most devastating kick I have ever received was from a 130 lbs. little Thai guy (professional Muay Thai boxer). I thought I got hit by a truck despite the fact that I was wearing padding. 

^ This. The worst kicks I have been on the receiving end of were from people who just practiced kicking day in and day out. It's funny that we actually did a contest in class once. There were a lot of people and we wanted to see who kicked the hardest. Everyone agreed that out of all the people there, it was the tiny 135 pound guy who had been practicing since he was a kid.

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Quick Start Test Smith

Same experience here as far as little, fast, and powerful fighters go.

 

It just sounds like specific strength, though A 130 lb thai fellow who practices kicking every day will be stronger in the kicking movement than someone who is not practicing as much and that added to the development of perfect form should give him the ability to use his strength efficiently.

 

Also keep in mind that smaller people tend to move faster than bigger ones, and there is a type of whip affect that occurs when a small person who is well taught and practiced whips out a near-perfect kick with the proper snap at the end. It creates A LOT more force than a simple pushing kick does. Speed does increase the power of the kick if the technique allows it.

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James Portillo

I guess that makes me feel a lot better as a small person--I am 5'3", 140lbs and I'm almost always the smallest guy in the room.

 

That being said, I LOVE squats and deadlifts... deadlifts moreso but I recently stopped doing them in favor of shrimps/SLS/Leg Curls so I don't gain too much mass.

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Craig Mallett

Sorry my point was a little misunderstood, I'll try to elaborate.

 

For one kicks are just a small part of the leg training in Chinese martial arts.  you must be able to move fluidly and low, and often with a vertical back.

 

Let me relate it to the same principles as GST:  You want to increase resistance, you increase leverage.  Furthermore, we want to train maximal strength in every range of motion, not just in a limited range (and it changes DRASTICALLY).  Its the reason why guys can have ridiculous shoulder strength due to weights, but still not even be able to do a simple german hang. 

 

In terms of leverage and building strength without weight, you can simply bring your back closer to the vertical, which brings the whole weight of the upper body out over a leverage point of the legs.  Of course there is a point where you are off your centre of balance and will never be able to hold it, but approaching that point makes the exercise exponentially harder on the quads.  If you want to try this yourself, grab a friend or a mirror and try and do a squat keeping the back as vertical as possible.  You'll notice the closer to vertical you are, the more demand on the leg there is.  We can then transfer ths same principle to other positions such as legs out to the side (such as in a horse stance), legs out to the front or back (a bow stance is a decent example), and then to even more difficult positions such as coach's hawaiian squat (try doing a hawaiian squat with a straight back and bringing the thigh of the bending leg down to horizontal, its not easy - photo here: http://www.whitedragonmartialarts.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/shaolin-monks-impressive-physique.jpeg).

 

So if we take more of coach's ideas for upper body and apply it to lower body, you've also got static strength.  So now we are taking these difficult positions that are disadvantaged by leverage, require enormous leg and hip strength as well as having a mobility requirement simultaneously, and you are holding it for time.  Much like our hollow holds or front levers or planches, we now have a set of high range of motion positions, that demand strength and mobility and now muscular endurance.  It builds incredibly strong legs without even having to touch a weight. Try holding a horse stance with thighs parallel to the ground and the back straight for 1 minute and you'll notice that there is definitely a large strength element.  Now try doing it with a cat stance, (you can see this being done pretty close to correct here: http://www.korbak.com/styles/petitchat.jpg).  Its really not easy and takes incredible amounts of strength.  True it cant be done without proper mobility, but neither can a planche.

 

The nice thing is, just like the GST, it crosses over into conventional weighting exercises perfectly.  Just as the guy who can do a planche wont ever beat a specialist in bench press, he will still be extremely strong at that exercise, and capable of doing a whole bunch of other things that the bench press guy can do, I have also found that the people who train legs in this way are more than capable of doing decent levels of weighted stuff without ever having touched a weight, and are also capable of a whole range of other things. (The first time I tried a weighted squat I did a stack of reps at 100kg with no warm up, relative easy and bum to ground - not fantastic but im not an overly strong guy either and Im not that great at the Chinese leg stuff, still plenty to improve - also I'm 80kg).


Whats the purpose of training like this?  Besides making any other leg exercise a breeze (seriously if you can hold a horse stance with thighs parallel to the ground for 30 mins, then any other leg endurance is pretty much childs play), its also incredibly rewarding to have a high amount of strong mobility through the legs and very practical for other sports.  Also the whole argument of "but thats only for dancers or MA people" could be applied in reverse...who ever needs to be so stupidly strong that they can do a reverse muscle up and a bunch of gymnastics stunts? Not too many people actually *need* to be this strong.  But it's fun to learn and the results are rewarding, and it makes other aspects of life easier.

 

For me, I'm looking to develop myself as a well rounded athlete, and weighted squats just don't cut it.  They are the bench press of the leg strength world from my perspective, sure you're going to develop some nice strength practicing it, but it lacks proper range of motion and neuromuscular coordination, and most people arent mobile enough in the spine, hips or ankles to do proper unweighted squats, let alone weighted ones.  Of course, YMMV, but this has been my experience.

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FREDERIC DUPONT
Been kicked by strong/big people plenty. But the most devastating kick I have ever received was from a 130 lbs. little Thai guy (professional Muay Thai boxer). I thought I got hit by a truck despite the fact that I was wearing padding. 

Try to imagine the same kick from a 260 guy...

Get it?

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Cody Hahn

Craig I like this line of thinking and I have wondered about this as well for some time. I have thought that if we train the upper body in a way that maximizes its all-around development, why not do the same for the lower body? It seems a tremendous amount of people like to train gymnastics upper body strength and then lift weights for lower body. While this is no doubt effective for many sports, and especially vertical jump and sprinting, it seems to leave a lot of abilities untouched.

 

I now view the various forms of split positions and holds for the legs not so much as pure flexibiltiy as many do, but as straight leg (rather than straight arm) strength and conditioning. When doing front or side splits this becomes lower body static positions that no doubt build phenomenal connective tissues.

 

A cool thing would be an oversplit side split between two chairs with a heavy weight held by the athlete in this position. That would be like an iron cross for the lower body. Haha.

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Cody Hahn

Oh yeah, Craig, what would you advise a person to do if they wanted some of the endurance benefits of the horse stance held for 30 mins. without actually training or holding this for 30 mins. I just don't see myself with a school schedule putting in a 30 min horse stance very often. Could a person just build up more volume in progressively harder lower body leverage variations and have these abilities carry over to an easier, but more lengthy position?

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Quick Start Test Smith
Try to imagine the same kick from a 260 guy...

Get it?

Not sure what your level of exploration/experience in the martial arts is, Fred, but there are very different types of strikes. Unless a fighter "snaps" his strike, it becomes a push (albeit possibly a hard one). If the 260 pound fellow is able to speed up enough to snap his kick then I can only imagine the power that it would have; however, I've never seen guy as big as that come close to snapping his strikes effectively.

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Quick Start Test Smith
A cool thing would be an oversplit side split between two chairs with a heavy weight held by the athlete in this position. That would be like an iron cross for the lower body. Haha.

Cody H: :D

 

tom_kurz_split_on_chairs.jpg

 

 

Craig - I agree completely about the limited movements of the simple squat/deadlifts, but I think because they are simple it makes them uniquely useful in safely overloading the CNS and increasing basic strength.

 

I am very interested in any unorthodox lower body movements you have discovered !

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Cody Hahn

Patrick that's awesome.

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FREDERIC DUPONT
Not sure what your level of exploration/experience in the martial arts is, Fred, but there are very different types of strikes. Unless a fighter "snaps" his strike, it becomes a push (albeit possibly a hard one). If the 260 pound fellow is able to speed up enough to snap his kick then I can only imagine the power that it would have; however, I've never seen guy as big as that come close to snapping his strikes effectively.

Hummm....... I'll take a leg kick from a 130 pounds kicker any day compared to one from a 260 HW.

The same goes for most other kicks, save maybe some head kicks right on the button that don't need power to be effective anyway!

 

Of course we must compare apples to apples - the only variable is the weight (as a proxy for strength) of the kicker; every other condition remains constant. (we'll take linear speed constant to avoid controversy about angular speed for longer limbs in the heavier guy).

 

We are comparing free shots (on pads) where the kicker does not need speed and footwork to position himself relative to target to strike.

Snapping, no snapping on a pad doesn't matter much; what matters is weight transfer, the ability to kick through the pad, deliver energy inside the target, and kime.

The 130 kicker can deliver a deep bruising kick, especially if he can put weight into the strike whereas the 270 can feel like your muscles are being torn off your femoral bone.

 

Let's leave it at that, I feel this discussion could soon become an internet p!ss!ng contest  :unsure:

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Quick Start Test Smith

Haha, I think GB would do better than that, Fred. But I like your avatar image :) Those are superb old books!

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Keilani Gutierrez
Oh yeah, Craig, what would you advise a person to do if they wanted some of the endurance benefits of the horse stance held for 30 mins. without actually training or holding this for 30 mins. I just don't see myself with a school schedule putting in a 30 min horse stance very often. Could a person just build up more volume in progressively harder lower body leverage variations and have these abilities carry over to an easier, but more lengthy position?

I did a 225 Deadlift on my first try, can rep out 3-6 SLS on each leg and never have I particularly trained for this exercise. I have however experimented with using Horse Stances with a particular footing and knee turning outwards motion that has substantially worked my moblity along with strength in my legs and the last time I checked my horse stance it was in the 3-5 minute range-which is not amazing by any standards. granted, i'd advise you know how to properly position your feet and how you torque your knee, while you "grab" the ground with your feet..splitting the ground with both your feet is a fun one too.

 

but you did remind me of another kung fu element to introduce to my FSP Warmup- Horse Stances, perhaps Bow stance and maybe Scissor walks. I can get creative with this and report back on my workout log on progress

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Craig Mallett

I personally practice Spring Legs, which is a series of simple drills that move through the low stances generally whilst holding the arms out at the end of a strike and involving a twist of the waist.  The only time the thighs come above parallel to the ground is when we stand up to do the kick, which means one leg is extended to at least waist height and held out.  There are 5 movements or per side, moving through each side (so 10 movements). I will practice for 30 minutes solid, holding each posture for 30 seconds to 1 minute, so generally dont get a whole bunch of reps in in 30 mins, but it is hard work.

 

edit: here is an example of spring legs, although the patterns we use are different and they are showing here fast practice (practice different ways to develop different things):

 

I have also in the past practised holding stances for time, a very simple practice is to hold the 5 basic postures at a thighs parallel to the ground position for 1 minute each without a break in between (maybe 2 or 3 seconnds to change the position).  If you know your martial arts terms, our basic stances are

 

Ma Bu (Horse Stance),

http://www.korbak.com/styles/cavalier.jpg

 

Pu Bu (side or flat stance),

http://www.korbak.com/styles/poubou.jpg

 

Gong Bu (Bow stance),

http://www.korbak.com/styles/arcetfleche.jpg

 

Xie Bu (Resting Stance?) and

http://www.korbak.com/styles/xiebu.jpg

 

Xu Bu (Usually called empty stance, cat stance or female stance).  

http://www.korbak.com/styles/petitchat.jpg

 

To be honest, to develop the legs like this takes just as much effort as developing the upper body, You'll need a good 30 mins - an hour with your practice to focus legs. We would hold Gong Bu with the front toe raised until we fell over, practice 60 slow deliberate punches in Ma Bu, so developing understanding of weight transfer as well as holding for time, practice the xie bu with the spine straight and the arms extended, with the bum raised up off the back ankle, and the knee not gripping on the back of the calf (1 - 2 mins each side, 20 minutes non stop with no break except the transfer between sides), among other things, and this was usually before form work (which was equally demanding on the legs).  It's pretty brutal training but it delivers results.  

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Quick Start Test Smith

Fantastic. Thanks Craig!

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Craig Mallett

Here is a clip of a nice little sequence of leg work:

 

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AlexX
 
Sorry my point was a little misunderstood, I'll try to elaborate.

 

For one kicks are just a small part of the leg training in Chinese martial arts.  you must be able to move fluidly and low, and often with a vertical back.

 

Let me relate it to the same principles as GST:  You want to increase resistance, you increase leverage.  Furthermore, we want to train maximal strength in every range of motion, not just in a limited range (and it changes DRASTICALLY).  Its the reason why guys can have ridiculous shoulder strength due to weights, but still not even be able to do a simple german hang. 

 

In terms of leverage and building strength without weight, you can simply bring your back closer to the vertical, which brings the whole weight of the upper body out over a leverage point of the legs.  Of course there is a point where you are off your centre of balance and will never be able to hold it, but approaching that point makes the exercise exponentially harder on the quads.  If you want to try this yourself, grab a friend or a mirror and try and do a squat keeping the back as vertical as possible.  You'll notice the closer to vertical you are, the more demand on the leg there is.  We can then transfer ths same principle to other positions such as legs out to the side (such as in a horse stance), legs out to the front or back (a bow stance is a decent example), and then to even more difficult positions such as coach's hawaiian squat (try doing a hawaiian squat with a straight back and bringing the thigh of the bending leg down to horizontal, its not easy - photo here: http://www.whitedragonmartialarts.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/shaolin-monks-impressive-physique.jpeg).

 

So if we take more of coach's ideas for upper body and apply it to lower body, you've also got static strength.  So now we are taking these difficult positions that are disadvantaged by leverage, require enormous leg and hip strength as well as having a mobility requirement simultaneously, and you are holding it for time.  Much like our hollow holds or front levers or planches, we now have a set of high range of motion positions, that demand strength and mobility and now muscular endurance.  It builds incredibly strong legs without even having to touch a weight. Try holding a horse stance with thighs parallel to the ground and the back straight for 1 minute and you'll notice that there is definitely a large strength element.  Now try doing it with a cat stance, (you can see this being done pretty close to correct here: http://www.korbak.com/styles/petitchat.jpg).  Its really not easy and takes incredible amounts of strength.  True it cant be done without proper mobility, but neither can a planche.

 

The nice thing is, just like the GST, it crosses over into conventional weighting exercises perfectly.  Just as the guy who can do a planche wont ever beat a specialist in bench press, he will still be extremely strong at that exercise, and capable of doing a whole bunch of other things that the bench press guy can do, I have also found that the people who train legs in this way are more than capable of doing decent levels of weighted stuff without ever having touched a weight, and are also capable of a whole range of other things. (The first time I tried a weighted squat I did a stack of reps at 100kg with no warm up, relative easy and bum to ground - not fantastic but im not an overly strong guy either and Im not that great at the Chinese leg stuff, still plenty to improve - also I'm 80kg).

Whats the purpose of training like this?  Besides making any other leg exercise a breeze (seriously if you can hold a horse stance with thighs parallel to the ground for 30 mins, then any other leg endurance is pretty much childs play), its also incredibly rewarding to have a high amount of strong mobility through the legs and very practical for other sports.  Also the whole argument of "but thats only for dancers or MA people" could be applied in reverse...who ever needs to be so stupidly strong that they can do a reverse muscle up and a bunch of gymnastics stunts? Not too many people actually *need* to be this strong.  But it's fun to learn and the results are rewarding, and it makes other aspects of life easier.

 

For me, I'm looking to develop myself as a well rounded athlete, and weighted squats just don't cut it.  They are the bench press of the leg strength world from my perspective, sure you're going to develop some nice strength practicing it, but it lacks proper range of motion and neuromuscular coordination, and most people arent mobile enough in the spine, hips or ankles to do proper unweighted squats, let alone weighted ones.  Of course, YMMV, but this has been my experience.

You have some interesting ideas and I would love to see them implemented and tested on lower body dominant sport athletes. However until something like that happens I can only go by my previous experiences of working with strength coaches that focus on lower body athletes and produce results and what they told me works. All those sports require their athletes to run fast, jump high and be able to change directions quickly. Doing all of that while minimizing injuries is the goal of strength coaches.

All of the people I've talked with/trained under, utilized the basic methods of plyometric work with resistance training. Which has always been in the form of squatting/deadlift/heavy carries and all their variations. The variation differences between coaches is pretty tremendous but the basic formula of plyometrics/speed work with resistance is the same pretty much across the board. Multiple NSCA studies also support this.

You mention a 100 kg squat at a bodyweight of 80 kg. At those facilities this wouldn't have even passed as basic strength for an athlete. Just like a weight lifter thinking doing a muscle up makes him strong in bodyweight exercises a carry over from bodyweight exercises to a 100 kg is not particularly impressive to a lifter. Impressive was a 405 lbs front squat for sets of 10, this was used on a light/secondary leg day.

Finally I would like to add that while strength at multiple angles in the shoulder does have great carry over in almost any sport, having hip strength of a ballerina/acrobat is going to do very little for a football player looking to improve his 40.

This is also why I liked Alex's response so much, yes strength can be build at a significant greater angles in the lower body, it will mostly like be very beneficial for athletes from martial art/ballet/other movement sports but this will have a very limited carryover for sprinting/jumping and so on. 

Also please don't misunderstand me I am certainly not trying to talk you out of this, leg mobility/strength at different angles is something I am quite interested in myself (manna is a major goal for me and the main obstacle is compression mobility same for handstand work). I am simply saying the carryover is limited to anything else. 

 

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Craig Mallett

AlexX,

 

Some nice points.  Thanks for the input.  The 100kg squat was something I did just spur of the moment, I wasn't going for max weight or anything, and I'm basically a beginner at this method of training myself (as mentioned still a long way to go).  Furthermore, Coach Sommer has mentioned on many occasions that going to insanely heavy squats is going to hinder athletic ability in other fields.  Apparently the sweet spot is about 1.5 - 2x body weight (if i remember rightly). You're right in that jumping and explosiveness is also definitely important and it is part of our practice (jump kicks), as well as a number of other jumping techniques.  You only need to look at the modern wushu athletes who also train like this who are able to jump extremely high whilst performing explosive kicks etc, and to my knowledge don't train weights.  

 

You're right in that it hasn't been tested among common athletics (actually it wouldn't surprise me at all if the Chinese use these techniques among their non-martial arts athletes, most students do at least 1 unit of modern wushu in university), but I think the main reason for that is it's relatively unknown except in martial arts, dance and circus circles as you mentioned. Just because it isn't widely used doesn't mean its not good stuff.  Gymnastics strength training is a perfect example, it wasn't till very recently that it has started to be used across multiple platforms as a training method.  Does this mean that in the 90s when the techniques weren't readily available and only "for gymnasts" that it still wasn't good training?

 

 I don't mean to imply that the squat or deadlift aren't great exercises (they are), just to point out that there are plenty of other things to do with the legs as well as this, and in regards to the original post, I spend probably an equal amount of time training my legs as I do my upper body as there is so much material to get through.  My coach who taught me this is one of the most ridiculously athletic people I know, very strong, powerful, flexible, fast, fluid, nimble and most importantly very relaxed in all the movement he does. He is generally pretty great at any sport he tries even if he hasn't tried it before.  

 

I guess it also depends on your goals.  I strive to be a non-specialist, all-rounder kind of athlete.  As a result I won't be the best at any particular field, and obviously won't ever be a competitive lifter or gymnast, but at the same time I will ideally have a stack of qualities that they don't have. Someone like Coach probably wouldn't be interested in doing these exercises for his athletes, as heavier legs can be detrimental to performance in an upper body dominated sport. For legs I am not only looking at strength and flexibility, but also fluidity of movement, coordination with the upper body during stepping etc. Another big thing for me overall is the ability to relax properly under load.  So just like in the handstand where to begin with you need maximal contraction but eventually you are able to be (relatively) relaxed under load, I also look for the same ability to relax under load with the legs. To be able to relax like this and therefore be much more efficient in lower body movement is much more relevant to day to day life, sporting endeavours and overall well being than being able to squat 200kg imo.  In fact, in my experience most people I've worked with who have heavy squats/dl and don't practice any other form of leg training have rubbish endurance due to not being able to relax properly and not having necessary mobility or strength in the awkward movements of the legs.

 

I'd be interested to see how the more elite gymnastics style of mostly explosive/rebound leg strength carries over to this style of training, I've only ever been able to look at casual ex-gymnasts in regards to this.

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Cody Hahn

Craig,

 

Would you expand on two points for me.

 

1. You have said that bringing the spine back to vertical greatly increases the load on the quads; and I agree, I tried it and felt the difference. My question, are the hips and specifically the gluteus maximus developed optimally? I know that the hips will be greatly prepared and challenged due to the multitude of different angles and positions, but will the gluteus maximus and the posterior chain be developed in balance with the quads?

 

2. You mention that eventually the goal with your leg training is to reach and maintain relaxation in your lower body that will enable you to relax under even heavy load and conserve energy. Does this happen because your musculature and nervous system will eventually be developed to the point that assuming these positions and movements will be easy, or is it that you will eventually learn the way to hold each position in the easiest, most effecient manner possible; or is it a combination of both?

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Craig Mallett

Hi Cody,

 

1.  I have found as I get better that my quads relax a whole lot more, and the adductors, glutes and hamstrings get more heavily involved.  Some of the queues I use for a shoulder width squat held at the most difficult point (thighs parallel to the ground) would be:

- heels seek the midline

- shins rotate laterally

- big toes gently grip the ground

- tense the adductors, as if grasping a horse with your legs (goes hand in hand with the first point)

- relax the whole region where the thighs meet the hips, including hip flexors and iliopsoas

- the spine is lengthened, as if the bottom of it were being pulled towards the ground and the top (i.e. crown of the head) were being pulled towards the sky

 

As I develop and explore the exercise, I've been experimenting with relaxing different parts of the leg, however I'm not overly focused on  isolating and working individual muscles, more just looking for the way that is of greatest value functionally.    

 

2.  A combination of both, however I don't think it is possible to reach the second point without first developing the first.  Beginners will not be able to naturally assume a structurally efficient posture without have the strength to stay down and experiment with the subtle parts of the movement until they can find it. But as you get better, you rely less and less on the strength you've built (which is substantial anyways) and more and more on proper structure and efficiency.  Hand balancers are I think a good example of this concept being applied to the upper body.  They first start out developing the strength necessary to stay on their hands.  Once they have the strength to hold the handstand for long periods at a time, they then begin to develop efficiency, changing very subtle elements to make the structure as a whole much stronger through proper stacking of the skeletal system and proper usage of the fascial slings through the body.  Eventually as a two handed handstand becomes much like standing on their feet (almost effortless), they are able to start developing the same aspects under heavier loads, i.e. one handed handstands and more difficult handstands using the legs as leverage.  The legs have a whole lot more potential to act like this though, as we naturally spend a lot of time on them throughout our lives, and they are much strong and much more structurally suited to holding our entire weight. Whether its possible to get the structure so efficient that the muscular involvement is zero is a bit above my experience, however I can say I have seen my coach hold single bent legged postures with no perceived exertion for well over 20 minutes. He talks of the energy flow and says the physical aspect is of minor importance, however that stuff's still way over my head.

 

Hope this helps, feel free to PM me if you want further details.

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Larry Roseman

AlexX,

 

Some nice points.  Thanks for the input.  The 100kg squat was something I did just spur of the moment, I wasn't going for max weight or anything, and I'm basically a beginner at this method of training myself (as mentioned still a long way to go).  Furthermore, Coach Sommer has mentioned on many occasions that going to insanely heavy squats is going to hinder athletic ability in other fields.  Apparently the sweet spot is about 1.5 - 2x body weight (if i remember rightly). You're right in that jumping and explosiveness is also definitely important and it is part of our practice (jump kicks), as well as a number of other jumping techniques.  You only need to look at the modern wushu athletes who also train like this who are able to jump extremely high whilst performing explosive kicks etc, and to my knowledge don't train weights.  

 

You're right in that it hasn't been tested among common athletics (actually it wouldn't surprise me at all if the Chinese use these techniques among their non-martial arts athletes, most students do at least 1 unit of modern wushu in university), but I think the main reason for that is it's relatively unknown except in martial arts, dance and circus circles as you mentioned. Just because it isn't widely used doesn't mean its not good stuff.  Gymnastics strength training is a perfect example, it wasn't till very recently that it has started to be used across multiple platforms as a training method.  Does this mean that in the 90s when the techniques weren't readily available and only "for gymnasts" that it still wasn't good training?

 

 I don't mean to imply that the squat or deadlift aren't great exercises (they are), just to point out that there are plenty of other things to do with the legs as well as this, and in regards to the original post, I spend probably an equal amount of time training my legs as I do my upper body as there is so much material to get through.  My coach who taught me this is one of the most ridiculously athletic people I know, very strong, powerful, flexible, fast, fluid, nimble and most importantly very relaxed in all the movement he does. He is generally pretty great at any sport he tries even if he hasn't tried it before.  

 

I guess it also depends on your goals.  I strive to be a non-specialist, all-rounder kind of athlete.  As a result I won't be the best at any particular field, and obviously won't ever be a competitive lifter or gymnast, but at the same time I will ideally have a stack of qualities that they don't have. Someone like Coach probably wouldn't be interested in doing these exercises for his athletes, as heavier legs can be detrimental to performance in an upper body dominated sport. For legs I am not only looking at strength and flexibility, but also fluidity of movement, coordination with the upper body during stepping etc. Another big thing for me overall is the ability to relax properly under load.  So just like in the handstand where to begin with you need maximal contraction but eventually you are able to be (relatively) relaxed under load, I also look for the same ability to relax under load with the legs. To be able to relax like this and therefore be much more efficient in lower body movement is much more relevant to day to day life, sporting endeavours and overall well being than being able to squat 200kg imo.  In fact, in my experience most people I've worked with who have heavy squats/dl and don't practice any other form of leg training have rubbish endurance due to not being able to relax properly and not having necessary mobility or strength in the awkward movements of the legs.

 

I'd be interested to see how the more elite gymnastics style of mostly explosive/rebound leg strength carries over to this style of training, I've only ever been able to look at casual ex-gymnasts in regards to this.

Interesting thread! My comments won't do it justice but thought I'd chime in...

 

Legs are of particular interest to me because of my running and tennis interest. However I find that every month or two I would have a gastroc pull playing tennis and stopped playing for now. May try new shoe model lol. So I've been running 2x week (1 easy/1 hard), doing SLS training and basic plyometrics. My calves may be relatively small to my size, though I haven't been training them specifically often as overworking them is a concern. In any event,  are there any statics that you would suggest for calves? Standing on toes? 

 

Regarding your question, I do feel that "all around gymnasts" do have very strong legs. Lots of  jumping, landing and sprinting, plus good mobility, extensive stretching in all directions.  

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Craig Mallett

FiN,

The best thing you can do for your feet to prevent injury is to get rid of your shoes. Start running, walking, training barefoot. There is a high volume of nerve endings in the foot, and the sole of the foot is also the bottom of the posterior chain. If it's dysfunctional you are going to have problems further up the chain. Remember, once you go to barefoot (or barefoot style shoes), your calves, ankles and arches will be under a whole lot more stress, so you'll need to probably quarter the distance/intensity of your running/walking/whatever until your muscles grow stronger and adapt. NB: you WILL need to run on the balls of the feet to actually be able to travel anywhere without injuring everything.

The next best thing you can do are calf raises. Large amounts of reps (50 or more) with feet parallel, then repeated for toes pointing inwards and toes pointing outwards. Pay attention to the distribution of weight across the balls of the feet, see what it feels like to do raises with the weight out on the ball of the little toe almost exclusively, then the weight in on the ball of the big toe, and then feel where neutral is (half way between, even weight on both the ball of the big toe and little toe). Experiment and explore (try doing raises with the weight on the outside of one foot and the inside of the other).

Next you can try lifting the big toes on each foot while keeping all the small toes pressed into the ground, then switching so the small toes are lifted and the big toes are pressed down. Try grasping the ground with the toes as if you were trying to dig holes in the ground. Try lifting single toes at a time from inside to out and back, then from outside to in and back. Try spreading the toes as far apart as you can, then squeezing them together. If you find you cant spread them very far, Vibram (or equivalent) toe shoes can help with this, and you can also interlace your fingers through your toes to force them to spread manually. This might be quite difficult at first.

Kneeling Toe squats can also really help to loosen up the soles of the feet, and thus release a lot of tension from the posterior line. (picture here: http://blogs.babble.com/being-pregnant/files/2011/03/toe-crunch-ashtanga.jpg)

Then of course skipping and jumping for more explosive strength through the whole leg, and the stance work I've mentioned earlier will also contribute quite a lot. At any rate, if you get the foot in order, you should find that your calf issues disappear.

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Larry Roseman

Thanks Craig. Interesting points. Funny, I was just on a vacation and ran along the beach barefoot a fair amount.

Longer distance on the hard wet sand - a few K, shorter on the soft sand maybe 500m - at a time. Quite enjoyable.

 

I've worn out my running shoes so will check out the new lightweight styles.

 

I'll try those statics. My feet have been kind of dead blobs of flesh attached to a bony hinge and they could use some perking up for sure.

 

Thanks for your tips and extensive descriptions  :)

 

FIN

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