For months now I haven’t really touched a dumbbell or a barbell, BUT I’ve still been lifting heavy.
And while I still LOVE barbell lifts, I have become very fascinated by lifting with awkward weights.
In every day life, we rarely have to lift something that is perfectly balanced and easy to grip. So even though in the gym we may be able to deadlift 500lbs on the barbell, it may be impossible for us to lift even 100lbs in the form of an awkward box on the floor.
And which is more important to be able to do?
While I love deadlifting, I must admit I really really really get frustrated when I can lift or move something on my own.
I don’t like struggling to lift, carry and move things. And I most definitely HATE when I have to ask for help.
So while I’ve always considered a deadlift a functional lift, it might not really be that functional when you add weight in the perfect form of a barbell.
It was actually incredibly humbling to find out just how not functionally strong the barbell deadlift had made was when I did my first strongman atlas stone lift on Saturday (which is probably one of the most functional lifts out there).
The baby stone is 125lbs.
I was told to start with that one. It looked small enough and I figured I wouldn’t have any trouble. I could easily deadlift 125lbs!
Shoot…I even thought I might be able to attempt the next one up!
Uhm…lifting a round concert 125lb ball is WAY different than lifting 100 more pounds on a barbell.
The first time I attempted to lift it, I couldn’t even move it off the ground.
I couldn’t budge 125lbs!?! WHAT!?!
It was awkward and hard to grip. There was nothing to hold on to! You just had to squeeze the ball with every inch of your hand and arm. You even needed to use your back to grip the dang thing otherwise you were going to drop it.
And on top of that, it wasn’t just one smooth lift up like the barbell lift. It was a lift to your thighs before you needed to re-grip so that you could really use your glutes to power the ball up.
It was honestly exactly the move you realistically have to do when you move super heavy awkward things in everyday life.
I can name a few times when I’ve moved that I can remember attempting that exact same move to lift a heavy box (and actually failed to get it off the ground even though I was lifting super heavy with dumbbells and barbells)….SO FRUSTRATING!
There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to move something!
So it really got me to thinking about all of the time I spent doing the traditional lifts – doing traditional exercise moves.
While I love them, they may just be more functionally beneficial when done with AWKWARD weights.
You don’t need to give up deadlifts, push ups or any of the other meat head moves (that I most definitely love).
But maybe you can just make them better by adding in some awkward elements.
Like pull ups for example…
I can do pull ups off a bar…but pull ups holding on to some awkward rock climbing grip things? OUCHIE!
Or overhead presses…Instead of using a barbell, what about a slosh pipe? WAY more core engagement when you lift that pipe only half filled with water overhead (actually it kind of reminds me of a squirming child, which there is a great chance that sometime in your lifetime you will be lifting up overhead!).
You don’t have to go crazy making the moves overly awkward. Actually you SHOULDN’T try to add in too many strange elements. Awkward is good..Super awkward is crazy.
But anyway, after being humbled by the stone, I would DEFINITELY recommend that if you are training to be strong in life that you add in some more functional variables like awkward weights or grips! You don’t necessarily need to find a gym with an atlas stone, but sandbags and other uneven or awkward weights can be good! (And if you don’t already…get ready to add in some grip training…but that is a post for another day!)
So I finished my latest workout progression last Wednesday with 20 minutes on the battling ropes.
I then took four days off while I traveled to visit the Man Bicep Mom and my sister (which by the way was SO much fun!).
Since coming back, I’ve been working out with no clear direction. I figured my body could use the break from intense training and it is nice every once in a while to take a week to just play!
I’m just experimenting, trying new things and working on strengthening areas for my next progression. I’ll probably just “goof around” until Monday when I start a two-week powerlifting progression before getting back to training for the OKC Kettlebell competition we will be holding in February.
The other day I tried this glute bridge exercise that I’ve seen one of the owners, Corey, doing on a regular basis. It was killer and a great way to improve my deadlift. I’ve also tested out a few core exercises I’d found online and worked on my kettlebell swing.
Then today I jumped in on one of Aaron’s workouts and got my first chance to work with the atlas stones.
While I wasn’t lifting them like this guy, I did get to do a core exercise with the “little” 125lbs one. Aside from smashing my elbow underneath it so that I now have a second elbow off of my first elbow, I really really liked using those stones.
Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the exercise we were doing today, but it did make you look like a turtle stuck on your back. It was a great core exercise because it not only worked all of the muscles of your trunk, but it also worked your triple extension, meaning it also worked all the way down your legs.
Anyway, the point of this short rambling post is that while I’ve been harping on progression and setting a goal and tailoring your program to move you closer to that goal, it is also very important to remember to take ACTIVE REST weeks. Every month or two months, you should take a week where you just PLAY.
You don’t necessarily have any clear-cut goals. You are allowing yourself to just relax while not being completely inactive.
You are just experimenting and readying your mind and body for another round of intense, hard work.
So while setting out a clear progression toward your goals is important, remember it is also important to every once in a while give your mind and body and chance to play with no stress or pressure to accomplish a goal.