I’ve been involved in some aspect of sports and fitness for almost my entire life – baseball, soccer, boxing and ultimately strength sports and I have always been a huge proponent of sport/activity specific training in order to achieve the best results. If I wanted to improve my fielding I took ground balls; improving my footwork for soccer meant dribbling drills and upping my deadlift max meant – you guessed it, more deadlifting. Of course there were always supplemental movements incorporated into any stage of my training, but for the most part that’s how I treated them – as supplements to the most important movement(s).
When my focus on training took a turn just under a year ago to grip and old school feats of strength I initially assumed that my training would take the same course as it always had. I would focus on a goal and perform the core movements required to get better at and achieve that goal. Well any of you out there who specifically train with focus on these particular feats probably already know that this isn’t always the best course to follow regarding some feats of strength.
With power lifting and bodybuilding there is and endless array of plans and formulas based on years and years of research by top performing athletes and coaches that have good track records of proven results. If you want to get a single lift, or your power lifting total, up you can try: Westside, 5 X 5’s, 3 X 3’s, Buckeye, Smolov, linear periodization, etc, etc, etc. You’ll be able to easily find spreadsheets that you can punch your current max and your goal into and the numbers that you’ll use to attain your goal will automatically be generated for you – like a road map to your success.
With some grip activities and feats of strength similar modalities of training as described above can be implemented because there is a natural progression towards the ultimate goal. Closing hand grippers is one example of this – CoC, Beef Builder, Heavy Grips etc all have low, medium, difficult (and darn near impossible) grippers that you can work your way through – knowing what your next step will be along the way.
With certain feats of strength though, it’s not so cut and dried. The formulas simply don’t exist, and with certain feats there is no build up to the eventual completion and very little in the way of track-able progression to tell you how close you are to actually achieving your goal. One of my recent goals was to crush a full soda can – this is one of those feats that there is no training information on, that there is no gradual progression toward and that there is no way of knowing when you’re ready. Admittedly, much of my plan was founded through trial and error, but here is how I achieved that goal…
I knew that without actually being able to accomplish the feat that my training would have to take a drastic turn from what I had become accustomed to over the years. The seemingly supplemental exercises of my workouts would now become my core movements.
I scoured my repertoire (as well as the training logs of top gripsters world-wide) for hand, wrist and grip exercises to find those that closely mimicked the movement I would use for the crush – and I came to the conclusion that the final crush of an unbraced bend was strikingly similar. With some alterations to my particular style of bending I knew I could get huge carryover to the soda crush. I upped my bending frequency a bit and focused on generating as much power as possible through the final crush down as I could with each piece of steel I attempted. During my bending sessions I used high volume, isometrics and pre-kinking steel that was a little out of my league, but I didn’t want to bend too often because going too overboard with unbraced bending can potentially set you up for some pretty nasty injuries. I knew that I also needed movements that I could safely perform on a very regular basis that would have big carry over to the can crush, while having very little risk of injury in order to accomplish my goal in a timely manner.
The main focus of my workouts became: Bottoms-Up kettlebell presses, plate curls, plate wrist curls and levering – and the more traditional strength movements (like squats and deadlifts) became my supplemental exercises. I found that my hands and wrists recovered very quickly with these particular movements allowing me to up the weights (and therefore results) quickly. I also used “shoulder dislocations” to increase my flexibility after getting a recommendation on how it would improve my bending – thinking that this would as well carry over to the soda can crush.
I could see a big difference in performance from one bending session to the next and was able to achieve the full soda can crush in a much shorter time than I had originally expected. I was also pleased to find that training in this fashion had drastically improved my card tearing as well – reducing the time it took me to tear a complete deck by more than half.
It’s important in any type of training to listen to your body – in order to achieve some of these feats you may have to punish yourself. Learn the limits that exist in your body and mind, then do what it takes to smash them without doing serious injury to yourself. Find a way to train as much as necessary to achieve your goals without hurting yourself – if it was easy, painless and quick to be accomplished it wouldn’t be any kind of feat.
To complete many of the old school feats of strength you need both mental and physical power, first believe that you’ll accomplish your chosen goal then train hard to do it. If no roadmap to your targeted goal exists, forge your own path – the blood and sweat you’ll spill during training will all be worth it once you’ve cemented your place in strength history by succeeding with your chosen feat of strength.