When I was starting out, I was all about the “Iron Game.” And if you’re into the gym, I bet you know what I’m talking about…. Barbells, dumbbells, weight machines, and maybe even kettlebells.
If you’re an avid weightlifter, you may even have some solid gym accomplishments with some of these tools.
You may, also like myself, have been 100% sure that lifting weights was going to make me S-T-R-O-N-G! Oh, and it did, but I’ve learned some things since then. For better or worse, lifting weights taught me many lessons. One of those lessons was that weight training doesn’t necessarily make life any easier.
Have you noticed this?
Have you ever wondered if weight room prowess transfers over into the real world?
For example, does weight training proficiency enable you to handle real world strength tasks like lifting heavy furniture or carrying bags of dirt up a hill for hours? Or, from a heroic standpoint, does weight training make one physically capable of lifting a heavy boulder or tree from a path, or does it prepare a person to be useful in a crisis that demands physical strength, like pulling someone else to safety who is in harm’s way?
Maybe. But, maybe not.
Modern-handled tools of strength do have definite value and they have proven themselves worthy in the right hands, but I believe there are better, ancient tools that offer the promise of building true functional strength, or true real-world strength.
My friend, Tim Anderson, refers to this type of strength as “old man strength.” It’s the kind of strength that can only be built from day in and day out hard physical work.
You’ve seen this type of strength. Think about a mechanic, fireman, or physical laborer. Without question, they have old man strength. If they were manual laborers, there’s a great chance your dad or grandpa had this kind of strength.
You know “old man strength” when you see it. I remember seeing my dad effortlessly chopping wood for hours and then carrying it in a large bundle to feed our wood burning stove to prepare for the harsh Minnesota winters. He could also do annoying things like loosen a tight bolt effortlessly after I struggled with it (even as a strong capable teenager).
This “old man strength” is forged with repeated efforts through sweat, grit, and determination, but you don’t need to be a manual laborer to develop it.
The exciting thing for us regular folks is that we can develop this kind of strength by lifting, carrying, and throwing awkward, cumbersome, “alive” objects into our training routines. Not only is this incredibly effective and empowering, it is fun and it offers a refreshing change from playing with iron tools with handles! Training with awkward implements like a sand bag is a fantastic way to supercharge your reflexive strength; this strength will truly carry over into whatever life throws your way.
As an elite thrower in the Scottish Highland Games, I’m a “heavy user” of the Original Strength principles and I’m an avid stone lifter (odd object lifter). I can tell you without hesitation that lifting odd objects will immediately connect your body due to the challenge, but perhaps best of all, your brain gets involved as it has to begin processing this awkward, cumbersome, information in new ways that you have never experienced in the gym. You can’t just lift awkward objects like you do barbells and dumbbells. You have to learn to dance with them.
Lifting stones, sandbags, or other awkward objects is incredibly humbling and gratifying all at the same time. I remember my first time learning to throw the 56lb weight for distance many years ago when I was only performing regular weight room training to “stay in shape.” I remember picking it up and trying to swing it, thinking, “How the heck does anyone actually throw this thing?” It was a weight with a chain handle, cumbersome and unyielding to even lift. I can’t say weight training prepared my body to throw this weight.
I had the same kind of experience the first time I tried to pick up a sandbag filled with “just” 150lbs. It hardly budged off the ground! I had to scratch my head and rethink the lift because 150lbs on a barbell is relatively easy to lift for even an untrained athlete and I could deadlift nearly 600lbs on a barbell. That was crazy to me!
The sandbag challenged me with it’s different characteristics from a gripping perspective and with it’s awkwardness of shifting weight. It made me realize that something was missing from my training. I was weight-room strong, but not necessarily “old man” strong.
The sandbag was the missing link in my strength. It’s addition into my training allowed me to build the strength I wanted to have as a Highland Games athlete and strongman. Not only that, I’m certain it has helped me develop a depth to my strength that will allow me to be useful in any life situation, whether helping a friend move a couch or picking a car up out of a ditch – I am able.
After discovering the strength that sandbag and awkward lifting offered, I knew I had to share it. I designed a program to help you build this same type of useful strength, “Old Man” strength that doesn’t quit. If you’re looking to fill in any gaps in your strength, if you want to make sure your efforts transfer over into the real world, or if this blog just sparked something in you, come check out Odin’s Quest: The Journey to Ancient Strength with me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
John Odden is an experienced strength coach and Original Strength Certified Professional, and a Highland Games World Record Holder based out of Bend, Oregon.
Since he was a child he has been fascinated with improving his health, fitness and athleticism. He was a tall, skinny, awkward kid growing up who always lacked confidence, especially in the gym. Unfortunately, some misguided enthusiasm resulted in chronic back and shoulder injuries that sidelined his athletic career and limited his quality of life well into his 30s. Unknowingly, these injuries and setbacks would be the cornerstone of his passion and unique perspective on how to teach others to live an empowered, pain-free, active life using the strength and movement principles that he has created and honed in his 20+ year career.
John is one of our OSi Online Coaches and has developed both the Crash Proof Course and his newest course, Odin’s Quest: The Journey to Ancient Strength.
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