Strength is the ability of muscles to generate force. Muscles can only exert force after receiving stimuli from the brain. A person who is suddenly paralyzed can still have strong muscles for a brief period, but cannot use them because they are disconnected from the brain. Most medical and fitness experts believe that the strength of muscles is proportionate to their size, but that is not true. If it were true, two weightlifters of the same age, weight, and body type would lift more or less the same number of pounds. In fact, one may be able to lift three times as many pounds as the other. What makes the second lifter stronger is that he (or she) has more fast-twitch muscles, and his brain communicates with them faster and with more intensity.
If we were to look inside the bodies of these two weightlifters, we would see that the stronger one has more white, fast-twitch muscle, whereas the weaker one has more red, slow-twitch muscle. Also, because tendons and ligaments are composed of white, fasttwitch tissue, the stronger one has strengthened his joints, while the other one has not.
The difference between these two athletes would be even more pronounced if the stronger one were a weightlifter and the weaker one a bodybuilder. When impact athletes, such as ice hockey or football players, train like bodybuilders, they become slower, weaker, and more susceptible to injuries. When, however, they train like weightlifters, they become faster, stronger, and less susceptible to injuries.
Imagine that you are at an Olympic stadium, watching champion men sprinters. As you look at the Gold Medal winner, you may think, "If I had his body, I could break world records, too." But you would be wrong. Even if you had his body, you would not run as fast, because you also need his brain, which activates his muscle fibers.
When we age, our muscles tend to atrophy and our joints tend to wear away. Eventually, we become weaker and slower, and we develop chronic pains. The only things that can prevent or reverse this degeneration are proper exercise and nutrition, as we saw earlier with Charlie Henderson, the 80-yearold weightlifter who can lift his own weight above his head—something the average 20-year-old male gym member who exercises regularly cannot do.
The Standard of Strength
Although we thought it was reasonable to ask our clients to be as strong as 80-year-old Charlie Henderson, it was not immediately clear to us how to translate an elite weightlifter’s ability into layman’s terms.
Charlie Henderson had demonstrated his youthfulness in strength by using a move called the Clean and Jerk—a lift that requires considerable skill. Asking ordinary people to learn it would be tantamount to asking them to become Olympic figure skaters. It would also be dangerous. Surely, there had to be another method to measure the strength factor.
Aniela provided the answer. She had been experiencing shoulder pain for several weeks. To find out what was wrong, Jerzy measured her shoulder strength. In a behind-the-neck press, she could lift 50 percent of the weight that she could Clean and Jerk. That was below the 58 percent standard established by Robert Roman, the well-known Russian weightlifting coach. Jerzy started her on a program to strengthen her shoulders. After four months, her pain had faded. By the time she reached 58 percent, it was totally gone. The relationship between the behind-the-neck press and the Clean and Jerk gave us a simple objective for people who want to achieve the first part of the Standard of Strength. Men need to press from behind the neck a weight equal to 58 percent of their body weight. That would be equivalent to being able to Clean and Jerk 100 percent of their body weight, just like Charlie Henderson.
After analyzing Olympic weightlifting data, Jerzy determined that women can lift approximately 77 percent of what men can lift. Therefore, women’s goal should be to press behind their neck 45 percent of their body weight (58 x .77 = 45). That would be equivalent to being able to Clean and Jerk 77 percent of their body weight.
Thus, one component of the required level of strength for both men and women to feel and act youthful was established. Most people can achieve it, and once they do, they only need to maintain this standard and not exceed it.
However, our experience taught us that being able to press the required percentage of body weight from behind the neck was not enough for our clients to feel and act youthful. They also needed to be able to perform the Overhead Squat with that amount of weight. But that was still not enough. Even though Aniela could press the weight behind her neck and do overhead squats with it, she still could not snatch it (Figure 2.11).
In order for Aniela to develop more coordination in her lifts, Jerzy asked her to press the bar from behind her neck while in a squatting position and then to stand up (Figure 2.12). This combination of the Overhead Squat and the behind-the-neck press while sitting enabled Aniela to improve the coordination and stability in her hips and shoulders and to snatch the calculated weight.
We named the combined exercise the Overhead Squat Press. It is the safest exercise to develop strength because it challenges every inch of the body without requiring skill. It is the gateway exercise to fitness and Olympic weightlifting. In fact, although it is the first and easiest exercise that professional Olympic weightlifters need to do, it is the last and most difficult exercise that ordinary people need to do.
By practicing this exercise, you will not only improve your strength but also your coordination and your flexibility. Indeed, this exercise cannot be performed with strength or flexibility or coordination alone. To achieve it, you must have all three.
The Overhead Squat Press assures that all the joints work together simultaneously and the muscles develop proportionately, improving the posture and preventing postural aging.
The exercise aligns the two parts of the body that are most important for movement—the shoulders and the hips. If either one is weak relative to the other, it will be prone to injury. When these two parts are in alignment, all the other body parts become aligned accordingly in position, strength, and size.
The Overhead Squat Press has become the most valuable exercise in enabling our clients to recover their youthful bodies. Thus, it is our Standard of Strength. Like every other exercise in The Happy Body program, the Overhead Squat Press can be performed in a minimal space with limited equipment—namely, two dumbbells.
Degrees of Strength
Standard of Strength
For example, a man who weighs 182 pounds has a standard of strength of 106 pounds:
182 x 58% = 105.56 ˜ 106 (53 pounds on each dumbbell).
Therefore, if he can only perform this exercise with 37 pounds, his performance will be fair:
37 ÷ 106 = 34.9% ˜ 35% = Fair.
|Weight to Lift|
|For Men:||Body Weight x 0.58|
|For Women:||Body Weight x 0.45|
How to Perform the Overhead Squat Press
- Perform this exercise in the following sequence (Figure 2.13):
- Step 1: Holding dumbbells at your sides, stand with your feet a shoulder length apart and your toes pointed outward. Inhale, flex your abdominal muscles, and curl your toes upward.
- Step 2: Without moving your elbows backward, lift the dumbbells parallel to each other until your arms are bent at a right angle.
- Step 3: Lift the dumbbells parallel to each other until they are at chin level.
- Step 4: Rotate your arms backward until the dumbbells are directly above your shoulders.
- Step 5: Squat without bending forward or raising your heels.
- Step 6: While in the squat position, press the dumbbells above your head until your elbows lock.
- Step 7: Stand up straight without leaning forward or raising your heels.
- Step 8: Lower the dumbbells to chin level.
- Step 9: Rotate your arms forward.
- Step 10: Without moving your elbows backward, lower the dumbbells in front of you until your arms are at a right angle.
- Step 11: Lower the dumbbells to the starting position, then exhale as you relax your abdominal muscles and uncurl your toes.