Are you one of those people who believes that a big muscle is always a strong one? If this were true, two people of the same age, weight, and body type would lift more or less the same number of pounds, which isn’t a given. In fact, an experienced weightlifter may be able to lift three times as much weight as a beginner. What makes the experienced lifter stronger is that he has more fast-twitch muscles and a brain that 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, fast-twitch tissue, the stronger one has strengthened her joints, while the other hasn’t.
If you wanted to do just one exercise a day that would be the safest while providing the greatest benefit, the best choice would be The Overhead Squat Press (Sequence 3, exercise 5, “Power Tower,” in The Happy Body: The Simple Science of Nutrition, Exercise, and Relaxation.) This is an exercise that challenges every inch of the body without requiring skill; it’s also the gateway exercise to fitness and Olympic weightlifting.
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. By practicing the Overhead Squat Press, you will not only improve your strength but also your coordination and your flexibility.
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. 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.
This exercise is explained thoroughly on page 158-9 of The Happy Body: The Simple Science of Nutrition, Exercise, and Relaxation. Give it a try, and next week we will discuss common errors that people make when practicing this foundational exercise.