TV Review: Superhuman Strongman

I came across this National Geographic Channel special while surfing YouTube. Watch as exercise scientists take apart and analyze all your favorite strongman events, including atlas stones, the olympic lifts and breaking concrete bricks. This show is a great way to learn all about how your body adapts and changes to training stress and I highly recommend you watch it.

Total Read Time = 3 minutes

I bet you train heavy.

I bet you just wreck the bar at each and every workout.

You just kill it in the gym.

And I bet you have no idea how your body adapts and changes because of all that heavy lifting.

That’s too bad, because the science behind all your training is actually super freaking cool!

Luckily, National Geographic Channel did you a favor and produced a great TV special dissecting and analyzing the physics behind some of the world’s most famous feats of strength and power. Watch as expert scientists break down atlas stones, olympic lifting and breaking concrete into an intricate application of force and velocity.

Let’s talk about the truck pull…

It’s a classic strongman event and you probably saw guys like Bill Kazmaier and Marius Pudzianowski make it look easy on ESPN.

Professional strongman Mark Philippi also makes it look easy and for the show wore all sorts of scientific testing equipment to measure breathing, heart rate and power output.

Turns out pulling a truck is as hard as it looks. Who knew.

Imagine squatting 400+ pounds not once, but 50 or 60 times in less than a minute. That’s the kind of strength endurance it takes to pull a truck from point A to point B. You also need picture perfect technique.

But picture perfect technique is vital to any strength sport. And that’s what olympic lifter Casey Burgener teaches us during his segment of the TV special.

Olympic lifting is all about moving heavy weights very fast. Raw strength aside, success at the o-lifts you need a finely tuned central nervous system trained to contract muscles in the proper sequence to launch a barbell off the ground.

Your nervous system adapts first to training stimuli. Each time you practice a movement pattern, your body becomes better and better at coordinating the firing sequence of neurons, and the more effortless the movement pattern becomes.

Proper technique lets you lift heavy weights with more speed. And increasing speed is a great way to increase force production, as steelbender Dennis Rogers clearly demonstrates.

Dennis might look normal, but he can bend, break and tear all sorts of thick metal objects. Speed and leverage increase the amount of force produced, allowing him to pull off superhuman feats.

Who needs a hammer when you got Denis Rodgers?

And speaking of construction, let me tell you about Craig and Paul Pumphrey.

These guys are crazy.

Crazy in that I-totally-want-to-do-that sort of way.

These guys break stuff with their bones and bodies. To do that, Paul and Craig take advantage of Wolff’s Law, which states that bones will grow back thicker and stronger after microfractures. The microfractures happen when your bones experience just enough impact trauma. Too much trauma, though, and your bones will break.

Maui Thai fighters and Shaolin monks take advantage of Wolff’s Law all the time when they beat their shins against banana trees or punch into a pot of sand. Just think back to all those cheesy 80’s kung fu movies and you’ll get the idea.

Strength comes in many flavors and the basic ingredient for all of them is hand strength. Whether your lifting an atlas stone or rolling up a frying pan, the strength of your fingers and grip will ultimately determine how much force you can produce.

If you’re not doing grip work as part of your training routine, I strongly recommend you start.

If you need motivation, just watch this TV show. It’s a great behind-the-scenes look at various types of strength and how your body makes specific adaptations to the stress it undergoes when you train.


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