These 2 Body Parts Are Causing Your Plateau
Everyone who trains has experienced plateaus at some time in their life. It’s natural not to always be advancing in your chosen sport, but what separates the good from the elite is how to address and overcome these plateaus. There are many different reasons an athletic individual can plateau, ranging from lack of motivation to a bad diet, but today I am going to focus on only one, weak links.
Understanding Your Weak Links
Weak links are different for everybody; no two people are exactly the same and for this reason the weakest link in your kinetic chain may be the strongest link in someone else’s. Regardless of what the weak link may be there is a statement that rings true “You are only as strong as your weakest link.”
Obviously just saying that I am going to discuss weak links is incredibly broad, a weak link could be absolutely anything from a lack of mobility in a certain joint, to an old knee injury, so lets hone in on this hugely broad spectrum of possibilities. From a physiological standpoint, two of the largest weak links that I have witnessed in athletes is grip / wrist strength and core strength. Both are hugely important if you want to deliver amazing performance and both deal in connecting the athlete to their power sources.
1) Grip Strength
Grip strength is important because it allows the athletes to express his/ her strength in their chosen activity. In athletic movement, the hands are usually used as hooks to hold yourself or an object in a certain position while the body generates tremendous force. If your grip is weak, a maximum exertion of force will be impossible and the movement will become flawed. An easy example of this situation is deadlifting: some times when attempting a max or near max deadlift, the weight moves off the ground but then slips out of your hands before you can complete the lift. This is why you see so many people using wrist straps; it’s a way to cheat yourself into a bigger lift. In this situation you had the necessary strength to finish the lift but your hands fell short and thus you dropped the weight.
From gripping a barbell, throwing your opponent, landing a solid punch, to maintaining perfect alignment in a handstand, having superior grip strength will only benefit the active individual. Grip strength not only benefits the elite though, having a strong grip makes simple tasks seem substantially easier such as: carrying a massive load of groceries, carrying your laundry down 6 flights of stairs to the inconveniently located washer and dryer, cooking with your cast iron skillet, or just opening a door. Regardless of what walk of life you choose, increasing grip strength makes your walk that much easier.
2) Core Strength
Core strength is another weak link I see in athlete’s kinetic chains. Often I will see individual’s train the big lifts but then skip out when it comes to core. Granted, the big lifts absolutely do work your core musculature but taking some extra time during you training session to strengthen your trunk can have tremendous benefits to how efficiently you can generate force and make your movements that much more powerful.
Your hips and shoulders are the power sources of your body, allowing you to generate huge amounts of force when used properly. Between these two engines are the muscles of the trunk, when trained and used correctly they can effectively generate, steer, and assist force into powerful movement, but when the muscles of the trunk lack strength, the force generated by these power sources can quickly dissipate and result in weak movement.
But How Does It Work?
Sherrington’s Law of Irradiation states: A muscle working hard recruits the neighboring muscles, and if they are already part of the action, it amplifies their strength. The neural impulses emitted by the contracting muscle reach other muscles and ‘turn them on’ as an electric current starts a motor.
A perfect example of this is a fighter throwing a right cross. The force originates from rotation in the hips, travels through the trunk as the fighter begins to twist, this force then gets another boosts from the abdominal contraction, shoulder rotation, and then receives one final boost with the contraction and rotation of the fighters hand. The point is, taking some extra time to train both your grip and the musculature of your trunk will only make you that much better at generating force and performing athletic movement.
Some of my favorite exercises to do so are:
- Bottom up press / carry
- Farmers carry
- Towel carry
- Hanging work
- Finger tip push ups
- Rope climbing
- Thick bar deadlifting
- Hollow body holds
- Hanging leg raises
- Hard style plank
- Ab wheel
- L sits
- L holds
- Dragon flags
- Front levers
- Skin the cats
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