How Strong Is Strong Enough

By Lawrence

iStock_000014335215XSmallLast year when I was training my son on some classic exercise routines, the topic of how strong one has to become so that it is sufficient for normal and unusual situations was raised. I responded with an interesting set of answers. I am sure many people who exercise regularly would love to know about it.

Several classic martial art text actually explained very well what kind of ability one should achieve and maintain so that our bodies are ready for regular activities and also for unusual situations that are not necessary about fighting. The concepts presented in these ancient text are actually quite scientific from our modern point of view. I think we can call this another case of common sense approach to fitness.

Strength Requirement

Following are three examples of the many strength requirements mentioned in these martial arts scripts.

First, being able to pull yourself up with one arm for at least 5 to 6 times is one of the standard for meeting the requirement of being able to handle unusual situations. The reason is that should you need to, you can effective climb out of danger quickly. A good example is that when you are trapped in a building which is on fire or an enclosed environment, being able to pull yourself up with one arm means all the difference of having the extended reach that can decide your chance of escaping the dangerous place.

Second, being able to do one arm push up for at least 5 to 6 times is another standard requirement. The reason is the same as the first one. The combination of both push and pull strength gives you the ability to carry yourself out of many difficult situations with your arms only. This makes sense because we may not be able to use our legs for support or leverage.

Third, being able to jump on one foot to leap the distance of your body height is another interesting requirement mentioned in these ancient text. This one is quite simple to understand because it allows you to reach further than what your arms can do, making it possible to further open up more options to deal with complicated terrain.

Notice all these physical requirements are relative requirements. They are measured with your ability to support your own body weight and to overcome the distance based on your own height. In short, it is all about being able to optimize your ability in handling yourself.

What I Made My Son Do Last Year

Originally, my son could only do about 5 pull-ups with both arms. He was quite discouraged that it may take a long time before he can get to the point where he can do one arm pull-up. I told him muscle strengthening require the growing and toning of the muscle cells which takes time but we can speed it up.

So instead of my son doing just a few sets of pull-ups, we played a marathon pull-ups game to see how many pull-ups he could actually do in the next 3 hours and I would match him every time. The game ended up with more than a 100 pull-ups done by each of us.

This is a great example how our minds tricked us – my son thought that 3 sets of pull-ups was all he could do. But that is not true at all. By motivating him to take on me, he managed to do many times over his perceived limit. Of course his arms were toasted the very next day. This training, however, doubled his number of pull-ups per set once he has recovered in couple of days. Such drastic improvement was not possible before because his mentality did not include giving everything he has with physical training.

Now that he has the experience, his perception changed and this way of thinking also becomes part of his considerations in solving other problems. Namely, many things we thought are too difficult to deal with, may not be true, because we often underestimate our true ability to take on the task. By giving a goal with everything we’ve got and the mentality of keep trying until we have absolutely nothing left, we can often achieve something that seems impossible.

Wonder what kind of physical challenge we should try this year?


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