by Orion Lee
Everyone who trains hits plateaus. It’s natural. How to address and overcome these plateaus is what separates the good from the elite. There are many different reasons why athletes plateau, but today I am going to focus on what I call “weak links.”
A weak link can be anything from a lack of mobility in a certain joint, to an old knee injury. Physiologically, the two areas where I see the most “weak links” are: grip/wrist strength and core strength. Both are essential for amazing performance and both connect the athlete to their power sources.
GRIP STRENGTH allows the athlete 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 force. If your grip is weak, a maximum exertion of force will be impossible and the movement becomes flawed.
Example: While attempting a max or near max deadlift, the weight moves off the ground but may slip out of your hands before you can complete the lift. This is why so many people use wrist straps; it’s a way to cheat oneself into “completing” a bigger lift. You had the necessary strength to finish the lift but your grip strength fell short and you dropped the weight.
Grip strength not only helps in the gym. A strong grip makes simple tasks much easier such as: carrying a massive load of groceries, cooking with your cast iron skillet or just opening a door. Regardless of what you do, increased grip strength makes life much easier.
CORE STRENGTH is the second major weak link I see in the kinetic chains of many athletes. I often see people train the big lifts but skip out when it comes to core. Granted, the big lifts do work your core musculature but taking some extra time to strengthen your trunk can have tremendous benefits, efficiently helping you generate force and making all your movements more powerful.
Hips and shoulders are the power sources of your body, allowing you to generate huge amounts of force. 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 quickly dissipate and result in weak movement.
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 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 gets another boosts from the abdominal contraction, shoulder rotation and receives one final boost with the contraction and rotation of the fighter’s hand.
Taking the time to train both your grip and the musculature of your trunk will make you much more effective at generating force and performing athletic movement. Some of my favorite exercises to strengthen these areas 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
Do these exercises and your “weak links” can become some of your strongest physical assets.