Is There Such Thing As Old Man Strength?

blacksmithYou know, going to the gym and working out isn’t the only way to get strong. There’s actually a huge difference between being gym strong versus real-life strong. It’s completely possible to be in good shape and strong-and I mean really strong-without ever having stepped inside a gym.

How is this possible? Are these guys just genetic freaks? Let me tell you that it is possible and no, you do not have to be a genetic anomaly to be in great shape and what I like to call “real-life strong.”

My own dad is a great example of a guy who is really strong but yet he’s never worked out a day in his life. He did however, do a lot of manual labor. He was always working on things outside in the yard, building stuff, working with wood or any number of other things. On the flip side is me-I have been working out since I was in high school in Connecticut.

I really started to get serious about training when I finally started growing and getting stronger. By the time I hit my senior year and was playing football I was able to bench 275 pounds and was really proud of myself.

It all got put into perspective though one day when my dad needed my help to get rid of some large rocks sticking out of the grass. The area where we lived in Connecticut was kind of mountainous with these huge rocks just about everywhere. Around our yard, they seemed to even multiply so every now and then we’d have to dig them up and haul them away in a wheelbarrow.

One year, my dad wanted to get rid of some especially big rocks on the property so we got to work digging.

Once the dirt was removed I went in to move the boulders. Knowing how strong I had been getting I figured I could take care of the bulk of it by myself. I was shocked though to find out that I could hardly even budge them. But my dad-the guy who had never worked out a day in his life-was able to move them all by himself.

I was shocked. I could not believe that this “old man,” who I knew I could beat on any machine in the weight room, was still “stronger” than me when it came to real life. I started to refer to it as “old man strength.”

Today, I’m older, a bit wiser and I realize that my dad hadn’t developed “old man strength” but he had actually developed “hybrid strength” without even trying. Those activities that he did around the house just about every day gave him a physical edge that is very difficult to duplicate in a gym.

Most ordinary training routines isolate individual muscles, which is not how our bodies are really designed to work. The kinds of things my dad did though recruited multiple muscle groups simultaneously and even more important-would have required both strength and endurance, just like a hybrid workout.

chopping woodAnd what he did in the process of doing these activities was to develop hybrid type III muscles, which is really the “optimal” muscle fiber because not only does it produce strength, but it’s also able to sustain that strength for extended periods. Ordinary type I or type II fibers just can’t do that-they basically sit at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Typical gym workouts focus on developing the type I, type IIa and type IIb fibers-not developing hybrid muscle. And because my dad was developing type III muscle fibers, he had a lot more real life strength than I did. Sure I could have beat the snot out of him at the gym, but in the real world, there was no competition-I was licked.

Of course my dad isn’t the only example of someone who either by accident or by design, was engaging in hybrid muscle training and in the process, developing hybrid type III muscle.

The movie Rocky IV provides another great example of the superiority of real world strength versus gym strength. In the movie, Rocky trains in the mountains focusing on building his real world strength-in reality doing hybrid workouts and developing hybrid type III muscle.

Conversely, the Russian guy trains in this futuristic high-tech gym using scientifically-designed treadmills and exercise equipment. Yeah, the guy looked pretty muscular but when it came time to fight, his gym-engineered muscles were no match for the real-world strength of Rocky.

So you see, although science has tried to come up with all sorts of interesting ways for guys to get bigger, stronger and leaner, when it comes down to actual results, basic functionality and real-world strength still triumph every time.

Men’s Domain note: This guest article is from Mike Westerdal, who writes a Free Online Weight Training Magazine. Be sure to check out his website Critical Bench

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