Sunday, March 6, 2011

Paleo in a natural disaster - the importance of strength

It has been fasciting and inspiring over the last couple of weeks to read Jamie's updates from New Zealand.  He has been living through the massive earthquake in Christchurch and the subsequent aftermath. 

I wanted to highlight something he wrote today:

....that said however, as I reflect on the events of that and subsequent days, I can see a degree of capacity there that many didn't have.  There was a lot of sprinting, lifting, and digging going on.  I truly believe, that had I been anywhere in town that had required me to move objects, climb, jump, run, dodge, or weave, to get out alive, I would have backed myself to the hilt to give it the best go I could, simply because the training I do gives me that capacity.  Several buildings had their stairwells separate from the building itself (some catastrophically). Could I have got myself down a couple of floors if I had to?  Yes I think I could. I can jump gaps, lift objects getting on for twice my own mass, fit into tight gaps, crawl, climb... To me, that is stacking the deck in one's favour.  I might not get out of every situation, but I would sure as hell try and wouldn't go down passively without a fight.

The base of all of this? Strength. At no point throughout the initial aftermath, and in the days after, did the ability to function at a high level of my maximum aerobic output have any use whatsoever.  Strength formed the basis of everything I did.  And it gave me a degree of confidence in everything I did.

Two important ideas there:

  • Skill - movnat style.   Erwan talks about learning skills that will allow you to survive - run for your life, crawl etc.  You won't survive on the basis of your elliptical trainer ability
  • Strength - is fundamental to all skills

This stuff  - and all Jamie's writings - should give you pause for thought


Kris @ Health Blog said...

I can imagine being strong and in good shape could help one be more likely to survive in all kinds of circumstances.

But the bench press isn't gonna help much there, unless maybe you'd get squished under a car or something.

Functional exercises for the win.

Steven Rice Fitness said...

Wow, this is truly real life validation of the functional training philosophy. No bench or seat, no perfectly balanced barbell, no long distance running.

Anonymous said...

I can do the functional stuff I guess in that I can do bodyweight exercises until the cows come home, can also bench press in excess of 300 pounds ... I don't see the downside of being able to bench press a significant amount of weight.

I haven't tried carrying a log through the woods, few logs around my parts and even fewer woods ... who knows, maybe I would suck at it.

Dan said...

It all boils down to what you practice at you will be good at according to your own ability fitness advocates preach one set to failure others multiple sets certain exercises etc. In true reality no one program is the holy Grail nothing last or works forever nothing . Counter-balance complexity with simplicity in our day to day lives we don't sit in chairs and lift things or lay down to lift things we work with are hands,feet , legs standing if you want to be good at lifting at sitting or lying down do so but lets not be false to the truth if you want to be a jockey you wouldn't practice riding a bicycle if you want to learn how to run fast you wouldn't crawl if you want to be a footballer you wouldn't practice cricket keep it simple and to what the truth is sorry for the long post

Anonymous said...

What if a (man made) or natural disaster led to supply shortages and in turn to marauding mobs, and the "functional" ability necessary was to put a lot of ground distance between the predators and their prey, i.e., you ?

I find this speculation weird.

My parents were holocaust survivors. Years ago, at a job interview, in discussing my background, (i.e., "where is your family from?")this came up.

The interviewer veered from my qualifications and started talking about how much he admired those who survived, how they had "something special." He went on to speculate that he often thought that, had he been there, he too would have survived.

I thought the guy was a colossal schmuck. If anything is subject to "power laws" surely survival of disasters is.

mike said...

This guy is writing about what he would have done, he thinks, not what he did, and stating he believes his training would help. You never know. I saw a rock climber on the science channel, or national geo, who survived by pressing a huge rock off his body laying down, just like a bench press. So,I could argue if he didn't have a zillion lb. bench, he'd be dead. Fat chance of that happening a lot, but at least it did happen.
The whole paleo/functional thing is getting weird.And I agree with anonymous above. Using a tragedy to make a point about exercise is really poor taste.

dagregory said...

Strength is key to any aspect in life. Without it you really can't do much. It's obvious in this situation that strength would be of more importance, but that doesn't mean the aerobic capacity isn't worth having. These are all components of a healthy lifestyle. When you are looking at sport specific issues then things would be different.

Anonymous said...

There are technical issues in regards to the bench press from a functional strength perspective. Pushing with the back braced and supported is very different than when you have to do it from your feet. Many posterior chain muscles don't fire or fire inappropriately when you are lying on a bench. You may be able to target those muscles with other exercises but ultimately your brain has no education on how to fire them correctly in support of a real world pressing movement done on your feet.

And speaking of executing on your feet; I trained a guy who, amazingly, had spent 16 years doing the same machine oriented workout. For legs he used the seated leg press, leg curl and leg extension machines. I discovered he was incapable of doing a single legged squat. He had no balance, no coordination, no stabilization strength. Functional strength is real.

mike said...

One legged squats are a skill move, as much as strength. When I was young, I worked doing labor in construction,laying pipe in the oilfields, and did a hitch in the marines as a grunt.(Vietnam 1968-69). In all that time I never saw anyone do a one legged squat, or any other "functional" exercise. some guys were very strong, some not so much. some guys hit the weights, some didn't.
"He had no balance, no coordination, no stabilization strength." Really? NONE? He just fell down a lot?
I think very little is known about "exercise" and some humility is called for. The longest lived people in the world (See blue Zones) don't lift weights or run marathons. They generally walk a lot and avoid strenuous exercise.
If we like to do something, fine. But to state that if you do a certain protocol it will make you less functional in real life is not supportable by any evidence I've seen. Asian people squat a lot, and the ones I know would laugh at somebody doing crossfit stuff.
Once again, the above article was someone writing what he thinks he would have done. Pretty thin stuff.
March 8, 2011 5:06 PM