7 Super-Simple Strength Standards – Part 1
The other day I was talking with Jake and Patricia and some how we got on the topic of "strength standards".
What is the bare minimum you should be able to do?
It got me thinking and I thought I'd throw a quick checklist together for you of some "stuff" I think is pretty important and should be taken into consideration before you lift your kettlebells or step on the mat for Jiu-Jitsu.
If you struggle with anyone of these -- there could be some challenges waiting for you down the road.
Every one of these are body weight movements/exercises.
- Managing your body weight through space and time, under control, and with integrity -- should be a standard assessment to see if you're ready to lift for the day.
- Your body should dictate what the kettlebell (or barbell) does and not the other way around.
The last 13 years, my wife has beat me in the head with the annoying-importance of checklists (resistance is futile). Mostly, because I always seem to forget something on my way out the house, UGH!
Anytime she plans a trip or gets her day ready the night before -- I see her checklist on little post-it notes at the front door.
Here are a few other impactful professionals who incorporate checklists.
- Airplane pilots.
- Military Personnel
All use checklists before going on any flight, performing any surgery, and before every combat mission.
If you think about it, checklists save lives -- literally.
So this checklist will not only save you time, enhance your recovery, and improve your results -- it will also remove the brakes from your body, saving you from constant aches and pains.
Which in the end -- puts a strangle hold on your results.
Let's dive in.
7 Super-Simple Strength Standards
- Leg drop & Toe Touch: Lie on your back, extend both legs up straight, as if you're trying to leg press the ceiling away from you.
Clasp your hands behind one of your hamstrings and hold. Then drop the other leg and alternate.
Standard: Alternate sides L/R for 10 reps.
You should be able to complete this without your legs shaking while keeping the leg you're holding from bending.
Next, toe touch.
You should be able to touch your toes at any given time. Morning, night, whenever. If you can't, deadlifts, swings, cleans, and snatches will not be kind to your back.
Hec, anything requiring your core and legs will not be kind to your back.
- Get off the floor: This one is probably the most over-looked. I've seen professional athletes, powerlifters, and BJJ guys fail this one.
You should be able to get up (using many different variations) without your hands, grunting, and making noises.
Standard: set a timer for 5 minutes and see how many different ways you can get off the floor without your hands.
Essentially, you should be able to get off the floor (for 5 minutes) without making it look like you're trying to take a dump.
Speaking of taking a dump...
- Squat: The "ass to grass" deep body weight squat is the most fundamental posture/movement we have as humans. You should be able to sit comfortably in a deep squat without falling backwards.
I've yet to meet anyone who can sit for 5 minutes or longer in a deep body weight squat and not be able to touch their toes or get off the floor without their hands.
Standard: Work up to sitting/resting here for 5 minutes.
- Quadruped "X-lift": As simple as this exercise may seem -- many crash and burn on this one.
As humans we move reciprocally meaning: when we crawl, walk, run, sprint, etc... our limbs move opposite of each other.
As your right arm sways forward, your left leg is stepping forward and visa-versa.
The "X-lift" is a simplified version of the crawl.
From your hands and knees, all you do is elevate your right hand and left knee. Nothing should change.
You shouldn't rotate, sway, nada!
Standard: Alternate sides L/R for 10 reps.
- Dead Push-up: Lie on your stomach (prone) and place your hands under your shoulders -- thumbs inline with your nipple line (I know, I said nipple but I had to give you a visual).
Tuck your toes and lock your knees.
From here, perform a push-up to lockout.
You should be able to accomplish this without your lower back sagging like melted mozzarella cheese, your shoulders dipping, or your hips collapsing from side to side.
It should be a smooth ascent to the top. If you can't, your core in not being efficient.
Your core basically tells your upper and lower body what to do and helps them communicate with each other -- to move you from one place to another.
Think of your core, abs, midsection as the transmission for your body. If your transmission is shot -- everything crumbles.
Standard: 5 dead push-ups.
- One legged standing test: Standing on one leg is pretty important and requires "reflexive stability".
That's a fancy word for -- your body automatically balancing itself while standing on one leg. Every time you take a step, run, and eventually sprint -- for a brief moment you're on one leg.
If you can't hold a simple one legged stance, the events I mentions will be a challenge and inefficient.
Standard: Stimulate all 3 movement systems: proprioceptive, visual, and vestibular
1. Stand on one leg and hold for 15 seconds. Simple.
You should not move, fall over, or touch the floor with your non-working leg.
2. Stand on one leg, hold, and now close your eyes. You'll feel your feet grip the ground (proprioception) because we just took away your visual movement system.
It's okay if you move a little (But you should not fall over and touch the floor with the non-working leg).
Your body is trying to figure out what the Hec is going on and has deployed it's reflexive stability process to keep you from falling over.
3. Stand on one leg, hold, close your eyes, and now shake your head from side to side like a 9 month old baby saying "no" to his veggies.
Then nod your head up and down like a 9 month old baby saying "yes" to his fruits 🙂
Again, it's okay if you move a little (But you should not fall over and touch the floor with the non-working leg).
Your body is again figuring things out and has deployed it's reflexive stability process to keep you from falling over.
You'll feel your feet gripping the floor again because, we just took away your visual movement system and are now interrupting your vestibular (internal balance) movement system.
If you can't complete this or maybe you can only complete 1 or 2 of them -- simple daily tasks -- especially exercise will be a challenge.
- Hop and skip: This is a fun one. I've yet to meet ANYONE who can do this and not laugh or smile 🙂
(You should see the reaction I get from our students on Saturday mornings, it's hilarious)
Standard: Set a timer and -- simply hop & skip around for 5 minutes -- without stopping, if you can. If you want to see where you stand conditioning wise, give this a go.
(and don't forget to smile and have fun )
Years back, I remember playing at the gym with my daughter when she was 2 or 3.
She wanted me to chase her -- most of which included me hopping around, skipping, rolling, falling, getting up, etc... as I chased after her...
(damn she was and still IS FAST)
... it was exhausting!!
I managed to keep up with her for 45 minutes and then threw in the towel, LOL. But it was a blast (good times).
I remember thinking to myself, "man, if I wasn't in good shape, this would have been impossible."
(Reason # 43,128 to be in great shape)
There you have it -- 7 Strength Standards you should be able to do everyday and at anytime without a warmup (another reason you shouldn't need to spend 10-20 minutes warming up before exercise).
Run through these as a quick checklist to see how you're feeling for the day.
If you can crush them all with ease -- happy lifting 😉
Now, does this mean if you can't complete any of these you shouldn't train?
... it wouldn't hurt to make sure those are squared away.
Plus, being able to do the leg drop and touch your toes before swinging your kettlebells around won't be such a bad idea.
Will you get hurt if you can't do these?
Well, not right away but it will only be a matter when not if.
In part 2 of 7 Strength Standards -- I'll be sharing my thoughts on what you should be able to do with your kettlebells and body weight -- any day -- anytime.
P.S. After you run through these 7 standards, drop a comment or shoot me a quick message here on FB and let me know where you stand.