Iʼve been thinking about the habit of strength lately, and observing it in my students. What is the habit of strength? I am using that term to describe real, useful, comprehensive, and omnipresent strength. This is the kind of strength all of our diligent students have at Form is Function. Real strength is strength that is plainly demonstrated. Nobody wonders if the student is only strong in one arcane or non-typical action that may be demonstrated. A good example of real strength is a correct and heavy, barbell deadlift. Useful strength is the ability to use that deadlift strength outside the gym or exercise setting. Lifting bags of concrete into your car for example. Pushing large rocks off a roadway is another. Comprehensive strength is strength you can use everywhere and for all purposes. Form is Function students are strong in all natural movements and postures. If you are weak in a common situation, you do not have comprehensive strength. Omnipresent strength: You are always strong, even if you are tired, sick, scared or hurt. Even when there is no warm-up or warning. You have a surplus of physical power that you can call upon.
Here is part of a post I wrote in August of 2012 while teaching outdoor group classes:
“Everyone did heavy and excellent goblet squats. Many of The ladies went VERY heavy, with rock solid technique. Libby, Danielle, Kate and Nolita did squats with the 53 and 62 pound kettlebell, and alternated with double 30ʼs. Britt used the 80 pound kettlebell. Lindsey usually uses the 80, but scaled back to the 62 on this evening. Those weights are impressive. But I have seen heavy lifting before. The really satisfying thing for me was the calm and confident manner in which these ladies went about their work in the greenhouse heat. No words of doubt, no scared faces, only a quiet, intense focus. The women helped each other get into position, and moved with perfect form. These are the marks of people who have developed the habit of extreme strength. Fear and hesitation are long gone, all that remains is pure power.”
There may be much more to this conversation. We have marveled at “effortless strength” for instance. I have observed the habit of strength in the last few days and weeks. My student Heather sprained her ankle quite badly the other day, she canʼt put any weight on it. I went over to apply tractioning. She was a bit dazed, but very pleased with the strength of her uninjured leg, which enabled her to be impressively mobile. While I was there Heather did a competent sort of one-legged-crab-crawl through her house with a lap full of computer equipment, and hopped around the kitchen on one foot with good control and no fear. We also did some kettlebell lifting, she experimenting with various seated positions for the military press. Heather is practicing the habit of strength. You could say she has mastered it to an impressive degree, and that mastery is serving her very well.
My Long time student Louise was riding her bicycle at a good clip on a desolate road recently, and went into a pot- hole. She launched over the handlebars and landed on her hands. This kind of accident can cripple a person. I should mention Louise is in her late 60ʼs. She stood up, did a quick inventory of bike and body and cycied on. Her companions never knew she had fallen. Louise had barely a scratch, and no pain from that incident. She credits her diligent work in group classes and private sessions with Form is Function over a period of four years. Louise draws a clear connection between her very substantial increase in strength in our basic drills, and her impressive resilience in the crash. Besides not being hurt at all, she was not scared at all. This is the habit of strength.
– Eric Kenyon