(This post originally appeared on originalstrength.net)
“I wanna rock! ROCK!”
“I want! To! Rock! ROCK!”
Twisted Sister, “I wanna rock”
In keeping with my tradition of starting my articles on Original Strength resets with a lyric from some of my favorite hard rock songs from decades past (and with resets with names like rocking and rolling, how can you not?), I thought I’d throw in that gem from 80’s hair metal band Twisted Sister. Yeah, they obviously had something different in mind with the rocking they wanted to do, but the rocking I want to do is very much in the interest of resetting my Soft Machine and rejuvenating and strengthening its ability to reflexively stabilize itself under any circumstance. And YOU should want that, too. Rocking often gets short shrift among the quintet of resets. How do I know this?
Because I was a guilty party in this for a long time.
Rolling I could see being important. I mean, it can be done all sorts of different ways, can help you gently stretch your spine and re-introduce rotational patterns to your movement (crucial for spinal health), and is also a life skill: if you’ve ever slipped and fallen, you know that rolling will get you back on your feet whereas “splatting” will keep you flat on your back, possibly with a brand-new injury to add to your collection.
Crawling is obviously important. It teaches your top and bottom halves how to synch up with each other, builds real brute strength that directly applies to other strength and athletic moves, helps you move better almost immediately, bestows upon you just the right amounts of flexibility and mobility for most any task you could ask for, builds abs of steel and a heart and set of lungs like a racehorse…I could go on and on about crawling. Who DOESN’T love it by now?
Breathing is an obvious one – if you don’t do it non-stop for your entire life, it’s curtains for you, buddy. Neck nods were also pretty obvious – your neck is your body’s fuse box. If you don’t wanna blow a fuse, you’d better not let your fuse box get rusty and dusty.
But rocking? I’ll just turn my music up and get my rocking in that way. How does that sound?
Well, turn your music down and listen to this, whippersnappers. Rocking – as I’ve discovered – serves a lot more purposes than I originally thought, and has had such a big impact on my body – and my strength practice in particular – that I feel compelled to tell you why I like it so much and why you all should like it just as much.
A few years ago I got injured doing a hold-my-beer-and-watch-this type stunt. Only I was the only one around, so I pretty much had to hold my own beer and watch as I got jacked up. The long and short of it was that my upper back got knotted up like a rope in a Boy Scout camp merit badge competition and threw a lot of stuff in my shoulder girdle way out of whack. Even after getting it fixed up so that I could hoist iron again, I hadn’t really fully recovered – I had to do stretches and a variety of warm ups in the morning to get my tight muscles to play ball. While I never trained in pain, I definitely dealt with a lot of discomfort every morning. After moving to Israel, I met with a Neuro-Kinetic Therapy specialist, Dara Cowen Saker, and among other things she pointed out that my pecs and lats weren’t working together as they should, which explained why my shoulder girdle had been so jacked up. She gave me a few drills to work on, and let me tell you, they were gold. Solid gold. But I also knew that they weren’t going to be enough, and that if I ever really wanted to regain some function, I was going to have to re-teach my pecs and lats to be friends, hold hands, and help me get strong safely once again.
As Tim and Geoff point out in the book, rocking has multiple big payoff benefits, including:
- Improved posture
- Reflexive stability
- Engagement of pelvic floor muscles
- Engages the abs inside and out
Believe me, I’ve done a lot of rocking since realizing the error of my ways, and all of the above are true. But one thing that really stood out in stark relief from the known benefits that I had never noticed before was that when I rocked correctly, I could feel my pecs and lats working together! A bonus worthy of an entire article!
For the record, having your pecs and lats working in harmony is important for more than just eliminating discomfort in your shoulder girdle. If you ever want to do some impressive feats of upper body strength, these two big muscle groups HAVE to join forces against the armies of darkness known as Weakness and Gravity. Ice climber and one-arm chin up artist Ian Holmes astutely pointed out once that beyond a certain range of motion, your lats aren’t the only things working hard in a heavy pullup attempt – your chest has to get in on the action if you’re going to get your chin over that bar. Likewise with dips – if you don’t feel your lats during the movement, prepare to feel like your neck and chest muscles are choking you once all is said and done (ask me how I know this). And by now I probably don’t need to tell you that the world’s best benchers fire their lats as hard as they can to help their heavy barbells defeat gravity.
The ability to gently remind your body to fire these two major muscles as if they were one big muscle group is pure money when it comes to training. If strength training is a skill (and it is) there are always aspects of it that can be practiced over and over again, day in and day out, to scaffold the really hard work you’re going to have to do to smash your old personal records. Stack this one aspect on top of all of the other benefits mentioned that rocking confers upon you and you’d be leaving a lot of training money on the table by not using this move regularly.
In addition to my daily resets every morning, quite possibly the biggest and best tip I picked up from Original Strength was that of inserting resets BETWEEN sets of your exercises. In my opinion, this is where the power of the resets really shines. The stress built up from set to set and exercise to exercise can be shaken off and allow you to start from a much fresher point each time you get ready to practice again. Geoff Neupert has pointed out elsewhere that it’s not how much work you can do, but how much work you can recover from. If you can use resets not only to recover from exercises, but to recover between exercises and also to improve exercises by teaching your body how to link itself up to better perform them, you MIGHT just have a secret power tool in your back pocket, and I MIGHT just have to implore you to start immediately.
The recommendations on which resets to use for which task are pretty loose. Regarding rocking, Tim has said that he likes rocking after fast movements, like kettlebell swings. Geoff likes rocking after squats or kettlebell ballistics. Me, I like rocking between sets of dips and pullups for the reason I mentioned above – getting my lats and pecs to talk to each other, which has a big transfer into both movements. Listen to what your body says and respond accordingly, but start now.
Here’s an example of how I did it.
A1) Weighted pullups
– 5-10 rocks
A2) Weighted dips
– 5-10 rocks
B1) Double kettlebell front squats – 3-5 reps
– 5-10 rocks
B2) Double kettlebell swings -5-10 reps
– 5-10 rocks
Simple, super straight forward, and if you’re not doing it already then start now – believe me, it feels like you’ve been given an almost clean slate at the beginning of each new set. You will get a ton of rocking in and you’ll be amazed at how the benefits not only of reflexive stability, recruitment of sleepy muscles, and improved mobility help your training, but also how the vastly improved recovery abilities and ability to relax after each set make a huge impact on the amount
Sammy Hagar once sang “There’s only one way to rock.” I’ve been there, done that, and I disagree. Don’t limit yourself to rocking only in one way! I rarely do the same type of rocking between sets, and it both breaks up the monotony AND develops your body more fully. I switch up between a wider than normal hand placement, a narrower than shoulder width placement, just outside shoulder width, different foot placement, legs far apart, legs close together, lift up a foot upon rocking forward, rock facing downward on a hill, etc. The idea is to elicit the benefits of rocking, and as long as you’re moving forward and backward on your hands and knees/feet while maintaining good posture and your eyes straight forward, guess what: you’re rocking!
One of the biggest concepts of Original Strength is to regain the body we’re meant to have the same way we attained it in the first place: by playing, exploring, and enjoying ourselves. Don’t treat your resets as a chore – have fun with them, and mix them up however you can! And if you invent or discover a new way to do a reset that really rocks your world (no pun intended – okay, maybe a little bit intended) then by all means, send it my way! I wanna try it too. In the meantime, go forth, hit the deck, and ROCK!