Watching several events from the World's Strongest Man competition makes me wonder if these guys believe in physical limits. What they put themselves through is crazy. I saw one guy from Sweden rough up the front and back of his hands by scraping them on concrete before the truck pull just so he could improve his grip. I can't imagine doing this to my body to test my strength. How would a regular guy who will never be a strongman contestant accurately test his strength? - Pete
I know what you mean. I watch and marvel that they can continually push beyond the body's normal limits and get up the next day to do it again. During the brief moments of competition, they routinely jeopardize their joints and torture their physical frames. They demonstrate how committed they are to their goal.
Just when you think they are spent, they let out a primal scream to summon up one more second, one more inch or one more pound. I'm confident the one thing these men of steel believe about limits is that they can and should be broken. They are not merely testing their strength - they are vying for the prestigious title of the World's Strongest Man.
For mere mortal souls like us who want to test our physical strength, however, there is good news. It's as simple as a push-up. That's right. No need to scuff body parts until they bleed; we can get a pretty good idea of our capabilities by lifting our own body weight. In addition to using the push-up as a test, start incorporating this efficient exercise three to four times a week to see remarkable improvements in your upper body.
If you're beginning a weight training program, testing your strength will give you a safe starting point. You won't be measuring absolute strength - the maximum amount of weight you are able to lift. Rather, you will test muscular endurance: how many times you can lift something. Once you determine this, you can set reasonable goals for your program. Furthermore, this information will help measure and monitor your strength improvements periodically.
Here's how it's done. The push-up test can be done anywhere, but it is helpful to have a friend count for you and monitor form. Record the total number of push-ups you can do without stopping.
Note: There are three types of push-ups that use different muscles: close-hand, regular and wide-arm. The closer your hands are together, the more you will engage your triceps; the wider apart, the more you will engage your chest and shoulders. Regular is recommended for this assessment as it will most likely be where you feel the strongest.
Men perform traditional military push-ups extending legs straight out with toes and hands on the floor. Women do modified push-ups from their knees with toes off the floor.
Keeping the entire body straight with abdominals engaged to prevent your back from bowing, lower your chest to the floor. Your upper arms will be parallel to the floor. Raise yourself back up to the starting position and repeat until you can no longer complete the upward movement.
Grunting is legal and recommended to eke out the last few.
Testing the strength of regular guys - and girls - with push-ups will give you a fairly accurate assessment of your strength. It will also give you a startling insight into the international competitors who will be taking everything they've got into the finals at 7:30 p.m. today at Appalachian Power Park. While it is hard to imagine the mental and physical power harnessed inside these men, it is even harder for me to imagine missing the opportunity to see this awe-inspiring event in person. Come on out, Charleston - it's free and we all know there's strength in numbers.
Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified coordinator/instructor since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or e-mail cindys...@aol.com. Look for Cindy's fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World" on her Web site www.cindysays.com or contact the YMCA at 340-3527.