Than there was Len Cooper. He was our star, senior running back in the football Mecca of the U.S., South Florida. I was a freshman kicker at huge 6A public school now having to stretch who was considered the ‘Baddest’ Man in our county. Coming from a Jewish prep school the year previously I never would have imagined that such a massive individual would be in my hands.
Than ‘There’ he was, as chill as could be. This man who made the eleven high school mercenaries out to kill him every game look absolutely silly was the nicest person I had ever met. Did I mention yet that he had flexibility that would make a gymnast blush while having ear muscles? No seriously, his traps went so high on his neck that they were in his ear canal.
At fourteen years old my assumption was that men this big, that are ‘Hard as a Rock,’ would have to be mean to get there. Since than this anomalous beast has actually proven to be the rule, not the exception. So many of the highly developed specimens I have worked on display similar characteristics:
- High Pain Tolerance….
- Exceptional Breathing……..In that they are deep belly breathers
- Vascularity…. you can easily see many of their veins
- Physical Mastery…. exceptional control of their body in space
- Tons of energy….
- Totally chill disposition.
There has to be something more to this phenomenon other than the ‘Big’ dog not getting rattled by the heel nippers. Sports science has really given incredible insight into the relationship between muscle tone and the endocrine system. When our body has muscle strength all of our connective tissues and skeletal system rejoice signaling happy, or resilient, hormones. People with good muscle tone in my experience are generally more energetic and happier.
This makes sense because you can move around freely without pain when you have good strength. Pain is the great inhibitor, stopping us before we even start. Chronic muscle weakness, either from injury or lack of use, begets pain and soreness quicker than anything else which induces the negative spiral of non-activity. If we’re not rigorously moving we are definitely not breathing deeply.
Think of the body as a combustion engine. Un-restrict the airflow and voila, power on demand! When you huff and puff you are oxygenating, un-restricting your respiratory system while increasing the zeta potential of your blood. With increased blood viscosity your circulatory system can distribute whats needed and take the waste away. When these systems are working in unison they appear physically as good vascularity. Is it coincidence that veiny peeps all seem to be deep breathers also?
It seems that resistance training gives the biggest bang for the buck considering nothing spikes the heart rate faster than lifting heavy objects. My respiration during a good weight lifting session is deeper than any other type of conditioning practice. Touching that ’Oh Sh^%, I’m going to die,’ moment lets you know that you have gotten close to your maximum heart rate. Going through this self generated ‘Fight Club’ really does turn the noise of modern life way down. I notice that if life bumps into me after a good workout I just don’t hurt as much.
In massage school we were taught that low pain tolerance was caused from lactic acid stored in muscle from a lack of glycolysis. Glycolysis is when our muscle converts the sugar glycogen into energy for movement. If we don’t move enough glycogen oxidizes into lactic acid, OUCH! As we work the muscle this acid than touches the nerves causing the body to react with a wince and or spasm. I have noticed through my practice that people with low pain tolerance are usually a little over weight and feel really smooth to the touch.
All of this data has lead me to concoct what I call the Muscle Battery Theory. People that have good proportion and muscle tone are more active because they have more electrical potential than those that have better insulation. With this extra juice their capacity to overcome both mental and physical obstacles is much easier which solidifies a healthy sense of confidence. Their increased pain tolerance creates space for adventure.
As Pavel Tsatsouline, former Russian Master of Sport, is fond of saying,
‘Strength comes first.’
Think of strength as carrying capacity. When you have good strength it’s a type of levitation, you are defeating gravity.