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Strength Training Ain't the Way

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I once read this quote from Forbes: "for each generation to make progress, it must view the one before it as barbaric."

These days, exercise is all about muscle and strength. But in the future, we will look back on these concepts as barbaric. Why? Well, for a lot of reasons.

We're starting to realize that building muscle is not as valuable as enhancing function, i.e. those with great coordination and balance tend to be much more athletic than those with great strength.

I thought yoga was fad. Back in the 90s, all the ladies and metrosexual men were dashing into yoga classes and workshops. (I think Madonna had a lot to do with it) I was sure that yoga would be dead in 10 years. I was wrong. But the way I see it, many who practice yoga still talk about how it builds strength.

The hottest emerging exercise is called functional exercise or (gulp) "functional fitness." The concept is that conventional weight training isolates and builds muscles, but it doesn't "teach" those muscle groups to work with other muscles. So "functional" movements focus less on raw strength and more on integration and coordination. These are more like whole-body exercises that will help you lift a toddler out of a car seat or carry a 60-pound suitcase down the stairs.

Doctors and trainers are closing in on the exercise of the future. They know functional is better than strong, and that stretching (yoga) is really important. Tai Chi is all that and a bag of chips.

Tai Chi is all about coordination. In fact, the movements are slow so that you can fine tune your coordination. When you move slowly, you begin to feel which parts are not linked up. In the west, we view "coordination" as aggregate. But in Tai Chi, there are six coordinations: three exterior (shoulders and hips; elbows and knees; hands & legs) and three interior (heart and intention; intention and chi; chi and strength). At higher levels, all six must also coordinate.

Tai Chi is also a phenomenon of stretching. Sure, yoga gets you stretched, but not like Tai Chi.

Add a Comment6 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

How ironic that both Anonymous and kellerb are both older, scholarly gentleman who lifts weights, practice Tai Chi, and visit women's social media sites.
Sounds like just one jackass to me.

May 29, 2010 - 8:32am

Just for the record Mr Kirchoff, I am not anonymous, I am kellerb. I have not had 37 years experience having taken up TaiChi when I was 65 and I have not seriously hurt myself,just two years ago. I am a retired academic of 40 years experience as a physicist. Parenthetical is the correct spelling. All professionals experience name calling. you may donate your proposed $50 to a favorite charity. Thanks for responding though. I'm off to TaiChi and a weight training class this morning.


April 29, 2010 - 4:55am

1. It is obvious that "anonymous" and kellerb are one in the same.
(the paranthetical writing style, brand-spanking new membership,
and laborious mention of "37 years" makes that pretty obvious).

2. kellerb is an incorrigible curmudgeon of a man; MAN is the
operative word here. This site ain't EmpowHIM.

3. In his first comment he says, "Tai Chi is no different than
any other sport." Herein lies the basis of why I can say he
is wrong. T''ai chi chuan is so vastly different from "external"
practices that guys like kellerb will never grasp its essence.

4. Argues from authority: whatever.
The proof is in the puddin' (my demonstration video).
When kellerb can come out of the anonymity closet to
disclose his real name, and then post a video of his
37-years of bla bla bla--
one that looks better than both mine and my teacher's--
he will have actually proven a point.
Until then he's just name-calling and blowing hot air
(or in the internal martial arts, we would say
'kellerb is leaking chi...')

5. $50 says kellerb hurts himself before he turns 60.
This is a wake-up call. I teach exercise classes to
seniors and pre-AARP (55-65) folks all the time.
57-year old guys who still practice their strength
are the ones who tear muscles, tweak ligaments,
herniate discs and get hurt. Luckily, the majority
of 55+ women know better.

6. I'll bet my ancestor, Gustav Kirchhoff, had
curmudgeony academics calling him names too.
Sticks and stones, Mr. Keller, sticks & stones.

April 29, 2010 - 3:33am

What a fool is Tommy Kirchoff. Not only is he disrespectful of others but assumes there is only one way to view his discipline or the universe. He argues from authority(invalid!) just as he condescendingly puts down his correspondent of 37 years practice(anonymous-unfortunate!!) I conclude Kirchoff(interestingly the surname of a noted 19th century open-minded physicist!). What an idiot he is and what a disappointing intro to a martial arts website.


April 28, 2010 - 8:46pm

You're wrong. You've likely learned the wrong things from
the wrong people, and you're practicing incorrectly. From
this, I assume you're very stiff and not very skilled.

On the other hand, I am learning Tai Chi, BaGua, and
Xing-Yi from one of the top neijia grandmasters in the
entire world. My teacher's lineage is impeccable, and
his skills are nothing short of extraordinary. Here is my
teacher's demonstration of Advanced Tai Chi:
(can you even understand what you're looking at ?)

Here is my demonstration of Liang-Yi Chuan,
a high level form of Tai Chi:

By all means, please post your demonstration here.
If it's better than mine, I will certainly jump up
and tell you.

The principle is "Yong Yi Bu Yong Li"
That means "Use your mind and not your strength."
This is an important principle in Tai Chi.
If you are practicing your strength, you
are not practicing Tai Chi correctly.

As far as weights, you're very wrong there too.
"Old People Should Not Lift Weights"

April 28, 2010 - 10:29am
EmpowHER Guest

I could not disagree more. This is not an accurate view of Tai Chi. If you look at members of the Chen family (who created Tai Chi and taught Yang Luchan, who created Yang style), their legs are like tree trunks. Muscular strength is crucial to do Tai Chi properly. Only with proper muscular strength can you achieve skill. Otherwise, you're doing the watered down version. I'm 57 years old and have practiced martial arts for 37 years and I have trained with members of the Chen family and their disciples. During the past 37 years, I've become quite an expert on what is necessary, and weight training is absolutely essential for men and women -- it makes you stronger, healthier, enables you to burn calories better, and provides you with a foundation of strength in the event you become ill (it can happen as you get older). Tai Chi is no different than any other sport. Soft and well-stretched muscles won't get you very far. You don't have to be muscle-bound like a body-builder, but stronger muscles are NEVER a bad idea. Weight-training is essential for health.

April 28, 2010 - 9:49am
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