A Superhero in Training: Strength Training

by David Kingsbury

Not everyone is born a superhero. Not everyone experiences a catastrophic accident that transforms them into a superhero. Most people have to work their arse off to be a superhero and, if you are reading this for fitness advice, I presume you are the latter. That said, Batman did it so why not you?!

What kind of superhero would you most like to be? 

1) One that can fly?
2) One than can explode into a ball of fire?
3) One that can see through clothes?

My insurance won’t cover me for the first two and, morally, I can’t help with number 3.  However, I can help with all other physical attributes and have split these into 4 sections, which I will be covering over the next few weeks: strength, endurance, cardio and flexibility. This first article looks at strength.

A superhero needs to be strong. I doubt anyone would argue with that. Here are 7 great exercises for boosting strength - everything from struggling with dumbbells to wielding Thor’s mighty hammer! Let's do this!

1. Trap Bar Deadlift

We really are starting as we mean to go on with a big lift that will make you seriously strong!

How to:

  • Have the bar loaded. 
  • Step inside the bar, feet shoulder width apart.
  • Push the hips back and bend at the knees, keeping the back straight and head facing forwards (straight spine).
  • Take hold of the bar, with your elbows outside your knees, hips slightly higher than knees.
  • Push up through the heels, keeping the back angle the same until the final part of the lift.
  • Pause. Then return to the start, controlling the movement back down.

2. Single Leg Squats

These are a great good lower body strength move and are very accessible. When starting out, it is likely you won’t need added resistance but, when you do, it is very simple to load.

How to:

  • Stand on one leg with the other knee bent. (Tip: If you need to, use a wall or banister to help keep your balance until your stability improves.)
  • Bend the standing leg and push your buttocks out behind you. (Note: Aim for full range of movement, if possible; if not, reduce the range until you master the move.)
  • Make sure your hips stay level, don't let one drop down.
  • Raise back up to the start position. Repeat.

3. Muscle Ups

These are an under-rated and under-used movement - probably because they are really hard!  Once you can hit these for reps, Peter Parker will be calling to talk mutant spider bites!

How to: 

  • Grab the rings using a false grip. (Note: The false grip is simply a way of grabbing the rings that places the wrist above the ring rather than below it. With the wrist above the ring, the transition into the dip becomes easier.)
  • Hang.
  • Raise your feet off the floor by bending your knees.
  • Hang with straight arms.
  • Pull yourself up hard.
  • Keep your elbows close.
  • Pass the rings. Pull yourself all the way up until your chin passes the bar.
  • Quickly transition into a dip and drive yourself up. 
  • Lower slowly and repeat. 

4 & 5. Weighted Pull Ups & Dips

Most superheroes have pipes; it’s a law of nature. The hulk gets them when he gets angry and you will get them too when you get smart and superset these brutes.

Parallel Bar Dips

How to:

  • Support bodyweight on parallel bars.
  • Lower the body slowly until no less than 90° at the elbow. (Note: The upper body should lean forwards slightly throughout this movement.)
  • Slowly press back to the starting position.
  • Going too low in this exercise can put stress on the shoulder capsule for some individuals so be careful and know your own body.

Pull Ups (aka Chin Ups)

How to:

  • Grab an overhead bar with a shoulder width grip (hands supinated, pronated or neutral – all are good). 
  • Pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar.
  • Slowly lower yourself back down and repeat. 

6. Ab Wheel Roll Outs

A strong core equals a mighty superhero. Take these on and see your overall strength boosted impressively.

How to:

  • Start from a kneeling position, holding the wheel placed on the floor directly below the shoulders.
  • Roll the wheel out as far as it’s comfortable. (Remember: Keep the core engaged – tight as you roll out - and back flat throughout the movement.)
  • Reach out as far as possible without arching your back.
  • Then roll the wheel back to the start.

7. Dragon Flags

The exercise of real life superheroes Rocky and Bruce Lee. Need I say anymore?

How to:

  • Start with the eccentric (or negative) portion of the dragon flag, which is when you lower your body.
  • Lay with your back on the bench, weight on the shoulders and grip under the bench with your hands. 
  • Form a straight line with your torso and legs. Don't hinge at the hips.
  • At first, you may only be able to lower your body slightly below vertical while maintaining control. If this happens, you can tuck one or both legs to make easier. 
  • Keep practicing until you can manage a slow descent all the way to the floor.
  • To train the upward portion of the dragon flag, start from a position where your body is already raised and rise up to vertical. 

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