Rock lifting creates different types of strength. In rock lifting (part 1) we looked at some foundation movements to build brute strength. In this article we are going to look at some rock lifting movement patterns that build agile and explosive strength.
Agile and explosive strength are both extremely underutilized in the modern world. Our tribal ancestors had plenty of both. Navigating their environment whilst carrying heavy objects or evading predators would not be possible without them.
Rock lifting for agile strength
Rock lifting and in particular the manoeuvring of rocks creates agile strength. Agile strength can be seen as a person’s ability to generate force though multiple planes of motion. Put simply the ability for the body to express strength freely, not only under the confinements of certain positions.
When we neglect to practice strength whilst in improvised motion our mobility declines. We can not move as well and we are not strong outside of the ranges of motion that we practice.
Carrying heavy objects or loaded locomotion training is the best way to create agile strength . When we locomote though natural terrain environments whilst carrying weight our bodies become strong in multiple planes of motion. We become strong when moving not solely in static positions.
In rock lifting part 1 I discussed how lifting awkward objects on uneven terrain creates far more variety for the body to adapt to compared to training in a one surface environment such as a gym. This becomes even more apparent when locomoting.
All the movement listed below are full-body movement patterns with the use of a load (the rock). Movement based resistance training forces the body to adapt and become strong whilst in motion making it real world applicable.
Give the following movements a try. As they are more complex than the ones listed in rock lifting part 1 they will stress the muscles, ligaments and tendons more so it is best to start with light rocks and gradually increase the difficulty.
In Rock lifting part 1 we looked at the rock pickup (or dead lift). To make this movement even more real world applicable we are going to move the rock from one place to another. Picking objects up is fun but moving them is practical.
Place your feet either side of the rock. Spread your fingers wide (this allows for a better grip) and bend down and grasp the rock. Try to keep your arms as straight as possible but allow some bend to mimic the shape of the rock if required. Imagine trying to crush the stone with your hands, arms and forearms. Brace your back and pull the rock up to your hips. Remember to pull the rock off the ground, don’t try to squat the rock off the ground.
Now that you have the rock off the ground with your arms locked pick a point around 10 meters away and walk the rock there. Once you get there place the rock back on the ground and choose another point. Repeat this 3 times.
Try sidestepping and taking the occasional back step to create further variety. I only tend to use this movement on reasonably flat terrain as carrying a rock in this manner up an incline can be somewhat dangerous.
Being able to carry objects across terrain of varying gradients is essential in the natural world. In the human zoo terrain tends to be quite even but this is never the case in the nature.
Manoeuvring heavy objects up hills across natural terrain is about as difficult as it gets. It requires a tremendous degree of co-ordination and the stabilization muscles are sent into overdrive.
Uphill carries can be done by shouldering the rock or by holding the rock close to the chest.
If using the shoulder carry use both hands to shoulder the rock. When ready to move you can either support it with one hand, or use two if it is a heavy or an awkward shape. Practice on both shoulders to vary the load being place on the muscles further.
When doing the chest carry, bring the rock to the chest. Keep the elbows tucked in. Imagine hugging the rock. You won’t be judged it’s not a tree.
Find yourself a manageable hill and get walking. Carry the rock both up and down the hill as this creates different loads for the muscles to adapt to.
Try one hill on each shoulder and one hill using the chest carry.
Shoulder carry and squat pickup
This is another extremely practical movement. When carrying an object sometimes we are required to pick another object off the ground. This is more challenging that simply carrying the object.
Find a rock that once shouldered you are able to support with one hand. Scatter a few smaller rocks along a 10m trail. After shouldering the rock walk to one of the smaller rocks, squat down and pick it up. Carry it to another small rock, squat down and switch rocks. Repeat this pattern for the 10m trail. Switch the rock onto the other shoulder and repeat the process.
Rock lifting for explosive strength
Agile strength is a graceful sort of strength and is most appropriate when locomoting. Although explosive strength can also be a component when locomoting it is less about being strong in a variety of positions and instead about generating maximum power in a given movement.
Explosive strength allows the individual to generate the maximum amount of force in the shortest period of time.
Imagine a tribesman sprinting away from a predator, launching a spear at a prey animal, or leaping between two rock faces. These are examples of explosive strength.
By practicing explosive movements we are able to increase the firing rate of our muscles which allows them to perform movements with minimal delay. It also helps to recruit more motor units and synchronize larger number of muscles. This allows our movements to generate more force. Great news if you ever find yourself being chased by wild boar.
Some of my favourite explosive movements with a rock include:
If we come across something that is too heavy to lift, the alternative is to flip it. Flipping rocks is a truly explosive movement.
Keep some space between you and the rock. Grip the rock and lock your elbows. Keeping a neutral spine, lower your hips and simultaneously activate your ankles, knees and hips. Powerfully lift the rock driving it up and outright at a 45 degree angle. Your hips should be driving upwards and forwards at the same time. Keep your body close to the rock at all times. Once the rock is vertical quickly rotate your hands and use the momentum to complete the flip.
Don’t round the back when lifting or bend the elbows during the initial lift. Shoot hips up by extending the knees. When flipping rocks the majority of the power is generated from the lower body. It is a different movement to the deadlift so takes some getting used to. Be careful not to bend the arms.
Try 3-5 flips on a small rock to begin with and once you have the technique down find a more difficult beast.
Throwing rocks for explosive power
The next series of movements are variations of throws. Throwing rocks is another great way to create explosive power. Some of the throws listed below are more practical than others but they all create a different load for the body to adapt to. Repeat all the throws 3-5 times each.
Bring the rock to the chest. Keep the elbows tucked in as much as possible, bend at the knees, explode up straightening the legs and arms in front of your chest simultaneously and release the rock. On this throw you are trying to force the rock away from the chest so the rock travels horizontally.
Rock shoulder throw
Bring the rock to the chest. Keep the elbows tucked in as much as possible, bend at the knees, explode up straightening the legs and arms overhead simultaneously and release the rock. Unlike the chest throw you are extending the arms above your head and trying to make the rock travel as vertical as possible, without it landing on your head 😉
Front Swing throw
Bring rock to hips keeping the arms straight. Thrust forward with the hips to create some space between you and the rock. Drop into the dead lift position allowing the rock to swing in between your legs. As the your arms touch your legs, use the momentum to drive your legs upwards simultaneously swinging the rock upwards with your arms. Once the rock reaches shoulder height release it.
This one is really good at building the explosive strength needed for takedown defence for anyone into martial arts.
Over head throw
Start in a split stance. Press the rock high enough to clear the head. Bend the arms behind your head to gain leverage. Explode straightening the arms, activating the core, and transferring your weight from your back to front leg to launch the rock.
Rock twist throw
Bring the rock to your waist. Take a wide stance and bend at the knees. Rotate your trunk and bring the rock to one side. Keep most of your weight on the same side as the rock to begin with. Rotate the trunk and swing the rock towards the opposite side simultaneously transferring the weight to the opposite leg.
As you do this allow the leg that held the weight in the beginning to follow through with the throw and come up on to the ball of the foot. Use the momentum and release the rock into the air. Follow the rock, pick it up and repeat on the opposite side.
This builds the explosive strength needed in the muscles for judo style throws or any twisting movements.
Pick the rock up and press it over head. Bend the arms a little to gain some leverage. Pulling with the lats and the with entire anterior chain explode and throw the rock to the ground as hard as you possibly can. This is my favourite rock throw. It is strangely satisfying.
The movements listed throughout this article form a great base for carrying and throwing rocks. If you wish you can connect some of them with other movements or even introduce an accuracy component. With regular practice your agile and explosive strength will dramatically increase making your body better adapted maneuvering and manipulating objects in diverse environments.