The training, philosophy and stories as told by Dan Cenidoza.
How Muscle Control Works and a Quick Workout
Muscle control is a lost art. It has been much aligned by many people who say it‘s worthless. Other’s praise it as the holy grail, the best and only way to workout. I fall somewhere between. I think it can be a useful way to train for a time by itself, or to incorporate a few exercises, into any other training you do.
What is the purpose of muscle control? The whole idea behind it is that you gain a greater level of control from your mind to your muscles. With that control you can command your muscles to tense up and to relax.
Muscle control was hugely popular among several of the oldtime strongmen, most notably Eugen Sandow, Maxick and Otto Arco. There were also many others. You can’t deny the strength of these athletes. Unfortunately no one today that I’m aware of is showcasing huge levels of strength, and attributing it primarily to muscle control.
There are some success stories like Dan himself has had (http://www.bemoretraining.com/knowledge/articles/muscle-control.html) using muscle control and from some of my students as well.
To go deeper into it a more in depth explanation is needed. I’ll try to avoid as many complex terms as possible.
The theory on how it can be used for super strength is that when you are doing any exercise there are certain muscles that must exert tension in order to do the movement. Other muscles should be relaxed. Flexing them would not only be wasted energy, but could actually act as brakes on the muscles that should be doing the work.
For instance, let’s look at the upper arm. Most people are familiar with the two main muscles there, the biceps and the triceps. These muscles are antagonistic to each other. When one is flexing the other is relaxing or at least it should be. But if both are tensed as you’re doing a barbell curl your biceps needs to not only fight the weight, but may also be fighting your triceps as well.
This is actually what Charles Atlas’ dynamic tension was based on, creating the tension with the other muscles as resistance.
So the idea is that if you had optimal muscle control you could make sure certain muscles are tensed as much as is needed and only where needed, whereas the other unused or inhibitory muscles will be kept completely relaxed. And if you could do this all the strength in those muscles used could then be focused on the weight allowing you to lift more.
When people are getting stronger this may be happening naturally to some degree. Sure the muscles are likely getting stronger themselves and bigger too. You can also be gaining the neural groove needed to perform the skill of the movement as well. But you may be unconsciously taking the breaks off too just by training the movement.
However you may be able to speed up this process, or get it going otherwise when the body isn’t functioning in this way, by specifically practicing muscle control.
The first two basic exercises that are taught in Maxick’s classic book Muscle Control are whole body tension and relaxation. I agree that these are a great place to start and will show you a slight spin on this that will quickly give you some idea of muscle control.
Flex each muscle or group of muscles in turn, while keeping the previous muscle flexed. As this is going to take a little while you’ll want to breathe shallowly the entire time. Do not hold your breath or try to power breath the entire time. Also you don’t need to flex them 100%, just go for 80% tension as you try this exercise.
Flex the muscles of the neck.
Flex the traps.
Flex the shoulders.
Flex the upper arms.
Flex the forearms and hands.
Flex the chest.
Flex the lats.
Flex the rib muscles.
Flex the abdominals and obliques.
Flex the lower back.
Flex the glutes.
Flex the thighs.
Flex the calves and shins.
Flex the toes.
Relax the muscles of the neck.
Relax the traps.
Relax the shoulders.
Relax the upper arms.
Relax the forearms and hands.
Relax the chest.
Relax the lats.
Relax the rib muscles.
Relax the abdominals and obliques.
Relax the lower back.
Relax the glutes.
Relax the thighs.
Relax the calves and shins.
Relax the toes.
Go ahead and try this exercise right now. Stand up, it will take less then a minute and you’ll get much more out of it then just reading this article.
Try this same thing in reverse starting from the toes and going back up.
What did you notice? Were you able to segregate your muscles and get them to only flex when you wanted them too? Or when you flexed some did others automatically fire as well? For instance when I just tried this my lats and chest were already activated by the time I went down my arms.
This simple exercise will show you how much control you have and where you may need it. It took me a long time to be able to flex my lats without simultaneously engaging my pectoral or chest muscles at the same time.
If you’re willing to devote the time to practicing perhaps you’ll find some of the great benefits that are promised. If you do be sure to let me know.
Logan Christopher runs http://www.LegendaryStrength.com - He has put together the only video course on muscle control available on the market which will give you everything you need to master muscle control. You can find that at http://www.MuscleControlExercises.com/