Imperfection training is a big part of what Primal Strength Camp is all about.
I first read about the idea of this type of training in the book “Supertraining” by Yuri Verkhoshansky. If you’ve never heard of this book and are serious about strength training and muscle building, you need to invest in it.
Consider this statement:
All-round sports training must include the capability of coping with unexpected and sub-optimal conditions. In certain sports where accidents or unexpected situations often occur, such as the martial arts, parachuting and motor racing, participants are taught how to cope with events that can have serious consequences. This type of preparation needs to be adopted far more extensively in all sports so that the athlete is able to anticipate threatening situations, react much more rapidly to unexpected circumstances, take action to avoid or minimise injury, and cope with sub-optimal conditions by practising with imperfectly executed movements.
When I first started training outside with odd-objects for fun as a way to break up the monotony of the gym, I immediately noticed that my gym strength didn’t translate to the real world.
The real world IS a “sub-optimal condition”. Nothing is ever perfect. But our bodies get so damn accustomed to moving so rigidly in the gym (almost always in a linear fashion) that we are ill-equipped to handle unexpected movements and uneven loads. This is why I had trouble lifting kegs and sandbags when I first started. I was already using imperfection training without even realizing it.
One thing I think we can all relate to is helping somebody move furniture. You can bench 300 pounds and squat twice your bodyweight, but if you ever try to move some weird shaped couch or get a dresser up some stairs, I bet it kicks your ass.
Anyhow, if you are interested in possessing “real-world strength”, the concept of imperfection training and working it into your routines is a no-brainer. This especially goes for athletes because nothing you ever do in a game situation is perfect. Rarely are you moving in a linear fashion like most of your exercises in a gym (they may be dynamic like Olympic lifts or jumps, but are still not chaotic).
“Creating chaos” in an exercise form is not totally accomplishable. There is only so much you can do and you will never be able to mimic the things you will encounter in real-life situations, but there are things you can do to help bridge the gap.
#1: Lifting Odd-Objects
Kegs, stones, slosh pipes, and sandbags are all good tools to use here. Cleans, clean and presses, overhead presses, and sandbag shouldering are all examples of movements to perform. None of these tools have evenly distributed weight, especially in the case of kegs (only partially filled) and sandbags. The water and sand will continually shift making each and every rep of the movement different.
#2: Uneven Carries
Farmers carries are an awesome exercise, but rarely do you see variations in style. Uneven carries require different sized loads to be carried in each arm. For example, two different sized kettlebells.
At Primal, we like to take things a step further and carry two entirely different objects altogether. In one hand we may have a 50 pound kettlebell, but we will have a 100 pound sandbag in a shouldered position in the other arm. Or carrying the same sized object in two different carry positions; one at your side and one in a cleaned position is a good example.
Ever used a slosh pipe? This is an uneven carry extreme and a Primal favorite. A 10 foot pipe filled only partially with water, the water is constantly changing positions side to side, creating full body tension in an effort to keep the pipe upright and stabilized.[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c93mGtzBhJs[/tube]
#3: Outside Sled Work
Most of the time you see sled work, trainers have their people pulling/pushing the sled on turf. That’s good and all, but it certainly makes it a hell of a lot easier.
We train with our sleds outside in parks, often times in tall, dry grass or patchy fields at best. It may go from fairly easy to impossible in a split second if you snag it on a dirt pile or high-patch of grass. Doing it this way, you have to be very focused on keeping your legs churning and burning, similar to how you would see a running back trying to push the pile in a short yardage situation.
#4: Dynamic Throws
Heavy throws are a great way to build strength and total body power and explosiveness. Aside from normal medicine ball work, kegs and sandbags and even stones are a great tool to use for these.
If you are trying to build some “functionality” behind all of that gym muscle, imperfection training is something you need to consider for your training arsenal. Use some of these ideas and run with them. The beauty of this style is it allows you to be creative. When you get so bogged down in traditional training, throwing a little chaos into your world can be a really rewarding and refreshing thing to do. Training this way once or twice a week in addition to your normal routine should reap you some benefits.
Just do it responsibly and with some thought behind it, because just like sports, some of these movements can lead to injury. You should be concentrating and focusing on moving efficiently during this training just like any other gym session.