Get on the X-Press Train to Strength!
Jul 20, 2020
And now, a guest article from OS Instructor, Mike Moran...
In Original Strength, we learn that the body is designed like an X from the inside to the outside. From a movement standpoint, the right hand is connected through to the left foot and the left hand is connected through to the right foot. When it comes to building strength and enhancing performance, it is a great idea to take advantage of this design.
Most “regular” strength exercises are bi-lateral or unilateral, meaning you train the same limbs at once or even just one limb at a time. There is nothing wrong with strength training this way, but what if we could take advantage of the cross-body connections and target those for strength training? We can! And, we can even combine cross-body movements to effect both the posterior and anterior sides of the body while loading the X.
I’m going to share with you two exercises that I think do this really well. They load the body’s cross-connections and they address the front and backside of the body. They are great for building performance enhancing strength and they can be done almost anywhere as they don’t take up much space to perform. They also lend themselves to a few ways to use them depending on your current needs or goals.
All you need to perform these movements is a little space and an external weight like a kettlebell (my preferred tool for this since it can load the shoulder nicely in both movements), dumbbell, water jug, etc.
First, I want to mention that In the book of Original Strength Performance we talk about the Single-leg Deadlift and the GetUp (sometimes called the Turkish Get Up). These movements are great for strengthening the cross-connections of the body and I love them, but doing some experimentation on myself and some of my clients, I have found another combo that lends itself well to strengthening the body’s contra-lateral “X” design.
This combo is the Kickstand Deadlift and the ½ Kneeling One Arm Press.
Now you are probably asking, Why do I prefer these over the Single Leg deadlift and the Turkish Getup?
Well, to be honest, the Kickstand Deadlift doesn’t require as much balance or stability as the single-leg deadlift but it comes with all the same benefits. In the Kickstand Deadlift, we are loading the backside of the X, the posterior chain, and we can do this contra-laterally. We do this by loading the opposite glute and shoulder (lat) muscle, as long as the load is in the hand opposite the working hip. This forces the body to work through the center to link the opposing limbs.
I like the 1/2 kneeling one arm press because it requires more stability through the center of the X, on the anterior side. (This move also works the posterior side, too.) It’s simply fantastic for connecting the torso. The ½ kneeling press is done by loading the shoulder (deltoid) and the opposite glute/hip when done with the arm pressing on the same side as the leg that is up. It has a similar feel to a loaded backward crawl.
I mentioned earlier that there are a few reasons I love this combination of movements. They can be done by almost anyone and they can be used for patterning the X, strengthening the X, and also for building Hypertrophy of the X (the coolest part if you are looking to gain muscle mass).
Now before I engage in these exercises I would do some OS resets. My favorites to help ignite this combo are d-breathing(aways!), segmental leg rolls, rocking, and dead bugs. In between sets some marching and crawling will help to keep you fresh and tied together. For learning the movements and patterning them, you could use either a light weight for 3-8 reps or take the grease the groove approach and hit a few singles throughout the day. Taking your time to mindfully practice these movements can help you to find your X connection. Make sure you are using your nose to breathe, which is crucial for the center connection of the X!
For your actual strength work, you might need to do some testing. Find a weight that you can use for the press that you can use for 5-8 reps and then for your work sets go lower like 2-4 reps for 3-5 sets. You could test the kickstand deadlift in the same way but just remember that you may be able to go heavier as your hips are typically much stronger than your shoulders! Take plenty of rest between sets. (2-3 minutes at least).
Now, if muscle mass gain is your goal, you can aim for a lot more reps. I would choose a weight on the press you can easily achieve for 10+ reps and use it in sets of 8 reps. For the kickstand deadlift, I would pick a weight you can do easily for 15 reps and work with an 8-12 rep scheme for your work sets. Five sets of these on your shoulders and hips and you will feel it! Muscle gain will happen if you can do the sets with minimal rest (1-2 min tops) and with hard work. Do not push to failure though, leave a few reps in the tank. Take your time on the journey.
Don’t forget, after your work sets, press reset again with some rolls. I find frog rolls and segmental arm rolls work wonders on the shoulders and t-spine, and they are great to do after these two movements. That’s my preference and experience though. Just remember there is no algorithm to Original Strength so your own experimentation in finding what resets work best for you will do wonders. Keep notes and discover which resets work best for you.
Anyway, if you want to really strengthen your X and improve your body’s ability to express itself in speed, power, strength, and even size, give these two movements a fair look and insert them into your training a couple of times a week. I think you’ll like what you discover.
If you do decide to experiment with this combination, please let me know how it goes!