I played thousands of hours of football as a teenager and from those thousands of hours, I remember the strongest guy I ever played against. I was man-sized at age 14 and was doing regular resistance training making me very strong for my age. This guy wasn't particularly tall, fast or stocky for his age but he was freakishly strong – he was practically an immovable object. It didn't matter how hard or fast I bumped this guy, I lost. It baffled me. No muscles and yet strong as an ox. In the 14 years since, I can't ever remember coming across anybody so solid on their feet while in motion.
For the past few years, I've had an idea of how he was such a beast.
I was walking through Liverpool city centre the other day when I came across a group of b-boys I used to train with who were busking (Note: B-boy is the legitimate name for breakdancer. If you ever call a real b-boy a breakdancer, they may want to break you. Call them b-boys.). One of the guys was doing hand-hops, as displayed in the video below, and it got me thinking about my beginning of learning the same move many years ago. It got me thinking about the definition of strength.
My handstands were poor. I could perform tens of full range handstand press-ups against a wall but it never made any difference. The muscles I was training would never substitute for “the secret muscles”.
The secret muscles are the bones when optimally aligned in cooperation with the muscles.
Check out the picture of this handbalancer. Look at the arm on which he stands – it is perfectly straight. The extended elbow and shoulder forms a continuous column of structural support so that the muscles of the arm and the shoulder are free to make balance adjustments. If you look a little higher you will see that the top half of the balancer's spine is straight before smoothly curving to allow him to make his desired shape. It is only really from the curve that the balancer require good muscular strength. The rest is provided by the efficient use of his skeleton. In the case where somebody cannot stack up their joints in such a way, they will find things like this tougher to do. They are asking their muscles to do something they would more easily do with their bones.
That ultra strong footballer was probably incredibly efficient in organising his skeleton with his bones. His lack of bad habits meant that his feet, ankles, knees, hips, spine, etc could maximally support him at any given time. I can tell you how hard it is to do a good handstand without wrists and shoulders that extend fully. It is equally as hard to stand on your feet strongly if you don't use your ankles and hips with their fully ranges, it is just that modern life calls for us to stand so we find distorted ways of standing that get us around our bad habits, more or less.
Freakish strength comes primarily from a well organised skeleton collaborating with the muscular system. Go work on your secret muscle and have fun with your new found strength. If you get lucky, you may even be able to bully a chump like me and give them a game they'll never forget!