9 Superhuman Strength Secrets

Get 9 Superhuman Strength Secrets, learn all about plyometrics, and discover the best exercises for getting stronger. Plus a workout for building strength and power.

Ben Greenfield
5-minute read
Episode #140

9 Superhuman Strength Secrets

by Ben Greenfield

You’ve probably heard this story. A small child is trapped under a burning car, and in a feat of superhuman strength, the child’s mother rushes to the car and lifts the entire vehicle with all her might, freeing her child from sure death.

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You may have also heard that chimps and gorillas can be 10 times stronger than humans–able to bend steel bars, punch through walls, or throw huge boulders.

In both these cases, the mother and the monkey are relying upon a complete rewiring of a special mechanism that the body has built-in to keep a muscle from tearing due to excessive force. This mechanism is called an “inhibition reflex.”

In today’s episode, you’re going to learn exactly how to use that inhibition reflex to build superhuman strength and get your body as strong and powerful as possible.

What Is the Inhibition Reflex?

Built in to every muscle is a special organ called a “Golgi Tendon Organ” (GTO). When your muscle contracts and generates a force, the GTO fires off nerve impulses to your spinal cord, and your spinal cord responds with a reflex called an inhibition reflex. This nervous system inhibition signals your muscle fibers to limit force production when the muscle has increased tension.

While this mechanism can be a convenient way to keep you from, say, tearing your biceps while lifting a heavy object, it can actually inhibit your performance when you’re trying to lift a heavy weight, push the bike pedals hard, run up a hill, maximize swim pulling force, or even lift a piece of furniture. In the case of the mother saving her child from a burning car, or a gorilla escaping from the zoo by bending steel bars, the brain has overpowered the inhibition reflex, resulting in a higher threshold of the GTO.

Now here’s the good news: Just like the mom and the monkey, you can increase the excitatory threshold of your GTO and vastly improve your power and strength. A poorly trained human will always have a GTO that kicks in before much force can be produced, but with proper training, you can actually trick your muscles into contracting at a higher force and speed before that muscle-protecting inhibition actually kicks in.

How to Trick Your Muscles

Here’s how you can trick your muscles: By teaching your body how to have a faster “stretch-shortening cycle,” you can make your GTO less likely to send signals to limit force production when the muscle has increased tension. This allows for greater contraction force than you would normally be able to produce during a strength or power exercise, or during swimming, cycling or running, and thus greater training ability.

The stretch-shortening cycle is simply the period of time it takes your muscle to transition from the eccentric phase (such as your foot landing on the ground during the running gait) to the concentric phase (your leg muscles contracting as you push your foot back off the ground). The cycle can easily be trained through explosive, powerful movements, which are often referred to as plyometrics.

Now that you know how to trick your muscles into superhuman strength, here are 9 exercises to get you started. For each exercise, your goal will be to train your GTO by absorbing a force and then contracting to produce a new force as quickly as possible, thus decreasing the time of your stretch-shortening cycle. You can access videos of each of these exercises at http://www.YouTube.com/BenGreenfieldFitness. Simply search there by exercise name.

Exercise #1: Depth Jumps

Step off a raised platform or box, land with both feet, and immediately jump as high as possible. For this and any other of the leg exercises in this article, you need to minimize ground contact time.

Exercise #2: Single Leg Hops

With one leg, hop up onto a slightly raised surface. Even the jumping up onto a (non-moving) treadmill belt is fine.

Exercise #3: Bounds

Run, but with oversized strides and maximum amount of time spent in the air. Every time your foot strikes the ground, push off as hard as possible to maximize stride length.

Exercise #4: Clap Push-Ups

Perform a standard push-up, but push-up explosively, clap hands, and land. You can do these from your knees if necessary.

Exercise #5: Med Ball Throws

Take 2-4 steps and throw a medicine ball explosively from the chest as hard as possible. Extend arms fully when throwing.

Exercise #6: Med Ball Slams

Hold a medicine ball overhead, then slam into the ground as hard as possible, catch and repeat. As a reverse alternative and similar exercise to medicine ball slams, you can do “muscle-ups” when in the pool, pulling yourself up and over the pool wall.

Exercise #7: Power Skips

Perform playground style skipping, with knees exploding towards chest as high as possible. Similar to bounds, your goal is to maximize time spent in air, and powerfully drive your knees towards your chest.

Exercise #8: Jump Rope

Perform double or alternating leg jump rope, with a focus on minimizing ground contact time and getting as many jumps as possible in the allotted period of time.

Exercise #9: Hurdle Hops

This side-to-side movement is included due to a lack of this lateral motion in most strength training programs or fitness programs that include only “front to back” running, riding a bike, elliptical trainer, etc. Over a line, tennis ball can, cone, or step bench, jump side to side as many times as possible in allotted time. You can jump with one leg (more advanced) or both legs.

Sample Superhuman Strength Training Workout

Here’s how a sample superhuman strength training protocol would look (you only need to do a program like this once per week to get results). You can go through this entire routine 2-3 times as a circuit, and unlike most circuits, you’ll want full rest between any sets that use similar muscles (typically 60 seconds to 3 minutes). For sets that don’t use similar muscles, such as depth jumps to push-ups, you don’t need to rest.

  1. Depth Jumps – 10 jumps from 3-5 foot high box

  2. Clap Push-Ups – 10

  3. Single Leg Hops - 10

  4. Med Ball Throws – 8

  5. Power Skips – 20 yards

  6. Bounds – 20 yards

  7. Medicine Ball Slams – 8

  8. Hurdle Hops - 10 per side

  9. Jump Rope – 20 seconds

By doing this workout just once a week, you’ll trick your muscles into producing superhuman strength whenever you need it!

For more plyometric workouts, and other highly effective strength training routines for your body type, I’d recommend you read Get Fit Guy’s Guide To Achieving Your Ideal Body, which you can grab now at www.GetFitGuy.com.

If you have more questions about these superhuman strength secrets, then join the conversation over at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy.

Superhero and Jump Rope images from Shutterstock

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.