There are myriad ways that you can pursue overall physical strength and power, and just as many reasons that you might want to.

For high performance athletes, building greater power might be about wanting to win a game, crush a match or challenge a world record.

For the new mom, greater power might help her reclaim her body after the physical feat of pregnancy and childbirth. Then she might want to use that strength to take on the new demands of motherhood.

For the aging office-worker, building greater power could be about maintaining bone density and healthy posture. It might help counter the gravitational pull of a sedentary lifestyle which has been compounded with aches and pains over time.

Whatever your reasons for wanting to power up, learning how to generate greater strength will serve you on many levels. Now let’s get down to the essentials and look at three power centers that are great places to start.

Your Top Three Power Centers: Glutes, Grip & Abs

According the Pavel Tsatsouline, founder of StrongFirst, hailed as the trailblazer that popularized kettlebell workouts in the west, there are three major drivers of power in the physical body: gluteals, grippers and abdominal muscles.

Part of the reason that these areas of your body help generate so much power comes down to irradiation. Sir Charles Scott Sherrington, an English neurophysiologist and Nobel laureate from the early 20th century discovered the Law of Irradiation. This law states:

“A muscle working hard recruits the neighboring muscles, and if they are already part of the action, it amplifies their strength. The neural impulses emitted by the contracting muscle reach other muscles and ‘turn them on’ as an electric current starts a motor.”

Strengthening the gluteals, grippers and abs goes beyond just being able to use these muscle groups to perform their typical actions. It will also help you generate irradiation throughout nearby muscle fibers… thereby boosting overall power.

Here are three (plus a bonus!) good strength building exercises for these three power centers.

1. Fire Your Gluteals: Squat with a resistance band

Squatting is hailed as one of the best exercises to build up gluteal strength. But it also demands that the hamstrings, calves, ankles and many more muscles groups join the power party. Plus, squats are considered an ‘anabolic’ exercise–which means they promote overall strength by replenishing muscle cells through the body.

We recommend adding a looped resistance band around your thighs to help track your knee position and boost the work in the lateral rotators of your hips. Check out Tune Up Fitness® Teacher Jared Cohen showing us the way.

 

Squat your way to stronger glutes with Jared Cohen

2. Galvanize Your Grip: The Classic Kettlebell Carry

Jared might make this look simple–just walking across a mat with a kettlebell in hand, right? Not really. In order to perform this grip-strengthening feat he needs to engage the flexor muscles of his fingers, but he’s also got to fire up through the forearm, all the way into the shoulders, traps, and even lats. Take about irradiation!

Plus, can you see the stability work right down through his core? You better believe that he is engaged through the obliques, even into the stabilizers of the hips. Grab a kettlebell (or a suitcase full of books) and try it for yourself.

 

The kettlebell carry – simple and powerful

 

3. All About Abs: Half Boat to Cannonball

This exercise will leave no muscle fiber of your anterior core untouched! Here, Yoga Tune Up® creator Jill Miller demonstrates a full frontal abdominal strengthener by first lying on the back, curling up to a half boat pose, then squeezing the knees in for a cannonball. This will light up your rectus abdominis (“6-pack” muscles), obliques and traverse abdominals.

But it doesn’t stop there… you’ll also fire the flexors of your neck like the very photogenic sternocleidomastoid, and hips such as the psoas muscle.

 

Jill Miller demos ab strength for days…

 

Bonus! Respiratory Diaphragm: Bridge Lifts with the Diaphragm Vacuum

You didn’t really think we were going to let this post end without highlighting your primary breathing muscle, did you? The bonus exercise we’d like to offer up is Bridge Lifts with the Diaphragm Vacuum. This exercise brings all the focus to your respiratory diaphragm–stretching it, toning it and enhancing your proprioceptive alliance with this main player in your ability to regulate your nervous system.

Furthermore, the diaphragm is the downstairs neighbor to the muscle of your heart, and shares continuities of tissue with your psoai–which feed all the way down into your legs. Master this muscle and it will provide not just stronger breath potential, but the ability to regulate the state of your nervous system and harness the power of mindset in the most challenging situations.

 

Toning the diaphragm is Tune Up Fitness® secret sauce

Putting it All Together

We hope you’ve gained some inspiration with this simple, three-stop way to think about to improving your overall strength. If you’d like to lend your grippers, gluteals and abdominal muscles more support as they wake up and get to work, check out the program Treat While You Train with Jill Miller and Physical Therapist Kelly Starrett. Layering these muscle-priming self-massage practices into your fitness routine with strength building exercises will make it all deeper, smarter, stronger and sweeter.

 

Feature Image: Tune Up Fitness instructor Todd Lavictoire photographed by Lisa Hebert

 

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Kristin Kandyba

Oh, I like the added glute strengthener with the banded squat! Will try that. Bands are great too because they are easy to travel with, and if you can manage it, sneak in some strength training at work (I do!). The half boat to cannonball looks challenging too. It’s amazing how many strength exercises that can be done with limited or no props/weights.

Lace

I typically loop resistance bands under my feet and use them as ‘weights’ when doing squats. I’ll add this variation of looping them around the thighs next time. Really enjoying building in weights and resistance in my workout routine! And learning these new variations keeps it interesting.

Abi Rose

Learning new ways to approach familiar movements and exercises is inspiring and is part of what keeps me engaged in body and movement exploration – there’s always more to learn. I can’t wait to get a resistance band and try this sequence. I often have gripper fatigue so focusing on strengthening them is going to be a new project for me!

Melaina Landriault

Such inspiration and encouragement to get one off their butt and begin to engage themselves in a new way. I love this about YTU. think outside the boxana and try something new. I think I will invest in some kettle bells and resistance bands.

Blessings
Melaina Landriault

JUNE BARTON

I enjoyed reading this blog. Very interesting and can’t wait to begin to experience these building blocks for strength training. Makes sense that all of these are interrelated. I am understanding this Law of Irradiation and that force that it generates on the muscles and other neighboring muscles.

Gen

I did not know this law of the irradiation I find the subject very interesting as well as the exercises to increase the general force of the body.

Mélanie Roy

Thank you for the article, I like your examples to show that the athlete, the new mom and the sedentary who works in the office all have excellent reasons to wake the three powers centers.

Suzanne Boivin

Interesting thé long with breathing and power and breathing thanks

Melanie Blanchette

Very interesting article. I like to understand the benefits of each exercice. These 3 and 4 exercices bring benefits in all the movements that one needs daily. The mixture of 4 is what brings the effective result.

Lisa

Thanks for sharing, I will add the kettlebell carry and the bridge lifts with the vacuum diaphragm to my strength training .

Rebecca

I have experienced the three power centers of gluteals, abdominals, and grip but I had not formulated them together as a way to invigorate my muscles and energy. Rather than standing around being sedentary and reading about exercises, I thought that I’d actually do them. I decided to try the squats with resistance band, farmer carries with weights, and cannonball to ardha navasana. When I do squats I feel Sherrington’s Law of Irradiation in effect. Muscles are activating from my abs through my feet. Farmer carries helps work on my posture and maintain spinal bracing and a forward gaze. After… Read more »

Martine Lauzon

Thanks Todd! I really want to boost overall power so this blog article was great! It totally makes sense to boost your abs and glutes to engage neighbouring muscles! I also would have never even considered grip!

Alice

Great tips! I hadn’t thought to include gripping as part of a well-rounded strength routine and how that fires up the shoulders, traps and lats through irradiation. This would be especially useful for yoga students who rarely grip their hands into a fist during practice.

Jill

with some exceptions.. these movements are reflected in activities of everyday life.. very functional!

polly swingle

Great examples of each power house exercise and how to strengthening these muscle. Look like I need to add some gripping exercises.

Emilee

Loving the “grip to core to floor” full body irradiation happening in this article. I am finding it is an extremely important part of my everyday practice as an athlete and a therapist to not focus on individualized muscle groups for recruitment but rather full body, dynamic, functional movements to strengthen and ignite more than just one muscle at a time. For everyday individuals, the importance of these as functional strengthening exercises translate into sit to stands for older individuals, carrying groceries for your everyday mom/dad, and stabilizing your spine to help prevent against low back injury. A great example… Read more »

Andrew

The more articles I read, the more professionalism and humility I pick up on from each and every YTU teacher/blog contributor. This article is the definition of multidisciplinary movement. So much creativity from the individualized modifications of the each of the exercises in the sequence as well as the creativity of coming up with a concept that incorporates kettlebell training, resistance band work, yoga tune up, and breathwork all in one. This is the type of creativity that drew me to this training. Acknowledging and citing all the sources is another professional trait I see when YTU teachers explain their… Read more »

Kila

Yes! This inspires me even more to start using kettlebells and incorporating more resistance bands into not only squats, but a wide variety of exercises. I tried the half boat to cannonball and definitely feel the fire! All those combined with Uddiyana bandha bridge lifts make for a very strong practice.

Randy

What about hip thrusters???! Just kidding. Great post, really like all 3 exercises as a way to get people in tune with their glutes, core and grip. All 3 are very important when it comes to creating the necessary tension we need to handle daily life pain free. Also appreciate the bonus. Still need some core release and practice to improve my diaphragm vacuum.

Rudie

These are great exercises because almost everyone can do them! Especially like the banded squat variation – as someone who has always naturally had a strong squat – this helps me to stay engaged!

diana

I appreciate this article! It helps to focus time & energy, doing squats with “purpose.” Hopefully, I can find a way to bring these ideas into the regular classes.

Ella Maghen

Loved the resistance bands for the squats, very useful in propriocepting the range for me!

Nancy Bernhard

I worked with a private client preparing for knee replacement, so squats were out. At 70 she had never done much exercise, but she loved bridges, and gained a surprising amount of strength in the back line of her leg in a short time. We started with some less intense abs, and she came in with a strong grip!

nic matthews

love the ‘YTU secret sauce’ of bridge lifts and diaphragm vacuum! slowly working towards nauli kriya 😀

Carol

The first and third are going to be my top priority to rehab my hip. Thanks!

Karla Knight

Love this article. These are simple but very effective exercises for the must do areas of your body. I want to incorporate the half boat to cannonball in my warm up for yoga.
Thank you ??

BEVERLYN BAER

Irradiation! I didn’t know the word in this context, and it makes so much sense! Nothing in the body works alone, so why not functionally train heavy hitters together? I especially love the kettle bell walk!

Emily Whitaker

Ive always loved strengthening my glutes and my abs, but I’ve never thought to strengthen my grippers, this is something I’ll definitely have to build up to, I’m excited to add into my movement practices.

Katherine Girling

I never thought of the “grippers” as a major power center, but this makes sense. I can recall physical memories of carrying bags of groceries for many city blocks, and intuitively connecting the forearm muscles all the way into the back and core to make the long haul possible. Ps this dynamic bridge with uddiyana bandha is hands down my favorite yoga “pose”, glad to see it getting some press