A cool feat of strength that you can do is rolling up a frying pan. If you want to learn how to do this, pick up the November issue of Men’s Fitness and check out the short “How-to” piece I put together for them, on page 24, called Roll Up a Skillet.
Like many feats of grip strength, this is one where if you learn to engage the rest of your body with Radiant Tension, you will be able to perform the feat better.
What’s Radiant Tension?
I talk about Radiant Tension in this kettlebell press article I did last fall. (Here’s the accompanying radiant tension video).
Radiant Tension is a skill. It’s not as easy as clenching your teeth and squeezing the bar as hard as you can. That’s not what it is about. You have to be able to turn it on and off as you need to.
Here’s an example with a feat you might have a bit more experience with than rolling up a frying pan…card tearing.
When ripping a deck of cards, you want to use radiant tension when starting the tear to keep the cards tight together, to get the initial tear started, and to involve the larger muscles of the torso in the feat.
However, once the tear is started, if you are too tight, it can be tough to keep the tear going. What results is you get the initial break going and then stop. The. you throw another jolt of power into it and it tears a little more, and you essentially keep starting and stopping over and over until you tear the whole way through the deck.
Through practice, however, you can understand how much Radiant Tension is necessary to grip the cards and get the torso muscles involved, and also to keep the tear going fluidly.
If you need help learning how to tear cards, no resource on the planet will give you the level of detail my Card Tearing eBook gives you. From Techniques, to Progressions, to Exercises, I’ve got everything you need to know in order to start “cutting the deck” with extreme vengeance.
In a much more standard form of lifting, such as the Bench Press, Radiant Tension can instantly increase your bench by 10 to 20 pounds by learning to manage the tension. Like I said before, it is a skill that needs to be practiced.
Often when I see it discussed in other locations, Radiant Tension is described as “squeezing the bar as hard as you can.” While a new person who has never tried to employ Radiant Tension may indeed end up putting forth that kind of exertion in order to build a connection between the mind and the body, I think squeezing at that level of intensity all the time is actually a waste of energy and at the very least an unnecessary distraction.
I actually used to “squeeze as hard as possible” on many lifts when I performed them, but after playing around with this concept in the last year or so I’ve found that I get just as good if not better results by moderating the level of exertion and changing it depending on the movement I am doing and how much radiant tension I need on that day.
For instance, on the bench, if I squeeze too hard on the bar, it feels like I have trouble lowering the bar and my shoulders end up hurting. Whereas if I just tense my hands slightly, I can begin to feel that familiar sensation of tension radiating back and forth from my core and torso out to the bar and back in, feeling more stable, stronger in the movement, and having less stress in the shoulders.
Like I’ve said a couple of times, tension is a skill that needs to be practiced. This past summer, I was training a dude named Jim who would get on the bench and the bar would be all over the place. The first day I mentioned squeezing the bar, his form improved greatly and he was able to repeat the form much more easily. Gradually we worked outward away from the torso and began using systematic pulsing of the glutes in order get even more confident with the bar, perform more reps, and pack on more muscle.
Remember, tension is a skill you can practice to help you out in all of your strength endeavors, whether you are tearing cards, bending a frying pan, or powerlifting, there’s a place for it. You just have to use it and practice it in order to make it work best for you.
Incidentally, in this issue of the magazine, on page 20, there is another short piece by Ben Bruno called, “Curl More Weight, Increase Your Strength Immediately” that pretty much covers the same principle of Radiant Tension. I will let you check the magazine out yourself to see what I mean.
All the best in your training.