Bulletproof Body: A Smarter Way to Train

man and woman holding battle ropes
Photo by Leon Ardho on Pexels.com

Escaping from the (muscle) burning desire for the instant gratification of bigger muscles and a smaller waist in the gym is a tricky undertaking. Seeing those glutes expand and abs appears can indeed be gratifying, and only an impossibly small minority could look you in the eye and declare their intentions in the gym to be free from vanity.

What’s more, for the majority of us who aren’t athletes seeking to push their physical limits, it can be one of the strongest motivations. That is, in the short term, and we rarely look much further, shrugging off the threat of aching knees and pinching shoulders as urban legends, even knowing where our sore spots are, carefully avoiding too deep a squat or shoulder press.

But, there is a growing consciousness that the not-so-blissful ignorance of these problems or an expensive trip to the physio are the only solutions. The phenomenon of bulletproofing is earning ever more attention with its promises to strengthen those perennial troublesome joints and to take the bull by the horns, not wincing away from training the areas that are painful but actively targeting them, strengthening them and seeing the pain evaporate away.

The exercises purported to ‘bulletproof’ your body on the whole help provide strength and flexibility to often overlooked areas, providing greater stability and mobility (range of movement) meaning in your regular training your body is fortified against any knocks and strains, and in turn meaning you can recover more quickly and train harder.

So if you were getting worried, there’s no need to abandon your old routines designed to make heads turn. If anything, adding a ‘bulletproofing’ section to your workouts could improve your results, and importantly, allow you to keep doing it for years to come with the risk of injury minimised.

Another piece of good news is that the exercises are quick and can be tacked on to the end of any workout and often take a matter of minutes, so it’s no great sacrifice at all.

Perhaps the figurehead of this wave of training is Ben Patrick, aka the Knees Over Toes Guy, a personal trainer who has risen to internet fame by defying conventional wisdom by, as the name suggests, encouraging people to train their legs with their knees going past their toes.

Googling his name you’ll see a plethora of images of him bent into awkward positions that make any of us with the slightest twinge in the knee recoil in horror. But, though some are less convinced of the benefits touted by him, his confidence in the techniques he promotes is backed up by his own recovery story.

He himself has a partially artificial knee and received the categorical prognosis that he’d never recover full range of motion in his knee. The reality is quite the contrary, as his contortions prove.

For a more in-depth look into the physiology at play, I’d advise looking into his own explanations, the analysis of health professionals who have commented on his approach and others who have contributed to the ‘bulletproofing’ field.

See the end of this article for a list of recommendations. However, in brief, the idea is to introduce strength and flexibility into regions that are often overlooked, like a deeply flexed knee, training slightly different muscle groups and ultimately generating greater overall stability in the area.

This stops things popping out of place; prevents other muscles having to take too much strain to compensate for weakness in other areas and means you feel stronger and comfortable in a whole range of new positions that may otherwise have been beyond your comfort zone.

Also the generally lower-stress exercises help drive blood flow to the joints and muscles involved, including to tendons which can often lack sufficient circulation, which helps to speed up recovery to get you back training sooner.

Simple exercises like hanging off a bar apply what’s known as traction, the opposite of compression to the spine, stretching out the vertebrae and the surrounding muscles such as the lats. This can help fight the cumulative wear and tear of pressing large weights above the head, and can relieve the tightness we feel after excessive training.

Despite the far reaching potential benefits that some of these exercises can supposedly bring, injuries and other bodily issues can be complex and multiform, unique to the individual, and exercises that benefit some may not address those of others.

It is strongly advised to seek professional advice to address any concerns you may have and the following exercises should not under any circumstances be used to replace professional care.

Example Exercises:
There’s no set formula for performing these movements. They shouldn’t take longer than a few minutes and can be repeated until fatigue sets in. Performing them a few times a week should be frequent enough to start building a ‘bulletproof body’.

Hindu Squats
Similar to the regular body-weight squat except the heels come off the ground as you descend, and you finish the first half of the movement on the balls of the feet. The drives the knees over the toes and can be helpful in fighting knee pain.

Kettle Bell Halos
This consists in simply raising a kettle bell above the head, with the arms bent moderately, and performing rotations with the weight around the head. This helps to stretch the shoulders and strengthen the supporting muscles.

Kettles Bell Rows
To perform this exercise, bend the legs slightly for balance and lean your upper body forward at around 45 degrees, keeping the back straight. Allow the arms to extend straight down, holding the kettle bell. Bend the arms explosively in a rowing motion to lift the kettle bell and release it, it should not touch the body. Catch the kettle as it falls and repeat. This involves an isometric hold in the lower back which builds stability and catching the weight conditions the body to sudden jolts, such as when performing explosive exercises.

Good Mornings
This exercise requires no equipment. From a standing position with the legs straight, place the hands on the back of the head or neck, and bend at the hips with the back straight, leaning forward as far as is comfortable. Straighten back up and repeat. This exercise helps to stretch the hamstrings in addition to strengthening the core and lower back.

Further Recommendations:

Disclaimer: It is highly recommended to seek professional medical assistance. The information contained herein is for entertainment and educational purposes only, and not to be taken as medical advice.

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