Wednesday 140115

Four rounds for time of:
Run 400 meters
50 Air squats

Post times to comments and BTWB.

Jon, setting up for back squats.


The Principle Of Muscle Irradation ~ Luke Palmisano

In our ongoing effort to get athletes to set up with “tension,” it turns out there is actually a scientific principal involved in the theory behind that set up.

Lets back up for a moment. I fear sometimes that people get sick of hearing trainers say, “Squeeze your butt! Squeeze your quads! Now twist your feet into the ground!” We say it every class. At least I feel like I do. The reason is that to protect your body, and especially your joints, we try to put you in positions where your joints are locked into safe positions before you move. Those tight positions are generally referred to as “tension.” So safety is one reason we set up that way. But there is more.

Here is an experiment you can try. Have you ever shook (shaken?) hands with someone who had an amazing grip, and felt your hand get crushed together? As if your knuckles were now crunched in incredibly awkward positions? Well try this: go shake that person’s hand again. Lets just say for the sake of argument that it is your right hand you are using. While you are doing that, on the down-low, squeeze your left hand into the tightest fist you possible can. Does your right hand still crumble? Probably not, and if it does, not nearly as easily. Why?

The law of muscle irradation, as written by Sir Charles Sherrington (A British scientist from around the early 1900’s) states that “a muscle working hard recruits the neighboring muscle, 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”. So one muscle working hard will help another muscle work hard. And then the next muscle down the line. If you use all your muscles together, then your body will moving as one unit, using every muscle to help. This, in theory, would be a stronger way to move, right? 

Let’s apply this to the deadlift. When you get set up, before you ever lift the bar, squeeze your butt, squeeze your quads, and twist your feet into the ground. Squeeze your belly. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Now, without your back bending, reach down and grab the barbell. Maintain the tension through your body. Then, squeeze the barbell. Grip it tightly. Inhale, hold, and lift. Irradation. Now the bench press. Some questions to ask yourself: Am I really driving through the heels? Am I truly driving my knees out? Am I truly gripping the bar as tightly as I can, while trying to spread the bar apart? Am I really keeping the shoulder blades retracted? 

We could go on with this and apply it to any movement. Just think of your body as a circuit board. You want to connect the circuit. This way, you are strengthening muscles that aren’t even your focus for that day.  But keep in mind, this only happens when you set your body up, and move it with tension, both on the concentric and eccentric portions of the movement. Give this a try, and see if you notice the differences. 


  1. slaughter :

    awesome post Luke – it’s also been theorized that you are actually increasing the signal, in other words amplifying neighboring muscle contraction impulses by also sending signals to the surrounding muscles.

  2. Phil :

    So, the right hand does, in fact, know what the left is doing??

  3. Luke :

    Thanks Chris. The more we learn, the more we learn we don’t know.

    Phil – only if u let it. 🙂


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