Legendary strongman George F. Jowett had a very specific understanding of what it took to build strength. He understood that muscular strength alone did not make someone super strong. He knew that not only do you have to build the muscles, but you have to strengthen the ligaments and tendons that connect and support those muscles. He said that without building “the sinews” a man was only half trained.
He wrote a correspondence course titled How to Achieve Nerves of Steel, Muscles Like Iron. In it, he said that with proper training, the ligaments- “those tremendously powerful cables which support your muscles in giant contraction”- when required in demonstrations of physical resistance would “become powerfully anchored to bone and muscle like the steel cable of a giant derrick”.
He knew that there were thousands of weight lifters out there with strong looking muscles who were not as strong as they looked and could not equal others of the same or lesser size in strength tests.
He asked a simple question. “What is strength?” To answer this he stated, “Strength is not so much the size of the muscle as it is the quality of the muscle. The strength of your muscles depends as much upon the power of the muscular cables as upon the quality of the muscular tissue.” He added, “Strong muscles must have strong attachments.”
He said that stronger tendons led to stronger muscles. You had to strengthen and thicken the ligaments which would lead to thicker and stronger muscles. The best way to build tendon and ligament strength was through heavy support work in basic exercises like squats, presses, and dead lifts. All you need is a power rack and a barbell.
An example of a program using heavy support work is as follows. This is a three day a week program consisting of dead lifts, bench press lock outs, and heavy partial curls on day one, quarter squats, standing press lock outs, and power holds (where you stand in the top position of the dead lift) on day two. The simple process of holding a heavy barbell for 10 seconds will build incredible strength. On day three you repeat day one. The following week you start with your day two workout and continue to alternate. A word of caution, only do bench press lockouts or any other exercise where you are under a very heavy barbell in a power rack.
Follow this program for two or three months and then go back to your regular routine, but always include some support work. If you continue to use heavy support your tendons and ligaments will thicken and strengthen and you WILL develop power and strength that will make you more efficient in any physical activity you undertake.