Some people have been asking about the Toyota leg press my son and I did in 2007. Here is the information. (Note: the GetThisStrong.com site is never updated. All the SCT news is at the website you are on now.)
I bought this car in the summer of 2005 for 550 bucks in a grocery store parking lot in fabulous and exciting Emmett, Idaho (pop. 5,490). It drove OK but was in pretty rough condition mechanically. I only wanted it so my teenage kids could learn to drive a standard transmission.
Here are the vital statistics regarding the exact car that is on the leg press:
Year/Make/Model: 1987 TOYOTA COROLLA LE
Body Style: SEDAN 4 DR
Engine Type: 1.6L L4 2BL
However, the definition of curb weight, includes full coolant, oil and gas. Since this car was driven by teenagers it was low on all three. But it was running at the time we moved it to the welder’s shop so it had some gas in it when we lifted it. So to be fair we should subtract 70 pounds (10+ US gallons) from the curb weight. Thus the car likely weighs about 2,320.
However, the leg press itself had to be seriously reinforced in order to hold the car and have me bounce it up and down a few times. Some of the reinforcing steel did not have to be lifted so its weight is moot. But the weight of the reinforced movable sled that holds the cradle the car sits on is 253 lbs empty. So the total weight being lifted is a very respectable 2,573 lbs.! Well over a ton. Over a metric tonne, in fact.
My training method involves holding a weight statically (motionless) in the strongest and safest range of motion for 5 seconds. And, believe me, done properly it makes you fantastically strong. But zero movement doesn’t make a very interesting video. So I did a few short reps instead. Regardless, the whole lift is over in just 5 seconds or so. Plus, we only had one video camera. So the lift you see me doing from two different angles is actually two lifts I did about 15 minutes apart on the same day. On the first lift I did 6 reps and on the second one I did 8 reps. The first time we shot from my left side and the second time from my right. We edited them together for the clip but still just showed 8 total reps. (I’m not boasting here, but I’d like to point out that doing this exercise twice, by definition, means it is not the absolute maximum weight I can lift. That’s how strong my training can make you…a Toyota Corolla is too light for your leg workout!)
Also, Jeff did his lift a few days before I did. If you look closely you’ll see the barber pole graphic is not there for his lift. Also he’s wearing different clothes in the lift compared to when he’s talking. Jeff and I train at different intervals so the day I lifted was too soon for him to lift, thus the edit. Also, you’ll notice Jeff can manage “only” a rep and a half. But, hey, he hasn’t done a full 60 seconds of training yet. The day of his lift he’d completed 9 workouts for 45 seconds of total exercise time. And he’s just 16…give him a few years and maybe he’ll leg press a Buick.
Is There a Trick to It?
It’s honest weight, folks. A Toyota Corolla is a “small car” but when you’re under it and hoisting it with your own legs it’s the heaviest thing you can imagine. It feels like a train. And nothing was stripped out of the car. Not the spare tire, the jack, the battery…anything. So we really lifted that much weight…and so can you. That’s my biggest point – YOU can Get This Strong.
And once YOU get this strong…you’ll look differently at those behemoth, sweaty macho guys in the gym who grunt and scream while doing a 500 pound leg press. Five hundred pounds might be too light for your warm-up.
Oh, another thing; I’m not one of those world-class strongmen, by any means. Guys like Bill Kazmaier and Vasiliy Alekseyev would eat me for breakfast. For the record, I have never been a pro or amateur athlete of any kind, nor was I an athlete in high school or college. Likewise, my son Jeff is just a regular guy. He’s 6′ 1″ and 173 pounds. Despite that, we can easily lift a car because of the way we train.
There is some relevant math related to conventional leg press machines. Most leg press machines (like the one in the video) slide the weight on a 45 degree angle. That makes it easier than lifting it straight up and down. How much easier? Well, the sine of 45 degrees = 0.707 so the equivalent weight, in this case, is 70.7% of 2,573 lbs. That equals 1,819 lbs. So if you could squat 1,819 lbs it would be equivalent to doing this Toyota leg press. I don’t think anybody in the world can squat 1,819 lbs and if they could I would not recommend it due to the pressure on the neck and spine during squats. That’s one reason I’ve always advocated leg presses rather than squats.
But You Only Moved it a Few Inches?
That right and it’s very deliberate. I can’t do a full range rep with 2,500+ pounds. It would tear up my knees, tendons and ligaments because when you lift weight in your weakest range of motion you are inviting injury to those areas. So full range motion, by definition, means using light weights. However, and this is a BIG point, my muscles are obviously capable of lifting 2,500+ pounds. So by limiting strain on my joints, tendons and ligaments I am able to deliver unprecedented stimulation to my muscle fibers.
Muscle fibers are activated by the amount of weight of the lift, not the distance they have to travel. (That’s why lifting 800 pounds 4 inches is so much harder than lifting 200 pounds 16 inches, even though the amount of “work” done is equal.) To lift more weight you have to activate more individual muscle fibers. My muscle fibers lifted a massive 2,500+ pounds and that is the most muscle growth stimulation they could possibly receive. I generated that massive, extra stimulation by limiting the range of motion. So more muscle fiber growth is stimulated yet the risk of injury is actually reduced.
I invite you to test this yourself. Try leg pressing the most you can in your strongest range, then lift one quarter of that weight for four times the distance. The lighter weight traveling four times the distance will feel like a feather and your leg muscles won’t feel like they are working hard at all. (But be careful in your weakest range as you will be straining your knees, tendons and ligaments.) In strength training weight trumps distance; that’s a fact.
How About Steroids, Growth Hormone or Testosterone?
Never. Not once, ever in my life have I ever taken any of those. I’ve been writing about strength training for over 15 years and I’ve never had a good thing to say about steroids and the rest. I think the people who advocate those drugs care more about the vanity aspects of muscle than they care about the health aspects of muscle. I’m in my 50’s and my focus is totally on the health and longevity benefits of strength training. Besides, you don’t need any drugs to get strong enough to lift a car.
So What’s Your Point?
My point is that conventional strength training is woefully inadequate when it comes to developing your maximum strength and doing so in a time efficient manner. How many workouts would you have to do using the same-old-same-old 3 sets of 12 reps every Monday, Wednesday and Friday before you could lift a Toyota Corolla? I can show you how to do it in less than 60 seconds of training time. Can your current method beat that?
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