Q: Matt, what is the difference between internal and external exercise? And what are the benefits of the internal approach in terms of healing the body and increasing strength and energy?
A: Great question. Back in 2007, when I began training with an internal martial arts master in China, I discovered that he had far more internal energy and power than any of the other masters I had previously trained with.
His muscles were super strong, yet he did no exercises whatsoever with weights of any kind. In fact, when he knocked me back 20 feet with an undetectable push, a push that felt as though a cannon ball went through me, he got my attention.
Keep in mind that what this master did to me was not the famous Bruce Lee one-inch punch. It was a no-inch push. Yet, I flew back 20 feet.
I recall asking the master how much power he used to accomplish this feat. He replied by separating his thumb and forefinger about a millimeter, then said with a smile, “Yi dian dian.”
Translation: “Very, very little.”
External exercises are those in which the primary movers of the body are the muscles. Internal exercises are those where the primary movers are the tendons, ligaments and fascia.
Additionally, with internal exercise there is much more focus on the breathing mechanism.
With external exercise you inhale and exhale, and there’s not a whole lot to it. With internal exercise, you take control of the diaphragm and the fascia surrounding the internal organs. And you use the breath in a seamless manner, taking advantage of the adage: “Your breath is your power.”
This internal approach causes a surge in energy levels as your muscles are minimized and set free.
As the muscles are minimized, this allows the tendons, ligaments and fascia to engage and be maximized.
As these intrinsic areas of the body are used, they get stronger and more pliable. The whole body benefits. You begin to discover a child-like mobility returning. And along with this, you may find your aches and pains, especially those in the joints, saying good-bye.
Internal exercise is also much more natural. Instead of isolating a specific muscle group you engage the whole body at once, from the inside out.
Picture a deer eating grass in front of a six-foot fence. As the deer eats it is relaxed and at ease, but in less time than it takes to say, “jump,” the deer can easily leap the fence and run away. The deer does not have huge muscles, yet it can easily leap a fence. Why? Because it moves the whole body as one, utilizing the tendons as the primary movers.
Don’t know about you, but I want more deer-like explosiveness. And that is what you’ll find springing to life in my new course, Power Postures-Tiger Tendons.
Come and get it.
Here endeth the lesson.