Power like the chimps

After we found the head male, we just followed him.

He zoomed about 80 feet up into a tree, and then a female climbed up the tree toward him. As she climbed, the other chimps in the area started to make a horrible racket. The loudest hoots and calls I’d heard from any animal in Africa.

Then one male raced down a different tree and stopped at the base. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! He started to bang his huge hands and feet against the exposed roots like a drum.

Other chimps from other areas and different groups started to make the same screeching racket and booming noises.

The noise was deep and loud and traveled through the whole forest.

I thought they were getting ready to attack us. We would have had no defense.

I was sure I was a goner…

This chimp could have zoomed down the tree and come right after me in just seconds, at any moment… I would have had no defense.

But they never attacked.

I figured out after that they were getting excited that the big boss was going to mate with a female. But at the time I had no idea what was happening.

Still, I feel fortunate to have visited them because in 20 years or so they may be gone from the wild. And if you’re a regular reader, you know I strive to learn from disappearing cultures.

Later, I thought of what we can learn from these fierce, tremendously strong animals, and I’ll tell you about that in a minute.

But I’ll also tell you, I got pretty close to the chimps’ leader, about 15-18 feet, and he was one brutish looking guy. I’m not that easily scared, or alarmed when in Nature, but there were like a hundred similar chimps up in the trees around me.

At the time, it was very frightening. The awe-inspiring speed at which they can run down trees is something to behold. You can’t help but be aware that they could descend on you in a second.

And I couldn’t help but remember the story where a single chimp maimed that woman in California and took her face off. I saw the woman on Oprah because someone told me to watch it and said, “You won’t believe what I saw.”

The chimp had also ripped the woman’s fingers off. Imagine the strength. And that was just one “domesticated” chimp. In their own environment, they’re like dealing with Superman who is not very kind and is trying to intimidate you. They’re very capable, and give you the impression they’re looking for a fight.

But there aren’t many chimps left. Uganda is rare in the world in that it has three of the five great apes… gorillas, chimps and humans. There are about 500 chimps in Budongo Forest Reserve, one of the largest remaining populations of chimps in the world.

You might wonder what I feel we can learn from these amazing animals… and the word I thought of when I watched them was “power.”

Chimps are about twice as strong as even the strongest human, and they can run over short distances at incredible speeds.

It’s true that a chimpanzee’s skeletal muscle has longer fibers than the human equivalent. But they’re stronger by comparison because they focus their muscles on power.

What do I mean by power?

It’s the amount of energy you have available to do what you want to do.

I’ve never heard anyone else use power in quite the same way. Usually, power is used to mean overall strength. But I’m thinking of it in terms of the energy you need to do work, like the chimps. They generate twice the work output over a wider range of motion with their muscles than we do.

Problem is, modern exercises train you for endurance, which saps your power.

To regain your power, all you have to do is physically challenge your muscles with very brief and increasingly intense periods of exertion … and then rest.

Your body will start to build capacity and power, instead of endurance. And your newly powerful muscles become giant engines of transformation and you start to favor building muscles over storing fat.

To help you do this, you can build up a part of your body that is one of the chimpanzee’s great secrets to strength and power: Their use of large muscles to do work.

Here’s a great set of movements that will help you build incredible power in the large muscles of your lower body, the most powerful muscles you have.

My favorite way to build power in the lower half of your body is with the squat thrust. They’re great because you can modify them for any level of fitness or capacity.

To do a regular squat thrust:

  1. Stand straight with your arms at your sides.
  1. Squat down.
  1. Lean forward and place your hands on the floor.
  1. Kick your legs backward so that you’re in push-up or “plank” position.
  1. Keeping your upper body in place, pull your legs forward (back into squat position).
  1. Stand back up into starting position.

To do the advanced military squat thrust:

  1. Stand straight with your arms at your sides.
  1. Squat down.
  1. Lean forward and place your hands on the floor.
  1. Kick your legs backward so that you’re in push-up or “plank” position.
  1. Perform a push-up by lowering your body to the ground and back up.
  1. Keeping your upper body in place, pull your legs forward (back into squat position).
  1. Jump up and throw your arms in the air.

If you’re just beginning, or very de-conditioned, after you squat, simply stand back up and raise your arms in the air. They try it again. After you’re progressed, then try and do movements #3, 4, and 5.

Do three sets, and don’t let any set go more than three minutes. Build intensity by squatting faster, or doing more reps. Accelerate the challenge by resting for less time between reps and sets.

This will really build your glutes and legs, and give you “chimp power” that will keep you moving and active for life.

And as you train for power, something surprising will also start to happen. You’ll get energy from your muscles fast and start to feel energetic all the time. You’ll feel the metabolic power and have it on demand.

You’ll jump out of bed with more energy than you’ve ever had and feel good all the time. All because of building power like the chimps have.