Jasper Roberts - Blog

Monday, July 20, 2015

2015-07-20 Re-Evaluating The Legend of Milo of Croton

You’ve probably heard it or something like it. Milo of Croton was a legendary Greek wrestler from the 6th Century BC. Tales of his strength border on the fantastic (like here): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milo_of_Croton

The idea was that you carried around a baby cow (bull) when it was first born, and then carried it every day until it grew into a full size bull and you, at that point, would presumably be carrying around a full size bull on your shoulders (which is what Milo supposedly did) and you’d be ridiculously strong. I heard a different story about a karate instructor from the early 1800’s who supposedly dug a pit one foot deep and practiced jumping down into it and out of it. He dug it a little deeper every day until it was over ten feet deep, which this karate man would jump into and out of in a single bound (one jump down and one jump up).

In modern times these clearly seem like impossible feats. Nobody alive that we know of can box jump ten feet, or carry a full size bull around on his shoulders. Now if you’re a history buff you might remember that not all stories a) are factual, and b) are meant to entertain only. Some stories carry a message. Duh.

When I first heard about the karate man jumping into a pit and the bull carrying antics of Milo many years ago it seems like a legitimate approach, and it was certainly inspiring. However, as I got older and wiser it became apparent that this wouldn’t be a realistic training regimen, or a realistic accomplishment. But the problem is that you cannot look at it from this perspective and expect a constructive lesson. When I first came to CC I thought it would be a simple matter of progressively scaling my exercises until I was doing one arm handstand pushups all day long. We all know this now to be so far unachievable, and it’s safe to say that the pace of progression is a bit slower than most had hoped. The thing is, after several years of extremely consistent training I can say without a doubt that seemingly impossible things (for me) HAVE been accomplished already, and as I always write about- the consistency of training and facing new challenges along the path of building a skill is what the whole point is. I’m very confident that even more amazing things are on the horizon. But it is not a linear progression.

You may not ACTUALLY lift a bull, but you will lift your own bull. You may not ACTUALLY jump down and up out of a ten foot pit, but you will accomplish amazing feats of strength and skill IN THE PRACTICE by practicing. The secret sauce is the consistency and the goal focus.  Consistency is good but without focus it’s scattered. Focus is good but without consistency you don’t make ground. Both consistency and focus are necessary.

People talk about ligaments and tendons and talk about the growth of these aside from muscle. Many question it. I will attest that this is real, at least on my own body. I’m doing an eighth to a quarter one arm chin ups from the ground and doing partial “press-to-handstand” negatives- all without pain or injury. And with only training THREE HOURS A WEEK. I’m doing a 170 degree split on the floor and putting my chest to the ground. I’m one week into stretching straight splits and already 80% the way there with new techniques I just learned. Not to mention my weighted pistols and shrimp squats are easy enough now to do many reps, though I’m not even training these specifically. I spend a good amount of time writing my training plan down and studying it. This is a very powerful tool that most people completely neglect. I consider it mandatory.

So my message is- don’t get lost and throw out the baby with the bath water by guffawing about the bull being carried around. Nobody is carrying a bull, that’s not the point. The point is that some people are quietly TRYING to carry the bull every day in a million different ways and they ARE making gains toward it. You can make your own amazing gains by picking up that newborn calf and getting started if you haven’t already.