top of page

How to Gain Superhero Strength

[ read time ~ 4 minutes ]

This post is the sequel to a previous post entitled "Use Gravity to Get Stronger."

Recently, I was talking with my friends who have a three year old son. He is a superhero. Or at least he thinks he is. And he only responds when he is addressed correctly-- whether that be “Superman,” the “Incredible Hulk,” or “Captain America.”

There’s nothing dangerous about his active imagination. It’s actually rather common for children his age.

But what if you thought you were a superhero? And what if you acted like you were a superhero? Let’s say you jumped off the top of a building. You would obviously get hurt.

This is similar to what happens to people who perform activities and exercises that are too hard for them.

If you want to get stronger and avoid getting hurt, you need to use the right amount of gravity to do so safely and effectively. The right amount of gravity allows you to perform your desired activity, exercise, or sport without pain during or afterwards. (Read more about this here.)

How much gravity do you tolerate without pain?

If your desired activity is walking, standing, or squatting, and you can do so without pain and with weight beyond your bodyweight (e.g., wearing a backpack, holding dumbbells), then you tolerate Super-Gravity forces.

If you’re able to perform your desired activity on land for a period of time without pain, then you tolerate Gravity forces.

If you have pain when performing your desired activity during your daily life, but you can perform the activity without any pain when you use hiking poles or crutches, then you tolerate Sub-Gravity forces.

How much gravity do you need to get stronger?

Most people want to be above average. They’d rather be superheroes rather than sub-heroes. They’d rather move in Super-Gravity environments rather than Sub-Gravity environments.

Moreover, most people believe they will only get stronger if they are doing exercises that are hard-- exercises with weights, exercises in Super-Gravity environments.

But let’s say your friend goes for a hike wearing a heavy backpack and has knee pain the next day. If she keeps hiking, the knee pain will likely get worse. The pain may become more intense or take longer to go away. Eventually, the pain may not go away; it may remain relatively constant. And if she continues to hike, the pain may ultimately cause her to limp even when she’s only walking across a room.

This is certainly not an example of getting stronger.

However, there is an alternative to this awful outcome. Let’s say that after she notices that first episode of knee pain, she decides to temporarily stop hiking. Instead, she walks in a pool during her hiatus from hiking. And she performs other strengthening exercises that do not cause knee pain. (These exercises may also need to be completed in a Sub-Gravity environment, and a variable incline plane may be an invaluable piece of equipment for her.)

Moving in a Sub-Gravity environment will help her avoid pain and probably injury, but it won’t assure that she achieves her goal of hiking her favorite trails without pain. To do that, she must gradually work up to it.

The process of gradually working up to her goal is similar to what you would need to do if you wanted to increase how much weight you can lift. If you can initially lift 10 pounds, but your goal is to lift 30 pounds, you probably wouldn’t struggle everyday to lift a 30 pound dumbbell and expect that someday you’ll wake up and be able to easily pick it up. That’s just not going to happen.

Instead, you would lift the 10 pound dumbbell several consecutive times. And then, perhaps the next session, you’d try a 12 pound dumbbell. Several sessions later, you’d likely be able to use a 15 pound dumbbell. And you’d keep gradually increasing the weight until you are able to lift 30 pounds.

Likewise, gradual increases need to happen to move from Sub-Gravity (e.g., walking in a pool, or walking with hiking poles or crutches) to Gravity (e.g., walking down the street) to Super-Gravity environments (e.g., hiking with a heavy backpack).

If you’re patient with this process-- and you have the guidance necessary to make the gradual increases-- you will likely feel like a superhero when you’re able to move without pain in Super-Gravity environments.


My colleague, Doug Kelsey, PT, PhD, and I have developed Better Knees for Life, a program for people with tolerable knee pain. Better Knees for Life offers step-by-step instructions that can be performed at home with very little equipment.

What people are saying about Better Knees for Life :

"...well thought out, easy to understand and implement."

"It is almost like a computer algorithm. (That's how clear it is!)"

"BKL (Better Knees for Life) is an outstanding program -- with graded exercise programs and guidelines for advancing, and outstanding support with the Zoom sessions."

"I've already recommended BKL to 2-3 friends because of the noticeable difference in reducing pain in my left knee."

Better Knees for Life helps you get stronger, feel better and maybe best of all, feel more in control of your life.


For a step-by-step action plan to move from sub-hero to superhero status-- for a customized program to help you increase your tolerance for your favorite activities and exercises--work with me. To learn if working together is a good fit for you, schedule a Strategy Session by clicking here.

Help your friends: share this article on social media by clicking a button below.

#gravity #strengthening #exercise #injuryprevention #kneepain #pain

Recent Posts

See All

Carol* was recently telling me about her knees. Over the past couple of years, her knees had become "achy." They weren't constantly uncomfortable, but they were noticeably painful when she knelt down

bottom of page