What Super Mario Can Teach Us About Strength & Conditioning

What Mario can teach us about Strength and Conditioning

One of the all-time classic video games is Super Mario 64. The savvy veterans of this legendary Nintendo 64 game will be well aware that any time you go in the water, you can get your health back. Mario has a power meter that takes a hit whenever you get hurt from a walking bomb, getting bit by the haunted piano or accidentally falling in some lava but going in the water always resets the meter.

The power meter that your body uses to be strong

Throughout this adventure game, there are numerous levels where there are underwater requirements. Mario must dive down to the bottom of a lake and catch a star off of an eel’s tail, sequentially open up underwater treasure chests and wade through the freezing waters of “Cool, Cool Mountain.” In all of these instances, once Mario submerges, this power meter pops up and begins to slowly tick away until you either come up for air and re-gain your power or fall victim to the icy water’s air-less grip.

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Example of how the body's power meter runs out.

Of course, the goal of each task is to start your mission with full power. Starting with any less and you jeopardize your ability to perform the entire task.

I was at a friend of mine’s men’s league basketball game the other night and I couldn’t help but think of our old Italian friend Mario as I saw a player running up and down the court with about three bars remaining on his power meter.

My man was so aggressively locked in extension that each step looked incredibly labored and anti-explosive.

Extension is power. There’s no other way to put it. Extension hits home runs. Extension dunks over seven-foot centers. Extension lifts the most weight. But the best and most explosive extension has to start from zero. It has to start with a full power meter.

In order to get the most amount of extension power, athleticism and explosiveness, you want to be able to use your entire power meter. Start from zero and powering up to 10. If you’re already in extension, well then you’re not starting from zero. Maybe you’re starting from two or maybe you're starting from a freaking nine. Either way, you’re selling yourself short.

This is why training flexion is so important. In the performance training industry, extension exercises understandably dominate for all the reasons I mentioned above. Everyone wants to get more explosive and athletic and powerful.

Flexion and Extension in the body
Extension (Left) & Flexion (Right)

Flexion is not a great way to load your body, I understand that, but we have to appreciate the fact that we are trying to split the difference between all of the extension bias in our world. We have to find some way to return to neutral. We have to find some way to give Mario his power back! I don’t actually want you to assume a resting flexed posture, I’m just trying to find a nice middle-ground.

That said, it is incredibly important to train the muscles that will resist that extension bias such as the obliques, hamstrings, adductors and glutes, with serious ferocity. Get these suckers SUPER strong. Do whatever you can to keep that power meter at capacity.

Find more internal rotation also. And I don’t mean the Internal Rotation you get from busting through neuromuscular tone or posterior hip capsules to achieve the façade of “mobility.” I mean some legitimate, exercise aided, neurally permissible internal rotation. Sounds fancy but just means obliques, hamstrings, adductors and glutes need to be beasts.

Jump in the water Mario, and reset that power meter!

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