Squats, Deadlifts, Tai Chi


Squats and deadlifts are considered closed kinetic chain (CKC) exercises. Meaning, that the force to overcome the load (barbell), is applied to an unmovable object (the ground) and not to the object
being lifted.

Very much like taiji..

In contrast, open kinetic chain (OKC) exercises differ in that the force applied, moves the load, like in a bench press or bicep curl. Much push hands practice is mistakenly practice in an OKC fashion
instead of a CKC way. But that’s another topic..

In order to make a parallel equation between the leg strength gained through squats or dead lifts, and taiji practice, several principles of strength and endurance training need to be adhered. Without these, no comparison nor observable improvement can be measured. ..

At the risk of boring you all to tears, I’ll try to keep it brief and share some unorganized thoughts on this subject..

The first principle is that of “Gradual Progressive Overload”.

If I’m squatting 3 sets of 100 lbs. of 15 reps each twice per week, it won’t be long before adaptation takes place. This falls in line with the SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand) principle. Meaning, that my legs and back will only get as strong (adapt), as they need to be in order to accommodate the 100 lbs of weight (demand). If I want to improve in strength, I need to increase the weight or do more reps to improve in muscular endurance in a GPO fashion.

How do we do this in taiji practice? In contrast to squats or dead lifts, which cover a wider range of motion from the legs being bent to around a 90 degree angle (squats) to full extension, and are
isotonic in nature, much taiji practice is really limited to a given depth of stance and mostly falls in the isometric category of strength training. Meaning that the legs are only strong withing a given range of motion.. And, while in the form we do have some postures that require deeper lowering of the body, these are few and far in between. Snake Creeps Down, comes to mind..

In order to improve in taiji, and here I’m referring to the mundane, muscular aspect and cardiorespiratory fitness, ignoring the internal development we so much adore, there needs to be change in the practice of the daily routine and such change can be accomplished through what is known as FITT (Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type)..


Have we not all heard of practitioners of old practicing their form several times per day? A dozen times and even more on daily basis? Sure we have. Yet we are lucky if most of the folks who are in these research studies, practice more than once per day.. three days per week..


In exercise, intensity is often determined or aimed to, by a percentage of maximum heart rate (MHR) or by a percentage of one rep maximum (1RM) But I know, these parameters are outside of our paradigm. In other words, they are not “internal”. Yet, without some standard to measure intensity even if it is perceived rate of exertion, (PRE), how can one know if improvement is taking place? How is “effort” quantified?


Here we need to really take an honest look at our practice. We know that shorter forms have been developed to accommodate those whose time limitations prohibits any extended practice time.. But without an appropriate amount of time during one’s practice, how can physiological improvements take place?

We know that it takes at least 15 to 20 minutes of constant exercise before the body enters in the the so called “fat burning zone” How can a 15 minute form bring into play the energy systems involved in weight management? It can’t. I agree with George in that to receive any benefit from taiji practice, one should at least commit to 30 minutes or more of daily practice. This is also in agreement to the American College of Sports Medicine, AHA and the CDC.. And I bring these organizations into the discussion since “research” is the topic at hand..

Holding postures for a given amount of time and gradually increasing it will also fall under the “Time” aspect of FITT.


Type can fall into the resistance or cardiovascular approach to form practice.. Also the Qi Gong support system used to augment one’s practice.. Fast form? Wild Goose Qi Gong? WaiGong training..

Any change on one or more of the FITT items on our taji practice would change the GPO and thus improve the practice martially and health wise.. Yet, many practice for years without any kind of periodization.


You have given us students a challenge to think about and try to develop a better plan for our “pratice”.  Time is an issue for most folks and patience also.  I know you would like to have class more often. Two or three times a week would help most undisiplined people be more regular.  Maybe having a written, thought out practice would help too.  I do not have a problem doing daily pratice but I would like to evaluate the quality.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/29 at 09:57 AM

Hello Wanda,

The only time that “time” becomes an issue, is when we allow it to become one.. Otherwise, there’s plenty of time to “practice”. Patience becomes an issue when there’s no vision.. It is very difficult to give someone a “vision”. There is plenty of blurred vision amongst taiji players. As it is written in an old book: “we see through a glass darkly”.

The idea of two or three classes per week is really to give us all more time together to clean or “act”  up (read: form); more opportunity for correction; more time in supportive Qi gong practice and so on.. Undisciplined folks won’t come 3 times per week..

There’s already a written thought out practice in place… It is called the “classics”.. Also I would like to point Yang’s Ten Important Points.. Read here at:

And quality will only emerge with daily practice and constant correction from a discerning teacher… Oh well, there goes my job!


Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/29 at 10:18 AM

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