2016 marks the most contentious presidential election in recent memory.
Early in the campaign, 538 reported that both candidates sported record unfavorability ratings for their party.
Now, in the wake of a Trump victory, protesters have taken to the streets in anger.
Regardless of your politics, it’s clear that the coming four years are going to be highly contentious. Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House — but Trump isn’t entirely popular with his own party. Prominent Democrats have promised to fight certain Republican policies.
Most notably, Republicans retained only 51 seats of the Senate — in other words, not enough to prevent a filibuster.
A quick definition: in a filibuster, a senator or group of senators prevents a particular bill from being voted on. They basically do this by talking for a long time.
During a filibuster, you aren’t allowed to eat (except hard candy). You aren’t allowed to drink anything but water or milk. You aren’t allowed to go to the bathroom. And you aren’t allowed to sit down.
That’s hard, and many politicians aren’t exactly the picture of health. How are politicians pushing 70 going to stand for 10+ hours at a time?
As with anything, training can help.
Why Expect a Filibuster?
Filibusters are uncommon because they’re hard. But the divisiveness of this election and the stated policies of President-elect Trump may make them more likely.
Two leaders in the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have declared their intention to work with Trump on some issues and vehemently oppose him on others.
“Donald Trump tapped into the anger of a declining middle class that is sick and tired of establishment economics, establishment politics and the establishment media. People are tired of working longer hours for lower wages, of seeing decent paying jobs go to China and other low-wage countries, of billionaires not paying any federal income taxes and of not being able to afford a college education for their kids – all while the very rich become much richer.
To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him. To the degree that he pursues racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-environment policies, we will vigorously oppose him.”
He later added:
“If Donald Trump takes people’s anger and turns it against Muslims, Hispanics, African Americans and women, we will be his worst nightmare.”
“It’s no secret that I didn’t want to see Donald Trump win yesterday. I’m intensely frustrated by the apparent likelihood that, for the second time in five elections, a Democratic nominee will have won the popular vote but lost the presidency in the electoral college. But the integrity of our democracy is more important than any individual election, and those of us who supported Hillary Clinton will respect this result.
President-Elect Trump promised to rebuild our economy for working people, and I offer to put aside our differences and work with him on that task. When he takes the oath of office as the leader of our democracy and the leader of all Americans, it is my sincere hope that he will fulfill that role with respect and concern for every single person in this country, no matter who they are, where they come from, what they believe, or whom they love.”
She added in a later statement:
“And [rebuilding the economy] does not mean bigotry and hate. Whether Donald Trump sits in a glass tower or sits in the White House, we will not give an inch on this, not now, not ever.”
Fighting words make filibusters seem more likely.
Physical Challenges of a Filibuster
No food, no bathroom, no chairs
During a filibuster, eating and drinking are limited, going to the bathroom is not allowed (Sen. Wendy Davis used a catheter for her 11 hour filibuster), and you need to be speaking the entire time.
But perhaps most difficult, you need to stand for the entire duration of the filibuster. Standing for that long is challenging because:
- It puts stress on your core. If your core isn’t strong enough, you’ll start to slouch and get lower back pain.
- Your feet get tired. If you’ve ever had a job that forces you to be on your feet, you know the throbbing pain that comes from standing for a long time.
- Your upper back gets sore. If you have any amount of rounding, it’s going to hurt after 10 hours. Bernie has a bit of a slouch, so this is something for him to worry about.
Senator Davis tried to deal with these by putting on a back brace and wearing comfortable pink shoes (which she later became known for).
But those can only go so far. If you want to filibuster successfully, start training now.
7 Exercises to Train for a Filibuster
If it’s make or break, you want to be sure that you can stand for as long as you need to.
Here are seven exercises that can help you make your filibuster a slow burn.
1) Farmer’s Walks
Farmer’s walks are one of the simplest exercises around. Just pick up two heavy dumbbells and start walking.
In order to walk with heavy weights, you need to have good posture. Farmer’s walks will help strengthen your core and help you maintain good pressure under stress. They can also help keep your shoulders in good position, to avoid rounding your upper back.
Elite coach Dan John is one of the biggest champions of farmer’s walks.
To train for a filibuster, consider mixing up distances. Walking with 160 lbs for 40 yards is great, but can you walk with 40 lbs for a half mile? Both distances and weights will have benefits, since you’re training for the long stand.
The old standby of core training. A proper plank will help you brace your core and protect your spine from slouching.
How long can you hold a plank for? A filibuster can last over 10 hours, so some endurance is probably helpful.
At the same time, consider doing planks in shorter spurts, as advocated by Dean Somerset. Going all out for 10 seconds is a very different feeling from just holding the position, and both kinds of plank can be useful.
3) Hip Thrusts
Core training is super important, but the core isn’t the only part of the body that can contribute to back pain.
Most people have weak glutes. Strengthening your glutes can help you maintain good posture by controlling the position of your pelvis. Bret Contreras, the Glute Guy, is the most outspoken voice on glute bridges.
For your long stand, think about strengthening your glutes.
Plus, it will give everyone something to look at while you’re up there.
4) Hip Flexor Stretch
Tight hip flexors complete the 3-step checklist for lower back pain (weak core and glutes are the other two).
If your hip flexors are tight and pulling on your pelvis, you may experience some back pain. That’s something you can’t tolerate during a filibuster.
Mobility man Kelly Starrett introduced the couch stretch for hip flexors in one of his earliest videos.
5) Single Leg Deadlifts
We’ve hit the core, the hips, and the butt. But what about the feet?
It’s a bit hard to prepare the feet for such a long ordeal, but single leg deadlifts are a good place to start. In a single leg deadlift, you load up the hamstring and glutes while avoiding some strain on the lower back.
But you also force your foot and ankle to stabilize, which is the real reason they make it onto this filibuster training program.
6) One-arm Cable Row
There hasn’t been much upper body work on this list so far, but it’s important to strengthen your upper back to prevent rounding.
That’s where the one-arm cable row comes in. With it, you can fight slouching posture by strengthening the posterior deltoid, middle traps, and rhomboids.
You’ll also get a little core training in there, from resisting rotation caused by the force of the cable. Baseball specialist Eric Cressey often incorporates this exercise into his programs.
7) Foam Rolling
Foam rolling feels awesome, and working on your glutes and TFL (tensor fascia lata) might help out your back.
But really, I want to talk about rolling out your thoracic spine. If your thoracic spine (upper back) is rounded too much, it’s going to start hurting. Taking a foam roller (or even better, rumble roller or doubled lacrosse balls) to your upper back will help.
Some soft tissue work before (and definitely after!) the filibuster will help you out in a big way.
Those are seven exercises you can do to prepare for a filibuster.
Remember: the best training is specific. That’s why I’ve called out these exercises, to work on the key physical challenges of standing for 10+ hours.
Still, you might consider practicing before you get up there. Gradually transition to a standing desk and lube up your vocal cords so that you’re ready on the big day.
If you need help staying consistent with these exercises, check out the 5-step technique to stop skipping workouts.
Filibuster away! You got this.