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STRENGTH IN SPLINTERS

"Jesus said, 'It is finished.' With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit."— John 19:30

Playing baseball with wooden bats is the purest form of the game there is. The bat doesn't lie -- hitters' weaknesses are routinely exposed and hitters' strengths are more easily neutralized. These athletic implements, usually carved out of Northern Ash, are easily broken -- sometimes splintering dramatically -- either as a result of a bad swing, a good pitch, or some combination of the two.

Wood composites offer a stronger, albeit significantly more expensive option, for hitters looking to prolong the life of their lumber. These modernized bats are comprised of various woods and synthetic internal supports that allow them to perform like natural wooden bats but with a significantly longer lifespan. They provide a durability that typical wooden bats simply cannot. Still, the use of these repurposed trees for sport pales in comparison to the most notable, or notorious, wood in history -- the crudely fashioned posts used by the Romans to crucify Jesus. Two thousand years later, the image of the cross at Golgotha remains both evocative and empowering, a reminder that our fragility is divinely and miraculously reinforced by His.

It may be a technological triumph that composite bats offer the resilience needed to endure the rigors of constant wear on the ball field. But the strength to persevere in this life may be found in the simple, collective durability of the splinters of a cross.

--Eric Velazquez

COMPOUND MOVES If you are looking to build strength, devote your energy to multi-joint moves

The three most popular, widely-used lifts in the gym are the bench press, deadlift and squat. Referred to as “The Big Three,” these moves fall into a category of exercises called compound, or multi-joint, lifts. These exercises require movement at more than one joint, which means that more total muscles have to get involved to complete each rep. And the more muscle you work, the more muscle and strength you stand to gain. As a bonus, the more muscle you recruit on a given exercise, the more calories you burn. Finally, any measure of muscle gain will improve your metabolism since muscle is calorie-eating tissue.

Anyone looking to gain strength would be best served by doing compound moves, almost exclusively at first. Isolation, or single-joint, moves like curls, pressdowns, leg extensions or leg curls have their place in physique building, but they are secondary exercises that should only be implemented once you have built an adequate base of strength from which to work.

But The Big Three don’t stand alone in the strength-gain column. Here are a few more exercises that make you stronger in a hurry:

Barbell row Pull-up Dip Bodyweight squat Lunge Push-up

>> For exercise descriptions and videos, click here.

>> For more workouts and exercise tips, click here.

33-DAY TOTAL BODY CHALLENGE: Looking for a complete workout that includes compound movements? Pick up the PrayFit 33-Day Total Body Challenge, available now at Amazon. This at-home program provides everything you'll need to start training for faster results while honoring the One who made you. "We don't strive to be healthy in order to be loved by God," says PrayFit founder Jimmy Pena. "We strive to be healthy because we are."

>> View the trailer here.