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Strength: Building a Bigger Cup

People’s reasons for joining a gym vary from person to person. The most common reasons I am told when assessing new clients included weight loss, toning up, improving stamina, decreasing pain, and sometimes getting stronger. The interesting thing is that when we prioritize getting stronger everything else gets easier. Most Strength & Conditioning coaches use the following foundational scheme to explain the priorities in any training plan: Mobility>Stability>Strength>Power>Speed>Conditioning

There is a certain level of mobility and then stability required to safely perform any given strength movement. Ensuring that these two things are in place are equivalent to checking the oil and tire pressure on your car before leaving for a long trip. They are prerequisites to get to drive (strength train in our case). If we stick with the car analogy strength is the engine. The stronger we get the more potential we have for everything else. Getting stronger doesn’t automatically mean that you will be more explosive, run faster, jump higher, or last longer in a run. However, if you don’t have a big enough engine those other qualities can never be fully developed.

When it comes to Power, Rate of Force Development, or Acceleration (depending on what you want to call it) we are looking to apply as much force (strength) in as short of time as possible. As you can see, the size of the engine will greatly limit that power potential. Speed is typically looked at as maximum velocity achieved. You must go through an acceleration phase to reach top speed. By default if you can’t produce enough force to accelerate as quickly, then you won’t be able to reach top end speed, or it will take substantially more time to achieve it. When it comes to endurance every movement can be viewed as a percentage max muscle force. Let’s look at something as simple as going up a flight of stairs. If I have two individuals, one who can carry their body weight up a flight of stairs and a second person who can only carry 25% of their body weight up that same flight of stairs. If we unload both of them the first individual is only doing about 50% effort of what they are capable of, and this will feel very easy. The second individual will be doing about 80% of what they are capable of and after going up 4-5 flights of stairs they would likely need to stop and rest. From an injury prevention standpoint, the stronger you are the more capable and resilient your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones will be due to the constant stress stimulus.

If we are talking about weight loss or decreasing body fat then being stronger allows you to do more work in a given amount of time, as well as increasing muscle mass in many cases. These two things will help increase both how many calories you burn at rest, and during your workouts. In general my stronger and muscularly larger clients can eat more while still maintaining or losing weight.

If you aren’t already following a program that emphasizes getting stronger on 3-5 core movements it’s time you start. It’s important to choose movements that don’t cause you pain and that you have adequate range of motion and stability to safely perform. Most individuals will do well training for strength 2-4 days per week. Perform 2-5 sets of each exercise for 2-9 challenging reps for 5-12 total weekly sets. Try to gradually increase the weight you are lifting over time. I recommend that you meet with a competent Strength Coach to help evaluate health/injury history, assess movement, and help set up a plan that includes safe and effective movements for you.

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