The Case for Getting Stronger
Strength coach Mark Rippetoe has a famous saying:
“Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and are more useful in general.”
Coach Mark was never known to beat around the bush. As a personal trainer myself, my goal with each client is to get them to reach their full potential in human performance. This means lowering bodyfat, gaining muscle, running farther, and jumping higher (to name a few). And the road to all of these starts with getting stronger.
Here’s the thing: everything requires force. So getting up out of your chair requires your muscles to produce force. If you can’t generate enough, then you’re stuck in that chair until someone comes along to help. You also need force to carry your groceries from the car to your kitchen. Even tasks we take for granted, like picking up a pen, require some level of strength. To create more force, we need to get stronger.
In training, we call this progressive overload. You’re making the body produce more force when you lift something heavy or try to run at a faster pace. So being strong is key. It’s not the only key, but definitely something that is needed.
Take running for instance. Research tells us that strength training can increase something called rate of force production. This means that your foot will produce more force when you strike the ground, thus allowing you to run faster while saving energy (1). This doesn’t mean that you need to be able to lift a house. Or become a full time powerlifter. But adding 50 pounds to your back squat certainly will help that 5K time. In fact, a soccer team was able to increase their running speed when they took up 8 weeks of strength training (2). Impressive, considering that a control group that didn’t lift weights had no change in their speed.
The same goes for fat loss. At UEFP, circuit training is one of my go to methods for stripping fat off clients. However, some are too weak to lift weights heavy enough to stimulate their metabolism. Again, they don’t need to lift a car above their head and throw it- although that would be quite a testimonial- but 10 pound dumbbells won’t cut it either. Get a touch stronger and a 5 set circuit is a little more manageable.
It’s not just force production either. When you lift heavy things, you expose your connective tissue to stress that makes it stronger. This means healthy ligaments and tendons, reducing your chance for injury. It also strengthens bones. It’s been said that 1/10th the force that will break a bone will make it stronger. So if 2000 pounds of force will shatter your femur, 200 pounds will make it stronger.
If you’re convinced, the question now is how do you get stronger? Here are some guidelines that will help:
- If you’re a newbie to weight training, sets of 8-10 reps will help get you stronger initially.
- After 6 weeks, drop the reps down to 6. You’ll need multiple minutes of rest inbetween sets
- After another 6 weeks, you can probably drop down to 4 reps before backing off. I wouldn’t lift a weight that you can only handle for 1 or 2 reps until 6 months of training or so.
So what are you waiting for? Start getting strong so you can build the body you want!
1. Turner, Anthony Nicholas. “Training the Aerobic Capacity of Distance Runners: A Break from Tradition.” (2011) Strength and Conditioning Journal 33;2, 39-42
2. Segovia, M.L., Andres, J.M., Gonzalez-Badillo, J.J. “Effect of 4 Months of Training on Aerobic Power, Strength, and Acceleration in Two Under 19 Soccer Teams.” (2010) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24;10, 2705-2714