The Most Important Physical Attribute
Strength (noun): physical power; the capacity of an object to withstand great force; the emotional/mental qualities necessary in dealing with situations that are difficult. (Taken from Google’s definition of the word).
A vague yet critical word, is what strength is. From the definition given, one can safely say that strength is an important quality to have as a person, or even as a society. Those who are physically and mentally strong are certainly better off than those who are weak, right? So, shouldn’t strength be advocated and pursued en masse? Wouldn’t that make sense?
Unfortunately, common sense usually doesn’t prevail in today’s world. Combine that with the fact that people are lazy sacks of shit, and you’ll end up with weakness being the norm. Strength is a gem, a rarity.
Focusing on the physical definition of strength, versus the mental definition, very few people work hard to build this quality. It’s a widely-accepted fact that America’s population is by far overweight and out-of-shape. People are conscious of this, and strive to improve their health. What happens though is that their fruitless attempts result in spinning their wheels and dilly-dallying in the gym. Oh, and the fact that commercial gyms like Planet Fitness ban heavy lifting and give out free pizza every month certainly doesn’t help either.
For those who get beyond idiocy accepted by commercial gyms and our lazy society, they still fail to go after strength in favor of other forms of so-called “exercise”. Really, exercise is a simple term for “dicking around with no true goals whilst sweating”. Examples include Crossfit, jogging, kickboxing, performing one-thousand situps, and Zumba.
With that said, let me tell you WHY it’s so important to prioritize strength, at any level. Not endurance, not speed, not balance, not dancing ability, not anything else, but strength.
Strength Builds the “Base”
Every time someone gives strength-training a shot, I can guarantee you that he or she will have issues relating to mobility or movement-patterns. Lack of ankle-flexion, non-existent spinal stability, inability to raise the arms directly overhead – I always see someone have some kind of issue. Non-strength-trainees aren’t concerned over such things, because they’ve had such issues put in the spotlight before.
Given the fact that we’ve established that most people aren’t actively training strength, it can be assumed that most people have shitty mobility and movement-patterns. Poor mobility and movement-patterns lead to reduced performance and increased chances of injury. Better mobility and movement-patterns = stronger base. Why would it NOT be beneficial to fix these issues?
Strength training would tackle them head-on by exposing them early in one’s training career. By sticking with a lifting program, the trainee would also maintain the newly acquired mobility and movement-patterns by repeatedly performing the same movements over and over, under progressively heavier load. This can mean wonders for child-athletes, as kids left and right are injuring themselves in their sports, and for adults, whose bodies have become wrecked from desk-jobs and such.
Another way in which strength builds our “base” is through structural change. Literally, strength training increases your physical base by fortifying your musculoskeletal system. Your bones, joints, and muscles are forced to adapt when lifting heavy loads. Your entire body become stronger, hence, “strength training”.
The implications of this “structural building” mean reduced likelihood of osteoporosis and atrophy for older folks, the ability to take a greater beating for adults, and proper musculoskeletal development for children. If your kid is a scrawny little punk but wants to become LeBron James, you think he’ll become his size through a growth-spurt? Hell no! You need to stimulate that growth!
And, speaking of athletics…
Strength Carries-Over to Athleticism
The “base-building” logic is already a good-enough argument for strength training for athletes – tougher, mobile, neurological “efficient” bodies make good athletes – but I’ll give you some more reasons.
There are a couple athletic attributes: strength, power, speed, endurance, agility, coordination, balance. While it may not be quickly understood, strength (and strength training) improves each of those athletic abilities in varying degrees.
Speed and power are two attributes directly improved by increases in strength. Basic physics explains why. Let’s take an equation for power, and break it down.
Power = Work / Time
Work = Force X Distance
Velocity = Distance / Time
Power = Force X Velocity
Force can be equated to strength, and velocity can be equated to speed. So, power equals strength times speed. Power, defined as applying maximum force with maximal speed, is a truly all-encompassing athletic-trait. Running fast, knocking others down, throwing a ball as far as possible – all are examples of power. Strength AND speed contribute to power, so through increases in strength, increases should be seen in power.
What’s also interesting is that the muscle fiber, type 2x, that’s responsible for strength is also responsible for speed. The same muscle fiber performs both functions. So, if you improve your squat and deadlift without increasing your own bodyweight, why wouldn’t you become faster? Heavy lifting recruits the same muscle fibers!
Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, who can run 100 meters in 10.08 seconds, strength training.
As for the other attributes, strength training indirectly improves them.
Strength training requires and develops a certain amount of spatial awareness and proprioception. Balance and coordination heavily require those qualities, so there’s an overlap between strength and balance/coordination.
Agility is derived from speed, coordination, and balance. We already deduced that speed is improved by strength, as well as spotted the overlap between strength and the other attributes, so here we can see agility being improved by strength.
As for endurance, conditioning exercises can easily be incorporated in a strength program and not affected progress on the lifts. So, strength doesn’t really improve endurance, but it does not hinder it.
Finally, it should be noted that athletes are more likely than not putting in hours every week in their sport, either participating in the game or performing drills to improve their skills. Every single athletic attribute, except for strength, is being used and improved during this time. Why not throw in a little time in the weightroom to improve strength, when it can positively affect the rest of the athletic attributes?
Strength Carries-Over to Life
We are humans. We are designed to use our bodies. We must push, pull, lift, carry, drag, climb, jump, punch, kick, grapple, run, and do many other crazy things.
We’ve realized how much strength can improve our bodies in the previous two points. This holds true for athletes, kids, adults, older people, etc. – basically, it’s everyone who isn’t paralyzed or dead. Everything we do, as humans, can benefit from additional strength.
So, I have to ask you:
WHY THE HELL AREN’T YOU STRENGTH TRAINING?