Why do you go to the gym? Most people say they want to lose fat, build muscle, improve performance, rehab an injury, or maybe just flirt with the girl sitting at the front desk!
These goals all seem to be vastly different, and to some extent, will require different training protocols. But regardless of what your specific goal is, there is one common objective that you must focus on if you really want to achieve optimal fitness results.
What is that objective? To get stronger! Now, whenever I make this statement, a lot of personal trainers get their panties caught up in a bunch. They claim, “My client is not interested in increasing strength!” Oh really? Well if they are interested in getting results, they had better shift their way of thinking, ASAP.
You see, the majority of gym members get little to no results for their efforts. Even though they go to the gym religiously, they stay at the same level (or get worse) each and every year.
One common thread among these members is the lack of real strength training.
Flailing around in a silly class or pumping out the same ten pound dumbbells year after year just isn’t going to do anything for you.
Let’s look at some real world examples of how increasing strength helps people achieve other seemingly unrelated goals:
Many people neglect to emphasize strength training during their rehab protocol. Typically, an overemphasis is placed on the restoration of optimal range of motion (ROM). Restoring ROM is a critical step that involves flexibility, mobility and activation drills. But ROM can be better improved through increased strength.
You see, for a joint to actively move through its ROM, one side of the joint must relax while the other side contracts. This essentially creates movement.
If the side that is contracting is weak, it will fail to move the joint through a full ROM because it won’t be able to overcome the tension from the other side of the joint.
In addition to strength helping to restore ROM, it also adds stability to the joint. Win-Win.
Increasing strength is one of the best ways to encourage the body to build lean muscle. Real strength training improves the nervous system’s efficiency.
A more efficient nervous system can recruit a greater number of motor units/muscle fibers per contraction. This results in an increased potential for hypertrophy (muscle building).
This one will come as a shocker to most people. Strength training is actually MORE effective at burning fat than a sweaty aerobic workout, although your perception may tell you otherwise.
There are several reasons why increasing your strength leads to more efficient and sustainable fat loss:
a) All other things being equal, lifting 315 lbs will simply burn more calories than lifting 135 lbs does.
b) Increasing strength leads to increases in lean muscle. This leads to an increased metabolic rate. Raising your metabolism will obviously have a direct positive effect on fat loss.
c) Heavier loads impose greater stress on your body. This stress has been shown to trigger the release of fat burning hormones.
Your strength will dictate how difficult most tasks are…even tasks that don’t seem to be directly related to brute strength.
Thus, your level of strength has a powerful effect on your level of conditioning.
Let’s use a simple example to better understand this concept. (Just note that this applies to everything and not just weight training).
Let’s say your goal was to squat 225lbs for 50 reps. Clearly this task will take a high level of strength endurance (conditioning).
Currently, we will assume that you can only squat 225lbs for 15 reps and your one rep max is 335lbs. So 225lbs is 67% of your one rep max.
To achieve your goal (225lbs for 50), most recommend squatting 225lbs every week and trying to increase your reps each workout.
This will work for about three weeks and then you will burn out before ever achieving your goal.
A better option would be to increase your max squat first. Let’s say, through proper strength training, you increased your max squat to 395lbs. Now 225lbs would represent only 56% of your one rep max (instead of 67%).
At a lower percentage of your one rep max, 225lbs will now be significantly easier for you to handle, thus improving your ability to display your strength endurance (conditioning).
Improving Power And Speed
Power and speed involve accessing and displaying your strength quickly. If you don’t have a solid foundation of strength, you’ll have nothing to display.
Believe me, if you want to improve your speed, power, and performance, don’t rely from those so-called speed drills that require you to dance around a series of cones. These drills only improve your ability to…well, dance around a series of cones!
It’s critical to develop strength first. This will give you the raw material that you can then translate to force, power and speed development.
Improving Quality Of Life
Whether it’s rock climbing on vacation, taking a jiu jitsu class, or just moving a piece of furniture so you can vacuum, increased strength will better your abilities at any task and increase your safety as well.
I think you can see the trend here. Increasing your strength should be your number one goal, regardless of your goal. Let’s get to it!