Archive for June 1, 2015

When you set a goal, you have to define it first before you can move forward. Convey your goal to your Strength Coach so that an appropriate assessment or monitoring and plan can be made. Being physically strong is a noble goal. But what does it mean? Strength is the ability to produce maximum force. It is the ability to lift or push or move heavy objects. But I realized that the word “Strong” is sometimes incorrectly used to describe someone big and muscular.


Strength can be described by the weight of the object you are moving, in a certain exercise or movement. It is measurable and to be more accurate, it is best measured in as few reps (short for repetition) as possible. The reps should be low (5 or less) because the load is simply too heavy to move or lift many times. For example you can full squat 50kg for fifteen repetitions but cannot complete the 16th rep. You add 40kg for a total load of 90kg and you try to full squat. It feels a lot heavier but you were able to do two reps and was not able to get up on the 3rd rep. You were then able to do two reps maximum of 90kg for the full squat. That is the maximum load that you can lift with 2 reps. When it comes to the full squat, 90kg is a closer measure of your strength than 50kg. 50kg is the load that you can lift for fifteen reps. Increasing the repetitions means moving towards endurance and moving away from strength. Therefore, if you want to improve your strength faster, train with heavy loads that you can control and move for around 5 reps or less. If you train with ten reps or more, you will still become stronger but not as fast as when you train specifically for strength. You develop your maximum strength by lifting near maximum loads. You develop strength endurance by lifting a load that you can lift many times by- that is around 8 reps and above.  This follows the concept of specificity.


Standard exercises are used to measure strength so as to give feedback on how much a trainee improved. Most Strength coaches would use the squat and bench press. The deadlift and bench pull are also used. It basically depends on the details of your goal and what you and your strength coach can do. A training log can also be used as a reference for Strength improvement and it shows what you actually did. It makes a very good feedback. Make it simple, just write the exercise, the load, how many sets at how many reps. This also gives the Strength coach a hint of what you may be able to do in the near future.


But what does strength mean in our daily life? For a contact sports athlete, it may mean the ability to push, to pull, lift, squeeze, or throw your opponents around with seemingly lesser effort. For a mother, it may mean the ability to carry her child with ease. For a father, he should be able to carry the grocery bags up the stairs, move furnitures around, play with his kids, or simply be able to open a stuck jar cover so that his wife can make sandwiches. For a lady, it may mean being able to carry her own stuff, or maybe go through a trekking activity without being at the mercy of guys especially if they are not her type. For a guy, physical strength may mean you can be of help to yourself and to other people. For some of us, it may mean our livelihood.


It is understandable that the word “strong” for a lot of people would mean big. A bigger and more muscular person should, theoretically, be able to lift more than a smaller and less muscular person. That is true if they are trained to lift. There may be some big guys who workout in a gym but may not be able to lift as much as a smaller but properly trained athlete, especially in certain lifts that require technique and mobility.


It can be fun to be able to tap into your physical strength. There was one time I went to a workshop. I was one of the smallest guys – I am not that muscular. Other participants are big, muscular guys. Some of them are looking at me like they will eat me! But I know myself and I have confidence in the way I trained myself. So I just let my lifting do the talking and during our break the big guys seem to try to shrink themselves when they pass in front of me since they cannot lift the weight I lifted. It was an amusing experience.


Some of the athletes I train are not that big too. Since they have a certain weight category, they should not put on a lot of muscle mass to avoid getting heavy. The patient and consistent athletes make the most of the training. There is one guy who is not muscular, but he beats a lot of guys heavier than him in the Clean. He can also Squat heavier than guys bigger than him. That is what you call strong for his size.


So if you want to be Strong, train to be strong. If you want to be big, train for hypertrophy. But what is more important is that you Train Better, Live Better!