The Value of Strength

Since the beginning of time life has been a measure of strength.  The strongest cave person got to lead, the strongest warrior won the war, and the strongest bully put you into a headlock between classes (her name was Katrina and it wasn’t my proudest moment).  We idolize, dogmatize, and strive for strength in everything we do. So why aren’t we strength training? For some its self-consciousness, not wanting to wade through a sea of weights while gym bros stare at you with their snapbacks and spaghetti tank-tops.  For others it's not wanting to waste time on anything other than what you enjoy, like running, biking, or competitive knitting. Whatever the excuse, it isn’t good enough to neglect strength training. Here are a few reasons why:

Strength and Sport

If you think doing your sport or your favorite activity is enough to keep you injury free and killing the game, you are mistaken.  In terms of health it’s a good start and maybe you’re reading this saying, “WRONG, I’ve been (insert activity) for years and I’m golden”.  Well you may be the exception, but the rule is that regular or supplemental strength training improves coordination, power output, risk of injury, and mental fortitude.  Doesn’t that sound great? Who wouldn’t want those things?

Strength and Weight

“I don’t want to get big” is a common statement uttered by many a person (including me at one point) and is something we need to address.  Weight training only makes you big if you want it to make you big, otherwise it just makes you strong. In fact, it usually makes you lean rather than big because muscle is a big determinant of resting metabolism.  This means that, as you gain muscle, the amount of calories you passively burn increases, reducing your body fat. Say whaaaaaaat? I know, pretty cool stuff. Another statement I’ve heard is that people would rather focus on cardio so they can lose weight.  The thought that cardio burns more calories than strength training is false. It does burn calories for a short period of time, but again, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. So put those excuses to bed and go bench press! Totally kidding, I hate bench press.  Like a lot. Don’t do it, but do go lift some weight.

Strength and Aging

No one likes getting old, except for those awkward few who thought they’d spend their whole lives as a gawky weird looking elf thing but grew into an o.k. looking human (hallelujah), but besides that aging sucks.  Luckily there’s a tried and true way to slow the aging process and keep that new car smell on you. No, it’s not new car essence mixed with citrus oil and turmeric (although I love me some turmeric.) It’s actually just good old fashioned strength training.  Surprise! As mentioned above, this wonderful form of exercise does increase metabolism and therefore calorie consumption for a stellar bod, but it does much more important things as well such as increasing your bone density (which I recently learned stops accumulating at get on it), keeping your hormone levels balanced, and increasing blood vessel density which aids in the health of your tissues.  So let's hit the kettlebells and knock some years off!

This was a brief overview of the value of strength and the first in a series of ongoing blog posts about all things strength related!  There might even be a cool one on the history of strength training if I work up the motivation to do that much history research. We’ll see, for a trainer I am very lazy.  

I’m strong enough to admit that.  



Ask a Trainer

“Why do you always make us hold things on the opposite side?”

This is called cross-patterning and we do it for two primary reasons.  First, your body has certain movement patterns that are fundamental to its development and subsequent performance later in life.  These patterns are things like rolling, reaching across your body, and crawling. Crawling uses opposite appendages at the same time in a crossed pattern.  Using this pattern in other movements helps organize your mind-body connection to achieve tasks easier (coordination, agility, etc.). The second reason is that your muscles often operate diagonally from each other.  For example your glute complex usually works in association with your opposite oblique during tasks. This is also sometimes referred to as “slings” by physiotherapists.

“How do I get to where I can do a pull-up?”  

There are many different modalities you could use to achieve a pull-up.  One way, made popular by Pavel Tsatsouline, is a method called, “greasing the groove”.  This involves repeating a pattern multiple times everyday with very light weight. For the pull-up, this would involve using some sort of assistive tool (band at the feet, a box, or doing pull downs) and doing an assisted pull-up multiple times throughout the day.  Another method would be to solely focus on the lower portion of the pull-up, or the eccentric portion. This type of contraction can take more weight and drills a similar movement to an actual pull-up. You could do this ten times a day, eventually moving to one pull-up, then two, and so on.

“Why am I sore?”  

DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness is a natural physiological phenomenon in which muscle tears and metabolic by-products produce minor pain and swelling at a region of prior exercise.  This effect is amplified with eccentric contractions and high repetitions, two very popular ways to exercise at Paragon :)