Strength Training- What is it Exactly?
When you hear the words strength training, what comes to mind? Chalk everywhere, 250 pound dudes bending bars, eyes bulging, and lots of grunting? That’s fair, and there are definitely gyms and factions of people out there that those descriptors apply to, but strength training is so much more than that, and it is something that everyone should be doing. Now, the way to implement strength training into a program will differ from person to person based on a multitude of factors such as goals, age, physical restrictions, and equipment access, but once again everyone should be getting in some good strength work on a regular basis.
The benefits of building strength are many, including adding lean muscle mass, strengthening bone density, keeping joints healthy and improving overall body mechanics and movement. The number one excuse I hear people give for not wanting to lift weights is not wanting to get too bulky, and this usually comes from women. Strength training will not make you into a bodybuilder, unless you want it to. Bodybuilders lift weights in a very specific way that is called hypertrophy. And this leads me to the main point of this article: the different types of strength training.
This is the form of lifting that I described above. Powerlifters and World’s Strongest Man competitors operate mainly in this lane of strength training. Usually the goal is to be able to lift as much weight as possible for 1-3 reps in the three main barbell movements: the back squat, deadlift and bench press. That being said, this form of strength isn’t just limited to those lifts. It can be applied to many other movements. Practicing this style of lifting is very intense and taxing on the body and central nervous system. Because of that, you want to make sure that your technique is very good and you have the proper coaching and feedback to stay safe and ensure each lift is as effective as possible. People who want or need to generate maximum strength in a short period of time should be employing this type of lifting.
This can be seen as the opposite of max-out strength. With muscular endurance (ME) strength training you will be utilizing lower weights and higher rep schemes to give your muscles a burn that translates into a longer workload capacity. This type of strength training can be used for most movements. The amount of pull-ups, push-ups or air squats you can do in one set would be examples of muscular endurance. Instead of 1-3 reps per set, you would be doing anywhere from 10-infinity (haha). Isometric holds, such as planks, would also be grouped into ME training. The longer you can hold a position with good form, the better your ME. This style of training increases aerobic capacity in the muscles which translates to better performance in endurance sports or activities.
I also described this type of strength training in the intro paragraph, and as I said, this is what bodybuilders spend most of their time doing in the gym. In terms of the reps and weight, hypertrophy more closely resembles ME. The difference usually lies in the type of movements you are doing. Hypertrophy training utilizes a lot of isolated muscle movements such as bicep curls or tricep pull downs, just to name a couple. This style of strength is more geared toward muscle size and shape which is why isolating the muscle is more beneficial. For the most part hypertrophy is not going to translate very well to functionality and overall body coordination and strength like max-out strength and muscular endurance. That being said, I still do some hypertrophy training as accessory work to help supplement other lifts and increase my overall fitness.
Power = Force x Velocity
Power is a unique form of strength training in that its focus is speed and explosiveness. Using low rep and low weight sets allow the movement to be performed with great speed while keeping perfect form. This increases your body mechanics within whatever movement you are training. It also allows you to perfect your movement pattern to ingrain proper technique of the exercise. Power training is a supplement to your overall strength output and should be a part of a well-rounded strength program. Its end goal is to increase barbell speed even as you increase weight and intensity.
So, as you can tell, I’m a pretty big fan of strength training. The benefits are numerous and the versatility allows for anyone to draft a program that will fit their goals. Strength training will literally put years on your life, allow you to function better overall and keep you safer in the long run. And obviously, I’ve just given a very general overview of what the different types of strength are, so the next step involves creating a specific program that will efficiently and safely reach your goals. If you need help doing so, make sure to book a free consult at: