So many of us are in the pursuit of a crazy sexy, hot, toned, shredded, sports model or instagram famous body, or at least something not far off, but why do so many of us completely fail to come even close? Why out of the millions of people and personal trainers in the gym is there such a small percentage of people who obtain such a body? There are a number of reasons why including the extreme lack of education in nutrition.
This article however focuses on one of the most powerful yet largely missing elements of training… that is the wisdom of ‘the relevance of strength’ -and how absolutely necessary it is to the equation.
I first need to define what strength training is before I can explain how the word is misused and its relevance to your dream body.
STRENGTH TRAINING: Heavy resistance training done in a very specific format with the express purpose of increasing your body’s MAXIMAL strength (as measured by various compound lift exercises) over time.
For those of us who go to the gym and spend some time weight training, we do so in the pursuit of that leaner, more toned, more muscular physique do we not? However there is a difference between someone simply showing up to the gym, moving around some weight and someone with a goal, a purpose and a plan to progress and improve strength. The outcome is ultimately very different.
Many people spend lots of time in the gym, chasing and striving to improve their physique, but so many fail to come even close. But hey…. yes, some may achieve a level of muscle gains, weight loss, smaller clothing sizes or look slightly leaner all while having a good time. However overall they really don’t look what they perceived to be their dream physique… that head turning body that now one can miss and the looks of admiration on peoples faces. The question is why??
I’m going to tell you why. In this article I will prove a point that “Strength is always relevant”. And that strength is not only relevant but also the key to creating that amazing physique you dream about.
To help with this perspective I ask people “do you expect to achieve massive, outrageous, awesome and crazy sexy results by lifting the same amount of weight as the first day you walked into the gym?” No of course not!! You expect to improve, whether it’s more weight (Strength) or more reps (Conditioning) on any given exercise, you should have made some progress. Now at first everyone gets some initial results, which came pretty easily. And the thing is that actually came from the fact that you did make some initial strength and conditioning progress from your beginning physical capability and with I’m sure some smarter food choices, and so you received some positive physical changes. But when someone hits a so called “Plateau” this is simply due to either needed corrections with nutrition or you have simply stopped progressing in performance and strength. The point is “Strength is always relevant” and played a large part in your beginning progress but needs to be reinforced and continued.
Problem is the relevance of strength gets lost so quickly in this industry due to the lack of leaders, personal trainers and everyday gymnasts not knowing its value or how to obtain it. It’s an industry based completely around the concept of ‘fitness’ and fitness alone, hence the title the ‘Fitness Industry’. The idolization of cardiovascular capability is heavily pushed and is the base of most gym cultures and marketing.
The mention of strength is rare to none existent and can even be shunned upon and is only for bodybuilders, power-lifters and meat heads. Luckily there is a shift happening and strength is developing in the industry. Most sports, crossfit studios, performance studios, powerlifting gyms and the world of Instagram are now showing that amazing physiques are made with grit and strength…the world is slowly seeing its value. The problem with strength is it’s hard to obtain like anything worth having in this world. It takes focus, energy, perseverance, a drive to learn more and time to develop it.
This is one of the reasons the average trainer will resort to the hope and belief that there is another way and will rely on or come up with other philosophies and hypotheses on how to create that elusive, amazing, crazy sexy body we all dream off. Then they will sell it to you as if it’s just so easy and in a few short weeks with their plan you will have it. I cover this situation in my article “Are you with and how to choose the right trainer”.
Diet and genetics aside for a moment your strength is the vital key factor in the ability to achieve your dream body or goal and is by far the most overlooked or ignored aspect of training. There are so many training philosophies that exist and are preached from drop sets, super sets, time under tension, fast, slow, squeeze, power, compound, isolation, plyometric, functional and so many more.
Some are just a complete utter waste of time, and were produced by stupid people wanting to sound smart while others legitimately have their place. Drop sets for example can be applied with success but once again with the understanding of strength and progress. Doing drop-sets will have its initial shock and stimulation to your body, but if you’re only ever lifting the same weight…6 months later you’re still going to look the same, and have only maintained your beginning result. Plyometric body weight training may burn and kick your ass, such as burpee’s and clap push-ups but jumping on the spot and pushing less than your body weight is still a limitation on strength progress.
You may have the ability to dramatically increase the numbers of burpee’s, jumping lunges and clap push-ups, but that’s now only improved conditioning or cardiovascular capability. It actually pains me to see people pay money to a personal trainer who just stands there telling you to jump on the spot and convinces you that it’s the most productive thing… but it’s all they can come up with in promoting the sexy, toned, curvy and shredded look you’re after. It took no real skill on their or your behalf, except tire you out and get you puffed.
However coaching someone the skill of squatting, deadlifting, military pressing or bench pressing a respectable weight for their body weight…which possibly took weeks or months to progressively achieve is only possible if the trainer practices it themselves, and/or truly understands human mechanics. The pursuit of strength doesn’t happen overnight and being told in a sense (not literally) you’re weak and have some serious work ahead of you, clearly is a hard pill to swallow… and isn’t a great selling point.
If you’re going to spend countless hours in the gym, why not except or believe this reality and not waste your time with already painful, time consuming, unproductive or more than likely counter-productive nonsense anyway.
Here is an example of two sets of women who both have time consuming training regimes, both practice a form of nutrition but do you really think the women on the left are as strong as the women on the right? ? The women on the left both train and eat to be weak, maybe they are ‘fit’ but and the women on the right clearly eat and have trained to be strong.
This comparison and understanding in strength discrepancy should put a lot of training philosophies to shame, but the fitness industry is massive and there is a lot of misleading marketing to compete with. For example Functional training can be another potentially misleading system. Something like pushing or pulling a heavy ass sled is an intense movement requiring both strength and conditioning that can complement many programs.
It can improve one’s body and be classed as functional. However the methodology taken too far by trainers will have you standing on one leg, on a medicine ball, with a dumbbell in one hand and a glass of water in the other to then have you slowly work yourself down then up again for a single leg squat which yes took great skill and quite frankly is amazing but to what benefit I ask? I see all too many people balancing on a half swiss ball doing body weight squats whom are overweight and trying to lose body fat.
The challenge and level of extreme skills like this is impressive however yet again off mark for your actual desired outcome.
Unfortunately no matter how well you can pull off some circus trick, replicate another animal’s movement or move all your four limbs in different directions at the same time…if you are weak and continue to be weak, how are you really moving forward to a better looking you? If your goal is to be really good at balancing…great, good for you, if you have fun with this training on the side while on a strength program where the real results happen that’s cool too.
If this truly enhances your ability to perform at your sport, then well done, but if the goal is to stand out in a crowd as one crazy sexy athlete then for the love of God don’t waste your time, go get strong instead.
Now one thing I want to make clear again is that a lot of the styles and methodology that whole studios or personal trainers may base their system and culture around can actually be really fun and exciting. But I’m not talking about that, I’m black and white just talking about what actually influenced your look, what is potentially a waste of time towards that look and what was plain wrong.
So if you’re out to have fun and socialize then a do whatever you want I have nothing against that but I’m here to educate you on the pursuit of an amazing body, and put personal trainers who are preaching complete nonsense in their place.
These before and afters is another way to put in perspective the understanding or progress. Again is it not obvious that in their after shots they have improved their muscle size and definition.
Again what do you think they changed to achieve their improved shape and size, their conditioning, nutrition and without a doubt ‘strength!’ Their strength has improved dramatically since their first photo. You don’t get nice pecks, awesome abbs and a sexy ass by training to be weak… it just doesn’t make sense.
At what point do you realize that being the weakest person in the gym does not equate to you looking like the strongest, athletic and sexy person in the gym?
Other sports and athletes prove the relevance of strength further. Ballet dancers for example are required to not only move and lift their own body weight in extraordinarily high off the ground with intensely difficult positions, but also lift another human being at the same time, all while making it look effortless.
This requires tremendous amounts of strength and as you can see this has contributed to the outcome of some amazing physiques.
There’s nothing more contrasting then the comparison of Marathon runners versus short distance sprinters. I have a lot of respect for long distance runners, I think it’s a great elite sport, hobby and activity. I believe although not for me, it can be very fun and quite stress relieving to a lot of people.
However, for someone aiming to solely and purely to create that crazy, sexy, toned and Instagram hot body, training to be fit is training to be weak. Training as a sprinter which I have done for many years myself, is training to be fast, powerful, explosive and strong.
With such very contrasting outcomes you need to evaluate your goals to align with your training. With the whole industry based on and only encouraging fitness, we should be looking to the top and what is the best philosophy and training system…then ask ourselves “is that the body I want to produce”?
Here is another perfect example of the bodies of professional Olympic Race Walkers striving for elite fitness, and then Olympic Pole vaulters that perform with short bursts of explosive power and strength. Pole vault demands the body to accelerate extremely fast for a short distance, to then finish the sprint with a tremendously powerful and technical movement, throwing their whole bodies weight up into the air as high as possible.
Race walking is a very different tax on the body, to which is a state of physical and mental endurance but not any measurable strength.
Professional Cyclists are in the elite of fitness and conditioning. They are required to perform many hours at a time with minimum to zero stops. Amateur or professional, one hour or 10 hours, Cycling is predominantly cardiovascular fitness, with small bouts of strength required for hills and the odd sprint.
Now UFC fighters are absolutely required to be fit and conditioned but overall the length in time of the fights are no way as long as cyclists. UFC fighters and Boxers included are however absolutely required to be strong.
Strength is a necessity to the sport, no fighter wants to be weak and in turn possibly be out strengthened in a physical battle. Strength training is a hugely important to fighters and the physical outcome is some outstanding physiques.
If running, walking and riding are clearly not producing the body you want to achieve then don’t base so much of your training on those activities alone.
Weight training for women has come a long way in the history of feminism and so have the known weight training benefits. There has been decades of misconception about what happens to women when they weight train, and the look that it produces. Every now and then I still get the comment “but Richard I don’t want to bulk”. Some women assume that weight training or strength training is all about size and getting massive.
I hope by now you realize that’s not true, but just encase let me make this clear, strength training absolutely does not make you huge and bulky. “Cupcakes” make you huge and bulky, “Sugar” addiction makes you huge and bulky and stupid amounts of Testosterone for a women makes you huge and bulky, such as the women in the pictures on the left. In reality strength training without going into physiology, cranks up your metabolism, burns fat, potentially burns more calories than cardio, creates tone, shape, curves and keeps you young and strong.
When I train a women who comes to me at 130kg (bulked) and has never stepped in a gym before, and I train her like a bodybuilder for 3 days a week, do you think I’m going to bulk her further to 140kg? No, she actually, with new knowledge in nutrition lost 35kg and quite quickly too. The women on the right are examples of women who strength train up to 6-7 days a week, which prove this fear wrong, and the absolute necessity of strength.
The thing is Strength does have a relationship to size but more so for men than women. I will probably write a more detailed article on this topic later but for now, fear not, if you’re a women, hitting the weights is the best thing for you.
I will also make this clear… when a women starts weight training and doesn’t drop body fat and gets perhaps thicker, then that tells me her nutrition is not what it needs to be to lose body fat regardless of what training she is doing. With the right nutrition however then you can achieve some very powerful results with strength.
There are many elements that go into creating that dream body we all strive for, many elements I have not mentioned, but will cover in future articles. Having cardiovascular capability is definitely a factor, but putting all your eggs in the one basket due to the huge marketing and cultures of common gyms has created an epidemic of people failing to achieve their goals or even come close to that crazy head turning body.
I could continue to show you thousands more photo’s to prove my point that strength is relevant, but I’m sure you get the point by now. If you’re now reflecting on your own training and you know you have some work to do when it comes to strength… and you’re not sure where to start, then you should definitely read my first article. I suggest finding a good performance coach who knows the relevance of strength well.
I am one of them, but there are many others out there like me. So keep learning, be weary of whom you listen to, strive for a stronger you and continue the pursuit of your dream body.
Article Written By: VFSupplements Victoria Point - Richard Laszlo