Increasing your strength is a long road with a low trajectory. It is slow and steady and can only be achieved through consistency and patience. Once achieved, strength levels maintain their capacity for up to 10 days without training before diminishing. Whereas conditioning levels drop within 72 hours of not training. Strength training reduces your risk of injury, increases your bone density and expands your tissue’s capacity.
Basically, functional strength training prepares you for life. Whether you’re picking up a bottle of shampoo, a child or a 300 pound barbell, it is still a deadlift and should be treated as such. I’ve seen more injuries happen when someone was outside of a workout. When they’re training they couldn’t be more focused on the lift, but as soon as they’re done their movement patterns fly out of the window. Casually leaning over to take a drink from the fountain or bends over to tie a shoe becomes risky.
Just as meditation is our mental and spiritual practice that when done consistently develops stillness, better decision making and awareness, our hour of in the gym is our physical practice for our life.
You wouldn’t see a monk spend an hour meditating and then scream, “Fuck you asshole!” when someone cut her off in traffic. Yet it’s common to see someone finish a deadlift workout with absolute perfect form then completely hunch their back and buckle their knees picking up their gym bag on the way out.
By taking what we learn from squatting, deadlifting, snatches etc., we can apply it to the basic movement patterns of everyday life. We complete the circle of our training and put it into practice. What may seem like completely unrelated movements in fact only vary by degree. When you consistently train your body and strengthen the major muscle groups of the hips and shoulders through focused compound lifts you solidify your brains recruitment order of these muscles thereby reducing the chance of injury.
Strength training is a skill set that demands 100% of your attention if it is to be done correctly. As with most things, anyone can achieve 80% of their strength potential relatively easy but to reach the last 20% takes practice. For example, to do a squat at 90% you must simultaneously ignore the hardwired alarm signals your brain triggers to inform you you’re reaching critical mass, remember to keep your knees pushed to the outside of your feet, squeeze your abs as hard as possible and avoid letting your head snap back as your body desperately searches for ways to disperse tension.
“Pure” strength training is five reps or under. If you’re just going for size and not necessarily concerned with true strength training then high reps and random training may work for you as long as you’re eating enough. However, that is not the focus of this article. This article is intended to make you a better, smarter and more efficient athlete whether you play a sport or just enjoy training like you do.
When only training five reps and under for strength an increase in the size of your muscles will occur, but only to a degree as your body acclimates to the new stimulus. Although a slower process, one can still put on size but it’s your strength to weight ratios that can increase indefinitely given the proper programming. The reason lies in the actual make up the muscle tissue. Strength athletes tend to build muscle tissue through a process called Myofibril hypertrophy, while bodybuilders training in the 8-15 rep range tend to build muscle by a process called sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.
The difference between myofibril and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is the way in which the tissue grows in response to training and diet. Myofibril hypertrophy happens by lifting heavier weight which correlates to a comparable increase in strength as the tissue grows and by eating a relatively low carb/high protein diet. Because you’re not simply injecting your muscles with hundreds of grams of carbs on a daily basis this process may take a little longer. Layer by layer your body is building dense, sustainable and best of all strong muscle tissue. This happens by increasing the actual number of actin and myosin contractile proteins. This type of muscle is more stable and will stick around for a long time even if training stops.
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy on the other hand is a little easier to achieve because you’re lifting in the 8-12 rep range and using up energy storage in the muscle called glycogen. Continued depletion of glycogen levels triggers the body to increases the size of the muscles storage capacity thereby increasing the size of the muscle. Because the reps are generally high this type of muscle tissue it is believed to not have the same strength to weight correlations of myofibril muscle tissue, and will likely atrophy as soon as high carb intake and high rep training stops.