So You Wanna Be Strong?

What is strength? The ability to produce power or energy. A good or beneficial quality in a person.

How do you train to get strong?

We teach safe and efficient movement first, then we can add weight, volume and intensity for general physical preparation (GPP) with our bodyweight or with heavy stuff -- primarily the kettlebell, but also using the barbell, bodyweight and lifting natural objects like rocks and logs.

It has been interesting to teach movement and strength skills to people who formerly focused on cardio activities, such as running, P90X and step aerobics.

So how do you make that transition from training cardio to strength?

  1. Patience. Building lean muscle doesn't happen overnight ... but it does begin the moment you start and continues, at any age. Check out Mike Boyle's Strength Training: The Fountain of Youth post.
  2. Build quality movement first. By learning to move with perfect form, and practicing with perfect form, you help avert injury while you strengthen muscles, joints and improve your cardiovascular health. Easing into a strength program can be frustrating at first if you have always trained by moving fast, so refer back to step 1. Patience. Avoid pain and injury at all costs. See Gray Cooks's blog post, Start with Why
  3. Address any pain or dysfunction with mobility, stability and stretching along with your strength training. Pain is going to limit what you can do. Tightnesses that go unaddressed can lead to pain and injury. Imbalances (left and right) can lead to injury, and at a minimum, get in the way of you achieving your full potential. Address this with foam rolling, stretching, rolling, crawling and doing other prescribed movements based on your FMS results to help you reach your goals. The Seattle Seahawks stellar season starts with the FMS.
  4. Adopt a lifestyle that supports your strength goals. What you eat matters ... as does hydration, stress management, sleep, time spent sitting, time management, getting outdoors, socializing and more. Look at your habits and lifestyle and make positive changes that will support and enhance the work you are doing in the gym. See Tim Ferriss' Odd Routines of Famous Minds Like Beethoven, Maya Angelelou and Francis Bacon.
  5. Strength first, then conditioning. When lifting kettlebells and barbells, we practice the lifts and movements, with the best form possible, and appropriate weight, to get stronger. Never fear, you are getting conditioning while you practice the movements and lifts. Enjoy this. You are gaining a new skill and an understanding of your body and how to keep it strong for life.  See Mark Rippetoes' Conditioning is a Sham.
  6. Be moderate in your training and allow recovery time. Listen to your body and don't overtrain. For some people, two days a week is enough. Others might go five days, with a mix of light, moderate and harder days. During that time between training sessions, muscles are repairing, recovering and getting stronger. So going for a walk (active recovery), taking a day off, drinking plenty of water, getting extra sleep, stretching at home are all practices that help with recovery so you can train fresh the next time you are back in the gym. See Dan John's Ten Commandments of Recovery.
  7. Be intuitive about what works for your body and enjoy the cardiovascular benefits of training strength. Some athletes will train with weights and then go for a run. That's cool if you love to run. But what if you don't love to run, or you don't have time or good weather to run ... but you value cardiovascular health? A good strength coach will dose your strength training to lift and move at different frequencies and intensities, for different time periods. Your heart is working hard, for example, when you are  swinging a kettlebell or pressing overhead. So you are keeping you heart healthy while you get stronger. See Josh Henkin's Kettlebells are Not Really That Effective, Are They?
  8. Realize that strength training is also a mental endeavor. There is a real mental side to strength training. Learning a deadlift or kettlebell swing requires a lot of thinking and internal cueing. Pack the shoulder, ensure that hips and shoulder rise together, squeeze glutes, stand with shoulders, hips, knees and ankles aligned, exhale at the hip pop, and so on. There is excitement in the challenge of learning and practicing this ... and believe me, your to-do list, and life's daily problems disappear for a while when you are working with a heavy kettlebell over your head or deadlifting  a loaded barbell. See Tori Tarvin's Get out of Your Head: The Mental Side of Fitness.

Strength is a mindset that is fully applicable to our everyday life -- whether we are defending our country, going to an office or caring for family members. We never know when we will need physical strength to assist someone, or ourselves, in a tough situation.

So you wanna be strong?