Strength is the master quality of physical fitness
Well-rounded physical fitness includes many dimensions, including (but not limited to) flexibility, speed, endurance, agility, balance, power… and strength. Of these qualities, strength is fundamental to the ability to safely develop all the others. As the famous sports scientist Leonid Matveyev has written, “Strength is the foundation for the development of the rest of physical qualities.”
Put very simply: strength creates stability, and the practice of strength is the practice of transitioning from a state of relaxation into a state of tension and back again. Someone who is structurally stable and able to efficiently transition between different states of muscle tension will be more effective and resistant to injuries than someone who lacks these qualities of strength.
A strength-training program that is developed for you—taking into account your unique goals, experience, and movement limitations—will unequivocally help you attain new levels of physical prowess in multiple dimensions.
Strength is for everyone
Whatever your age, gender, size, shape, or level of experience, strength is for you. From competitive strength athletes to endurance athletes, from fitness newbies to long-time competitors, from gymnasts to people who struggle to walk up stairs, you can find a safe and sustainable strength training program that works for you—and you will reap major benefits from doing so!
Of course, the details of the strength training program that is best for you will differ from what will be best for other people with different goals, injury histories, and movement capacities. Strength describes one’s ability to generate force: the force that a runner needs in order to have a maximally effective stride is different than that of a powerlifter who is deadlifting a barball, and both are different than what is needed to lift and carry a child (or groceries, or a piece of furniture) or to stand up from the floor in a way that is easy and pain-free.
The details may differ regarding what sort of strength training is best for each person, but the need for strength is universal.
Strength is empowering
Let’s be honest: in today’s world, we are all exposed to a refrain of body shame. All too often, we are told in so many ways that we would be so much better if we lost weight… in other words, we would be better if only there was less of us.
Strength training, on the other hand, can teach us to celebrate our bodies for what they can do rather than judging our bodies for what they look like. People who strength train with a body-positive perspective learn how to embrace themselves as they are while continuing to aspire towards ever-greater manifestations of their talent and skill.
Let’s be honest: too many people experience the difficulties associated with high levels of stress and anxiety, as well as from depression and PTSD.
Strength training can help. While anyone who is struggling with issues such as depression or PTSD should absolutely seek treatment from a qualified professional, it is also important to know that many research studies are showing the profoundly positive effect that a regular strength-training practice can have on mental health and general well-being (especially when they are combined with appropriate professional care).
Let’s be honest: it’s easy to doubt ourselves.
Strength training teaches us to rise to any occasion, even when we are faced with uncertainties.
Look at it this way: the human body gains strength by being exposed to new stimuli and then recovering from the exertion. The path of strength, therefore, involves repeatedly doing things that we have never done before, and doing them in such a way that we can successfully complete them and fully heal, more resilient than ever.
There is a quality of nervous uncertainty that is familiar to all those who have attempted to lift a new weight or try a new strength-related skill. In our training sessions, we learn how to acknowledge this feeling, and try anyway… and, more often than not, to succeed.
What follows is a feeling that all those who strength train are also well acquainted with: the triumphant joy after setting a new personal record or completing a new skill for the first time.
This ability has immense carryover into life as a whole. When, as will inevitably happen, we are each confronted with situations in life that are new, scary, or unfamiliar, we are given a choice: fight or flight. People who strength train are well equipped to rise to these moments, because it’s something we do on a regular basis in our training: we know that we can triumph over circumstances, even when we’re nervous and uncertain. It is common for people who start strength training to discover that they have an easier time speaking up for themselves, trying new activities in and out of the gym, and rising to life’s many challenges.
Building strength is not easy, and it takes the patience required to move well and to progress in a manner that is safe and sustainable. However, I can state from personal experience and from the experiences of all of my strength students that it is more than worth it.
If you are interested in learning how you can become the strongest, most empowered version of you, I’d love to help!
(I am not in this alone, and I owe everything I know to those who came before me. Many, many thanks to the many StrongFirst coaches who have taught and guided me along my own path of developing the skill of strength! I owe so much to them!)