What is Strength?

In my experience personal training, I have seen nearly all walks of life come through the doors to work with me; from triathletes, to clients with disabilities, to your average Joes, and everybody in between. And with that comes my very different views on what their kind of “strength training” should encompass. It’s no surprise to me that people in completely different situations have different needs in the gym, but what is surprising is the fact that most people have the same general idea of what “strength training” looks like. If each person has different goals for their training, then why do we see most people doing the same general exercises?

More specifically, it has been overwhelming to hear how many runners and endurance athletes are hesitant of participating in a strength training program. I think this is because when the idea of strength training is introduced in a conversation, many people associate “strength” with the look of a body builder that is very muscular and bulky. This is the most common stigma associated with the word “strength.” But what people are unaware of is that there are other types of strength to be considered and implemented into your program.

The term absolute strength refers to the maximal amount of force one can exert at a given time. Second, we have relative strength and this refers to how much force an individual can exert “relative” to their body weight. So even though a person may not express as much absolute strength as a heavier individual, their relative strength could be much higher when comparing bodyweights. Lastly, we have functional strength, which I consider to be the most important. This type of strength refers to the amount of strength needed to complete an activity such as running, cycling, swimming, and even doing activities such as: house chores, washing your car, and picking up the kids.

Now considering these different kinds of strength, we can have a better understanding of the strength-training program that is appropriate for each individual based on their own goals and needs. An endurance athlete is going to have drastically different goals and needs when compared to a professional football player. So this brings us to the question of…What kind of strength will benefit you the most?

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