The term ‘training for strength’ and/or ‘strength training’ is bounced around the gym floor on a regular basis…but what does it actually mean. Isn’t strength training simply the act of lifting weights, doesn’t any type of lifting require some degree of strength? Well yes, but there are different degrees, and different ways that strength can be applied, and the way you train will determine how your strength develops.
According to Bompa (1999), strength is simply the ability to apply force…the more force you can apply, the stronger you are. On the other hand, a person at the gym might say that they are training for power, implying they are looking to develop their explosiveness and strength (force), but this time at speed. Power is defined as force at speed, or as Newton put it, ‘force is equal to mass times acceleration’, meaning force (strength) at speed = power. Therefore when somebody trains for strength, the usual method is to adopt a set of compound exercises that are done on the same plane (no sideward movements) and at a constant speed…the emphasis is not on force at speed, but overall force. Attempting to lift the necessary weight to invoke strength gains whilst moving would be futile and dangerous! The force that a person can apply (weight lifted) is inversely related to the speed it is applied i.e. as weight increases, speed (velocity) of the movement decreases...this is a principle you should remember when strength training!
Therefore strength training is not about how fast you can perform a movement e.g. a bench press, rather it is all about how much you can move from the top of the movement, down to your chest and back up again! So why do we see/hear so many people supposedly training for strength, yet are moving the bar far too hastily? The truth is, they are using momentum to get a significant percentage of the weight up, and are in fact inadvertently training for power and not strength. Strength training usually entails lifting weights that are approximately 75-85% of your 1 rep max (1RM), or as a rule of thumb, any weight you can achieve 6-8 reps before failure kicks in.
Is it true that strength training doesn’t increase mass?
Absolutely not! Those people that say ‘you’re muscles won’t grow if you strength train’ are failing to consider Morpurgo’s irrefutable findings from way back in 1976 which demonstrated:
- The number of tiny muscle fibres (myofibrils) that make up a large muscle fibre multiply during a strength training routine
- The vasculature (capillaries) per muscle fibre increases
- The overall amount of protein in the muscle increases (hence the importance of a good quality protein shake)
- The overall number of muscle fibres increase
The overall outcome of this is an increase in strength and muscle size. Strength training is inherently hard work; the heavy loads recruit far more muscle fibres than endurance training or high rep low weight training. If you intend on developing overall size, strength and power, then don’t overlook strength training.
The extra strains you place on your muscles necessitate additional calories and protein. Consider a good quality whey protein such as XL Nutrition Xtra Whey, a creatine monohydrate such as Optimum Health Ultimate Creatine, a testosterone optimiser e.g. Optimum Health’s ZMA, and a pre-workout supplement like BSN NO-Xplode to ensure you aren’t doing a disservice to yourself in the gym!
Bompa, T, O, (1999). Periodization. Theory and Methodology of Training. 4th Ed. Strength Training. Champaign: Human Kinetics.
Morpurgo, B. (1976). In D. Matthews and E. L. Fox. The Physiological Basis of Physical Education and Athletics. Philadelphia: Saunders.