Just for extra emphasis:
You Should Be Strength Training
I’m a proponent of almost every kind of training, to some extent. I can see the benefit in most training styles and believe there is something to be learned from each (for the most part, not the blatantly idiotic stuff).
I try to remain open-minded and often like to experiment with alternative training styles. At various times throughout my training I have ran long-distance, sprinted, done HIIT, calisthenics, body-part splits, agility work, mobility work, played sports, trained specific skills, and probably other things that don’t spring to mind now, but there is one constant throughout my training since I first experienced it years ago: good old-fashioned strength training.
Strength. Moving weight. There is something so satisfying about it. It requires more than just training, it requires a mentality. A mentality that not everyone has, but that can be built.
Because free-weight strength training doesn’t just strengthen the body, it strengthens the mind. It gives you a grit and a confidence that you don’t get from running or solely training on machines.
Without getting overly dramatic, there is a very real overcoming of adversity in strength training. You will not squat down and back up with a heavy weight on your back without a level of mental strength. You must overcome fear and doubt in order to do it.
It will change you. It will change your body and it will change your mind. I don’t hesitate to say it will change your life.
How It Changed Me
After years of substance abuse I found myself in my mid-twenties skinny, malnourished, and weak as shit. Growing up I’d always been relatively fit and even tried maintaining some level of fitness during years of treating my body poorly (an understatement), but after getting sober I decided to join the gym and start training “properly”, which at the time meant bro training.
I can remember going to train with a friend who had been training for a few years and being thoroughly embarrassed by how weak I was in comparison. So much so that I actually quit the gym. Stupid of course, everybody starts somewhere, but it was how I felt at the time. Already being anxious and self-conscious, my ego couldn’t take that hit.
Unhappiness Is The Catalyst Of Change
I didn’t quit training though, instead I started working out at home, which at that time was my mums house (I’d moved back there for the 10th time since I first moved out at 19). I bought a pull-up bar and some push-up handles and started doing bodyweight work.
After a while I dug out some old weights and a fold-away bench my mum had got me for Christmas one year in my mid-teens, and started doing some bench press (working my way up to a majestic 50kg) and squats (hitting the even more spectacular 40kg because I had to clean and press it first) and started doing the “Big 5 55” workout because I read in a fitness magazine that that was what Jason Statham used to get in action star shape.
One day, while at the supermarket, I got a comment from someone I hadn’t seen in a while along the lines of “look at the guns on you”. – Now, since I’d long abandoned my life of crime I knew he was talking about my arms. That felt good and gave me the confidence to enrol again at the local gym.
I knew that strength motivated me. More than being big, more than being ripped, I wanted to be strong. I knew I’d never be the strongest guy about, being small, naturally light, and unwilling to use anabolics, but I wanted to feel like I could hold my own.
Still not knowing much about programming, or writing a training plan beyond the typical bro-split, I started to research a little on strength training programs and settled on Stronglifts 5×5, a simple, straight set, progressive overload system that came with its own (free) app.
This program worked fantastically for me and soon my bench was up to a ginormous 70kg for 5 sets of 5, and my squat and deadlift both cracked 100kg, though looking back now my squat form in particular was horrendous. These were also complemented with things like chins and dips, overhead presses and rows. To this day the greatest and most rapid strength progress I’ve ever made was at this time on the Stronglifts 5×5 program.
This is for a couple of reasons. Of course there was “newbie gains”; the fastest progress you will make in your training, provided you do it right, will be in the beginning, when you go from doing nothing to doing something. But also, this was a no-bullshit program centred around progressive overload and compound movements. For a beginner in particular, this is vital. That’s right, vital. No superlative, just fact. I’d argue that it is vital regardless of your training experience, these things should still be the foundation of your programming.
Have A Strong Foundation
Don’t be afraid to experiment with your training. Don’t be afraid to try new things. But make sure you have a foundation. The base of your program should be made up of squats, hinges, pushes, and pulls. There are exercises in each of these categories that will fit any individual. My client base currently ranges from a 12 year old male competitive alpine skier through to a 75 year old widow, with every kind of human in between, and each and every one of them train these movements loaded. Not always loaded from the beginning, but we work our way there.
Strength is functional. These are fundamental human movements replicated very much in everyday life and in pretty much all sports. You should be training them. I don’t care who you are, you should be training them, and you should be training to get stronger in these movements.
Strength training will develop strength in more than just your body, it will develop strength in your mind.
There are some good resources and programs out there on this topic, the aforementioned Stronglifts 5×5, Jim Wendler’s 5, 3, 1, and many, many articles on sites like T-nation (I have no affiliation with any of these by the way).
If you have any questions at all regarding implementing strength training, or improving upon your current strength program, hit me up in the comments or via email or social media.
Life Performance Training