Every movement that humans perform is based off the ability to produce a force using their musculoskeletal system. The ability to produce a force against a resistance is strength. We are constantly producing force on a daily basis, whether to push open a door, pull on our dog's leash, bending over to lift a box from the floor, walking around the house, or even sitting up straight! All of these seemingly simple activities are able to be performed because of our ability to be strong. For this reason, strength training should be a top priority in all training programs.
Below are some examples of how strength plays a role in various forms of fitness and daily life activities:
1. running: running can be described as the ability to fight gravity and inertia to move in a forward direction. In order to do this our foot repeatedly strikes the ground propelling us forward. As the foot strikes the ground, it is producing some level of force into it while the ground is producing same level of force back allowing us to move forward. The amount of force produced is one of the determining factors in how far we will go with each step. If we are able to produce a larger force with each step, then we will be able to go further with each step, and theoretically further over the course of our run. There are many other joints (vertebral joints especially) in the body that need to remain "strong & stable" during running to allow for force to be produced into the ground but that is diving too deep into biomechanics for this blog!
2. mobility: some people think that mobility and strength are opposites. The ability to move our joints in a full and controlled range of motion is mobility. This requires strength! Strength is a factor in determining someones full mobility. For example, in order to do perform shoulder flexion (think lifting your arm up overhead as high as you can and even pulling the arm back past your ears) you not only need to have flexible lats but you need strong deltoids and strong scapular depressors (primarily speaking, lower trapezius) in order to successfully do this.
3. sitting properly: by this point I'm sure everyone knows how bad sitting for extreme lengths of time is (remember, sitting is not inherently bad but rather the fact that we do it for 75% of day is why it creates problems). Now before I get into how sitting with proper posture requires strength, I need to give a disclaimer that sitting with proper posture for 8 hours a day is NO BETTER for you than sitting with improper posture for 8 hours a day! Get up and move people! That's what our bodies were made to do! So back to my point.... when we sit, gravity pulls our chest down and our head forward creating a flexed spine and some sort of jacked up neck position (this varies depending on where we are looking). In order to sit up straight we need to activate our erectors (muscles that help the spine stay upright & straight), and even more importantly our diaphragm to ensure proper breathing technique (side note: you're diaphragm is probably inhibited due to you sitting for prolonged periods, which then causes the neck and chest muscles to facilitate breathing, which then cause neck and shoulder pain). So here is an example of how even something that is not movement based requires you to be strong!
It is for these reasons that people need to prioritize strength training. This means lifting heavy objects or moving your body weight in a slow and controlled manner for anywhere from 3-10 sets of 2-6 reps. It doesn't mean going to do circuit training or HIIT training. Will these things make a person stronger? Yes to a degree, especially if you're just starting on your fitness journey however, they tend to tax the cardiovascular system and the muscular endurance system more than the strength system which means you are training inefficiently and will hit a wall sooner rather than later.
It is very sad that some people will never be able to do a perfect form pushup, pull up, or deep squat. Our standard of strength in our culture is supremely low these days and it is causing a TON of exercise and non-exercise related injuries. So I am begging you, for your health, to GET STRONGER!
“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”― Socrates
Written by Stephen J Cornely