This is an edited version of the article that was published on the blog of Arminius, you can check out the original here.
It is such a common and widely used term, but it is not as easy as it seems. The term ‘strength’ most people have a pretty good idea about, but ‘training’ and specifically ‘strength training’ is a bit more difficult to define.
There are many forms of training, some forms partially improve strength. Some forms do not improve strength and others purely improve strength.
First of all it is important to emphasize that any type of training fits in a bigger picture. You will stand a better chance of reaching your goals if the three main aspects align. These aspects are:
- Physical exercise
- Rest and recovery
I will not cover these aspects in depth, but it suffices to say that these need to be in balance and you need to assure good quality and sufficient quantity of each of them.
Importance of Strength
Why does this article focus on strength? Well, as Professor Leonid Matveyev has stated: “Strength is the foundation for developing the rest of physical qualities.” This simply means that you have to get strong before you can reach any other physical goal you want to achieve.
Another way of putting this is to divide between general and specific types of training (2). The general and basic type of training in the form of strength really lays the foundation for anything else.
According to the Oxford dictionary (3) ‘strength’ has the following meanings:
1 The quality or state of being physically strong
2 The capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure.
I think these two meanings go quite hand in hand. To my belief it is better for a person to withstand force or pressure when they are strong. In my book (figure of speech, no actual book…yet), that is both applicable to mental and physical strength.
With this I wanted to emphasize the importance of strength and how it is affecting how we deal with actually everything that is thrown at us.
As I have been in the military, the part of mental strength has been tested time and time again. Pushing on, despite a lack of food and lack of sleep. If you have been in the military, your mental strength has likely been tested a few times during and after initial training. Just like flipping a switch, setting your mind to it and pushing through. This is applicable to all branches and units, but obviously more applicable to some than to others.
Exactly this mind-set, mentality and approach does not work when you are trying to increase your strength with your training programme. That is: for the best and sustainable results you have to take nutrition and rest into account as well. They are just as important, if not more important for you to improve your strength.
Of course there are parts of any training programme where your overall physique is being tested (like many CrossFit workouts). Nevertheless, if you want to train and improve your strength in a specific programme, you have to include enough rest and quality nutrition as well.
How to Train for Strength
After all this information you must be wondering: “how should I train for strength then…?”. Well, there are (very conveniently…) multiple roads that lead to Rome. The best road depends on your situation and background. For instance, it depends on the tools you have at your disposal. This is quite different when you can only train with your bodyweight, or when you have access to a gym with a barbell and plates.
If, for instance, you are able to train with weights: 1-6 repetitions with a heavy weight for 3 or more sets. There is more to it and more parameters make good strength training, but that totally depends on you and your situation. Rest and recovery is not only a factor for in between days of exercise, it is also an important factor during your workout. For maximal strength gains, you should take 2-5 minutes of rest in between workouts, especially when you are taking on heavier weights in exercises that take on multiple muscle(group)s.
What to Do Now?
To make sure you have a form of strength training that serves your needs, your experience and your situation: it is best to seek a coach or gym where you can get proper coaching. This will help in getting a programme that is suited for you, challenges you and is bound to give you results in the most effective and efficient way. Nowadays there are also several online trainers that can provide specific and customized training programmes, built for you and your situation for a lower price than in person personal training. This way you can train when and where you want, but still have the benefits of a customized programme.
Get in touch with me to see what is possible through Continuous Improvement Fitness through the comments or the Contact Page.
 Not all meanings are included, since they are not of importance for this article.