An Approach To Strength
Strength; I think about it from time to time. What it means to me, as well as what it might mean to others. I like to teach people to develop strength inside the gym that will apply to one’s life beyond the gym.
It’s one thing to be strong in the weight-room, with all your friends looking on, doing things you will never replicate in everyday life – just for the sake of doing them. It’s something entirely different to apply strength, earned in the gym, to the would-be strength needed in everyday life. I much more think of my weight-room as a theater where I practice gravity management, than as a place to just lift weights.
To my way of thinking, the words which best relate to physical strength, in exercise, are capacity, command, and concentration. I call them the three Cs of strength.
The Three Cs At A Glance:
Capacity = Weight; the poundage used in a strength exercise.
Command = Form; the manner in which the exercise is executed and managed.
Concentration = Intensity; the (psychological) limits an individual is willing to meet in order to complete an exercise in good form.
The Three C’s Close Up
Capacity: For (maximum) progress, I suggest the weights selected for your resistance exercises should be heavy enough to be challenging, yet moderate enough that you can manage the weight; not to breach excellent exercise form. Establishing, regularly meeting, and even (occasionally) pushing this boundary is paramount to maximizing your capacity for strength outside the gym.
This is where progress comes from. If you are seeking to do 10 repetitions of an exercise, the leg press for example, the weight you select should be heavy enough that the 10th rep would be (about) the last rep you can perform within the bounds of strict form. If you perform 10 repetitions in this fashion, then you are meeting your capacity, and may wish to increase the weight. Conversely, if 10 repetitions doesn’t come without a little cheating, grunting, and struggling – game over, lighten it up a bit until your form is again sound.
Command: Correct form serves several key functions in weight training, not the least of which is that lifting weights within the scope of good form will serve to keep you injury free. Secondly, using good form in your strength exercises in the gym will help influence the command of your muscles outside the gym – moving those flower pots on your patio might be a lesser task when you feel that sense of command.
Concentration: The intangible in strength training – the Zen of it all. Simply, concentration is the amount of mental energy you choose to direct to your muscles, that they may efficiently convey the weights to the limits of your ability. This is the hard C, because most of us don’t truly recognize what our limits are, let alone, strive to take an exercise to the edge of possibility.
I am frequently asked by people how strong I am – how much weight I can lift. My typical answer is this,
“I don’t really pay too much attention to how much. When furniture needs to be moved, I don’t bother to pick up the phone and call for help.”
This is often discarded as a smoke screen to the inquirer, as if to hide my secret steroid regimen, or my four-hour workouts in the middle of the night. Truth is, the things I do in the gym are not all that different from what you may do. My workouts probably take me less time than yours because they are predicated on efficiency, and constructed on the principle of the three Cs.
A Braid Of Strength
The three Cs can’t really be examined any more closely as individual Cs, because they are woven together like strands of muscle in your body. No one C is any more or any less important in your workout than the other two Cs. It’s a sort of 3-legged stool of physical strength. You establish your capacity, add in command, and bring them together with concentration. It’s efficient, very rewarding, and when mastered can offer a level of personal fulfillment on par with the observance of prayer and other religious ritual.
Month after month, the fitness media captures millions of people (and their money), selling them the best exercises and the perfect workout. In reality, it’s not those workouts nor those exercises that evoke the change you seek in your body. Nor is it the number of sets or repetitions you perform. It’s not even the sequence in which you do things in the weight-room which matter most.
What matters much more than all of that is how you perform the exercises – what you put into them. Like anything else in life; business, faith, relationships, etc., the rewards you will gain from your workouts will be relative to the thought and efforts you put into them. If among your objectives is to be stronger outside the gym, applying the three Cs inside the gym will serve you well. Be well. rc