When we talk about strength training it gets easy to get sucked into one of the many cults that exist here are a few of those prestigious religious institutions –
- The fat man cult of the barbell (powerlifting)
- The spandex yoga barbell club (weightlifting)
- The church of the oiled up eating disorder (bodybuilding)
- Spinal injury for reps crew (crossfit)
- Skinnyfat balance club (functional training)
- Over Complication of basic movement group (pilates)
To name but a few some of them really think that their way of training “strength” is the best way to develop it. Some of the members of these various institutions think that they have the secret way to develop the holy grail of physical fitness “functional strength”.
Others who have a rudimentary grip on reality and exercise science understand that functional training or strength is a big old strawman. When you are training towards a goal then you need to understand implicitly what your goal is and what specific training for this goal looks like. If your goal is to jump higher or run faster prancing around a ladder doing increasingly more complex dances is not going to help you achieve your goal.
If your goal is to snatch more weight deadlifting with a wide grip and rounding over like a shagging dog isn’t going to help. Let’s get to grips with a few key training concepts that should be at the core of your thought process.
Strength is extremely specific – your strength in planes and with implements is extremely specific how strong you are in the back squat is specific to how you squat. If you squat to full depth with no supportive equipment you will get strong at that movement. If you squat above parallel with a wide stance in a space suit you will get strong at that movement. Being really strong at one makes you potentially stronger at the other but you will not be instantly good at them you will need to adjust or to adapt specifically to those circumstances.
If your goal is maximal strength then rest periods are of no concern – work capacity means the sum total of fuck + all to strength training. As long as you are stimulating maximal strength through your programme in the desired exercises then how you structure your programme is an irrelevance.
If your goal is hypertrophy than external load is only one small part of the puzzle – total work completed in the week, exercise variety, training to failure and your rest times all have a huge influence on your programmes effectiveness for getting bigger. 1RM strength is almost an irrelevance
Are you training to get better at the exercise or to develop your force profile – if you are a lifter then the exercise you are training might be your sport (snatch, back squat, log pres….) therefore getting better at that exercise is your goal and you need to hone in on it constantly with your training. If you are an athlete how you produce force is your goal squat can help you increase your vertical force production capabilities which is great for jumping and sprinting.
If you want to get better at circuit training you need to understand exercise physiology – if you’re a cross-fitter what do the words – aerobic capacity, alactic threshold and lactic tolerance mean to you? If they mean nothing then you have some reading to do before you can understand how to get good at your sport. Doing random workouts hard is a good way of developing a basic level of conditioning but if you want to be really good at something you need to understand what your training consists of and how they interplay with each other.
If you think low level postural control is a good way of developing sports performance you should get yourself in the front row of a rugby scrum – have you ever done some tempo bench press with a really light weight and notice how fucking hard it is compared to just bench pressing? You are experiencing you guessed it strength specificity. This is the exact same reason obtuse bodyweight exercises such as the ones performed in pilates are really hard if you have never done them before because YOU HAVE NEVER DONE THEM BEFORE. If you think not playing having “good core strength” whatever that even is would prepare you to take 1600kg of force through your spine then you should give tight head prop a shot because there are plenty of clubs in England and France willing to pay you hundreds of thousands of pounds per year to dominate scrums.
Chances are you haven’t sat down to objectively think through your strength training routine and put in place a good rationally sound programme to address your goals unless you are training towards a strength sport. In the case of training for a strength sport (powerlifting, strongman, weightlifting or crossfit) you are probably wasting a lot of time and energy doing dumb lifts that are making jack shit difference to your performance.
Rather than just randomly doing shit because someone wrote it down on a spreadsheet or blog look through your training logs and ask yourself one simple question
“why the hell am I doing this?”
If you apply some rational thought and critical thinking you can get yourself to the effective core of your programme and get to maximising your training time.