We hear the term ‘strength training’ used frequently, not just in the fitness industry but also in casual conversation among friends, colleagues and relatives. But what truly is strength training, and why are people engaging in it?
‘Strong’ is having the power to move heavy objects or to perform physically demanding tasks. Strength is the amount of force you can produce, or, simply, the quality of being strong. In technical terms, Newton’s second law, the law of acceleration, states that a force acting on the body, in each direction is equal to the body’s mass multiplied by the body’s acceleration (Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky, 2006). (Force = mass x acceleration). For example, using a soccer ball, the more force you exert during a kick, the faster the acceleration of the ball. This means when the ball leaves your foot, it is going to travel faster and farther. A dainty kick (little force) means less acceleration. A bigger kick (one with more force) will mean greater acceleration. In this case the mass, the soccer ball, remains the same in both examples. Strength is about the force your muscles can produce, to create a movement. When your muscles produce enough force, they allow you to accelerate your body (Sharon A. Plowman, 2003).
When we strength train, we are essentially asking the nervous system to produce force through the muscles, and through optimal use of our skeletal structure (Sharon A. Plowman, 2003). In other words, with good posture and proper form. Your nervous system plays an important roll in controlling and regulating our body’s response to exercise (Sharon A. Plowman, 2003). Skeletal muscles will not contract unless it receives a signal from a motor neuron (Sharon A. Plowman, 2003). The regulation of our cardiovascular and respiratory system are all controlled by the nervous system. As well, the nervous system and endocrine system coordinate together to mobilize fuel for energy production, maintain fluid and electrolyte balance and maintain thermal balance all while we exercise.
The purpose of training for strength is to enhance your ability to train harder, and move more weight faster over a period. Without increasing strength, your body may not adapt as well to any training you do. How many times, how hard your muscles fire and for how long they stay fired are all determined by your nervous system. Therefore lifting weights (strength training) can be very important for making progress towards both health and aesthetic goals. You can train for strength with a multitude of tools and, to a certain extent, even using just your bodyweight. For example, shown below is a body weighted pull up using a TRX.
When training for general fitness, strength training can take priority because it is the foundation by which all other training becomes productive, even if your goal isn’t performance based or sport specific. Whatever your sport is, strength training is the foundation for success. To exercise well and get the full benefits from your exercise, getting stronger is necessary. Strength is the basis for all athletic endeavors.
Author: Megan Cook
Gregory Haff, N. T. (2016). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Champaign, IL : National Strength and Coaching Association .
Sharon A. Plowman, D. L. (2003). Exercise Physiology for Health, Fitness & Performance. San Fracisco : Pearson Education Inc. .
Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky, W. J. (2006). Science and Practice of Strength Training . Champagin, IL: Sherdian Books .