The original bodybuilders were little more than glorified strongmen, using their hard-earned muscle mass to dazzle crowds with insane feats of strength. They were showing what muscle was capable of doing, not just what it was capable of looking like. The evolution toward posing trunks and clear, plastic heels brought with it a generation more concerned with the aesthetic of muscle than PRs, ripped phonebooks and anvil tosses.
Happily, training for performance has begun making its way back into the culture of fitness, giving weightlifters, powerlifters and modern-day strongmen a greater and more relevant voice in the media of muscle. As a result, iron lovers everywhere have rekindled their love for getting as strong as they possibly can, a pursuit laden with countless peripheral benefits.
Here are three that you should consider as you plan your next cycle of training.
1. Greater 1RM Equals Better Physique
A stronger muscle is (generally) a bigger muscle. Training with heavy loads directly targets your body’s growth-prone fast-twitch fibers, which are also those most responsible for speed and strength. But you also can use greater limit strength to develop your body in more conventional ways.
“The best way to train for a higher repetition max — more reps at higher weight loads — is to increase your one-repetition max (1RM),” says Josh Bryant, MFS, CSCS, PES, owner of JoshStrength.com. “Not surprisingly, a 500-pound squatter will use more on leg extensions than a 250-pound squatter. So before you write off limit strength in favor of traditional bodybuilding methods and isolation exercises, realize these are all enhanced by increasing limit strength. All facets of physique and performance will be enhanced by building a limit strength base.”
2. Faster Results
Whether you’re a runner, a CrossFitter, a dancer or obstacle-race nut, you can’t go wrong with having stronger muscle moving your limbs. Yes, even mundane tasks like picking up your latest Amazon shipment from the front porch or taking your pups on a hike in the hills benefit from having more strength. But it also puts your body in a position to look the way you want it to, and in less time.
“Strength is the foundation to almost everything,” says Justin Grinnell, CSCS, owner of State of Fitness (mystateoffitness.com) in Michigan. “When it comes to lifting weights, you have to gain a certain level of strength in order to make sufficient neuromuscular adaptions as well physiological changes, i.e., muscular growth and fat loss. If you are not able to increase strength by adding more load, or more reps with a given load, these adaptations will not occur. If you do not continue to progress on strength, it will be much harder to use hypertrophy-type reps (eight to 12) that will actually provide enough load to produce a physiological response for hypertrophy. So strength comes first.”
Grinnell adds that strength is vital in “preventing injury, keeping the body resilient and gaining muscle.”
3. Decreased Risk of Mortality
The bold text speaks for itself, but training for maximum strength helps you, you know, not die and stuff.
“Strength is valuable for a variety of reasons, but one of the key benefits is longevity,” says Greg Nuckols of Stronger By Science. “All other things being equal, stronger people live longer.”
Nuckols points out a 2018 study published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation that found subjects with more upper- and lower-body limit strength lived longer on average than those with lower levels of strength. Notably, those who demonstrated higher strength levels on the leg extension had a 14 percent lower risk of death than weaker subjects.
But forget about the stats? What about the streets? Famed strength coach Mark Rippetoe said it best: “Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general.” #truthbomb