If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. I watched a short strength training video the other day (yeah, that’s what I do in my free time) about the importance of setting and pursuing goals for training. The presenter, Brooke Haubenstricker, of Starting Strength Online Coaching™, a strength training and education company, talked about the relationship between training and goals.
The Strength PE classes and FC Barbell Club participated in the first ever FC Strength Lifting Meet recently. It was an opportunity for the students to approach lifting weights in a competitive situation. Competitive weight lifting has existed for centuries, if not milenia, in some form or other.
Many if not most gym-goers, especially those who are members of the typical commercial exercise gym/club, engage in resistance based exercise using isolation exercises primarily or exclusively. They go from machine to machine in a circuit, doing one or more sets of many different isolation movements. If their goal is just to exercise (that is, do physical activity which produces a transient physiological response which does not necessarily contribute to long term improvement--see blog post #2) and pursue general physical well-being, that approach is fine. It cannot, however, induce meaningful transformation in strength for a couple of reasons.
If you want to get strong, you must make your muscles move heavy weight. There is no other way. Strength is simply the ability to produce force. Force production is the process of muscle fibers contracting in a coordinated way under control of the nervous system. Application of that ability occurs when muscle fibers that are bundled up into whole muscles and muscle groups contract together and pull on the bones or other tissues they are attached to. The efficiency of nervous system signaling and the number and size of the fibers involved determine how strong the contraction is and how much force is applied. Getting strong is the process of making the muscle fibers thicker, which increases their contractile force, training the muscles and nerves to work well together and recruiting as many fibers as possible to participate in the contractile action. The only way to make these three processes occur is apply stress to muscles by making them work and force them into the Stress Recovery Adaptation (SRA) cycle* an explanation of the process of increasing strength derived from Dr. Hans Selye’s general adaptation syndrome.
Are you a functional human? To answer that question honestly and accurately, you need to understand how it addresses a central truth of human experience. Every person, at any given moment in life finds himself in one of two categories; he is either functional or dysfunctional. To be functional is to operate well and effectively according to a particular design, plan or set of priorities. A functional tool is useful and effective in the task for which it was designed. The more robust the tool is, either in strength or complexity (depending on what is needed for the task), the more effectively it can perform its function. A functional hammer drives a nail. A functional sledge hammer drives a wedge or a stake. The hammer is sufficient to drive a nail but is dysfunctional when used to drive a stake; the sledge hammer is the more functional tool for that job. A functional tractor pulls things. The average riding mower functions well for mowing the yard and pulling small loads but not robust enough and therefore dysfunctional if you try to make it pull a grain combine.
I looked at the calendar this morning and came to a sudden realization – there are only 10 weeks of school left! Not counting spring break, this school year will be over in 2-1/2 months and I’m not ready to think about summer plans yet.