Merry Christmas to everyone reading this – I hope the information below comes as a gift.
About a week back, we were admiring how one of our fittest and strongest members has stayed that way as a man in his late 40s.
He put it rather simply:
“A good base of strength sets me up to handle whatever it is I want to do – be it long distance running, high intensity classes, CrossFit style WODs - as long as I am strong I can handle anything. The times where I have let my strength slip, I find I struggle to keep up.”
This got us thinking - Why, with all its fads, has the fitness industry not yet leaned in the direction of strength training as a priority?
The Journal Of Strength and Conditioning published a position statement from the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) stating:
“Current research has demonstrated that countering muscle disuse through resistance training is a powerful intervention to combat the loss of muscle strength and muscle mass, physiological vulnerability, and their debilitating consequences on physical functioning, mobility, independence, chronic disease management, psychological well-being, quality of life, and healthy life expectancy”
The current global recommendations regarding physical activity for adults (18-64) state:
- At least 150 min of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or at least 75 min of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both a week.
- Muscle-strengthening activities involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
An excellent analysis done on the prevalence of individuals meeting a range of physical activity guidelines in Australia shows that we have a serious issue on our hands – particularly when it comes to strength training.
20% of males and 16% of females met the criteria.
As the age of the demographic increased, the prevalence of individuals meeting the strength training criteria reduced with just 12% of individuals in the 64-74yrs old category hitting the mark.
We blame a handful of things as to why this is the case:
- It isn’t pretty.
Repeating 4 or 5 sets of 6 reps of a back squat with 2minutes rest between each set is hard enough to get your head around reading - let alone doing.
Effectively strength training takes time and is psychologically challenging (boring).
It is a lot less pretty compared to getting yelled at over loud music on a spine bike or flowing through a soothing yoga class, practicing a range of poses.
It takes time and repetition.
- It has been “sold” poorly.
Being strong is immediately associated with being bigger and more masculine in appearance. For individuals of both genders that don’t appear this way, that’s a hard thing to want.
What we have to do is decondition ourselves from making such assumptions.
Yes, lifting weight will increase your muscle mass and potentially your body weight, but it takes a combination of years, incredible genetics and various ergogenic aids to ever look like Arnie.
At SOF, we define “strong” subjectively.
If you’re an athlete, can you overhead squat your body weight for 10 reps?
If you’re a middle aged mother, can you sit and stand from a chair on one leg?
If you’re in your 70s, can you hop up and down off the floor with ease?
The scientific world has struggled to standardise the definition of strength, but when they do it’ll be an easy way to improve early identification of individuals at risk of a range of health problems.
This push up study is a great example.
- Strength training is very technical.
To execute a squat correctly, takes a genuine amount of skill. For an individual that has not practiced squatting for 20 years, the movement can be both challenging and intimidating – particularly when you add weight.
The next issue with regard to the technical aspects of strength training is the lack of high quality educators (trainers/coaches) within the industry. Strength training and it’s movements are quintessentially a skill. You wouldn’t expect to just learn to play an instrument without some lessons, well the same goes for being strong.
Our solution is to increase the quality and the abundance of educators, trainers or coaches (whatever you want to call them) so that more people can be taught how to lift weights and get strong effectively and safely.
In summary, take the time to get strong, no matter what age, gender or level of fitness you’re at.
It’ll only be beneficial.