Strength development is easy to see in lifting…you're able to do more weight for the same number of reps or you are able to do the same weight but for more reps. However there is a little more to it than just that alone. There are a few other ways to see how you are getting stronger:
- Improvement in form and technique
- What is your new “low”?
- How easy everyday life is
- How much does it take to get injured?
Improvement in form and technique
This is a fairly simple concept and that is if you move more optimally and with greater leverage then you will lift more weight. Building off of that, if you can lift more weight as a result from more optimal form and technique then you can generate a greater stimulus for growth leading into a period of recovery. That period of recovery will then yield greater gains due to the greater stimulus preceding it. In order to improve form and technique you may need to slow down your training in some capacity or even take a step backwards but once it is dialed in then you can potentially increase your rate of improvement down the road. Like all things that require practice it will take time and dedication. Think of it as potentially taking one step backwards to take ten steps forward.
What is your new “low”?
Training will come with bad days or periods of time where you are not going to be 100% whether it is intentional or not. In times like that (especially when it is unintentional) it is easy to be discouraged or unmotivated but there is a silver lining. If you are relatively new to training and this is your first low period or plateau then do yourself a favor and take notes to compare to later on. If you are more experienced and this is not your first low period then look at yourself now compared to the last time your strength hit a low. If your current low is higher than your old low then congratulations you are stronger than you were before! So even in a low there is still room to celebrate and keep yourself moving forward. If your “low” is better than before then your potential for a really big “high” is likely to be great!
How easy everyday life is
Do you get tired from carrying a box from one room to another? Does walking across the parking lot tire you out? Does going up the stairs burn your quads a little? Is opening a jar of pickles a humbling experience for you? These are examples of little everyday things that could improve as a result of simply getting stronger. As strength increases so does your capacity for physical performance. This is not just for athletes, this is for everyone! So if that box feels lighter, that trip across the parking lot is easier, and you feel nothing in your quads going up stairs then you are now stronger! These experiences can accumulate over time and soon you will be able to do something as major as push your car to the nearest gas station if you're strong enough. Strength improves quality of life……but that jar of pickles is unforgiving though!
How much does it take to get injured?
This one is a little more technical and arguably the most important of all. This is closely related to the previous section but has its own pedestal. One majorly accepted definition of strength is generally how high someone’s threshold for injury is. In other terms it is how much stress is required for a tissue to fail. The tissue in question is typically muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments but can be other tissues like skin, hair, or blood vessels. It can even be in reference to a certain type of material like metal alloys, different types of wood, and plastics. You can measure how much force is required to break that material and that is how strong it is. Well it's essentially the same concept for the tissues in your body. So if you are someone who is very prone to injury and you get injured often then I have unfortunate news for you and that is you are physically weak and/or very clumsy. The good news is that you can do something about it and that is strength training! In fact I would encourage you to get started as soon as possible if that is the case because there is only one way to get stronger and that is to train.
If you would like to get started setting the foundation for long lasting strength gains then you should sign up for the Merritt Powerbuilding program at the Canton club.
Keith Oelschlaeger, CSCS, MS is a personal trainer at Merritt Clubs Canton.