Why you should focus on getting stronger [and how to do it]
We all have slightly different fitness and health goals.
Some people want to lose weight.
Some people want to increase their muscle mass.
Some people want to move and feel better.
Others want to perform at their highest level.
For many, it is a combination of things.
Regardless of your fitness goals, focusing your training on getting stronger will have a profound impact on your success as well as how you look and feel.
First, let's answer the question, "what is strength?"
Strength, simply put, refers to your ability to produce force.
Think of your ability to get out of a chair or push yourself up from a push-up.
Your body can get stronger in a variety of ways:
1) Increase the size of the muscle
Increasing the size of the muscle will increase the size and amount of contractile properties the muscle has, allowing you to produce more force.
2) Increase the speed and amount of muscle fibers working
This is a neurologic property vs. increasing the size of the muscle. Here, the muscle is able to increase how many fibers actually fire during an exercise and the speed at which they fire.
This is why you can make large strength gains in just a few weeks, without changing the size of your muscle as your body becomes more efficient at firing the right muscles.
Yes, you can get really strong and lean and not look big and bulky!
3) Improve your technique
You can get stronger just by improving your technique during an exercise. By getting your body into the correct positions and/or controlling the exercise better, you increase your strength in those movements. This can be done with or without adding weight to the exercise.
Let's get into the 5 reasons why you should focus on getting stronger.
#1 It's Your Fitness Foundation
If your overall fitness was a house, strength would be the foundation.
The other parts of the house like the walls, doors, ceilings and roof would be your cardio, balance, speed, coordination, etc.
The house all starts with and is only as strong as it's foundation.
Like the foundation supports your home, your strength levels support your fitness.
The better your levels of strength are, the higher your fitness ceiling becomes.
An increase in strength will lead to improvements in:
- Exercise intensity
#2 Burns Fat/Builds Muscle
One of the most misunderstood aspects of building strength is it's impact on fat loss.
The research and countless DSC success stories show the impact strength training has on building muscle and burning fat.
Study after study has shown that the combination of strength training and cardio is far more impactful on fat loss than cardio alone.
On top of that, the higher intensity exercise (strength and circuit training) compared to low intensity exercises (walking, jogging) burns more fat not only during the exercise but for hours after.
Stil not convinced?
The more muscle you have, the more fat you burn even when you're resting.
This is why we put such a premium on our members, regardless of age or ability, on getting stronger.
If you're looking to lose weight and change your body, making strength training a priority will be a game changer.
#3 Boosts Confidence
One of my favorite parts of being a coach here at DSC is watching people do things they never thought possible.
The look on our member's faces when they push a sled that they didn't know weighed 200lbs or complete their first push-up from the floor is priceless.
This increase in confidence opens so many doors as they work towards their fitness goals.
They believe that they can and they are strong and their improvements in strength and fitness grow and grow.
This confidence doesn't end in the gym but carries with them throughout their everyday lives.
#4 Improve Daily Life/Prevent Injury
The great thing about improving your strength is that it has an incredible impact on your life outside of the gym.
Things just get and feel easier.
As simple as it sounds, daily tasks like chores around the house, getting up and down the stairs, keeping up with your kids or grandkids is not only easier, but more enjoyable.
Research in the fields of strength and conditioning as well as physical therapy has shown over and over again the impact getting stronger has on preventing and healing injuries.
Getting stronger has been proven to:
- Reduce your risk of injury
- Reduce aches and pains
- Reduce joint pain
- Reduce risk of osteoporosis
#5 Measures Progress
One of the best ways to see your fitness progress is to track your strength improvements.
The great thing about this is that it's so easy to do and does a great job of keeping you motivated and on track.
Improvements in strength can be shown through a variety of ways like:
- Using a heavier weight
- Increasing your number of reps on an exercise
- Increasing your number of sets on an exercise
- Slowing or better controlling the speed of the exercise
We recommend small, incremental improvements in strength, as they add up to BIG changes! :)
Here are a few of our favorite strength exercises:
1| Goblet Squat
The goblet squat is a fantastic exercise to build lower-body strength and mobility as well as master your squat technique. Holding a kettlebell or dumbbell at your chest allows you to properly brace your abs, sit back and maintain a good spine position throughout. This is vital for keeping both your knees and low-back healthy.
- Start feet shoulder width with toes slightly pointed out
- Stay tall with stomach braced throughout
- Initiate movement by breaking at the knees, sitting back and pushing knees out
- Go as low as you can with no pain and good neutral spine position
- Finish tall with glutes squeezed
- Start with 2-3 sets of 8 reps
The push-up is our favorite upper-body exercise and maybe even our favorite exercise for beginners. It is a great way to build the strength of your arms and shoulders as well as the stability of your core. Be sure to master technique and work from an elevated hand position.
- Start hands directly under shoulders
- Keep straight line from head to heels
- Keep glutes squeezed and hips tucked
- Lower entire body until arms are parallel with body
- Keep arms back at 45 degree angle
- Start with 3 sets of 6-10 reps
3| TRX Row
The inverted row is one of our favorite upper-back exercises. It is a great way to properly teach beginners how to row and retract their shoulder blades which is crucial for building strong and healthy shoulders. This exercise also works your entire body, including your core. Finally, the inverted row is a great lead into more advanced upper-back exercises like plank rows and chin-ups.
- Start with straight line from head to heals, arms straight
- Initiate movement by pulling shoulder blades towards each other
- Pull yourself up, finishing arms in line with body
- Finish by lowering yourself to starting position
- Start with 3 sets of 8-10 reps
4| Split Squat
Before jumping into lunges, we like to start our new members with the split-squat iso hold. The iso hold mimics the position of a lunge, just without any movement. This allows beginners to slow things down and master the technique all the while building the coordination, balance, strength and mobility required to properly execute a lunge. Your knees will thank you down the road!
- Start in a long split-stance with front foot flat and back heel in the air
- Initiate movement by bending back knee directly under your hip
- Drop down as low as possible maintaining 90 degree angles with front and back leg
- Keep majority of weight in the front leg
- Start with 2-3 sets of :15-:20 holds/leg
5| Sled March
Load these up heavy! Due to moving at a slower pace with more weight, you are going to be building some serious lower-body strength while keeping your heart-rate high! These are great for building strength and endurance of your legs, especially your glutes and hamstrings.
- Keep body at 45 degree angle
- Keep arms straight
- Leading with knee, one foot at a time to move forward
- Keep upper-body still throughout
- Start with 4 rounds of 15-20yds followed by 1:00 rest