Strong fixes everything. It’s a bit of an oversimplification but the more I think about it, not by much. The first time I heard Mark Reifkind say this I laughed, but only because I believed it was mostly true and a good dose of reality for most people. In previous articles I’ve touched on the topic of strength and why it is so important in training (here, here and here) Lest you forget, strong doesn’t mean huge, bulky muscles, grunting noises while training or spending excessive hours in the gym. It just means, well, strong. Here are several examples of how strong fixes everything.
Fat Loss: The majority of the time someone comes to me and needs to lose weight they are lacking in strength. As an example, look no further than televisions “The Biggest Loser”. None of the contestants could actually be considered strong. Some of them certainly get stronger throughout the show but none of them actually show up with any real amount of strength. Quality push ups you will not find. Nutrition aside, weight training is the best way to start burning fat. People still seem to believe that hours worth of cardio is best but nothing is going to create that metabolic disturbance like moving your body through a full range of motion and lifting something heavy. Dan John has said that most of the time, women who have met their body composition goals are flat out strong and can generally do at least 3 chin ups, and squat and/or deadlift 135 lbs for 5 reps. I tend to agree that to be capable of these numbers it would be difficult not to be in great shape. Since most women at Ambition Athletics are training to look and feel better and one of our male members was recently quoted as saying, “I’ve never seen a gym where so many women can do legitimate pull ups for reps.”, I like to think that we are on the right track. (Shameless plug)
Performance: When someone wants to get better at their sport through training, regardless of what it is, on the most basic level, the answer is to get stronger. That’s how you run faster and jump higher, apply more force, a.k.a. get strong (see here). The same holds true in endurance sports as well. In order to have strength endurance you must first have strength to endure. I am truly convinced that the only reason I personally can skate pretty fast and jump high is because I am strong. I am pretty much your average guy that after getting much stronger over the years improved my athleticism greatly. Sure we all know that person that doesn’t lift weights, or very rarely, and they can run really fast and jump pretty high. But do know what isn’t going to help their game in the future? Being weak. Being weak is not a good way to stay healthy on the field or in life, which brings me to my next point.
Rehab (and prevention): I am certainly not speaking in absolutes here but I have come across numerous people experiencing aches and pains in joints only to have them “cured” through a few pointers on how to move their body correctly and a few weeks or even days of strength training. What I am saying is that sometimes a person needs only a little coaching and some strength to make their body and joints feel a lot better. When your glutes aren’t working (likely too much sitting) you may already have some pain or you are setting yourself up for future injury. How does one cure that? Get ‘em turned back on and stronger.
Flexibility/Mobility: I have really been thinking about this one the last few weeks. Stretching muscles and mobilizing joints is very helpful to improve the way people move. However, the way to make that new range of motion “stick” is to practice a related pattern. The “stretching” itself is great and probably feels good but if it isn’t applied to an active movement I don’t think it’s as effective. Want to get a little more flexible? Put some strength on top of that new range of motion by bridging or split squatting after some hip flexor stretches. Do some single leg deadlifts after some active straight leg raise. It’s likely not a situation where you want to load the movement with hundreds of pounds but strength is still being built. Often just bodyweight will do the trick. Strong fixes everything.
– Mike Baltren