I get people constantly asking me how much they should be able to lift (sadly it mostly pertains to the bench press) and it is a tough answer because most of the time they do not tell me what sport they play or what they want to achieve with training. Many of them will get frustrated with me because I don’t have a short answer that would fulfill (or crush) their ego and curiosity.
In all honesty I think everyone should get stronger because the more I observe my surroundings, the more I feel that the average person is just getting plain weak! Even if you are not an athlete you should be strong enough to carry out certain physical tasks and I think any man should be able to have the physical strength and conditioning to be able to help himself and his loved ones out of a dangerous situation (which means having a combination of strength, speed, conditioning, agility, flexibility…..depending on the situation at hand).
This doesn’t mean you have to be able to squat 500 lbs “ass to the grass” or bench 300, but you should strive to squat around 1.5x your bodyweight and even more importantly have the functional strength, mobility and stability to do something like a pistol (full one legged squat) or chin ups, which has more real world application.
With athletes it is a different story because it has to do with your chosen sport. In general I believe the better your overall relative strength the better of you will be, but sports are very specific and not everything will have the carryover that we are looking for. Even I have fell into the trap of focusing too much on “getting everything strong” and the athlete will be better, yet there are so many aspects of training that create superior performance that we cannot get tunnel vision and put all our eggs in the strength basket. I’ve seen a lot of guys get stronger and not carry all of that strength into specific sports performance because they couldn’t apply it and/or some of it was not relevant.
If you are trying to be the better at your sport, practicing the skill and experience are both factors, proper training for performance and injury prevention are factors and recovery is also a factor. Strength training is a part of performance training but not the end all be all. The focus should be to be able to transfer everything that you have gained from strength and performance training and carry it over into the “arena” of your sport.
Is an elite level powerlifter that squats “a grand” strong? Yep. Is a gymnast who can do the iron cross strong? Yep. Is a weightlifter that can clean and jerk 400 lbs strong? Yep. Neither one can do what the other two can do but they are all strong because they have transferred their training into their specific sport. If you are not an athlete then life is your “arena” and you should improve your capabilities so that you can best deal with the things that you will have to face: picking up heavy things at work, hiking in the mountains, swimming, pick up basketball, etc.
With all that being said I am a firm believer that getting stronger should be on top of most people’s list when it comes to training. Yes, all things are important, but relative strength raises all other factors of performance, since it is the cup and the other properties are water. When the cup is full you cannot put more water in it so make the cup bigger and increase your strength! I would love to say that there are many people that have reached the level of strength where they do not need to improve it but it’s just not true.
Let’s make the people strong again and get their ass in the gym that doesn’t have treadmills and machines.
What do you think about what is true strength and whether some coaches put too much emphasis on it or not enough? Drop your thoughts in the comments.