Strong – The Basics

strong

How strong you are, and how strong you could be, depends on the performance of your body’s skeletal muscles.

Your body’s muscles are highly adaptable. They will react to the stresses that you place upon them.

  • Sit on the couch and they will atrophy
  • Try and run fast and they adapt to produce faster contractions
  • Lift heavy objects and they will increase their ability to produce maximum strength

Muscular Strength can and has been categorized in a variety of different ways. Based primarily on Newton’s Second Law, there are four categories of Muscular Strength.

F = ma (force is equal to the product of mass and acceleration.) Mass relates to how much weight/mass a muscle or muscle group can move. Acceleration relates to how fast that weight/mass is moved.

By using and manipulating force, mass and acceleration, we can force our muscles to adapt and become more efficient at generating…

4 Types of Muscular Strength

  • Maximum Muscular Strength
  • Maximum Muscular Power
  • Maximum Muscular Speed
  • Maximum Muscular Endurance

NOTE – Each of these categories has different characteristics with regard to mass and acceleration

Maximum Muscular Strength

Maximum Muscular Strength is the most extreme form of muscular strength. In relation to newton’s Second Law it completely favors mass over acceleration.

It is a measure of the maximum mass that a muscle, or muscle group can move, regardless of time.

Think immovable object vs irresistible force. Think pushing your out of gas car up a hill to the gas station at the crest of the hill. Think maximum 1-rep squat at the gym.

We’re talking Maximum Mass moved with little Acceleration. Got it?

The importance of maximum muscular strength?

While this is a point of debate among both academics, coaches and athletes, I believe that maximum muscular strength is the most important component of overall muscular strength.

force-velocity-curveLooking at the force-velocity curve, we see a relationship between force/mass and velocity / acceleration.

  • Maximum Muscular Strength would be represented by the point on the curve in the upper left corner.
  • Muscular Speed would be represented by the point on the lower right.
  • Power is the combination of strength and speed.

So, if you wanted to increase your maximum strength, you would shift the force-velocity curve and your muscular power upwards. Conversely, if you wanted to increase your speed of movement, you would shift the curve to the right, also increasing your power. Increasing both strength and speed would push the curve both up and to the right, resulting in even greater increases in power.

For most athletes, that is the ultimate goal of strength training.

How do you develop maximum muscular strength?

Maximum Muscular Strength is developed using different forms and methods of resistance training. Generally speaking, we’re talking about lifting heavy weights for low repetitions as the most effective plan to develop max strength, though recent research is showing heavy weights for high repetitions with adequate rest in between may be more effective.

Maximum Muscular Speed

As mentioned above, Maximum Muscular Speed is the ability to produce a low force muscular movement very quickly.

As seen in the force-velocity curve, muscular speed is both a relative and absolute term.

  • Relative, because your mass (along with a bunch of other reasons) impacts the speed that you can achieve

To illustrate this point, let’s look at the animal kingdom. A cheetah, while incredibly fast – 60+ miles per hour is no match for the peregrine falcon, which can dive at speeds up to 200 miles per hour.

  • In the world of athletics, speed is also relative

Imagine a footrace between the current men’s Olympic 100 m champion and the fastest sumo wrestler in the world.

On the other hand, speed is absolute.

When we are comparing apples to apples, Maximum Muscular Speed is often the determining factor in an athletic competition. For example, superior hand speed often makes the difference in a boxing match between two men in the same weight category.

How do you develop maximum muscular speed?

Like Maximum Muscular Strength, speed can be developed using resistance training techniques. However, Max Speed training most often involves abandons the weight-room in favor of body weight training techniques that attempt to maximize both the condition of the muscles and the performance of the neuromuscular system as a whole.

Maximum Muscular Endurance

Maximum muscular endurance is the ability to produce a smaller amount of force, but do it for a long time.

A marathon runner is a great example of muscular endurance. His body weight requires less force to move than your car, in neutral, going uphill; but he is able to move that weight for 2+ hours non-stop.

Why do you need maximum muscular endurance?

Maximum muscular endurance is the least sexy of the 4 categories of Muscular Strength. However, time and time again I have seen strength athletes perform better after increasing their amount of muscular endurance training. It helps to increase the amount of work volume and makes these big, strong beasts more athletic and generally more healthy.

And if you play a sport, you should already know the advantage of having good muscular and cardio-vascular endurance.

How do you develop maximum muscular endurance?

Maximum Muscular Endurance is generally trained with body-weight exercises. While there may be a need for injury prevention resistance training exercises, most endurance athletes focus their training on their sport of choice.

Maximum Muscular Power

Muscular power is the combination of maximum strength and speed. An Olympic weightlifter is a great example of power. So are high jumpers and sprinters.

How do you develop Maximum Muscular Power?

As Maximum Muscular Power is a combination of Max Strength and Max Speed, the development of power involves a combination of training methodologies.

Strong

Hopefully that’s enough to get you started in the direction of your choosing. I look forward to your comments/questions below.

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6 responses to “Strong – The Basics

  1. So is something like Crossfit the best for balancing all four types in your opinion, or do you like something a little more structured? That’s where I started when I quit marathoning, but I’ve since put together my own program from various sources.

    • I always believe in structure and programs, but CrossFit can do that. So can TRX, bodybuilding, or anything else you choose.

      With any type of exercise, it’s about form and safety. There are good trainers, bad trainers, good advice, bad advice.

      The only thing that matters, in my opinion, is consistency, intensity, safety.

  2. Do you have any tips on how to do heavy weight lifting at home? Budget and travel time prevent me from joining a gym.

    • That’s a tricky one honestly. While bodyweight is more than enough for fitness, it’s hard to bulk without the weight a gym offers.

      Push-ups and pull-ups are the two most perfect exercises I can think of. Build up to doing dozens of reps per day and you’ll definitely see bulk.

      Eat and sleep accordingly.

      • Don’t just concentrate on the upper-body. Doing push-ups and pull-ups will only get you so far. To see prolonged and immediate results, make sure that you work all the major muscle groups.

        Major muscle group are: legs (glutes, quads, hamstrings), back, core, and, lastly, your upper-body pushing muscles (chest/shoulders/triceps).

        When you work out the bigger muscle groups first (legs/core/back), you produce more testosterone which increases sustained muscle mass and shreds fat over the interim and long-run.

        In a nutshell: push-ups, pull-ups >> yes. But make sure you do lots of squats. If you make it into a gym, get a good trainer (as Roc says) teach you how to safely do deadlifts, powercleans, thrusters, and squats squats squats.

        If there was only three things that I could do to make me fit for the rest of my life, they would be (1) burpees, (2) thrusters & (3) running. All three of these things can be done at home and for extremely cheap.

    • There’s nothing at the gym that you can’t budget to put in your own home. Right now, online in the states, Costco has an excellent weight frame, the FreeMotion 620 Power Cage. This alone can offer you more than half the full strength exercises you need. Most gyms require a 3 year contract and the cheapest monthly rate, around here, is $30+/month. For a grand you can complete this set with a full rack of plates, two of each kind, an Olympic bar, a flat bench, an Olympic curl bar and some money to spare for a nice fan and a couple of bags of protein. All of these will last for the rest of your life if you take care of them. Afterwards it’s all on you if you can commit 50min a day, and there’s plenty of God-given space outside for a run. The gym is overrated.

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