Repost: Why You Need to Get Stronger

This is a repost of an article I did for CrossFit Delaware Valley back in October. 

"Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general.” ~ Mark Rippetoe

There are plenty of good reasons to get stronger: a faster metabolism, stronger immune system, decreased fatigue, increased bone density and self-confidence, just to name a few. Chances are you’re not doing enough strength work each week. How do I know? Because most CrossFitters are addicted to the big sexy metcon and neglect overall strength development. Why is that? Weightlifting is uncomfortable. Metcons are uncomfortable but it’s a different kind of uncomfortable. In weightlifting, the barbells are heavy (as they’re supposed to be) and looking at a barbell with lots of plates on it can be intimidating. Why would anyone ever need to squat that much? What’s the benefit to putting that much weight overhead, or pulling such large loads from the ground?

Put on your learning pants, kids. It’s time to discuss some common misconceptions about strength training.

Won’t I get bulky if I lift heavy weights? This is one of the first misconceptions you hear out of people opposed to weightlifting. It’s damn near impossible for women to get crazy bulky, even if they wanted to, simply because women have about 5% to 10% of the testosterone that men have. You certainly can get bigger if you want to, but that’s mainly determined by the kinds of food and quantity you’re putting in your mouth hole. You can just as easily lean out as you can bulk up by lifting heavy weights. Martin Berkham has plenty of documented cases over at LeanGains that show how one can have a lean physique by only lifting heavy. A quick Google image search of Olympic weightlifters in any class under “heavyweight” will show dense, strong, toned physiques. And I’ll bet you Tom Cerecedes’ creepy doll collection they aren’t doing wall balls. As all the trendy CrossFit shirts say: Strong is the new skinny, and strong is sexy.

Not only is this kid stronger than you, he dresses nicer than you too.
I just want a toned {insert body part here}, so I’ll just stick to bodyweight movements and light weights for high reps. And I just want a pet unicorn. Bodyweight movements have their place in overall fitness and strength, but to truly get stronger you need to apply force and stress from an external load; in this case, heavy weights on a barbell. This will get you stronger.

But what about gymnasts? They’re ripped and all they do is bodyweight movements. They also can fit inside my pocket. If you trained for multiple hours everyday since you were 6 years old, you’d be a bodyweight beast too. And since my time machine is at the body shop right now, you’ll have to settle for getting strong the old-fashioned way, and barbells will allow you to get stronger faster. Getting stronger leads to more muscle, and more muscle means less fat. Getting toned just means getting lean and strong. Want an ass you can bounce a quarter off of? Make sure to squat and deadlift every week. Not only is this kid stronger than you, he dresses nicer than you too.

What about the long metcons? I don’t feel like I’m getting much of a workout if I don’t get my heart rate up. Just because you’re not doing a 20-30 minute metcon doesn’t mean you’re not getting a great workout. Do a legitimate cycle of strength training from something like 5/3/1, Texas Method or the Greyskull linear progression and tell me you’re not completely spent after one of those workouts. If you’ve hit a plateau in your weight loss or changes to your body composition, a cycle or two of strength-biased training with shorter metcons could be just the thing to reboot your system.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. You want to know how to become a better CrossFitter? How to start destroying WODs in leaps and bounds? It’s real simple: Get stronger – both physically and mentally.

Look at the top CrossFitters and you’ll see a common thread running through the majority of them: they’re all really strong. You too could have a sub 3-minute Fran time if a 95 lb thruster feels like you’re using a pvc pipe. The people who crush CrossFit workouts do so first and foremost because the weights feel light to them. So, if you want your metcons to suck less, get stronger.

CrossFit aside, do you think you possess the speed and strength to get yourself out of a life-threatening situation? I’m not talking about being cornered in the tunnel of a sports arena by 100 ninjas. That’s ridiculous. Ninjas don’t watch sports. I mean would you be able to sprint into the street in time to scoop up your child from being hit by a reckless driver? Or, when you’re older, have the strength to pick yourself off the ground if you were to fall? These are real life situations that people deal with. Chances are you’ll never find yourself hanging over the side of a cliff by one arm while holding on to Brandon Walsh and trying to pull him up to safety, but wouldn’t you like to know that you could?

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